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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Mystical Origins of the Runes

If you follow the strictly historical/academic understanding of the runes and where they came from, you will hear that they were derived from Greek or other Near Eastern writing systems over many thousands of years and transferred to Germanic tribes. However this claim is tenuous and weak at best. There isn't any hard evidence that Norse or Germanic tribes had extensive direct contact with Greeks, and by the time the Romans had come into conflict with Germania, these tribes already had been using runes, according to Tacitus. Aside from the primitive similarity between the Sig / Sowilo rune and "Sigma" in Greek, there's little that can be called a resemblance.

Equally perplexing is the presence of systems similar to Nordic and Germanic Runes among the Magyars (Hungarians) and the ancient Turks of Central Asia, who may have adopted them from the Scythians after essentially torching their civilization to ashes. Evidently there was an ancient proto-Indo-European writing system which gave rise to the Runes, and until the destruction of most of its successor-cultures by Turkic and Turanid nomads from 3,000 to 2,000 years ago, was perpetually giving rise to multifarious new shoots on the branches of the Aryan-descended peoples of Eurasia along the great tree of Asa-consciousness. Indeed, it is likely that there were many "runic" systems which likely had both orthographic and crypto-magickal uses. This was as observable in ancient Scandinavia as in neolithic Bulgaria, Jiroft-culture Iran and the pre-Vedic Indus Valley, where we can see unique local derivatives of these secret staves in each Indo-European homeland (can you see the rune for homeland?)

Metaphysically, all Indo-European peoples understood the universe as worlds on the branches of a great infinite tree, whose root-tips and origin point are unknown by even the wisest of beings; in the Nordic lands it was known as Yggdrasil, or Odin's Steed. To the south and east, in Aryanam-Vaejah (Greater Iran) this tree was known among the Avestan people as Harvisptokhm - the All-Seed-Tree or the High One's Seed-Tree, upon which the wise god Vayu-Vata gave his own breath and blood to bring consciousness to man. Holy secrets, or Ravanan, were said by many Indo-European cultures to be the very branches of life which emanated as strange whispers from this invisible tree, and it is from the same root-word that the Celtic rhin, the German raunend, and ultimately the Norse word "Rune" comes - for Runes are not merely symbols, but the secrets or hidden powers those symbols represent. And so they were for the Germanic peoples using and developing them as a magickal language.

In the mystical esoteric sense of the Runic Journey, it was Wotan or Odin himself who discovered the Runes, at great personal pain and cost - the price was himself, as a blood sacrifice to himself, upon the World Tree Yggdrasil, in whose darkest depths were then revealed to him the 18 sacred Runes - the very keys to the creative energies of all existence - energies which even exceed and surpass the Gods in mystery and grandeur. All Rune Magick must take into account this most traditional account of Rune origins. All rune students would do well to meditate on its meanings. The Runes are not simply letters or symbols, but powerful energies, keys to the very soul of the universe, the Realms of Creation. Thus they must be understood as wisdom that even Odin and the Aesir could only obtain with great difficulty, and mankind should be careful in learning their correct uses. The mystical words of Odin apply even when using the more recently published Rune system of the Armanen Futharkh; indeed, its 18 Runes specifically correspond with the 18 songs or spells of Odin in the Hávamál, or "Words of the High One", the poetic account of Odin's spoken wisdom to man (which forms part of the Elder Edda).

Odin thus narrates the tale of his discovery of the Runes, with brief explanations by his human student Loddfafnir, the legendary first Rune-Master in Midgard (our physical/earthly realm):

The Tale of Odin's Rune-Talk (from the Hávamál, Cyrus Gorgani translation)

I know that I hung
upon that windswept tree
nine whole nights;
By my spear wounded,
and given to Odin,
- self, to myself -
On that tree,
which no man knows
from where its roots rise.
With loaves none sustained me,
nor with any mead-horn;
I stared down into the deep,
I took up the Runes,
- screaming, I took them -
then I fell [down] from there.
Nine mighty songs
took I, from the famed son
of Bolthorn, Bestla's father,
and a drink I got
of the precious Mead,
drops of the Soul-stirrer.
Then did I fruitful
and wise, become,
and waxed, and well-thrived;
Word upon word,
I found me words;
Deed upon deed,
I found me deeds.
Runes may you find,
and advising staves;
Many strong staves,
many stout staves;
Painted by the Mighty Loremaster
and made by great Gods,
and carved by the Roarer of the Gods.
Odin [carved them] 'midst the Aesir,
and for the elves, Dain,
and Dvalin for the dwarves,
Ásvidhr for the giants,
and I [Loddfáfnir] carved some myself
[for the sons of men].
Do you know how you shall carve [them]?
Do you know how you shall read [them]?
Do you know how you shall paint [them]?
Do you know how you shall prove [them]?
Do you know how you shall ask [of them]?
Do you know how you shall offer [to them]?
Do you know how you shall send [for them]?
Do you know how you shall spend [for them]?
Better to ask too little,
than offer too much -
The offering must match the gift;
Better it not be sent for,
Than be overspent for!
- thus the Thunderer (Odin) carved,
before peoples had reckoning;
When up he rose,
and when he came back.

The Talk of the (Rune) Songs (from the Hávamál, Cyrus Gorgani translation)

Those songs I know,
that no King's Queen knows,
nor any man's son:
Help, the first is called,
which will [bring] thee help,
with all woes and sorrows
and certainly all strife.
I know the second,
which is needful for men's sons,
in those who would live as healers;
I know the third:
if my need becomes great,
for a chain to halt my foes;
The edges I blunt
of mine enemies' [swords];
leave no bite to their weapons nor staves!
I know the fourth:
if men burden me
[with] shackles on the joints of my limbs;
Such do I sing,
that I may go free,
[it] springs the fetters from my feet,
and the halter from my hands.
I know the fifth:
if I see, by foes shot,
a shaft speeding through the folk;
Fly it never so strongly,
yet I can still stop it,
if I see but a glimpse of its flight.
I know the sixth:
if a Thane would harm me
with the root of a moist tree,
and that man
upon me curses speaks;
Then their harms eat him rather than me.
I know the seventh:
if I see on high, blazing,
a hall over the bench-companions;
Burn it never so brightly,
yet I can still save it -
I know how to sing that song.
I know the eighth,
which all can
likewise find useful to take:
Where hatred waxes
'midst the warrior's sons,
with that [song] I settle it soon.
I know the ninth:
if my need does arise
to save my ship afloat;
The wind I calm
upon the waves,
and soothe all the sea [to rest].
I know the tenth:
if I see witches
ride and sport in the air;
I so make it
that they madly flee,
home from their own hides,
[and] home from their own minds!
I know the eleventh:
if I shall to war
lead my long-time friends;
Under the shields I sing it,
and they, with power, fare forth -
safe to the battle,
safe from the battle,
they come [back] safe from wherever.
I know the twelfth:
if I see up in a tree
a corpse in a noose, hanging;
Such [a song] I carve
and paint in Runes,
that the man descends
and speaks with me.
I know the thirteenth:
if I shall, a warrior's young son
sprinkle with water;
He will not fall,
though to him, battle comes -
never will the man sink before sword!
I know the fourteenth:
if I shall to men's folk
tell of the gods, 'fore them;
Aesir and elves,
I know all their nature
such as none know, if untaught.
I know the fifteenth,
which Folk-stirrer sang,
the dwarf, 'fore the doors of Dawn:
Strength he sang to the Aesir,
and courage to the elves,
and wisdom to the Roaring-God.
I know the sixteenth:
if I wish from a witty maid
to have all love and delight;
The heart I turn
of the white-armed woman,
and I change her entire mind.
I know the seventeenth,
that my [love], none will coldly shun,
even the shy maiden.
These songs,
will you, Loddfafnir,
long be lacking;
Though it's to your good if you get them,
useful if you take them,
needful if you receive them.
I know the eighteenth
which I'll never teach
to maid, nor man's wife;
- all is better
if one doth know it;
thus follows the songs' end -
Except to her alone
who holds me in her arms,
or else my sister be.
Now are the High-One's words
spoken in the High-One's hall,
all-needful to the sons of men,
woeful to the sons of giants;
Hail to him who spoke!
Hail to him who knows it!
Use, thou that took it in!
Exalted be they that listened!

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