Aims, tools and techniques of the Icelandic sorcerers
By Christopher Alan Smith
In this unprecedented work, author Christopher A. Smith has meticulously studied no less than 6 original Icelandic manuscripts dating from 1500 to 1860 to extract a picture of the aims, tools and techniques of Icelandic sorcerers. Set against the context of the harsh economic, social and environmental conditions of this North Atlantic island, the book gives a detailed account of the types of spells that were used and the motivations behind them.
Hundreds of items from the six books of magic have been analysed to present the reader with a clear idea of the methods that were used, including incantation, invocation of deities and use of the enigmatic magical staves (galdrastafir). Furthermore, the book goes into great detail concerning the physical tools used by magicians and the kinds of objects that might have been found in a sorcerer's 'toolbox'.
The book is illustrated throughout with images from the original manuscripts. Although it is not intended by any means as a book of instruction, one chapter does focus on workings of certain types and gives suggestions for those brave enough to try them out.
All in all, this work will be an indispensable item for anyone interested in the history of magic in general and of Icelandic magic in particular.
2015, 220 pages. Hardback with dust jacket, paperback & Kindle editions available.
B&W 6.14 x 9.21 in or 234 x 156 mm (Royal 8vo) Perfect Bound on Creme w/Gloss Lam
B&W 6.14 x 9.21in or 234 x 156mm (Royal 8vo) Blue Digital Cloth™ Cover w/Jacket on Creme w/Gloss Lam
Icelandic Magic by Christopher Alan Smith
A note on orthography and pronunciation
CHAPTER 1 - ICELANDIC MAGIC IN CONTEXT
The environment and the economy
Law and law enforcement
Religion and attitudes to magic
CHAPTER 2 - THE BOOKS OF MAGIC
CHAPTER 3 - PURPOSES AND PREOCCUPATIONS
The question of ‘white’ and ‘black’ magic
Farming, fishing and trade
Friendship, favour and influence
Crime and disputes
Love and seduction
Games and sports
Luck and wishes
Spells of purely malign intent
CHAPTER 4 - THE MAIN TECHNIQUES OF ICELANDIC MAGIC
The primacy of the magical sign as a vehicle of the intent
Appeals to supernatural entities
The importance of incantation
The methods of delivery
Bringing a prepared spell into direct contact with the target
Delivery by proximity
Delivery from a distance
CHAPTER 5 - THE TOOLS OF ICELANDIC MAGIC
The carving instrument
Knives, awls and scissors
Pens, pencils and chalk
Materials used for carving
The carved surfaces
Paper and parchment
Bones, human and animal
Use of body fluids and excretions
Herbs and vegetable preparations
CHAPTER 6 - TIME AND SPACE
CHAPTER 7 - THE PERSISTENCE OF HEATHEN BELIEF
CHAPTER 8 - RUNES, CIPHERS AND SECRECY
CHAPTER 9 - SOME PROMINENT THEMES AND THEIR APPLICATIONS
Kaupaloki – the bargain sealer
Disputes and lawsuits
Brýnslustafir – keeping sharp is good
CHAPTER 10 - THE ISSUE OF COMPLEXITY
CHAPTER 11 - CONCLUSIONS
Who practised magic, and with what intentions?
Techniques and tools – summary
The construction of the staves – can any sense be made of this?
Final conclusion: how are we to typify Icelandic magic?
Suggestions for further reading
Christopher Alan Smith was born in Nottingham in 1954. He has travelled widely and lived in the Netherlands for five years, where his innate talent for languages enabled him to speak fluent Dutch within a few months and work as a logistics coordinator for a major transport company. His travels also include three visits to Iceland; on the second visit, he stayed in the country for 8 months and worked as a volunteer at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík.
Christopher’s interest in magic began when he was a student at the University of Sheffield, at which time the main emphasis in the available literature was on the Western Tradition of Kabbalistic magic. However, his taste for travel, languages and a restless search for knowledge clearly indicated Woden as his example, leading him within a few years towards Rune Magic and ultimately to membership of the Rune Gild. His Fellowship Work for the Gild, “The Icelandic Tradition of Magic” was published in 2012 as part of the collection “Occult Traditions” (Numen Books). In 2014 he was awarded the title of Master in the Rune Gild for his Master-work “Icelandic Magic in the Early Modern Period”, which forms the basis of this book.
As he wryly comments in the introduction, “As my sixtieth birthday was approaching, I realised that I should perhaps have started on this project about forty years ago, beginning by studying Icelandic and folklore at university instead of politics… but one has to start somewhere.”
Today he lives in North Yorkshire and, when not practising and researching Icelandic magic, works as a freelance translator.