The Northern Way

The First and Second Merseberg Charms


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!


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


These two charms were recorded in a 10th century manuscript. The charms themselves are generally considered to be much older. The first charm is a charm to release those bound from their bonds. The idisi are generally considered to be equivalent to the dísir which are female ancestral guardian spirits.

The second charm shows Othinn (Wodan) in an aspect not normally considered; that of healer. This charm may point to Othinn having an ability to work for the health of animals in particular. Phol and Baldr are considered to be the name for the same person. Frija is Frigg and here we have two goddesses that are not mentioned elsewhere; Volla and Sinthgunt. The scene described in the Second Merseburg Charm is depicted elsewhere on 5th and 6th century bracteates.