Book Review: The Norse Shaman by Evelyn C. Rysdyk

“Reconstructing the shamanic practices of the hunter-gatherers of Scandinavia, Evelyn Rysdyk explores the evolution of Norse shamanism from its earliest female roots to the pre-Christian Viking Age. She explains how to enter Yggdrasil, the World Tree, to travel to other realms and provides shamanic journeys to connect with the ancestral shamans of your family tree, including the Norse goddess Freyja, the very first shaman. She offers exercises to connect with the ancient goddesses of fate, the Norns, and introduces the overnight wilderness quest of útiseta for reconnecting with the powers of nature. She explains the key concepts of Ørlög and Wyrd–the two most powerful forces that shape human lives–and provides exercises for letting go of harmful behavior patterns and transforming simple knowledge into profound wisdom by connecting with Óðinn.” –

I picked up this book after a couple of recent experiences that made me want to start incorporating shamanism into my meditation practices. I’ve recently been exploring my Scandinavian heritage, and I felt like learning seidhr (ancient Norse shamanism) would help me connect with this element of myself. I was looking for an introduction to seidhr, as well as something that would help me bring the practice into my daily life, but unfortunately The Norse Shaman only delivers on one of those counts.

First of all, this is a great academic resource for anyone interested in the historical context of seidhr and other European shamanic practices. There’s a ton of information here, and if you’re interested in seidhr from a purely intellectual standpoint, this is the book for you. Rysdyk is an experienced shaman (though not actually a seidhkona, as she received her training in other schools) and has clearly done her research. This book is a great resource if, like me, you’re new to shamanism and are looking for a broader view of shamanic practices and how seidhr fits into that bigger picture. It also does a good job of exploring other relevant topics such as the Divine Feminine, the role of Norse gods in Scandinavian shamanism, and basic Norse cosmology.

Now for the negatives. My biggest problem is that seidhr, as it is presented in this book, is just not accessible. Rysdyk seems to assume that her readers will all have the means to regularly perform hours-long outdoor rituals, which I know is not a viable option for a lot of baby shamans. (Some of us live in cities. Some of us have neighbors who would call the cops on us if we were in our backyard chanting and staring into a fire for hours on end.) The rituals Rysdyk lays out also require a lot of tools and accessories which, to be fair, do have a historical basis, but which a lot of readers won’t have access to. I would have preferred a ritual framework that is a little easier to work into the average modern-day lifestyle.

Rysdyk also makes a few claims in this book that don’t seem to have much historical basis, or even directly contradict the commonly-accepted interpretation of historical evidence. For example, she claims that Freyja is an example of the Earth Mother archetype – although Freyja is associated with fertility and sexuality, there’s no evidence that she was seen as a mother figure, and in fact her children are rarely mentioned in the myths (Frigga fits this archetype much better). She also claims that Freyja is associated with Yggdrasil, which I’ve never seen in any other academic source. There’s just a lot of reaches here that seem to be the author projecting her personal beliefs/opinions onto the historical evidence. Because of this, I find myself wondering how much of this book’s content is even relevant to modern day reconstructionists, and I’ll definitely need to double-check with other sources.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Do I Recommend This Book? Yes, if you’re interested in learning about seidhr in the historical context. Just know that you’ll need to do further research if you want to actually practice seidhr, and take the author’s claims about Norse mythology with a grain of salt.

3 responses to “Book Review: The Norse Shaman by Evelyn C. Rysdyk”

  1. Hey there, thanks for reviewing this. It’s been sitting in my Amazon reading list/wishlist for some time now but I have *yet* to take the plunge and purchase it. I may do so eventually if a used copy goes on sale for a reasonable price. We’ll see lol.

    Also if you don’t mind me chiming in? As someone who has a fairly decent relationship with the goddess Freyja… I will argue based on my research, her aspect as a “mother earth” figure may not be completely inaccurate. Since she’s a goddess of the Vanir tribe of deities, they were historically connected to fertility: not just sexual but earth based… thus providing “fertility” for crops and agriculture. I hope that at least gives some food for thought! I look forward to reading more for your blog 🙂


    1. Thank you! I hope the book is helpful for you!

      And I guess I’ve never really thought of Freyja as an earth goddess figure. I know that she’s associated with fertility, as all the Vanir are, but to my experiences with her have always been centered on her warrior/sorceress attributes. To me, Frey has a much stronger connection to fertility and the harvest. But Freyja’s more maternal side would definitely be something interesting to explore!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] other issue with this book is similar to the one I had with The Norse Shaman by Evelyn C. Rysdyk: the “beginner” rituals laid out here, rather than being accessible starting places for […]


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