The First Merseburg Incantation

The Merseburg Incantations (German: die Merseburger Zaubersprüche) are two medieval magic spells, charms or incantations, written in Old High German. They are the only known examples of Germanic heathen belief preserved in this language. They were discovered in 1841 by Georg Waitz, who found them in a theological manuscript from Fulda, written in the 9th or 10th century, although there remains some speculation about the date of the charms themselves. The manuscript (Cod. 136 f. 85a) was stored in the library of the cathedral chapter of Merseburg, hence the name.

Each charm is divided into two parts: a preamble telling the story of a mythological event; and the actual spell in the form of a magic analogy (just as it was before… so shall it also be now…). In their verse form, the spells are of a transitional type; the lines show not only alliteration but also the end-rhymes developed in the Christian verse of the 9th century.

The first spell is a “Lösesegen” (blessing of release), describing a number of “Idisen” being told to free from their shackles the warriors caught during battle. The last two lines contain the magic words “Leap forth from the fetters, escape from the foes” that are intended to release the warriors.

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

insprinc haptbandun,

inuar uigandun.


Once the Idisi set forth,
to this place and that.
Some fastened fetters,
Some hindered the horde,
Some loosed the bonds
from the brave:

Leap forth from the fetters,

escape from the foes!