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The Galdralag is an Old Norse meter , which is characterized by the repetition of steepening.


Galdr means magic (cf. Galster ) and lag is a manner. Gadralag is therefore the "magic mode" or the "meter of spells". The name Galdralag is only documented once as a gloss , which was written in the margin of the 100th or 101st stanza of Snorris Háttatal .


A Galdralagstrophe is essentially a Ljóðaháttrstrophe in a full row, a caesura loose the line to be stabt , is repeated in whole or in slight variation:

G áttir allar,
áðr g angi fram,
to sk oðask sk yli,
to sk yggnast sk yli,
því at ó víst he at vita,
hvar ó vinir
sitja á f leti f yrir.
Hávamál , 1
Anvers, Langzeile 1
Full line 1
Full line 2
Anvers, Langzeile 2
Full line 3
At all doors
before going any further
should one look around
one should look around;
because it is uncertain
whether enemies
sit on the bench in front of you.
Translation (Arnulf Krause)

In the example above , a long line , consisting of upside and downside, is followed by a full line. This is then repeated in slight variations before a new long line begins. It is precisely the repetition of steepness that characterizes the Galdraglag. The example stanza by Snorri shows this clearly:

Sóttak f remð,
Sóttak f and konungs,
Sóttak í tran j arl,
þá he ek r eist,
þá er ek r enna gat
k aldan straum k ili,
k aldan sjá k ili.
Háttatal , 101
Anvers, Langzeile 1
Full line 1
Anvers, Langzeile 2
Full line 2
Full line 3
Sought fame
Tried to find a king
Looking for an excellent Jarl,
That's how I traveled;
That's how i drove
Kiel on cold stream
Kiel on the cold sea
Own translation

In this example it is noticeable that not all sticks belong to the verse ( S óttak, þ á). Of course, they stole anyway, but more as an addition than a rule. The underlying rule is still the Ljóðaháttrstrophe with a double full line (here in the second instead of the first half-strophe).


The Galdralag occurs to a limited extent in parts of the Song Edda , often together with the Ljóðaháttr . Examples of Galdralag can be found in the songs of the gods Hávamál (Str. 1, 105), Grímnismál (Str. 45), Skírnismál (Str. 29–32), Hárbarðslióð (Str. 18) and Lokasenna (Str. 62, 65) .

In Gylfaginning, Chapter 27, Snorri quotes two full lines from a stanza of the otherwise unsavory Heimdalargaldr ( Heimdall's magic song ). The two full lines as well as the name of the poem suggest that it was written in Galdraglag stanzas.

Níu em ek m æðra m ögr,
níu em ek s ystra s onr.
I am the son of nine mothers
i am the son of nine sisters.

But there is also evidence outside of the Eddas. One of the wooden sticks from Bergen (B 380, end of the 12th century) says:

H eill sé þú
ok í h ugum góðum.
Þ órr þík þ iggi.
Ó ðinn þik e igi
You are healthy
and good of mind.
May Thor accept you.
May Odin make you his own

Whether the Galdralag reflects the original form of pagan - Germanic magic poetry cannot be said with certainty, as almost no pagan magic spells have survived from Scandinavia. In the Song Edda there are mentions and descriptions of spells (cf. Hávamál Str. 146–163 and Grógaldr Str. 5–15), but not the sayings themselves. In the passages of the Song Edda mentioned , however, the Galdralag occurs more intensely, so that the typical repetitions of the Galdralag stanzas were very likely also typical for magic spells.

Parallels to West and South Germanic magic poetry

The fixed metric structure of a Galdralag strophe is alien to the oldest spells in Old High German and Old English tradition . Here, too, repetition is an essential part of magic poetry.

thu biguol en uu odan,
so he uu ola conda:
sose benrenki,
sose bluotrenki,
sose lidirenki:
Excerpt from the second Merseburg magic spell
then Wodan discussed him,
as only he understood it:
Be it bone dislocation,
be it blood dislocation,
be it a dislocation of the limb:
Nu magon þas VIIII w yrta || wið nygon w uldorgeflogenum,
wið VIIII a ttrum || and wið nygon o nflygnum,
wið ðy r eadan attre || wið ðy r unlan attre,
wið ðy hw itan attre || wið ðy w edenan attre,
Detail of the blessing of nine herbs
Now these 9 herbs have power against nine who have fled from fame
against 9 poisons and against nine infectious diseases,
against the red poison, against the lazy poison,
against the white poison, against the blue poison,

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Faulkes: Hattatal p. 75


  • Edith Marold : Ljóðháttr . In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Vol. 18. (2nd edition) Berlin, New York 2001.
  • Rudolf Simek: magic spell and magic poetry . In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Vol. 34 (2nd edition) Berlin, New York 2007.
  • Anthony Faulkes: Edda: Hattatal. (PDF; 787 kB) Viking Society for Northern Research, 2007