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The Merseburg Incantations (Merseburger Domstiftsbibliothek, Codex 136, f.
85r, 10th Cy.)


The Merseburg Incantations ( ) are two medieval magic spells, charms or incantations, written in Old High German. They are the only known examples of Germanic pagan belief preserved in this language. They were discovered in 1841 by Georg Waitz, who found them in a theological manuscript from Fuldamarker, written in the 9th or 10th century, although there remains some speculation about the date of the charms themselves. The manuscript (Cod. 136 f. 85a) was stored in the library of the cathedral chapter of Merseburgmarker, hence the name.

Form

Each charm is divided into two parts: a preamble telling the story of a mythological event; and the actual spell in the form of a magic analogy (just as it was before... so shall it also be now...). In their verse form, the spells are of a transitional type; the lines show not only alliteration but also the end-rhymes developed in the Christian verse of the 9th century.

History

Among the preliterate early Germanic tribes, incantation had the function "of rendering usable, through binding words, the magic powers which people wished to make serve them" They have survived in large numbers, particularly from the area of the Germanic languages. However, they all date from the Middle Ages and therefore bear the stamp or show the influence of Christianity. What is unique about the Merseburg Incantations is that they still reflect very clearly their pre-Christian origin (from before the year 750). They were written down for an unknown reason in the 10th century by a literate cleric, possibly in the abbey of Fuldamarker, on a blank page of a liturgical book, which later passed to the library at Merseburg. The incantations have thus been transmitted in Caroline minuscule on the flyleaf of a Latin sacramentary.

The spells became famous in modern times through the appreciation of the Grimm brothers, who wrote as follows:
Lying between Leipzigmarker, Hallemarker and Jenamarker, the extensive library of the Cathedral Chapter of Merseburg has often been visited and made use of by scholars. All have passed over a codex which, if they chanced to take it up, appeared to offer only well-known church items, but which now, valued according to its entire content, offers a treasure such that the most famous libraries have nothing to compare with it...
The spells were published later by the Brothers Grimm in On two newly-discovered poems from the German Heroic Period (1842) and are now preserved in the library of Merseburg Cathedral.

Incantations

1. Liberation of prisoners

"Idise" (1905) by Emil Doepler.
The first spell is a "Lösesegen" (blessing of release), describing how a number of "Idisen" (Valkyrie women) free from their shackles warriors caught during battle. The last two lines contain the magic words "Leap forth from the fetters, escape from the foes" that are intended to release the warriors.

Eiris sazun idisi

sazun hera duoder.

suma hapt heptidun,

suma heri lezidun,

suma clubodun

umbi cuoniouuidi:

insprinc haptbandun,

inuar uigandun.

      Once the Idisi set forth,

to this place and that.

Some fastened fetters,

Some hindered the horde,

Some loosed the bonds

from the brave:

Leap forth from the fetters,

escape from the foes.

Once sat women,

They sat here, then there.

Some fastened bonds,

Some impeded an army,

Some unraveled fetters:

Escape the bonds,

flee the enemy!




2. Horse cure

"Wodan Heals Balder's Horse" (1905) by Emil Doepler.
Phol (possibly another name for Baldr) is with Wodan (Odin) when Baldur's horse dislocates its foot while riding through the forest (holza). Odin is saying as a result: "Bone to bone, blood to blood, limb to limb, as if they were glued". Depictions found on Migration Period Germanic bracteates are often viewed as Odin healing a horse. Not all of the names mentioned can be identified with certainty. However, figures that can be clearly identified are "Uuôdan" (Wodan, Wotan, Odin) and "Frîia" (Freyja or Frigg). Uolla has been linked to Fulla, who is described in the 13th century Prose Edda as a minor goddess and a handmaid of Frigg. Sunna is mentioned, though her sister Sinthgunt is otherwise unattested.

Phol ende uuodan

uuorun zi holza.

du uuart demo balderes uolon

sin uuoz birenkit.

thu biguol en sinthgunt,

sunna era suister;

thu biguol en friia,

uolla era suister;

thu biguol en uuodan,

so he uuola conda:

sose benrenki,

sose bluotrenki,

sose lidirenki:

ben zi bena,

bluot zi bluoda,

lid zi geliden,

sose gelimida sin.

     

Phol and Odin

rode into the woods,

There Balder's foal

sprained its foot.

It was charmed by Sinthgunt,

(so did) her sister Sunna.

It was charmed by Frija,

(so did) her sister Volla.

It was charmed by Odin,

as he well knew how:

Bone-sprain,

like blood-sprain,

Like limb-sprain:

Bone to bone,

blood to blood,

Limb to limb,

As though they were glued.



Phol and Wodan

rode to the woods,

Then, Balder's foal

wrenched his foot.

Then did Sinthgunt enchant it,

(so did) Sunna her sister,

then did Freya enchant it.

(so did) Fulla her sister,

then did Wodan enchant it,

as he well could:

If a bone-wrenching,

if a blood-wrenching,

if a limb-wrenching:

Bone to bone,

blood to blood,

Limb to limb,

As if bonded.



Adaptations

Many German rock groups and musicians have been inspired by the Merseburg Incantations and produced their own settings. The already "classic" adaptation of the first incantation comes from the group Ougenweide; it is a free invention based on no real musical tradition. The group In Extremo, whose song Küss mich (Kiss me) was in the 2003 charts, included a version of the first incantation in their album Verehrt und angespien (Adored and spat at) in 1999 and of the second in their album Sünder ohne Zügel (Sinners without reins) in 2001. Also in that year they did the same in the project Helium Vola in a quite different context. The band Corvus Corax features both charms in a single song on the album Ante Casu Peccati (Before the Fall). Yet another adaptation was featured by Tanzwut, a musical project of Corvus Corax, in the album of the same title. A further band, Nagelfar, has included the incantations on Die Sprüche auf Virus West. The group Eirisproject features both charms on their album Germanic Mantra from 2007.

Other

The manuscript of the Merseburg Incantations was on display until November 2004 as part of the exhibition "Between Cathedral and World - 1000 years of the Chapter of Merseburg", at Merseburg cathedral. They were previously exhibited in 1939.

The incantations can be found "freely translated" into English by D. L. Ashliman at his website.

See also



References

  1. Jeep, John. 'Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia'. Routledge; 2001. PP112-113. ISBN 0-8240-7644-3
  2. Calvin, Thomas. 'An Anthology of German Literature', D. C. Heath & co. ASIN: B0008BTK3E,B00089RS3K. P5-6.
  3. Simek, Rudolf. 'Lexikon der germanischen Mythologie'. A. Kröner, 1995. ISBN 3-520-36802-1
  4. Priest, George Madison. 'A Brief History of German Literature'. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909. P.11. ASIN: B0008AOAGC
  5. Todd, Henry & Weeks, Raymond, Editors,'Romanic Review Quarterly Journal, Volume VII, P.123. Columbia University Press, 1916.
  6. Lindow, John. Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs (2001) Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0.
  7. Bostock, John Knight. (1976) A Handbook on Old High German Literature, page 32. Oxford University Press ISBN 0198153929


Additional references

  • Beck, Wolfgang: Die Merseburger Zaubersprüche. Wiesbaden, 2003. ISBN 3-89500-300-X
  • Grimm, Jacob: "Über zwei entdeckte Gedichte aus der Zeit des deutschen Heidentums." In Abhandlungen der kgl. preussischen Akadamie, phil.-hist. Klasse. Berlin, 1842. pp. 1–24.
  • Schumacher, Meinolf: "Geschichtenerzählzauber. Die „Merseburger Zaubersprüche“ und die Funktion der „historiola“ im magischen Ritual." In Erzählte Welt – Welt des Erzählens, edited by Rüdiger Zymner. Köln, 2000. pp. 201–215, ISBN 3-934977-01-4


External links

  • http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/merseburger.html
  • http://uweb.cas.usf.edu/~clopez/CAL/AV/DIS/ch1a.htm
  • http://www.darkweb.de/mystik/merseburger_zaubersprueche1.html
  • http://www.mysterium-scribendi.de/merse.html
  • http://www.fh-augsburg.de/~harsch/germanica/Chronologie/08Jh/Merseburg/mer_intr.html



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