A magic spell to heal injured horses

Seldom do the old Germanic gods make an appearance in Old High German texts. The Merseburger Zaubersprüche, of which No. 2 is featured here, are found in a 9th- or 10th-century manuscript from the monastery in Fulda. I have boldfaced the alliterating sounds.


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: 5
“sose benrenki, sose bluotrenki, sose lidirenki:
ben zi bena, bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden,    sose gelimida sin.”

1   Phol is a nickname of the god Balder, Old Norse Baldr (cf. l. 2 balderes)—uuodan =  ‘Woden’ or Old Norse Óðinn the All-Father of the Germanic pantheon, patron of death and magic—uuorun = fuorun VI faran 3 pl pret ind ‘were riding, were going’—holza dat sg ‘wood, forest’

2   du = thō ‘then’—uolon = folon masc n dat sg ‘foal’; demo balderes uolon is the dative used for inalienable possession (=body parts); for l. 2 cf. Ger Da wurde dem Balders Pferde sein Fuß verrenkt.—uuoz = fuoz ‘foot’—birenkit 1 bi-renken past ppl ‘sprained’

3   thu here and elsewhere = thō ‘then’—biguol VI bi-galan 3 sg pret ind ‘enchanted, charmed’—en = masc acc ‘him, it’ i.e. the foal—sinthgunt is a goddess—sunna fem n nom ‘Sunna,’ the personification of the Sun, = Old Norse Sólera 3 sg fem dat ‘to her’ i.e. to Sinthgunt; read sunna era suister as a parenthetic description of Sinthgunt, “Sunna (was) her sister”

4   friia is Frija, equivalent to the Norse goddess Frigguolla = folla is the godddess Fulla

5   so … uuola = ‘as well as …’—conda ‘knew how’; cf. Eng could, Ger konnte; this verb still has its original semantics of ‘to know how to’ as opposed to the more general ‘to be able’ of its modern reflex können

6   This line represents a departure from the prescribed meter—sose … sose … sose ‘as … so … so’—benrenki fem ī lit. ‘bone-sprain’—bluotrenki lit. ‘blood-sprain’—lidirenki lit. ‘joint-sprain’

7   This line is pretty clunky, and seems to be more of a continuation of the formula in l. 6 than a resumption of the meter, but it is convenient that bēn and bluot alliterate—ben neut a ‘bone’—bluot neut a ‘blood’

8   Here we have the completed transition back into the meter—lid ‘joint, limb, body part’; cf. Ger Glied ‘member’ < gi-lidgeliden dat pl ‘joints’; the -er pluralizing suffix has not yet spread to this word (cf. modern die Glieder, dat. den Gliedern)—gelimida 1 gi-līmen past ppl ‘mended, reassembled, glued’—sin sīn 3 pl pres opt ‘they may be’

Phol (=Balder) and Woden were traveling to the forest
when the foot of Balder’s foal became sprained.
Then Sinthgunt enchanted it, Sunna was her sister;
then Frija enchanted it, Folla was her sister;
then Woden enchanted it, as well as he could: 5
“As the bone-sprain, so the blood-sprain, and so the joint-sprain:
bone to bone, blood to blood,
joint to joints, so that they may be mended.”

(Featured image: Wotan heilt Balders Pferd by Emil Doepler)


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