Runes, the alphabet of the Ancient Norse: entities from the unmanifest
I teach a certificated distance learning course on the runes, and I was meditating beside the North Sea yesterday on the entities whom Odin drew forth from the unmanifest to be represented by the Runes.
The history of the Norse states that Odin hung in pain and self-sacrifice from the branches of the World Tree Yggdrassil until he plucked forth the alphabet of the runes, and when the vision came to him, screaming their names in startled cry, in galdr, he fell to the ground, screaming out the rune shapes he had seen in the branches and twigs of the sacred Ash Tree and the deep meanings held in each Rune.
And it came to me that each of the Runes has behind the physical shape of the cryptic shape of the Rune etched in wood by the Norns and by all thereafter, each of the Runes has behind it an entity that it expresses. For Odin went down to the realms of the unmanifest to retrieve the meaning of the runes. And so for example he unleashed from the unmanifest the Joy Bringer who stands behind the Rune Wynn, the Hag of Winter who stands behind Nauthiz, and so on.
And what is the unmanifest?
Well, I feel that Norse spirituality is wonderfully rich in its sense of the unmanifest, as is Hinduism (indeed the creation myths of the two have similarity, for example the cosmic cow called Audhumla by the Norse but called Aditi by Vedic Hinduism). There is a wonderful sense of the immense validity and power of the Unmanifest in the Seeresses’ Prophecy, the Voluspa Saga. Ginnungagap is the Void, the unmanifest. So is Hvergelmir the source of Niflheim. And the First Being, Mimir, who formed in Ginnungagap as the union of Fire and Ice is in the unmanifest. Mimir is the Dream Time. And, horrifically, Odin slew Mimir to create order and hierarchy and discrimination.
There is deep meaning in this. If we are not in contact with the unmanifest, the dream time, our lives can become inauthentic and artefacts, as doomed as the Seeress revealed was the wondrous hierarchy of the Aesir Gods. All this is deep, but very important.
Here is an extract from my Novel Rune Magic, as with all my novels available in both Paperback or on Amazon Kindle from Amazon:
Declan, the hero of the novel is reading the words of the Seeress: she whom Odin rose from her grave mound because he had heard the wonderful gleaming Aesir Gods were doomed and he would go to all lengths to seek to find if there was a way that the prophecy could be averted. Here, the Seeress speaks. I studied Old Norse (and indeed Anglo-Saxon as an undergraduate at Oxford in the late 1960s/early 70s and this part of the novel which draws on the Saga is my own translation. ‘Would you know more? And what?’ was the traditional challenge cry of the Norse Scald or Bard:
‘Odin, High One, All Father, Father of the Slain, you ask that I should declare the primordial history, I who know the beginning, and before that. I who know the end. And what will happen later! Listen while I speak it: ‘Unformed, chaotic, was the Abyss, the Void. The Void, Ginnungagap.
‘Would you know more?
Declan stared the challenge at his spell-bound audience, then continued to declaim the contents of the iridescently now flaring tablet.
‘The First World: Muspellheim is created
‘Eventually! To one side of the void, Ginnungagap, in the endless empty darkness,
There stirred a spark: The First Spark manifested: Elemental Fire
Spark was fanned to flame. Flame grew to inferno. Inferno turned to magma flare. And in the lava-heat and fire, the first world grew, The Fire World, first of Nine: Muspellheim.
Then forged from fire, Musspelheim’s great guardian arose: the Fire Giant:
Surt. Surt of the mighty flaming sword.
‘Would you know more?
‘The Second World: Niflheim is created
‘To the other side of Ginnungagap, a place of endless night and immaculate coldness: Niflheim was formed, Second of the worlds. Niflheim: realm of ice and fog.
And at its centre lay the roaring, seething tarn of Hvergelmir, from which twelve icy gelid rivers flowed.
‘Would you know more?
‘The emergence of the First Being: Mimir
‘Over endless aeons, the essences of two worlds leached. They met in freezing Ginnungagap.
‘Gelid waters flowed to the Abyss from Hvergelmir, Whose icy blasts created glaciers. Huge blocks of ice rolled downward with continual thunder
Into the impenetrable Chasm
‘Sparks of Muspelheim too, showered the Abyss
‘And from this slow union of opposites, of Fire and Ice, amid the ice blocks of the Chasm,
Arose The Primordial Being:
‘Mimir’s was the Dream Time,
Huge union of Fire and Ice, Mimir’s mind was mystic, submerged in dream. Not knowing past nor future. Giant consciousness, inexpressible, ocean-like. The eternal now.