I recently spent two years studying and building relationships with the 72 spirits of the Ars Goetia, approaching them respectfully as a Daemonolater. In medieval times, rituals devoted to these beings typically involved the magus calling on higher powers to force lower ones to do his bidding. After the ritual, he would then exorcise the spirits he evoked for his protection. Modern Daemonolaters prefer to invoke or invite daemons into the ritual space at the beginning of their rites and then thank them for their assistance at the end. Unlike medieval magicians, we feel no need to banish the spirits we work with since we don’t believe they are evil entities.
I find this point of view most closely echoed in magick which calls upon the Norse or Germanic gods, written records of which could be found in Iceland late into twentieth century. In these grimoires, the magicians did not ward themselves against the powers they called upon when working their will. Just as in Daemonolatry, no exorcism was therefore needed at the end. Beyond this, the magic of the Norse depended primarily upon figures known as runes, incantations spoken over the runes, and natural substances such as blood rubbed into them. Of course, traditional daemonic magick revolves around the use of sigils, enns, and blood. Daemonolaters frequently use these three things in a near identical ways too. For example, we might create a set of sigil stones and redden them with our own blood to empower them before use, just as the Norse would have in ancient times.
Of all countries that once worshiped Norse or Germanic gods, Iceland held onto the old ways the longest. However, as the new faith spread and blended with the old, Christian demons began to appear in litanies recorded in the grimoires alongside the names of Odhinn and Thorr. Take for example the end of this rather comical curse from spell 46 of the Galdrabrok, the best documented grimoire in Icelandic history:
“May your bones split asunder, may your gut burst, may your farting never stop, neither day nor night. May you be as weak as the fiend, Loki, who was snared by all the gods. In your mightiest name Lord God, Spirit, Creator, Odinn, Thorr, Saviour, Freyr, Freya, Oper, Satan, Beelzebub, Helper, Mighty God, protect with followers…”
According to spell 43, both Satan and Beelzebub dwell in the Valhöll along with all the “good gods and goddesses.” This is the Icelandic version of Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain where the heroes go, and the place most believers in the Norse gods would want to go when they die. It is the “hall of the elect,” the closest we might conceive of a Germanic heaven. Although placing Satan and Beelzebub there proves the syncretisation of faiths going on, it also helped demonize gods that the Church wished to eradicate. Eventually, this led to the Norse gods being evermore equated with Christian daemons in the eyes of the populace, allowing for the persecution of witchcraft in Iceland. While the level of persecution in Iceland never reached what it did on the continent, almost a third of witchcraft trials there revolved around runes carved on objects or written in discovered grimoires.
Even after the trials stopped in the early 1700s, it seems as if these books were still being copied underground, particularly in rural areas. Two grimoires originally dating from 1790 to 1820 were discovered in the attic of a farm in Elverum, Norway in the 1970s. Another manuscript called only Rún, or Rune, was founded in Iceland several years later. It is believed to have been copied by hand in the Strandir district. It contains a large number of runic encryption alphabets the magicians could have used to hide their work from prying eyes, much like modern practitioners do with Theban or Enochian alphabets today.
Unfortunately, many people who want to use runes today do not even realize that more than one type exists for them to explore. The runes may have begun as a set of 24 letters, but over time different cultures abandoned and renamed certain glyphs. When deciding to learn the runes now, it is important to decide whether you wish to study the Elder or Younger Futhark, especially if you plan to draw on the original rune poems. The Elder Futhark is the most commonly studied system today, but it is not the only avenue for magicians to pursue, especially if they want to study the black books of Icelandic magick, many of which depend on the 16-rune Younger Futhark. Ideally, a runic magician would become skilled with both over time. With only eight days left to decide, I am hemming and hawing over which of the two to use! I’m plowing through the last of the books I want to read by Flowers / Thorrson before the 1st and then I’ll decide.