Day 323: Freya’s Aett, Fehu

fehu

As I’ve mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick’s book, but from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

FEHU
Pronunciation:  “FAY-hu”
Meaning:  Wealth (Cattle)
Supporting Meanings:  Marriage, Virility, Conception, Community prosperity.

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, “Wealth” is the most basic meaning of this rune in all the old rune poems.  However, it originally mean livestock, especially cattle, which makes sense given how integral dairy products were to the diet of early Germanic peoples.  It is important, however, to note that wealth is a double-edged sword.  Although it brings prosperity, several rune poems agree that “Wealth is trouble among relatives.”  If wealth is not treated as a gift of the gods and hoarded instead of being freely shared, it will lead to a spiritual poverty among you and your loved ones.

Modern Meanings:  Paxson reports that modern commentators ascribe meanings to fehu that range from the mystical to practical.  Tony Willis believes the wealth represented by cattle is that which grows when cared for and which can produce more money when wisely invested, but that the rune sometimes means the need to conserve resources.  Edred Thorsson, on the other hand, sees in the rune motion and expansion of power, mobility, luck, and fertility.  Paxson herself notes that wealth today is represented by money instead of cattle and that money is also a symbolic form of energy.  Money gives power, but it becomes useless if it is conserved too tightly.  For the community to prosper, money and energy have to move on.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Whether we’re talking cattle or community economics, I think it’s important to understand the importance of the collective in determining wealth.  If a man had a number of cattle but not enough workers to care for them, guard their safety, and responsibly slaughter them, milk them, and craft cheeses, butters, and yogurts from that milk, his wealth would become a mismanaged burden and eventually be his ruin.  So to does modern money only have value if it is in circulation.  If one hoards money like Scrooge McDuck, all one has is a vault with metal and paper.  It is the value the community ascribes to money as a symbol that translates it into a potential to obtain food and comfort.  If one does not reinforce that symbol by maintaining its constant circulation within a community, it will lose its power and eventually be the community’s downfall.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  Fehu is always a rune of productivity, though its context may vary.  It can connect to spiritual or artistic creativity, physical fertility, or the ability to create or to maintain wealth, or it can mean an improvement in one’s finances or health.  In conjunction with runes of caution, it may indicate a need to conserve physical or emotional resources.  When using fehu in a spell, you need to be very specific about what kind of ‘fertility’ you mean, lest you find your cats proliferating instead of the dollars in your bank account.  Fehu can also be used in gardening (especially along with uruz, jera, and ingwaz), and it can be used in any work relating to the Vanir or with Freyr or Freyja.  IT can be inscribed on the forehead to increase attractiveness and sexual vigor (so long as you clearly intend this, or you may conceive).  As such, it can be used to invoke passion, productivity, and prosperity in a couple being married.  It’s generally considered a fortunate rune.

Paxson’s Ritual for Abundance:  For this working you will need a package of seeds and a pot of good soil.  The ritual should be done within sacred space.  Invoke Freyr and Freyja and offer them the seed.  State very clearly that as each seed in the bowl, once planted, has the potential to multiply, you desire your own work to be fruitful and bring you abundance.  Focus on the seeds and visualize them sprouting and flourishing, then visualize your own prosperity as customers, contracts, or some other appropriate form of prosperity increases.  Affirm that this will be so.  Sing the rune into the bowl and draw it through the seeds with your finger.  Then plant some of them (at least 9 seeds) in the pot.  When you have finished, deconstruct the sacred space.  Since true prosperity can only occur in the context of a prosperous community, package the remainder of the seeds to send to friends.  Carefully tend the pot you have planted, and each time you water it, repeat your visualization.  Collect seeds from the fruit/flowers that grow and save them for luck pieces or to plant in future rituals.

Day 322: Making Runes

Handmade runes around a horned skullcap...très witchy, non?

Handmade elder futhark runes around a horned skullcap…très witchy, non?

Roderick starts out his introduction to making runes by noting that there are very specific traditional methods for doing so.  However, I really think that should be taken with a grain of salt.  When it comes to rune studies, I look outside fluffy bunny sources and, indeed, all of Wicca for help.  Right now, I’m very comfortable with Diana L. Paxson’s work.  Paxson is currently the leader of Hrafnar, a heathen kindred in Berkeley, California who practice Ásatrú.  Among Paxon’s many literary efforts is a little volume called Taking Up the Runes, and its one of the best contemporary resources for rune studies.  In this volume, Paxson notes that most of what we know of the ancient German’s specific crafting of divinatory runes comes from the Roman writer Tacitus, who simply said they cast lots of fruitwood for divination.  These days, you can really make runes out of anything you like, just as long as they’re of small enough pieces to mix easily and to conveniently transport in a smallish pouch.

I’ve actually made rune sets from glass tiles, sea glass, polymer clay, ceramic clay, antler tiles, and wood.  My runaway preference is for wood.  The glass felt so artificial, and it was really hard to etch them cleanly and safely.  When I tried paint, the paint rubbed right off in just a couple uses.  The ceramic tile chipped and broke, the antlers were a little creepy and smelled really weird, and the polymer clay just felt plastic and fake.  To me, wood is warm and friendly and very forgiving of rough treatment.  Paint takes well to them, and it’s easy enough to etch into wood with an X-acto knife or a trusty boline.  I prefer to woodburn, but that involves finding a friend with the appropriate equipment for me.

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An old runestone in Stockholm that was placed into a building’s foundation.

There is one caveat to runemaking.  Most Scandinavian runestones have the runes engraved into the rock and then painted red, as shown in the image above.  This red color is evocative of the lifeblood that flows through all, and reminds us that the runes are part of our lifeblood.  Indeed, in crafting your runes, you may find it beneficial to not only paint them in red, but to use blood in the process.  Paxson cautions against using any b;ppd but your own, as you know without a doubt that it was freely given for this purpose and will also link you more strongly with the runes.  Very little blood is needed for this, and even less if you mix it into red paint:  a couple drops would be all that would be needed in that case.

For this series of Roderick’s studies, I am abandoning his text and exercises (and, in some cases, even the order of the days) entirely.  This is because I have found this section to be very poorly researched and edited.  I do not know upon what foundation Roderick is building his information from since no sources pertaining to runes are listed in his bibliography.  However, I suspect he swiped some of his information from Ralph H. Blum’s The Book of Runes.  Blum does perplexing things things as ascribing ansuz to Loki (when every valued rune scholar says it is Odin’s special rune) or raidho with communication (when that is so prominently ansuz) that Roderick duplicates, and Blum’s idiosyncratic spellings for the runes are also duplicated here.  The exact wording (and omission of stanza 140) of the poem Roderick offers in day 321 is also given in Blum’s opening pages.

If Roderick did take his information from Blum, I find that troubling not only in the fact that he did so without credit but also because of the source itself.  Blum’s Book of Runes isn’t a historically researched text:  pretty much all of it’s detail was derived through his own meditations.  If grounded information is what you want, literally any other rune book is a better source.  Blum also greatly switched up the order of his runes, which might explain Roderick’s odd ordering.  Roderick put them back into aetts, but the order within the aetts is certainly nonstandard.

Worst of all, this section suffers from the lack of basic proofreading, which is inexcusable when the section pertains to sigils that are not familiar to an audience.  One misprint here can be damning:  the number that persists is obscene.  For example, the chart of runes given for today duplicates the sigils for othala (where it is both othala and ingwaz) and wunjo (where it is both wunjo and laguz).  This mistake is repeated in the chart given for Day 354 (Using the Runes in Magic).  In the sigils given at the start of each day, day 345 (Ingwaz) shows the sigil for othala and day 349 (Ehwaz) omits the sigil entirely.

In lieu of Roderick’s text, I will be taking all my information from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.  It is not a perfect text, but it nicely summarizes the work of other rune scholars, gives solid historical backing, and contains plenty of ideas for exercises, rituals, and the like.  Even though Paxson is primarily coming from an Ásatrú background, her ritual suggestions and magical practices are not unfamiliar to contemporary Wicca.

As I am using Paxson’s text, I will be using her spellings instead of Roderick’s as well as her images of the runes.  The Elder Futhark runes are in the order with the names I will be using below:

The Elder Futhark as Diana Paxson has them ordered along with her standardized spellings.

The Elder Futhark as Diana Paxson has them ordered along with her standardized spellings.  The only major differences from Paxon’s preferred forms is that her uruz has feet that meet on the same level, and her preferred eihwaz is the mirror image of this one.  She does offer this orientation as an alternate, however.

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.

Runatal

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!