In this series of articles, I will be exploring the Elder Futhark. Other Runic variants are equally as legitimate, but the author is most comfortable with the Elder Futhark, and I’m the one doing the work.
The Futhark or Runes are phonetically representative letters, they are also collectively a magic system. This is not surprising because most early peoples viewed writing as magical to a greater or lesser extent. To think that a person could record their words, and centuries later, another could speak them defying death itself. Here be a wondrous power that we have become so familiar with we no longer recognize it for the magic that it is.
A Representative System
The Runes are also a representative system sharing some aspects in common with the determinatives of the Egyptian hieroglyph system. Each rune has a word meaning, and through that word, it relates to the archetypal nature of the runes. This is the aspect that most concerns us as mystics and spiritual seekers.
What many people fail to realize is the runes are a story in and of themselves. The blending of their archetypal meanings make up the stories of our lives and the greater life of the universe around us.
This said, the runes speak in their own language. It is up to those of us who seek their wisdom to learn it. Fortunately, this language is encoded in us all.
Simply put, the method of relating to the runes that I will be exploring is to memorize the keyword for the twenty-four runes, then think like a Norse man.
Towards this end, I recommend several things. First, read the Norse Myths, second study Norse culture, not the Hollywood version. Take the stupid horns off the helmets. If you think the Norse were a bunch of misogynistic barbarians you have a lot of unlearning to do.
One example is the place of women in Norse culture. For one thing, a woman entering into marriage retained her dowry, usually cattle, as her own property. Also, the offspring of those cattle were her property. A dowry was given to a woman in lieu of inheritance because once married, she was no longer in the line to inherit her parent’s wealth, except for her mother’s jewelry. Women and men both had socially defined roles as to work. There will be more on this later, but both could own property, speak on the councils, and were persons under the law. Many things that went by the wayside with the Christian conquest.
Runes stories and divination
Because I am first and foremost a fiction writer, and I don’t think it has been done before, I will be writing a short story to illustrate each of the meanings of the runes and help educate the reader about the Norse culture and beliefs.
I will also have a short form reference for the runic meaning and various correspondences. Hopefully, by appealing to both the left and right brain in this way, I can pattern an understanding of the runes that embraces the logical mind and the emotional consciousness where intuition and second sight dwell.
To begin, I will quote the Hávamál, Norse epic poem, regarding how Odin obtained the magic of the runes.
I know that I hung on a windy tree nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn, downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there.