Norse “Runes” I have come to find as described in the Norse Edda’s and Sagas are not simply a set of ancient carved symbols or sigils; they are a physical, written representations of WORDs as we speak them-an oral tradition transposed upon the physical realm through literacy; the most powerful magic mankind can wield.
By learning to inscribe and READ the incantations(in full words -not the crazy 21st century notion just using or ‘intoning’ the Futhark letters themselves, singerly, are the power source of the “runes” mentioned in history) an occult practitioner captures the magical intention of a living breathing force that shapes our world; the FORCE of our SPOKEN word transcribed into physical form via WRITING out the intention of change we wish to fuel behind all aspects of life as we know it.
As Dr. Jackson Crawford states in the intro to his new book The Wanderers Hávamál:
“The runes are letters in one of serval related alphabets that were used to write early Germanic Languages, including Old Norse. The Particular runic alphabet used in writing Old Norse was the younger futhark. The younger Futhark was a alphabet of 16 letters that had developed in Scandinavia by ca. AC 700 from the 24 letter Elder Futhark(in some countries where runes were used such as England, the runes increased rather than decreased in number). While the runes and the ability to write them were clearly held in reverence in the Old Norse period(see for example st. 80) we have no specific information about how they might have been used in magic other than writing out a spell (as eluded to for example st.151); modern books about rune magic are based more on their authors speculation than explicit instructions in our surviving Old Norse sources. One popular misconception is that poems such as the Hávamál were written in runes; in fact all surviving works of Old Norse literature from Iceland were written in the Roman alphabet. Runatal is thus a work that speaks of runes rather than in or through them.
The final section traditionally called Ljodatal “Count/Account of Songs” concludes the Hávamál with Odin’s account of his 18 magical spells. Many of these correlate with magical actions he is said to perform elsewhere in Norse literature such as Snorri’s Sturluson’s Saga of the Ynglings (Ynglings Saga) where Snorri says that “With words alone he[Odin] knew how to put out fire or calm the waves and he could turn the wind whatever direction he wanted…….and sometimes he woke up dead men up out of the earth or sat down under the hanged,” which seems to refer to the spells in Hávamál stanzas 152, 154, and 157.”
It seems obvious to me all this fuss and effort wasn’t just to simply learn an alphabet, it was to learn how to use a alphabet with proficiency via being literate-meaning being able to write WORDS, and therefore complete sentences to create charms and magical spells.
‘Runes’ as spoken incantations were always a source of power, which Odin well knew, and that is WHY he underwent the ritualistic act of Blot or sacrifice: TO KNOW HOW TO WRITE THEM as fully formed words and sentences. You know, the way all occult masters use written incantations!
When Odin surrendered himself to his own Önd and Óðr, he was shown the images of runic spells; and these spells appeared in the written form of futharks-the way SOME ancient Norse who were literate would have learned to use written incantations as ways to use powerful magics to shape their world via their will.
After all the research and collaborating my theory with expert historians, I feel Odin’s “runes” that he hung 9 days to procure were/are much more than just a instance of Odin “seeing an inert alphabet or set of sigils.”
Odin learned how to actually WRITE his thoughts and will.
Runes as spells written out with futharks, then spoken aloud, become entities that work as THE tuning signals of the universe; which anyone with divine consciousness can access. Just as we learned our Roman alphabet, so too I feel, part of Odin’s Seidr training was to learn to read and write Futharks from Freya, and in doing so became a powerful magician.
It wasn’t just because he discovered through sacrifice a jumble of random letters (Futharks); oh Hela no, the nine days was experienced so that Odin discovered the art of literacy.
Odin enticed the Runic SPELLS to make themselves known to him through the art of sacred ritual. (ritual as you recall means a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.) He hung from Yggdrasil, impaled himself, cried out, and found the understanding of power incantations and words; then he learned how to read and write with letters-literacy! I am sure Odin wouldn’t have gone to all this sacrifice for 9 days, to simply know more about oral memorization of the “images of incantations” that came to him as he hung from Yggdrasil, since the Norse were renowned for their oral memory abilities. I truly feel Odin was shown the alphabet(futharks) he would need to write the charms down making them much more powerful and permanent. The entire ritual would have been a moot point otherwise as like I stated above, the Norse were Masters of memory and Oral recall.
I can’t help but feel Odin’s Ordeal was simply a way to undergo an initiation on how to read and write out thoughts, will and energic change within the world around us!
As a gift to all, Odin granted us with a gift of proficient literacy that unlocks the core essence of what makes a human unique among all our other allies of other beings that make up our existence on Midgard, and he did it through a ritualistic act.
Any modern-day Volva/vitki I know (myself included) who has done this deep investigative work and became profoundly intimate with the art of Runic spells (and the futharks that can help create them) as living entities eventually becomes aware today’s contemporary Heathens have been erroneously educated to what the futharks AUTHENTICALLY were to our Ancestors via a handful of under-educated American “Norse experts.”
Rune work (as the skill set of creating powerful incantations written fully in old Norse futharks) will change your life- but the cavate is you must learn and fully understand old Norse language and etymology…
I am going to shake up many of you to the core, as I am prompted to share a deep awakening for me, one just discovered within the past 3 years of working with other Heathens raised in countries other than America.
You see dear readers, the misnomer which was begun some 30 years ago by self-proclaimed American “rune experts” ~who then, I might add, were the only early Folk writing about Norse pagan concepts in English; so these scant authors stated their own theories as “facts” within their mass writings of many books, and erroneously, have had American Heathens totally misunderstanding what Norse “runes” in Scandinavian and Icelandic mythology really are.
When I, like most of us, began this path (for me it was in the mid-1990s) I was hungerly seeking the guidance of anyone who seemed adept; I devoured the very biased and incorrect snippets of whatever modern day English authors wrote pertaining to what Norse concepts were/are, and I blindly trusted their unwavering guidance on what our Scandinavian Ancestors left us as in their transcribed oral kennings; reading, but not truly READING, what I had found blatantly screaming to me with in the lore, and it took me years to begin to hearken to my own well of urd, -that which lives within all of us-, and indeed IS the voices of the specter of past wise women and men; whispering through our blood via our Ancestors sacred gifts passed down to us from beyond time and space.
I am sharing with you a tale about a young student of mine who wants to understand the deep mysteries of Seidr, and like many of us, he began with the ‘runes’ -a.k.a just thinking the futhark themselves were the “runes”, as by the sheer amount of incorrect information floating about, he by all rights mistakenly felt that word RUNE only meant the any of the futharks.
He, like myself not so long ago, and like so many of today’s American heathens, didn’t have the true understanding of what the etymology of the word “Runes” within the Edda’s really mean.
Here is what I told him “Bjorn, the one thing I hope you will learn from the Lore, is the runes are nothing like what you think you know. “
I continued by stating “I am not being mean, judgmental, or harsh, I am just being truthful as to my perceptions of what was being described within the Codex Regis and Snorri’s Edda’s as to what I have read and interpreted when I saw the words RUNE(s) I see by what you shared with me, the depth of your knowledge of the “runes” from my observation isn’t any different than the few early American writers misunderstanding of the use of the word ‘rune’ and ‘futhark’ in the Lore; and although it is not “bad” by any means; all of their ‘rune’ work is a very modern 21st century construct; which isn’t bad, but it’s not the sacred deep mysteries with what the Edda’s are talking about when we read Odin’s experience with them. Those secrets are sacred and personal and available to all who do as Odin and sacrifice themselves TO THEMSELVES. Don’t you see, you simply need to take the words on the page and listen (and trust) the correct and true kennings your own soul will whisper to you. The RUNES are a secret, a mystery, and sacred knowing so deep and so forever, no two souls can perceive them the same way!”
Dear reader, let me explain: the word ‘Runes’ that we are told Odin snatched up wasn’t simply images of the written alphabetical letters of the representation of the Old Norse language script called futharks. The word ‘rune’ as referred to in the Edda’s that Odin hung nine days to learn means, as well as the Hávamál, found in the Elder Edda (or Poetic Edda) where Odin talks about the ‘runes’ that he has discovered and their uses. The information talks about the eighteen CHARMS and knowing how to read, write, and therefore send them into the multiverse; not meaning the Futharks as just single letters- what’s so powerful about sending a jumble of random letters into the cosmos, eh?! The wisdom is Odin used Galdralag to sing magic via complete alliterated sentences, not just intoning single written letters of his native tongue!
Let’s look at the etymology of the word “rune” shall we?
R U N E:
NOUN a spell or incantation.
incantation · charm · conjuration · rune · magic formula · abracadabra · sorcery · magic · witchcraft · witchery · hex · mojo · makutu
a section of the Kalevala or of an ancient Scandinavian poem.
The word R U N E also means Hidden secret, deep mysteries, a kenning of life, wyrd, and oorolg of ALL that was, All that is, and All that will be. It had NOTHING to do with the elder or younger futhark’s; those are alphabetic runes, like those inscribed on the stones of Uppsala, and those runes were actually like all the futhark’s: just letters, graffiti if you will, left by Vikings that told us they were there. Words have power yes, as do letters that make those words-and I am not saying Modern man in the last 50 years hasn’t done some awesome magical feat by collectively making the futharks a new tool for today’s heathen magic via turning them into occult sigils and the focal part of 21st century heathen divination.
I finished my viewpoints on modern day runic use by saying to Bjorn, “This is a profound kenning, this mystery I am sharing with you which I myself just recently discovered via synchronist events, and divine kennings and re-membering. I was shown this understanding is usually reserved for those deeply adept, those who have a sacred understanding of what the Lore is really telling their Norse soul. I know you are excited, but I see you going down the same path as so many modern-day Americans whose scope of understanding Old Norse etymology pertaining to the word RUNE has limited application. To accept as “truth” of early ‘runic’ 20th Century writers of runic magic, instead of relying on personal perception, limits the access of ancient rune use available for each Seidr practitioner of today”
These early Heathen/Asatru Authors are welcome to their own souls’ discovery, but we each must learn to find our own authenticity and trust it. Much like our ancestors expect us to do, we are to search fearlessly for those Old ways in a self-sovereign and personal way, and make sure those truths work for our personal evolution, which in turn helps the world evolve. By searching out knowledge, then by applying the theories to our own personal lives; we can have the assurance we WILL find our own answers -as close as we possibly can, from wisdoms irrefutable source, yes?
Finally, the rune letters of the ancient Norse alphabet WERE NOT as far as any historical references can find, used in divination; that too is a modern construct of the futharks.
The futharks runic script I have personally discovered are best uses are as sigils, which, truth be told; even our own Roman alphabet can also be used to create powerful sigils just as effectively as the futhark letters!
To form a bond with the Runes we create with the Futharks, we begin realizing the ancient futharks do have a unique intelligence, with a life force all their own for the simple fact they are so old and are the script of our Ancestors; which in turn gives every Volva/Vitki the advantage of truly seeing that our Wyrd and our destiny is very mercurial, and highly changeable to what we wish as intended outcomes for our magics and our lives by the very words we use and utter. Runes (incantations) made by Futharks are much more to us than simply a “tool” for seeing into the future; they are the Human Voice captured in cipher and is the written language of the Norse Cosmology!