Category Archives: Esoterica
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One of the key mysteries of our tradition is that of the runes. The word itself, rún, rúnar (1) means just that: ‘secret’ or ‘mystery.’ Our high God Odin (Oðinn) hung on Yggdrasil for nine nights and nine days in agony, pierced by His own spear, a sacrifice to Himself. The result of this ordeal was acquisition of the runes and the knowledge and ability to wield them. There is much the story doesn’t tell us, starting with where the runes originate, what they are, and what their connection to the fabric of creation might be.
I talk about all of these things in my book Living Runes, so I won’t focus on that too much in this post. In short, I think they originate in the Ginnungagap, are a family of living, sentient spirits, and are worked into the architecture of existence in numerous ways, creating loopholes through which the holy can seep (or work) again and again. When I think about this, they’re so often in motion, coursing through creation the way platelets, plasma, and blood cells course through our veins. They may rivet the more liminal parts of creation in place, or they may whirl and dance through the world working His will and their own. I think it varies and it’s something I’m still exploring in my own practice.
What I wanted to discuss today is one of the techniques that I employed when I was first learning how to really engage with the runes. This is also something that I give to my apprentices when they are learning the runes for themselves. Usually, this is done after one has initially met the runes through offerings and galdr – a round 1 of ‘getting to know you,’ shall we say. Once a student has passing familiarity with the runes, knows what they are, has maybe galdred a bit, or meditated with them, once he or she has his or her own devotional relationships to Gods and ancestors securely established (2), when that student is ready for the second round of in-depth engagement, this is what I have each of my apprentices do (and no, this isn’t in my book). I do this myself every now and again myself. One never stop learning after all!
Before I describe this, I want to offer one caveat. If you are going to do this, begin with Odin. He is Master of the Runes (Rúnatýr – God of the runes) and they are first and foremost His mysteries. Afterwards, next approach the Deity or Deities in turn to whom you are dedicated, Whom you would consider your fulltrui, Who hold the most significant place in your personal devotions. This is simply a matter of both protocol, and courtesy and respect.
Now, onto the exercise.
A). Make a list of the various Deities that you venerate or Whose insight you might be interested in gaining with respect to the runes. For instance, Odin, Frigga, Freya, Loki, Sigyn, Thor, Sif, Heimdall, Mani, Sunna, Sinthgunt, Eir. (Make your own list, starting with Odin. This is just an example, though it’s close to the list one of my apprentices recently employed).
B). Each night, meditate upon and galdr the same rune, first making offerings to one of these Deities, and then to the rune itself. So, start with Fehu. Set up a working altar or shrine, some place where you can make offerings to the rune of the night and to whatever Deity you’re approaching. If you have a personal household shrine (and if you’re doing this, you should (3)), you can go ahead and use that. The first night, make an offering to Odin. Offer prayers to Him and ask Him if He would be willing to teach you something about fehu. Make an offering to fehu itself, asking it if it would work with Odin and teach you something about itself. Then galdr the rune, meditate on it, write down your insights. Thank the two powers, Deity and rune invoked, and you are done for the night. Work through your list of Deities meditating on the *same* rune. When you’re done, move on to the next rune and go through the list again in the same order.
What you’re essentially doing is building your own book of correspondences as you engage in this process. I would also repeat this, either approaching the same Deities or perhaps with a new list (though always begin with Odin. He is the doorway to the runes in many respects), every few months. Be polite when you approach both Powers. You are not after all, entitled to Their wisdom. As with anything, the more polite you are, the more productive this is likely to be. Even having worked with the runes for close to thirty years, I still keep this in mind every time I approach them. At the end of your list, or even somewhere in the middle of it, do one night where you do NOT approach a Deity, but work only through the rune itself.
I stumbled on this process of approaching various Deities like this accidentally. I was having a bit of trouble with something and struggling to figure out how to work the rune I had decided to call upon. Completely unexpectedly, Sigyn sorted it out giving me an unexpected bit of insight. I thought, ‘wait. You know runes?’ Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised – She is a Deity after all –but when we have deeply personal devotional relationships with our individual Gods, it can be easy to forget that They are well, Gods. It can be easy to think that we know Them as we might know a friend down the way. We may indeed know a little given that relationships are mutual processes, but no matter how much experience we have in devotion to a Deity, THEY are always so much more.
One of the things that I really like about this particular exercise also, is that it allows the one doing it the opportunity to approach Deities he or she may not have previously considered approaching. It allows for a potential devotional relationship to bloom. It gets one out of one’s comfort zone, away from the regular way of doing things and allows room for unexpected insights to occur.
There are things to consider when you are engaging in this process: how does the rune feel? When you galdr, do you get any images running through your mind, any words popping up wanting to be worked into the galdr, any other sensory expressions of its presence (and that may include taste and smell too)? How do you feel before, during, and after? Has your impression of the rune changed at all? Do your best to keep a good record of this. It is helpful when you’re going back to check your progress. Be sure to stay hydrated and maybe eat a little protein after your nightly sessions. I would also be sure to center and ground well afterwards.
Finally, the futhark tells a story. Each Aett (4) contains its own mysteries. It is normal that some runes will prove harder and more difficult to access than others. That’s ok, and the reverse is also true. Most will have one or two runes stepping forward as a guide through the futhark and through one’s work therein. When you encounter a rune that just won’t open, that’s ok. Be respectful, do your best, make your offerings and come back to it later. There are runes (for me, mostly in the third aett) that have taken years before they allowed me to so much as dip a toe into their mysteries. Again, as with so much spirit-work, you’re building a relationship. Part of the process of learning to work with runes is that they are learning your mental patterns, internal language, internal symbol set and you are learning something of theirs and the two of you are building this pidgin (is that the correct linguistic term?) by which you can communicate. You’re learning each other’s language and building a shared syllabary through which you can productively communicate. That’s going to take time. Some things cannot be rushed.
Before I close, I want to take a moment’s focus on the first aett. As with our sacred texts, there are numerous ways that one can approach and interpret the narratives that we’re given. Since there are numerous patterns in the way the runes relate to each other, one can tell many stories. While these stories are not direct engagement with the runic powers, they are a means of conceptualizing and learning from them. They are doorways into each rune’s power. Here is a very brief way of reading through the first aett connectively. Fehu is the luck that flows through our blood (ancestral luck, hamingja), vitality, wealth, abundance, power. Like a sap through a tree or chlorophyll through a leaf, it flows through our veins and the veins of our soul body giving it life – just like Loður gave us sense-awareness and color, and the roaring pulse of our heart’s blood when the Gods created humanity. Uruz is raw power, maegen, the ability to tap into, access, and use one’s luck. It is initiation that awakens us to the Powers, challenge by which we earn the right to use what we have been given. Thurisaz is a challenge to focus, to discipline, to hone and temper our power. It’s the hard work we do to strengthen our spiritual and ethical muscles. It is the force that shatters our illusions, clears us out, devours what no longer serves, frees one – sometimes violently – from constraints, burns like napalm in the soul until we order ourselves rightly and leave our bullshit behind. (Edited 3/7 to include ansuz, as I was writing with a migraine and accidentally left one of my favorite runes out). Ansuz is divine inspiration, ecstasy (in the classical religious sense), surety and confidence in the Work. It is the touch of the Gods, grace that allows us to persevere in our spiritual becoming even when it is hard. It is the opener of the way, that, if we are working to become rightly ordered, will show us the way forward. Raido is movement, momentum, overcoming of obstacles, the progress made when we accomplish the first three runic lessons and are rightly ordered with the Powers, and the power by which we may find our way through any obstacles in the way of that. Kenaz is the torch, the hearth fire, the offering fire, a candle on a shrine, the light of knowledge, piety, and devotion. It is that which we have been given to tend, to keep fed and bright and warm (our devotion, our traditions). Gebo is the process of exchange between us and the Holy powers, the law by which we are called to live our lives, the pious sensibility underlying every positively ordered engagement with the Powers, and with each other. Wunjo is the fulfillment of fehu, pleasure and ecstatic awareness of the powers, perfection and glory, joy and transformative power. It is the sum total of the other seven runes in this aett. One cannot access the fullness of wunjo, without first accessing and understanding these preceding runes. Wunjo is also the mead of inspiration, of frenzy, of magic, of inspiration on every possible level. How will you drink of it, how will it shape itself to your mind and talents? It will enliven you for the work to come with the next aett, which takes us down immediately into the place of the dead. This is the foundational work one must do in order to access the Mysteries, in order to be of use to our Gods, in order to become functionally realized human beings. It is ongoing work, and the runes can reflect that, though they are also so much more (5). I would also stress that this is only one way of lightly tapping into their insights.
I’ll wrap this up for now. As all rune work begins with Odin, so too should it end with praises to this God Who had the will to win them.
Hail to the God of the gallows,
Terrible and unrelenting.
Hail to the Wyrd-riven Wonder-worker,
Who leaves ecstasy in His wake.
Hail to the Bale-eyed Beguiler,
with His whispered charms
and savage conjurings.
Hail to the Lord of Asgard,
Architect of the Worlds
Who breathed us into Being,
Eternally let us praise Him.
- These are the nominative and genitive singular forms respectively.
- It goes without saying that the runes are a specialty, as well as being a Mystery all their own, and not only does one not have to work with the runes to be a good Heathen, but those who don’t already have their spiritual houses, i.e. their devotional world, in some semblance of order, should not work with them. They are tools of magic and divination and it becomes very complicated, very quickly.
- Really, if you don’t have the most basic devotional space set up and active in your home, you’re not ready to work with the runes no matter how far along you think you are.
- This word just refers to a set of eight. There are three sets of eight that make up the elder futhark.
- They are sentient, amoral, non-human spirits. They have their own agendas and are allied to the All-Father Who also has His agenda. It’s healthy to never forget that.
And oh how I wish I’d remembered that tonight!
It has been a very, very fruitful Yule season. As part of that, there is an ongoing cycle of gift exchange and my family gifted me with several ongon, spirit infused ritual pieces. They are beautiful and the first two were welcomed into the house with all the decorum new spirit allies should receive. The second two …um…not so much. There is a lesson here and one I am both grateful for but should really know by now.
Two of them sat in a box for a week, maybe a little more. They’d arrived right before our solstice ritual proper, and we were only expecting one. They were big spirits and I knew that it would be very important to place them properly but we don’t really do divination during the ember days, at least not from Modranacht till the New Year, and we all knew that div would be required to determine the proper place for them to live. All of that would have been fine, but we didn’t properly explain it when we packed them away, and then new problems arose tonight when we did our first divination of the year.
We got it sorted out, but at first it was really aggravating. They wouldn’t respond to any of the divination systems we use. I kept getting “go to divination” but they weren’t familiar with our systems and we didn’t know theirs. It took much, much longer than it should have done and it wasn’t until the whole thing was over and done with, and I was placing one of the spirits that he explained to me what we should have done. I’m sharing that here for any of you who might find yourself in the same boat. Let me just say, I’m grateful for the patience of these two new spirits, tremendously so.
Firstly, we should have greeted them and made small offerings right away. It was fine not to divine for a week or so, but rather than keep them in a box, we should have welcomed them and incorporated them into the household rituals. That way, they would learn about us, we about them, the household spirits would get to know them and vice versa, and it would be easier to figure out how to forge a functional relationship. They’re not things. These are living spirits. It was like I kept a super genius cat locked in a box for a week because I wasn’t sure where to put his food! Or like grandma came to visit and you kept her locked in the bathroom for a week! Both working with spirits and divination involving spirits is a matter of learning each other’s languages, symbol systems, mental metaphor and image maps, of figuring out how to most efficiently communicate with each other. We lost out on an opportunity to do that early on and we were unintentionally rude too. What’s more, had we let our house spirits get to know the new spirits and vice versa, our own spirits could have better facilitated this whole process.
Secondly, when we sat down to divine tonight, we should have started by inviting the new spirits in, welcoming them again, making offerings and most importantly of all, explaining the systems we use, how they work, etc. THAT is what made the whole thing so aggravating. They had to figure that out on their own because it never in a million years occurred to us to make that explanation before we started.
Everything worked out well in the end, there were apologies and offerings made and the situation was properly sorted but we made it a lot harder on ourselves by not having a set protocol instituted as a matter of course when welcoming new spirits into the cadre. I have a set protocol for divination from which I never deviate and I instituted that after a horrible experience where I was tricked by an unhappy and sick spirit, a recently deceased ancestor of the client who was jealous and angry that my client had a life while the spirit, who had died of a drug overdose, no longer did. It was nasty, messy, and never would have been so had we stuck to our protocols. That time, I was convinced to skip them. Never again. Now, I have learned another valuable lesson about first contact protocol (lol) and it’s not one that anyone in my house will neglect from here on out.
One caveat: because we are so familiar with the Gods and spirits that form such a strong and beloved part of our Household cadre, we tend to forget to be properly formal (and hospitable, because that is what these protocols are, in part) with new spirits.
I hope this is helpful to those of you reading this who likewise have spiritwork concerns. I receive a lot of questions about how to engage properly with Gods and spirits, about my own protocols, and I find that sometimes pointing out where one falls short, and the lessons learned from that can be tremendously valuable. We learn, by Gods we learn. It sure as hell isn’t always pretty though.
Grounded and centered, having offered to the Gods my morning prayers, and having lit incense to the ancestors I sit comfortably and consider the following meditation.
I reach up with my consciousness, through endless boughs of an enormous Tree, and its leaves whisper with secrets. I am one of those secrets being whispered and sung up the gnarled knots of that ancient Tree. It exhales me up beyond the worlds.
We exist within the breath of a God. We ride that breath into being. We exhale that breath back into the mouth of the All Father at the moment of our death. We are tied to everything through His breath and it pulses around us, the steady hand of the storm. I breathe it in down into my crown. I am alive. I am Odin sitting atop Hliðkjalf and I wear the crown of sovereignty. Nothing can separate me from this God. He has knit Himself into my soul.
It is Mani to Whom I reach as I move to my third eye. He is an ancient God and all manner of folly He has seen and dismissed. He forgets nothing and yet He is luminous. I pray that my mind and my heart may be luminous too, that I may rest in the House of the Moon, and may my Sight be always true.
My throat is filled with Loki’s fire. It burns away deceit. It cleanses and renders and because of it I speak true. His is the crucible in which I am ever refined. He hones my courage.
My heart is Sigyn’s hall. She protects and tenderly nourishes all that falls within Her care. She keeps my heart steadfast and the gentle flame of devotion burning within it. I look to Her that my soul might be constant. In such things, She does not yield.
In my gut, the seat of my will, I think on Thor. Mighty Thor with His chariot and gleaming hammer, He fights off pollution. He girds the world against dissolution. He will never be overcome. With Him at my back, I know that I will always be able to align my will with the divine order. Thor will keep me clean, the Holiness He bears will keep me focused.
In my sex lies Freya’s gift, roaring, liquid heat connecting me to life and primal desire. She is Mistress of Sesrumnir and Her blessings are holy. She teaches us to find joy in living. I strive to remember this.
At my root, lie the mysteries of Frigga’s hall. She grounds me in piety and respect, reverence, and power. She is the All-Mother and Her touch makes everything sacred. She roots me deep in the purest iteration of myself and throuh Her all magic flows.
Beneath my feet breathe the bones of the dead. Thousands of generations of ancestors having passed through Hela’s hallowed halls. They walk with me and when necessary lift me up. There is no place I can go where they are not and in times of danger they are an honor guard. With each step I thank them. With each step I am grateful.
In my hands, I feel the echo of worlds. In my right hand I hold fire, in my left hand I hold ice. There is the holy chasm in between. All of creation is within me and I see the moment the Gods willed the worlds into being. I stand with Them then, again and again. I am willed into being too with each and every prayer. I am sustained and my prayers fall like nourishing water from the well of memory upon the Tree. It is sustained too. It is enough.
I reach above me with my right hand drawing power up from the dead and from the living earth and down from the most secret powers of the heavens and it is right and good and I touch my brow and chant:
Til ykkar, Oðinn og Regin,
I touch my belly and intone: rikið.
I touch my right shoulder and intone: krafturinn
My left shoulder: dyrðin
I cross my arms over my heart: nú og að eilífu
I bow my head in reverence: Amen.
And it is done.
(my photo: “the World Tree”. Do not use without permission).
So my article on re-enchanting our world seems to have provoked a bit of concern among some of my readers. Normally, this would pass unremarked but I think in this case it really highlights the major ideological fault line running through our various communities today: what takes precedence, the Gods and spirits or humanity?
This is not new. In fact, I think it’s always been the primary fault line upon which we dance for at least the twenty-five plus years that I’ve been a polytheist. I wasn’t surprised to see it come up here. This is what the differences in our communities largely come down to: do you prioritize the Gods or do you prioritize the people and if the latter, then what it eventually becomes is prioritizing politics over any Holy Being. That is the inevitable outcome of that consideration. Is it any wonder then that the political pagan crowd are so doggedly determined to silence polytheists? We challenge the entire framework by which they have ordered their world. We also apparently challenge contemporary parenting styles, you know, the kind that teach you that there are consequences to one’s actions.
There are rules to dealing with Gods and spirits. They don’t have our ethics and we don’t make those rules but yes, we are expected to abide by them. This is not a difficult thing. There is, in fact, no small degree of middle class Western privilege inherent in our difficulties with what is really a very easy equation. It’s something that anyone raised in their own indigenous polytheisms easily comprehends. Hell, it’s something that anyone raised in a culture still possessing a vibrant folk tradition (like, for instance, Appalachia) might also comprehend. It’s only the privilege of the supposedly enlightened middle class that refuses to see what any five year old familiar with Grimm’s fairy tales might know: there are consequences to ignoring rules and we don’t get a pass with the spirits when we do so just because we’re happily steeped in social justice, politics, or racial self-abasement. Some spirits value our consent, but not all of them, not by a long shot and that goes for Gods too. What is the saying? Ignorance of the law does not excuse breaking it.
Now, one may argue that by laying my charms I’m setting out a honey trap. Yes, I am. It is still the choice of the passer by whether or not to steal it. Choices have consequences and if I am able to create even the barest crack whereby my Gods and spirits might gain greater purchase in our world, then I am happy to help and I shall sleep content.*
I think that at the core of this fault line is fear of the Gods warring with lack of belief and perhaps lack of desire to believe. If you believe in the Gods after all, then don’t you trust Them? Why would you not wish to return the world to Them, to restore what was destroyed? If you don’t believe in Them, why are you bothered at all? A delicious catch twenty-two, yes? No matter, paucity of piety on the part of others will never impact my own work and let me be clear about what that is.
My allegiance is to my Gods and spirits. My job is to open doors for Them, restore Their cultus, reclaim territory ripped away by monotheism. I am not in the least bothered if that makes people uncomfortable. I will always put the needs of my Gods and Their attendant spirits first and foremost, understanding that They are hunters, understanding that They have been waiting a very long time to reclaim what was Theirs, understanding that in struggles such as these there is always a rate of attrition. I will break your reality down until you see and hear and taste and smell, acknowledge and maybe even fear what is actually there.
and i’ll consider that a good day’s work.
* I might also add that it’s rather insulting that my readers might assume that I simply create blanket doorways for random passing spirits. Of course they are keyed to a very specific group of spirits and Gods. I am very careful in what I do.
We have assembled inside this ancient
& insane theatre
To propagate our lust for life
& flee the swarming wisdom
of the streets
This weekend was so tremendously inspiring, in part because I was able to talk with other devotees, other polytheists, and in a couple of cases other spiritworkers. We were able to exchange knowledge and techniques, and one of the things that I was able to see first hand is how others go about opening doors to the Gods and spirits in their world. I’ve come away with quite a few ideas.
One of those ideas is actually littering my town with enchantments designed to enhance people’s awareness of the Gods and spirits populating our world, designed to open small keyholes and doorways through which our eldritch spirits may skitter. I suppose it might be called ‘glamour bombing’ but there’s less glamour and more eerie fucking magic to be had when this is done right.
To create charms designed to affect the finder, designed to tag them for the spirits, designed to mark them for the Gods, designed to open their awareness little by little to the world beyond our world, the world within it, the enchantment, the holiness all around us? Fuck yeah. It is seeding the place with power. It is creating contamination with the holy. I’m good with that. Let the Gods and Their retinue of spirits seep and creep into our world by any means necessary, by any doorway, window, keyhole, and loophole at their disposal. Amen and ashe.
Tonight, I decided to try my hand at it. It’s 2:30am and I just returned from planting the first charm, and about that I’ll say no more save that I felt it take hold in the fabric of the wyrd and it is the first of many to be laid.
I’d like to encourage others to do this…use the conduit of art to lace your world with enchantments, beauty, and a little mystery. Create charms and shrines and everything in between and fucking recolonize the world for and with our Gods and every one of the spirits that serve Them. Step by step, stone by stone, shrine by shrine, offering by offering, and charm by charm let us reclaim. They are everywhere.
The Lords. Events take place beyond our knowledge or control. Our lives are lived for us. …But gradually, special perceptions are being developed. The idea of the “Lords” is beginning to form in some minds. We should enlist them into bands of perceivers to tour the labyrinth during their mysterious nocturnal appearances. The Lords have secret entrances and they know disguises. But they give themselves away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a glance.
(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.