What is it about?
The Old Norse-Icelandic literary corpus offers a rich and specific lexicon for spells, charms, magic, and other paranormal events. This article offers an etymological overview of the term atkvæði and a selection of textual occurrences in order to investigate the semantic possibilities of the term beyond the context of witchcraft. The founding hypothesis is that a careful look at atkvæði through various types of texts from different periods of time may highlight its origin in a pre-literate phase of the Old Norse-Icelandic culture where the boundaries between magic, poetry, and law-making were not as clear as the contemporary readers might reckon.
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Why is it important?
The contribution provides a specific study of the term atkvæði, which was still lacking in the field of Old Norse-Icelandic studies. Through etymological and textual observations, the broad and complex semantic spectrum of the word is highlighted, especially in comparison with the similar ákvæði, which is often considered a synonym in the context of sorcery. In fact, not only does atkvæði show many notable nuances of meaning but it also seems to shed light on a historical period when the acts of casting spells, reciting poetry, and making laws were still intertwined, if not one and the same.
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This page is a summary of: Forged with Powerful Words, Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, October 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/18756719-12340265.
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