History Witch: Uncovering Magical Antiquity

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Meditations on Hávamál 5-9

Posted by on in Studies Blogs


Vits er þörf,
þeim er víða ratar;
dælt er heima hvat;
at augabragði verðr,
sá er ekki kann
ok með snotrum sitr.

At hyggjandi sinni
skylit maðr hræsinn vera,
heldr gætinn at geði;
þá er horskr ok þögull
kemr heimisgarða til,
sjaldan verðr víti vörum,
því at óbrigðra vin
fær maðr aldregi
en mannvit mikit.

Inn vari gestr,
er til verðar kemr,
þunnu hljóði þegir,
eyrum hlýðir,
en augum skoðar;
svá nýsisk fróðra hverr fyrir.

Hinn er sæll,
er sér of getr
lof ok líknstafi;
ódælla er við þat,
er maðr eiga skal
annars brjóstum í.

Sá er sæll,
er sjalfr of á
lof ok vit, meðan lifir;
því at ill ráð
hefr maðr oft þegit
annars brjóstum ór.


5. Sense is necessary for the one who ventures widely; dealings at home are easy. He becomes an embarrassment who knows nothing yet sits with wise men.

This exhortation speaks of the step into the unknown. You know how things work in your own corner, but if you know little of the world outside, you can blunder into embarrassment—and at the worse end, danger. The word augabragð is the word for ‘wink’ or sometimes glance. Idiomatically it seems to suggest an audience to the bumbling fool, winking at his idiocy or ignorance. The sense of observation by other is palpable; in public, you’re being judged.


6. In his thinking, a man should not be boastful, but rather watchful of his wits. When he comes, wise and quiet, to the homestead, seldom does misfortune befall the wary one, because a better friend one can never have than great sense.

Be measured in your behaviour and observe before you jump into words. Often silence and wisdom are linked in this poem. When you arrive in a new place be sensible. Figure out the lay of the land, observe those who came before you, get a sense of what’s going on and the mood of the place. Don’t immediately start trying to impress everybody, because you’re likely to get off on the wrong foot.


7. The wary guest who comes to the meal strains to hear in silence, listens with ears and judges with eyes; thus the wise one searches about.

Listen and learn; observe people with a sharp eye. What can you figure out about the interactions in the homestead before you have a chance to say a word? Watch and listen, judge what you observe. Consider the evidence and know who has what at stake. The word varr means wary, but it can also convey cautiousness; it’s not so much that you have to be conscious of dangers—in the viking world, there’s every risk of that!—but also more subtle things are in play whenever people get together. You want to give a good impression of yourself.


8. Blessed is he who gets from himself praise and esteem; uneasy is that which a man must require it from the breast of another.

Despite the masculine pronouns, the general message here is to be confident of your self worth. Those who rely on the praise of others are always weak and change like weathercocks. If you always seek your esteem from another, they can hold it hostage and have power over you. Having your own sense of value helps you to move into any situation with confidence and aplomb. The blessings of the gods are upon you because you know all that you can be capable of doing.


9. He is blessed who has within himself praise and sense while he lives, for ill-counsel has a man often received from the breast of another.

Similarly, if you rely on others to give you advice and continually seek help without reflecting on your own strengths and abilities, you will never achieve self-sufficiency or an adequate sense of accomplishment. How good is your judgement? Are you able to discern between good and bad advice—or to see when someone deliberately offers you bad advice? You need to be able to see situations clearly. There’s nothing wrong with asking advice or bouncing ideas off others, but if you rely on others to make up your mind, you will always be at the mercy of the winds.


See also: Meditations on Hávamál 1-4

Text via Heimskringla Project


Last modified on
K. A. Laity is an all-purpose writer, medievalist, journalist, Fulbrighter, social media maven for Broad Universe, and author of ROOK CHANT: COLLECTED WRITINGS ON WITCHCRAFT & PAGANISM, DREAM BOOK, UNQUIET DREAMS, OWL STRETCHING, CHASTITY FLAME, PELZMANTEL, UNIKIRJA, and many more stories, essays, plays and short humour. Find out more at www.kalaity.com and find her on Facebook or Twitter.


  • Anita White
    Anita White Saturday, 01 December 2012

    Very beautifully written. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity Saturday, 01 December 2012

    Thank you, Anita! I'm really enjoying this project.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Wednesday, 05 December 2012

    Thanks for this, my friend. Beautiful, lyrical. Will it become a book, do you think? As I'm reading it, it feels like the I Ching, which I never understand in its instruction. This works for me in a way that should but doesn't.

  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity Wednesday, 05 December 2012

    Thank you, my friend. I suspect it will in some form. Because you know I need one more book project! :o

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