Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Runic Prayers: Introduction on Runes

The runes have been a subject of much interest to thous in the pagan and non pagan world, this interest is mostly centered around their function within pre-Christian Scandinavia. As far as we know the runes were used as a written language on land boundaries, grave sights, and memorials to various kings and their achievements. According to Neil Price lecture at Cornell University on the Viking Age, the runes written for grave markers were written in a particular form. This form followed as such; who was buried in the mound followed by who raised the stone. The alphabet of the runes is known as Elder Futhark. This alphabet is known as a phonetic alphabet, meaning each sound has a symbol and was taught by members of the family or the rune caver. As far as any scholar knows the runic alphabet was not taught in any institution but due to their frequency must have been known by a substantial portion of the population. The Elder Futhark runes were made up of twenty-four characters, the fist letter is the f sound and the last is the d sound. The construction of the cipher of the alphabet is unique and does not follow the alpha beta construction (a,b,c,d) like other alphabets from the Mediterranean crescent. This has made futhark a matter of much scholarly inquiry on the development of said language. It is my speculation that the construction of the runes came through trade with other cultures of Europe. The odd arrangement of the letters may have been in the order of importance to the Germanic and Scandinavian societies. Each letter in the runic alphabet has a name associated with them, this makes the runes easier to memorize and has led many to postulate on other uses. For example the first letter of the runic alphabet is called Fehur meaning wealth or cattle. The second letter is called Uruz meaning ox, bull or cow and the third is called Thoraz which means giant or the god Thor. The names of the characters are to help in memorization and as a form of short hand when conveying messages. According to myth the runes were said to possess an other worldly quality, that there power was so great that even a misspelling of a word could lead to catastrophic consequences. There is an old story in which a Swedish king relinquishes a curse on a peasant simply by scrapping the misspelled runes away. In the Lay of Sigrdrifa specific runes were mentioned to give specific powers, the naud rune for example was given to ensure that woman wouldn't beguile a mans trust. In the Sayings of the Old High One, Wotan was said to have hung on the World Ash to gain the true meaning of the runes. All these stories point to the magical use of the runes although these uses may be and to a certain extent historically founded. I propose a different usage of the runes and only of certain runes. This usage is prayer. It is a belief of mine that the runic characters themselves are in fact deities. Even in the most conventional of mystical interpretations there are certain runes that are symbols for the gods, such as the Othil rune or the Ing rune but these are not the only ones. Some runes are representative of nature or of natural phenomena such as Sigil which is a representation of the rays of sunlight or Kenaz which can mean many things but the most literal is the rejuvenating fire that clears the underbrush. In the next article I will show how these runes and others are used in prayer.

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