A Völva’s Grave at Roskilde, Denmark

Bidragets oversatte titel: En vølvegrav ved Roskilde, Danmark?

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


In a period of increased focus on combining Norse mythology, cosmology and archaeology a complex burial from the Viking Age was excavated at Trekroner-Grydehøj in the outskirts of present day Roskilde, Denmark. Grave A 505 was an inhumation demonstrating a ritualized furnishing. Amongst other things the burial A 505 contained two women, half a man, a stallion, a dog cut in two halves, a foetus of a sheep, a small menhir and large boulders, all with a stone covering of granite, flint and chalk. Double graves are often interpreted as the master and his/her slave, the latter executed at the time of the funeral to accompany the first. However, it has also been suggested that some graves with more than one individual could represent a völva, i. e. a seeress and sorceress, accompanying a deceased person to the Otherworld. The identification of a völva rested on a staff-like object of iron. This brings a peculiar metal point of bronze and iron from grave A 505 into consideration. It is suggested that the point is a part of a magic wand and consequently identifies the woman interred as a völva. Besides the pointed staff of magic the presence of an old stallion attracts the
attention. There were no riding gear or draught tackle and in the present context the horse may have been a psychopompic animal that could take the dead spirit to the next world. The treatment of the woman’s body also witnesses extraordinary elements. Her head seems to have been cut off post mortem and deliberately placed on the foramen magnum. Both in Old Norse texts and in the archaeological evidence there are a few examples of executions by decapitation or the removal of the head of a buried person by re-entering the grave, the latter presumably to prevent the deceased from haunting the living. The reason may have been her position as performer of seiðr. This has also been suggested as a reason to place large boulders and stones on the deceased, keeping a malicious soul or spirit from leaving the grave. So considering the pointed object and the other contents of the grave as well as the handling of the interred, in comparison with the suggested völvas’ graves from Scandinavia the deceased in grave A 505 from Trekroner-Grydehøj may very well have been a female shaman and seer.
Bidragets oversatte titelEn vølvegrav ved Roskilde, Danmark?
TidsskriftOffa. Berichte und Mitteilungen zur Urgeschichte, Frühgeschichte und Mittelalterarchäologi
Udgave nummer2018
Sider (fra-til)229-240
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 2018


  • Viking Age
  • Burial ritual
  • Völva