Category Archives: anglo-saxon runes

I is for Runes


Isa is the rune of Ice and cold. Ice, perfectly frozen with very very air bubbles can look like precious stones, so much so that people once believed that clear quartz was in fact a kind of ice that could not be melted.
Ice, the power of cold, to freeze things and lock them into a state where they are well preserved for as long as they stay frozen. That is part of the power of Isa. Whether it is to cool a situation down or you want to put someone “on ice” Isa is the rune to turn to. While heat is a very popular and widely used tool, from “hot footing” to melting wax dolls in order to soften someone’s heart, or even in the form of candle burning (which bring heat and light to the spiritual and magical work) cold can play a useful role, one that is often overlooked. As soon as methods of cooling things became available with items like iceboxes and then later freezer and refrigerators, people started using them to work cooling freezing magic.
Another useful parallel is language found in African diaspora groups of spirits that are “hot” and “cool” The cool spirits are often the main ones that people have allegiance to, like the Orishas, although they can turn hot when needed (or offended) but often the desire is to cool them down and to keep your spiritual essence cool. The practice of rogacion is about cooling the head and the spirit of the head to help bring clarity, insight and wisdom. A cool intellect often literally sees things much better then a raging hot head, something that is actually scientifically true.

Inguz/Ing/Yngvi is name that Sweden and seems to be a later addition to the Futhorc. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem refers it to the the leader of Ynglings, but it also seems connected to Freyr, usually in the form Ingvifreyr, which suggests that while Freyr was his title, Ingvi may actually be his real name. But the truth of that is lost to time. However connection to the god Freyr remains, and this rune seems to resonate with some of the powers of Freyr, the shining brother of Freya. He is the lord of seasons, and by some he is the compared to the Horned God of Wicca, believing that the rituals of which Wicca was seeking to revive was the older rituals of Vanir, the tribe and gods who predated the arrival of the Aesir and the establishment of Asgard. So, like the Horned God, he is through to rise anew each year, only to be sacrificed again with each harvest, that his sacrifice may give renewal to the ground in gratitude for the gifts of food that it has given. The Vanir might have even been the Gaelic people who inhabited Europe for a much longer time until the arrival of the nomadic and conquering Aesir.
The magic and mystery of Inguz is the masculine birth/death/rebirth cycle expressed by seasons. It is the masculine complement to the Beorc. It’s various shapes always remind me of a seed, which one might compare to the seed of sperm, the tiny activator that starts the process of pregnancy once it reaches and fertilizes the egg, but in doing so, it is gone, as the egg begins a new process, catalyzed by the sperm to start cell division and create a new life.
To some ancient cultures that saw this present in nature as well. Noticing that areas of land struck by lightning would produce more abundant crops (as the lightning would fix the nitrogen in the soil) they equated lightning with fertilizing force of the gods. The same with rain as well, as it brings growth to plants and food crops, which without it, they would lay fallow in the ground until sufficient water is brought to help the plants to grow.
A similar metaphor can be found internally. Sometime the formative idea or concept is there, working on itself until a catalyst, the lightning flash of insight, inseminates it and it starts to grow and form itself into the new work that you are creating.

Ior is the rune of the World Serpent, that beast born of Loki and Angrboda, a giantess who gave Loki three children, one of which was the Midgard Serpent, Jormungandr. As it is one of the much later Anglo-Saxon runes, and it’s rune poem is odd, describing a river fish that lives in both land and water. To older cultures, they readily identified anything that lived in water as being a fish, whether it is actually a fish or not by today’s scientific classification. The “river fish” that they indentified may have been an otter or a beaver, or some other kind of amphibious mammal that lives in and surrounded by water.
Part of the mystery of Ior is the dual natured, or polymorphous nature of this river fish. Something that inhabits both land and water, but is not tied to both. Some have seen this as a fitting description for Jormungandr, the world serpent, as it was born on land, and lives in the sea, mainly because it is so huge that is the only place with room for it. But the coils of Jormungandr are seem to identify what is within Midgard and what is outside of it, the serpentine “hedge” of in-lying and out-lying on a cosmic scale. Being able to cross those boundaries is usually part of the tool kit of the spiritual practitioner, being able to leave the physical world behind and enter in the other worlds, but also being able to think outside the limits of place, time and culture to see things differently and recognize beneficial change but also harmful change. Working with Ior can cause you to experience that boundary, and being able to cross it, but also to affirm it, and somehow to become it. Making yourself polymorphous and no longer locked into one state of being, thinking or doing. No longer a person who is something or is not something, but simple a person.

An invocation of the runes

Hail Rune Wights of the Nine Worlds, Hail to the Hidden Runes, Interpreted signs, the many symbols of Might and Power, by great singer painted, by the high powers fashioned, graved by the utterer of Gods, Hail cosmic runes, bright runes, Holy runes, Hail Luck staves, Wyrd staves, Spell staves, Hail Mind runes, Hail Dream staves, Hail Speech runes and Song runes, Hail Joy Runes and Victory Runes, Hail Wealth Runes, Hail Thief Staves, Hail Birth runes, Blood runes, and limb runes, Hail Health staves, Hail Sea runes, Earth Runes, Fire Runes, Sky Runes, Hail Wind staves, Water staves, Rock staves, Flame staves, Hail Death Runes, Black runes, Hel Runes, and Conflict Runes, Hail Murk staves, Deception staves, and Evil staves, Great Rune Wights, Your weal I win, your boon I obey, your good I happily gain, Hail to the speaker, the knower, the listener, Use what you have learned

copyright Br. Christopher 2010

Book Review – Odin’s Gateways

I just recently came across Odin’s Gateways, while taking a peek at my local occult shop’s section on runes. As the owner is always staying abreast of new books, she also knows how to tempt me with new things as well.

To judge a book by it’s cover, first of all, I have to say, it looks very nice. The image of ravens in flight in front of a large tree, while behind them are small runes, hiding in the leaves, branches, trunk and root of the tree is very nice.

It is a short book, approximately 181 pages of text, divided into four sections, based upon phrases from the Havamal (the sayings of the high one) dealing with the runes. The phrases she uses are “do you how to ask?” (for the first section) “do you know how to interpret?” for the second section and “do you know how to carve?” for the third section. The fourth section is “Do you how to cast?. Each of the sections connects with information that is related to those questions.

The first section, “Do you know how to ask?”, deals with cultural lore, both historical and contemporary, and the cosmological underpinnings of the runes. The Havamal, Eddas, Gods, the roman history of Tacitus, contemporary uses, and the various worlds of the Northern Tradition and the spiritual inhabitants of each, from Asgard to Hel are all noted related to the reader. I found this section to be the most pleasurable, as it relates what can be very dense and challenging information, without overwhelming the reader. It also encourages and provokes the reader to seek out more and come into their own. It also shares some of the debates that surround runes in the contemporary use, and shows the various traditions of people who use them, from Asatru, to the Rune Gild, and the New Age movement. Over all I would say the first section is one the best, as it makes something that can be very dense and daunting, approachable, but definitely doesn’t leave you as though feeling you need to be in the author’s side, but able to form your own opinion and approach.

The second section “Do you know how to interpret?” introduces the reader to each rune in the Elder Futhark, and also establishes the connection of Odin with the runes. Each rune is given a few pages to introduce it conceptually. My only, and totally personal, comment is that her reduction of runes and gods to mechanistic energy currents or psychological states. While I suppose that might be useful to enter into the information for a neophyte, it does an injustice to the gods and runes. In reading the book, it does not seem that Ms Gerrard has this viewpoint personally, but in order to walk a safe line of acceptability, she has promoted that perspective. I did find some of her personal interpretations of runes interesting, however as while there was some difference from my own, I would say most of the difference comes from language expression of the experience of each rune.

“Do you know how to carve?” was probably the shortest, but also the most practical, as it contained the most advice when it came to getting and using your own set of runes. Having carved my own rune set for divination, I can say, what Ms Gerrard informs people with is almost identical to what I would say.

In “Do you know how to cast” she gives introduction to the use of runes and magic, through divination, taufr (talismans and bindrunes) and galdr. This section I had the most mixed response to. In the chapters dealing with divination, I actually had to say I enjoyed that the most. She talked about different methods (casting vs layouts) and also gave very practical and useful delineations, which work for either method. My most favorite was the “To Do List” reading. A symbol division of 4, in which areas are a cross section of urgency and important can give a lot of information that can be a great opening for a reading, especially when a client has a lot of questions and is unsure where to ask. She also explores the idea of reversing or not reversing runes, which is a common subject among all types of readers. Interestingly enough, while I do read runes in reverse, I don’t read Tarot that way. For me it has more to do with numerical statistics then anything, but I can be a necessary decision, especially if you start reading professionally.

After Divination, Ms Gerrard focuses on magic. I have say, I was not so impressed with this section. While I do find her example of secret bindrunes using a simple 8 point star pattern of lines (imitating the Aegishjalmur design) her drawings with it leaving something to be desire, mainly an artistic and aesthetic touch. While they can be effective, I do just like it when it shows more thought and effort then just a few lines on a point. Also, using only one line and imagining that designation of where they locate leaves a lot open to interpretation. How do you know if you are using the right bindrune? I also found one statement, which I did not agree with at all. When you are creating bindrunes, especially in groupings large then 3, the uniting of lines will create the appearance of others runes. Ms Gerrard indicates that you should avoid that, as those runes are “hijacking” the bindrune. I definitely disagree with that, as in most cases I have found that those additional runes are usually runes that inspire harmony, and so to me, are harmonizing the spiritual forces that the runes symbolize. She also mentions Isa, especially when using runes like Cenaz or Jera. In variant Futharks used by other Northern Tradition root cultures, Jera and Cenaz have the upright line that marks Isa, and it seemed that Ms Gerrard overlooked that. I find that in creating bindrunes for taufr is where the art enters into the art and practice of magic, especially with runes. While for a beginner it can be helpful to keep the runes distinct, if you have completed the two year process of working with runes, I think allowing for personal aesthetics is a benefit.

There is a difference between galdr (magical incantations) and the galdr indicated by Ms Gerrard. While the names of rune can be used as galdr when working with a solo rune, I find that when combining runes, or doing galdr for bindrune or taufr, more then just repeating the names of runes is called for. Just doing the rune names is more specificall rungaldr (Rune Galdr). When it comes to doing magic, this is another example where the consideration of the magic and art comes in. Poetry, a developed seed chant, or a way to vocalize the combined power of the bindrune would be better then just chanting/singing a single rune name in succession with others.

Over all, I think Odin’s Gateways would be a fine book for any beginner, and a decent book to add and read to any runemal’s personal library.

First step into a new aettir

This week I have been working on the fourth aettir of the Anglo-saxon runes. It’s just the beginning, and it already seems hard. I might need to take more time, or increase my efforts. As these are new runes to me, it’s taking some working to really feel their nature kick in when I sing their names, or write their image the first times. The first twenty four runes I have been working with for a long time, and they are pretty familiar to me, and I have long been intimate with them. These last nine represent a unique challenge, in that what I have been doing needs a bit more effort to connect with these runes. I don’t have them tattooed on my body (although now, I want to, any tattoo artists in the So Cal area, please contact me). I have only recently started reading with them, and the information on these runes just is not as ever present as the Elder Futhark is, as the popular focus embraced the Elder Futhark, and so most runes focus on those, although most of their meanings an interpretation are taken from the Anglo-saxon rune poems, and the Norwegian and Icelandic rune poems. Thus, these runes pose a challenge for any dedicated runemal, as entering into their mysteries is a personal challenge, that has very limited resources to work from, and so they require more mystical work to open. Not even the works of Marby go into much detail about all the Anglo-Frisian runes.
Suffice to say, I am up for a challenge, and I will overcome the obstacles as I encounter them, as they are mainly obstacles coming from my own sense of identity. I might choose to focus more time on each one, giving a longer duration and more time to concentrate, sense, and connect with the symbolism, energy, spirit and magic of these last nine runes.