A while ago I wrote a post on what galdr is, and I’ve also posted some of my own galdr, along with a photo of my own distaff. This post is on how to compose galdr using specifically the “meter of magic spells,” called galdralag. It’s entirely possible that galdr does not need to be written using this meter, but I personally find that the structure helps.
Before you can begin composing “real” galdr, you must first decide whether or not to employ galdralag and a tune in your poetry and its vocalization. Due to the uncertainty of the nature of the use of galdralag and the uncertainty as to whether melodic chanting was used at all, I cannot tell you whether you should use these things or not, as that is a decision that will vary from person to person depending on their conceptions of risk versus reward, ease of use, and aesthetics, among other things that don’t really need to be listed here. I can tell you though that you might want to compose a few practice spells, some employing galdralag and some not, and then similarly chant them using a tune sometimes, and other times not, so that you can get a feel for the meter and musicality yourself and make it easier for you to decide on your methods.
In Jackson Crawford’s YouTube Video on galdr, he lays out the construction of the Havamal passage he uses as an example, which is not a spell in itself, but only what Óðinn has to say about it. In what follows further below, I have simply taken what he has said and attempted to simplify it. To accomplish that, I have provided the same stanza in the exact way it is written in Dr. Crawford’s video, and then broken it down afterward.
Galdralag is a derivative of another poetic meter used in the Eddic poems, which is called ljóðaháttr, meaning “meter of songs”. The first six lines of the following stanza are written having employed ljóðaháttr, and the inclusion of the last two lines are what turn the meter of the following stanza from ljóðaháttr to galdralag.
1. ÞAT KANN EK IT ELLIPTA
2. EF EK SKAL TIL ORRUSTU
3. LEIÐA LANGVINI.
4. UNDIR RANDIR EK GEL
5. EN ÞEIR MEÐ RÍKI FARA
6. HEILIR HILDAR TIL
7. HEILIR HILDI FRÁ
8. KOMA ÞEIR HEILIR HVAÐAN.
1. [A group of three lines, the first two lines with the…(1.1)]
2. […emphasized words being alliterating staves with one another(1.2)…]
3. […and the third including two alliterating syllables(2.1 & 2.2).]
4. [Another group of three lines, the first two lines with the (3.1)…]
5. […emphasized words being alliterating staves with one another(3.2)…]
6. […and the third including two alliterating syllables(4.1 & 4.2).]
7. [A necessary seventh line that mirrors the sixth’s line’s alliterations(5.1 & 5.2)…]
8. […and an optional eighth line of the same type as the seventh(6.1 & 6.2).]
Now, I don’t believe that any explanation of most things is truly complete without a very simple and understandable example to accompany it. So in the interest of completing my explanation, I have provided below an example verse, and then a copy of that verse that omits every element except for the ones that are strictly necessary for writing in galdralag as I understand it. The purpose of the numbers within the above text is to make each element clearer within the example.
Example Galdr (Intended to Increase Mental and Physical Endurance and Allow Oneself to Thrive Under Harsh Conditions):
1. My form obeys my wants,
2. My mind obeys my will.
3. Hear me now and listen, my steeling soul.
4. I see my destination;
5. A path, I design.
6. For this task, my own strength will suffice.
7. Within my chest, my lungs strain and struggle,
8. But they breathe the air in the highest, thinnest skies—they struggle, and I grow
1. [– —- —– — wants(1.1),]
2. [– —- —– — will(1.2).]
3. [—- — — — ——, — steeling(2.1) soul(2.2).]
4. [- — — destination(3.1)]
5. [- —-, – design(3.2)]
6. [— —- —-, — — strength(4.1) —- suffice(4.2).]
7. [—— — —–, — —– strain(5.1) — struggle(5.2)]
8. [— —- ——- — — — — ——-, ——– —– — —- struggle,(6.1) — – —-
…And that’s all there is to it! Happy composing, and good luck! (I hope to post something soon about the other components of ritual galdr, so if you’re interested in the topic, be on the lookout for that.)