The Merseburg Charms

Merseburger Zaubersprüchen


These charms were found in Merseburg on the fly-leaf of a tenth-century manuscript in 1841 by George Waitz. Although the manuscript itself dates from the tenth century, the language, style, and meter within the document indicate an earlier date. The charms are written in alliterative verse. The first charm introduces the Old German Idisi, most likely the Valkyries of Scandinavian mythology, who tend to the fortunes of war. In the second charm, Wodan cures Balder's horse of lameness. It may be an otherwise unknown event which presaged Balder's own demise.

The Manuscript:

Text & Translation

I. The First Merseberg Charm

Eiris sazun idisi
sazun hera duoder.
suma hapt heptidun,
suma heri lezidun,
suma clubodun
umbi cuoniouuidi:
insprinc haptbandun,
inuar uigandun

Once the Idisi set forth,
to this place and that;
Some fastened fetters;
some hindered the horde,
Some loosed the bonds from the brave --
Leap forth from the fetters!
Escape from the foes!

1869 Peter Nicolai Arbo

II. The Second Merseberg Charm

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:
Phol and Wodan
rode into the woods,
There Balder's foal
sprained its foot.
It was charmed by Sinthgunt,
her sister Sunna;
It was charmed by Frija,
her sister Volla;
It was charmed by Wodan,
as he well knew how:

sose benrenki,
sose bluotrenki,
sose lidirenki:
ben zi bena,
bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden,
sose gelimida sin


like blood-sprain,
Like limb-sprain:
Bone to bone;
blood to blood;
Limb to limb
like they were glued.

1905 Emil Doepler
Wodan Heilt Balders Pferd
"Odin heals Baldur's Horse"
This verse is among the primary evidence for the existence of the Æsir on the European continent. The verse is unique in that it names a group of gods, some known: Odin, his wife Frigg, and their son Baldur, and her sister Fulla. And some unknown: Phol, and Sihntgunt. The latter we can identify by her sister, Sunna (the sun). Sihntgunt (which may mean "she who battles her way at night") is likely the moon.  Since she rides closest to Baldur, we might surmise that she is identical to Nanna, Baldur's wife.  Sunna is her sister.

This source is the first to name Baldur. His horse is the subject of the verse. In the first line, Phol and Odin (Baldur's father) ride into the woods. With them is Odin's wife and Baldur's mother, Frigg. Thus we suspect that this may be a family outing. If so, Phol is probably an alternate name for the god Baldur. It is not unusual that a god be designated by two names in the space of a single verse. There is some evidence that a god known as Phol and Fal was worshipped among the continental Germans (see Grimm's Teutonic Mythology). Snorri associates Baldur with the region of West-phalia, which may be formed from the same name.