Runes F A Qs
Frequently asked questions
Was rune divination ever actually
classical references to runes for divination, writing, etc are
virtually non existent. So it has been argued in scholarly circles
that modern Neo Pagan theories as to what our ancestors did with them
are inherently based more on personal interpretation rather than
actual facts. Derisively so there is little evidence to back up
reliably what our continental Germanic or peninsular Scandinavian
tribe folks may or may not have used as regards runes within their
communities. We have instead footprints for writing systems and vague
references for actual divinatory practices. These off course could be
something entirely different from their current interpretations or
indeed usage in the modern sense. It could further be argued that many
Neo Pagan Eclectic authors have added to this cocktail by fanciful
theories based on their own personal gnosis and devoid of Ockham’s
razor methodology and application.
The most used
quote to back up rune divination theories has to be that of the
works of Tacitus in his
poems, the "Runattal thattr Othins", and the "Ljothatal" form the
primary basis of modern magical usage of runes. Scholars would argue
strongly that there is no conclusive proof from historical sources
that the runes were used for divination and they would be RIGHT!
The Ljothatal can
be found in stanzas 147-165 of the Havamol (The ballad of the High
One), a collection of charms;
147. The songs I know | that king's
wives know not,
Nor men that are sons of men;
The first is called help, | and help it can bring thee
In sorrow and pain and sickness.
Ref: The Poetic Edda, Havamol Bellows
Runattal thattr Othinns:
|Veit ec at ec hecc
||Veit ek at ek hekk
||Veit ég að ég hékk
|vindga meiði a
||vindga meiði á
||vindga meiði á
|nætr allar nío,
||nætr allar níu,
||nætur allar níu,
|oc gefinn Oðni
||ok gefinn Óðni
||og gefinn Óðni,
|sialfr sialfom mer,
||sjálfr sjálfum mér
||sjálfur sjálfum mér,
|a þeim meiþi,
||á þeim meiði
||á þeim meiði
|er mangi veit
||er manngi veit
||er manngi veit
|hvers hann af rótom renn.
||hvers hann af rótum renn.
||hvers hann af rótum rennur
I know that I hung, on a windy tree, for all of nine nights, wounded
with a spear, and given to Óðinn, myself to myself, on that tree,
which no man knows, from what roots it runs.
Here is my
opinion on the matter. No one knows for certain that rune divination
did not exist? I disagree to a point when all we keep hearing about
from the scholastic worldview is WHERE IS YOUR PROOF?
Point 1: Lack
of evidence is not proof that something did not exist
From the earliest
stages of civilisation people have used various means of divination to
communicate with the supernatural especially when seeking help in
their public and private lives. Divination is most often practiced as
a means of foretelling the future, and sometimes the past. It is one
of the primary practices used by witches, wizards, medicine men,
sorcerers, and shamans or whatever name one goes under these days.
Diviners have always been with us, some belonged to special classes of
priests and priestesses in past and present civilizations, and are
specially trained in the practice and interpretation of their
divinatory skills. The Greeks had their oracle which spoke for the
gods. During the Middle Ages grain, sand or peas were tossed onto a
field in order to read the patterns after the substances fell. As far
back as 1000 BCE. the Chinese had "I CHING," an oracle which involved
the tossing and reading of long short yarrow sticks. And the scholars
argue over physical evidence for rune divination?
Point 2: Rune
evidence for usage in healing
There is historical
evidence that runes were used for healing and that a serest was the
way our Norse ancestors sort advise on the future?
Demon of the fever of wounds,
Lord of the demons,
Now you must flee,
You have been discovered.
Three kinds of pain on you, wolf.
Three times the misery, wolf.
|sa |sa |sa, the rune of Ice.
These ice runes will be your only joy, wolf.
Enjoy the seidr well.
11 century Rune Poem find on copper
There was a woman in
the settlement who was called Thorbjorg; she was a prophetess, and was
known as the Little Sibyl. She had had nine sisters, but she was the
only one left alive. It was her custom in winter to attend feasts; she
was always invited, in particular, by those who were most curious
about their own fortunes or the season's prospects. Since Thorkel of
Herjolfsness was the chief farmer in the district, it was thought to
be his responsibility to find out when the current hardships would
come to an end. Thorkel invited the prophetess to his house and
prepared a good reception for her, as was the custom when such women
were being received. A high-seat was made ready for her with a cushion
on it, which had to be stuffed with hen's feathers.
She arrived in the evening with the man who had been sent to escort
her. She was dressed like this: she wore a blue mantle fastened with
straps and adorned with stones all the way down to the hem. She had a
necklace of glass beads. On her head she wore a black lambskin hood
lined with cat's-fur. She carried a staff with a brass-bound
knob studded with stones. She wore a belt made of touchwood, from
which hung a large pouch, and in this she kept the charms she needed
for her witchcraft. On her feet were hairy calfskin shoes with long
thick laces which had large tin buttons on the ends. She wore catskin
gloves, with the fur inside.
When she entered the room everyone felt obliged to offer her respectful
greetings, to which she responded according to her opinion of each
person. Thorkel took her by the hand and led her to the seat which had
been prepared for her. He asked her to cast her
eyes over his home and household and herds; she had little to say
about anything. Later that evening the tables were set up; and this is
what the prophetess had for her meal: she was given a gruel made from
goat's milk, and a main dish of hearts from the various kinds of
animals that were available there. She used a brass spoon, and a knife
with a walrus-tusk handle bound with two rings of copper; the blade
had a broken point.
When the tables had been removed, Thorkel went over to Thorbjorg and
asked her how she liked his home and people's behaviour there, and how
soon she would know the answer to his question which everyone wanted
to learn. She replied that she would not give any answer until the
following morning, when she had slept there overnight first.
Late next day she was supplied with the preparations she required for
performing the witchcraft. She asked for the assistance of women who
knew the spells needed for performing the witchcraft, known as
Warlock-songs; but there were no such women available. So inquiries
were then made amongst all the people on the farm, to see if anyone
knew the songs.
Then Gudrid said, 'I am neither a sorceress nor a witch, but when I
was in Iceland my foster-mother Halldis taught me spells which she
Thorbjorg said, 'Then your knowledge is timely.' 'This is the sort of
knowledge and ceremony that I want nothing to do with,' said Gudrid,
'for I am a Christian.' 'It may well be,' said Thorbjorg, 'that you
could be of help to others over this, and not be any the worse a woman
for that. But I shall leave it to Thorkel to provide whatever is
So Thorkel now brought pressure on Gudrid, and she consented to do as
he wished. The women formed a circle round the ritual platform on
which Thorbjorg seated herself. Then Gudrid sang the songs so well and
beautifully that those present were sure they had never heard lovelier
singing. The prophetess thanked her for the song.
'Many spirits are now present,' she said, 'which were charmed to hear
the singing, and which previously had tried to shun us and would grant
us no obedience. And now many things stand revealed to me which before
were hidden both from me and from others.
'I can now say that this famine will not last much longer, and that
conditions will improve with the spring; and the epidemic which has
persisted for so long will abate sooner than expected.
Ref: Eric the Red
Saga, Chapter Four
based on a 13th C account of the happening in late 10th C Greenland.
This is taken from pages 81-84 of THE VINLAND SAGAS, trans. Magnus
Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978 (1965)
Folks are the
scholars telling us on the one hand that rune magic and seering may have existed
in Viking times but rune divination does not? I do not believe it is a far fetched
concept that the Norseman motioned the idea of divination with his
natural tool on hand, the runes.
It is most
likely that divinatory systems are not uniform in practice from one
region to the next or over any given amount of time. This is true even
of systems using the same tools -- tarot, geomancy, coins, dice,
crystal balls, water etc
One final thought,
word rune (Old English run) is not merely a form or writing but stirs
the imagination and conjures up many possible attributes to it, such
senses as 'whisper'; 'mystery'; and 'secret', suggesting that the
symbols were originally used for magical or mystical rituals.
Anyone who actua1ly understands historical linguistics
will realise that it is fundamentally unshaken and that it has
cultural implications, even if the age has long since gone when we
could envisage Indo European warriors sweeping away earlier
populations by force of arms. This is very much the case where
history is determined by the victorious in battle? The real knowledge
of runes it seems lies logically with the warrior classes or at least
by those who are capable of surviving conflict?
Menstrual blood for runes?
of menstrual blood for reddening runes is a common practice
amongst the eclectic Neo-Pagan female populace today but is IMO grossly incorrect and not in keeping
with tradition. Consider that the Havamol tells us, "Do you know
how you must sacrifice?".
hvé rísta skal? Do
you know how you must cut [them]?
Veiztu hvé ráða skal?
Do you know how you must interpret?
Veiztu hvé fá skal?
Do you know how you must colour?
Veiztu hvé freista skal?
Do you know how you must try?
Veiztu hvé biðja skal?
Do you know how you must invoke?
Veiztu hvé blóta skal?
Do you know how you must sacrifice?
Veiztu hvé senda skal?
Do you know how you must send?
Veiztu hvé sóa skal?
Do you know how you must kill?
further suggest that fresh blood taken from yourself via a self
inflicted wound (this takes some courage even today) has a potency
unlike anything else you might be willing to offer to the gods or
indeed the runes. Ask yourself, for example exactly what element of sacrifice is
present when you use end
of cycle blood that is more akin to a natural body cleansing function? No heathen
(not to be confused with eclectic neo-pagan) today that I know would use menstrual blood
for reddening their futhark runes. Instead we all cut ourselves and offer our
freshly sacrificed blood in keeping with lore. Try to remember also
that in the dark ages when these arts were believed to have been
practised, what seems to be a simple cut can have serious heath
implications to the person who cut themselves. Today you would simply
go to a doctor or a hospital to get some antibiotics and treatment for
your injury. In the dark ages, it was possible that infection may set
in and you got very ill or even died!
also that menstrual
blood and menstruating women are taboo in some way in nearly all
cultures. Taboos are created to control things, which are considered
powerful or dangerous. The ability of women to bleed without being
wounded, and to bleed in a predictable rhythm, like the cycles of the
moon, combined with the ability to give birth, has been considered a
kind of power by people all over the world since we became human. And
whether the women were feared, worshipped or envied because of their
periods, taboos were developed to protect society and the woman
against this incredible menstrual power. We no longer think of
menstruation as a kind of power (although maybe we should), but we
still hold on to some very old menstrual taboos.
looking back at the history of menstruation is almost never mentioned
as a good thing. Most old medical and religious writings on
menstruation discuss it as shameful, unclean or unhealthy. These
beliefs come from very ancient menstrual taboos. Ancient Greek and
Roman writers described menstrual fluid as powerful and unclean.
example, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder described menstrual fluid
as having these powers:
"Contact with it turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become
barren, grafts die, seed in gardens are dried up, the fruit of trees
fall off, the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory are dulled, hives
of bees die, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a
horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects
their bites with an incurable poison..."
the writing we have from the past is written by men, and of course,
men don't have periods. So it should not be surprising that they
thought menstruation was awfully strange, since they did not bleed
that way. It had to be normal not to have periods (after all, they
didn't), and they searched for the reasons women bled.
believed there had to be something inferior about the way women are
put together. Or they thought women bled because they were cursed by
God. Some thought that women just had too much blood, so some of it
had to come out monthly. Others thought women menstruated because they
didn't exercise or get out of the house as much as men did. They
thought the blood came out of the womb (uterus) because the womb was
considered the weakest organ in the body, so it was the place the
blood was most attracted to, like a hole in a bucket.
point they thought the womb could move around inside the body, even go
up a woman's throat, and cause all sorts of strange medical problems.
This was known as the "wandering womb." These strange stories go on up
to the present day. As late as the 1960's, medical guidebooks
suggested that women should not take baths or exercise during their
periods. If menstruation has always been feared or misunderstood, how
do we learn to feel good about our bodies when we bleed?
What is the fuþark?
The term fuþark
refers to the first six runic symbols, namely Fehu, Uruz. Thirisaz,
Ansuz, Raidho and Kennaz in a collection of runes known as the Elder
Fuþark. There are three accepted timelines of
runes. The first period
fuþark consisted of 24 runes, reading left to right, and a mirrored
variant reading right to left. It was sometimes written using a
combination of the two, as a plough goes back and forth over a field.
This period, referred to as the 'older futhark' by Pritsak, is
generally identified with the Kylver stone (ca. 400) found in Gotland,
which has the earliest known sequential listing of the 24 runes
inscribed on it. There exist several other relatively minor variants
from the Kylver stone format. The most significant major variant of
the first period is an Anglo-Frisian fuþark of 31 letters (ca. 500
The Elder Fuþark
second period fuþark consisted of 16 letters and is considered to have
originated just before the dawn of the Viking Age. Pritsak refers to
this period as the 'younger futhark'. It exists in two major variants
- the Danish and the Swedish-Norwegian. There is only one known
example, from South Jutland,
that reads from right to left. In this period some of the runes have
curved segments. Moltke takes this as evidence that metal engraving
and stone carving were probably commonplace uses of this script.
Younger Danish Fuþark
In the third period, the Middle Ages, the alphabet is properly called
a fuþork and not the fuþark, due to a change in pronunciation of the
fourth letter. It had 27 runes, with numerous variants for some of
them, and was based on the second period Swedish-Norwegian script.
Numerous inscriptions from this period exist on stones used to
construct churches, where they appear to be the systematic marks of
workmen rather than graffiti. The major problem confronting a
runologist is usually the deciphering of the text of the inscription.
Inscriptions dating from the transitional time between the first and
second periods are somewhat problematic simply due to a lack of a
coherent standard orthography. There are also the obvious hurdles of
imperfect preservation such as missing pieces or defacement.
The Medieval Fuþorc
Ref: Erik Moltke, Runerne i Danmark og deres oprindelse (Copenhagen:
Forum, 1976), pp.24-58
Runes F A Qs
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