Are you looking for a cure for a headache or want to make your foe have painful flatulence? A spell-book from Iceland offers magical ways to deal with many situations.
Magic played an important role in medieval Iceland. Sagas and legends frequently reported the use of magic, and several books of spells were reported to have existed. The oldest surviving of them is the Galdrabók, which was created in the 16th century by four different scribes who each added their own spells to the manuscript.
The text has over forty spells, most of which involve the spellcaster speaking a set of words or carving runes. They deal with a wide variety of situations that one could find in everyday life in medieval Iceland – protection for your horse, a way to catch a thief or to win the love of a person. Other spells have a darker tone – to cause fear in your enemies, to kill someone’s livestock, or to prevent a woman from speaking. One can also see Christian elements used in some of the spells, such as the use of particular prayers, while others invoke the Norse pagan gods.
Here are five spells from the Galdrabók, which range from helpful to cruel:
Against headache and insomnia
Against headache and sleep-disturbances, write this verse and put it in his nightcap or under his bed in the evening in such a way that he does not know about it, and the situation will be improved: Miltant vá vitaloth jebóa feboath.
To get one’s wish fulfilled
Read this verse three times forward and three times backward and you will get the outcome you want for yourself.
[Forward:] Spred manns Hoc, fide tum boll
[Backward:] Boll tum fie, Hoc manns Sprend
To play a joke on someone so he can’t hold his food down all day
Carve these staves on cheese or fish and have the one eat it whom you wish to make sport of and whatever he eats that day will be of no use to him.
(The text then offers an antidote to the spell, which is to give the victim hot milk mixed with dried albumen.)
To bewitch a woman and win her love
If you want to bewilder a woman so that she finds her way to no one except you, make a hole in the floor where she goes over it and put etin-spear blood [perhaps a type of snake] and carve a ring on the outside of it and her name and these staves: mould-þurs and maður inverted threefold, blað, nauð, homla, and gagpaldar, and read this conjuration:
I look at you and you feel love and affection for me with all your heart. You can’t sit anywhere, nor stand to be anywhere unless you love me. This I ask of Óðinn and of all those who how to read women-runes. That you can neither endure nor thrive unless you love me with all your heart. Thus it will be like you are burning your bones and even worse in your fleshy parts. It will be allotted to you to be unmarried unless you love me, you shall freeze in your feet, and never get honor or happiness. You’ll sit as if burning, your hair falling out, may your clothes be ripped up, unless you want to have me, you easy woman.
Write these staves on white calfskin with your blood. Rouse your blood from your thigh and say: I carve you eight áss-runes, nine nauð-runes, thirteen þurs-runes, which are to afflict your belly with great shitting and shooting pains, and all these may afflict your belly with very great farting. May your bones split asunder, may your guts burst, may your farting never stop, neither day nor night. May you become as weak as the fiend, Loki, who was snared by all the gods. In your mightiest name Lord God, Spirit, Creator, Óðinn, Þor, Savior, Freyr, Freyja, Oper, Satan, Beelzebub, helper, mighty God, protect with your followers Uteos, Morss, Nokte, Vitales.
The text has been translated by Stephen E. Flowers in The Galdrabók: An Icelandic Book of Magic. This book also includes an introduction to the use of magic in medieval Iceland, as well as translations of related spells from other Icelandic, Old English and Old High German sources. Originally published by Runa Raven Press, it is now distributed by Lodestar. You can also buy the book through Amazon.com.
Top Image: Hengifoss Waterfall in Eastern Iceland. Photo by Peter Coughlan/Flickr