Monday, 25 August 2014

Odin and the Runes

The story of Odin and the runes is a very magical one.

Odin was the chief of the Aesir, but his main quest and aspiration was always for knowledge. So he decided to try and learn the knowledge of the magical symbols known as the Runes. The story of what he did and what he learned is contained in an ancient poem known as Havamal, 'The Words of the High One' so this poem is not someone else's interpretation of what occurred, but Odin's own words.

Odin knew that he had to find the source of the runes and that he would have to pay for his knowledge. He chose to sacrifice himself by hanging himself on the world tree Yggdrasil:

I know that I hung on a windy tree
Nine long nights,
Wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
Myself to myself,
On that tree of which no man knows
From where its roots run.

Odin knows that only being prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice will give him any chance of learning the magical secrets of the runes. How many of us would think that knowledge was worth more than your own life?
As he hung on the tree Odin was poised between life and death:
They gave me no bread, they gave me no drink

The outcome could have gone either way, and as he hung in that in-between state, after nine days and nights of suffering suddenly he saw the runes appear below him, reflected in the waters of the well of Urd
I peered down below, took up the runes
Screaming I took them and fell back again.

The effort of getting the runes to reveal themselves to him was immense, and as he seized them, knew them, learnt their meanings, he fell from the tree with the runes in his grasp.

The next stanza reads like a shamanic spirit journey. Odins body so exhausted and damaged by his ordeal and the pain of wrenching himself from the tree has put his spirit outside his body, his body appears dead, but his spirit is learning still:
Nine lays of power I learned
From the famous Bolthor, Bestla's father
He poured me a draught of precious mead
Mixed with Odrerir

In other words, Odin journeys to the spirit worlds and there he learns directly from his own grandfather. Bolthor was an ice giant and his daughter Bestla is the mother of Odin. Bolthor aids his grandson by giving him a special draught of mead to speed his recovery from the ordeal

Well-being I won and wisdom too
I waxed and grew
From a word to a word I was led to a word
From a deed to another deed

So Odin returns from the spirit world, his soul returns to his body and he is not only alive, but stronger and wiser too. And he knows that what he has learnt will be knowledge he can and will put into action, not only words but deeds - from one deed to another.

Magic is not a theoretical subject.

It is all very well being able to memorise the meanings of tarot cards or the symbols of the runes, but they are NOTHING unless you use them.

You are not a magician/witch/shaman unless and until you take that step and USE your knowledge.

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