The Merseburg charms or Merseburg incantations (German: die Merseburger Zaubersprüche) 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 the language. They were discovered in 1841 by Georg Waitz, who found them in a theological manuscript from Fulda, 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) is stored in the library of the cathedral chapter of Merseburg, hence the name.
The incantations were recorded in the 10th century by a cleric, possibly in the abbey of Fulda, 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 Leipzig, Halle and Jena, 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).
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.
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 traditional alliteration but also the end-rhymes introduced in the Christian verse of the 9th century.
The first spell is a "Lösesegen" (blessing of release), describing how a number of "Idisen" freed 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 sat women,
- They sat here, then there.
- Some fastened bonds,
- Some impeded an army,
- Some unraveled fetters:
- Escape the bonds,
- flee the enemy!
Phol is with Wodan when Baldur's horse dislocates its foot while riding through the forest (holza). Wodan intones the incantation: "Bone to bone, blood to blood, limb to limb, as if they were mended".
Figures that can be clearly identified within Continental Germanic mythology are "Uuôdan" (Wodan) and "Frîia" (Frija). Depictions found on Migration Period Germanic bracteates are often viewed as Wodan (Odin) healing a horse.
Comparing Norse mythology, Wodan is well-attested as the cognate of Odin. Frija the cognate of Frigg, also identified with Freyja. Balder is Norse Baldr. Phol is the masculine form of Uolla, but the context makes clear that it is another name of Balder. Uolla has been linked to Fulla, a minor goddess and a handmaid of Frigg. Sunna (the sun) in Norse mythology is Sól, 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 si bluoda,
- lid zi geliden, sose gelimida sin!
- Phol and Wodan were riding to the woods,
- and the foot of Balder's foal was sprained
- So Sinthgunt, Sunna's sister, conjured it.
- and Frija, Volla's sister, conjured it.
- and Wodan conjured it, as well he could:
- Like bone-sprain, so blood-sprain,
- so joint-sprain:
- Bone to bone, blood to blood,
- joints to joints, so may they be mended.
The First Merseburg Charm (loosening charm)'s similarity to the anecdote in Bede's Hist. Eccles., IV, 22 ( ""How a certain captive's chains fell off when masses were sung for him"'.) has been noted by Jacob Grimm. In this Christianized example, it is the singing of the mass, rather than the chanting of the charm, that effects the release of a comrade (in this case a brother). The unshackled man is asked "whether he had any spells about him, as are spoken of in fabulous stories", which curiously has been translated as "loosening rune (about him)" (Old English: álýsendlícan rune) in the Anglo-Saxon translation of Bede, as has been pointed out by Sophus Bugge. Bugge makes this reference in his edition of the Eddaic poem Grógaldr (1867), in an attempt to justify his emending the phrase "Leifnir's fire (?)" (Old Norse: leifnis elda) into "loosening charm" (Old Norse: leysigaldr) in the context of one of the magic charms that Gróa is teaching to her son. But this is an aggressive emendation of the original text, and its validity as well as any suggestion to its ties to the Merseburg charm is subject to skepticism.[n 1]
Many analogous magic incantations to the Second Merseburg Charm (horse-healing spell), have been noted. Some paralleling is discernible in other Old German spells, but analogues are particularly abundant in folkloric spells from Scandinavian countries (often preserved in so-called "black books".). Similar charms have been noted in Gaelic, Lettish and Finnish suggesting that the formula is of ancient Indo-European origin. Some commentators trace the connection back to writings in ancient India.
Other spells recorded in Old High German or Old Saxon/Old Low German noted for similarity, such as the group of wurmsegen spells for casting out the "Nesso" worm causing the affliction. There are several manuscript recensions of this spell, and Jacob Grimm scrutinizes in particular the so-called "Contra vermes" variant, in Low German from the Cod. Vidob. theol. 259 (now ÖNB Cod. 751) The text is a mixture of Latin and German:
Contra vermes (against worms)
Gang ût, nesso, mit nigun nessiklînon,
ût fana themo margę an that bên, fan themo bêne an that flêsg,
ût fana themo flêsgke an thia hûd, ût fan thera hûd an thesa strâla.
Drohtin, uuerthe so!
As Grimm explains, the spell tells the nesso worm and its nine young ones to begone, away from the marrow to bone, bone to flesh, flesh to hide (skin), and into the strâla or arrow, which is the implement into which the pest or pathogen is to be coaxed. It closes with the invocation: "Lord (Drohtin), let it be". Grimm insists that this charm, like the De hoc quod Spurihalz dicunt charm (MHG: spurhalz; German: lahm "lame") that immediately precedes it in the manuscript, is "about lame horses again." And the "transitions from marrow to bone (or sinews), to flesh and hide, resemble phrases in the sprain-spells," i.e. the Merseburg horse-charm types.
Jacob Grimm in his Deutsche Mythologie, chapter 38, listed examples of what he saw as survivals of the Merseburg charm in popular traditions of his time: from Norway a prayer to Jesus for a horse's leg injury, and two spells from Sweden, one invoking Odin (for a horse suffering from a fit or equine distemper[n 2]) and another invoking Frygg for a sheep's ailment. He also quoted one Dutch charm for fixing a horse's foot, and a Scottish one for the treatment of human sprains that was still practiced in his time in the 19th century (See #Scotland below).
Grimm provided in his appendix another Norwegian horse spell, which has been translated and examined as a parallel by Thorpe. Grimm had recopied the spell from a tome by Hans Hammond, Nordiska Missions-historie (Copenhagen 1787), pp. 119–120, the spell being transcribed by Thomas von Westen c. 1714. This appears to be the same spell in English as given as a parallel by a modern commentator, though he apparently misattributes it to the 19th century. The texts and translations will be presented side-by-side below:
- LII. gegen knochenbruch
- Jesus reed sig til Heede,
- der reed han syndt sit Folebeen.
- Jesus stigede af og lägte det;
- Jesus lagde Marv i Marv,
- Ben i Ben, Kjöd i Kjöd ;
- Jesus lagde derpaa et Blad,
- At det skulde blive i samme stad.
- i tre navne etc.
- (Hans Hammond, "Nordiska Missions-historie",
- Kjøbenhavn 1787, pp.119, 120)
- (= Bang's formula #6)
- Jesus rode to the heath,
- There he rode the leg of his colt in two.
- Jesus dismounted and heal'd it ;
- Jesus laid marrow to marrow,
- Bone to bone, flesh to flesh ;
- Jesus laid thereon a leaf,
- That it might remain in the same place.
- For a Broken Bone
- Jesus himself rode to the heath,
- And as he rode, his horse's bone was broken.
- Jesus dismounted and healed that:
- Jesus laid marrow to marrow,
- Bone to bone, flesh to flesh.
- Jesus thereafter laid a leaf
- So that these should stay in their place.[n 3]
- (in the Three Names, etc.)
The number of Norwegian analogues is quite large, though many are just variations on the theme. Bishop Anton Christian Bang compiled a volume culled from Norwegian black books of charms and other sources, and classified the horse-mending spells under the opening chapter "Odin og Folebenet", strongly suggesting a relationship with the second Merseburg incantation. Bang here gives a group of 34 spells, mostly recorded in the 18th–19th century though two are assigned to the 17th (c. 1668 and 1670), and 31 of the charms are for treating horses with an injured leg. The name for the horse's trauma, which occurs in the titles, is Norwegian: vred in most of the rhymes, with smatterings of raina and bridge (sic.), but they all are essentially synonymous with brigde, glossed as the "dislocation of the limb" [n 4] in Aasen's dictionary.
From Bishop Bang's collection, the following is a list of specific formulas discussed as parallels in scholarly literature:
It might be pointed out that none of the charms in Bang's chapter "Odin og Folebenet" actually invokes Odin.[n 6] The idea that the charms have been Christianized and that the presence of Baldur has been substituted by "The Lord" or Jesus is expressed by Bang in another treatise, crediting communications with Bugge and the work of Grimm in the matter. Jacob Grimm had already pointed out the Christ-Balder identification in interpreting the Merseburg charm; Grimm seized on the idea that in the Norse language, "White Christ (hvíta Kristr)" was a common epithet, just as Balder was known as the "white Æsir-god" 
Another strikingly similar "horse cure" incantation is a 20th-century sample that hails the name of the ancient 11th-century Norwegian king Olaf II of Norway. The specimen was collected in Møre, Norway, where it was presented as for use in healing a bone fracture:
- Les denne bøna:
- Sankt-Olav reid i den
- grøne skog,
- fekk skade på sin
- eigen hestefot.
- Bein i bein,
- kjøt i kjøt,
- hud i hud.
- Alt med Guds ord og amen
- To Heal a Bone Fracture
- Saint Olav rode in
- green wood;
- broke his little
- horse's foot.
- Bone to bone,
- flesh to flesh,
- skin to skin.
- In the name of God,
Several Swedish analogues were given by Sophus Bugge and by Viktor Rydberg in writings published around the same time (1889). The following 17th-century spell was noted as a parallel to the Merseburg horse charm by both of them:
- "Mot vred"
- (Sörbygdens dombok, 1672)
- Vår herre Jesus Kristus och S. Peder de gingo eller rede öfver Brattebro. S. Peders häst fick vre eller skre. Vår herre steg af sin häst med, signa S. Peders häst vre eller skre: blod vid blod, led vid led. Så fick S. Peders häst bot i 3 name o.s.v.
—Bugge and Rydberg, after Arcadius (1883)
- Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Peter went or rode over Brattebro. St. Peter's horse got (a dislocation or sprain). Our Lord dismounted from His horse, blessed St. Peter's horse (with the dislocation or sprain): blood to blood, (joint to joint). So received St. Peter's horse healing in three names etc. etc.
- "Vår herre red ad hallen ned. Hans foles fod vrednede ved, han stig aff, lagde leed ved leed, blod ved blod, kiöd ved kiöd, ben ved ben, som vor herre signet folen sin, leedt ind igjen, i naffn, o.s.v."
Rydberg, after Arcadius, (1883) ?
- "Our Lord rode down to the hall. His foal's foot became sprained, he dismounted, laid joint with joint, blood with blood, sinew with sinew, bone with bone, as our Lord blessed his foal, led in again, in the name of, etc."
A very salient example, though contemporary to Bugge's time, is one that invokes Odin's name:
- "Odin rides over rock and hill;
- he rides his horse out of a sprain and into joint
- out of disorder and into order, bone to bone, joint to joint,
- as it was best, when it was whole."
- Imod Forvridning
Jesus op ad Bierget red;
der vred han sin Fod af Led.
Saa satte han sig ned at signe.
Saa sagde han:
Jeg signer Sener i Sener,
Aarer i Aarer,
Kiød i Kiød,
Og Blod i Blod!
Saa satte han Haanden til Jorden ned,
Saa lægedes hans Fodeled!
I Navnet o.s.v.
- against dislocations
- (from Jutland)
Jesus up the mountain did ride;
sprained his foot in the joint.
He sat down for a blessing,
and so said he:
I bless tendon to tendon
vein to vein,
flesh to flesh,
and blood to blood!
So he set his hand down on the ground below,
and bonded were his joints together!
In the Name, etc.[n 8]
Grimm also exemplified a Scottish charm (for people, not horses) as a salient remnant of the Merseburg type of charm. This healing spell for humans was practiced in the Shetlands (which has strong Scandinavian ties and where the Norn language used to be spoken). The practice involved tying a "wresting thread" of black wool with nine knots around the sprained leg of a person, and in an inaudible voice pronouncing the following:
Alexander Macbain (who also supplies a presumably reconstructed Gaelic "Chaidh Criosd a mach/Air maduinn mhoich" to the first couplet of "The Lord rade" charm above) also records a version of a horse spell which was chanted while "at the same time tying a worsted thread on the injured limb."
Christ went forth
In the early morn
And found the horses' legs
He put bone to bone.
Sinew to sinew,
Flesh to flesh.
And skin to skin ;
And as He healed that,
May I heal this.
(Macbain tr.) 
Macbain goes on to quote another Gaelic horse spell, one beginning "Chaidh Brìde mach.." from Cuairtear nan Gleann (July, 1842) that invokes St. Bride as a "he" rather than "she", plus additional examples suffering from corrupted text.
There have been repeated suggestions that healing formula of the Second Merseburg Charm may well have deep Indo-European roots. A parallel has been drawn between this charm and an example in Vedic literature, an incantation from the 2nd millennium BCE found in the Atharvaveda, hymn IV, 12:
1. róhaṇy asi róhany asthṇaç chinnásya róhaṇî
róháye 'dám arundhati
2. yát te rishṭáṃ yát te dyuttám ásti péshṭraṃ te âtmáni
dhâtấ tád bhadráyâ púnaḥ sáṃ dadhat párushâ páruḥ
3. sáṃ te majjấ majjñấ bhavatu sámu te párushâ páruḥ
sáṃ te mâmsásya vísrastaṃ sáṃ ásthy ápi rohatu
4. majjấ majjñấ sáṃ dhîyatâṃ cármaṇâ cárma rohatu
ásṛk te ásthi rohatu ṃâṇsáṃ mâṇséna rohatu
5. lóma lómnâ sáṃ kalpayâ tvacấ sáṃ kalpayâ tvácam
ásṛk te ásthi rohatu chinnáṃ sáṃ dhehy oshadhe 
1. Grower (Rohani)[n 9] art thou, grower, grower of severed bone; make this grow. O arundhatī [n 10]
2. What of thee is torn, what of thee is inflamed (?), what of thee is crushed (?) in thyself
may Dhātar[n 11] excellently put that together again, joint with joint.
3. Let thy marrow come together with marrow, and thy joint together with joint;
together let what of your flesh has fallen apart, together let thy bone grow over.
4. Let marrow be put together with marrow; let skin grow with skin;
let thy blood, bone grow; let flesh grow with flesh.
5. Fit thou together hair with hair; fit together skin with skin;
let thy blood, bone grow; put together what is severed, O herb..., etc.
However, the Rohani (Rōhaṇī Sanskrit: रोहणी) here apparently does not signify a deity, but rather a healing herb; in fact, just an alternate name for the herb arundathi mentioned in the same strain.
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal ornamental device to help indicate the underlying metrical structure, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of the Germanic languages, where scholars use the term 'alliterative poetry' rather broadly to indicate a tradition which not only shares alliteration as its primary ornament but also certain metrical characteristics. The Old English epic Beowulf, as well as most other Old English poetry, the Old High German Muspilli, the Old Saxon Heliand, the Old Norse Poetic Edda, and many Middle English poems such as Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Alliterative Morte Arthur all use alliterative verse.Alliterative verse can be found in many other languages as well. The Finnish Kalevala and the Estonian Kalevipoeg both use alliterative forms derived from folk tradition. Traditional Turkic verse, for example that of the Uyghur, is also alliterative.Atharvaveda
The Atharva Veda (Sanskrit: अथर्ववेद, Atharvaveda from atharvāṇas and veda, meaning "knowledge") is the "knowledge storehouse of atharvāṇas, the procedures for everyday life". The text is the fourth Veda, but has been a late addition to the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism.The Atharvaveda is composed in Vedic Sanskrit, and it is a collection of 730 hymns with about 6,000 mantras, divided into 20 books. About a sixth of the Atharvaveda text adapts verses from the Rigveda, and except for Books 15 and 16, the text is in poem form deploying a diversity of Vedic matters. Two different recensions of the text – the Paippalāda and the Śaunakīya – have survived into modern times. Reliable manuscripts of the Paippalada edition were believed to have been lost, but a well-preserved version was discovered among a collection of palm leaf manuscripts in Odisha in 1957.
In contrast to the 'hieratic religion' of the other three Vedas, the Atharvaveda is said to represent a 'popular religion', incorporating not only formulas for magic, but also the daily rituals for initiation into learning (upanayana), marriage and funerals. Royal rituals and the duties of the court priests are also included in the Atharvaveda. Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in ancient India, suggests a link between this Veda and medicine.
The Atharvaveda was likely compiled as a Veda contemporaneously with Samaveda and Yajurveda, or about 1200 BC - 1000 BC. Along with the Samhita layer of text, the Atharvaveda includes a Brahmana text, and a final layer of the text that covers philosophical speculations. The latter layer of Atharvaveda text includes three primary Upanishads, influential to various schools of Hindu philosophy. These include the Mundaka Upanishad, the Mandukya Upanishad and the Prashna Upanishad.Dísablót
The Dísablót was the blót (sacrificial holiday) which was held in honour of the female spirits or deities called dísir (and the Valkyries), from pre-historic times until the Christianization of Scandinavia. Its purpose was to enhance the coming harvest. It is mentioned in Hervarar saga, Víga-Glúms saga, Egils saga and the Heimskringla. The celebration still lives on in the form of an annual fair called the Disting in Uppsala, Sweden.
The Dísablót appears to have been held during Winter Nights, or at the vernal equinox. In one version of Hervarar saga, there is a description of how the sacrifice was performed. Alfhildr, the daughter of king Alfr of Alfheim, was kidnapped by Starkad Aludreng while she was reddening a horgr with blood.This suggests that the rite was performed by women, especially in light of what is generally believed to be their nearly exclusive role as priestesses of the pagan Germanic religion. However, according to the Ynglinga saga part of the Heimskringla, the king of Sweden performed the rites, which was in accordance with his role as high priest of the Temple at Uppsala. The mention of the Dísablót concerns the death of king Eadgils (Aðils, Adils) who died from falling off his horse while riding around the shrine:
In Sweden, the Dísablót was of central political and social importance. The festivities were held at the end of February or early March at Gamla Uppsala. It was held in conjunction with the great fair Disting and the great popular assembly called the Thing of all Swedes.The Icelandic historian Snorri Sturlusson, who was well-informed of Swedish matters and visited the country in 1219, explained in the Heimskringla (1225):
The shrine where the Dísir were worshiped was called dísarsalr and this building is mentioned in the Ynglinga saga concerning king Aðils' death. It also appears Hervarar saga, where a woman becomes so infuriated over the death of her father by the hands of Heiðrekr, her husband, that she hangs herself in the shrine.
The Scandinavian dísablót is associated with the Anglo-Saxon modranect ("mothers' night") by Gabriel Turville-Petre. The Anglo-Saxon month roughly equivalent to November was called blot-monath.
The number of references to the Disir ranging from the Merseburg Charms to many instances in Norse mythology indicate that they were considered vital deities to worship and that they were primary focus of prayers (e.g. the charms) for luck against enemies in war.German language
German (Deutsch [dɔʏtʃ] (listen)) is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
One of the major languages of the world, German is the first language of almost 100 million people worldwide and the most widely spoken native language in the European Union. Together with French, German is the second most commonly spoken foreign language in the EU after English, making it the second biggest language in the EU in terms of overall speakers. German is also the second most widely taught foreign language in the EU after English at primary school level (but third after English and French at lower secondary level), the fourth most widely taught non-English language in the US (after Spanish, French and American Sign Language), and the second most commonly used scientific language as well as the third most widely used language on websites after English and Russian. The German-speaking countries are ranked fifth in terms of annual publication of new books, with one tenth of all books (including e-books) in the world being published in the German language. In the United Kingdom, German and French are the most-sought after foreign languages for businesses (with 49% and 50% of businesses identifying these two languages as the most useful, respectively).German is an inflected language with four cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), two numbers (singular, plural), and strong and weak verbs. German derives the majority of its vocabulary from the ancient Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. A portion of German words are derived from Latin and Greek, and fewer are borrowed from French and Modern English. With slightly different standardized variants (German, Austrian and Swiss Standard German), German is a pluricentric language. It is also notable for its broad spectrum of dialects, with many unique varieties existing in Europe and also other parts of the world. Due to the limited intelligibility between certain varieties and Standard German, as well as the lack of an undisputed, scientific difference between a "dialect" and a "language", some German varieties or dialect groups (e.g. Low German or Plautdietsch) are alternatively referred to as "languages" or "dialects".
Old German spells
|Old High German|