Sorcerer’s Screed, or Galdraskræða, was originally published in the annual magazine, Jólagjöfin (Yule Present) in 1940. The magazine was written and edited by Jochum Magnús Eggertsson, a-jack-of-all-trades who wrote poetry, prose and non-fiction going by the eerie pseudonym of Skuggi (Shadow).
Jochum Magnús was born in 1896 in Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla, in the northern part of Iceland. He grew up mostly with his half brother, Samúel Eggertsson, who was a known artist and cartographer and taught the boy to draw and write. The skills he learned from his brother are apparent in Skuggi’s scripts, especially the one that later became Sorcerer’s Screed, in which he handwrote the text and runes and drew the diagrams, staves and bind runes.
Skuggi's self-portrait from the first publication of Galdraskræða or Sorcerer's Screed
Jochum took interest in many different things and activities, but one can easily find the common thread of nature and ancestry. He studied agriculture, made excellent cheese and dairy products, worked as a fisherman and was involved with forestry and soil conservation. He was also enthusiastic about folklore and poetry from a young age and wrote and translated a number of poems.
Skuggi translated and recorded his reading of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Here you can listen to him reading his own translation of Poe's Raven, Hrafninn.
In addition to collecting and documenting the almost two hundred spells portrayed in Sorcerer’s Screed Skuggi claimed that he had in his possession 27 pages from the old and long-lost book of magic, Gullskinna (Goldskin). He writes about the manuscript in detail in his book Brísingarmen Freyju, a book which made him famous for his original theories about an exotic culture of a Keltic tribe roaming the island with a camel convoy in Iceland long before the Nordic settlement.
In Icelandic folklore the Gullskinna is referred to as a “book that could not be burned“, and Skuggi claims that it is the mother of all books of grimoires. The truth is that no one ever got to see the pages from the alleged manuscript, but the editors of The Icelandic Magic Company will not give up their search!
As you might have figured by now, Skuggi was a misfit of sorts. He was known to be boisterous and he repeatedly criticized authorities and the cultural elite in his writings. This can also be seen in Skuggi’s foreword and afterword of Sorcerer’s Screed where his criticism of Christianity indicates a strong but bitter character.
Sorcerer’s Screed is a sort of key to his entire work and life-views, even though (and perhaps mainly because) it is an amalgamation of ideas from past centuries and different times. Hence it could be regarded as radical dissident writing against the prescriptivism and coercion of the political and religious authority in Iceland.
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