All of the signs and staves seen here can be found in Icelandic grimoires, some from the 17th century, some from later times though all of them seem to be related. 

The origin of this peculiar Icelandic magic is difficult to ascertain. Some signs seem to be derived from medieval mysticism and renaissance occultism, while others show some relation to runic culture and the old Germanic belief in Thor and Odinn. Much of the magic mentioned in court records can be found in grimoires kept in various manuscript collections. 

The purpose of the magic involved tells us something of the concerns of the lower classes that used them to lessen the burden of living in a harsh climate.

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Below is basic information about the staves but for further study, books about staves and Icelandic magic can be found in the online shop. 

Categories of magical staves


Helm of Awe

Helm of Awe - Ægishjálmur - exists in various forms, though all are a variation of crosses with three-forked ends. It is mentioned in Eddic poetry. It is a protection stave against evil spirits, enemies and the aggression and anger of rulers. The stave must be carved into a lead plate, which is then pressed onto the forehead between the eyes of the helm of Awe and the skin. The sorcerer must say what the stave protects against: "I wash off my enemies, robbery and anger of rich people". In doing so, he gains the courage needed to go against what he fears.

The Nine Helms of Awe

These are the nine helms of awe that everyone that deals with knowledge cannot do withour and each and every one must be used.


If something unclean is around

Carve this stave over the door of the house. Make an awl of juniper or silver.


When evil is approaching

These staves one should carve on oak and paint them with blood from your hand and hang them over your door. Little evil will then enter.



Veldismagn (that which increases power)

It must be carved on lignite and colour the stave with blood.
Let it lie between your breasts and nothing evil will harm you and you will return healthy and free of sickness after travelling on sea or land.



The Lesser Hagall

Carry this stave against all magic and write it on the shoulder blade of a seal with blood from a mouse.


Rings of king Charlemagne

These are the nine rings of help sent by God with his angel to Pope Leo so he could give them to king Charlemagne for protection against enemies in accordance with what follows. In nomine patris et filio et spiritu sancty Amen.



The first three as follows:

The first three rings and the first protects against all the pranks of the devil and enemies' attacks and troubled mind; the second against sudden death and collapse and all fear of the heart; the third against anger of enemies and that their minds be troubled when they look at you and may be filled with numbness and turn away.



The second three circles are as follows:

The second three circles and the first are for sword wounds; the second for devilish wiles and not losing one´s way; the third against the wrath of powerful men and all persecution by evil men.

The third three circles are formed as follows:



These third three circles and the first gives victory in legal disputes and popularity among all men; the second for all fear; the third protects against vices of the body and debauchery.

These nine circles shall be worn on the breast or on either side when expecting one's enemy.



For rowing

This stave must be carved on leather and coloured with your blood.

Put it where it rests under your oar, but carry it yourself on the boat and off it.

No one will row better than you.




Blood-oxen - Earth-oxen

To prevent theft, the first by day and the second by night. Carve them on the inside of the lid of the chest which preserves your wealth.


For trading

Draw this stave on furry paper and preserve it secretly under your left arm. Success in trading is then ensured.


The Necropants

One of the most difficult feats mentioned in Icelandic grimoires and folk tales is undoubtedly the nábrók (literally: necropants). This is a tool to gather wealth by supernatural means. To begin with the sorcerer has to make a pact with a living man and get his permission to dig up his dead body and skin it from the waist down.

The skin must be completely intact with no holes or scratches. The sorcerer then steps into the skin which will immediately become one with his own.
A coin must be stolen from a poor widow, either at Christmas, Easter, or Whitsunday and kept in the scrotum. It will then draw money from living persons and the scrodum will never be empty when the sorcerer checks.
However, his spiritual well being is at risk unless he gets rid of the necropants before he dies. If he dies with the pants on, his body will become infested with lice as soon as he passes away. The sorcerer must therefore find somebody that is willing to take the pants and put his leg into the right leg before the sorcerer steps out of the left one. The pants will keep on drawing money for generations of owners.

To prevent theft

Make this sign on the doorpost and a cross with the opposite hand.


To ensure that a thief will be stuck inside the house, put this stave under the threshold.



To win a girl

Carve this stave on bread or cheese and give it to her to eat.



A Fishing Stave

This stave should be drawn in wren's blood on an amniotic membrane with a pen made of a raven's feather. Then put it in a gimlet hole under the prow of your ship and you will always have a good catch.


They should be carved one on each side of the sharpening stone.


If a cow´s milk is bloody.

Carve this stave on oak and milk the cow over it.


So all your ewes shall have twins

Carve the following stave on sheep's manure with the rib of a mouse and the blood of a raven on a slab of basalt and burn it on the door of the fold and let the smoke drift onto your sheep on the old St. John's day.


For the benefit of your sheep

Carve this on oak and bury it under the floor and let the livestock pass over.


For mowing

You should carve these staves on the upper handle on the pole of the scythe and colour with blood from the main artery of the left hand.


Prevent drowning

Carve this sign on the horn of your eldest ram and your sheep will not drown in floods.


Against foxbite

Cut this on the forhead of one of the gelded rams and the fox will not kill.


Keep these staves in the sheephouse and the fox will not bite them.



Carve on a goat´s horn, leave near your house to prevent harm to your animals.


To make your sheep docile

To make your sheep docile

Take juniper and willow that grow facing east when the sun rises and carve this stave on it and let your sheep walk over it in summer and under it in winter.


Carve these signs along with your initials on scrub oak and bury it under the threshold where your sheep pass over.


To fish well

Carve this on calf skin and tie it to your fishing hook.


Carve on skin and tie it to your sinker.


Carve this on murderous oak if you want a good catch at sea.


Carve this on the bow.


Cause harm

To break the leg of a horse

Carve this on a tablet and drop it on the path. Carve with the knife you use for your food.


Killing rune

These staves should be written on paper and thrown in the tracks of his horse and one of his animals will die if he takes offence without reason and cover the stave in the hoofprint.



Fear stave

To scare your enemy, carve this stave on a piece of oak and throw it at the feet of your enemy.


Sleep and dreams

The Sigil of Salomon

If you seek to be wise and have good dreams then carve this sign on lignite and keep it under your head.


Dream Staves

If one inscribes these characters on silver or a white hide on Midsummer's Night, and sleeps on them, one will dream what one wishes, when the sun is at its lowest point.




Hulinhjalmur is a magical sign to make yourself invisible. An invisible boy is on display at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft, after using this method.



Lay the stave on the lock and whisper on it "May all trolls take the trigger, pull so that the devil will creak."



Inscribed on a pot lid or the bottom of a tub. One of the most powerful staves that there is.


Hills Stave

Carve this stave onto a rowan post and shave it down into a wand. Then color the grooves with blood from beneath the root of your tongue, and then strike with the end upon which the stave is carved. Whether it is a hill or a rock, it will open.

Ef sprotanum er slegið í hóla eða steina opnast þeir.



If a woman wants to create a tilberi she has to dig up a human rib in a graveyard early on Whitsunday, wrap it in grey wool and preserve it between her breasts. The next three Sundays at communion she has to spit the holy wine on the bundle which will then come alive. Then the woman has to carve a nipple on her inner thigh on which the tilberi will hang on and nourish itself.

en it is fully grown the woman can send it into the neighbouring pastures to steal milk from cows and sheep. When the woman becomes old the tilberi becomes a burden and the only way she can get rid of it, is to order it to gather all the sheepdropping in three highland pastures. Eager to get back on the nipple the tilberi will overexert itself and explode, leaving only a human rib beside the heap of droppings. The milk-stealing tilberi is the only magic in Icelandic folklore that can only be performed by women. A fully grown tilberi could lie across a sheep´s back and suck two tits at the same time and when it would roll back to its farm it would spew the milk into its mother churn. The butter made from the milk would fall into little pieces if the magical sign smjörhnútur (butterknot) was drawn on it.
tilberinn sig, svo eftir liggur einungis mannsrifið úr kirkjugarðinum.

Making a tilbera, or snack, is only women's magic, and according to folklore, women used it to drag rocks to the farm, while the tilbera ran out into the pastures at the mother's command and sucked milk from ewes. The tilberi jumped onto their backs and sucked them with both heads on opposite ends of their bodies. The tilberi mother then made butter from the milk, which is called tilberi butter.

The Butter Knot magic stave is used to know if real butter is served on the table by carving it into the stick of butter. If it is tilberi butter, it crumbles like foam, or explodes into a thousand pieces.

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