As the best of the skalds, Bragi is a perfect deity to call upon for Bardic inspiration.
In the Norse cosmology, just as the high one Odin is the most holy of gods, and the rainbow bridge to Asgard, Bifrost, is the best of bridges, so too is the god Bragi named the best of skalds. (1) In fact, his words are filled with such power that it is said runes are inscribed upon his tongue. (2) In Gylfaginning, "High" (the enthroned king, Odin) says that Bragi is "renowned for wisdom and... for eloquence and command of language. Especially he is knowledgeable about poetry, and because of him poetry is called brag, and from his name a person is said to be a brag [chief] of men or women who has eloquence beyond others.(3) Bragr as an adjective also means first or best, and our modern English word brag (someone who speaks excessively of her/his deeds or possessions) may derive from this earlier meaning of a person who speaks eloquently.(4)
Unlike many other gods, we know that the god Bragi may have once been a mortal man, or at the least had a very notable namesake, in the early ninth century.(5) It may be this Bragi who instructs the reader of Skaldskaparmal in the art of skaldic poetic verse and of the metaphoric poetic devices called kennings. There is also a Bragi, perhaps the same, who sits in Valholl (Odin's "hall of slain warriors") among the other great heroes Sigmundr and Sinfjotli and welcomes Eirikr Bloodaxe ("Erik the Red" of Icelandic history) in Eiriksmal, and in Lokasenna ("the flyting of Loki") it is Bragi who trades insults with Loki and warns him of the Aesir's wrath.(6)
As a renowned god of eloquence, poetry, and powerful speech, Bragi is a perfect deity to call in a Norse ritual for the Bardic Inspiration part of the ADF liturgy. In World Tree Grove, we actually call to Bragi for inspiration during the "light" half of the year (Beltaine/Maitag to Mabon/Gleichennact) and to Saga for inspiration during the "dark" half (Samhain/Dieses to Oestara/Gleichentag). Saga will be the subject of a forthcoming article, but for the moment you may find a call to Bragi below that we use in our rites. If you wish to offer sacrifice to Bragi, mead is best but beer will also do nicely.
Best of the wordsmiths
And first of the skalds,
You with the tongue of gold,
Whose words are like the finest mead,
We ask you best of bards
To inspire us
And make our words mix well.
Bragi, let your inspiration flow!
- Grimnismal St. 45, in The Poetic Edda by Edda Saemundar, Lee M. Hollander (tr.), University of Texas Press 1986.
- Sigrdrifumal St. 18 in The Poetic Edda.
- Gylfaginning, p. 25 in Edda. by Snorri Sturluson, Anthony Faulkes (tr.), Everyman's Library 1995.
- p. 73 in Teutonic Religion by Kveldulf Gundarsson, Llewellyn Publications 1993.
- Hamthismal, pp. 316, 320n in The Poetic Edda.
- Grimnismal St. 8 in The Poetic Edda. Eiriksmal, cited on p. 73 of Teutonic Religion. and Lokasenna Sts. 8-16 in The Poetic Edda.