(a few initial working thoughts on runes and sacred utterance that I’ll most likely be playing with and developing over the next few months).
I spent most of my morning watching music videos by Victoria Hanna, like this one. After reading a few interviews and articles about her, I’m firmly of the conclusion that this woman knows things, like Kabbalistic things and the significance of en-fueled utterance.(1) Listening to her Alef-Bet song, I started thinking about the runes, their spirits, the shapes and cadence of their letter-forms and why that’s all so important in both the practice of galdr and Heathen theology.
It’s all about utterance and what happens at that moment that uncreation becomes conscious creation. To speak with intent is to bring that which has no corporeality, temporality, or material existence of any kind into being. It brings alive that which exists uncreated, unformed, unordered only in the ether of our own minds, only in the ether from which the Gods plucked and spoke and fought and formed creation.
Many traditions have the story of all creation coming into being by virtue of divine utterance. We do not, at least not that has survived for us in any readable form. Our creation story goes back specifically to the primordial, PREprimordial impulse: the spark, the push, the shove, the attention and tenuation of opposites that precedes the action of forming the will to utterance (the theological consequences of having a creation story that begins not ex nihilo but with opposing elemental forces already in existence within holy Void will be discussed in later articles and posts). Our story goes back to the mechanical processes that lead up to expression, that lead up to a point where expression can be rooted in temporality and materiality. But then, well after materiality has happened, after it has been forced to happen, we have a creator God plucking matter from the Void that now is (rather than the one that could be) plucking up and forming from inanimate, unsouled,(?) unmoving matter humanity and breathing into them not life but consciousness. With consciousness comes the spark of will.
Then that same God tortured Himself to tear open the fabric of all that had been created, that had been carefully formed into matter and materiality, yoked to temporality and substance. By tearing a gash in creation He brought forth the runes. He did not create them. He summoned them by will and blood and screaming: by utterance and sacrifice. He unyoked creation to bring forth potentiality bound by the power of utterance. Then He appeased them, creating (negotiating?) forms by which they could engage and act upon this place without reducing it again to the raw impulses of the Gap.(2) And those spirits brought forth more of their own here.
Taking all of this together, it points to utterance being something more than simple creation. It is directly connected to conscious being, a working ontology that has the potential capability to shape and work and guide the unfolding of creation. Given the physiological process of actually uttering a sound, that makes us as human beings conduits for creation, not just the simple βíoς of fucking and breeding (necessary and pleasurable – at least the first lol) but a potential for engaging in the process of unfolding creation that places us securely in the hierarchies of power, of recognition and it’s this that allows us to claim kinship to the Gods (our theology also speaks to Gods helping to father, mother, and further humankind). This is the point where the esoteric and the theological intersect in what might be likened to a very sticky Venn diagram.
What does the rune master want? More. To see more of everything unfolding. To stand in it, touch it, sing it into being, sing it into becoming, sing it apart, feel the building blocks of Beingness flowing through one’s hands and the fiery pathways of one’s synapses. To see, to know, to will. To effect carefully calculable results. It is a particularly Odinic type of ecstasy. It is to know oneself inhabited and comprised of the same particles which one seeks to transform, that we by virtue of our own materiality are built from the stuff from which the runes arose, and therefore hold their secrets in our very knitted togetherness. (3)
In one of her presentations, Hanna discusses the physicality of language, specifically where do letters hit on the throat, palate, teeth, lips, and tongue.(4) This is something that I’ve often found deeply significant on galdr. Part of the process for the more esoteric types of galdr involves playing with just this physicality to work unseen patterns of sound with each rune. These corporeal points become gateways for the rune spirits themselves, and the galdr worker a gateway for what they then loose. It is all centered around the very physical process of shaping and intoning the rune names. The letter shapes themselves become entry points, ciphers, shells for the spirits, coded sigils by which the runes may then be known, engaged with, and conceptualized on this world. Physicality has certain limitations after all both good and bad for which such a ciphered context would be necessary, or at least far, far more helpful even though that which the runes connect to(?) flow from, partake of is fully embodied in the building blocks of our very bodies and the world in which we move. Perhaps part of good esoteric work is learning to call that forth, bring it to the surface, and then engaging directly with it in ourselves and that which we seek to impact. I also cannot help but wonder, thinking of Hanna’s videos, if the fact that the letter-spirits she works with (Hebrew) are encoded as a sacred language as well as a spoken language helps to keep this more consciously encoded and easily accessed? (5)
The runes were used to write several Northern languages and some scholars like R.I. Page would tell you that is all they were ever used for. Obviously I disagree. Language was and is remarkable technology and I would never dispute that, but it’s also remarkable esoteric technology. If the ancient Germanic tribes didn’t have some sense of awe around the process of writing and speaking back what is written that would make them quite a rarity indeed. Now, Norse, Old English, other Scandinavian languages were not, insofar as we know, engaged with as ‘sacred’ tongues. They were the languages people spoke without ever being reified in quite the same way as Hebrew was and has been.(6) All of which leads me to wonder if there was a rune language, something used by galdr workers in much the same way modern Enochian is used by certain types of esoteric orders today? Certainly there are rhythms. One sees this in havamal 144 and 145. There is a rhythm that languages like Old Norse are specifically capable of that can (and I would posit was) used for esoteric purposes. Literacy came to the Northlands by way first of Rome and then of Christianity. What might we have had it been allowed to spread naturally, without foreign influence or spiritual colonization? Might we have found our spiritual dialects comparable to the sacral positioning of biblical Hebrew now? This is speculation of course, but the runes ride rhythms (and alliteration). Is this the shape of the language mirroring the ipseity and inherent nature (sound, rhythm, flow, pattern) of the runes? What creates the best environment for their conscious calling forth?
I’ve often said that learning how to work the runes well is rather a matter of translation and interpretation. There is always a time, and sometimes a long one, where the rune worker is learning how to communicate with the runes and both sides of that equation are developing a common lexicon. This becomes the basis for future and hopefully effective partnership. What might it be like if that lexicon were already an encoded part of one’s culture, language, and religious experience and had been for generations? I don’t know, but I do know there’s a hell of a lot we can only imagine.
What all of this goes back to for me is the power of language: as a tool of creation, a loosing of that which can never be recalled, only transformed, as a sacred tool, an esoteric tool, a doorway. It goes back to language and the naming of things, and then to the ensouled, focused cry, the utterance infused with Being and Becoming, loosed forcefully upon the threads and rivers of Wyrd. I’m going to conclude this here. These are ideas that I plan to explore and develop over time but I wanted to loose them here now because we seem to have issues as a community, an intersecting network of communities with the naming of things and the idea that words have meaning– immutable, layered, textured, complex. They have their own being and when dealing with them it’s important to be precise.
- See here and here for starters.
- In thinking about Havamal 145, I’m struck by the word ‘sóa’. This author notes that while this word means “waste” (which is strange and not particularly workable in context) there are other cognates that refer to something more along the lines of “appease”, which completely changes one’s potential interpretation of this passage. This is something to explore further.
- For instance, our circulatory systems contain the essence of raido, the pathways that run throughout every part of the body. Thurisaz governs our nervous systems….which as anyone with chronic pain can tell you can be a hazardous minefield of torment at times, or a delight of sensual pleasures. Othila is that which is encoded in our DNA….R. Kaldera has explored this with the Younger and Northumbrian Futharks here. Perhaps because this is specifically for healing purposes, it doesn’t discuss the more esoteric aspects of embodied runology. For instance, Fehu has strong associations with blood and othila and ancestral luck. Still, this is the beginning of restoring traditions that have been lost to us, traditions rooted in Yggdrasil, Wyrd, and the unfolding cosmology of our Gods. …which begs a further question: no wonder mysticism and experiential traditions so bother a certain section of Heathens: to say that our Gods are alive and real and actively engaging with us, means that the cosmology and sacred stories are not set in stone. It means lore is unfolding and changing too and that turns all that we are used to in religions on its head. Ours is not a tradition that was once revealed and written down. It is an ever revealing tradition and that changes everything. It encodes eternal unending change into our tradition itself.
- This is a bit long, but worth watching here.
- The other thing that I noted as I was writing this (and obsessively watching Hanna’s Alef-Bet song) is the inherent intertwining between the esoteric parts of the language and piety, the praise of her God. One flows from and into the other in an endless loop.
- Except perhaps by certain denominations of modern Heathens who attempt to position various of these languages as uniquely sacral. I’m not knocking this. I think there can be benefit for encoding one’s language in this way—speaking it in ritual then helps to move one’s consciousness into receptive ritual headspace. It’s not historically accurate though.