Working with the Runes: Notes on Engaging with the First Aett
This is less a post and more random thoughts and insights as I work yet again through the first runic aett. Each time I approach a rune spirit, I discover new things. Each time I approach a rune spirit, I’m taken more deeply into that rune’s mysteries. Each time I approach a rune spirit, new worlds open – at least a little – to my understanding, or at least to my awe.
They are such potent gifts of Odin and it is Odin and Loki Who have inspired me in their use. It’s not just that they are powerful forces in and of themselves, forces that can provide glimpses into the wyrd and the architecture of the worlds, but the runes reflect the mysteries of our Gods and working with them, if one is called to such work, has the potential to open up pathways to the Gods as well, especially Odin.
Writing this, with a blistering migraine so bad that focusing my eyes on words hurts and makes me nauseous (we’re being buffeted by Tropical Storm Henri right now as I write this, and with my migraine issues and chronic pain I’ve spent most of the day in agony), I can’t help but reflect that this is one of the key differences between working in the esoteric traditions of the Northern Tradition, and something like ceremonial magic. Working with the runes reinforces our understanding of divine hierarchy (1). I am grateful, so immensely grateful to be steeped in these mysteries, and this tradition. I am grateful to know about our Gods, to be able to honor Them, to touch – for however long or short a time – the echo of Their presence. Every moment of rune working is a reification of Their glory, Their power, the architecture of creation that They set carefully into place – every single moment.
I am, more and more, coming to think that the runes themselves are worked into that architecture, moving, living pieces of it brought forth from the Gap. They move and flow along its threads and angles and keep creation alive, vital, ever changing. They provide keyholes through which we can tap into that vital creative power. They provide doorways to all that lies behind creation. For this reason alone, the way they interact with each other is an important thing to consider in one’s work with them.
That first aett: fehu, uruz, thurisaz, ansuz, raido, kenaz, gebo, wunjo is filled with life. It’s force and fire, the raw force of vitality that in Greek, I’d term Βιος. It bubbles up and fills every world with wonder and more importantly with luck and power. It’s a bright aett in many ways, the energy of it is bright but it ends in the darkness of mystery just as it began with the promise of a luck drenched hamingja. It’s probably my favorite aett with which to work. I find it surprisingly accessible on the surface (though wunjo can be problematic to access at first) just as I find the third aett, more concerned as it is with concrete manifestation, to be the most difficult (and of course, any definitive statement made about these aetts needs to be viewed as a part of the whole, not definitive, but reflective of my own experience with them. They’re complex, multi-layered beings and what they choose to show is dependent on the relationship the runester has with them, and *that* is a very individual thing).
The runes pair off in interesting ways. This is particularly evident with that first aett. This aett is sometimes called “Freya’s aett” by rune workers of the generation preceding mine and while the runes are part of the Odinic retinue (2), that appellation makes sense to me. It’s not just that I think this generation latched onto the phonetic use of Fehu as the first letter in Freya’s name, but that this entire aett contains the kind of life and vitality so strongly part of the mysteries of the Vanir (3).
Fehu and uruz work extremely well together. I never really thought about this until recently. I’ve just started going through this aett with one of my students and doing it in a systematic order has been very revealing in terms of patterns and relationships that might otherwise not stand out or that might be taken for granted. Thurisaz and ansuz do the same, likewise raido and kenaz, and the sacrifice of gebo leads to the mystery and power of wunjo. Kenaz pairs well with all of them, elevating and opening the way. Raido I haven’t quite figured out yet in this capacity. It contains such an intense forward focused momentum that I feel like it aids the other runes in moving over and past (or through) blockages. It and kenaz are the outliers in these pairings for me in a way that bears further exploration. I’d add that when I say pairings, these are special relationships within this aett. They don’t preclude other working partnerships (thurisaz works extremely well with uruz for instance, or wunjo with fehu, and so forth), but I think these are particularly important in teasing out the overall power and mystery of this particular aett. The order of the runes is important on some level. How do these runes choose to interact with each other and what does that accomplish?
Working through the aett this time, I’ve realized how much Wunjo is a bitch of a rune. All the rune books talk about how it means joy or perfection (and it can). That is only on its surface. It’s also raw, ecstatic inspiration, frenzy, ekstasis. This is the rune of Bolverk when He won Óðrœrir. It’s crafty, clever, and sometimes cruel. Sometimes the force of inspiration really, really hurts. Sometimes, it demands a sacrifice of one’s preconceptions of morality, of right/wrong, one’s comfort. Sometimes it fills the space left by those sacrifices with glory. It’s the wand-rune of a God that doesn’t mind a body count, that doesn’t mind the consequences of necessary sacrifice. It’s far, far more vicious than thurisaz, which is clean and upfront in its hungers. The two of them have … a perplexing relationship that I’ve only begun exploring. Wunjo and dagaz have a similar working relationship with each other.
- It’s not that ceremonial magic can’t do that too, it’s that the way it’s so often taught is unbalanced by lack of attention devotion. Then you get ceremonial magicians who think they are God instead of competent practitioners rooted in the divine hierarchy from which the structures they are wielding flow.
- The Runes are Odin’s mysteries. Other Gods may use them (and DO!) but they are specifically Odinic mysteries and thus part of Odin’s retinue of spirits, just like the Valkyries.
- This just briefly discusses the relationship between the runes of the first aett with each other – and even there, only in brief. It should not be taken to imply that the runes of this aett don’t interact with the runes of the other aettir. They do.