Icelandic Magic, Aims, Tools and Techniques of The Icelandic Sorcerers by Christopher Alan Smith. Avalonia 2015
First, this is not a book on practical magic. The author examines six manuscripts and discusses the workings and history of magic in Iceland.
Despite my disappointment of not learning some new ancient and arcane magic the book itself was an extremely enjoyable read. The first book in over 20 years I’ve completed in one day.
To preserve the symbols the author has taken the unusual step of providing facsimiles of the staves and runic script’s used. There is however some staves that could be used today, such as *ÍB 383 4to* from the **Huld** manuscript, where the two staves are to be written down and worn over the left breast as an aid to focusing the mind. Or the ‘terror’ stave from the same manuscript.
Clearly, most of the magic in the book relates to the time (approx 1500 AD to 1900 AD) when the manuscripts were written and the the circumstances of the people. Prior to the 16th century Iceland had been a Catholic nation after the forced conversion imposed in 1000 AD. The Catholic church seems to have taken a liberal view of the ‘folk’ practices as long as it did not harm the church. With the change to Lutheranism in the 16th century ‘witchcraft’ and practitioners of the old ways were persecuted.
Unlike magic in the Western Tradition that has very specific guidelines for workings, timings and implements this is rarely present in Icelandic magic. If anything, it seems almost too simple. Carve a couple of staves and your done! However, Christopher makes no attempt to make this a practical book on Icelandic. However, in Chapter 9 he does gives some examples, not that many of them are very practicable in todays world.
What was obvious in this book is that the magical practice of Iceland is very different from Europe. No circles or other devices for protection were used. No demons or angels called upon. Very few special implements were required, with most workings requiring no special tools. It appears that purely the magical stave, an incantation (most of the magicians own making) and his will power were all that is required.
It’s an area that has had little research done but the author is working on a further book where he hopes to catalogue the magical staves and possibly discern a common thread amongst them so that new workings may be devised.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. A nice way to enjoy a quiet Sunday and learn something new.