History Witch: Uncovering Magical Antiquity

Want to know about real magic from history? This is the place. Here we explore primary texts and historical accounts from the past.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Meditations on Hávamál: 76-80



Deyr fé,

deyja frændr

deyr sjalfr it sama,

en orðstírr

deyr aldregi,

hveim er sér góðan getr.

Cattle die, kinsmen die, you will die the same. The renown dies never for the one who gets good fame.

These verses are among the most famous in all the poem. In brief words, the philosophy of the Norse is made plain. Wealth (always remember the rune Fé is cattle and riches), friends, and you yourself will die as nature intends. Life is short. The only worthy thing is fame. Consider what you leave behind in the thoughts of others.



Deyr fé,

deyja frændr,

deyr sjalfr it sama,

ek veit einn,

at aldrei deyr:

dómr um dauðan hvern.

Cattle die, kinsmen die, you will die the same. I know one thing that never dies: each dead one’s fame.

Reiterating the important point; dóm is an interesting word that means judgement literally. As we can see in the final lines of Beowulf, that judgement is the legacy that will live on in your name. To be eager for fame is not as shallow as our current swirl of reality shows suggests. The Vikings did not seek Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, but eternal praise—living on in memory and poetry as Beowulf has done.



Fullar grindr

sá ek fyr Fitjungs sonum,

nú bera þeir vánar völ;

svá er auðr

sem augabragð,

hann er valtastr vina.

A full pen [of cattle] I saw for the sons of Fitjung, but now they carry the beggar’s pole; thus is wealth like an eye blink—he is the most untrustworthy friend.

Underscoring the fading nature of wealth as cattle, this verse highlights the quickness with which riches can be lost. Disease, war, weather: anything can happen. Trust not to wealth (money or cattle) because it won’t last. The beaggar’s pole, which Evans mentions popping up in Norwegian law codes is literally ‘a staff of hope’ which suggests even the beggar has reason to expect an improvement in his lot if he behaves in the right ways.



Ósnotr maðr,

ef eignask getr

fé eða fljóðs munuð,

metnaðr hánum þróask,

en mannvit aldregi,

fram gengr hann drjúgt í dul.

The unwise man, if he manages to get wealth or a woman’s love, pride grows in him, but knowledge never; he goes directly into folly.

To be self-destructive is the fate of the foolish one. If you begin to believe in your own luck, if you think you actually affect the chance happenings of the world, you are bound to suffer. There’s an implication that the gods will be sure to take away your treasures. The wise know not to trust in the fading glory of love and riches and instead create the fame that will live on.




 Þat er þá reynt,

er þú að rúnum spyrr

inum reginkunnum,

þeim er gerðu ginnregin

ok fáði fimbulþulr,

þá hefir hann bazt, ef hann þegir.

Thus is that proved when you consult the runes, the divinely known, that which the mighty made and the wise sage reddened, that he does best if he remain silent.


The runes offer wisdom beyond the day to day struggle. They are known by the gods, created by the divine and painted by the wise sage Odin. The wise one is not only someone who has paid attention to the lessons of experience, but one who consults those wise—the gods. Their knowledge is accessible through the runes. Let the runes speak and keep silent yourself.


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.


Additional information