Home  Albert  News  Purchase  Gallery  Contact  Writings  Links

2011 06 07

". . . if i see upon a tree a swinging noose-corpse, so i etch
and color runes, that man comes down and speaks with me."
Havamal
High One's Speech

Futhark

             The futhark (so named from the first six characters) is divided with the help of dots into three sets of eight known as aetir (families or eights). Each aetir is named after the first Rune of the set. So: Fehs-aet, Hagals-aet, Teis-aet. Besides the Runes of this Futhark, other forms for the same Runes are known as are many other glyphs and sigyls in magical inscription that sought to invoke the names of power.

             FEE (fehu) means domestic cattle. Since the Bronze Age at least, cattle played a role in the religious life of the Teutonic tribes. The bull was said to be one of the symbols of Thor, and an element in the worship ofTyr. Both bull sacrifices and the bull as a symbol of power are documented, and a cult of the bull was widespread in times of old. Cows were once also of considerable importance in Hellenic and Italic theology, and are still sacred in India where there are several Vedic allusions to the mystic relation between the cow and the Earth, while in the Teutonic creation myth the primal cow Audhumbla is prominent. The word fehu has the same root as the Italic pecunia for money and the English word fee, and thus came to mean property and wealth. A fee was also homage rendered, and the sum a public officer (who held office 'in fee') was authorized to demand, from where it has come to stand for any payment to professionals ~ as in fee for service, entry fee, etc. The word was also used to denote an allowance to an officer or servant such as a forester, cook, or scullion, as well as a warrior's share of spoil, the pay of a soldier, and wages. A fee also was a prize, a reward, a gift for services. Later meanings include movable property in general; goods, possessions, wealth. From this, and wages, payment for services, and 'to take for one's enjoyment,' fee also came to mean 'heritable estate in fief, and things held 'in fee' were subject to obligation, while to 'be in fee' was to be a vassal to a superior lord. The Old English fee, in common law, is an estate or inheritance of land. "In English law," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "all landed property being understood to be held feudally ofthe crown." (See also Rune #23.) Possession to the Teutons was not merely to own; it brought the obligation to give, and thus Fee is also a form of gift that creates bonds of peace ~ the gift that obliges, the present that binds (see Rune #7). POSSESSIONS.
             UROX (uruz) is the name aurochs for the primeval wild ox of Europe, Bos Urus, which disappeared in the seventeenth century and is extinct. Caesar (in De Bello Gallico, as quoted by Elliott) described the aurochs as "somewhat smaller in size than elephants, and are like bulls in appearance, color, and shape. Great is their strength and great is their speed, and once they have spied man or beast they do not spare them." Aurochs horns, their edges encased in silver, were used as drinking beakers at the most magnificent feasts. Possession of the horns brought great fame as evidence of the strength and cunning needed to hunt the great beast. The first part of the Rune name, ur, means primitive, original, earliest ~ the primal; the wild ox symbolizes unbridled strength and power in the Teutons' Mirkwood-forested homelands. YORE-OX.
             THURS (thurisaz) is the cause of insanity ~ demon, or ogre (driven away by the sound of bells). In the Eddic lay' Skirnismal', Skirnir (Freyr's shoe-swain) threatens the giantess Gerdr: 'Thurs i etch there and three staves, lust and rage and unbearable restlessness!' The Old English Thorn Rune stood for anything that causes pain, grief, or trouble. In medieval Scandinavian folklore thurs was a demon of disease that can particularly damage women in body and spirit. Later the name survived in rustic speech for goblins and hobgoblins. Thurses are evil-minded giants, while the other giants of the mythology are the jotun, and the even taller risis ~ all descended from the giant Ymir who was the first being in existence. An old saying goes: 'Tall as a risi, strong as a jotun, stupid as a thurs.' GRIEF.
             ASU (ansuz) means being, existence. "The Old Norse as ~ god, spirit, is the Sanskrit asu ~ life, which is plainly the primitive meaning," according to Isaac Taylor in The Origin of the Aryans. As the Earth is bathed in sunlight, the universe is infused with Life ~ the illuminating light of existence: Teiwaz (see Rune #17). Ansuz works ~ has power to act, and it stands for the creative action. The Rune has most commonly been taken for aesir ~ the race of beings in the mythology. In Old Norse, as means one of the aesir; in Old English, os became a god. LIFE.
             RIDE (raido), is to ride, journey, or the way itself. There is a likely connection with the lot of existence ~ as in the eastern tao, which is at once the beginning of all things and the way in which they follow their course. (A depiction of Thor's Hammer, the T in the circle, is identical with that of the tao.) They who know the Way and follow it are above justice, compassion, and the rites; because they are in harmony with the forces of the universe, they have attained serenity. RIDE.
             KANE (kenaz) is the torch; fire (and an inflammation ~ a boil, sore, or swelling). Though fire burns, it also purifies. People gather around a fire because it is a living demonstration that there are no things, only events. Madame Blavatsky wrote that light is cold flame, and flame is fire, and fire produces heat, which yields water; the water of life of the Great Mother. The Teutonic cosmos had its beginning in fire, and water ~ and ice (see Runes # 11, 21). Because of his command over lightning, Thor has special links with fire. The Supreme Spirit was idealized as immaculate fire and symbolized as a pure and elemental flame burning in infinitude. FIRE.
             GIVE (gebo) stands for both the gift and the giver; in law it is the voluntary transfer of property as well as the thing given. Gifting ~ in the economists' term, as a social institution such as ceremonial giving, and wergild or other compensation, shows the purpose of the gift in a social context as a means of avoiding concentration of wealth. It denotes the power and right of giving (ring-giver is a much-used kenning for leader and rewarder), and that to accept a gift is to be bound to the giver. Freija is nicknamed The Giving One, and gebo is often an offering to a deity which when accepted is an indication of right behavior; thus the giver, gift, and recipient become one and the same. Grimm recognized the importance of the gift when he noted: "When sacrifice ceased, avarice increased." (See also Rune #1.) GIFT.
             WUNJOY (wunjo) is joy and jewel and glory, and means to rejoice or delight. The feeling and emotion of illumination is joy, and wunjo is therefor also connected with the light of the mystic experience, the cosmic consciousness of the enlightened being into which streams a momentary flash of illumination - a drop of bliss that leaves an immense glow of joyousness: Instant of illumination ~ I saw I know not what. Glad spirit, light on tear-stained cheek, remembrance fills me yet. (See also Runes #4, 16, 17, 24.) JOY.
             HAIL (hagalaz), "of grain the coldest", as an old Rune verse has it, has been connected with the sense 'ruin'. Hail often comes in summer as a destructive reminder of the force of winter, and may allude to the awesome powers of cold and ice (see Rune #11). HAIL.
             NEED (naudiz) has a wide meaning. Held within even the modem word need is a layering of meanings that begin with: violence, force, constraint or compulsion, exercised by or upon a person. It is distress, trouble, difficulty, an emergency or crisis; to 'be in need' is a condition of distress or destitution; to 'have need' is to want; it is a necessity and something unavoidable (needful), and thus not wholly negative. NEED.
             ICE (isa) is the frozen water of life (see Rune #21) from which sprang the first living beings. The great power of ice, though often destructive, also spreads bridges, and the cold cleanses the northlands. Its white powers cause death or the sleep of hibernation, while at the same time communicating peace. It signifies the action of primal matter. ICE.
             JERA (jera) is year, but its more complete meaning is season, as in the Zend yare which is a time, an age, related to the Sun's progress through the sky as the Earth revolves in its orbit. It stands for a period, a cycle of any length: eon ~ infinitely long; cycle ~ a succession of periods. SEASON.
             YEW (ywaz) is the evergreen tree of the genus Taxus. The evergreen symbolizes everlasting life, while all trees ~ with roots below and branches reaching up, are symbolic of the relations between the lower and upper worlds. Next to the temple at Upsala stood a great yew that was famed throughout the northern lands. Ywaz has a long association with ritual and Runes carved on yew-staves are especially potent. All the sages of human tradition are associated with trees from the shady bosom of which they taught; the yew may be that of the Teutonic avatar. (See also Rune #18.) YEW.
             PERTH (pertho). The meaning of this name is quite unclear, though there is some scholarly agreement that it may be the name of an otherwise unknown gaming piece. From the shape of the Rune (something like a dice cup) a connection has been made with the casting of lots and thus with augury. There is an old word in the Indo-European languages (Italic apert, Old English perth) that means open, unconcealed, manifest, evident; it glosses with Old Norse and Icelandic birta: display, illumine, enlighten, reveal. Thus it is a foretelling; a means and also the counsel provided. It fixes a moment in time for examination but can never fix events, for one's lot is not immovable. Pertho is a toss of the dice, an omen or portend, the consultation of an oracle, advice of a sage, or insight into that which is. FOREBODING.
             ELKZ (algiZ) is the large deer, genus Alces, the elk, wapiti, and moose. Tacitus related oftwin brothers called Alcis, which name is related (as are Gothic alhs: temple; Lithuanian elkas: divine grove) to Old English ealgian: to protect. The antlers of algiZ suggest the shape of the Rune and stand for defense, protection, and negation. It also symbolizes the hand sign: stop, halt. It is a sanctuary from danger provided by or for a higher power or being. PROTECTION.
             SOL (sowilo) is the sun. There are several different forms of this Rune which has been connected with the sun-wheel to which is also related the svastika, one of the oldest symbols in the world. Sowilo is also the sigyl, an occult sign or device having mysterious powers. To alchemists it stood for gold. Great light, sphere of fire, though the material Sol is, it only reflects the transcendent light of a spiritual sun ~ the inner light that can only be apprehended by direct intuition. (See also Runes #4, 6, 8, 17, 24.) SUN.
             TIWA (Teiwaz). It is thought by scholars that the earliest and supreme god of the Teutons was Teiwaz who stood for the shining heavens and the light of day, and was associated with law and justice. The surviving meaning in Indo-European languages is simply god (the Vedic devas, Old Norse tivi, Old Irish dia, Italic dei), or as the name of a god (Old Norse Tyr, Hellenic Zeus, and the Roman Jupiter ~ dyaus-pitar: father deus). The word is identical in root with the Sanskrit dyaus, the true meaning of which is the transcendent light and the inward love. It is the only Rune name that is commonly capitalized. It stands for a light benevolent, amorphic indefinite eternal state of divine transcendence in perfect tranquillity, and for the human spirit that partakes of it. Many authorities identify this Rune with Tyr, the one-handed aesir. (Especially in compounds, the word Tyr has the sense of god, the god ~ often applied to Woden.) Tyr was associated with justice, goodness, and light. His one-handedness symbolized perhaps randomness. (See also Runes #4, 6, 8, 16, 24.) THE SHINING.
             BIRCH (berkana) is the tree of the genus Betula, that was among the first to move north after the ice retreated and prominent in virtually all the forested lands of the north. Reaching into the sky for light and under the earth for water ~ thus partaking of all the elements, berkana (as do all trees) symbolizes the regenerative powers of nature: to promote fruitfulness in animals and young men and women, they were struck with birch twigs. An old custom fixes birch-twigs over the sweetheart's door on May Day. The birch was consecrated to Thor, and is especially efficacious against evil spirits. (See also Rune #13.) BIRCH.
             EORSE (ehwaz) means horse. The domestic horse is probably of Indo-European origin, spreading during the nations' movements of the second and third millennium before the current era throughout the Near East and Europe. The horse is connected with sky, thunder, and fertility, and had a special significance among the animals associated with the old Teutonic religion. It was consulted ~ living and dead, in rites of divination. White horses especially were a highly acceptable sacrifice (a white horse is lucky). Woden's horse, Sleipnir, the eight-legged mount, is also found in Siberia as the super-natural steed of the shaman. The close relation between horse and people may perhaps be noted in the similarity of this Rune with the Mens Rune (#20). The traditional cultic relevance of the horse among the tribes is shown from the Bronze Age onwards in rock carvings, Rune stones, and many other depictions. Horse sacrifices are archeologically documented, and the eating of horse-meat at the sacrificial meal a deep-rooted custom. Sacred horses were kept in sanctuaries dedicated to Freyr; Freija has also been concerned in some way with horse-cult rites dealing with the fertility of the land and also with the rearing of the family and the giving of young girls in marriage, as well as helping at the times of childbirth and shaping the lot of children through the art of seidr - which is found more than once in connection with the horse cult. The vanir - themselves associated with divination and wisdom, were the subject of a horse cult. Tacitus thought that the animal was held to be in the confidence of the divine power. HORSE.
             MENS (mannaz) is a human being: the means of action, the physical expression of an eternal spirit that is the vehicle of the Runes. The proto­teutonic root of the word man has a primary meaning referring to intelligence as the distinctive characteristic of human beings as contrasted with brutes. Tacitus has Mannus as the son of Tuisto (Teiwaz? Rune #17), and the mythical ancestor of the Teutons. Mannus himself has three sons who gave their names to the traditional Teutonic divisions of Ingaevones, Herminones, and Istaevones. Vedic mythology also has Manus as the progenitor human. PERSON.
             LAKE (laguz) means water or lake - a large body of water, but also a pit, den or underground dungeon, for the depths of water hold great mysteries. The belief in the sanctity of water is common to all Teutonic peoples. In olden times new-born infants were hallowed with water, people bathed in springs, and the river itself might be held sacred and its roars need be in the ears of a prophetess. Wisdom wells in the springs of mythology, and water is closely associated with life and ~ especially in the form of rain, with fertility. The primal rivers of Elivagar provided the vital life force from which existence came by action of fire and ice (see also Runes #6, 11). WATER.
             ING (ingwaz) stands for the natural fertility that came to be personified in gods. The meaning of the name is now obscure. Old English ing and Old Norse eng are a meadow or pasture land (especially wet lands) and Eng-land is the land of meadows. ON ung is young, and angan is joy or beloved one. Other possible relations may exist with OE engl: angel; ingl: fire, light, and to fondle or caress; ingo: the groin. Tradition has transferred ingwaz to the vanir Freyr, the fair and the free, intelligent and wise, who stands for peace and love, and to his sister Freija, the Mistress of lovers. FERTILITY.
             ODEL (othila)is land "held in absolute ownership without service or acknowledgment of any superior, as among the early Teutons," which is the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word allodium. This is the all-odel as opposed to the fee-odel, which shows the influence by the world view of southern empires that propounded a feudalism that took the concept of odel, the ancestral land that was possessed unconditionally by the free Teuton clans, to attach a fee or obligation to it, thus making it a feudal possession (see Rune #1). The idea of fealty was deeply influenced by the ancient belief in odality that demands the free holding of land, for to hold land freely is ennobling, and the importance of freedom as a concept among the people became an essential of nobility; thus in Old English ethel it means native land or estate, patrimony; OE athel is noble, of noble descent or good family. The same word in Old Norse means family, race, ancestry. HERITAGE.
             DAY (dagaz) is day, as in Sanskrit dah ~ to burn, which is related to dyaus (Teiwaz, Rune # 17); it symbolizes light, prosperity, fruitfulness. Dagr is the light and beautiful son of Dellingr and black Nott who is the daughter of the jotun Norvi. Morning brings the sun in dawn ~ harbinger of day that stretches to the mountain peak where the first rays of the sun strike with a clang as day breaks, and its claws rend the night-sky away; the mighty beast retires the timid roe, though evening will soon sneak in to take the sun down from its place. (See also Runes #4, 6, 8, 16.) DAY.

*

*

[About Ragnarok] [In the Beginning] [Futhark] [Name Scroll] [Nine in the Tree] [Runes of Magic and Mystery] [Weird] [Wise Woman Speaks] [Words of Woden] [Works Cited]