Runes and Whispers: THURISAZ

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Proto- Germanic Reconstructed Name: THURISAZ 
Meaning: “thorn” or “giant”

 

Original Text in Poems:

Anglo-Saxon Poem
Ðorn byþ ðearle scearp;
ðegna gehwylcum anfeng ys yfyl,
ungemetum reþe manna gehwelcum,
ðe him mid resteð.

Norwegian Poem
Þurs vældr kvinna kvillu,
kátr værðr fár af illu.

Icelandic Poem
Þurs er kvenna kvöl
ok kletta búi
ok varðrúnar verr.
Saturnus þengill.

Translation:

Anglo-Saxon  Poem
The thorn is exceedingly sharp,
an evil thing for any knight to touch,
uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.

Norwegian Poem
Thurs (“Giant”) causes anguish to women,
misfortune makes few men cheerful.

Icelandic Poem
Thurs (“Giant”) is torture of women
and cliff-dweller
and husband of a giantess
Saturn’s thegn.

Musings:

Thurisaz is the third rune of the Elder Futhark and represents the d sound in the alphabet. This is a powerful rune, an aggressive ally, and a violent force if not given proper attentions. All three of the runic poems mention Thurisaz with warnings of giants and thorns; they speak of “exceedingly sharp evil things” and the “anguish of women.”

The Anglo-Saxon Poem names this rune the thorn (Ðorn), calling it “uncommonly severe” and “sharp.” According to the poem, Thurisaz is an “evil thing for any knight to touch.” Thorns are instruments of protection, grown by plants to ward away animals, and though the poem regards the thorn as evil, what is good for the plant is not always good for the beast. A thorn is also a visible, if not a somewhat passive form protection: if you cut your hand on a thorn, well then you should’ve heeded the plant’s warning.

The Icelandic Poem and the Norwegian Poem both refer to Thurizas as a giant (Þurs). The Icelandic poem specifically seems to be referencing one particular giant, calling Thurizas the “torture of women and cliff-dweller and husband of a giantess” and “Saturn’s theign” (a theign being Old Norse for an attendant to the king). The Norwegian poem warns that “misfortune makes few men cheerful.” The Jötunn, the giants of Norse mythology, are proud and fierce and as mighty as the Aesir and Vanir with whom the Jötunn have a very complex relationship.

One can also not discount the similarity the word Thurizas bears to the son of Odin and wielder of Mjölnir, Thor. Though he is not mentioned specifically in any of the poems, Thurizas is often called “Thor’s Rune.”

When Thurizas appears, it is a warning and an ally, a call to arms.  One must be able to protect one’s self with all the sharpness of a thorn and the ruthlessness of a giant when it is time to pick up the hammer.

Runes and Whispers: UR

14px-runic_letter_uruz-svgProto- Germanic Reconstructed Name: UR 
Meaning: “wild cattle” or “water”

Original Text in Poems:

Anglo-Saxon Poem
Ur byþ anmod ond oferhyrned,
felafrecne deor, feohteþ mid hornum
mære morstapa; þæt is modig wuht.

Norwegian Poem
Úr er af illu jarne;
opt løypr ræinn á hjarne.

Icelandic Poem
Úr er skýja grátr
ok skára þverrir
ok hirðis hatr.
umbre vísi

Translation:

Anglo-Saxon  Poem
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.

Norwegian Poem
Dross comes from bad iron;
the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.

Icelandic Poem
Rain is lamentation of the clouds
and ruin of the hay-harvest
and abomination of the shepherd.

Musings:

Ur, often Uruz or Ura, is the second rune of the Elder Futhark and represents the u sound within the alphabet. Though Ur has a stanza in each rune poem, the poems all contains a different meaning for this rune, making Ur one of the more complicated and nuanced of the runes. The Anglo- Saxon poem, written in Old English, refers to this rune as “auroch,”  while the Icelandic poem refers to Ur as “rain,” and the Norwegian poem speaks of “dross/slag.”

All of these are completely different things! Why you do dis, rune poems?! These words don’t even have the same roots! The Old English word for “auroch” and the Icelandic word for “rain” come from two different Proto-Germanic words, “ūruz” and “ūrą“ respectively, and from an etymological sense, these words are not related in a way we can currently trace. It’s possible the Norwegian word for “slag”, which is the stony liquid byproduct of smelting or refining ore, could be derived from “water/ūrą,” so perhaps the Icelandic and Norwegian meanings are distantly related…but slag and rain are completely different concepts.

Most sources and modern interpretations that I have read accept “auroch” as the meaning for Ur, as a rune for “water,” “ice,” and “hail” already exists within the Futhark, making “slag” and “rain” all but unnecessary. I generally agree with that conclusion, however one should not ignore or discount the layers of meaning afforded to Ur by the Icelandic and Norwegian poems. The Icelandic poem calls Ur “rain” and proclaims it to be the “lamentation of the clouds and ruin of the hay-harvest and abomination of the shepherd,” while the Norwegian poem warns that slag “comes from bad iron.”

I tend to think of Fehu and Ur as complimentary runes. Where Fehu is the domesticated “mobile wealth,” such as cattle and sheep,  Ur is the auroch, a savage and proud wild bovine yet to be brought low by mankind’s harness and fences. When Ur appears in a spread, I consider it a symbol of the querent’s untapped potential, a messy beast yet to be wrangled and the wealth inside which we may not even be aware we possess. Sometimes that wild cattle has horns and is difficult to capture; left to its own devices, Ur can easily become the “ruin of the hay-harvest”. But, if one can take control, then that untamed beast inside can become a powerful ally or a cleansing storm.

Note: More on the rune poems here.

Runes and Whispers: FEHU

14px-runic_letter_fehu-svg

Proto- Germanic Reconstructed Name: FEHU
Meaning: “wealth, cattle”

Original Text in Poems:

Anglo-Saxon Poem
Feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;
sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan
gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

Norwegian Poem
Fé vældr frænda róge;
føðesk ulfr í skóge.

Icelandic Poem
Fé er frænda róg
ok flæðar viti
ok grafseiðs gata
aurum fylkir

Translation:

Anglo-Saxon  Poem
Wealth is a comfort to all men;
yet must every man bestow it freely,
if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

Norwegian Poem
Wealth is a source of discord among kinsmen;
the wolf lives in the forest.

Icelandic Poem
Wealth
source of discord among kinsmen
and fire of the sea
and path of the serpent.

Musings:

Fehu is the first rune of the Elder Futhark and represents the f sound within the alphabet. Conveniently, not only is fehu attested to in all three runic poems, it’s meaning is also agreed upon in all three poems: wealth. The Anglo-Saxon poem uses Christian imagery to encourage one to give away one’s wealth (a common theme in the Abrahamic faiths) while the Icelandic and Norwegian poems both contain a warning about the nature of wealth. Specifically, the latter two poems urge us to beware of the dividing power of wealth, citing wealth as a “source of discord among kinsmen.”

I encourage you to check out the runic poems yourself, but for me the Norwegian and Icelandic poems conjure images of war and betrayal. Wealth is power and all wars come down to power. Fehu is the wealth (not just monetary wealth, but knowledge and skills as well) and power that we can and should share with our communities. When throwing runes and fehu appears, I suggest assessing what runes are influencing it (so which runes are near fehu), because fehu rarely acts alone, before urging the querent to figure out what “wealth” they have to offer.

Note: More on the rune poems here.

Runes and Whispers: A Divination System Part II

Part II of my series on the Elder Futhark!

So there are quite a few rune alphabets, I’ve listed the ones I feel are the most important below:

  • Elder Futhark (2nd-8th Century CE)
  • Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (5th-12th Century CE)
  • Younger Futhark (9th-12th Century CE)
  • Medieval Runes (12th- 16th Century CE)
  • Dalecarlian Runes (16th – 19th Century CE)

Obviously what I’m focusing on here is the first of the rune alphabets, the Elder Futhark.

As I mentioned briefly before in Part I, the names and meanings of the 24 runes of the Elder Futhark have been lost. But the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and the Younger Futhark are preserved in the three rune poems: Norwegian Poem, the Icelandic Poem, and the Anglo-Saxon Poem. Scholars have reconstructed the names and meanings of the Elder Futhark runes in common Proto-Germanic based on attestations in these poems as well as the Gothic Alphabet, so needless to say these are quite important to anyone studying the runes. 

rune_poem_hickes_1705

 

 

The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem is the oldest of the poems and is recorded in a 10th century manuscript. The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc contains the 29 Anglo-Saxon runes, an extra five runes as compared to the Elder Futhark it evolved from. Each rune comes with a riddle of which the rune is the solution. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Norwegian Rune Poem is preserved in a 17th century copy of a 13th century manuscript. The poem contains the names and descriptions of the 16 Younger Futhark runes. The Younger Futhark superseded the Elder Futhark and was used during Viking Era Europe. It is practically identical to the Elder Futhark except that it contains eight less runes than it’s older counterpart. 

rune_row

Younger Futhark

 

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There are four known recordings of The Icelandic Rune Poem, the oldest of which dates from the 15th century. Exactly like the Norwegian Rune Poem, the Icelandic Poem contains the names and meanings of the 16 Younger Futhark runes.

 

 

 

This post was meant to serve as a very brief introduction to the rune poems. I will more thoroughly explain the poems and provide the poems on the posts for each individual rune.

Runes and Whispers: A Divination System Part I

I’ve discussed before that my father is of Italian/German decent and that my mother is of Norwegian decent and for most of my life I felt much closer to my Italian ancestry. That was until about four years ago. Around that time I began to experiment and create a practice with two other like minded witches for the first time ever and maybe it was this convergence of craft that led to an awakening of my Northern European blood. I began a journey that drew me to Freyja, Odin, and the runes, a journey I hope to share with you lovely folks.

So thus I’m beginning a series of posts organizing my research on the Elder Futhark Rune Alphabet. I firmly believe that knowledge should be shared freely so hopefully my journey with the Elder Futhark can help illuminate your way.

In this post I will discuss the history of the Elder Futhark, the Elder Futhark in the Eddas and historically, and I will briefly touch upon the rune poems. In future posts I’ll delve more deeply into the rune poems and each rune individually.

If there is ever anything I am incorrect on, please let me know so I can do some more research! I am not a runic scholar, just an obsessive enthusiast.

Let’s begin!

As many do, I started off reading Ralph Blum’s Book of Runes, but the text left me unsatisfied. I wanted more. In my research I was led then to the history of the European runes and to the rune poems.

The Elder Futhark is the oldest of the rune alphabets and can be found on artifacts dating from the 2nd to the 8th century.

kam-med-runer-fra-vimose_do-4148_2000

Vimose Comb circa 150 CE, National Museum of Denmark.

 

The Futhark consists of 24 letters often broken up into three sets of eight called Aetts- old Norse for Clan (Byock).

elder-futhark

The Elder Futhark is thought to have originated from Old Italic scripts: maybe Etruscan or Latin. Some early estimates put the Futhark at 100 BCE while late estimates theorize that the Futhark was developed around 100 CE. Scholars believe the Elder Futhark was created by one person or a small group of people who came into contact with the Roman army. It is generally agreed that the Futhark was developed directly due to Roman influence. One theory suggests the alphabet was created by the Goths (“Britannica”).

A small note: The Viking age in Europe lasted from the late 8th century into the 11th century. The Elder Futhark pre-dates this era.

The Futhark is preserved on the Kylver Stone, a flat limestone  dating to the 5th century
f
ound in 1903 near a farm in Kylver, Gotland, Sweden during the excavation of a cemetery. The stone originally lay with the Futhark facing down and had been used to seal a grave (“Britannica”).

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The runes are also discussed in the Poetic Eddas, specifically in the Hovamol,  a gnomic collection of poems, where Odin explains how he gained knowledge of the runes. Stanzas 139-146 are the Runatal, Odin’s Rune Song. Henry Adam Bellows believed parts of this poem to be remnants of an ancient oral tradition, but the only surviving copy is in the 13th century Codex Regius.  

Below is Odin’s description of his trial to gain knowledge of the runes.

Stanza 139-140

“I ween I hung on the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, and offered I was
To Othin, mysef to myself,
On the tree that none may ever know
What root beneath it runs.

None made me happy with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.”(Bellows)

Now what really struck me during my research is that there is currently no evidence to conclusively suggest that the runes were ever used for divination. During the Sigrdrifumol in which Brynhild the Valkyrie is found by the hero Sigurth, she teaches Sigurth the magic runes (Bellows). So clearly the runes were thought to have magical uses, but are not attested as having divinatory uses.

Sigrdrifumol stanzas 6-12

Winning-runes learn, if thou longest to win,
And the runes on thy sword-hilt write;
Some on the furrow, and some on the flat,
And twice shalt thou call on Tyr.

Ale-runes learn, that with lies the wife
Of another betray not thy trust;
On the horn thou shalt write, and the backs of thy hands,
And Need shalt mark on thy nails.
Thou shalt bless the draught, and danger escape,
And cast a leek in the cup;
(For so I know  thou never shalt see Thy mead with evil mixed.)

Wave-runes learn,  if well thou wouldst shelter
The sail-steeds out on the sea;
On the stem shalt thou write, and the steering blade,
And burn them into the oars;
Though high be the breakers, and black the waves,
Thou shalt safe the harbor seek.

Birth-runes learn, if help thou wilt lend,
The babe from the mother to bring;
On thy palms shalt write them, and round thy joints,
And ask the fates to aid.

Branch-runes learn,  if a healer wouldst be,
And cure for wounds wouldst work;
On the bark shalt thou write, and on trees that be
With boughs to the eastward bent.

Speech-runes learn, that none may seek
To answer harm with hate;
Well he winds and weaves them all,
And sets them side by side,
At the judgment-place, when justice there
The folk shall fairly win.

Thought-runes learn, if all shall think
Thou art keenest minded of men (Bellows).”

So now that I’ve (hopefully) prepared you for what the Elder Futhark is not, let’s talk about what it is. It’s an alphabet!

elderfuthark

Above you will find the complete (we think) Elder Futhark as well as the rune names. Though the rune names of the Elder Futhark have been lost, scholars have reconstructed the names based on attestations in the three runic poems which contain the younger rune alphabets (Anglo-Saxon Futhorc 5th-12th Century CE and the Younger Futhark 9th-12th Century CE).

The poems are the Norwegian Poem, the Icelandic Poem, and the Anglo-Saxon Poem and  are theorized to have been mnemonic devices to remember not only the rune names, but culturally important information (Acker).

If you’re setting off on a runic journey, I strongly encourage you to read these poems yourself and meditate on the runes. By exploring these poems I crafted my own meaning for the runes of the Elder Futhark.

That’s all for now folks! Next time I’ll dig a little deeper into the rune poems and rune meanings as well as bindrunes.

 

Sources

Acker, PaulRevising Oral Theory: Formulaic Composition in Old English and Old Icelandic Verse. Routledge, 1998. Print.

Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda: The Heroic Poems. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2007. Print.

Byock, Jesse L. Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas. San Bernardino, CA: Jules William, 2013. Print.

“Kylver Stone | Runic Stone, Sweden.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

“Runic Alphabet | Writing System.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

Freyja Invocations

My witches and I have been experimenting with casting a triangle rather than a circle for rites and rituals. Below is an original triangle invocation I wrote calling on the three aspects of Freyja- Lady of the Vanir, Chooser of the Slain, and Mistress of Seidr- for a Freyja possession rite we conducted last week. More on the possession rite later!

Daughter of the Vanir – White

Casting: Daughter of the Vanir! Lady clad in white! Your beauty is unrivaled and your wisdom has no equal.  You are leader of your people, mighty in peace and mightier in war.  Oh come and be our necklace.

Dismissing: Farewell, Daughter of the Vanir, our Lady of White. Mighty ruler and mightier warrior, the shining jewel of the proud Vanir. We thank you for your presence in our triangle tonight.

Chooser of the Slain – Red

Casting: Chooser of the battle slain! Lady clad in red! Like the  winged Valkyries we are yours to command. You are power and desire, you are strength and viciousness.  Oh come and be our chariot.

Dismissing: Farewell, Chooser of the battle slain, our Lady of Red. You who select the most honorable of the noble dead from the battlefield. We thank you for your presence in our triangle tonight.

Mistress of Siedr – Black

Casting: Mistress of Siedr! Lady clad in black! Sing to us your ancient secrets, teach us the dark mysteries of our souls. You are The Witch and The Oracle, The Weaver and The Web. Oh come and be our veil.

Dismissing: Farewell, Mistress of Siedr, our Lady of Black. You are darkness and power and where others turn away in fear, we turn towards you in reverence. We thank you for the presence in our triangle tonight.

The two witches I work closely with and I have been experimenting with red, white, and black imagery and associations. Each of us have taken on one of the colors and the associations we’ve assigned to it, thus the inclusion of the color imagery.

Feel free to use and adapt these invocations to your own needs or intentions.