Wholeness of the Witch

A few days ago I came across a blog post by Alana Louise May called “Fuck New Age Purity. Get Dirty. Get Off On Your Shadow.” and everything inside my soul screamed “Yessssssss.”

I won’t do her words the disservice of summarization, so just go freakin’ read it and bask in them yourself. Did you read it? Excellent. Let’s continue.

The post is a few weeks old, but it sang to a part of me I didn’t even realize I was repressing. The dirty, corroding, dark, putrid part of me. The part of me that belongs to the witch above all other parts.

The witch is the outcast.

The witch is the untouchable.

The witch is the misfit.

The witch is the freak.

Standing outside of society, the witch embraces chaos. Morality is a social construct. The universe does not recognize good or evil, dark or light. These are tools society has invented- tools to understand, tools to coexist, tools to repress- but tools are only necessary for as long as they are useful.

I am a creature of my nature. I refuse to become less by fracturing my soul and assigning values to certain aspects. I am everything that I am.

I am violent.  I am creative. I am callous. I am manipulative. I am generous. I am fair. I am possessive. I am hateful.

I am whole.  

My tools are deceit and cunning, wrath and viciousness. My tools are acceptance and patience, imagination and resilience.

Dark and light are a farce. Deep in the universal abyss all things are one.

I won’t “rise above” my shadow. I am my shadow.

Don’t tear yourself asunder in the name of purity. You are already everything you need to be, Witch.

Daily House Cleansing

When I have free time during my day I like to cleanse my house, but really it’s less a cleansing and more of a make-the-house-wights-happy. Happy wights, happy life. I have  found that the wights of my home like to be acknowledged, they like a house kept clean and looked after, they like libations, and they like smoke. So I pack prayer smoke into my pipe and light it with a sigh. I walk my house, inside and out, and I sing to my wights, drawing a bindrune sigil of my own invention for them.

Wights of Place
Of hearth and home
Of brick and beam
Of wood and stone

Heed my sigil
Drawn with power
I gift these evils
To your mouths; devour.

I have found house wights to be not necessarily benign creatures. They are prone to moods and opinions similar and much different  to us and it’s good to keep them on your side. So instead of asking them to banish negative energies or people or spirits, I ask them to devour and destroy anything that would harm our home. It seems to me better to destroy your enemies rather than shoo them away.

Capture

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

 

Capture

 

 

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”).

350px-kylverstenen_2

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.

When I was a child.

When I was a child I refused to brush my hair and my clothes never matched. I’d dig up worms from the ground and pinch slugs until they exploded with a satisfying ‘pop.’ The sun bleached my unruly tresses and tanned my olive skin while I rolled through grass and around trees. I would lean over the wooden fence my parents had built to pull wild blackberries off the vine, reveling in their sweet juices running down my chin.

Capture

In class I barely spoke because I didn’t have words to articulate the myriad of images streaming through my mind. I thought in pictures and wrote stories where I was a cat living on my own in the tangled jungle of my backyard. I used fallen sticks to construct my own bow and arrows to shoot beasts hiding around my fort of trees and towels.

Recently I’ve found myself wondering what that girl in the mismatched clothes would think if she met me. Am I still that girl? There is a magic to children, both unruly and uninhibited. If we could only rediscover those unadulterated versions of ourselves that lurk savage eyed in our souls, what could we be capable of?

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.

 

Blood and Bones and Ancestors

I was raised with aunts and cousins and grandparents living together under one roof. I was raised to be my brother and sister’s keeper. I was raised with a fierce knowledge that there is no bond more relentless than the bond of blood.

At holidays we would gather on chairs and couches and retell the same stories of hardship and hilarity, of the living and of the dead. We would remember their names, looking at photographs and home movies. At the time I didn’t realize it, but now I know that by remembering and celebrating we were venerating. We were keeping alive an ancient tradition that this new world has forgotten.

But I will not forget.

Modernity has forced us into isolation; many of us live without family in our homes. We’ve replaced the familial and ancestral bonds with technological conveniences, the wisdom of our elders has been usurped by the collective humming of the internet. In the past your family meant your survival or your destruction and the bonds you forged with them and the work of those who came before you were fundamental to your success.

In times of old we could turn to the wax masks of the ancients hung in our homes, we could look to their graves and tombs. Now we must seek them out on our own, devising both new and forgotten paths to the dead through bones, and blood, and shadow. Chanting, singing, dancing, screaming into darkness, beyond hedges, and through veils, I reach out to my ancestors, to my family, to the dead. I beat at my chest and stomp my feet not in mourning, but in celebration, for the dead speak and they have many secrets to tell.

When I die, burn my body and release my spirit so that I may fly across worlds on shadowy wings. Mix my ashes with the dirt and mud. When my children’s children dig through the earth and call for me, I will hear them and I will whisper to them. I will sing them twisted songs of curses and cures and I will not be forgotten.