“Prior to the introduction of Christianity, Old Norse seems to have lacked a word meaning “soul” or “spirit” in the sense that it is used today.“
- Jackson Crawford, “‘Soul’ and ‘Spirit’ in Old Norse“, YouTube (Oct. 5, 2019).
I’ve never yet been able to wrap my mind around the complexities of fact and theory about the parts of the soul in Old Norse culture. I’ve been partial to the idea of a tri-partite soul, on the theory it would have been an Indo-European pattern, but I’m staying open to actual evidence and other theories.
The idea here is that in ancient times there was no separable soul, that being a Christian idea. The person, what we would call body and soul, is treated as a whole.
However, there is an idea (07:24) that witches could separate their soul (hugr) from their body (hamr), according to Hávamál 155. Although Crawford notices only that this is a special case of witches, it is parallel to the travel out of body reported by Siberian shamans and their New Age analogs.
One interpretation would be that the soul is not normally separable from the body but could be separated with special magic, or perhaps also at death if the fylgia is a form taken by the soul.
- Jackson Crawford, “The Afterlife in Norse Myth (pt. 1)“, YouTube (Dec. 11, 2018).
- Jackson Crawford, “Valhalla (Valhǫll): The Afterlife, pt. 2“, YouTube (Jan. 30, 2019).
- Jackson Crawford, “Spirits: The Dís and Fylgja in Norse Myth“, YouTube (Sept. 21, 2017).
- Arith Härger, “The Animal Fylgja“, YouTube (Mar. 6, 2019).