Villa Farm staff

Viking, late 9th-10th century AD

From Villa Farm, Vestnes, Møre og Romsdal, Norway

Found in a high status female grave under a large burial mound excavated in 1894, which included jewellery, a bowl, a box, horse-harness, a whalebone plaque and agricultural and domestic tools (registration nos. 1894,1105.1-55).

Iron staff made of a rod of square section, originally with an open-work, cage-like terminal formed of twisted rods between two large polyhedral knobs and with a copper-alloy ring at the top. The pointed end was deliberately bent back in antiquity, possibly to destroy any power the staff was thought to hold.

The staff was at first believed to be a fishing gaff or spit on account of its shape, but recent research suggests that it may have been owned by a Viking seeress and used in divination, or a little-understood type of magic known as seiðr. Similar staffs have been found in other female Viking graves in Scandinavia, one of which contained in a pouch the remains of a hallucinogen, which may have been used in magic-making.

Gardela, L. (2008) Into Viking Minds: Reinterpreting the Staffs of Sorcery and Unraveling Seiðr, Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, 4, 45-84.

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