Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book review - Tvaer Galdraskraedur or Two Icelandic Books of Magic

  I haven't done a book review in a while, so I thought it was time to offer one. I recently read Tvaer Galdraskraedur or Two Icelandic Books of Magic, a book offered by Strandagaldr (Icelandic Musuem of Sorcery and Witchcraft). Since I very much enjoyed it I thought it would be a good choice to review.
    This is a fascinating work that is, effectively, excerpts from Icelandic grimoires. Each rune stave is shown with a short description in Icelandic and English which describes how to use it and what it does. The book itself is a consolidation of several surviving grimoires from 17th and 18th century Iceland and includes staves for a variety of things, often with multiple staves for any single purpose. These include everything from winning in court or catching a thief, to testing a woman's virginity or turning her heart to you, to casting out spirits and protecting from witchcraft. Two versions of the somewhat infamous "Fretrúnir" are given, which I was pleased to see, as they comprise one of the more interesting aspects of Icelandic rune magic. There are also several prayers listed, all thoroughly Christian, although in other sections the Norse Gods - particularly Baldr, Thor, and Odin - are invoked. There is a section which offers a variety of seals, along the lines of what one might find in a ceremonial magician's text, like the Lesser Key of Solomon. I will warn readers though that at one brief point several descriptions/prayers are translated not into English but in Latin, so if you don't speak either Icelandic or Latin you won't be able to understand what those few runestaves are for.
   The book's biggest drawback is that it does not get into the theory or history of the runestaves or runic magic, although it does briefly discuss a history of the grimoires in Iceland during the introduction. However there are other books on the market that one could buy that do get into the theory if you want that end of things. I'd recommend having at least a basic knowledge of runic magic or runestaves if your interest in this book goes beyond curiosity. That said though, the collection of staves offered is impressive and the descriptions attached to each - although short - are very interesting and include details like what materials to use, what (if any) words to say, and where to place the stave.
   This book is a good investment for anyone interested in runestaves or in the history of Iceland, as a lot can be gleaned from looking at the topics of the staves. For example, apparently people were mostly concerned with fishing, lawsuits, women, thieves, trading, evil spirits, overcoming enemies, and hexing livestock. And occasionally cursing their enemies with dysentery. For modern runic practitioners having access to such a wide collection of staves with the attendant descriptions is invaluable. Definitely worth getting a copy while they are available.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! It's one that I have been considering for some time now, and I am glad to learn that it will be worth it.