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 exists in various forms aegishjalmur though all are a variation of crosses with three-forked ends. It is mentioned in Eddic poetry and was a fear inducer and a protection against the abuse of power. It was to be carved in lead, and pressed on one´s forehead.
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 nemies´s attacks and troubled mind; the second against sudden death and collapse and all fear of the heart; third against anger of enemies 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 born on the breast or on either side when expecting one´s enemy.
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.
Draw this stave on furry paper and preserve it secretly under your left arm. Success in trading is then ensured.
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.
To prevent theft
Make this sign on the doorpost and a cross with the wrong band.
That a thief will be stuck insode a house, put this stave under the threshold.
To win a girl
Carve this stave on bread or cheese and have her feed on it.
A Fishing Stave
This stave should be drawn in wren's blood on a caul veidistafur 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 in raven´s blood on a slab of basalt and burn in 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.
These staves you should carve on the upper handle on the pole of the scythe and colour with blood from the main artery of the left hand.
Carve this sign on the horn of your eldest ram and your sheep will not drown in floods.
Cut this on the forhead of one of the gelded rams and the fox will not kill.
Keep these staves in the sheephouse and you will not suffer the fox biting.
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 on scrub oak and bury it under the threshold where your sheep pass over and your initial with is.
To fish well
Carve this on vellum 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.
Carve this on the bow.
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.
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.
Til þess að hræða óvin þinn ristu staf þennan á eikarspjald og kastaðu því fyrir fætur hans.
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.
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 breath 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.
Carve this stave onto a rowan post and whittle 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.
f a woman wants to create a tilberi she has to dig up a human rib in a graveyard early on Whitsunday, tilberi1 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 inside her 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.
Að koma sér upp tilbera, eða snakk er eingöngu kvennagaldur og samkvæmt þjóðtrúnni þá notuðu konur hann til að draga björg í bú, en tilberinn hljóp út um haga að skipan móðurinnar og saug mjólk úr ám. Hann stökk upp á hrygg þeirra og saug þær með báðum hausum á sitthvorum enda búksins. Tilberamóðirin gerði svo smjör úr mjólkinni sem kallað er tilberasmjör.
Galdrastafurinn Smjörhnútur er notaður til að vita hvort tilberasmjör er borið á borð með því að rista hann í smjörstykkið. Ef það er tilberasmjör þá hjaðnar það niður eins og froða, eða springur í þúsund mola.
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