Love notes from Freya, 3/27/15

Be patient. Things are being prepared even as we speak. Just because you cannot see it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Love, Freya.

That all sounds very spring-ish and Ingwaz to me. As The Book of Rune Secrets says, “(This is the) rune of isolation or separation in order to create a space or place where the process of transformation into higher states of being can occur. Rune of gestation and internal growth.” In other words, the bread is still baking; don’t open the oven.

Polytheist meme, #2

Here’s the second question from Galina Krasskova’s polytheist meme:

2. What does your tradition do to increase the power and flow of blessings?

Heathen/Norse folks have a variety of strategies within our tradition to help community members out. Here are the ones I see most often (not listed in order of importance or frequency):

1. We pray. I.e., we tell the Gods what’s going on and explicitly ask for their help. I’ve always considered myself blessed to be part of a spiritual group that gets to hear the Gods talk back, in one way or another. (Rant warning: It never ceases to amaze me how a certain subset of Heathens have a knee-jerk reaction to anyone mentioning prayer. It’s quite possibly the most ludicrous attitude I’ve seen in Heathenry, and I’ve seen some doozies. Typically it’s the tough-guy, I’m-a-f*cking–Viking, we-don’t-bow-to-nobody types are the ones who have this reaction. Of course we pray, you dolts. What do you think we’re doing at a blot or sumbel when we honor the Gods, tell them what’s going on, and thank them for their help? Get rid of that Christian resentment crap already and get on with the business of being a Heathen. End rant.)

2. We galdr over people. When I think of galdr, I think of it as something we do as a community on someone’s behalf. That’s not the only way it is used, however; in fact, pretty much anything that involves using runes in magical context will likely be augmented with some gadring. Galdr is the ritual chanting of the runes with the express purpose of invoking their power–to heal, lend strength, draw something to you, whatever–also, historically, to cast “battle fetters” upon an enemy. (Isn’t “battle fetters” a cool term? I can just see a bunch of crazy Norse women standing directly behind the battle line, chanting and sending out negative woo against their enemies.)

3. We make bindrunes. Bindrunes are two or more runes, which, when combined, blend the energy of the runes involved. This is a very useful tool, as the runes often need to be used in conjunction with one another to narrow their focus to your specific need. They also concentrate the power of these runes and become a good focal point for your intent. There are a wide variety of theories as to how one should be created; to me, it makes most sense just to combine the runes to tailor them to your specific goal. Other people write out a word in runes and then combine those runes into one bindrune. (I’m not a fan of this approach because it looks messy, and it also seems to me to just be a Norse-ified version of numerology.) They can be drawn on objects or people, and as I stated above, are often combined with galdering. A common bindrune is this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.39.48 AM

This is Gebo (X) plus Ansuz (the thing that looks like an F with downward-angled diagonal lines). On a literal level, Gebo means “gift” or “exchange”, and Ansuz indicates breath, “the Gods”, or Odin specifically. So, the goal of this bindrune could be to ask the Gods to bestow luck (gifts) on the wearer.

You have to have a very clear intent while making bindrunes, imho. Aside from looking messy, even if you only put two runes into your bindrune, it will likely end up looking like every other bindrune in existence. People who see your bindrune will probably have this type of reaction: “So, er, this is two Raidhos put together, facing each other. You’ll be traveling soon, I take it?  Hmm, no, wait–it’s Othala plus Isa. Way to chill out the family drama over your grandparents’ will. Oh, it’s Tiwaz plus Gebo, you say? You’re going to court soon to get paid back for your share of the damages? My bad.” There’s only so many ways straight lines can combine.

Also, each rune covers a variety of (sometimes completely unrelated) concepts. For example, Uruz (upside-down, angular capital U) in the Icelandic rune poem is all about rain showers and ruined harvests. But the Norwegian Rune poem tells us this about Uruz: “Dross comes from bad iron; the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.” To which you can reasonably respond, WTF? Finally, the Anglo-Saxon rune poem gives us the definition that is the most commonly accepted interpretation nowadays–aurochs (extinct species of giant bovine)–great physical strength and endurance. So, do your research and be very clear about which meaning you’re aiming for. This is not a time to be sloppy with your magic or spell-casting.

4. We ingest the runes. Back in the day, this was done by inscribing the runes on some tree bark and then scraping that bark into your mead or food. Personally, I like to use baked goods for this purpose, inscribing runes into the dough. At feasts, sumbels, or blots, people often draw or galdr runes over food and then imbibe it.

5. We are hospitable. I’m not entirely sure if this fits within the scope of the question, but Old Norse and Germanic cultures (as well as many others) had very strict cultural norms around how to be a good guest and how to be a good host, and the consequences that would befall you if you fail at either. I think the reverse is also true; being the generous, good host will earn you the favor of the Gods, and they will give you blessings accordingly.

Love notes from Freya, 7/26/14

“Man is the joy of man (and augmentation of the dust, and adorner of ships).” Love, Freya

I have to say that it continues to weird me out when Freya quotes rune poems at me, but maybe it’s just Her way of helping me out with my rune homework for Odin; who knows?

Anyway, the rune she quotes above is “Mannaz“, from the Icelandic rune poem. Mannaz is where we get our English word “man” (both in the sense of being a guy and in the sense of  being human; here it is used to indicate humankind). It has a wide variety of meanings, all related to humanity: the human condition; humans in relationship with one another; the highest and best form a human soul can take, etc. A lot of authors point out that Mannaz’s stanzas appear to be the most heavily Christianized of all of the poems’ stanzas, because the Anglo-Saxon and Norse ones for Mannaz go on about how human flesh is weak and humans will eventually fail each other (precursor to the gloom and doom of The Lord of the Rings, anyone?). At least the Icelandic one gives a bit of hope that when humans turn to dust, it “ennobles” the dust (as Diana Paxon puts it, in Taking Up the Runes) and can “adorn” ships, whatever that means.

This is a concept of “humans are a boon to other humans” is repeated throughout the lore. In the Havamal, Odin (in disguise) gives a wide variety of useful advice for how to deal with one’s fellow humans. He says:

When I was young      I wandered alone,

And wandered off the marked way;

Rich I thought myself      when another I found,

Humans are man’s comfort. (Stanza 47)

So what does this mean for me or you, or humankind as a whole today? Go out and hug a friend, spend some time with your loved ones, be social; eventually, all we are is dust gracing the prow of a ship.