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Runes to Release the Child from the Mother: Healing and Obstetrics in Medieval Northern Europe
November 8 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
What is known about birth and midwifery in the pagan North? This presentation will discuss the role of female goddesses and beings, especially of Freyja, Frigg, Oddrún, and the dísir, for fertility, birth, and obstetric practices. On a more general level, the talk will explore to what extent Old Norse literature either directly addresses or tiptoes around topics such as birth and healing, which were essential for the lives of medieval women and men. This vantage point highlights the audience, function, and potential memory gaps of a variety of texts, including Snorri Sturluson’s Edda and the lays collected in the so-called Poetic Edda. The paper will include a discussion of runic inscriptions devoted to obstetrics and women’s medicine, and an Old High German healing charm.
Dr. Verena Höfig, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign