Review – Rún: A Facsimile of a Grimoire

What were you doing when you were fourteen?  Homework?  Video games?  Worrying about who liked you?  Or were you painstakingly copying manuscripts that tell you how to use parts of a corpse to make a reins and bridle allowing you to ride a person to the sabbat?  If it’s the latter, I am as afraid of you as I am of Borghildur Steingrímsdottir, the Icelandic girl whose recopying of a manuscript grimoire brought us Rún, the latest grimoire to be released by the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery.  The following is a review of a purchased copy.

Rún is a slim paperback printing of a grimoire dating to 1928, copied for a farmer in the Icelandic village of Hólar, near Hólmavík, by his daughter.  Despite the late date, it is clear that much of the material comes from much earlier times, with some pieces including the names of pagan gods.  Most of the book can be divided into two major topics.  First, we have extensive lists of magical alphabets and their corresponding letters, for the enterprising reader who wants a good cipher.  (Despite the book’s title, I found only one actual list of runes therein.)  Second, we have a large collection of magical staves, usually to be carved and anointed with blood, for a wide variety of purposes.  We also have some other unusual rituals included, such as the witch-riding one above, and another ceremony to capture a “sea mouse” that adds another entry to our list of black pullets, mandrakes, hairy flies, green butterflies, and other animals who bring riches to the magician.  There’s also a selection of Icelandic riddles that, our translator assures us, aren’t worth translating because they don’t make much sense in English.

Speaking of translations, the main body of this book is a facsimile of the original Icelandic manuscript, followed by both an Icelandic transcription and an English translation, both with a brief introduction.  All told, the English text is a little over twenty pages, but the main attraction of this work is the graphic elements, reproduced here in all their glory.

Including shipping, this book ran me about $35, and it actually arrived here more quickly than a FedEx package from the UK.  Ever since Stephen Flowers’ Galdrabok went out of print and saw its price jump astronomically, the Museum has been the only source for Icelandic grimoires.  For those more interested in textual charms, I might steer you toward Two Icelandic Books of Magic (review), which is available from them at the same price, with Rún of greater interest to those interested in diagrams, ciphers, and the like – but neither of those recommendations precludes the other.  Both would be fine additions to your library.

Published in: on December 18, 2014 at 4:03 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How does it compare to the kind of rune/staff magic described in Chaosium’s Sevenfold Path?

    • I’m exactly the wrong person to be asking this question, I’m afraid, as I haven’t seen the book.

  2. Shouldn’t Borghildur Steingrímsson be a boy, rather than a girl? (Per my understanding, a girl would have the last name Steingrimsdottir…)

    • Right! Let me correct that.

  3. You are referring to wrong Hólar in your paper. Hólar in Staðardalur is where the girl wrote the grimoire over winter and is in Strandir area by the fjord Steingrímsfjörður, not far from the village Hólmavík. It is on the east coast of the Westfjords peninsula.
    That is far away from the Hólar you refer to. 😉

    • Thanks! Let me update that.

  4. Flowers’ translation of Galdrabok is being reissued, presumably with some updates, but details are sketchy.

  5. […] seen a revival of interest in Icelandic magical practices.  I’ve already examined two books that came to us via the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery.  Now we have a new release that […]

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