A charm for sprains and other injuries
For knot spells, 9 knots in a strand of black yarn
The Wresting Thread (or Wristing Thread), charms against sprains that have instructions with them!
This charm was recorded in a 10th century manuscript, though it it considered to be far older. This scene is apparently depicted on bracteates from the 5th and 6th century. There are many later and christianized versions of it, but this is the oldest one we know.
What is it good for ? Basically, most sport injuries, accidents or battle injuries where you'd want a surgeon, medic or bonesetter. Bone wrenching can be bone breaks, fractures, and hairline fractures. Blood-wrenching is any breaking of blood-vessels, and the pooling of blood that creates swelling. Limb-wrenching is any damage to sinews, tendons, ligaments, skin and various connective tissues that are torn, twisted, pulled, sprained or cut. If you wish things to line up properly again, and be joined as if they were glued together like they were before, then this is the right charm.
Obviously, you should also get any medical attention you can in addition to using this charm. Disinfect the injury and stop the bleeding it there's a cut, reset any bones if there's a break, and control the swelling with ice if needed. It's not about either or, it's about using all the means at your disposal. As is said in the Persian writings of the Avesta, there are three kinds of medicines: "one that heals with the knife, one that heals with herbs, and one that heals with sacred spells." Surgeons and medics use knife medicine (manual methods), doctors use drugs derived from herbs (as do herbal doctors), and spell medicine, that's what we're talking about here.
Or, click on the links below to hear two lines at a time, first at full speed, then more slowly with words clearly separated, giving you time to repeat the line, then a third time, one word at a time, with time to repeat.
|Old High German||My phonetics notes||English|
Phol ende uuodan
thu biguol en sinthgunt,
ben zi bena,
Foal ènd(e) vwoodan
Þu bigwol en Sintgount,
Bone to bone,
At the beginning of a word, the letter 'u' was usually pronounced as an 'f',
but two u's were usually pronounced like 'w'. In practice, it's more like 'f(w)' and '(v)w'.
According to Heathen author and presenter Birgit Knorr (see below), Biguol, translated to "bespoke", survives in modern Englis as the word "beguile". Beguile can mean to charm or bespell, which is exactly what Sinthgunt, Friia and Wodan are doing. The sentence structure of the spell implies that these three are the only ones there doing the spell: "Then beguiled it Sinthgunt, the sister of Sunna". Friia could be Frigga or Freya, or possibly a goddess that combined both on the mainland. Either way, if you say it in the original version and call Her Friia, you're sure to be calling the right one. Of course, you could say it in English, but all those I've known who've made the effort to sing old charms in the original language said they got a lot more power out of it. It just doesn't quite do it in English.
I'd like to note here that while Fulla is considered to be Frigga's sister, the only place where this is mentioned is in this charm. If Friia were actually a name of Freya, this would mean that Fulla is actually a Vanir, and sister of Freya. The Prose Edda mentions Fulla four times, Once in the Death of Balder, where Nanna sends Fulla a ring from beyond death. Once in Bragi's talk in the list of Aesir and Asynjur who sit in judgement, and once in the Skaldskaparmal where Fulla's headgear is said to be a kenning for gold. Then there is the most explicit paragraph in the Deluding of Gylfi
"'The fifth is Fulla; she, too, is a virgin and wears her hair loose and a golden band round her head.
She carries Frigg's little box and looks after her shoes and knows her secrets."
Now, virgin could mean "independant woman" or "hasn't been with a man" in those times. I feel a personal connection with Lofn, and my Unverifiable Personal Gnosis (UPG) of communing with Lofn while asking about Fulla was this: "Oh yes, they are siiiiiiisters... inseparable! Fulla does know Frigga's secrets, and takes care of her seeecret box... yes she does, takes verrrrry good care of it." Hint, hint, wink wink. Make of this what you will, but it is an interesting possibility to consider for queer Heathens and Pagans who feel under-represented in the mythology. I really need to invite Fulla to a dumb supper at some point to ger Her version.
Then again , all the Norse Gods are perfectly heterosexual, and promote good Christian values. Forget I said anything. Gods forbid there might be any bisexual goddesses or lesbian goddesses in Asgard. And for the Norns' sake, let's not mention the incestuous Vanir who keep having brother-sister sex, and those effeminate priests of Frey. We don't speak of such things. We don't even think about it.
All right, so now we can speak it, but how do we use the spell with no instructions? Fortunately, there are many christianized versions of the same spell with better instructions.
From the Shetlands
The Lord rade,
And the foal slade;
From the Orkney Islands (Sanday)
Our Savior rade,
His fore-foot slade;
Jesus and St. Peter
In the Shetlands, the wresting thread is spun from black wool. You tie nine knots into it, then tie it around the sprained limb while saying the charm. The charm should be said softly enough that no bystanders will hear, not even the person receiving the healing.
In the Orkney Islands, the thread is made of linen instead of wool, and it doesn't matter if anyone hears you say the charm. However, you should repeat the charm for each of the 9 knots you tie, these knots must be evenly spaced, and only then should you tie the yarn around the injured limb. (see below)
Another Orkney charm says to first make 9 knots into a thread, then as you tie it around the injured limb, mutter: "Nine knots upo' this thread, Nino blessings on thy head ; Blessings to take away thy pain, And ilka tinter of thy strain. " (source)
In the Slovenian charm, one must make the sign of the cross and say: "help us, Father, help us, Son, help us, the Holy Ghost" and then say the Lord’s Prayer three times. No thread is involved. (source)
"In the Western Isles the following charm is used for a sprain-- A strand of black wool is wound round and round the ankle, while the operator recites in a low voice (...) A similar charm was used in Germany in the tenth century, according to Jacob Grimm." (source)
With all this, and a little experience with spell work, we can put it together into spell instructions. The number 9 is very sacred in the Northern traditions, usually symbolizing totality or completion, and as it is part of the instructions for variants of this spell, we should fully make use of it. Nine days seems reasonable for fully healing from a sprain or other injury.
See my page on How to Spin Yarn With A Drop Spindle to learn how it's done.
Spin : Take a thread of black wool or linen, and better it be if you have spun it yourself with intent.
Tie: Tie nine evenly spaced knots on the thread, and as you tie each knot, speak the entire charm once for each knot.
Charge: Go over each knot once more, this time chanting only the last 4 lines over each knot. Hold the knot between thumb, index and middle finger as you chant over it. Then pull the thread with the other hand to get to the next knot, so the thread runs along your fingers. See in your mind's eye how tight all the fibres are, how stuck, twisted and tied they are together as you squeeze the knot between your fingers. You can repeat this charging step over and over until you feel it is strong enough to heal.
Lock: Speak the whole charm again over the thread to lock it in.
Wrap: Wrap the thread around the injured limb or body part, chanting the entire charm as you do, and tie it in place. The thread can be wound around the limb a few times before being tied if it is long.
Release: Squeeze the first knot between your three fingers, feeling the power it holds, and chant the last four lines. Suddenly let go of it to release its binding power into the injury. Do the same with the second knot, and so on. Ignore the tenth knot that bound it around the limb.
The injured person should wear it for the rest of the day and sleep with it. If neccessary, it can be removed for a short time, such as to wash, and then the tenth knot re-tied. It should be worn for 9 days, and then returned to the healer, who can then either cleanse it to re-use, or destroy it. At the very least, it should be washed.
Saturday July 3rd 2010
This section is just about making the yarn. Go to the next section to read about the spell casting.
I knew I had to finish spinning the black worsted yarn to do the spell today. I finished combing all my washed black wool yesterday (ugh, that was the nastiest wool, but the grief it gave me was appropriate for the typical binding spells that use black wool). But I only had time to tease part of it through the diz into slivers, but it was enough. I spun it on the soapstone drop spindle, then it was time to ply it. As for the white yarn, I tied a loop around my bathroom shower curtain, and then tied a second loop on that one, so the single plied yarn could run freely through that second loop, and be easily detached. I passed it through the loop, holding the loose end in my right hand, and unwound the spindle with the left hand as I backed up down the corridor, keeping the two threads separate.
I had a lot more yarn than last time though, so I quickly reached the appartment's front door. Conscious of the neighbors, I kept unwinding from the spindle, but wound the other thread between my right hand and elbow, until I estimated about half the yarn was on either side. Self-conscious in my bathrobe, but determined to get this done asap, I opened the door and stepped out, unwinding from both my right arm and the spindle until I'd reached the wall on the other side of the landing. It's a good thing I didn't spin more than this, or I'd have run out of room! Then I tied the two ends together, and wound them on the now empty drop spindle. I wasn't sure which way to spin the ply, but dangling it, it was clear which way it was trying to wind, the opposite direction from the one I'd used on the single ply.
That's the beauty of plied yarn... it WANTS to twist itself into a two plied yarn. The twists are opposite directions, so the more the hight twist single ply tries to unwind itself, the more tightly it spins the two strands together. That's what creates a stable yarn that won't come apart from just sitting there without tension, unlike the unstable single ply.
So I sung the Icelandic spinning verse, spinning the two strands onto the drop spindle easily and quickly. I had intentionally left the rest of my while spun wool on the spindle, to create a short length of white and black candy-cane-like swirled yarn. I thought it was very pretty, showing the twist very clearly, and I looked forward to finding what magical uses this half-light and half-dark yarn would have. I ducked back into the appartment as early as I could, having only had to dodge one neighbor, and finished plying the rest of the all black yarn onto the spindle.
Then I wound that yarn onto the back of a chair into a large loop, tying it with string in 5 places so it would stay put. Pulling it off the chair, I dunked it in a flat corningware dish full of boiling hot water for about 5 minutes to set the twist, pushing it down under water with a wooden spoon. Once done, I lifted it out with the spoon, letting the too hot water drip until it was cool enough to hold, and squeezed the excess water out without wringing it. I tied one end of that loop to the front door handle (so I wouldn't forget it on the way out), and the bottom was tied to my soapstone weight, a big lump with a hole in it. Thus weighted, I let it dry under tension until it was time to leave.
I drove to the bout, leaving it hanging from a hook in my car to finish setting and drying. After the bout, I retrieved it.
A few things I learned today: combing all the wool first, and then teasing it into slivers as a separate step is a waste of time. The combed wool has to be lashed onto the comb again, and then combed two more times before the fibers are lined up enough to tease out. Granted, it was easier to comb the second time, but I should have just teased it out after combing while still on the comb and saved time. I also found I could attach the comb holder to to the stool I'd made in high school (instead of a table) which was handy for teasing it outside, and will be great for doing demonstrations.
I cut off with my craft knife a sufficient length for the task, and tied a little knot at each end so it wouldn't come apart. Then I just held all of it in my hand for a while. I could feel the warmth of my hand going into the thread, coming from my chest and down the arm. When it felt "warm" enough, I went to sit in a secluded area on the grass. I was only interrupted once by a concerned teammate, wondering if I was okay. I reassured her, "I'm fine, just meditating and doing my Pagan stuff. Everything's great. But I appreciate your concern ! I'll be heading out for food and the after party when I'm done."
I centered, grounded in the two powers of Earth and sky, and then sung Jord's spirit song to ground even more fully. Pulling up energy from the Earth and down from the sky, I charged up my body and aura with what felt just enough to get the job done.
Letting the thread hand loosely between my two spread apart hands, I started singing the charm and very slowly making a knot in the middle of the thread . For the first section, I imagined the riders, and Balder's foal spraining its foot. Then Sinthgunt on my left putting Her right hand over the injury, Her right lower arm going through my left one, Friia on my right doing the same, with Her left lower arm going through my right one, super-imposed, and Odin in front of me with both hands for the second part. For the third and fourth parts, I imagined the spinal disk and vertebrae snapping back into place, and staying there, blood vessels and soft tissue bonding again and taking shape as they're supposed to. (days later, I added to the visualization that the spinal disk specifically regenerate and grow back, having read about the actual medical condition... shoulda done my homework first! More on spell maintenance below).
After that first knot, I prayed to Sinthgunt for permission, and help in using the charm. I'd managed to get Her attention enough to ask for permission days before, but now I added: "How can I repay you for your help?" She seemed pleased, and asked me to be Her horse in the future, which I gladly agreed to. Horsing is like mediumship, letting a spirit go into your body and speak through you, but more intense, as they can actually move around and do things in your body, typically so others can interact with this spirit. You don't do this unless you are absolutely sure you can trust that spirit or deity.
Of Friia, I asked permission to use the spell, and She grudgingly agreed. I tried to figure out if this was Freya or Frigga, having met both, but I honestly couldn't tell. It didn't really feel like either of Them. Perhaps it was an aspect I hadn't seen, but either way, what I felt was darkness inside Her, just like there was for Sinthgunt. Not a bad darkness, just the kind of power associated with night. Odin, of course, had to be a wise-ass. When I asked His permission, He said: "So now you want me, hmmmmmm?" Seeming both annoyed and amused. "Odin, I honor and respect You. But we just wouldn't get along very well. So while I don't want to work for You, I would still like to have your permission to use this spell. Is that agreeable with You?" "Fine. Granted," He said dismissively, and left. Only Sinthgunt stayed to help throughout the spell. In retrospect, I should have asked the other two what repayment They would want. Oh well, this is my first time with this spell, it's only to be expected I don't get it all done perfectly.
I measured out half of one side of the yarn to speak the spell again, and tie the second knot in the middle. Then again between the middle one and that second, then between the second and the end. I started the process over on the other side of the yarn. My trance deepened as I went, and I started feeling the chill I get before horsing a spirit, along with the opening of the middle of my back that comes with it, right behind the heart. Apparently, that's unusual, most people have the spirit come in through the top of their head.
Slightly dazed from the trance, I counted the knots. Seven. That wasn't right. I needed two more, and they had to be evenly spaced. Visualizing the thread and knots, I realized I had blundered. The last two knots would have to be on either end, and I'd have to untie the ones I had done. So I undid one, sung the spell as I retied it, then did the same for the other. I was done, and pretty tranced out.
Standing up, I pushed the trance back so I could go find my patient, holding the knotted yarn in my right hand. I found her, and we went to a pic nic bench under some trees. I explained I would simply tie the string around her midsection, singing the prayer, then pinch each of the knots while I sang a bit of the verse, to release what was in the knots into her. I could do it over or under her t-shirt, as she preferred. She was fine with lifting it up enough to do the job. So we both straddled the bench, her back to me, and I sung the verse while I wrapped it around her torso, and tied it over her spine with a bow, like for shoelaces, easy to do and undo. Then I pinched one of the knots with index and thumb, singing the fourth part of the charm, willing it to release into her body. I did the same for the other 8 knots, and we were done. She asked what to do with it, and I said as it was a spell of 9 knots, she should wear it for at least 3 days, ideally 9. She could remove it if needed for showers and such, but should wear it as much as possible. Wanting to get as much help as possible, she decided on 9 days. "What's the worse that can happen?" she mused, "Worst case, it does nothing. Best case, it helps. I'll wear it nine days. Thanks a lot for this!" And we were done.
Later that night, I started feeling sore in the middle of my back. Exactly where she had told me it was hurting. Hmmm. And double HMMMM! What was going on? I Looked at my own back, in spirit, and was stunned. There was like a little sphere surrounding that section of my spine about two inches wide (5 cm). And I could See that same sphere on her own back in that spot. It was like our backs were separate, but inside that sphere, they were lined up together and somehow interacting. I started understanding how the spell worked: Whatever it is on the energetic side that holds my body together and in the right shape, in that spot, I was sharing it with her. You could call it "chi", "ki", or the etheric body I suppose. Because her own "pattern" was weak there, mine was supporting hers and helping it line up properly, sharing half its strength. This meant my own back was weaker there, and I'd have to be really careful to not injure myself for 9 days!
My intuition said that "pattern" wasn't exactly the right word for what we were sharing, but it couldn't find the right word, and in any case, it was close enough. Every spell requires a price be paid, and this sharing was the price of this one. Clearly, this isn't a good spell to use if you're not in really good shape. To bolster someone else's pattern for healing, you should ideally be someone who exercises regularly, with fairly strong muscles holding everything together, and no weakness of your own in the part you're trying to heal. Checking, my intuition said that my own pattern would be fine after nine days, in fact, it would be stronger. Why? Because even as she was healing her body and pattern with the help of mine, my own body was trying to heal, strengthen and rebuild this weaker part of my pattern. So while I'd started at 50% pattern strength right after casting the spell, I might be back up to 75% after 9 days, and then I'd get my loaned out 50% back on top of that.
I also later understood why three Gods had done the spell for Balder's foal. Each of THEM was sharing part of Their pattern, but with three healers, they didn't have to give up as much. The weakness they'd carry would be negligible, a third of what I was carrying.
So lesson 2: When doing this, get a few more healers involved. I imagine three people would be ideal, each standing in for one of the gods. They could even be horsing the gods in question if those deities were willing. Nice thing is, the yarn can be charged and knotted before-hand, without the injured person needing to be there during all the spooky foo. Tying it on and activating is much simpler and shorter than the charging.
Lesson 3: One thing I'd learned from spinning the white yarn -- wool I've spun with magical intent is, for all intents and purposes, part of me. Or at least, it is whenever I intend it to be. I can move energy up and down the yarn as easily as if it were up and down my arm.
I've used that white yarn to suck out disease from someone, and send it down to a safe place, without having to run it through my own body. Really, you don't want to suck diseased energy out and into yourself if you can avoid it. Hand spun thread is a good way to avoid that. I tied one end to the sick part of the person, and the other to the Helheim rung of my stang (a representation of the World Tree and its 9 worlds), so the disease would drain out into the place where things go to die, rot away, and be renewed. It was kind of like... having a bowel movement, pushing the stuff down, except in the thread.
I couldn't do this if I'd just bought and used some machine spun wool. This aliveness and connection has advantages and disadvantages.
The main disadvantage is that I can all too easily mess up the spell by thinking about it, and tinkering with it.
The main advantage is I can easily check on how the spell is progressing, renew it if needed, and make adjustments.
Lesson 4: The discomfort I felt the first night went away, and only came back occasionally. I came to realize that if I wasn't feeling the discomfort, it was because I'd retrieved some of my pattern unintentionally. I could speak the spell again to go back to sharing fully, whenever I wanted, or simply take back some of my pattern if I needed it. So 5 days into the spell, I started paying attention to keeping that discomfort there, and if it dissapeared, I could send her a bit more. Not enough to hurt, mind you, just enough to feel it, barely uncomfortable.
7 days into the spell, I woke up with my back painful and stiff. It lessened in the afternoon, and increased in the evening. Day 8, a bit of soreness in the morning. Apparently, the yarn wearer had pain in the afternoon of day 7, basically when I had less. Interesting.
Sunday July 18th 2010
As of this date, the skater has returned to practice, but has not yet done any contact drills since she still has back pains. She has been cleared to practice as hard as she feels able to by our osteopaths. She gave me the thread back 10 days after the spell. It's not clear how much or how little the spell may have helped, but at least it did no harm and had minimal side effects (I think every caster has some funny stories about the spells they did with unintended and inconvenient side-effects... fortunately I've been careful, and at worst they were annoying).
I feel that I connected to the pattern of this spell, but only enough to get a shadow of the real effect. It'll probably be a while before I know if there have been any long term improvements as a result. Next time, I'll make offering to all three deities, and get two more healers involved in the casting.
As promised, I organized a dumb supper for Sinthgunt and two friends, to horse Her as payment for Her help. I had a very hard time connecting to Her, which isn't helped by the fact we know almost nothing about Her. I don't seem to be a really good match for Her. Either that, or it's been over a thousand years since She's taken a human body, and She's out of practice. I'd say what we got was aspecting, or a shaky channeling, I kept struggling to stay out of Her way, though my friend's drumming helped a bit. The words came out, but were rather confusing and abstract. Her mannerism was much more dainty than Sunna's, and She seemed right handed.
I asked Her items She'd like on the table at the dumb supper, and from Her list I put:
A compass, my cardboard astrolabe, a starfinder, a spool of thread (some of my spun yarn), a map, plumb line or pendulum, measuring tape, pencil.
I did not put these other items: protractor, drafting compass, quill (instead of, or in addition to the pencil), drop spindle (it didn't feel needed at the time). She specifically said no when I asked about adding a wind rose.
I had to rely on my friend's questions to get to know Her more. Mostly, She talked about how She draws circles and lines.
What do you do? "I draw circles," She drew a half circle in the air, left, up and down to the right, with the right index. "and lines. I hold my brother and sister."
What happens when a circle is broken? "The life spills out."
She played with the spool of yarn, running the thread between fingers, and spooling and unspooling it around two fingers of the left hand.
That's about all I can remember.
How to pronounce the First Merseburg Charm – Blessing of Release:
This spell is a "Lösesegen" (blessing of release) to free warriors from battle-fetters.
|Old High German||My phonetics notes||English|
|Eiris sazun idisi
sazun hera duoder.
suma hapt heptidun,
suma heri lezidun,
|Ah-Iris zazoun idizi
Zazoun era duoder
Zouma hapt heptidoun
Zouma heri lesidoun
|Once sat Disir-women,
Sat (they) here, then there.
Some fastened fetters,
Some hindered the host,
Some unraveled fetters:
from the brave:
Leap forth (from) the fetters,
Flee the foes!
I've not yet had a chance to try out this spell, but at least you'll know how to pronounce it. If you've tried it, let me know!
The modern word "spell" is an Anglo-Saxon word that means "story". Thus to cast a spell is to tell as story. Isn't that interesting? Here is a spell structure common to many cultures :
For example, here is how a spell would typically be structured in medieval Europe:
Jesus saw a man limping on the road, (Historical Precedent, which is similar to the current situation)
He called on the Lord God his father and said: "May this man be healed, may this man walk", (Solution found by Great One)
and lo, the man walked. And in the name of Jesus, may you be healed as well. (Results, then and now)
Laws in germanic cultures are all based on historical precedent, even to this day. This situation happened long ago, someone made a judgement, and so, we apply the same judgement today to a similar situation. In modern courts, historical precedent is used extensively. Prior judgements set precedents, and those are used by lawyers to inform the judge of how they should rule. A higher court's judgement is binding on a lower court. For example:
When the American Supreme Court ruled in Brown Versus the Board of Education (1954) that racially segregated public schools were in violation of the US Constitution, it was expected that all lower courts would base their decision on this. From that point on, precedent is set, and what has happened WILL happen again.
While this is not the only format used in germanic spells, it is a very common one, and it's the one used in this incantation. The magic of this is that it happened before, and it will happen again. While myths are about the very first time something happened, normal life is about it happening over and over again. Modern culture thinks in terms of linear progress, but mythical thinking is in terms of cycles. Round and round we go, and while we return to the same place, we are different every time.
See my page on How to Spin Yarn With A Drop Spindle to learn how it's done.
County Folk-Lore, vol. 3: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning the Orkney & Shetland Islands, collected by G. F. Black and edited by Northcote W. Thomas (London: Folk-Lore Society, 1903), p. 144. Quoted on http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/spraincharm.html
http://www.jesterbear.com/Wicca/Sprain.html has a version from the Carmina Gaedelica where Bride (Brigit) does the healing
Online Old English Dictionary (Anglo-Saxon) Anglo-Saxon to English, and English to Anglo-Saxon.
You can see the video of a festival workshop on the Second Merseburg Spell as told by Birgit Knorr on youtube. I used her pronunciation for this guide, as I have unfortunately not had time to study Old High German, or any German for that matter. The sound quality is not great, and it's not very easy to use to learn the spell, but it's an interesting workshop and well worth watching. I made these notes and recordings to help myself learn the charm, and you can put them on a CD to listen to in the car if you want. Long drives and traffic jams are excellent for memorizing spells, songs and charms, at least for me!
Mittelalter - Merseburger Zauberspruch sings it with some differences in pronunciation.
In Extremo - Merseburger Zauberspruche II has about the same pronunciation as Birgit. Nice and creepy too!
Eirisproject - Merseburger Zauberspruch II. Phol ende Uuodan Pretty much same pronounciation.
In Extremo - Merseburger Zauberspruche I sings the First Merseburg Charm, for loosening battle fetters.
Ougenweide - Merseburger Zaubersprüche sings the First Merseburg Charm very clearly, I'm using their pronunciation.
Eirisproject - Merseburger Zauberspruch I. eiris sazun idisi pretty much agrees with above on pronouncing, but less useful for learning.
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