The Hávamál in the Prose Edda

Odin's Self-Sacrifice by W.G. Collingwood (1908).

Odin’s Self-Sacrifice by W.G. Collingwood (1908).

Roderick mentioned that the poem he included in yesterday’s meditative exercise came from the Poetic Edda.  I tracked it down to the Hávamál, which is presented as a single poem within the Edda.  It is a combination of different ones, and the Rúnatal (stanzas 138-146), or a series of stanzas describing how Odin won the runes, serves as a preface to a collection of charms termed the Ljóðatal.  The lines of the poem Roderick gave actually come from stanzas 138, 139, and 141 of the Rúnatal.

I show these stanzas below.  The text on the left is from Sophus Bugge’s 1867 edition, while the text on the right is from Benjamin Thorpe’s 1866 translation.

I chose to offer Thorpe’s translation here since Haukur Þorgeirsson and Óskar Guðlaugsson endorse it as the most accurate translation in their extensive comparison of translations on their Old Norse for Beginners website. I really can’t recommend this site enough.  If the text grabbed you in any way and you are curious about it, their translations and comparisons will bring you such a greater understanding of this section than many of us could otherwise have obtained.  They also have reconstructed pronunciations for the first three stanzas, which is amazing since I’m not sure any of us would have been able to hear a decent pronunciation otherwise.  Check out 138, 139, and 140.


Day 321: The Runes

An 11th century runestone from Lingsberg, Sweden, featuring an inscription in the Younger Futhark.

An 11th century runestone from Lingsberg, Sweden, featuring an inscription in the Younger Futhark.

In Roderick’s Wicca: A Year and A Day, the runes are mostly treated as a divinatory tool that’s sort of halfway between scrying and the Tarot.  Like the Tarot, the runes are a more mechanical, structured tool, but they are not anywhere as detailed and symbol-wrought as the Tarot, so reading them requires a similar nonstructured intuitive method like scrying.

The runes, however, are more than just a divinatory tool.  They are the letters in sets of related alphabets (known as the runic alphabets) that were used to write in Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet.  Therefore, their most obvious use is as a communication tool.  However, the runes also acquired a sacred significance, especially after the Latin alphabet’s adoption, when they were primarily used for special purposes.  In this respect, the runes are akin to the Hebrew alphabet in that each letter has a meaning which goes beyond its use as a symbol for a sound.  Like the Hebrew letters, each rune serves as a focus for a whole set of connected meanings, symbols, and associations.

In magic, divination is only one of the uses for runes.  The Eddas, for example, reference their use in constructing spells, where they can be used singly, combined into bindrunes, or as a series of inscriptions.  How we choose to use them in spell work today is, however, largely a work of unverified personal gnosis.

In fact, given how much intuition the runes require, UPG plays a great role in gaining mastery with the runes.  In the pursuit of this knowledge, rune students have been known to try the runic yoga system, the stadhagaldr, in which one of the practices is moving your whole body into rune shapes. They scratch the runes into their body with fingernails or pins, or anoint themselves with oil in the rune shapes.  The envision the runes and intone their sounds.  They write the runes in juice onto paper, then wash it off into a beverage and drink it or scratch them (or frost them!) onto cookies or cakes and eat them.  No matter what, the runes are definitely something that rune students spend a great deal of time meditating upon (which is why Roderick offers a visualization alignment as the exercise for each rune).

Part of the massive amount of meditation involved in rune studies is in keeping with the myth of how the runes came to man:  through Odin’s self-sacrifice.  He hung himself upside down from the world tree Yggdrasil, and hung there until he saw a vision of the runes.  Below is a poem from the Prose Edda that describes the experience.  Reciting the poem can become a ritual, as shown below.

Practice:  Invoking Odin

Cast a circle or go to a secret place in nature.  Face the west and read this magical poem aloud.  After you read it, sit and meditate on its meaning and its symbolism.  What stands out for you in these magical words/  How does the portion that stands out in the poem relate to your own life, your current circumstances, or your growth and magical development?

I know I hung on that windswept tree,
Swung there for nine long nights,
Wounded by my own blade,
Bloodied for Odin,
Myself an offering to myself:
Bound to the tree
That no man knows
Whither the roots of it run.

None gave me bread,
None gave me drink.
Down to the deepest depths I peered
Until I spied the runes.
With a roaring cry I seized them up,
Then dizzy and fainting, I fell.

Well-being I won
And wisdom, too.
I grew and took joy in my growth:
From a word to a word
I was led to a word,
From a deed to another deed.

Day 320: Asking a Question

Today, we essentially perform the same exercise as yesterday, but with a specific question in mind.  Go to a darkened room, light a candle and set it behind the mirror, hold your hands to the mirror’s surface and whisper it’s secret name three times.  When that’s done, gaze into the mirror and allow your mind to become a blank page except you hold that question forward in your mind and let it become the only information on that page.  When you begin to see imagery, jot them down without trying to make any mental associations between them and your question.  When you are finished, extinguish the candle and cover the mirror with its silk.

Finally, sit down with your conscious mind and make associations between the imagery and your question.  Roderick has a good example:

Let’s say I asked about my relationship and the image I saw was a maple tree.  What do I associate with maple trees?  Maple syrup, the East Coast or North America, and the changing of the seasons.  from here I can perhaps read the symbols in this way:

  1. Perhaps my relationship will be going through a change, but this change, like that the maple tree goes through, will be natural; it would therefore be important for me to keep in mind that all things have their rhythms.
  2. My relationship is solid as a maple tree.  At its center is a certain sweetness that I find satisfying.
  3. Perhaps there will be renewal in my relationship (East Coast–the direction east and its associations with newness, beginnings, etc.) and I can look forward to things starting in a fresh new way.

Obviously, Roderick’s interpretations here are for his situation alone.  If I had asked about my relationship and saw maple trees, I might start packing parkas for our move to Canada!

For this scrying session, it took me a long time to come up with a question I really wanted answered, but that I also felt comfortable sharing in a semi-public forum.  Sadly, there really wasn’t all that much that met those criteria.  So I decided to go with the standard single girl’s question:  Will I ever get married.  Granted, asking “yes/no” questions in divination isn’t really a smart thing, but I went with it anyway.

Really graphic, ethnic wallpaper patterns.

Really graphic, ethnic wallpaper patterns.

What I ended up seeing was a series of high-contrast, highly graphic wall paper patterns.  They reminded me strongly of Indian and Arabic patterns I think I’ve seen in different architectures.  What surprised me was how crystal clear these patterns were, and how many of them flashed through my vision.

I honestly have no idea how to associate “Will I ever get married?” with these images.  I do associate exoticism, spice, and heat with many of them…maybe I will get married and have an exceptionally passionate marriage.  Or maybe I won’t get married and will spend my barren spinsterhood traveling the world?  I guess I really couldn’t say for sure either way, but if I wanted to tip the scales in option A’s favor, I suppose I should try going on a few more dates.  :)

Day 319: Using Your Magic Mirror

What exactly happens during a scrying session?  Well, what basically happens is that the seer uses the mirror as a meditative focus to relax his or her mind and enter a sort of trance-like meditative state that we call accessing the astral plane.  Once there, the seer is likely to see images on the focal point, in this case the mirror.  Other seers sense the image (or other sensations) in their minds.

To use the mirror, go to a darkened room and light a candle.  Set the candle behind the mirror.  Place the mirror so that you can sit and comfortably gaze into its reflective surface.  After everything is set in place, hold your hands to the mirror’s surface and whisper three times the mirror’s secret, subtle name.  This activates the energies you have set into the mirror.

As you gaze into the mirror, allow your mind to become a blank page.  Let your critical thinking take a well-deserved break for the next twenty minutes or so.  If you notice thoughts coming up, simply notice them.  Don’t try to stop your thoughts, just observe them.

With the aid of this psychic tool, your vision will eventually break through to the astral plane.  You will know that you are there because you will begin to see random imagery.  For today’s practice, do not concern yourself with the meaning of the imagery.  Simply jot down what it is you see in the mirror.  When you are finished, cover the mirror with your silk and extinguish the candle.

Scrying is hard!  It’s not something I’ve ever really practiced at, so there is that, but I also think I’m as psychic as a 2×4…so there is that, too.  Interestingly, I did discover that putting the mirror in a self-standing frame meant that I could prop the mirror and a candle up on a little table near my bed and get my self all nice and cozy while being able to comfortably stare into the glass.  It definitely seemed less straining than constantly looking down into a bowl of water (and then potentially spilling that water all over your lap as you lapsed into trance).

I didn’t really get a clear image from this session, but after about 10 minutes or so, I got the impression of a face flickering in and out, except that it was a stark white face with an empty (or black) eyes and mouth.  After a few minutes of seeing this face, I realized it strongly reminded me of the comedy and tragedy masks.  Very weird indeed.

Comedy and Drama

Comedy and Tragedy

Day 318: Charging Your Magic Mirror

What You’ll Need:

  • Your circle-casting tools
  • A 5-6 inch purple taper candle
  • A piece of red, black, or purple silk, large enough to cover the entire mirror

Cast your circle as usual.  Using Theban script, scribe with a pin (or your white-handled knife) the mirror’s spiritual name on the purple candle.  Go to the east of your circle and place the magic mirror in front of you so that you can see its dark reflective surface.  Hold your hands palms facing outward (toward the east) just above the mirror.  Close your eyes and imagine that you gather the spiritual energy of the element of air in your hands.  Imagine a bright yellow mist that forms in the palms of your hands.  Once you see this clearly, bring your palms together, forming the yellow mist into a single ball of energy.  Now thrust the ball of energy toward the mirror’s surface.  Imagine the yellow energy entering and infusing the mirror with the spiritual energies of air.

Now take the mirror to the south of the circle, set it before you, and repeat the process with the element of fire.  Hold your hands palms facing outward (toward the south) just above the mirror.  Close your eyes and imagine that you gather the spiritual energy of the element of fire in your hands.  Imagine a bright red mist that forms in the palms of your hands.  Once you see this clearly, bring your palms together, forming the red mist into a single ball of energy.  Direct the ball of energy toward the mirror’s surface and image it entering and infusing the mirror with the spiritual energies of fire.

Repeat this process in the west, forming a blue ball of energy that you will thrust into the mirror.  Finally, repeat this process in the north, forming a green ball of energy that you set into the mirror.

Now return the mirror to the altar in the center of your circle.  Hold your hands on the mirror’s surface and intone its secret name.  As you do this, bring your cupped hands to your mouth.  Continue to intone the word in your cupped hands.  Feel the vibration of sound.  Close your eyes and imagine that as you intone the secret name, a white ball of energy forms inside of your cupped hands.  When you see the energy clearly, stop intoning the name and propel the white ball of energy into the mirror’s dark surface.

Light the purple candle with the inscribed secret name.  Turn the inscription so that it faces the mirror’s black reflective surface.  Allow the candle to burn out completely.  While the candle burns, close your circle.

In magical lore, silk has a retentive property to it, so when the candle has burned out, cover the mirror’s surface completely with a length of red, black, or purple silk.  From now on, whenever you finish magical work with your mirror, cover it with this silk cloth.

All blessed, named, and charged!

All blessed, named, and charged!

Voila!  All done to specifications.  I did learn, though, that I need to do some remedial work in sensing and physically manipulating energy.  I think my energy balls were awfully weak!

Day 317: Learning the Mirror’s Sacred Name

Today, Roderick asks us to find our mirror’s sacred name, and then to set it again in the windowsill to collect the moonlight.

I suspect that this exercise might be here mostly to give us a technique on discovering a sacred name.  In all my reading, I have yet to see something about a person ‘finding the sacred name’ of one of their divination tools (though I know plenty of pagans who do give their tools pet names!)

It is true, however, that magical lore is full of stories that describe how knowing a ‘real’ or ‘sacred’ name of a person or object will give you a power over that person or object.  Therefore, it is not a bad idea to develop a technique that gives you something that you, at least, believe is someone or something’s secret name.  At the very least, you will harm nothing, and–at most–you will strengthen your spellwork.

To begin, place the mirror in front of you.  Hold out your hands and touch the mirror’s surface.  Close your eyes and begin to take several deep, slow breaths.  Imagine that you travel down your arms, out through your hands, and project your spiritual body into the magic mirror.  Sense yourself becoming united with the object.  Expand your spirit so that you fill every crevice and nook of the mirror.  When you are ready, a word, a sound, or a vibration will begin to form in your throat.  Allow whatever this sound may be to emerge unedited.

Once you have connected with the sound, say it aloud.  Open your eyes and write it down.  This is the spiritual name of your magic mirror.  You might try this exercise with people, animals, plants, and other objects today.  How does it feel once you utter the spiritual name of things?  What is your spiritual name?

Maureen it is!

Maureen it is!

I thought I would feel a little silly performing this activity, but I didn’t.  It was rather enlightening to meditate and find “me”, then to force “me” into the mirror.  It was a little difficult at first, and it was hard to pull back and get centered in my body again.  It also took a really long time for that sound to start forming…and do you know what eventually came out?


How bizarre is that?  I was not anticipating anything like that.  Maybe a few sounds or perhaps some name I’d had an affinity for…but Maureen?  It’s not a name I’ve thought about or come across in years!  What a hoot.  Maureen, I suppose, it is.

Funnily, I did get the sense that Maureen isn’t necessarily the name of this speculum in particular, but–rather–the name of the line of energy that allows scrying in any particular speculum for me.  I guess I’ll think of “her” as my own particular woman behind the looking glass.

Day 316: Blessing the Mirror

Set up for the working.  Incidentally, with "spell" pictures like this, I pose them beforehand.  I kinda think it's bad juju to photograph a spell-in-process.

Set up for the working. Incidentally, with spell pictures like this, I pose them beforehand. I kinda think it’s bad juju to photograph a spell-in-process.

What You’ll Need:

  • Circle-casting tools
  • Magic mirror
  • A 5-6 inch purple taper candle
  • Dried white sage, frankincense, or dragon’s blood resin

Cast a circle as you have learned to do.  Sprinkle the mirror with your salt and water mixture, saying:

I consecrate thee, O creature of the Art, with the elements of water and of earth.

Carry the mirror to the west and then to the north of your circle.  At each quarter show the mirror to the elementals, saying:

(Undines/Gnomes), here me now; reflect the truth of thy knowing!

Return to the altar.  Sprinkle the hot coals in your brazier with your chosen incense (sage, frankincense, or dragon’s blood) and allow it to smolder.  Cense the entire mirror with this magical smoke, saying:

I consecrate thee, O creature of the Art, with the element of air and of fire.

Carry the mirror to the eastern and then to the southern quarters and show it to the elementals, saying:

(Sylphs/Salamanders), hear me now; reflect the truth of thy knowing!

Bring the mirror to the center of the circle and set it flat on the altar, with the dark mirror side facing up.  Using your white-handled knife (or a pin, if you do not have a white-handled knife), inscribe the word “vision” onto the purple candle, using Theban script.  Light the candle and place it in a holder.  Set the holder on top of the mirror’s surface.

Close your circle, but allow the candle to burn completely out.  Once the candle has extinguished, set the mirror again on your windowsill so that the moon can reflect its light upon the mirror’s surface throughout the night.

I performed this exactly as written above (which I altered from Roderick’s original slight in that I combined air and fire like water and earth, as is my practice), with the exception of using regular Roman script rather than Theban.   Gazing at the mirror now, I don’t feel like it’s one giant blank as I did before.  In fact, I do think the elemental forces are working just behind its surface.