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Monday, November 23, 2020

Viking Magic - Plus Excerpt of the hero of "The Viking & the Pictish Princess" using such magic

The Vikings believed in magic. I used one of their beliefs in my "Viking and the Pictish Princess," the idea of a cursing pole.

Called a Nithing pole (in old Norse this means Scorn Pole), this was a long staff or pole, set into the earth and topped with a horse's head. It was meant to bring bad luck, and along with runes, was intended to create malice and trouble.

Such rituals and poles are recorded in the Viking Sagas, as in Egil's Saga. You can see what he did in this excerpt on Wikipedia

My Viking warrior Olaf also uses a Nithing pole. Instead of a horse's head he uses a deer's head, to placate the spirits and gods of the Pictish kingdom that he and his new wife are striving to protect from invaders and rival ruler Constantine. 


Up on the moor, beside the old ring of stones and facing

east, he had set up a cursing pole to anger and offend the spirits

of Constantine’s land, to give himself and his folk good

luck and to force bad luck onto Mongfind and her ilk. He had

slammed the newly felled and trimmed ash sapling into the

earth and snow, driving it down in his fury and frustration,

and topped the pole with the head of the roe deer, as sacrifice

to Loki, to Odin and to any Pictish god who would heed a Viking.

Man’s magic, for sure, but is it good to hold such secrets from my


It had to be, he decided. Eithne, these days, often looked

drawn and troubled. She had enough pain with her sister’s



As a strange writer's coincidence I wanted a Norse name for a small black horse, one that would roughly translate as "Sooty". I searched on the Internet and found a name: Saehrimnir, meaning sooty sea-beast. This fit nicely with Scottish and Pictish beliefs concerning water-horses and Kelpies.


Lindsay Townsend


  1. Wonderful side highlight of research and unearthing of facts that add to the texture of stories. In a previous work I found Civil War plantation era photos of people that eerily resembled the characters I described in the fictional tale. You might check those out at my web site

  2. Thanks, Ruben! I tend to take such coincidences as a good sign.

  3. I think I may have need of a "cursing pole", but I don't think I would kill a horse to set its head on top of the pole. Those Vikings were certainly an interesting lot.
    I like the name Saehrimnir.
    I wish you all the best, Lindsay...

  4. Thanks, Sarah. I agree about the horse!
    All best to you and yours

  5. I like the mood you've set in the excerpt. I never heard of the cursing pole before and like Sarah, I cringe at the thought of the poor horse, so I'm glad you used a deer head instead. I wonder if this tradition has passed down to modern times but in a less gruesome form.

  6. Thanks, Patti. It was a brutal age. The cursing pole has been used in modern Iceland -

  7. I always love it when stories bring in real history. We do have Norse Mythology creeping into areas of the UK the Vikings settled. It never ceased to amaze me how easily people accepted a new superstition.

  8. Agreed, Christine. Lots of Norse place-names and words like "beck" for little rivers.

  9. Lindsay, congratulations on The Viking and the Pictish Princess. Sounds very interesting and intriguing. I too am glad you used the a deer head. I so enjoy your tales and all the info from way back when.