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Authors: Stephen E. Flowers

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Icelandic Magic

BOOK: Icelandic Magic
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Icelandic
MAGIC

“In many ways
Icelandic Magic
is as awe-inspiring and mysterious as the Icelandic landscape itself. Full of fascinating accounts of Iceland's magical history and grimoires, this book offers pragmatic instructions to resurrect this magic and tap into its power, yet there is a creative aspect that will inherently force the practitioner to union with their own inner sage. Flowers guides us safely through the ancient secrets of Icelandic magic into our own ‘circuit boards of consciousness,' which we learn may be rewired through systematically formed staves aligned with our will.”

SERA TIMMS, MUSICIAN, VISUAL ARTIST, PRIESTESS, AND LEAD VOCALIST OF BLACK MARE


Icelandic Magic
is a modern classic of Northern sorcery. Stephen Flowers's galdor-stave system exposes the frosty roots of sigilworking, revealing a magic available to anyone possessing pen, paper, and a hunger for transformation.”

CLINT MARSH, AUTHOR OF
THE MENTALIST'S HANDBOOK

“Stephen Flowers offers readers a comprehensive and erudite guide to the runes, staves, and other elements of Icelandic magic. This book opens the secret lore of Icelandic magicians for today's readers.”

DAN HARMS, LIBRARIAN AT SUNY CORTLAND MEMORIAL
LIBRARY, EDITOR OF
THE LONG-LOST FRIEND: A 19TH CENTURY
AMERICAN GRIMOIR
E, AND AUTHOR OF
THE CTHULHU MYTHOS
ENCYCLOPEDIA: A GUIDE TO H. P. LOVECRAFT'S UNIVERSE

“In his latest work, Stephen E. Flowers pours forth his inspiration again. On the basis of sound, academic research, he provides a good basis for the praxis of Icelandic magic. The most important aspect of his teaching is that he defines the attitude and preparation necessary to become a sorcerer in the old tradition. A book by a magician, for magicians.”

CHRISTOPHER ALAN SMITH,
AUTHOR OF
ICELANDIC MAGIC:
AIMS, TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES OF
THE ICELANDIC SORCERERS


Icelandic Magic
is an exciting new expansion that goes far beyond Flowers's previous Galdrabók. Much more than a presentation of historical grimoire material, Flowers goes on to identify the key components of the techniques and show readers how to construct their own workings in a traditional manner.
Icelandic Magic
explores both the inner and outer nature of galdor, and of magic in general, to give the reader the tools for gaining knowledge, wisdom, and self-transformation.”

ALICE KARLSDÓTTIR, AUTHOR OF
NORSE GODDESS MAGIC

 

Notes to the Reader

Abbreviations

 
 
 
ch.
chapter
 
 
 
Ice.
Icelandic
 
 
 
Lat.
Latin
 
 
 
Lbs.
Landsbókasafn (= National Library of Iceland)
 
 
 
ON
Old Norse
 
 
 
PGmc.
Proto-Germanic
 
 
 
pl.
plural
 
 
 
sg.
singular
 
 
 
st.
stanza

Orthography

Old Norse and modern Icelandic feature several letters that are not found in the Roman alphabet:
þ,
which represents an unvoiced /
th
/ sound (sometimes transliterated as
th
), and
ð,
which represents a voiced /
th
/ sound (sometimes transliterated as
dh
).

Foreign Words

Words appearing in parentheses or square brackets are Old Norse or Icelandic unless otherwise indicated. There are only slight variations in spelling between Old Norse and early modern Icelandic.

 

FOREWORD

Magic Manuals and Sorcerous Staves

By Michael Moynihan

Grimoires are magic manuals: handbooks for making and activating talismans, spells, and curses. A widespread phenomenon, they represent an ancient literary genre in the history of magic, witchcraft, and heretical religious practices. Countless examples have been found in Western, Middle Eastern, and Eastern cultures. Across the whole of Europe an especially robust grimoire tradition has existed for centuries and has recently been detailed in works by historians of folk belief such as Owen Davies and Claude Lecouteux.
*1
America can even claim its own contribution to the genre: the early-nineteenth-century compendium of folk magic and medicine collected by John George Hohman under the curious title
Der lang verborgene Freund
(The Long-Lost Friend)
.
†2
I suspect that contemporary witchcraft and occult practices such as the Gardnerian “Book of Shadows” or the Crowleyan “Magickal Diary” are, at root, attempts to follow in the footsteps of—or reinvent—the older grimoire tradition, albeit in a largely subjective and ahistorical way. Countless other modern manifestations of grimoire-like texts could be cataloged in the same vein.

The word
grimoire
as we use it today derives from a borrowing of the Old French term
gram(m)aire.
This originally referred to a book written in Latin but soon came to denote a book of magic: the shift in meaning may have come about because the European grimoires were typically filled with (often garbled) Latin, not to mention smatterings of Greek and other foreign words and phrases. The word
grimoire
has the same origin as
grammar,
and a certain overlap can still be seen between them, at least in the sense of a book filled with prescriptions for proper communication, using the medium of letters and written symbols (one should not forget that both terms ultimately derive from the Greek
gramma,
“written letter, character”). In the case of a grimoire, that communication is with the hidden forces of the universe, both demonic and divine.

In addition to the inclusion of magical words from foreign languages, a common feature of many grimoires is the use of strange alphabets, ciphers, and signs to represent specific deities, demons, or other hidden forces. While many of these symbols were copied and recopied, and thereby came to constitute an inherited visual vocabulary, there was also room for the individual magician to adapt and modify such material according to personal knowledge, and even to create new symbols when needed. The symbols became further codified when grimoires began to be mechanically printed and sold clandestinely in the form of chapbooks, but this did not wipe out the older tradition in which individuals copied down their own grimoires by hand or wrote them out for others. Many such examples have been found, all the way up into the early twentieth century. As personal expressions, no two are exactly alike.

A thriving grimoire tradition has existed in Scandinavian countries since the late Middle Ages, with many surviving examples now preserved in manuscript archives. In Norway they are called “black books” (
svartebøker
); in Sweden, “black art books” (
svartkonstböcker
) or “sorcery books” (
trolldomsböcker
); and in Iceland, “magic books” (
galdrabækur
). The Icelandic texts are particularly distinguished, for a
galdrabók
typically exhibits a striking visual element in the often elaborate
galdrastafir
(magic staves) that decorate its pages and which are a central component to many of the spells. While the use of symbols and graphic “signatures” was a well-established aspect of the continental grimoire tradition, the Icelanders developed their variety of magic staves to a unique art. And whereas the continental grimoires tend to only make reference to Greco-Mediterranean and Judeo-Christian deities and demons, the Icelandic grimoires preserve remarkable vestiges of Germanic heathen folklore. Grimoires even played a significant role in Icelandic religious history, as Magnús Rafnsson explains: “Almost a third of the known witchcraft trials in Iceland revolve around magical staves and signs, grimoires, and pages with occult writings. In some cases the accused owned one or more grimoires, in a few instances signs and sigils had been written on other objects, sometimes pieces of oak, gills, or even boats.”
*3

More than a quarter-century ago, Stephen Flowers published
The Galdrabók: An Icelandic Grimoire,
an annotated translation of the most remarkable extant Icelandic grimoire, dated to the late sixteenth century. At the time his book appeared, material on the late medieval and early modern Icelandic magical traditions and folk practices was quite difficult to come by, particularly in the English-speaking world. Stephen's book even sold briskly in Iceland—the inhabitants of that island have an abiding interest in their own past and culture—and several years later, in 1992, the first scholarly modern Icelandic study of the
Galdrabók
was published by Matthías Viðar Sæmundsson.

In recent years a number of other Icelandic magical manuscripts and books have been reproduced and translated in modern editions. A good deal of this renaissance of curiosity about Icelandic folk magic has been fueled by the creation of Strandagaldur, a small museum dedicated to the history of Icelandic magic and witchcraft. Established at the turn of the millennium, Strandagaldur is fittingly located at Hólmavík in the remote Strandir region of the northwest fjords—an area already notorious as a home to sorcerers and outlaws in the medieval saga literature. The museum features permanent and temporary exhibits on various aspects of Icelandic folklore and history, specifically in relation to magical practices and witchcraft.

In rural areas Scandinavian black books were still being copied—and presumably used—into the early twentieth century. Now and then they are rediscovered, such as when Mary Rustad found two such black books in the 1970s while rummaging in the attic of her ancestors' farm in Elverum, Norway. Originally dating from 1790–1820, the books have been republished in a facsimile edition and English translation. Of even more interest in the present context is an Icelandic grimoire called
Rún
—literally, “rune,” but the word also has a more abstract meaning of “secret or hidden lore”—written or copied in 1928 and containing a considerable number of
galdrastafir
along with a veritable host of encryption alphabets. This has recently been published in high-quality facsimile by the Strandagaldur museum.

Unlike the aforementioned editions, the present book is not a reproduction of a historical grimoire per se, although it is informed by a number of such texts and incorporates genuine traditional material for the majority of its content. It is rather a handbook and how-to manual for those who wish to begin experimenting within this tradition themselves. The first half of the book (largely based upon the introductory portion of Stephen's earlier study,
The Galdrabók
) gives an overview of Icelandic magic in its historical and literary context, thus enabling a deeper understanding of the roots of the Icelandic
galdrabækur
culture. The most famous legends surrounding historical Icelandic sorcerers and their personal grimoires are also translated here. The first part of the book concludes with two chapters that offer an insightful methodology (including preparation, ritual, and usage) for the creation of one's own
galdrastafir.
The second part of the book offers a basic set of spells that make up a working
galdrabók.
In addition to those spells and staves derived from original Icelandic sources, several new ones have been created—and tested for efficacy—by the author. Once grounded in the fundamentals of the tradition, the owner of the book is encouraged to continue actively experimenting on his or her own.

Stephen Flowers is the perfect person to write a primer on Icelandic magic. For more than half a century he has been studying ancient Germanic culture and religion, as well as Old Norse and Icelandic language, literature, and mythology. He is scientifically trained in runology and also founded the Rune-Gild, an initiatory organization dedicated to traditionally informed esoteric work with the runes. He has likewise immersed himself in the history of Western magic, in particular that of heretical personalities and movements. His teachers and mentors in these subjects were some of the greatest scholars in their respective fields. In August of 1995 he traveled to Iceland to a retreat on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where he gave a series of talks and workshops about the
galdrastafir
and related aspects of Icelandic magic. He was able to do some of this in Icelandic and gave a general lecture in Icelandic as well—no small feat, given the complexities of the language.

Starting in the mid-1980s, upon the completion of his Ph.D., Stephen began publishing books of a spiritual nature under his pen name, Edred Thorsson. These dealt with Germanic religion and runology from a practical standpoint, and his personal involvement in such areas would prove highly influential in the years that followed. In contrast to the Edred Thorsson titles, Stephen wrote and published several books of a more scholarly nature—the original edition of
The Galdrabók
among them—under his given name. For decades he kept up this distinction between his scientific and his spiritual works. With
Icelandic Magic,
however, readers will find a book published under his birth name that is deeply invested with scholarship but which also represents a working manual for the practitioner. Stephen tells me that, at this stage of his career, maintaining the public distinction between the two sides of his work—the scholarly and the esoteric, the theoretical and the practical—no longer matters.

In the rich corpus of Icelandic legends and folktales, certain notorious grimoires take on a life and history of their own. At the very least, a grimoire should reflect the soul of its creator or owner. The creation of an Icelandic
galdrabók
has always been an art form, but one which—like the best art—continually exerts its magic in the real world, beyond the two-dimensions of parchment, paper, or canvas.
Icelandic Magic
should not be thumbed through and tucked away in a research library or confined to a curiosity cabinet. This manual is meant to be used.

A new wave of interest in the folkways of our ancestors is under way. Much old lore, preserved in all manner of hidden places, has been rediscovered, collected, and brought back out into the light of day. But one need not remain a passive consumer of the past. A new generation of researchers and practitioners is already trying to unlock and reactivate the mysteries of the
galdrabækur
and
galdrastafir
.
*4
And now you, the reader of this book, can also become the
writer
and try your hand at stirring the sorcerous staves to life, sending them out into the wide world to work their magic.

M
ICHAEL
M
OYNIHAN
is an author, translator, editor, and musician. His nonfiction book
Lords of Chaos
(cowritten with Didrik Søderlind; revised edition: Feral House, 2003), an underground bestseller translated into nine languages, is now the basis for a feature film production. He has contributed to scholarly encyclopedias and topical anthologies, and coedits (with Joshua Buckley) the journal
TYR: Myth—Culture—Tradition.
He recently collaborated on
American Grotesque,
the first monograph of work by William Mortensen (1897–1965), an unsung early-twentieth-century pioneer of grotesque and occult photography, along with a new edition of Mortensen's aesthetic handbook,
The Command to Look
(both published by Feral House, 2014). As a translator his work includes the annotated English edition of
Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes
by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, Ph.D. (Inner Traditions, 2011). Together with his wife, Annabel Lee, he runs Dominion Press, a small press that has produced limited-edition volumes by Hans Bellmer, Julius Evola, Stephen E. Flowers, Joscelyn Godwin, and John Michell.

BOOK: Icelandic Magic
13.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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