Sigrdrífumál 2-3: A Model for Folk Religious Prayer

Written by Dyami Millarson

Verses 2 and 3 of Sigrdrífumál provide us with a model for Germanic folk religious prayer: (a) entities are invocated with good luck wishes/greetings, (b) favours are asked immediately after the invocations, and (c) alliterative verse is used for expressing the invocations and requests that may together be interpreted as constituting a Germanic prayer.

Those who are willing to adopt Germanic folk religion have to learn how to pray again. The three components of the model prayer in Sigrdrífumál offer us a look into an authentic folk religious prayer. We ought to note that it is very succinct; no words are wasted as the purpose of the invocation is made immediately clear by the invocator who speaks in alliterative verse.

Religious speech among the Germanic peoples would have been spontaneous yet bound by the rules of alliterative poetry, which distinguished religious speech from ordinary speech. Alliterative verse makes each utterance memorable as it leaves a distinct rhythmic impression. Poetry had strong religious connotations among the Germanic pagans.

Sociologically, we can interpret alliterative verse as fulfilling a societal need, namely that of distinguishing magico-religious activities from day-to-day activities. When one comes into contact with higher entities, the correct way to address them is in alliterative verse which is perceiced as holding magical properties that may persuade them to fulfill one’s requests.