Hvaml 111-137 


Loserdragons speech


Evans general introduction (p. 26) to these stanzas


[You will note that the interpretation given here to stanza 110 is, as expected, adverse to the comments of the experts.]

As with the Gnomic Poem, scholars disagree whether Loddffnisml as intended from the beginning as inn's utterance. The first person pronoun appears twice, in 118 and 131, but in neither case does the speaker appear to possess Odinic characteristics, and the poems advice is in general of a mundane, even petty, kind (particular offence has been taken at the notion that the last line of 112 could proceed from the lips of a deity; Mllenhoff even thought a touch of burlesque was intended here). The question is complicated by the problem of how 111 is to be understood. As the text stands in Codex Regius, this strophe introduces Loddffnisml, but its grand mystical tone, in contrast to the not very elevated contents of the poem that follows, makes it doubtful that it was originally composed for this purpose. A further objection has been seen in the reference in line 7 to runes, which are not in fact dealt with in Loddffnisml (apart from a very cursory allusion in 137). The strophe would in fact be more appropriately placed among the miscellaneous fragments of Rnatal; it is also conceivable that it was at one time intended to introduce Ljatal. Even if we accept it as the opening strophe of Loddffnisml, its implications are far from clear. Who is the ek who saw and was silent in the hall of Hvi, pondering and listening to counsels and talk of runes? Certainly a god, says Finnur Jnsson 3, 237, for only a god would have been admitted to such exalted surroundings, and so most naturally inn, and it is inn (Finnur continues) who utters Loddffnisml in the disguise of an aged ulr, giving an exaggerated portrait of himself in 134. This may be so; but in the hall of Hvi it would seem reasonable that Hvi, i.e. inn, would be the speaker rather than that he would be the listening ek. Mllenhoff believed that 111-137 were the utterance not of Hvi but of the ulr Loddffnir recounting what he claims has previously been addressed to him in Hvis hall (Mllenhoff emended manna ml in 111/6 to Hvaml - but that leaves gu with no apparent pl. subject), and that 164 was the original conclusion of this poem; in that strophe he expelled Hva before hllu and took the hall to be the one in which the ulr gave his performance; heill s er kva is his praise of Hvi and heill s er kann his praise of himself. This is ingenious, but obviously very speculative, and is still vulnerable to the charge that the advice, taken as a whole, is too trifling for its grandiose frame. The most plausible conclusion is that what we have here originated, like the Gnomic Poem, as an independent set of impersonal didactic strophes of six ljdahttr lines each; at some date it was adapted to the Loddffnir formula and thereby somewhat disrupted; and it was then (like the Gnomic Poem) incorporated in the Words of Havi , only at that stage acquiring a connection with inn.

[This breath-taking inquiry goes on in stanza 111 which seems to me very clear as for who is the I and inns role in these. Understanding, however requests to behave as inn, hldda manna ml: to listen to the word of  men.]


On the meaning of the name Loddffnir




All experts state that the meaning of the name Loddffnir is unknown. I certainly will not do so much better as for giving you an exact name, because the meanings of the two words composing this name, lodd-ffnir, are really fuzzy. It seems however possible to me to get a general idea on the meaning of this name: is it praising or insulting for whom carries it? The knowledge I am using here is the one of his current use, as illustrated by the dictionaries (see below). I would be slightly lodd (here childish loser) myself to attempt opposing Antony Liebermans proposal to lodd etymology. In the paper cited in (Note 1), he strongly suggests that this etymology is rooted in the meaning child. I willingly confess that loser is perhaps a bit overstated, and that something like baby-dragon might be more to the point. The general tone of stanza 112-137 evokes something more discriminatory than childish, hence my final choice for loser. Besides, young loser dragon is too long.


Why translating ffnir by dragon? The name Ffnir is well-known. It appears within the mythical cycle of Sigurdhr. You will find all the details in Faulkes translation of Snorra Edda. Here are the facts related to Ffnir. He is one of three sons of a very knowledgeable giant. The first son is accidentally killed by Loki who makes up for his guilt by paying a tribute, i.e. a treasure made up of a magic ring and a great quantity of gold. The two others sons, Reginn and Ffnir require of their father their share of the treasure and he refuses. They plot then against him and Reginn takes care of the murder of his father. The sharing of the inheritance turns out sour because each of two sons wants the treasure for him alone. Ffnir owns a magical weapon known as an gishjlmr (Dread-helmet). Reginn loses this battle and Ffnir flees and carries away the treasure. To protect it, he takes refuge in a cave, transforms himself into a dragon, and starts a life of treasure sentry.

You saw throughout the gnomic stanzas how much inn despises material richness and he will thus scorn a father killer who ends up sprawling on his gold. In order to account for inns contempt, I chose to translate the word ffnir by a scorning qualifier prefixing dragon.


Why translating lodd by loser in spite of its etymological meaning? The word lodd is associated to two Old Norse words, lodda and loddari. I give you below all what is known of these two words, according to the four dictionaries that I use here. You see that de Vries and Lexicon Poticon do not supply anything particularly pejorative for the meaning of lodd. On the other hand, C-V points out a strong pejorative connotation. The meaning woman of lodd designates, according to him, a prostitute and the meaning entertainer of loddari designates a vagrant. This is why I chose to translate lodd by loser.


This name thus looks like the way American Indians call someone they want to ridicule. That this insult is repeated throughout stanzas 112-137 (and lastly in 163) will help us better understand the really wretched aspect of some Loddffnisml stanzas in their commonplace understanding.


(Note 1) Antony Liberman, Ten Scandinavian and North English Etymologies, in alvssml 6, ISBN 978-3-86135-606-6 ISBN 978-3-86135-606-6. Available at http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~alvismal/7etym.pdf


Meanings of lodda and loddari


De Vries.

lodda: frau, fluss (woman, river). He adds the following meanings of lodda in other Germanic languages. Modern Icelandic: schmeichelname fr adler (cherishing term for an eagle); Modern Norwegian: kleines weib, groberhalbstrumpf , (small woman, coarse knee sock); modern Swedish dialect: ludda: nachlssiges weib (negligent woman).

loddari: musician, travelling acrobat.

Lex. Poet.

lodda: amnis (river), femina (woman, female animal); lgis lodda the flood of the swords, blood.

loddari: not mentioned.


lodda: a prostitute (?), an insulting word.

loddari: a buffoon, a vagrant, an insulting word.

Hans Kuhn

These words are missing in his Wrterbuch because they do not appear in poetic Edda elsewhere than in the name of Loddffnir.




***Hvaml 111***




inn kva:

It is high time that I chant

from the seat of Urrs source,

kept by the wise poet and storyteller.

Therefrom I watched,

I saw and I kept quiet,

I fell silent and I thought,

I understood and I lent an ear,

I heard the word of humankind.

Thousand words on the runes I heard,

they had many pieces of advice.

From Highs hall, inside Highs hall

this is what I heard mankind state:


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Ml er at ylja                               It is high time to chant incantations

ular stli                                   from the storyteller seat on

Urarbrunni at,                             Urdhrs well at,

s ek ok agak,                            saw I and I kept quiet,

s ek ok hugak,                            saw I and I thought,

hldda ek manna ml;                I hearkened to of the humans the speech;

of rnar heyra ek dma,                         of the runes heard I reckon,

n of rum gu                        non of advice they kept silent

Hva hllu at,                               at the High ones hall,

Hva hllu ,                                 in the High ones hall

heyra ek segja sv:                      heard I speak thus:


Bellows translation


111. It is time to chant | from the chanters stool;

By the wells of Urth I was,

I saw and was silent, | I saw and thought,

And heard the speech of Hor.

(Of runes heard I words, | nor were counsels wanting,

At the hall of Hor,

In the hall of Hor;

Such was the speech I heard.)


Comments on the vocabulary


I remind you that, as explained in stanzas 21 and 60, the neutral word ml has multiple meanings.

It means a decorative drawing and, besides, measure of distance, size, and also time measure, time, the time of the meal, the seasons of the year. Lastly, its third principal meaning is a word, the faculty of speech, an exchange of words, a tale, an account, a saying, a grammatical sentence. This last meaning expanded to the legal language to give a procedure, a legal case, a transaction.

The verb ylja means to say, to sing or to mutter magic words. In the context of this stanza the last meaning appears more probable to me.

The verb hldda or hla means to listen to and also in a figurative way, to correctly achieve and in the negative forms to refuse to listen, refuse to act in an improper way.

The verb dma means to pass sentence, judge, speak, to deem). C-V insists on the way of speech dma ok drekka (to have a drink while chattering) which is the most commonplace the meaning to chat of dma. Lex. Poet. gives also this meaning, but it probably is not its etymological meaning since de Vries gives to judge, to adjust.

The verb egja, being quiet, to keep silent, does gu (they kept silent) in the plural third person of the preterit and, in line 4, aga is the first person of the singular (I kept silent).


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


You can see that my translation considerably differs from Bellows, which dates a little. In fact, except for some variations, my version and those of Dronke and Orchard are identical. It is, on the other hand, a point of comprehension where it differs completely from that of the modern academics. It seems to to me that it is now allowed that the ek lines 4-7 is not inn but a mysterious storyteller (the ulr evoked in lines 2) of which one knows nothing and who will disappear in the continuation as mysteriously as it appeared. It seems to to me that, the only evoked character being inn, it is him which comes to relative listen to the word of human with the runes. It seems to to me that it is indeed single that the first gesture of a god come to teach us the runes (or anything else) is to listen to us instead of thundering its eternal truths top of its size. That evokes more one modern pedagogy with listening of its pupils that the behavior of the transcendent gods to which we are accustomed. I suppose that this was regarded as such an improbability by the modern experts whom they preferred to invent a non divine character who listened to the opinion of human on the runes.

From his hall, he listens to what people have to say about the runes. And the 25 following stanzas indeed bring back what people say. The poetic skill of inn consists in using ambiguous words which give a possible prosaic meaning (though sometimes rather involved and once senseless) to the stanza. It even happens that his sentences are naturally ambiguous (like 119: your friends should be called on, be they magicians or not) can be read in a commonplace understanding as well as in spiritual one. Thus, the mysterious ulr who so much fascinates the commentators is quite simply inn disguised into a human being (as he is used to do) who utters earthy words behind which is hidden their divine meaning.


Evans Commentaries


On this obscure and much-debated strophe see p. 26 above [here also, this page is given above] and Hollander 2, 282-7.

2 ulr seems to mean something like sage or perhaps seer. The word recurs in 134, where Loddffnir is exhorted not to laugh at a hoary ulr, since the old often speak wisely, and in 80 and 142 the runes are said to have been coloured by fimbululr, the mighty ulr (presumably inn); the association with age also appears in the other two occurrences in the Edda: inn Hra ul, referring to Reginn, in Ffnisml 34 and inn gamli ulr, used of Vafrnir, in Vafr. 9. In other poems the word is applied once to the legendary hero Starkar, once to the wizard poet orleifr jarlsskld, and once by the poet Rgnvaldr kali to himself; it does not occur in prose, but an early ninth-century Danish runic inscription from Snoldelev commemorates one Gunnvaldr, son of Hraldr, ulr at Salhaugar (now Sallev), as though this were a recognized public office. The OE cognate yle is used to gloss orator and also, it seems, scurra and histrio, and elcrft (evidently for *ylcrft) glosses rethoric, and in Beowulf Unferth, a courtier of the Danish king Hrothgar, at whose feet he sits, is called Hrogāres yle. The Norse verb ylja, which is doubtless derived from the noun, sometimes appears to mean chant, proclaim, as in the present passage, and sometimes mumble to oneself (especially of the mumbling of spells, hidden wisdom etc.). cp. st. 17 above: there is also a noun ula poetic catalogue, rigmarole. There has been much speculation as to the original function of the ulr: most probably he was some kind of publicly acknowledged wise man, repository of ancient lore and credited with prophetic insight. But since the concept was evidently essentially prehistoric and already obsolescent at the time of our oldest records, certainty is impossible

3 Urar brunni at - editors differ as to whether this should be taken with what precedes or with what follows. But since the strophe as a whole is involved in so much obscurity it seems risky to break the regular pattern of Ljahttr by placing a stop after the first long line (i.e. at the end of line 2); the only parallel would be 69, but there a break occurs at the end of line 3 as well. The Urar brunnr is stated in Vlusp 19 to lie beneath the evergreen ash Yggdrasill, and Snorri says in the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning ch. 15) that ribja rt asksins stendr himni, ok undir eiri rot er brunnr s, er mjk er heilagr, er heitir Urarbrunnr. ar eigu guin dmsta sinn. In a fragment of a Christian poem the tenth century skld Eilfr Gurnarson speaks of Christ as having his station sunnr at Urar brunni (Skj. 144), evidently a Christian appropriation of the concept of the Well of Fate as the seat of wisdom.



***Hvaml 112***


Translation as literal as possible



I advise you, Loserdragon

and if you catch my advice,

you will benefit of it, if you catch it,

do you good, if you catch it:

at night, do not get up

unless if you seek news

and that, inside you, you look for a place outside.


Explanation in prose


What a human being who is unaware of the runes will understand.

Loserdragon, here is advice for you, if you catch it, it will be good for you if you understand it, you will be better if you understand it.

Do not rise at night

except if urgent news await you outside

or that you look for the way towards the toilets.


What the apprentices in runic wisdom should understand.

Apprentice magician, here is advice for you: Try to understand it if you can, if you are able to understand them it will do you good because it will protect you from your early failures; if you are able to understand it will also protect you from other people. If you fail to understand it, go back to your earthy career.

Do not rise at night

except if you must collect new information

then go outside of your body by ti seta (outside sitting).


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,               I advise you, Loserdragon

en r nemir, -                         but (if) you the advice catch

njta mundu ef nemr,               benefit will you if you catch,

r munu g ef getr -:             to you will good if you catch:

ntt rs-at                                  at night get-not up

nema njsn sir                          except to news you see

ea leitir r innan t staar.   or that search for you from within outside a place.


Bellows translation



112. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede, ---

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,

Great thy gain if thou learnest:

Rise not at night, | save if news thou seekest,

Or fain to the outhouse wouldst fare.


Comments on the vocabulary



The verb nema means to take and specially to take by force. It is thus better rendered by to catch, bereave, reach. It carries also the intellectual aspects of acquisition: to feel, understand, learn.

We already met the verb njta in stanza 107 where inn claims he well njtit of his dear color of the dawn. It means to use, take pleasure of, benefit from.

The verb sj, to see, to spot does s in the subjunctive present and the second person of the singular is sir would you see.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


This stanza illustrates the huge difference which can take place between the usual understanding and the spiritual one.

Note that the prosaic meaning is stated in a rather awkward way. In you seek in you (or within) a place outside the in you can be only understood as the recommendation to go to seek your excrements inside yourself, which is exaggeratedly redundant, if not ridiculous. Conversely, if the topic is going out in order to find inside you the information you are seeking (as states the line before the last) by the practice of ti seta, the last line is then very clear.

In this stanza, inn is what would qualify as gross. He says to his readers (or rather, I believe, listeners): If you want to hear shit, just go on being gross yourself. Otherwise, if you understand that I am speaking of your soul, you deserve to be welcomed to rune magic.


Evans Commentaries



1 Rumk I advise ; not a reflexive form (for advise is always ra, not rask) but a first person sg. in -um with -k from ek suffixed; cp. on ltumk 106 and lgumk 108, and note htomk beside ek ht I was called in Grimnisml 46-54; heita is never reflexive in this sense Loddffnir is not mentioned outside Hvaml, and the etymology of the name is mysterious. The first element has often been connected with loddari trickster, but this word occurs only in latish texts and is probably a loan from West Germanic (cp. OE loddere, MLG Lodder, German Lotter), in which case it would hardly be found in Hvaml...



***Hvaml 113***





Commonplace understanding


With a female magician excelling in her art,


you shall not sleep enfolded in her arms:



she could then lock your limbs.



Understanding the magic


With an unknown magician,

(carrying the same power as you do,)

you can have sex but do not let you sleep unfolded in her arms, in spite of the pleasure she provides,

since you will then be unable to protect yourself against her.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,

en r nemir, -

njta mundu ef nemr,

r munu g ef getr -: [same four lines, indicated by                 [] in the following]

fjlkunnigri konu                with a full-knowing woman

skal-at-tu fami sofa,       shall-not-you locked in a hug sleep,

sv at hon lyki ik lium.   so she blocks you at the joints.


Bellows translation


113. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede, --

Profit thou hast if thou hearest,

Great thy gain if thou learnest:

Beware of sleep | on a witchs bosom,

Nor let her limbs ensnare thee.



Comments on the vocabulary


The masculine noun lir means joint, limb, member (including membrum virile) in poetry.

The verb lykja (to block) gives lyki in the third person (singular and plural) of the present subjunctive: it would block you, spelled here lyki.

The masculine name famr means a measurement, the arms' and the verb fama, here with the subjunctive present, means to embrace, seize in  one's arms.

The noun lir, joint, here in the dative plural lium can be translated by at the (your) joints, as I do, or with the (her) joints, as most translators do. A good witch does not need physical strength in her joints in order to be able to block someone, hence my choice.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


It seems to me that the use has been to call a bad woman a witch, in the pejorative meaning of the word. A female magician, with a rather laudatory meaning, could be called a good woman and in a neutral way, without referring her good or evil powers, a very educated woman.

We could believe that to sleep in a hug is a way of saying to make love, but the word is to be understood in its proper meaning: If you sleep in the posture of deep love, you then open your whole heart to the magician who can turn you into her slave. In the prosaic version, to block the joints takes of course the meaning to make impotent, an archetypal sorcery that left many memories in mens fears.



***Hvaml 114***




(By thus enfolding you in her arms)

Thus, she changes you

so that you no longer take into account

neither word of Thing nor that of the prince,

of food you will not want any more

nor to take pleasure with another human person,

you travel towards a sad sleep.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Hon sv gerir                                She thus builds/prepares (you)

at gir eigi                                at you care not

ings n jans mls;                  of the Thing nor the princes speech.

mat vill-at                                 meat/food you will-not

n mannskis gaman,                      nor of a human beings pleasure,

ferr sorgafullr a sofa.             she ferries over the other side you sorry-full at sleep.


Bellows translation


114. Such is her might | that thou hast no mind

For the council or meeting of men;

Meat thou hatest, | joy thou hast not,

And sadly to slumber thou farest.


Comments on the vocabulary


Mannskis is the genitive of mann-gi (mar followed negative suffix gi), it means nobody.

The verbs fara and ferja give both ferr to the second and the third person of the singular. Fara means to go, travel and ferja means to carry, move with the possible meaning to carry over a river. In this stanza, the grammatically correct translation of ferr is obviously you go, you travel. However, the meanings you are carried over and you carry over where the ferr would be that of ferja are not so far from each other.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


The prosaic translation contains a spiritual meaning without needing a special translation. Obviously, the female magician is described as insolating her victim (or her chosen?) from the external world, a behavior allotted to undines and fairies in the tales.

This stanza directly follows 113 and explains better the consequences of allowing a witch to block your joints. This expression means, in fact, to lose any kind of freedom. The last line describes in a striking way what happens to whom lets himself bind in such a way. Prosaic interpretation implies that bewitched one becomes completely stunned. The magic interpretation supposes that we accept a kind of deviation of strict grammar to understand you are transported. The bewitched one is carried on the other side, being carried away in the opposite direction of the classical tale characters who flee a wizard: As soon as they pass over a river or a lake, the magic capacity of the wizard disappears. Conversely our bewitched one finds himself without defense when he is on the other side. Some versions of the Arthurian legend report that Merlin would have let himself, of his own will, bewitched by Viviane. This type of myth is relative to the contents of 113 and 114,  the general meaning of which is to warn men against the bodily and magic charms of these so beautiful and attractive witches.


***Hvaml 115***




Another mans woman

You will never attract to you

as an ear-friend

(to provide her with what you want her husband to know about you, and to receive from her what you want to know of her husband.)


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu ef nemr,

r munu g ef getr -:

annars konu                       Another ones wife

teygu r aldregi             attracts you to you never

eyrarnu at.                       ear-secret at.


Bellows translation


115.         []

Seek never to win | the wife of another,

Or long for her secret love.


Comments on the vocabulary


On eyrarnu.The word dsigant a rune, rn, is a strong feminine word, i.e. it does its dative in rn. The word rna, female friend, does its dative in rnu. It is thus necessary to read eyrarnu as the dative of eyra-rna: where eyra = ear and where rna = female friend knowing your secrets, confidante. Note that the masculine equivalent of rna is rni = friend, consellor. In these words, the meaning of rn seems to be more the one of secret than magic sign.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Traditional translations do use the meaning of someone receiving your confidence ear-friend but do not take into account that the friends entrust also their secrets to you, which I added in the magic interpretation. Moreover, 115 obviously echoes to stanza 146, in which inn speaks of the eighteenth chant of a rune song that he entrusts to one woman only, his sister, and not to anothers woman.

Well also note that the traditional translations suppose that the man will sexually seduce his friend-ear. Nothing in the stanza hints at something more than complete confidence between him and his ear-friend. The often antagonistic context of the sexual relationships would rather let suppose that 115 is relative to a platonic connection. The sexual meaning of the expression pillow-talk seems absent here.



***Hvaml 116***


Common place understanding


On cliff or near the fjord

if you often travel to these places

take good care of your meal.


Understaning the magic


On cliff or near the fjord

if you often travel to these places

take good care of your value.

(in order to resist the forces of chaos, for example, the giants).





On cliff or near the fjord

if you often travel to these places

take good care of your value (or of your meal).

(in order to be able resisting the forces of chaos, for example, the giants).



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu ef nemr,

r munu g ef getr -:

fjalli ea firi,                  On fells or fjord

ef ik fara tir,                  if you travel frequently/skilled to/eager

fsktu at viri vel.              fetch/draw towards meal/value well.


Bellows translation


116.         []

If o er mountains or gulfs | thou fain wouldst go,

Look well to thy food for the way.


Comments on the vocabulary


The masculine noun virr or verr means meal. It does viri in the dative.

The adjective verr means having worth. Lex. Poet.and de Vries give also to neutral name viri the meaning of worth. (Lex. Pet.: pretium rei = value of a thing).

The verb f means either to catch or to draw. In particular, f rnar means to draw the runes. It is followed here the reflexive - sk and the personal pronoun in the second person to give f-sk-tu.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Superficially, the only difference between the two translations proposed above lies in the reading of viri as being the dative of virr (meal) in the one and the dative viri (worth) in the other. I am quite sure that this ambiguity is voluntary on inns  behalf: food is necessary to preserve our strength, which holds our value up when we travel on difficult paths.

This being said, the magic interpretation of this stanza is actually very different from the prosaic one. The journeys by cliffs or fjords point at very difficult shamanic journeys that only of few wizards (or shamans) are able to carry out. They are extremely demanding, their success is far from certain. In order to increase their chances of success, inn advvises here ther wizard to carefully prepare his journey by carrying with him all the spiritual meals which might be needed.

The more than trite meaning of the common understanding thus disappears in the magic understanding.



***Hvaml 117***




Commonplace understanding


To a bad person,

never let

to know your bad luck.

Because a bad human

you will never collect

any reward for your good spirit.

Understanding the magic


To another wizard

never let

to know your weaknesses.

Because a wizard

never returns

compassion for confession



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu ef nemr,

r munu g ef getr -:

illan mann                         the wicked person

lttu aldregi                       let never

hpp at r vita,              ill-luck at you know

v at af illum manni          to whom (goes) towards a bad person.

fr aldregi                    fetch(es)/carve(s) you (he) never

gjld ins ga hugar.        reward of the good spirit.


Bellows translation


117.         []

An evil man | thou must not let

Bring aught of ill to thee;

For an evil man | will never make

Reward for a worthy thought.


Comments on the vocabulary


As said in s. 116, the verb f means to fetch, to draw and fr means both he/she fetches or draws and you fetch or draw.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


The prosaic translation that I give is largely the same as the one given by other translators. You cannot fail to notice its plain obviousness and naivety. In the magic version, the bad man becomes a wizard and the stanza gives us a significant feature of a wizard: He/She has nothing to do with compassion. Magic in general, and in particular the runic one, does not take into account our feelings and follows very stern rules of practice. The last two lines, besides their obvious meaning, also tell that you will never carve runes just for rewarding a good spirit. I tried to render this second meaning by using an impersonal way of speech.



***Hvaml 118***




Note: In between brackets: [or: bold font ] gives the magic interpretation of the commonplace one, above in italics.


I saw, quite quickly,

the perfidious word of a witch

bite a man;

words of bad advice

[or: words of magic ]

brought him death

though that which one showed it

has not been proven, i. e., thus slander can kill.

([or: thus a witch does not take care of judicial evidence before launching her/his curse.])


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Ofarla bta                         After some time, to bite

ek s einum hal                  I saw a man

or illrar konu;                  word of a bad woman;

flr tunga                       ill-advice tongue

var hnum at fjrlagi       was for him at death

ok eygi of sanna sk.       and though non of to prove the charge.


Bellows translation


118. I saw a man | who was wounded sore

By an evil womans word;

A lying tongue | his death-blow launched,

And no word of truth there was.


Comments on the vocabulary


- flr = flr-r. The meaning of flr lies between lithe and perfidious,( see 45, 90, 91). The one of r is advice, forseeing, wise advice, agreement, house-hold affairs, state of life, marriage. Here, the worst of the meanings of flr, perfidious, appear to me justified by the  context. Remember that I opposed this meaning in other stanzas, on the same grounds.  on the contrary preceding instances, used in another context. Dronke and Orchard translate it by lie-telling and insidious.

- fjrlagi = fjr-lag where fjr is life, living body anf lag (in poetry) is a stab = death.

The verb sanna means to prove, state with a strong meaning since it can take the meaning of to sentence and its reflexive form, sannask (to prove oneself) has the meaning to admit, to confess.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


By translating lines 3-4-5 by the word of a bad woman can give death, the idea of slander is immediately induced, which is obviously a possible meaning. In the same magic context, I do not think that a really bad woman (= good witch) would go down to calumny, her power being greater than that. For her, a well tied up curse will kill the man without problem or questions about its social justification. Here again, magic is presented without kindness, under its real aspect.

This being said, we should not forget that magic is also based on ordinary reality and that a gossipmonger curse will be considerably more difficult to properly tailor. In this case, the curse becomes a kind of trial by ordeal: if it is effective, then the culpability is proven, if not, then the witch dies. In other words, the culpability is not always proven in the legal meaning, certainly, but the witch must be deeply convinced of the accuracy of the charges carried against the person she/he curses, build up her/his curse according to these charges and to take her/his risks.



***Hvaml 119***




You know, if you have a friend

who you really hold in your confidence,

you will often travel to meet him/her;

because bushes grow

and tall grasses

on the way which is seldom trod.



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

veistu, ef vin tt             Know-you, if you a friend have

ann er vel trir,           who him you well trust,

far at finna oft,              travel you at find often,

v at hrsi vex                   because at shrub grows

ok hvu grasi                     and high grass

vegr, er vttki trer.          the way, which seldom he treads.


Bellows translation


119.         []

If a friend thou hast | whom thou fully wilt trust,

Then fare to find him oft;

For brambles grow | and waving grass

On the rarely trodden road.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


This stanza treats relations between friends who can or not be of this world. In the case of human friends, the meaning of the stanza is obvious. In the case of the magic friends, the meaning is less obvious because the journey to find them is done with our souls. Each wizard, each shaman carries inside some friends that he has better to avoid not to forsake, otherwise they will disappear. I point out also to you line 7 of stanza 44 that recommends to travel often go to find his/her friends, and I send you back to the magic meaning of 44.

inns insistence to advise something obvious may seem ridiculous to some. On my part, how much time did I meet beginners who are filled with wonder by the meeting that they had with some spirits and, later, speak with contempt of this experience?


Evans Commentaries



5-6 occur also in st. 44, and 8-9 also (virtually) in Grimnisml 17.



***Hvaml 120***




Commonplace understanding


A good person

you will attract it with you by pleasant words

and learn the charms from benevolence,


as long as you live


Understanding the magic


A good person

you will attract to you by pleasure runes


and use galdr/rune magic to gain his/her benevolence,

as long as that is left to you (until your death).



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

gan mann                                              a good human being

teygu r at gamanrnum                       draw-you to you at the pleasure-runes

ok nem lknargaldr, mean lifir.          and catch a healing galdr, while you live.


Bellows translation




A good man find | to hold in friendship,

And give heed to his healing charms.


Comments on the vocabulary


The word lkn has the meanings of cure, comfort, grace, benevolence. A lknargaldr thus will be always understood as a cure or benevolence charm. In the context of 120, it is however clear that there is nothing to cure. Inversely, there is much to gain to obtain the good graces, the benevolence of a good person, as Jnsson suggests. In his interpretation, note that he coldly removes the word galdr, which is indeed useless if magic is treated as thema non grata.

The verb lifa means vivre but also to remain, to stay.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


In stanza 161, inn says that he can obtain, by the effect of his 16th magic incantation ge allt ok gaman (all the mind and pleasure) of his wise and knowledgeable beloved who must thus certainly be a good person. However, here, the topic is about attracting a human person, not specifically a woman. Stanza 47, which states mar er manns gaman (the human person is the pleasure of a human person), is even more relevant than 161. The pleasure in 120 is not always sexual, the pleasure of exchanging words with a friend, for example, is more certainly evoked here. It is not enough to allure, it is still necessary to please, the additional use of benevolence galdr may be to this purpose.

Finally, these three small lines stress the particular importance that inn grants to human relations especially among magicians: they must put their magic to the service of the soul sharing evoked in stanza 44.


Evans Commentaries



7 lknargaldr healing charms (only here). What precisely is referred to is unclear; SG explain as the art of making yourself loved (cp. on 123). Finnur Jnsson suggests the compound means in effect no more than lkn benevolence, but -galdr does not appear elsewhere as an empty suffix.



***Hvaml 121***


English ranslation as litteral as possible


Of your friend

would be you never

too much early (carried) the neglect;

sadness eats you the heart,

if what you say does not reach

someones whole soul.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

vin num                           of a friend yours

ver aldregi                    be you never

fyrri at flaumslitum;           sooner at forsaking;

sorg etr hjarta,                   sadness eats the heart,

ef segja n nir             if (what) you say non reaches

einhverjum allan hug.        of someone the whole soul.


Bellows translation


121.      []

Be never the first | to break with thy friend

The bond that holds you both;

Care eats the heart | if thou canst not speak

To another all thy thought.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


The second part of this stanza extends 119 and 120. It strongly evokes stanza 44 that evokes a soul fusion between friends.

Sadness eats up your heart when no one hears your words with his/her whole soul seems to me an excellent rule of life, though difficult to apply.



***Hvaml 122***




Words never should be exchanged,

(in which you open your soul to another person)

with an unwise and hardly human person. [continuation in 123 ]


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

orum skipta          words to share

skalt aldregi      you must (share) never

vi svinna apa.     with a non-wise ape.


Bellows translation



122           []

Exchange of words | with a witless ape

Thou must not ever make.


Comments on the vocabulary


The word api means monkey. C-V says that it is seldom used to speak of the animal but provides several insatnces where this word also applies to a giant. Giants are representatives of chaos and some are described as intelligent or of educated. This testifies of the double nature of chaos: it is simultaneously nonsense and creativity generating.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Here again, 123 seems to express an extreme banality. On the other hand, if we replace it in its runic context, inn provides an important advice: Some runes represent the chaotic aspects of our lives, and they must be carefully used, because we should never use the magic of the ape-like side (stupid or inhuman) of the runes of chaos. Use their creative side.



***Hvaml 123***



Commonplace understanding


Since from bad persons,

nobody ever could obtain his/her attention

to some reward for the good (done to this bad person);

but a good person

pays attention to being able of

cure and benevolence for your praise and what you enabled him/her to do.


Magic understanding


When you deal with a bad witch

do your deal without adding any amount of friendship

in the contract you sign together.

Inversely, if this witch is favorable to friendship,

then he/she will be will be responsive to your proposal and your praises

and he/she will not dither looking after you with benevolence

instead of remaining uninterested in your fate, apart from your contract.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



v at af illum manni         Because bad persons

mundu aldregi                   they never gave attention

gs laun of geta,              from goodness rewards obtain,

en gr mar                     but a good person

mun ik gerva mega          gives care to you quite be able to

lknfastan at lofi.                fast-healing/-benevolence at praise/allowance.



Bellows translation


123. For never thou mayst | from an evil man

A good requital get;

But a good man oft | the greatest love

Through words of praise will win thee.


Comments on the vocabulary


The verb muna is met here in line 2 (mundu, 3rd person plural, preterite) and in line 6 (mun, imperative, 1st or 3rd person of the singular, present). It means to pay attention, remember (including gratitude and aggressiveness).

The adverb grva (here in the form gerva) means clearly, completely.

The verb mega means to be able, to benefit from


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Once again, the prosaic understanding of this stanza is of an extremely trivial while its magic undestanding is quite significant. It is extremely important to get confidence and friendship from the magician who takes care of you.

In everyday life, think of the difference between a doctor who really tries understanding you and another one, as competent as he could be, who treats you as a simple disease case. If you have been treated in a hospital, you know that this difference can even become what splits up cure from relapse.


Evans Commentaries


6 lknfastan at lofi is somewhat unclear. Lknfastr, which is found only here, is generally explained by editors as assured of favour, i.e. popular, beloved, though, popularity seems a curiously extended sense for lkn, which normally means solace, comfort, mercy. But cp. st. above, where lof and lkn are also conjoined. There seems in fact no acceptable alternative to understanding the line as assured of favour in respect of praise, i.e. generally liked and praised.

[The magic understanding of this stanza turns around these complexities]



***Hvaml 124***




Note: In between brackets: [or: bold font ] gives the magic interpretation of the commonplace one, above in italics.


In order to merge according to affinity

each one must open

with only one all his/her spirit;

[or: a true blending is performed only once during your life, with only one person.]

always choose another solution than breaking.

He is not really a friend,

who always says the same thing to his/her friend.

 [or: who does not progress at the same speed as his/her friend.]

[this line is classically understood as saying:

who hides the truth to his/her friend.]


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Sifjum er blandat,                                 By affinities is then for blending

hver er segja rr                                                these who say advises

einum allan hug;                                       to one all spirit;

allt er betra                                               all is better

en s brigum at vera;                              than self fickle be;

er-a s vinr rum, er vilt eitt segir.          is-not this one friend to the other, who will no                                                               more than one thing he says.


Bellows translation


124. Mingled is love | when a man can speak

To another all his thought;

Nought is so bad | as false to be,

No friend speaks only fair.


Other translations of last line


Dronke: only tells facts that please.

Orchard: only says the one thing.

Boyer: always supports.


Comments on the vocabulary


The prefix ein - expresses a form of unicity (one and only one) but the word used here, einn, can have the two meanings of one among others and of one and only one. The reader remains free to understand what he/she wishes. In the magic version, I made the choice of the unicity meaning because the tradition hardly describes clubs of conjurers and even the simple current magicians are extremely jealous of their knowledge. In a humorous way, you will notice that even druids of the Astrix series  only meets to compete, not to share their knowledge (a rotten argument, I know, but I couldnt resist!). The same remark more obviously applies to eitt in the last line.

The form blandat is the supine of verb blanda, to mix, blend. As in Latin, the supine translates by for + infinitive.

The feminine word sif designates, in the singular case, the goddess Sif, Thrrs wife. In the plural, it means affinity, marriage.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


When we think of material, intellectual or morals affinities, which can remain fixed during years, the last line is more or less in contradiction with the ones before: To say the truth it is often, in everyday life, to offend and yet, if all is better (allt er betra) then lying by love or friendship should be better as than telling a truth that your friend is not yet ready to receive.

Think also of the unbearable boredom generated by a soul-blending relationship in which both partners would constantly think the same thing together.

This inexpressible magic, even for a brilliant writer as Montaigne*, of a because it was him, because it was me is found here in the form of not always saying the same thing that Orchard and the original text provide to us. The two friends evolve together, each one pushing the other to change, and they understand and appreciate their mutual evolution.

It is my pleasure to meet such a magic interpretation, well-known in traditional literature and which, however, is not less magic.

* Montaigne, a French philosopher of the 16th c., could not find a more precise explanation to his famous friendship with La Botie.

Evans Commentaries



1 Sifjum kinship, here, uniquely, in a metaphorical sense.

5 brigum is dative sg. m. of the adj. brigr false, deceitful. The dative is usually explained (Finnur Jnsson, SG) as due to attraction to an understood manni. Kocks proposals to emend are uncalled for, since the construction occurs elsewhere: gott er vammalausum vera Solarljdh 30, illt er veillyndum at vera Hugsvinnsml 127



***Hvaml 125***



Commonplace understanding


To barter three (angry) words

with a bad person, you must not.


Often the best one fails,

Whereas the bad one fights and strikes.


Understanding magic


You must not, against an evil wizard,

hold a fight of magic words,

even if it reduces to three runes.

Often the best magician fails,

while the evil one fights and strikes.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk, r Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

rimr orum senna                       Three words to share

skal-at-tu r vi verra mann        will-not-you to you with a worse person

oft inn betri bilar,                          oft him the best fails,

er inn verri vegr.                      while the bad one fights/strikes.


Bellows translation


125.         []

With a worse man speak not | three words in dispute,

Ill fares the better oft

When the worse man wields a sword.


Comments on the vocabulary


The adjective rr, three, does rimr in the dative singular.

The verb vega has two different etymologies.The first one has the meanings of to move, spin, weigh. The second one is to fight, smite, slaughter.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


In everyday life, bartering three words, even if angry ones, does not carry out very far, except with an exceptionally violent person. Among wizards, these words contain curses. It is not at all obvious that a wizard used to curse would be more dangerous than a wizard used to cure, perhaps the opposite. Actually, the patients, especially those in their final phase, wildly attack their healers who have to protect themselves - otherwise they die quickly.

inns  recommendation means here: Opposing fierce challengers is a useless loss of power.


Evans Commentaries


6 r is dative of comparison with verra. The word order is awkward: Bugge and Jn Helgason emend r vi to vi r.



***Hvaml 126***




Commonplace understanding


Would not be a shoe craftsman

nor a shaft craftsman,

unless you do them for yourself,


if a shoe is ill-shaped

or a shaft is bent

then misfortune will be called on you.


Understanding magic


Do not wield your art to move things

nor to stop an action (or: send a curse, as in  s. 145),

except when you deal with your own destiny,


if the things do not move anymore

or if the action (or sending) turns badly,

then hatred will fall down upon you.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

sksmir verir               shoe-maker (that) you be

n skeftismir,                    nor shaft-maker,

nema sjlfum r sir, except if you self at them see,

skr er skapar illa            a shoe is shaped badly

ea skaft s rangt,              or a shaft twisted

er r bls beit.           then is for you bale asked.


Bellows translation



126.         []

A shoemaker be, | or a maker of shafts,

For only thy single self;

If the shoe is ill made, | or the shaft prove false,

Then evil of thee men think.


Comments on the vocabulary


The words skepti (= skefti) and skapt mean the shaft of arrow.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


The commonplace interpretation gives two precise examples of the social activity and the social penalty punishment associated their failure to fulfill their role. It is clear that we could say the same for any kind of trade. The fury which falls down today on the medical doctors, while they have been protected until now by their high specialization, gives us a current example of it. All this is however absurd: What the craft of a craftsman is good to if it should work for him/herself only?

The two examples given in this stanza are very significant if they are understood as metaphors. The metaphor associated with the shoes is probably associated to the situation which in the wizard is supposed to solve a problem, and the one associated to the arrows is the one of a process the wizard is supposed to stop or to send a curse. Thus, inns  advice is understood as: Do not intrude in the destiny of other people, by blocking the course of their destiny, and let them solve their own problems by themselves. Note that the wizards of the curse spend their time intruding in the destiny of the other people whereas the wizards of the cure only try to help a destiny to find back its normal course. Besides, a wizard of the curse is frantic with the need of using his/her power, whereas the wizard of the cure tries to help his/her patients to stopping their self-damage. Thus, inns  advice can also be understood as: Dont be so eager for power, and never use it without weighing its dangers.


Evans Commentaries


5-6 For n negativing the preceding as well as the succeeding element cp. vi hleifi... n vi hornigi in 139 below.

8-9 For the variation from indicative to subjunctive in two co-ordinated conditional clauses cp. 30 above. The present instance differs, however, in that ef does not appear. For similar omission of ef in conditional sentences in the indicative cp. gestr em ek Gjka Grpissp 14 The usage is particularly common in the laws.



***Hvaml 127***




When you come across wickedness

[or an evil wizard]

denounce his/her evil

 and never leave in peace these enemies.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

hvars bl kannt,                        of what you for bad know,

kve r blvi at                       say you it for bad

ok gef-at num fjndum fri.        and give-not to foes peace.


Bellows translation


127. []

If evil thou knowest, | as evil proclaim it,

And make no friendship with foes.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Strong people only can afford to uncover the scandals taking place in their social environment. In the context of Hvaml, rune knowledgeable wizards seem to be in first line to fulfill this role.



***Hvaml 128***




Never delights in evil

But let it go

with the pleasure of doing good.

[ And the magic meaning adds simply:

as good wizard ]



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

illu feginn                           of the bad, rejoiced

ver aldregi,                   be you never,

en lt r at gu getit.      but let you at the good take pleasure.



Bellows translation



128           []

In evil never | joy shalt thou know,

But glad the good shall make thee.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Here again a stanza in which the concept of good and is evil is used, and we do not know exactly what that means. In our current social environment, we have a quite precise idea of what is good and the evil. However, all stanzas 1 - 95 advise us on the good and the evil as inn conceives them and stanzas 96 - 110 describe the disasters associated with an improper behavior with women. The present translation, done by carefully avoiding to introduce modern or Christian concepts in it, enables you to build yourselves your idea on what was kind of ethics have been recommended by inn. I give my own understanding of this morality (together with my knowledge of the runes) in my text on runic ethics at http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/RunicEthics.htm .

You will note that I insist there much on the fact the concept of good and evil, as we currently understand it, is not significant in runic ethics. This is equivalent to stating that the words illr and gr are primarily untranslatable. The fact that they are still used in modern Icelandic obviously does not mean that they have been used with the same meaning in Heathen times.


Evans Commentaries



7 For geta with dative to be pleased with, to rejoice in cp. Grettis saga ch. 64: eigi lt ek mr at einu getit. This idiom is now obsolete in Icelandic, and was evidently not understood by the copyists of some of the late paper mss, who substituted n for r (giving, of course, a different meaning).



***Hvaml 129***



Commonplace understanding


You will not look upwards

during the battle,

- similar to frightened pigs

are the sons of man -

unless some others chant magic around you.


Understanding magic


You will not make magic invocations

during the battle,

- your magic would be useless on people frightened as domestic animals -

unless you run up against other magicians chanting magic around you.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,                   []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

upp lta                                   up to look

skal-at-tu orrustu,                 will-not-you in the battle,

- gjalti glkir                            - to pigs alike

vera gumna synir -               are mens sons -

sr itt um heilli halir.           except you (accusative) around they would bewitch the men

                                               (except if the men would bewitch around you)



Bellows translation


129.      []

Look not up | when the battle is on, --

(Like madmen the sons | of men become, --)

Lest men bewitch thy wits.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Why should we avoid looking up during a battle, except to avoid looking at the enemies? This is why I prefer to think that inn means here this complementary meaning: Look straight at your enemies.

In the magic version, the bond between the lines in the center of the stanza and the others is carried out by the teaching of inn that people in a state of panic are no more sensitive to an influence, including a magic one. The last line says that if, inversely, other magicians are among the enemy ranks, then only magic will be able to save the friendly army. In this way, the whole stanza is coherent if we accept that, at war, magic must be used only in a defensive way. This thus appears to me to be the hidden lesson of this stanza.

That such practices existed appears undeniable. Jordanes, in his work Origin and actions of Goths, dating from the 6th century, speaks of warlike witches, called Allrunn who, in his opinion, were expelled of the Goths armies around year 400. This is still attested at the end of the 15th century in the work of the inquisitors Kramer and James, Malleus maleficarum, which contains virulent advice to eliminate the use of the magic in battles. inn, on his side, advises against the offensive use of these practices.


Evans Commentaries


7 gjalti (dative) is a loanword from early Irish geilt (now gealt) one who goes mad from terror; a panic-stricken fugitive from battle This is the earliest occurrence in Norse of this word, and its only appearance in poetry;

9 ik - the ms itt is kept by many editors, to mean something like you and yours; the nearest parallel is sitt bj sannvinr rtta... til betra in a thirteenth-century stanza of Amundi rnason



***Hvaml 130***



Commonplace understanding


If you want to find a good woman


you want to share something with her,

and if you want to find joy in that,

fair promises must you do

and to hold them firmly.



Each one likes to receive a good thing, if he can obtain it.


Understanding magic


If you want to attract a witch who is not a bad woman (pejorative acception of a witch)

you must call to pleasure runes.

And if you want to find joy in that,

fair promises must you do

and especially to hold them firmly

(never break the contract implied by your promises).

Even a witch who reads in your play will be grateful and will reward you. (cp. 123)



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

ef vilt r ga konu                 if you will for you a good woman

kveja at gamanrnum                 call on pleasure runes

ok f fgnu af,                             and get joy of it,

fgru skaltu heita                           beautifully shall-you promise

ok lta fast vera;                            and let firm be;

leiisk manngi gtt, ef getr.           loathes nobody the good, if gets it.


Bellows translation



130.         []

If thou fain wouldst win | a womans love,

And gladness get from her,

Fair be thy promise | and well fulfilled;

None loathes what good he gets.


Comments on the vocabulary


The verb kvedja means to call on, request.

The word gamanrnum is the dative plural of gamanrn = gaman-rn = pleasure-rune.

Bellows translate it by win the love, Boyer by happy talks, Dronke by give her love in secret and Orchard by talk in intimacy.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Stanza 120 recommends already the use of the gamanrnum for seduction but, as we have seen, without specifying that the topic was seducing a woman. The topic, here, is thus the one of building a  relationship. Stanza 130 specifies that, in this case, the contract signed between the partners must give a plentiful share to the good woman and that we should not reassess the advantages that have been granted to her. The seemingly minor last line, is here to recall stanzas 84, 90 and 92 where inn describes how much it is difficult to durably link with a woman and stanza 91 where inn notices that men do not often respect the terms of the contract which they took with a woman, even when their aim has been to build a stable relation with her.

The magic interpretation does not differ from the commonplace one, except by the fact that a good witch is even more delicate to handle than an ordinary woman and, implicitly, than we should not try to bind with a bad one.


Evans Commentaries


The last line may have been a pre-existing proverb: it has a very general sense and is not closely attached in meaning to what goes before.



***Hvaml 131***




Commonplace understanding


Please see a warning here

and not exaggerated prudence;

Be extremely careful with your beer consumption,

and with the woman of another


and moreover, thirdly,

do not let thieves deceive you.



Understanding magic


Please see a warning here

and not exaggerated prudence;

Never indulge in overdriking the sacred beer,

nor in your relationship with a married witch, (whether she is good or bad),

and moreover, (when meeting new persons),

be wary of all those who try to grab your power.



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,                            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

varan bi ek ik vera                     Warning bet I to you be

ok eigi ofvaran;                 and not overwearyness;

ver vi l varastr                      be you with bier the weariest

ok vi annars konu                        and with anothers wife

ok vi at it rija             and with that thirdly

at jfar n leiki.                of thieves not they would fool.


Bellows translation


131.         []

(Beware most with ale or anothers wife,

And third beware | lest a thief outwit thee.)


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


The extreme dullness (including a repetition of 115) of the commonplace version speaks by itself. The magic version warns the wizard against three dangers which he/she should not exagerately fear.

It is quite possible to consume beer in excess in order to induce a trance, this should not, however, become a customary trend.

To practise adultery is not a deep mistake but it is necessary to be careful in the choice of the partners.

Lastly, a wizard is surrounded by other wizards or by greedy persons, all covetous of his powers they would gladly acquire.

The wizard should not be obsessed by these problem and build exaggeratedly powerful spiritual defenses. This is because he should not be cut from social relationships, especially a healer wizard who must open his soul to his patients in order to access the causes of their poor health.


Evans Commentaries


6 eigi ofvaran: not too cautious, because then, Finnur Jnsson explains, you may be led into cowardice .



***Hvaml 132***




Jeering nor laugh

never you will practise

at your guest nor a walker.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

at hi n hltri                 at scoffing nor laughter

hafu aldregi                     should have-you never

gest n ganganda.             a guest nor a walker.


Bellows translation



132.         []

Scorn or mocking | ne er shalt thou make

Of a guest or a journey-goer.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


It is very dangerous to make fun and laugh at our guests and, especially, at an unknown passer-by.

A guest knows you and he/she will be able to get revenge. You do not know their exact power, and never forget that this unknown person may be me, inn.


Evans Commentaries



7 gangandi tramp. The alliterating phrase occurs elsewhere: ala gest ok ganganda me gan hug til gus akka in an old Norwegian homily



***Hvaml 133***




Often, they do not understand well,

these who already sat in the home,

(how) to recognize who is a soul-mate;

no human is so good

that it is not led by some flaw,

nor so bad, that he/she brings no help at all.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


Oft vitu grla                                           often they know non-clearly

eir er sitja inni fyrir                                 these who sit inside in front

hvers eir ro (=eru) kyns, er koma;            who to them are of their kin, who come;

er-at mar sv gr                                  is-not a human one so good

at galli n fylgi,                                         that a flaw not he follows,

n sv illr, at einugi dugi.                          nor so bad, that at nothing he would help.


Bellows translation


133. Oft scarcely he knows | who sits in the house

What kind is the man who comes;

None so good is found | that faults he has not,

Nor so wicked that nought he is worth.


Comments on the vocabulary


The neutral name kyn does kyns in the singular genitive and has two very different meanings. The most probable here is family. The expression being of the same family can have a genetic meaning but I believe that the meaning to be understood here is the metaphorical one, i.e.: to sit among soul-mates. The other meaning is wonder (possibly a worrying one) which is used for example to make up word kynjamenn which indicate all the wonderful beings, the fairies, elves etc.

The adjective, substantivized here, einugi are the dative of engi (= one-not), nothing.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


Once again, the extreme banality of this stanza leads the reader to wonder what information inn wanted to put in it.

It does not seem reasonably possible to choose the meaning wonder for kyn but, to keep this meaning as background music for a proper understanding of this stanza.

Now, here is a group of people already settled in the home and they do not know well if the newcomers are of the family. This remark either is ironic, or touches to dumbness since, as everyone knows, the principal concern of a group already in place is to judge the nature of the newcomers. Moreover, the last three lines not only do not shine by their originality but moreover they seem disconnected from the three first.

The solution with these dilemmas are in the choice of the meaning soul-mates rather than simply family. None is able to recognize his/her soul-mate at first sight and even less the one of other people. In it lies a kind of magic which I already evoked by studying 124 in an allusion to Montaigne and La Boties famous friendship. This kind of relation is established without knowing too precisely why. This is why these who are already in the home, i.e. the former friends, are not able to spot in a newcomer if he/she will become a soul-mate.

The second half of the stanza explains why, in any case, to accept a soul-mate, as beautiful his/her soul might be, it is necessary to show generosity, i.e. to seek in the others what is better than you own self. All things considered, this second half says that each one contains parts of the best and parts of the worse and it implicitly advises you to recognize your own worse and the others best in order to build a faithful relation.

The magic of life is so strong in this stanza that it is enough for me to recall that the relations between friend magicians follow the same paths as for everyones.



 ***Hvaml 134***



Commonplace understanding


Never make fun of the hair (white or gone) of the wise storyteller,

often what says the old man is good;


often a clear word comes from a dry and wrinkled skin,

from the one whose skin hangs

and who withdraws among the parchments


and who dangles with the children of misery (hanged ones?).


Understanding magic


Never make fun of the hair (white or gone) of the wise storyteller,

often what the Old man (inn) says is good;

often the right magic word comes from a dry and wrinkled skin,

from the one whose skin hangs

and who withdraws among the books

[or who hangs with the moon (?)]

and who dangles beside the hanged ones (who bring knowledge to him).



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

at hrum ul                                  at the hair, the wise storyteller

hl aldregi,                              lough you never,

oft er gtt at er gamlir kvea;      often is good what the old one says;

oft r skrpum belg                       often out of a shrivelled skin

skilin or koma                              a clear word comes

eim er hangir me hm               to whom hangs with the skin

ok skollir me skrm                     and keeps aside with scrolls

ok vfir me vlmgum.                 and dangles with harshness-children.


Bellows translation


134.         []

Scorn not ever | the gray-haired singer,

Oft do the old speak good;

(Oft from shrivelled skin | come skillful counsels,

Though it hang with the hides,

And flap with the pelts,

And is blown with the bellies.)


Comments on the vocabulary


hamr: de Vries hlle, gestalt (cover, shape), C-V skin of a bird, shape, mtaphorically: personality would do ham in the singular accusative. You see in Evans comment that the experts agreed to see there the single occurrence in Old Norse of the plural dative of h, skin, and the modern editors read hm. Note however that Rask, since 1818, gives hm as they do.

The feminine noun skr means manuscript, document, it does skrm in the plural dative. The masculine noun skrmr is said by Vries and Lex. Poet. to mean the name of giant and a way to speak of the moon. It does also skrm in the singular accusative.

The verb skolla means to hang, dangle just like hanga. However, it has also a figurative meaning to keep away, roam, and this avoid a repetition of  meanings. The other translators give, for this verb, Bellows: flap, Boyer: dangle, Dronke: vacillate, Orchard: dangle.

The preposition me can mean with when it is followed either by the accusative or the dative.

The word vlmgr (here a plural dative) is read as vl-mgr and means destitution-children.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


You note that this stanza, as we will see it again in the following one, can imply here that inn recommends a form of respect towards the weak ones, here stale old men.

In the ancient Germanic world, magic always plays a significant role even for those living a normal life. In Loddffnisml, inn begins his teaching of rune magic and he describes the behavior requested from those for whom magic is the most significant thing in the world, those who undertake studying the runes. Old magicians only, who survived all the silly things that a too sure of himself young magician can do, can teach the wisdom necessary to the use of magic. Thus, the topic here is not about respecting the weakness of the old men but of honoring them as Masters in their art.

Remember that inn states in stanza 157: ef ek s tr uppi vfa n mlir vi mik (if I see in the top of a tree oscillate a corpse it speaks with me). It is thus clear that the children of misery are hanged ones near whom inn the magician comes to seek knowledge. We come back to this topic in 157.


Evans Commentaries



8 For skarpr in the sense shrunk, withered cp. its application to fiskr, skreid, skinnsrakkr, and note the related skorpa to be shrivelled, skorpin,. shrivelled. For belgr meaning person (or possibly mouth as e.g. SG take it) cp. Hamisml 26: opt r eim belg bll r kom, and note the proverb in Gull-ris saga ch. 18 hafa skal g r. at r refs belg komi.

10-12 eim er evidently refers back to belg, but the meaning of these last three lines is very obscure. The last word in 10 is surely hm, dative pl. of h skin (not found elsewhere in ON, but known in modern Icelandic) rather than dative sg. of hamr (as some nineteenth century editors thought), which means (temporarily adopted) shape, form. The final word in the strophe appears to be vlmgum, dative pl. of vlmgr wretch (literally son of misery) which is listed among names for cowards and wretches in Snorra Edda and also occurs twice elsewhere in poetry. Finnur Jnsson thinks the lines describe the withered bag (i.e. the old man) wandering around among other old men, depicted as skins (hm and skrm) and wretches. But the three verbs all mean dangle, swing to and fro and cannot give the required sense. Since the three verbs are all more or less synonymous, and hm and skrm are also near-synonyms, some editors have naturally tried to make vlmgum too synonymous with the other substantives achieved this by emending hm to hmum, dative pl. of a supposed *hm wretch (cp. Swedish dialect hm wretch, clown) and by taking skrm to be from a supposed skri cognate with Swedish dialect skrde miserable fellow suggests the ulr is a magician hanging up in a tree, like a shaman or like inn in 138, to acquire mystical knowledge: the skins are the bodies of sacrificed men and animals. (This is compatible with either interpretation of the last word.) This is the only interpretation which makes sense, but it is undeniably highly speculative. [Here as so often, Evans is giving an honest advice but he has got to show suspicion towards any meaning implying some kind of Heathen mysticism. In fact, many accepted interpretations are not less speculative than mine. They however belong to our present definition of good sense.]



***Hvaml 135***




                Surface understanding

Your guests, you should not scorn them (bark)

nor upset them when opening your gate to them,

you will receive well the poor wretches.


                Hidden understanding

(Each one of your guests can know a form of magic),

do not underestimate the magic knowledge of your guests

thus you will not upset them when opening your gate to them,

these who are stripped of material wealth, they are often rich in spirituality.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

gest n geyja                 guest you non bark (scoff)

n grind hrekir,               not at the gate he offends

get vluum vel.           get you the wretched ones well.


Bellows translation


135.         []

Curse not thy guest, | nor show him thy gate,

Deal well with a man in want.


Comment on the vocabulary


Verb geta, to get, takes the meaning of to welcome when its complement is in the dative, as here.


Comments on the meaning


You may feel that the hidden understanding is hardly different from the surface one. The only difference between the two is in the intention of the host. In the surface understanding, the reader believes that inn recommends a kind of Christian compassion with respect to each one including the wretched one. This is obviously ridiculous in inns  mouth. In the hidden understanding, inn recommends to be wary relative to visitors, since each one of them may possess some magic.

The context is here the same as in 132-134: the host is a student in magic and the guest (or the other one) might be powerful wizard.

The advice he gives is clear: The fact that you are known for being a rune student or expert will draw to you unusual characters. Be always wary of your visitors. Respect them.



***Hvaml 136***




Commonplace understanding


The beam is powerful,

which is necessary to move,

to open the bolt to each one.




Offer (him) a ring

or what plague this spirit it will request for you at the joints?


Understanding magic


You need a great power

so that you can without danger

raise the beam which closes your door to each one.

(Only a great wizard is able to lower his/her defenses in front of anyone)

You must have some valuable thing to offer,

if not, he/she will be able to block your magic

(in order to steal it from you).



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rammt er at tr,              Mighty is the beam

er ra skal                        which swing shall

llum at upploki.                to all unlock.

Baug gef,                      Ring you give,

ea at bija mun              or what (will) beg the spirit

r ls hvers liu.          for you of curse which (of which a curse) at the joints.


Bellows translation


136. Strong is the beam | that raised must be

To give an entrance to all;

Give it a ring, | or grim will be

The wish it would work on thee.


Comments on the vocabulary


- bija, for C-V, means only beseech or to request (from the Christian God). Lex. Poet. gives petere (to try reaching, obtain), rogare (to question, request). It is followed by the genitive for the requested thing and by the dative for the person who receives or gives it. Here, therefore the requested thing is ls hvers (plague, curse).

The neutral word l made ls in the singular genitive. It means fraud, trick, skill, plague, curse. Only the meaning skill is not entirely pejorative, but it is understood that this skill is a crafty one.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


In their commonplace understanding, 132 and 135 seems to recommend the greatest hospitality and 136, somewhat on the contrary says to be wary of open doors hospitality. My comments of 132 and 135 insist on the fact that, if hospitality is necessary, its cause is mistrust or fear of the evil that the unknown passer by can do to you, blind hospitality is excluded. Under these conditions, 136 explains why blind hospitality is dangerous. Only a very skilled magician can allow himself to accomodate anyone with no harm. If not, a normal person must retain the good graces of his/her visitors and if he/she really fears them, it is better that he/her makes them gifts which will bind them to him/her and will prevent them to use their magic against him/her.


Evans Commentaries



1 tr can surely only refer to the beam (loka, slagbrandr) raised to admit a guest: you need a stout beam on a door which is going to let in everybody. This sounds like advice against over-generosity, but there is no denying that this causes difficulty in that it contradicts both the general note of Norse etiquette and the immediate surroundings of 1-3; for 4-6 cannot satisfactorily be interpreted to mean anything other than Give a ring, i.e. a gift (to anyone who comes). [Obviously, giving a ring to anyone who comes would quickly exhaust your ring stock. You do that for the wizards who seldom visit you.]

But attempts to find alternative interpretations are uniformly unconvincing

5 at is hardly the failure to give ; more probably it means people, visitors, cp. rekkar at όttusk 49.



***Hvaml 137***




Commonplace understanding


Wherever you drink beer,

(especially if it is brewed with bearded darnel, i.e. poisoned by ergot)


choose the help of earth power


because the earth absorbs drunkenness,



but fire absorbs physical and psychological diseases


oak absorbs strong colic


ear-corn absorbs the (noxious) effect of magic,


elder tree absorbs family strife,



- deadly fights have to call on moon (heavenly bodies?) power -


alum absorbs the bites that do not cure,


runes absorb curse,


field absorbs the flood (of blood?).



Understanding magic


Wherever you drink beer,

(in order to ingest the magic drink that brings knowledge)


choose the help of earth power


because earth grounding absorbs your intoxication,


but fire absorbs the diseases of the soul,



oak absorbs excess in the forecasting need


ear-corn absorbs the (noxious) effect of magic,


elder tree absorbs the loss of contact, in a household, with earth power,


- deadly fights have to call on heavenly bodies power -


use of maggots absorbs the bites that do not cure,


runes absorb curse,


countryside grass decoctions stop a flood of blood.



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rumk r, Loddffnir,            []

en r nemir, -

njta mundu, ef nemr,

r munu g, ef getr -:

hvars l drekkir,                       Wherever (you) are, you beer drink

kjs r jarar megin,                   choose for you earths power

v at jr tekr vi lri,                since towards earth (takes with) (receives/ absorbs)                                                       heavy drinking.

en eldr vi sttum,                         but fire with (=absorbs) sicknesses

eik vi abbindi,                              the oak with (absorbs) tenesmus (severe diarrhea),

ax vi fjlkynngi,                           the ear of wheat with much-knowledge (magic),

hll vi hrgi,                              the elder with household strife,

- heiftum skal mna kveja, -        - deadly fights will call upon the moon -

beiti vi bitsttum,                        alum with bite-sicknesses

en vi blvi rnar,                         but with a curse, the runes,

fold skal vi fli taka.                  the grass-field shall with the flood take.


Bellows translation


137.         []

When ale thou drinkest) | seek might of earth,

(For earth cures drink, | and fire cures ills,

The oak cures tightness, | the ear cures magic,

Rye cures rupture, | the moon cures rage,

Grass cures the scab, | and runes the sword-cut;)

The field absorbs the flood.


Comments on the vocabulary


The verb kjsa means to choose, to elect. The reflexive form kjsask at means to draw lots. This shows that the kind of choice associated to kjsa is not always commonplace. De Vries adds to these meanings: to wish, display, bewitch (zaubern) the proper meaning of the last word being to choose an object for magic (einen Gegenstand zur zauberei whlen).

The verb taka means to take in all the meanings of the word. Taka jr means to graze for animal. But taka vi takes the meaning to reserve, accept (C-V taka, IV, - taka me).

C-V translates abbindi by tenesmus, and a Latin dictionary saves us by translating it: tenesmus, painful need to go to the toilet. De Vries gives stuhlzwang, dysenterie and Lex. Pot. tenesmos. The current medical use of the word tenesmus is a little more complex than a simple diarrhea and is near Dronkes translation. Between the opposite translations of Orchard and Boyer, constipation and the one de Vries, we meet here, for one of the two translations, an unexpected and funny scatological misinterpretation. Dronke (cures bowels) and Bellows (tightness) astutely avoid this dilemma.

Its etymological meaning is given by Lex. Poet.: af-bindi, which brings up two interesting meanings. The prefix af - is generally used as a intensifier of the word that follows it. The verb benda can mean to give a sign and, metaphorically, to forecast. Another type of meaning is the one of to bend and, metaphorically, to give, give up. The word abbindi, can then mean excess of capacity to forecast or excess of giving up, the last one provides a poetical rendering of diarrhea while the first one bring us back in the realm of magic.

The noun ax is systematically translated  by the English-speaking translators ear of corn (see images obtained by seeking ear of corn on Google): corn ear. This word meant the more general ear of wheat before the appearance of corn. De Vries: hre (ear), Lex. Poet.: spica (thorn, ear). In Hvaml, it is obviously a wheat ear.

The noun hll means hall but we do not understand what a hall might have to do, magically or not, with marital strife. Lex. Poet., in the same way, gives domus, des, tectum, aula (house, temple, roof, court). On another hand, de Vries adds the second meaning of holunder (elder tree), the meaning used by Orchard elder.

The word hrgi is translated by C-V as bearded rye (?), de Vries feinschaft zwischen hausgenossen (strife among people living together), Lex. Poet. (hrg) by dissidia famulitii (divisions of the servants) with the etymology hj rg, where  hj = household, servants, husband and wife and rg = strife.

The noun mni, the moon, is of the male gender in Old Norse, as in modern German. Note that the use of heiti in poetry is so common that we can read it as the moon, the sun and all other celestial bodies.

The word beit means field but de Vries announces, for beiti, grasgang, kder (field covered with grass, verg fabric). He adds the older meaning of alum, with the possibility of meaning regenwurm (rainworm = earthworm). It is advised here to alleviate serious bites, see below Evans long discussion. I kept alum as, a commonplace meaning because the earthworm is not used against infected wounds while alum has been often used in the past. However, the use of maggots, in the ancient medicine of hard-to-heal wounds, perdures until our days. This is not an assumption to be eliminated. It sounds more magic than alum, I kept it as a magic practice.


Digression on the elder tree


It is not unreasonable to wonder what the elder tree can have to do with domestic strife. It is however possible to connect the elder tree to Lithuanian divinities called kaukai (one kaukas). They are chthonian entities that live in the roots of the elder tree, especially when it grows in group, in the forest. They show up through very inconspicuous signs but if a housewife can read these signs, she will be able to sign a contract with them, by fashioning them a dress (kaukai are naked before binding themselves to a home) and regularly providing food. In exchange, the kaukai bring something that Greimas does not translate, the skalsa. According to his further explanations, we understand that the skalsa is a benefit to the whole household. From the material point of view, they do not bring wealth, they however multiply existing wealth. When the kaukas brings a bit of grass, this amounts to a whole cart-load. But this is not the most significant. Just like the earth, untiring and inexhaustible, out of which he has emerged, the kaukas is the manifestation of the constancy of earths dynamic force.

You see that the kaukas is almost explicitly a representative of the chthonian forces, which we address during the apprentices shamanic journeys. He lives in the roots of the elder tree and sends very discreet signs to these he allows trying to tame him. I jumped over many details relative to the contract between a kaukas and a housewife, but they are excessively detailed and the least failure in the contract brings disaster on the household. It is then rejected by the jarar megin, the power of the earth. By this, I connect line 6 and line 11 of s. 137.

As for the bond with the family quarrels, let us notice at first that neither the spelling nor the meaning of hrgi is absolutely sure. A slight variation of meaning in direction of bad feeling in the household rather than strife makes obvious the kaukas role. Conversely, if we hold to strife, it is not at all impossible that the Lithuanian myth of the kaukai might have slightly changed when crossing the Baltic, a passageway more than a barrier between Lithuania and Scandinavia.


Reference. The ideas and the quotations of this paragraph are drawn from: Algirdas J. Greimas, Of Gods and Men, Studies in Lithuanian mythology, Indiana Univ. Press, 1992, Chap. 1: Kaukai.


Comments on the meaning of the stanza


These lines contain a series of treatment against various diseases. Their commonplace translation obviously will refer to physical diseases (it may also happen that it is meaningless) whereas the magic translation will refer to the various evils that can strike the apprentice in runic magic. For more explanations on the commonplace meaning of these lines, and sometimes for references on their magic use, see below Evans comments associated with each line of the stanza.


Line 5-7

Commonplace meaning: Wherever you drink beer, especially if it is brewed with bearded darnel, i.e. poisoned by ergot, choose the assistance of earth power because earth absorbs poisons (or even: the vomits).

The least danger of drinking beer brewed with barley polluted by darnel is to behave as a drunkard. How could this earth power cure ergot poisoning is unknown to us. Ingesting clay in order to absorb the poisons is still a well-known old woman medication in vegetarian circles. See also Evans comments.

Magic meaning: Wherever you drink beer, in order to ingest the magic drink that brings knowledge, select the assistance of earth power because earth absorbs your intoxication.

To drink great quantities of alcohol is already enough of a poison to require remedy. The magician composing a galdr may choose the drinking way and has to, simultaneously, ingest a quite large amount of beer to excite his creativity and to remain cogent enough to compose a coherent galdr. We cannot know exactly what megin (power) of earth was this jarar, but I do not believe that it was a potion. It is rather a state of mind, acquired by the assiduous practice of the out of the body journey such as inn could practice it when he used his ravens to receive remote information.


Line 8

Commonplace meaning: but fire absorbs physical and psychological diseases.

Fire and the hearth, without referring to any magic action, quite simply by their heat, protect you from a number of diseases.

Magic meaning: but fire absorbs the diseases of the soul

I believe that we find here a kind of opposition between the use of earth power and the one of fire. Earth power is to be used against human aggressive intentions. The one of fire is used against the dangers of Nature. Again, I must reckon that the stanza does not provide anything detailed on the use of these two powers, but this line say that the chthonic forces protect from human ill will and that the force of flames protect from the natural dangers. The objection that fire does not protect from accidental fires should take into account the use of backfires, in which flames are opposed to flames i.e., fire eats up itself.


Line 9

Commonplace meaning: oak absorbs strong colic.

See below the references of Evans for the use of the bark of oak against colic.

Magic meaning: oak absorbs excess in the forecasting need.

The commonplace use does not prevent another use intended for the beginner magicians. It often happens, at least in societies that still acknowledge magic, that oracular trance takes an extremely violent turn, dangerous for the health of the young magician. It is possible that a tea of bark of oak can calms down these crises. I believe that it acts, more generally, as a magic associated trees. Georges Charachidz provides us with many examples of such apparent madness crises taking hold of otherwise healthy spirited persons. His book describes the Georgian kadag attested until the middle of the 20th century.

See: George Charachidz, The religious system of pagan Georgia - structural Analysis of a civilization, Maspro, 1968 (in French).


Line 10

Commonplace and magic meaning: ear-corn absorbs the (noxious) effect of magic

As in the other cases, the magic understanding calls upon the magic of ear-corn, i.e. its aspects related to the richness of earth and abundance. For example, rune Jeran can be closely associated to ear-corn.


Line 11

Commonplace meaning: elder tree absorbs family strife.

Obviously, we do not see how the elder tree can play this role, except in his magical role.

Magic meaning: elder tree absorbs the loss of contact with earth power in a household.

This translation is inspired by the existence of the Lithuanian kaukai which I described above. A household where abundance reigns has less many topics of quarrel than where famine rules, hence the commonplace meaning.


Line 12

Commonplace and magic meaning: deadly fights have to call on moon (heavenly bodies?) power.

Here is still an indication, unfortunately quite vague, about a kind of magic to be used in fights where warriors life (commonplace understanding) and the magicians (magic understanding) are at stake. In this case, we have to use the power of the celestial bodies.

Note that a link between elder tree and moon is not obvious, while the opposition of family fights / earth and deadly fights / celestial body is obvious and links lines 11 and 12.


Line 13

Commonplace meaning: alum absorbs the bites that do not cure.

See Evans below for the use of alum in medicine of the wounds. I remember a time when men hand shaved with a large razor and treated their cuts with alum. Currently, alum is still used as deodorant because it stops sweating.

Magic meaning: use of maggots absorbs the bites that do not cure.

This use (by using carefully disinfected maggots) seems to come back in fashion because of its extraordinary effectiveness and in spite of its repulsive aspect. It is an extremely old medication that the Germanic wizards probably knew. It is not really irrational, and I classify this treatment within magic because it seems magic that maggots, considered as dirtiness incarnated, could operate cures in desperate cases. The almost true magic must have been the magicians ability in collecting clean maggots.


Line 14

Commonplace and magic meaning: runes absorb curse.

In this case, the commonplace meaning is incomprehensible.


Line 15

Commonplace meaning: field absorbs the flood (blood?).

Magic meaning: countryside herbs decoctions stop the flood of blood

The two meanings are very close and their difference relates to the one in line 13. The art of the magician was especially due to his/her ability to collect good herbs and to join the effect of good herbs to incantations, perhaps more useful than it is today believed.



Evans Commentaries


5 l - probably the reference is not to mere excess in drinking, but to ale poisoned by bearded darnel, lolium temulentum, ON skjaak [Recent studies show that darnel is not toxic when not infected by the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea). This infection being very frequent, darnel has been looked upon as a vicious herb certainly quite often used by sorcerers.]

6 jarar megin is also referred to, as one of the ingredients in Grmhildrs drugged potion, Codex Regius there actually has Urar magni [dative] but this is doubtless corrupt for jarar magni, [This emendation relates to Gurnarkvia in forna. It is accepted by the experts and the modern versions do not give urar magni. I do not see why a magic related to the power of  destiny would not have been possible.] which appears in the paraphrase of the lines in Vlsunga saga and, as jarar megni, in what seems to be a borrowing from that poem in Hyndlulj 38 and 43. There may well be a specific connection with the so-called terra sigillata, cakes of earth rich in iron oxide, stamped with the image of Diana or Christ, exported from Lemnos and recommended (e.g. by Pliny and Galen) as a remedy against poison. This is referred to in the Old Icelandic Medical Miscellany Finnur Jnsson queries whether terra sigillata was known in the North so early, and thinks the picture is one of over-indulgence in alcohol and consequent vomiting on the earth.

8 eldr - Cederschild suggests this refers to need-fire [a fire obtained by rubbing a rope on a piece of wood. It has been used in Scotland in order to cure sick sheep.], carried from farm to farm in times of pestilence, a practice widespread in early modern times in Scandinavia, Germany and Gaelic Scotland thinks the reference is more comprehensive and includes an allusion to the use of glowing iron for cauterization, cleaning of dirty wounds etc. but, as Finnur Jnsson points out, eldr can scarcely mean glowing iron [This objection is really shallow: a glowing iron is obviously a kind of fire. The word eldr is here to evoke all kind of heat, not to designate one particular kind of fire. In particular, it can be an allusion to  warm water springs the warmth of which do heal, even if eldr does not mean specifically hot spring.], and also to fumigation for expelling evil spirits;

9 abbindi occurs elsewhere in ON only in the late fourteenth century Tak oxa gall ok rdh um endaarms rauf, mun batna vi abbindi. However, The word doubtless denotes tenesmus, and is probably borrowed from OE gebind in the sense tenacitas ventris, tentigo which it bears in the Leiden Glossary. This is a symptom of dysentery, against which oak bark and bast are a well-known traditional remedy.

10 ax ear of corn. Cederschild thought this was senseless and proposed to read x axe, with a reference to the custom (known in later Scandinavian folk-tradition) of setting an axe above the door as a protection against sorcery. But this is unnecessary, and also rash in view of the mention of ax skorit as a constituent of Grimhildrs potion in Gurnarkvia II 22 shows that there is much evidence from later times in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) of the use of ears of corn to ward off trolls, magic etc.; he cites a custom from Bodin, in north Norway, of affixing eight ears of corn, arranged in a cross, on the door of the cowshed at Christmas-time ears of corn were also used as supposed remedies for sties, toothache, and other afflictions often believed to emanate from wizards and trolls.

11 hll vi hrgi is not satisfactorily explained. The last word, if not corrupt, can only mean household strife. It cannot be said that hall gives any reasonable sense here, though it is taken thus by Sveinbjorn Egilsson, Finnur Jnsson and others (Dispute between members of the household does not come outside the house, is short-lived). The ms has havll, which could equally well be read as haull hernia, but this gives no sense either. The sign av can also be read as ; we might suppose then that we have here a word * hIl (or, better, * hIlr m.) elder-tree, cognate with Swedish and Norwegian hyll, Danish hyld (all originally masculine). This tree is not native to Iceland, and no name for it is certainly known in ON (either or both of the tree-names hallarr and yllir, may possibly be connected, the latter means elder in modern Icelandic). The elder has played a prominent part in folk medicine since classical antiquity; but how is it a remedy for domestic strife? suggests the idea is that this is the household tree, residence of domestic spirits who ward off strife and sickness from the home

12 heiptum - for this word in a rather similar connection cp. Sigrdr. 12: mlrnar skaltu kunna, ef p vilt at manngi r heiptum gjaldi harm. thinks the hatreds referred to are the workings of the evil eye, against which moon-shaped amulets were employed in classical antiquity. The moon in fact plays a very small part in Germanic pagan religion

13 beiti is otherwise recorded in ON, once as a heiti for ship (plainly irrelevant here) and also as a rare by-form of beit pasturage. But this scarcely makes sense, and the strophe appears to be concerned with the diseases of men, not of animals. Other suggestions are:

(a) beet; Latin beta was borrowed into West Germanic languages at an early date proposed that it had also been borrowed into ON and appeared here. Pliny mentions beet as a remedy for snakebite. But its use is unknown in Nordic folk medicine, and the plant itself does not seem to have reached the North until a far later date.

(b) alum; Cederschild referred to Germanic verbs meaning to tan, to apply chemical liquid in tanning or dyeing, as Swedish beta, German beizen, Norwegian dialect beita etc., the basic sense being cause (the acids) to bite since alum was commonly used for this purpose in the Middle Ages and has also been employed since antiquity as a remedy for, among other things, wounds

(c) bait or, more precisely, earth-worm; elsewhere in ON bait is beita f., but beite is known as a masculine noun in Norwegian, and in southern Norwegian dialect means earth-worm rather than bait in general. The worm has been employed since ancient times as a remedy for wounds of various sorts and rashes (Pliny XXX 106, 115). The Old English Leechdoms recommend worms for dog-bites . This interpretation of beiti is clearly the most plausible.

14 vi blvi rnar - for the therapeutic use of runes cp. the references to bjargrnar, brimrnar and limrnar in Sigrdr. 9-11

15 takes this line as a proverb.