The history of magic spells in Iceland is very old and highly influences the native population. Sources of spells go back to the middle ages in old Norse sagas, which are a unique part of Icelandic heritage. In ancient times, the magic spells were as vital to Icelanders as food is to the body. They existed in every aspect of life and came as second nature to man, through his desires and fears. An individual’s longing to understand and control his destiny, as well as the power of nature, is reflected in the spells.
Galdraskræða Skugga was first published in the year 1940. The book is a collection of the old Icelandic spells, the first one ever published in Iceland. It is written by the author Jochum M. Eggertson who is better known under his pen name “Skuggi”, meaning “shadow”. Galdraskræða, which was illustrated and handwritten by the author himself, was originally only published in a limited edition of 150 numbered copies. It is a collection of nearly 200 spells and an ensemble of magic rune letters. Galdraskræða Skugga was nowhere to be found for about 40 years until Bókvarðan published it without a formal publishing permit in the year 1982. That edition was very soon taken off the market. Galdraskræða Skugga is now published with permission for the first time since the first edition.
Respect to the original work of Skuggi was crucial in the reproduction of the book. The graphic design was simplified and the representation was made more clear. The imagery is expressed in red colour, which is symbolic of the ancient ritual of using blood in the making of letters while casting a spell. The use of blood was necessary to carry the individual’s intent of the spell, as well as enhancing the outcome of the spell.
I have had a passion for the work of Jochum for a long time. He was very productive and a controversial character who travelled his own path in life. It is an honour for me to be part of the recreation of Galdraskræða Skugga and make it my final project at the University of Arts in Iceland. I sincerely hope it will bring renewed fame to Skuggi as well as to this remarkable literary work of art.Arnar Fells Gunnarsson