Rings 5-22: The Golden Runes

Then I was fertilized and became wise;

I truly grew and thrived.

From a word to a word I was led to a word,

From a work to a work I was led to a work.

(Hávamál, the Poetic Edda)

The Runes are the written letters that were used by the Norse and other Germanic peoples before the adoption of the Latin alphabet in the later Middle Ages.  The word rune means a secret or a whisper.  It comes from the Indo-European root ru or rue, which means to sound or cry out, to vibrate or Roar. Just like our modern romantic letters are called the Alphabet the pre-Christian runic sets of letters are called the Futhark. 

There are three different Futharks, The Elder, The Younger, and the Anglo-Saxon). Each of these Futharks have rune poems. These are some of the basic source materials for understanding and working with the runes. Below are the Anglo-Saxon rune poems for the 16 runes of the younger futhark in modern and Old English.  I’ve included the spellings for both the Elder Futhark, the Younger, and the Anglo-Saxon (in that order).  The Old-English Rune Poems were likely written in the 8th or 9th century.  When reading these poems notice the alliteration that is used in each line of the Old-English version.  Variations of the runic syllables are worked into the poem.  I imagine the poems being chanted or sung in order to invoke the power of the rune itself.  All vowels create alliteration with each other.

The first year in the runic calendar is marked by the first rune, Fé or Fehu.  This is the Rune of material wealth manifested in all ways, but most fundamentally through sound. The movement of the hours, of the days, of the weeks, months, years and so on are at its core a dance between lightness and darkness. It is a dance of being and becoming, giving and receiving, living and dying, lucky and unlucky, good and evil.  Nothing expresses this dance more intrinsically then sound.  Many traditions throughout the world teach that our world was spoken, chanted, and sung into existence.  In the Norse tradition the universe was made from the body of Ymer whose name becomes Örgälmer, which means primal load noise.

The runes represent the most powerful creative forces in the cosmos. The Poetic Edda tells us that the three Norns, who dwell below Yggdresil, carve runes into its roots in order to carry their intentions and influence to all nine worlds.  Odin saw the power the Norns wielded with their knowledge of the runes and he wanted that power or himself.  In order to get it he hung from Yggdresil for nine days and nine nights, staring down into the waters below until finally, on the verge of death, the Runes were reveled to him.

When learning the runes, I suggest coming to them with an air of respect and reverence and paying attention to which one(s) come to meet you.  Which ones linger in your mind, or spark an immediate truth or insight?  These are the runes that are ready to be in relationship with you.  Rather then working to learn the runes one by one in a linear fashion, learn them as they reveal themselves to you.  Use patience and perseverance.  Spend time singing or chanting their name and various alliterative forms of the fist syllable, particularly the alliterations that show up in the rune poem.  For example with Feyu, you could chant Fe Fro Fu Fi, the four alliterations of the first line of the poem.  Or learn the whole line itself, or the whole poem and chant or sing that. 


Titchenell, The Masks of Odin, Wisdom of the Ancient Norse. Theosophical University Press, 1985

Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda. Gylfaginning 49

· Hollander. The Poetic Edda. University of Texas Press. 1962

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