Sorcerer & God

BulgarianFrench. MagyarSerbian. Spanish.

A long time ago our forebears practised what we would call sorcery: they cast spells to influence the spirits of nature. Some were better at this than others were, and yearly contests were organised to make sure that the tribe at all times had the best suited to be their sorcerer-king and sorcerer-queen. The king was selected based on his skills, strength, intelligence and good health. The queen was selected based on her innocence, patience and beauty.

We know this May couple and the May contests from both our fairy tales, mythology and traditional songs.


With time it became clear that the sorcerer’s spells didn’t always work, and some societies changed: rather than rely on the spell-casting skills of a sorcerer, they began to address the spirits more directly, and simply asked them to comply. When doing so the hermaphroditic spirits were athropomorphised and given a name and gender: so the spirit of lightning was called “Lightning”, in Scandinavia Loki (“lightning”, from the PIE root *luk-), the spirit of thunder was called “Thunderer”, in Scandianvia Þórr (“thunderer”), etc. The trees and animals these spirits had originally been associated with turned into the attributes of the deities. So Þórr’s temple was based around an oak tree, and his carriage was said to be pulled by goats. Freyja’s temple was based around a cherry tree, and her carriage was said to be pulled by cats. Etc.

The society was still penetrated on all levels by the idea of sorcery (‘sympathetic magic’) though, so in order to gain the powers of the deities man – i. e. priests and priestesses – could simply impersonate the deities. E. g. by dressing up as a goddess, by impersonating her, by taking her name a girl became her, and thus also gained all her powers. The gods and goddesses of the temples were thus very much real: they were there themselves! Listening to the prayers of man, eating the sacrificed animals, healing injured men, and being pulled or carried around to the fields to bless them, etc. The deities were real! The sorcerer-king and sorcerer-queen were thus replaced by the god-king and the goddess-queen, but not much changed, really.


Yearly contests were still organised to make sure that the tribe at all times had the best suited to be their god-king and goddess-queen. The king was still selected based on his skills, strength, intelligence and good health. The queen was still selected based on her innocence, patience and beauty.

The winners of these annual contests were given an apple. The aging man stood no chance of winning an Olympic games type contest against younger and stronger men, and the aging girl stood no chance of winning a beauty contest against younger and more beautiful girls. Thus the deities were kept young forever, by the help of Íðunn’s apples.

Related posts here and here. 

24 thoughts on “Sorcerer & God

  1. I wonder how many people actually believed the May King and May Queen were deities. Or did they just pretend to go along with the belief like many Christians today do? (“You’re not fooling anybody, everyone knows you’re just Elsa from the village. “)

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  4. this is a small point, but i think it’s important to clear up. if the contests were in may, how were the winners to be given apples, since apples only ripen in late summer? perhaps originally it was a different fruit, a berry of some kind? they are usually the only fruits ripe in early summer

    • In Southern Europe they used grenade apples, and that’s where we have the “apple” from, but in other parts of Europe they used other fruit.

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  6. So is the term “good luck” derived from the PIE form of Loki (“luk”) in that you are absorbing the power of the Sun through a similar fashion as the way lightning seems to strike?

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  8. Two posts? No wonder I woke up early today. I am a few hours late however the power was out when you posted these.. guess my ‘link’ to the blog isn’t as strong as it once were. 😉 In all seriousness when you used to post every day I would always wake up just in time to eat breakfast and have your post show up in my email not a minute later. I don’t even know how to begin explaining it.

    On topic, the one and only positive thing that came out of my research and interest in ‘Satanism’ years back was the discovery that the purpose of a ritual was simply to put yourself in the desired mindset. You could make do with anything, and even a perfect setup was useless if you were distracted(by a cellphone for example… or background noise)

    To put things in simple terms if you play a role for fun often enough it won’t take long before you are doing those same actions in your ‘real’ life. Also you can apply traits to yourself, by pretending to be an optimist for example, you will eventually start thinking like an optimist. That is the essence of willpower and effective education.

  9. very good explanation on the myth about Iduns apples. It all makes sense now.
    What makes you think Freyja’s temple was based around a cherry tree? I would have said linden trees myself, as they are also called Freyja’s trees and are associated with love(because of their heartshaped leaves[my own theory]). What do you know about the heart symbol? Do you consider it a symbol from the pre-christian era?

    Linden trees is a recurring theme in this ancient song and Freyja is mentioned in the final verse. I think this, suggest a connection aswell.


    • The cherry tree is just an example. There are usually several trees linked to each deity. Some trees to several different deities too. 🙂

  10. Varg, mate, small typo in the third line: “Some ‘where’ better at this than…”. No biggie.

    All the best for Tuesday, Brother.

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  13. Hmm, can you name your sources? I mean, can you prove that such annual festivals were celebrated in the form that you had described? I’m asking ’cause I don’t find such in slavic beliefs. There is of course a blond-hair, young god Yarilo – boys were playing his role during spring. But, as far as I know, in slavic folklore also girls were sometimes dressip up like him! So there was actually no goddess-queen and god-king on spring, it seems that it is rather ‘just’ a personification of youthness, strenght and fertility.

  14. So Þórr is related to goats, is that why “Satan” is said to be a goat-ish being, Perkele in Finland was demonized and many people still think Perkele is same as Satan or even Satan’s grandfather or something equally ridiculous. And Perkele still is considered a curse. A very bad one. It’s a shame.

    By the way, Varg, do you know much about ancient Finnish culture? Was it very similar or mostly the same as in Scandinavia? Do you know much about Kalevala?

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