Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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The Black Thread Charm

In 1841, Georg Waitz discovered two magic charms in a 9-10th century codex in the Cathedral Chapter library of Merseburg, the only surviving literary remnants of Old High German heathenry. In the second Merseburg charm, Woten heals a horse's sprain after other gods have failed.

Variants of this charm, with different gods and saints, survive all over northwestern Europe—the Germanies, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Shetland, and the Hebrides—but a similar spell preserved from Vedic India suggests that it may be ancient of origin indeed.

The charm is of the type known to scholars as a historiola: what linguist Philip A. Shaw defines as “a charm in which a narrative is employed that in some way represents or symbolises the achievement of the desired outcome of the charm” (Shaw 62). Magic-workers have been harnessing the driving power of story to propel their charms for millennia; modern spell-smiths take note!

 The Old Craft version of the charm cited below invokes, as one would expect, the god of witches in his person of Wild Rider.

 The Black Thread Charm

When someone you know is injured, and triage has already been taken care of, it's time for a spell of healing, and the Black Thread charm is one of the oldest of all.

Directly over the wounded area, tie nine left-hand knots in a black thread, willing each time that the hurt should leave the injury and be bound up in the knot instead. Then tie the thread around the injury. Spread your palms out over it and recite:

Auld Hornie rade [=rode],

his foal's foot slade [=slid].

Down he lighted,

his foal's foot righted.

Bone to bone,

sinew to sinew,

flesh to flesh,

blood to blood.

Heal! In the name of Auld Hornie. 

Repeat the charm three times. Do this aloud, but under your breath; the injured person should be able to hear that you are saying something, but not what you are saying.

The injured person should wear the black thread for three days, then remove it and throw it into running water (i.e. a river or stream).


Philip A Shaw, Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda, and the Cult of the Matrons (2011). Bristol Classical Press.







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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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