Monthly Archives: August 2009

Runic Categories

In the mythic lore of the Runes, there are three main sources that people look to. The most often quoted is the Havamal “The Words of the High One” which is often seen as the sayings of Odhinn. The next popular one is Sigrdrifumal “The Words of Sigridrifa” which comes from the saying of the Valkyrie Sigrdrifa to Sigurd, the dragon slayer, where she educated him in runes and magic, so that he might win. The third source, although read by some, by seeming often over looked it the Grogaldr “The Spell of Groa” in which Svipdagr goes to the gates of Hel, to meet his mother Groa, who was a seeress, so that he might learn what magical aid he can get in wooing Mengloth, an etin-maid. In the course of these writings, the speakers (Odhinn, Sigridrifa, and Groa) describe various runes to their audience that they know, or should learn, or use to reach their goals. These runes have a variety of names, and they number listed has never really reached anything close to the length of the alphabets, or the types of runes mentioned, except by the intellectual reaching of authors on the subject.

In other books, you come across various names of runes, signs, and staves for other purposes as well. Some seem to be inspired by the mythic lore, some from sagas, and others existing in Icelandic galdrboks that have been preserved. I made it a point to compile a little list of some of these types of runes, just to give the readers a look at what is present. I have to apologize for lack of accent marks; I just don’t know how to make that happen.

Malrunar- speech runes

Blodhgar runar – bloody runes or blood runes

Leo-runa – song rune (also used to refer to witches, sorcerers and such)

Brimrunar – sea runes (typically for calming the sea)

Bjargrunar – birth runes (for helping in childbirth)

Wyrdstaef – Staff of Wyrd or Urd

Likn-stafir – health stave

Gaman runa – Joy runes

Audh-stafir – Staves of Riches

Sig-Runar – Victory Runes

Myrkirstafir “Murk staves” or “Murk” Runes
Myrkrunar (a lot of writers have used this term to refer to the inverted meanings of runes in a reading, I personally think it refers to runes that deal with visibility

Bol-stafir – Evil staves

Beadu-run – conflict rune

Flaerdh stafir – Deception stave

Valrunar – death runes

Nidhstang – ok, this doesn’t really refer only to runes, but to a certain type of curse spell, where a pole, carved with certain runes, and mounted with the head of animal (typically a horse) is the anchor for a curse spell, used in saga lore to drive a king and queen from the land. I have also seen this spell nydstand or nythstang, which often connected the curse to the rune Nyth or Nauthiz ( Need or Necessity is often how it is translated). It is or was a popular thing for many European northern traditionalists to have on their websites, cursing neo fascist groups who use runes.

Svartrunar – Black runes

Olrunar or alrunar – ale runes

Limrunar – limb runes often considered runes that heal sickness or that bring healing

Hugrunar – mind runes

Helliruna – Hell or Hel runes (helrunar is one of the names that are translated “witch”)

Burgrunan – guarantee runners (used to refer to supernatural beings, especially feminine ones)

Galdrastafir – spell stave

Heidrunar – bright runes

Ginnrunar – cosmic runes

Draumstafir – dream staves (for having prophetic dreams)

Svefnthorn – sleep thorn (a type of magical symbol that causes people to sleep, and not wake until it is removed, or in the case of Sigridrifa, until certain events occur) Interestingly enough, in German folklore that has survived, thorns are a means of delivering curses, by leaving them where people will step on them, the thorn can send a curse to the victim.

Lukkustafir – Luck staves

Thjofastafir – thief’s stave (for catching thieves)

Aegishjalmur – Helm of Awe (or terror)

As you can see, there are a lot of different types of runes, staves, signs, and marks within the body of possible rune focused magic. None of these are mentioned all together, and some come from different historical periods, or are named in the Eddas and sagas. Interestingly enough, only Odhinn ever mentions magic that can be used to draw love or lust. However, if you peruse that list, the one thing I can see in a generic way, is that a lot of what people sought to do with magic is still what is sought in this day in age. Health, Wealth, healing, power, magic, victory, respect, all possibilities are present, even the suggestion of harmful magic, made to cause conflict, to deceive, and conceal, and even working with spirits of the dead (helrunar, and often svartrunar are added to this category). Not much as changed in terms of what people want, or seek, or try to understand or do, with the strange, only once mentioned, exception of love magic. Although love magic does figure quite well into galdrboks, so it is not lost, and the sage of Egill perhaps mention some love magic gone awry (although it seems as though it could have also been healing magic also gone awry, my readings on it seem mixed).

Unlike other authors, it is my contention that all of these various names are probably more likely to be more like bindrunes, combinations of runes worked to various ends. Even in the Eddas, those runes described by the High One, by Sigridrifa, and Groa are separate spells that are formed by the coming together of runes. They might be staves or signs, which would also be empowered by a galdr that is sung or spoken over them. What those are, I don’t know. But I intend to find out. I intend to ask the runes, and to go seek audience with those who gave them, and ask them directly just what it is.

As for the other types, I will be mainly working with the runes to create the stafir. I have started working with one method, rather then intellectually using runes; I do a reading, asking for runes that I should use to create the bindrunes. I have done this a few times before, and I was very satisfied with the results. From an intellectual perspective, it is surprising what runes will come to work various magics, but when you look at it from what you are intending, what they give makes perfect sense.

The most recent bindrune I did was for a galdrastafir, which can be a term used generically for all of them, can also be used to refer to specifically magical acts that relate to magic, and not results. In this case, it was a for a general empowerment stave, that will aid me in charging my magical tools (like candles, wood pieces for charms, to more ritual tools) and the runes I was given were Eihwaz, Ethil, and Iar ( I use the Anglo-saxon runes, with the additional runes that do not have stanzas.) From a purely intellectual viewpoint in dealing with the runes, this may not make sense. If you consider the runes being used, Eihwaz (the yew tree, tied to Yggdrasil as it connects the worlds and realms together) it shows the reach of all the types of energy I could work with, and be connected to them. Ethil (the ancestral homeland) it has to do with marking it with my energy, setting it aside from other items, and focusing it into power for me. Iar (the river fish, considered by some to be tied to Jormungand, the world serpent) deals with binding the energy to the items, and securing it to the object. So, really, the runes know quite well how to aid you with your goal, if you just ask them.

Runes as Spirit Seals

It seems like it should be an obvious thing to do, in our modern occult world that someone should have sought to use the runes as seals of spirits. With so much of western ceremonial tradition being the vogue undercurrent with most occult community, it surprises me that I never find any one who has tried to publish as such, or communicate that idea. Maybe it is because of the vast majority of runesters being involved in Reconstructionists heathenism, based only on historical lore collected by Christian writers in a period when most of the old ways were dying out or forgotten, except as folklore and “superstition.” Yet, with the common eclectic community, they too seem to never think of the idea of that the each rune could be the seal of a particular spirit, tied to that rune.

I have in my own ways, come across two people (well, one person, and a one website whose works involve more then one person) who has suggested such a practice. One was this man in Los Angeles, who had a series of books on Lulu. I had the opportunity to preview it once, and it did not seem like there was anything there. The other one I found was Raven Kaldera, both on his website about Northern Tradition Shamanism, and in his book WyrdWalkers. I found that to be some good stuff right there. The only problem for me, I don’t operate in a “shamanic way” per se. I have, over the past year, started to come into my own in various methods of working with spirits, and I have always been interested in those techniques, but did not try them out, for a multitude of reasons, from being solitary to lacking the ability to acquire items described (like triangles, wands, etc…). It wasn’t until I began my own meditation practice, and it went from affirmations and energy work, to visit inner dimensions (inner temples as it were) and then spirit guides started popping up out of the woodwork, that I began to make contacts. Fortuitously, I also became friends with a someone who was well trained in two African Diaspora traditions, both of which focused heavily on spirit contact work, where he also learned how to conduct a séance, and then with another friend, after becoming inactive in those traditions, developed his own method of spirit contact, based upon, but using more European and “witchy” symbols, tools and means. It was during this time that I asked for a spirit mentor, to give me further education in the runes, because I had learned all that I could from books at that time. Not sure who or what I would get, I was flabbergasted to see the Rune master himself, Odhinn (the spelling I prefer). I worked out a deal with him, where in exchange for lessons, I would make offerings to him, which have changed and developed over time, as my ability, and willingness have changed. It has been a slow lesson, spending a week with each rune, and as I am currently working with the Anglo-Saxon set, with the additional Northumbrian runes, I have a long road before me.
Over the course of each lesson, I was given instruction on how to call the spirit of each rune. The method shown to me so far has been exceedingly simple, involving only a fire source, some manner of incense placed upon the fire (sometimes a mixture, sometimes a single herb, sometimes the oddest of things). This of course, has not always been the case, but for most of the runes so far, it has held true. The exceptions to this are Gebo and Isa, but I am sure others will appear as I progress. After that is done, a simple repeated chant of the runes name, starts the process. After, I have been given galdr to use for this process instead.

I can’t say more about this process, mainly because it has mostly been carried out in the other worlds, under His single, watchful eye. From this experience however, I can say, when I compare my results with the descriptions of Raven Kaldera, I get very similar, if not always the same description. I have avoided reading his descriptions before my own work was completed, but with some cases, there were a few variances, but I think that is more reflective of me, then the spirits themselves.

Working with the runes as spirits, has seem to bring some greater “connection” with them, especially as I meet each spirit, and ask for it’s aid and assistance. Readings have become easier, magical workings with them flow better, and the particular current of each rune flows smoother. Alliance with Rune Spirits is also much easier affair then with some spirits that other people might choose. While Rune spirits are particularly strong, in their own way, they are also more akin to human beings in terms of over all power. Pissing off a Rune spirit won’t ruin your life as much as pissing off a God, a major land wight, or say the Alfar or Duergar. At best, it might just stop the whole runes from working with you, at worst, it could curse that particular part of your life, and make it rather unpleasant, kind of like a well connected and respected co-worker who spreads nasty gossip, it always sending you things after the last minute, and oh happens to be the head of HR. However, like a human, you could make it up to the rune in question, but it maybe unpleasant, particular with a more vindictive rune spirit. At the same time, they are easier to connect with for this reason. If you are already reading the runes, and you like them, and they just make “sense” you are more then half way there. That means that they like you, and think you have what it takes to deal with them.
Also, just because I say they are “more akin to humans” don’t misunderstand me, and think they are “human-like.” They aren’t. They are very primal, and not terribly considerate. Their thought processes are somewhat foreign to your average 21st century human being. Their thought processes were somewhat foreign to your average 9th century human being. If you aren’t sure what I mean, go read a translation of the “Havamal” and see how Odhinn brought them into the world. They expect the same dedication from any other runecaster who works with them. If you really want something, you are going to give it your all to get it, even if that does mean some serious personal sacrifice. What more, they just expect it. They won’t tell you, unless you ask, what is needed to make something happen, to get what you want, or how to achieve your goals. They will let you use them to set things in motion, and then have you find out what it is needed after you have begun. Depending upon how you respond to that, they will open up more, or just stop you right where you are in relation to them.

Galdr III

So far, I have looked at galdr as an art form, suggested musical and vocal additions to it, and now, let us look at words. In most of the first books about runes that people will look at, when galdr is mentioned, they are often just making simple sound of the rune letter, either just the name, variations on the name or a combination of vowel and consonant sound, based upon the letter the rune represents. Guido von Liszt had a simple sound chart to go with his Armanen runes that combined the letters (which had meanings and symbolism) and vowel sounds (A E I O U, which also had meanings associated with them) and by repeating these you would channel certain energies. Edred Thorsson made a suggestion based upon stating your intent (his example I am rich) and simplifying it into the vowel and consonant sounds ( EE AAMM REE EECH) which would thing add those corresponding subtle energies to your intent and help it in manifesting.

From a more reconstructed point of view, Kvedulf Gundarsson suggests that use of kenning and alliteration in his section about the Poetics of Galdr magic. I have to say, this does give it a certain elegance and I very much favor some of his suggestions.

Alliteration is rhyme, using the beginning consonant of a word, instead of the end sounds, which most people are familiar with. Alliteration is widely used in many of the stories and is most well remembered by most people from when they read Beowulf, as it was used extensively. Like all forms of rhyme, it also helps one in memorizing or remembering what was said. It also takes on a rhythm of its own, which is created by the rhyming pattern. It does seem to depend upon how tight or loose the alliteration is. For example:
Frost, Freeze and Fickle men
Foundering in a forsaken sea
Lost you are
And lingering without
For lust’s cruelty
Love is locked against you
Joy has come today
Jubilation fills the home
Jump and celebrate with all about
Jests are welcome
Jokes are told
Join with us and raise a cup,
Jollity for all.

As you see, the closer the alliteration is, the faster and sharper it is, while spreading it, makes the feel of the words seem much easier. Experiment with your own and see what works for you

Kennings are also a tool in Scandinavian descended story telling and poetics. Gundarsson suggests that kennings in magical poetics are like true names, being able to describe the nature of a thing, giving you more power over it. I tend to think it was more of a literary device, make telling a story more interesting, but also to make it fit with other linquistic devices, like alliteration. It does however, seem to fit well, and opens up the possibilities of the linguistic portion of your galdr. In thinking about older kennings, it was descriptive of the item being described, but in a round-about way. You had to be familiar with the target of the kenning, in order to understand it. One example that has always stuck to me, was calling the sea or ocean the “fishes bath.” I don’t know why that has appealed to me so, but it has. The idea that the sea is the just the fish taking a bath, makes me smile a little bit, even when I am stepping into the ocean. Another kenning is for ships, called “Oak of the sea” (cause boats are made from wood ie oak, and they are on the ocean, and so, the kenning). Now, I can hear you saying “well, all this is great Br. Chris, but how does this help me?” Well, think of kennings to say for modern things. You could call your car the “iron horse” or “steel steed”. Your apartment up high could be called “the stead of the sky” while a garden apartment could called “ the under home.” Books could be called “tattooed trees” while newspapers could be called “leaves of the world tree”. Once again, endless possibilities, that could be considered as they are applied to the situation, intent or desire, or personal aesthetics.
When you combine the two, you do open up to some possibilities that can make your galdr fun and interesting. For example:
Ride the road my iron horse
Leave behind the banal bands
Slow sojourners seeking succor
Eat the dust of black rock rivers
As I go flying far and fast

Guess what that galdr is for? Go on guess.

Galdr II

What about music? What about song? Well, those are good questions. How does one incorporate music and/or song into your magic? Well, for centuries, humanity has been touched by music, and knowing that there was something special and unique about it. There are tons of theories about notes and pitches and keys and modes and tones and scales and rhythms and instruments and vibrations. I have sought to familiarize myself with most of it, and in doing so, realized that most of it is pretty much worthless. Why? Because it fails to compare to the love song that makes your heart flutter, the punk rock clamor of drums and guitars, the soothing ballad of folk singers, and the hypnotic and pulsing rhythms of electronic music, and whatever else is popular and moves people and makes people identify with that culture or this sub-group based upon music which unites them all. So really, it does come down to making music that at least feels right and powerful to you, to work your galdr. All the different theories fall flat, when it comes to your own song and the galdr you can work with it.

Everyone can sing. Every One CAN sing, and because anything I say three times is true, everyone can sing. It’s true. Not everyone has the same timbre (that is the distinctive sound, like the difference between a trumpet and a saxophone) and some timbres are more “popular” then others. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t sing. It just means your voice isn’t popular. You aren’t going to be the next American Idol. Get over it. But your voice can still carry power and be used to sing galdr that can change the world, at least your world, if nothing else. To reach that point though, you need to be comfortable with your voice, and get it to do the things you want it to do. There are some ways to do this, which will help you.

One of the first things is how you breathe. Breath work is popular thing in contemporary occultism, as many books out there feature breathing techniques, from pranayama, to just focusing on your breathe; to holotropic breathing (check it out). The key to breathing for singers is to re-learn how to breathe naturally. If you have been doing breathe exercises for a while, you might have already stumbled on this by accident, but most people don’t breathe naturally, except for when they are infants, or when they are asleep. As infants, they just breathe. Their brain does what does, and the lungs fills and empty as the diaphragm is moved by the brain. When we are asleep, it is the same thing. To be consciously aware of natural breathing, the best technique I have ever learned is very simple. Lay down, flat on the floor. No pillows or supports, just flat. Then breathe. Feel your back expand a little, as it pushes against the floor. Notice that you shoulders and chest don’t heave up and down. That is how your breathe flows naturally.

The second part of singing and breath is to not start singing before you have exhaled. Your voice box can start vibrating to produce the desire sounds before the air starts flowing through them. This can cause problems later, if you do this too much or all the time. You might have heard of pop singers have “nodes” on their voice, and they have to be quiet for a few days, a week, or longer, while their voices heal. That is caused by singing before the exhalation. So, let the exhale begin before you start sing. This will also help in carrying your voice and even causing it to amplify, over time.

An interesting overlap in getting trained to sing and some of the exercise of magic is that the full sound of the human voice cannot be “controlled” consciously. The space of your sinuses and the jaws and nose are what is term as “resonant space”. You may have heard singers, whose natural voice just seemed to be very large and loud (even when they are singing softly) that just fills the space around them. This is because they have “trained” their body to let the sound fill that resonant space, which also amplifies the sound produced by the voice. This is also what theater types refer to as “projecting”. You aren’t shouting or yelling, but your voice just fills a space and carries. There is no conscious way to control this. But you can work towards it using (wait for it) visualizations. Basically, as you sing, you visualize the sound filling up and flowing in a certain way, one voice teacher I had suggested the image of a massive cathedral, and my voice was like a fountain of water, shooting higher and higher up into that cathedral. This is also how you learn to sing high notes too, but you can learn that on your own.

So, now that you have all of this in mind, lets move on to actual sounds. Take a breath, start exhaling and make a sound and sustain it. Guess what? You are singing. Easy, isn’t it? Keep making the sound. That sound you are making is a pitch. You can move that pitch up and down, and in doing so, you start to create a melody. When you add in another singer or an instrument, you have now created “harmony”. By harmony, it means that more then one note is present and combines in various ways. Some combinations are very easy on the ear, and it has to do with how the pitches relate to each other, in terms of sound waves. Other combinations can sound very “harsh” because their sound waves don’t line up the way the “easy” sound waves do. But they are all harmony, even if it doesn’t always sound like it. You can keep this in mind for galdr, where the “easy” sounds and the “harsh” sounds could be used to express certain feelings. Depending upon how quickly or slowly you move from pitch to pitch, that will create rhythm. Rhythm is one of those sneaky things that can make or break a song, and yet most people are often unaware of it, unless it really hits in you the face, like a march, or a dance. When it comes to song, it tends to play second fiddle to melody. These are the basics of most single person song. When it comes to other structures of music, I will present those, but melody, harmony and rhythm are the three main components.

Here is the fun part. Go to your music collection, which I am sure everyone has, and go listen to it. While you are listening to it, identify how some music or songs make you feel. Stirring love songs, tearful break up songs, stirring rock anthems, and pulsing, maybe even erotic dance music are all possibilities. If there are words, listen to see how the music works with the words, or against them. You might notice that there are some songs that sound happy, but the lyrics are actually really sad and vice versa. If something is fast paced, what is trying to express through that? If something is slow, what is it trying to say by being slow? How do you feel when listening to a slower song or a faster song? When the rhythm is driving and dominant, or when the melody just seems to soar above everything and floats along. When you have listened to 10 songs, and made (perhaps copious) notes, see if you can identify any patterns in your music collection and preferences and feelings. Does every slow song make you feel sad? Does every fast song make you feel energized or maybe angry? What gets you to feel sexual? Confident? Brave? Like you are touching the divine? Remember that. The purpose of this exercise is to help you familiarize yourself with what inspires feelings within you, and then you can incorporate that into your galdr. A galdr to prepare you to for that afternoon presentation can be sung in the way that reminds you of confidence. Before a night out on the town, you might want to sing a galdr that carries the feelings of sexual attractiveness. When you are feeling down and fatigued, sing a galdr that sounds energized and upbeat to keep yourself moving along. The possibilities are really endless.