Abracadabra’s Danish Sister: A Protection Charm

Haven't been to Denmark so I'm resorting to tourist board images. Looks nice, though

Not sure how it is with you, but I can tell when something is magically Significant (with a capital 'S') when it makes me vibrate like a tuning fork -the world's most out-of-tune tuning fork.

And so it is with this little discovery.

Honestly, there's something to this armchair magic thing. In my earlier days it was a label that you were terrified might stick to you if weren't out rattling the bones every night. (Or so it seemed.)

But that little bone rattler (teeheehee) grew up, majored in cultural studies, spent the better part of a decade in factual media and emigrated to Europe. The armchair is strong with this one. Might as well own it.

In fact, if you're reading this within a few hours of it being posted then I may as well tell you that this is an autopost because I'm at the British Museum Members Evening, wandering through a private showing of the Book of The Dead exhibit and drinking low/mid-priced sparkling wine. (Hopefully I haven't caused a scene. I'm coming straight from my work Christmas lunch.)

Anyway, it turns out Denmark's grimoire tradition was heavily influenced by post-Faustian Germany, with the Southern European Renaissance/Arabic influences being refracted through this. Two seconds looking at a map of Europe will explain why.

Consequently, their svarteboken (black books) have a lot more of the 'summony/banishy' stuff and less of the 'stars/moon' stuff. And one of them -possibly the first domestically printed grimoire- called the Syprianus P.P.P (From 'Cyprian') contained the following protection charm:

K A L E M A R I S

KALEMARI

KALEMAR

KALEMA

KALEM

KALE

KAL

KA

K

It was a tuning fork moment. I love the sound of the word. Hadn't heard or seen it before. (Which isn't to say it's not extremely common. This isn't more core area.)

Kalemaris is your standard written protection charm. So it can be

  • Written and carried about your person or given to someone else.
  • Engraved and shown to recalcitrant spirits.
  • Used in domestic protection charms. (Such as pasting it above your front door on the inside.)
  • Incorporated into any of your own protection spells.

More on that last point: Kalemaris is a continuation of a Graeco-Roman magical practice of writing repeated/diminishing words on lead tablets, by way of Alexandria, by way of Al-Andalus, by way of Renaissance Italy, by way of Prussia and then into Denmark.

In some form or another it's been bouncing all over Europe for almost three thousand years. You aren't trespassing. Use it however you like.

That was fun! Anyone else got any others that we may not have encountered before? Or that they just happen to like?

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11 comments

  1. I will ask the laugh and point at me question, how does one pronounce that word properly?

  2. Ooh, that gave me a shiver. I love words that just sound magical.

  3. Profile photo of

    @Lonnie well it’s gibberish Latin so it’s suggest pronouncing it like it’s Latin:

    “car-lay-mar-iss”

    But again, that’s just a suggestion. The “cosmic copyright” on this enchantment has long since expired. You could pronounce it with a thick French accent if you wished.

  4. Excellent! I shall use this protection charm with an outraaaaaaaageous french accent!

  5. But what does it mean? Is it an entity’s name? A verb to bind?

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    @Owlrose I’d speculate that it’s a bastardisation of some Catholic Latin phrase, given when it first appeared. Or possibly German.

    ‘Hocus Pocus’, for instance, most likely comes from ‘hoc est corpus (christi)’

    This is my way of saying I have absolutely no idea. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Review: Grimoires
  8. What!? Nobody mentioned the squid-derived meal? That’s what it sounds like to me. Perhaps its a charm for the Great Old Ones.

  9. If you ever do come to Denmark, I insist on buying you a beer or a cup of coffee, depending on which socially acceptable drug you’re in the mood for.

  10. I am sure I left a comment before, because you people came over in droves from all over the world to check out my blog “Briefly about the kalamaris triangle charm and related in Scandinavian folk magic” back in May 2015. But where is it?! Anyway, this is a very common type of charm in Scandinavia, and it is used in many ways and for many purposes.

  11. Possible meanings for kalemaris…and by meaning, I mean illiterate, wild conjecture:

    Latin: kalo, kalare, kalavi, kalatus – 1) announce, proclaim 2) summon, convoke, call forth/together

    Latin: mas, maris – 1) personal attendant, servant, footman 2) servant of a priest
    mas, (gen.), maris – 1) G:masculine 2) male 3) manly, virile, brave, noble 4) masculine, of the male sex
    mare, maris – 1) sea 2) sea water

    It might mean:
    “I summon a servitor.”
    “I summon bravery.”
    “I summon the sea.”

    More context might help to pinpoint the intended meaning as would a bit of actual Latin scholarship on someone’s part.

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