Day 337: Hagal’s Aett, Isa

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.

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.

Pronunciation:  “EE-sa”
Meaning:  Ice
Supporting Meanings:  Danger, bridge, stillness in motion

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, the Anglo-Saxon rune poem presents isa or ice as the picture “of an element whose very beauty makes it more perilous, with the hard clarity of crystal.  It’s qualities are all in the extreme–overcold, immeasureably slippery.  Ice is dangerous, but ‘fair to be seen.'”  In the Norse and Icelandic poems, the images are harsher.  The Norwegian poem picks up the image of a slippery floor, but makes it a bridge–very trecherous when iced–or worse an ice bridge over a crevasse in a glacier.  And not only must you be careful of yourself–you must lead the ‘helpless blind.’  The icelandic poem paints a still harsher picture.  There, ice encases natural features–specifically water that should be flowing.  It covers rivers as bark covers a tree trunk; the ice flose roof the tossing waves.  Hávamál images reflect the Old Norse attitude to ice.  In verse 90, women’s love is compared to riding on ice with a young horse that has not been shod with winter shoes.  The surface is motionless, but those who are above can slide to destruction if they are not careful.  Ice is also included in the list of things that must not be trusted until they have been done with.  However, it is to be noted that even the most slippery ice may be successfully crossed, and–in days gone by–ice actually improved transportation since boats need not be relied upon to cross rivers, wide lakes, and various inlets.

Modern Meanings:  Edred Thorsson extrapolate’s ice’s physical characteristics to create a metaphysical situation in which isa is the primal ice that was melted to reveal the world.  Therefore, isa is antimatter, gravity, inertia, entropy–the inertia and stillness that attracts the active force of melting fire.  Isa is also the center of the hailstone:  it holds together ego awareness and provides a psychic bonding that can help an individual survive stress.  Kveldulf Gundarsson backs Thorsson up.  Gundarsson calls isa the elemental rune if Niflheim and gives it the qualities of solidity, contraction, stillness, calmness, and unchangeability.  He suggests that the broad bridge is the bridge to the Underworld and is extremely low and easy to attain.  But he cautions against thinking that the ice shield is sufficient against all danger:  if it breaks, you will drop into the lethal waters below.  Freya Aswynn believes that ice acted as an evolutionary ‘hardening measure’ for the Northern peoples.  This may be pushing matters, but it should be noted that environmental extremes have similar effects on society–it limits the size of social groups, but strengthens ties within them.  It should be noted that the Eskimos, who have lived more intimately with ice than any other human group, have a peaceful and cooperative culture.  Osborn and Longland interpret the Anglo-Saxon poem to mean that isa represents that which is static:  beautiful, but useless; the wealth that is not shared.  Paxon comments that Primal Ice can be good or evil depending on whether or not it is part of a balanced process, for action and inertia must exist in balanced tension for inner and outer health.  She also notes that isa can represent the inner stillness that is one goal of mediation and that one interacts with isa on two levels:  the outer treacherous surface that acts as a shield or barrier, and the inner view of ultimate integrity and the core of stillness.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Isa can provide connections, but it does so by first imposing a trial.  If one develops the flexibility to walk upon the ice, you can be a part of it and be one with its inner stillness–but a stillness in motion.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  In a reading, isa indicates the progress of the matter under consideration will be ‘frozen’ for the present but may ‘defrost’ later.  It may also mean that something is frozen beyond thawing.  Aswynn points out that on its own, isa is inert and simply preserves.  It is the “I”, the ego, the core of personality and the will, so she suggests using it in focusing, concentrating the will, and protecting one’s center.  As such, it is useful in magical shielding and protection and can help cool a tense situation down.  It can balance thurisaz, but requires the balancing energy of kaunaz or sowilo to change.  In divination, it can indicate a frustrating situation with no change in sight.  Gundarsson notes that it can magically be used to bind active forces, either of growth or disintegration.  It can calm confusion or hysteria and numb pain, but in excess can cause barrenness, paralyzing fear, dullness or obsession.  It can be the clarity of a cold anger–which is more dangerous than fiery rage–but it is brittle, and one should be aware of the energy that will be released when the ice breaks.  It can also be used to invoke physical cold.

Paxson’s Practice for Living Isa:  Isa is the ice rune, carrying all the connotations that implies.  To understand it, one must explore the implications for good or for ill of stillness, inertia, and rest.  It is also, by extension, a rune of winter.  To understand it, one may meditation upon the function of winter in temperate climates, killing some, but also protecting and allowing the hidden seeds time to germinate and the soil time to rest.

Thoughts on the Witches of East End Pilot

Something wicked is coming to the 2013-2014 American television season.  With both Lifetime’s Witches of East End and FX’s American Horror Story:  Coven, witches are certainly getting quite the media spotlight.  In fact, I can’t recall so much witchy TV-hype since the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, which were certainly helped out by movies like The Craft and Practical Magic.

But, if memory serves, the witchcraft community isn’t likely to respond positively to these Hollywood representations.  “It’s all lies!  Misinformation!” they’ll cry.  I can understand this.  Even I got a little techy when I saw the flaming pentagrams in Lifetime’s promotional trailer for East End.  But I hope this won’t be our only reaction.  After all, fictional witches are not and never have been real witches…and this is not a bad thing.  In fact, I think fictional witches can be a great resource for our community in creating a better understanding with the larger culture around us.  If we look back through the last thirty years or so, I think we’ll find that the years in which fictional witchcraft ‘enjoyed’ more prominence in pop culture coincides with periods of interest in and subsequent growth of our community.  It’s a truth that seeing fictional witchcraft in the media makes people curious about the ‘real witches’ they’ve heard about, and that pushes them to find out more about us.  Some turn into seekers, but more develop a greater respect for our beliefs.

I think that’s where we’ll eventually fall out with East End.  Those flaming pentacles gave me pause, but my fears were set aside right after the title card when the show proved to ultimately be a pleasant puff piece.  It’s far more concerned with love triangles, self-discovery, and the fight between good and evil than it is with contemporary Wicca.  Actually, it is to the producer’s credit that they never once called fictional witchcraft “Wicca” like, say, Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer did in the 1990s.  Quality wise, I thought the show was middling at this stage.  The pacing was incredibly rushed and I wasn’t seeing a strong cast chemistry quite yet.  The show is also no cerebral drama…but the writing enjoys some nice humor and wit, the actors do a lovely job bringing life to their own characters, the special effects are convincing, and it is evident that the photographers are really trying to use images to tell the story.  Many of the cinematographer’s shots do as much of the story telling as the script and the actors do, which is very heartening for the series’ overall quality.

Actually, the attention to visual detail really impressed me, especially with two subtle architectural homages to two of the most popular witch-related flicks of the 1990s.  The first one I noticed was the visual similarity and initial presentation of the Beauchamp house, which made me do a double take.  It’s almost identical to how the Halliwell manor was introduced in Charmed‘s pilot episode!

The Halliwell manor is pictured on the left and the Beauchamp house is on the right.

The first shot of the Halliwell manor is pictured on the left and the first shot of the Beauchamp house is on the right.

How similar are these pictures?  Not only are both houses shown at night, but they’re practically the same house.  Both share Victorian architecture, though the Halliwell’s San Francisco home is appropriately more ornate than the Beauchamp’s, which is near Long Island.  Indeed, the basic framework of the houses are almost mirror images of each other.  If the Beauchamp house didn’t have the wrap-around porch or the second-story addition on the left, they’d be perfect exterior mirrors. Even more amusing is that the two houses use similar colors and decorative details, what with the dark red siding and lighter trim and stained glass details. A further comparison of the homes in daylight really highlights their visual similarities.

The second architectural homage I noticed was a reference to Practical Magic in the Beauchamp’s kitchen.  I think this is far more than coincidental, given how iconic the Practical Magic aunts’ kitchen is.  After the movie came out, viewers were so curious about the set design and details that Victoria Magazine devoted a huge feature story (and tons of images) to it in their October 1998 issue.  More recently, a couple contracted Derek M Design to build a house inspired by the movie, and its kitchen is a near clone.  There’s just something powerful about the Practical Magic kitchen that speaks to people, and apparently the Witches of East End producers wanted a little of that magic for their own.

Practical Magic Kitchen vs Beauchamp Kitchen

The Practical Magic kitchen on left compared with the Beauchamp’s on right.

As we can see, both kitchens have prominent heavy wood details; just look at the heavy trim around the Beauchamp’s door and compare it with Practical Magic‘s beams.  Both also have darker wood floors that ground an otherwise light and airy kitchen.  Both use white cabinets with more exposed uppers, and both highlight the all-important stove with a wonderful tiled hearth in light colors.  And, of course, a huge table extends out from the stove in each.  The Beauchamp kitchen uses more trendy finishes and details than the ‘timeless’ Practical Magic kitchen, but the bones of each are the same.

I think I’m going to continue to watch East End.  I have hopes that the series will find a stronger coherence as the season progresses and become truly addictive mind candy.

Day 336: Hagal’s Aett, Naudhiz

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.

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.

Pronunciation:  “NOWD-heez”
Meaning:  Need
Supporting Meanings:  Restriction, oppression, creativity within, trials, response to stress.

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, the “N” rune is related to the Old English word nyd, meaning need or distress, and the Old Norse naudhr, which has the same meaning with an added connotation of restraint.  The idea in the Scandinavian verses is that naudhiz takes away choice, especially in the social realm where it leaves nothing but oppression and endless hard work.  They relate to man’s inability to control his environment, and the almost hopeless work ahead when he tries to do so.  The Anglo-Saxon poem is a little more hopeful.  While it does not deny the distressfulness of need, it suggest that its constraints have something to teach those who understand them.  It counsels the sufferer to let himself be toughened by adversity.

Modern Meanings:  Edred Thorsson maintains that naudhiz is the thesis and antithesis whose resistance to each other shapes the fate of the world:  it is both trouble and deliverance.  It is the friction that makes the fire.  Freya Aswynn relates the rune to the concept of debth and the fine paid in attempt to compensate for a crime.  This aspect of debt also connects naudhiz to the idea of karma.  Gundarsson states that naudhiz can be used to give strength to meet and overcome trials, and can help one deal with stress.  It is a rune of the inner stresses that can either drive an individual to greatness or destroy him.  It can cause compulsive behaviors or obsessions in its more negative aspects.  Paxon notes that the concept of need in naudhiz resembles the Greek concept of Ananke–or necessity, as discussed by James Hillman.  It’s root involves concepts of constraint and narrowing, or the factors in life that cannot be escaped.  However, this constraint can have a creative function.  This suggests that one way to deal with this necessity is to use it to identify our own deepest needs and purposes, to find out who we really are.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Need can be restrictive, but it can also provide the constrictions that engender great creativity.  These limiting factors can crush our spirits, but they can also provide the infrastructure to allow us to achieve greatness, depending on our self-awareness and karma.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  In readings, naudhiz can indicate problems that weigh on the spirit; frustrations, blocks, and constraints that can become helpful if properly used.  The problem may be an opportunity for change and growth.  The need may also be for action.  Osborn and Longland call it a change rune, the necessity for transformation.  Magically, Gundarsson feels that naudhiz is the rune of banishings and cleansing by fire and can imbue other spells with the force of necessity.  He suggests that when doing rune reading or other divination, it should be drawn on the forehead or over the runes to strengthen their link with destiny.

Paxson’s Practice for Naudhiz:  Studying Naudhiz provides a great opportunity to take stock of your life.  List the things you need.  List the changes that must occur if you are to get them.  And while you are on the subject, look back at your life and try to understand the forces that put you where you are today.  What fate, in terms of heredity and environment, was wished upon you at your birth?  How has your background bound you?  How have you transformed or transcended it?  Ponder the relationship between fate and free will.

Day 335: Hagal’s Aett, Hagalaz

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.

Pronunciation:  “HA-ga-lahz”
Meaning:  Hail
Supporting Meanings:  Creation, destruction, microcosm in macrocosm, pattern

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, the old Germanic hagalaz, the Old English haegl, and the Old Norse hagall all mean the same thing:  a hailstone, an old kenning for which is “ice egg” or seed of ice.  This is an image which is reflected in all the rune poems where hagalaz is variously described as “the whitest of grain”, “cold grain,” and “the coldest grain”.  The Anglo-Saxon poem views hail with an edge of optimism:  it eventually melts into water, which–of course–feeds the land.  The Icelandingcpoem, however, views it with more destruction and pairs it with biting sleet and “sickness of serpents.”  The Norwegian rune poem says only “Christ created the primaeval world” after noting that hail is the coldest grain, which apparently connects creation with ice.  Hagalaz might then be the seed of ice, or the primal crystal around which all the rest formed.

Modern Meanings:  Edred Thorssonsays that hagalaz is the cosmic ice egg, or the stuff from which the world was made.  Its sting is like fire, and so it is both the cosmic harmony of fire and ice.  Osborn and Longland stress hagalaz’s qualities of contradiction and transformation:  it is both solid and liquid and changes between the two.  Kveldulf Gundarssonnotes that the six-sided matrix of an ice crystal is the same as that of a perfect quartz, so it can be a “seed-pattern of shaping” and for focusing and controlling energy much as quartz is.  Freya Aswynn views Hagalaz as an underworld rune and connects it with the goddess Hella and her eponymous realm.  In this interpretation, hagalaz is connected with Holle, the mother of winter, who shakes snowflakes from her feather bed.  It also connects hagalaz to Urdh, the past.  Aswynn also connects hagalaz to the Old Dutch word haegtessa, or the witch hag, who had weather-working powers.  At any rate, the contradictions are fascination.  For all the talk of hail being a seed of creation, rural peoples know it is a destructive phenomenon, for it can flatten crops and doom communities to sudden famine.  Hagalaz is as two-faced as the goddess Hella, whose realm was both freezing Hell and the glorious Summerlands.  Paxson remarks that death and rebirth are inextricably linked in Norse theology, and the pattern of hagalaz shows us the road to destruction or renewal.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Hagalaz is a double-edged sword.  It can be cold destruction and battery, or it can be a seed of generation–constructive energy coalesced.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  Many of the Rune authors feel that when hagalaz is used in magic, it indicates some sort of disruption.  Aswynn says it brings blight and destruction and thwarts preparations for change.  Sibly sees it as a rune of disaster, unless it appears with jera, where its meaning is more likely to be that of the seed.  Peterson says hagalaz indicates the disruptive forces of nature or predicts setbacks beyond one’s control, which means the querant needs to understand what is happening in order to take mitigating actions.  Willis says that hagalaz’s appearance means one should live within the limitations of nature and accept those events which are beyond human control.  Paxon concludes by noting that for her, the rune signals “Watch out, change is coming” and that for all hagalaz’s potential for chaos, it has many possibilities for new beginnings and can indicated something that may change from harmful to helpful depending on changing perceptions.

Paxson’s Practice for Hagalaz:  The most direct way to make contact with Hagalaz’s forces is to experience a hailstorm.  This isn’t to say you have to wait to study hagalaz until a hailstorm crops up, or even that you should go outside when one occurs.  (Indeed, this does have the potential to be fatal, depending on how large the hail is and whether or not the storm precedes something like a tornado!)  Instead, spend time remembering what it was like the last time you were in one–the clatter or the stones as they struck the roof and the ground, the rips of leaves as they crashed through trees.  The stings they left as they struck your skin.  If you have a hailstone available for examination, view it under a magnifying glass or microscope.  Contemplating the 6-fold nature of snowflakes might also be useful here.  Despite their destructiveness, hailstones are part of a larger pattern and they are themselves microcosms of a pattern.  What are the patterns of your life, and how do you relate to the energies of the 6 directions?

Hagalaz as it appears in the Younger Futhark (and so in the Icelandic and Norse rune poems).  It is more like a snowflake.

Hagalaz as it appears in the Younger Futhark (and so in the Icelandic and Norse rune poems). It is more like a snowflake.

Day 334: Day of Silence and Review

Today, as you observe silence, focus your attention on your intuitive process.  Listen to the small voice that tells you to turn left instead of right.  Listen to the messages of crows and floor-creaks.  Pay attention to what the snow crunching beneath your feet is saying to you.  Spend time tuning into the energies of the planet.  Take some time at various points throughout the day to write down whatever intuitive messages cross your mind.  When the day is complete, answer these questions:

  • What was it like to focus my attention on my intuition?
  • Do I trust my intuitive mind?  Why?  Why not?
  • Could I substantiate any of my intuitions today?
  • How does intuition inform me throughout my usual day?
  • Is there anything that seems to affect my intuition?
  • How does my intuition seem to interact with my senses, my thoughts, and emotions?

Take time to ask yourself the following:

  • Of the information I have learned up to now, what stands out as vital?
  • What information seems least relevant to my spiritual development?
  • Which of the practices seemed to move me spiritually, and which had little impact?
  • Of the information I have learned so far, what would be best to review?  (Take time to do so now.)

This seems to be a running theme…but constantly paying attention to intuition is hard!  It definitely counters a well-planned day.  I’d initially planned to spend the day doing work, but intuition told me to ‘knock off’ and spend the day outside, taking walks and just enjoying experience.  It guided my steps.  I usually just walk around my neighborhood or go down to a local park, but this time I went to a wooded, wild area and found myself experiencing a lot more “nature” than I have in a long, long time.  Oddly enough, the experience filled up a reservoir in me that I hadn’t realized had gone dry.  When I came back home, I had a lot more patience and tolerance for the random quibbles of my housemates, and when I did finally sit down to accomplish some work, I actually did it–no rambling for hours on Facebook or frittering with my e-mail.  Just solid, good work.

I don’t know that I entirely trust my intuitive mind.  It took a lot of effort on my part to allow myself to follow it, and I think I sublimate its urges more than I should.  But when I do indulge it, I feel better.  More “right.”

Really all that I’ve accomplished since the last day of silence was a lot of Tarot and a little bit of runes.  I actually do think the Tarot work was important.  When I spent a few days figuring out cards that had always stumped me (like the Star, Temperance, and lots of the cards in between), I seemed to learn more about what a spiritual journey entails.  Scrying…well, it’s definitely not my preference.  I have to practice that more, I think, in order to get over my impulse of blocking my intuition.

Day 333: Devotional Day, Honoring Odin

Odin hanging from the World Tree and receiving the wisdom of the runes.  I wish I knew who the artist was--his/her work is amazing!

Odin hanging from the World Tree and receiving the wisdom of the runes. I wish I knew who the artist was–his/her work is amazing!

I have to admit, the Norse pantheon has never really called to me.  I’m willing to entertain the notion that this is because I only really learned anything about it in adulthood, so I never had a child’s fascination and internal story-telling with this group of Gods.  I do know that he does have some Mercurial connections in that he is a guide of souls.  This is apparently why Wednesday (Odin’s day) is the English name for Mercury’s day in Romance languages (miércoles, Mercoledì, etc.).

One facet of Odin is as an intellectual God:  he commands both magic and poetry and is very interested in language and knowledge.  This connects with the story we’ve already encountered where he hung upside down on the World Tree for nine days and nights, “myself sacrificed to myself” in order to bring up the runes–language–from the well of Mimir.  He also sacrificed an eye at Mimir’s spring in order to gain the Wisdom of Ages.  With the physical trials Odin put himself through, he thereby has some connection with shamanism, and contemporary Norse shamanic practitioners today view Odin as their archetypal figure.

But Odin is largely an ambivalent figure.  He’s connected with fury, madness, and wandering as much as he is with knowledge.  He’s also a God of War and is repeatedly described as a bringer of victory.  He’s also associated with trickery and cunning.

Unfortunately, without a great deal of research, I just don’t feel all that comfortable saying much about Odin or trying to figure out his energy.  Roderick seems mostly interested in working with Odin’s shamanic side.  He writes that some of Odin’s correspondences are the world-tree, the spear, and the runes and that his tools are living trees and the runes.  His magical essences include black pepper, clove, hops, aconite, fly agaric, jimson weed, henbane, hemlock, and wolfbane (basically, hallucinogens).  His direction is south and he rules enlightenment, inner vision, and deep insight.  His animals are the raven and the wolf, and his sacred foods include all root vegetables, tree-ripened fruit, and ail.  His stone is bone.

Odin Practice
In honoring Odin today, make an altar that includes his sacred symbols.  Light appropriately colored candles and intone his name, one syllable at a time (pronounced OH-din), until you feel his presence surrounding you.  Once he has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Take time to ask Odin what it would mean to live life through his energy, and listen for his answer.

Spend the day honoring this god by consulting the runes for yourself and for someone else.

Well, I really don’t have many items connecting to any of the symbols Roderick gave, so I decided to not build an altar.  Instead, I grabbed an apple and a bottle of beer and climbed a tree!  Once I got settled in a little “cup” of branches, I poured Odin out a measure of the beer and set aside a section of apple for him, and I shared his snack.

Let me tell you what:  trees are not near as comfortable as I remember them being from my childhood.  I can definitely see why hanging from one would be a trial.  I could not settle.  After five minutes of sitting in one position, I’d realize a branch was pushing on my back uncomfortably, or my butt was starting to go numb, or the bark was scratching up my arms.  I don’t think I lasted more than 20 minutes.

Odin’s pretty hardcore…at least I learned that much.

Day 332: Contemplative Day, Where Are the Gods?

Meditative Question:  In what realm is deity found?
Symbolic Color:  White
Symbolic Direction:  Center

Where on earth are the gods?  That’s a good question.  Nobody knows; that’s because knowing is not the same as feeling and experiencing.  It may take you some time before you see what is hidden in plain view.  It is through this question that seekers are able to access the realm of deity to awaken their spiritual and magical abilities.

Remember that it is advisable to work with each of these inner-mystery contemplations while sitting within the center of your magic circle.  As usual, find a comfortable meditative sitting position in the center of your circle.  Light a white candle and sit approximately two feet away from the flame.  Cast your gaze upon the flickering candle and hold the question firmly for 20-30 minutes.  Close the circle, but retain the question throughout the day.  Soon you will find the gods’ realm.

Have you ever held two magnets together?  When you put the ends with the same polarity next to each other, you can feel a strong, invisible force pushing the two ends apart.  But when you put complementing poles next to each other, they fly together.  Only stronger forces anchoring the magnets can hold them apart.

I think that we exist in the space between the magnets.  I feel the Goddess beneath my feet and the God above me, and all the life that occurs on the planet’s surface is the interface between their magnets:  the energy that pulls them together.  It’s this pull I feel most strongly when I ground.

But part of my grounding is centering–finding that still, quiet place within myself.  I think that the Gods are here, too.  They play in their interface of life just as much as they do in their own realms.  Maybe that’s why we feel their pull.

Within and Without.  Above, Below, and Center.