With me from Birth,
Guiding, Protecting, Loving.
The Fylgja (pl. Fylgjur) is an Old Norse word that is used to mean “ A Following Attending Spirit ” it is also called Mannsfylgja (Man-Fylgja). The Anglo-Saxons called the Fylgja a Faecce. And has been modernized into modern English as a Fetch. E. O. G. Turville-Petre pg. 228 says that the word Fylgja is related to the Icelandic word Fulga (Thin covering of hay) and also the Norwegian words Folga (Skin, Covering) plus Fela (To hide). The Fylgja is a spirit that usually has the shape of an animal. The word Fylgja with its meaning of a “ Following Spirit ”. Would tend to make one think that the Fylgja was following behind the person it was attached to, or walking besides the person. The Fylgja would normally go before the person. W.G. Collingwood in his book Thorstein of the Mere: A Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland 1895 pg. 8. Says that, “ For it was thought that a man’s fetch went before and brought slumber.”
Victor Rydberg in his book Teutonic Mythology No. 71 pg. 347 says that, the Norn Urd chose the Hamingje (i.e. A Family Dis) even before a child was born. And so following that thought, one would think that Urd would also chose one’s Fylgja. E. O. G. Turville-Petre pg. 228 says that in Iceland. The afterbirth was thought of as being a part of a newborn’s soul. In which it was incomplete until it was released. It must be taken care of and was never to be placed where some animal may eat it. If that where to happen it was thought that the child would be separated for their fylgja. I believe it would be a lot like the Native American women after giving birth would carry the after to a secret place and bury it.
In Rudolf Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology pg. 96. He has this to say about the Fylgja. “ … are a kind of doppelganger of the person and can act or else appear instead of him as an ominous sign “. Rudolf Keyser says that, “Every man was believed to have his Animal-Fylgja, and we usually find that the animal was conceived to be in some degree corresponding with the character or standing of a man”. Philip Pulsiand and Kristen Wolf state the same in their book Medieval Scandinavia. In that, “ The Fylgja in the shape of an animal is an alter ego, and reflects a person’s character “. A powerful person such as Gunnar in Njal’s Saga ch. 23 could have a Bear or even a Bull. In ch. 41 of Njal’s Saga, Thord had a Goat as a Fylgja. And a King could have a Lion and or a Leopard. In times past one’s Fylgjur was seen as being A Bear, A Wolf, A Horse, A Eagle and A Pig. Though in fact the Fylgjur can appear in any form.
Only one Fylgja is chosen for the new born child. And it stays with the child until the death of the person. At death the Fylgja dies with the person that it followed in life. The Fylgja is usually unseen by the one it follows. Though those with second sight would be able to see it. In Ch. 41 of Njal’s Saga, “ Thord sees a goat lying in a hallow covered with blood. Njal took this as a bad omen. And told Thord to be careful because it appeared that he was doomed. Daudhafylgja (Death-Fylgja) is the name give to the Fylgja when the impending death of the person was near.
On one hand the regular person seeing his/her Fylgja likely meant their approaching death. But on the second hand a Seidhr Worker (A Scandinavian form of Shamanism) would not only see the Fylgja. But would also work with their Fylgja. The Seidhr Worker could send His/Her Fylgja out into the Nine Worlds to seek out information and bring it back to the Seidhr Worker. Much like Odin would send out Huginn and Muninn each day to gather information and bring it back to him. The Seidhr Worker when Faring Forth (A Shamanic Journey) would ride one’s Fylgja traveling into the Nine Worlds. Sending their Hamingja in the in the animals shape. The Fylgja was sometimes used to help fight in battles. Much like Bodvar Bjarki in the The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki.
The Fylgja is a Source of Protection and gives Maegen (Power), Luck and Grants Success to the person that it follows. Kveldulf Gundarsson says in Teutonic Mythology pg. 15 that, “ It (Fylgja) is usually a guardian whose might works both in magical and in physical struggles, the outcome of which often depends on the strength of the fylgja-form and the Hamingja. ” The Hamingja is our personal power much like Chi or Mana. It is one of the places where the Fylgja gets it’s power. In Hammer of the Gods pg. 54, Swain Wodening describes Maegen as. “ … the spiritual energy possessed by every living creature. And that, “ … the fetch that usually controls the the allocation of one’s Maegen in accordance with one’s Wyrd. “
With today’s renewed interest in Shamanism and Heathenism world wide. I believe it would be a good thing for modern Heathen’s today to seek out their Fylgjur. And begin to work with them. It could also be a way too reconnect with nature, and also a source of inspiration in our ancestral ways.
Thorstein of the Mere: A Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland 1895 pg.8 by W.G. Collingwood
Teutonic Mythology by Victor Rydberg
Dictionary of Northern Mythology by Rudolf Simek
Religion of the Northmen by Rudolf Keyser 1854
Medieval Scandinavia by Philip Pulsiand and Kristen Wolf
The Saga of Hrolf Kraki
Hammer of the Gods by Swain Wodening
The Road to Hel by H.R. Ellis Davidson
Myth and Religion of the North by E. O. G. Turville-Petre
By: Robert James Etter