elder futhark

The Road to Runes

May, 2018

The Road to Runes: Hagalaz, the Coming of Hail

So, it was the turn of a different friend to pull a rune this time, and I wasn’t expecting it. On the spot divination, she pulled out the polished, burnt piece of hazel and looked at me quizzically. I had to admit to her that my studies had not taken me this far, and thus, my latest article was born. Pictured is the rune she pulled: Hagalaz, also known as Haglaz or Hagala. This rune literally means ‘hail’, and by what I have learnt, is a pretty fierce and somewhat scary rune to see in any divination.

The Elder Futhark (the group of runes I am working with and believed to be the oldest Germanic runic alphabet) is split into 3 Aett, or groups of 8 runes. Hagalaz is the first rune of the second Aett, or Aettir. There are so many variants of the terms used to describe the runes and their alphabetic structure, and while I am still learning I am keeping myself open to all of these words, so forgive me if I chop and change. The second Aettir is sometimes known as Hel’s Aetirr, which sounds pretty ominous. Hel is the daughter of Loki, and therefore at least part giant, and she reigns over the realm of Hel, one of the dwelling places of the dead in Norse mythology. She is fairly indifferent to the trials and sufferings of humankind, if not actually cruel, and that aspect seems to be reflected in the hail rune. Hail is out of our control. It doesn’t care if we get cold, or wet, or stung. It has no pity for our misery; it simply is, and it is up to us to deal with it; get out of the cold or battle on through the storm.

Hail is the coldest of seeds… (Viking Rune Poem)

Hail is often described in runic inscriptions as a seed, and perhaps this is simply due to its appearance, as if someone high above was casting ice cold grain onto the earth, in the vain hope of it sprouting into some bizarre crop. However, there is more to the seed aspect than simple appearances. If we are tested, and we follow through with the test, whether we pass or fail, we grow as people. Each new challenge we face changes us in some way, usually for the better. Even bad experiences teach us something. Hagalaz is a seed rune because although hard times may be coming, there is the chance for great personal transformation; to be the sprouting wheat after the grain is cast.

Hail is whitest of grains. It whirls from the sky

whipped by the wind, then as water it trickles away. (Old English Rune Poem, translation Marijane Osborn)

This is a reminder that hard times don’t last forever; just as the icy hail turns to water and trickles away, so will our hardships eventually come to an end. We may be whipped into shape by the storms that buffet us, by the challenges that are sent to test us, but ultimately, calm will come, and a time to take stock and see what we have learnt, gained, or been left with. Also, it could be that we are about to lose something, but perhaps that is something we should have let go of long ago. Are we holding on to something that does not help us achieve our highest goals? Are we clinging to a relationship that prevents us being the best we can be? Hagalaz warns that it may be a tough time, but something different is coming, and it’s up to us to make the best of the new situation.

Hagala who breaks helmets… (Runic Inscription on the Kragehul Lance)

So far, I’ve concentrated on the more positive aspects of Hagalaz, but I can’t avoid the simple fact that this is a rune associated with destruction, turmoil, conflict and crisis. Hail is coming and you’re going to be caught out in the storm. If you’re already having a tough time, it’s possible it could get worse before it gets better. Are you ready to be tested? Be prepared, have your wits sharp, don’t be complacent about any potentially upsetting or risky situation and muster your inner strength. Yes, transformation and growth might be just around the corner, but you’re going to have to turn your face into the cold wind and really push hard before you feel the benefits.

The ninth rune in the Elder Futhark, just as Yggdrasil holds nine worlds, Hagalaz is a powerful and crucial rune in any reading. I think it’s important not to panic if you do pull this rune for a client. I’ll admit, when my friend pulled the rune and I read the meaning, I was startled and worried at first, but thinking about her personal situation (private, sorry!) it makes sense. She’s been through a tough time, it’s not over yet, and we’d already spoken about certain things probably not being resolved to satisfaction until Samhain. A gifted practitioner herself, it doesn’t surprise me that she pulled the rune that almost exactly describes the situation she is in and where she appears to be going. And it gave me the chance to learn about a formidable rune; one more step along the road.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

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The Road to Runes

April, 2018

The Road to Runes: First Steps

I received, for Yule, a gorgeous handmade set of runes from my father. He made them himself, out of hazel; wood from the tree of wisdom, in Celtic mythology. Of course, runes aren’t a part of the Irish Celtic mythology I’m so fond of, and as such I don’t know a great deal about them other than the very basics. I thought it might be fun if we learn together, so here we go.

My new runes are Elder Futhark, a Germanic alphabet of 24 runes named after the first six runes listed, which are Fehu (F), Uruz (U), Thurisaz (Th), Ansuz (A), Raidho (R) and Kenaz (K).

Although runes are heavily associated with Norse culture, they have actually appeared throughout Europe and across the British Isles, found in inscriptions ranging from curses to gravestones to plain, old-fashioned graffiti. The Elder Futhark is thought to be the oldest of the runic alphabets, and possibly the ancestor of later runes. Each rune has a name, a sound and is associated with something specific. For example, the straight-line rune is called isa, it sounds like ‘I’ and means ‘ice’. Runes were obviously used for writing, but these days are generally used as a divination tool. This suits the very word ‘rune’, which means ‘mystery’ or ‘secret’.

Like all forms of divination, meaning will differ from person to person. Fehu literally means cattle, and also wealth. This makes sense to me, as from a Celtic mythological perspective, which is where much of my study lies, cattle were wealth, and status, so the two terms could almost have been interchangeable. However, to another individual, wealth may mean something completely different e.g. money, jewels, job security, happiness, a big family; wealth is a very subjective term. This is why we have to be open minded in divination, as it’s easy to simplify, or apply meaning where we want to see it, rather than where it truly lies.

Anyway, rather than starting at the beginning and giving a detailed explanation of what each rune means, I would rather try them out and see what they have to say to me, even as a layman practitioner. I learn best by doing, so let’s see what the runes have to say today!

This is a three rune lay out. You start by meditating on your question, or of course, you could be focused on someone else’s query, if you were to do a divination for another. The first rune I pull should relate to my current situation. The second rune should focus on the challenging aspects of this; any obstacle that I might encounter. The final rune should indicate a solution or alternative path.

With permission from a friend who knows I am starting out on this divination journey, I focus on a query for them, which is relationship based. I won’t go into details, for obvious reasons! So, let’s see what runes we get.

 

 

The first rune is Algiz, which makes a ‘z’ sound and means ‘Elk’. The rune is associated with courage, protection and warding off danger. It may indicate the person is in a situation where they wish to do something outside their comfort zone, and are working up the courage to do so. The rune appeared in an Old English poem which told us that the ‘Elk Sedge’ was a plant who would wound all who tried to take a grip on her. Maybe this is an indication that the holder of the elk rune is not open to relationships at this time, or should perhaps open themselves up to the possibility of getting close to someone, if that’s what they truly want. Also, this could mean that the holder of the rune is very protective of themselves, due to having been hurt in the past.

 

 

The second rune I pull out of my rune bag is Ingwaz, which sounds like ‘ng’. The rune is associated with the god Ing who may also be Frey although there is some debate about this. Ing is associated with seed and fertility, and can literally relate to pregnancy when the rune appears in matters of relationships. However, the conception of things is not merely literal, and can also mean that something new is about to be created; a new situation is about to come to light, which may drastically change what is happening now. Ingwaz can mean that great inspiration is coming, or a fantastic opportunity. It is also associated with good health and motivation, so could indicate that life generally is opening up more doors. This may not sound like a challenge, to say this is supposed to be the challenge rune, but if the rune holder is stuck in a rut at the moment, to suddenly have so many options before them may be overwhelming. However, this is a positive rune, and any stress and pressure caused by these new situations will ultimately lead to something good. This rune is known to repel negative influences in your life, and provide protection.

 

 

The final rune is Jera, a ‘Y’ sound (J in Germanic languages) which means ‘year’ or ‘harvest’. I’m immediately excited to see a harvest rune pop up straight after a seed rune, as this seems to indicate that whatever seeds are sown in the challenging phase of the rune holder’s situation will come happily to fruition. This rune is all about the results from earlier efforts, and how good things don’t happen overnight, but are the result of hard work and determination over a period of time. Success will come, but it may take longer than you think. Jera indicates that even if you don’t see it now, your desires are coming to you naturally and harmoniously with the world around you, and it’s important that you keep working towards what you really want, and being honest with yourself about what your goals are. It also indicates that you have the power to change things you don’t like in your own life, and to not be afraid to do this.

 

To summarize this for a shorter reading, I could say that Algiz suggest the rune holder is in a difficult place emotionally, Ingwaz is telling them that many, perhaps conflicting opportunities are on the horizon, and that Jera is saying that if they figure out what they really want, or which of these opportunities is the best for them and work towards that, there is nothing stopping that goal coming to fruition. All in all, this seems like a really positive reading; I hope my friend thinks so! I’m excited to learn more about the runes, and next time, we might do a slightly different cast, to look at the different ways the runes can be used in divination.

*All images copyright Mabh Savage 2018.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

Click Images for Amazon Information

Book Review – Northern Lore: A Field Guide To The Northern Mind, Body & Spirit by Eoghan Odinsson

March, 2018

Northern Lore: A Field Guide To The Northern Mind, Body & Spirit

by Eoghan Odinsson

First, I’d like to say that I liked this book. At first it was a bit academic, a bit dry, but then the interesting stuff made an appearance.

Eoghan was born in Canada and is also an award winning journalist. He has a Masters in Science from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and taught there for a time. Eoghan holds a black belt in Shito-Ryu Karate and taught the martial art in Canada and the U.S.

It’s said that Odin gave up one of his eyes and hung himself upside-down from the world tree, Yggdrasil, and learned the Runes. There are many versions of runes. The oldest know is the Elder Futhark. The other two main versions are Old English Futhork and Younger Futhark.

Futhark/Futhork comes from the first six letters of the runic alphabet;fehu, uruz, thurisaz, ansuz, raido, and kenaz.

The Elder Futhark is separated in three groups of eight called Ætts. The original names of the runes have been lost to time but have been remade based on names given to the runes of the younger sets of alphabets.

As I said earlier, there are many versions of runes. These are the ones listed in the book; Elder, Anglo-Saxon, Younger, Hälsinge, Middle age, Dalecarlian, Icelandic/Norwegian, Long-branch, Short-twig, and Medieval.

Historically, the runes were derived from the Old Italic alphabets but no one knows for sure which alphabet.

J.R.R. Tolkien used the Anglo-Saxon runes on a map to show a connection with the Dwarves in the book, ‘the Hobbit’. Tolkien created a rune-like alphabet called Cirth to replace the Anglo-Saxon runes in later drafts of ‘the Lord of the Rings’.

Either historic or fictional versions of the runes have been used in fantasy fiction, video games, etc. runes were also used as the written language of the Asgard race in the ‘Stargate’ TV series and movies.

The Germanic tribes had a wealth of weather lore, much of which was shared be other cultures. Many of the old Germanic weather proverbs correspond to actual natural phenomena and many have to been proven to not be accurate.

All of the various world cultures have watched the weather to know when to plant for the best yield, when to reap the harvests, cull the herds for meat, etc. watching the various creatures can tell you how bad the winter is going to be.

One of the idioms that I’ve discover on my own was written on a place-mat at a restaurant; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. It means that it’ll be stormy if you see a red sky at dawn and pleasant evening if the sky is red at dusk. Of course, sailors always want the weather to be to be pleasant, since the seas can be dangerously rough when it’s stormy out.

There are many sayings on various aspects of weather, including how far sound travels, air pressure, winds, etc.

In Northern Europe, health was important. They had different ways of keeping in good health; runic yoga/Stádhagaldr(a recent creation as of approx. 1984 and was possibly based on an earlier version from the 19th century), herbs, use of animal products, etc.

A form of runic yoga called Stav was created in Norway and uses what’s called ‘Rune Stances’. The Hafskjold tradition of Stav is the only mind/body/spirit system know to the author in Europe. The author included an interview with Stav master Graham Butcher that he did when Butcher stayed at his home in 2005 and updated the interview in 2010.

There are several more topics in the book including cuisine, mythology, the Havamal (Sayings of the high one), and various spiritual practices.

Northern Lore, also, has a nice sized bibliography so the reader can do extra research if they wish.

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