Marnie Tunay’s Rune Page


“Gurdjieff gave new life and practical form to ancient teachings of both East and West.” source:

…..He coined the word ‘legominism’ to reference ‘packets’ of “objective knowledge” con-cerning humankind’s possibilities for spiritual growth and transformation, which were passed down from generation to generation in forms designed to keep them out of the hands of those who would abuse the knowledge or destroy it.

I believe that what is called the Elder Futhark of runes is one such legominism, and, moreover, that there are correspondences between that twenty-four term set and another set, namely:  the twenty-four “laws” set out by John G. Bennett ‘The Dramatic Universe,’ which, according to him, govern the world “where human existence is balanced between ‘facts’ and ‘values,’ where Will, Being and Function are related in various ways in complex entities called “self-hood.”  [Bennett, p. 154]

I think the runes themselves, given as they were, within the context of a particular cultural back-ground, together with the names, which referenced aspects of that culture, were intended to foster spiritual growth in humans, as symbols of ordering agents.  A great deal, perhaps most, of the knowledge concerning runes has been lost or corrupted.               I present here some fragments of what remains, as gathered by some of the best minds in the field of rune research.

I hope that, in making a connection here between those fragments and the ideas of John Bennett, new avenues of exploration with respect to both may be opened up for some.  The correlation between the 24 symbols of the Elder Futhark and the 24 ‘acts of will’ set out in Bennett’s schema for the ‘world of selves’ is my own work, and I consider it to be one of the few truly original thoughts I have ever had.


Ruthwell Cross in Scotland south face photo RuthwellCrossinScotlandsouthface.jpg The Ruthwell Cross in Scotland by, creative attribution license

Kylver Stone from Gotland, Sweden photo KylverStonefromGotlandSweden.pngThe Kylver Stone from Gotland Sweden, circa 400 CE, original courtesy of  “The slab of limestone measures 105 x 75 cm in size.”  (Spurkland, p. 1)  [That’s 41.5 inches x 29.5 inches.]

With respect to the primary extant source for information about the Elder Futhark runic concepts, namely, the ‘Anglo Saxon’ or ‘Old English’ rune poem, Maureen Halsall con-tends that “the author of the Rune Poem recognized in the futhorc an opportunity to compose a poem about the temporal world in which he lived and its relationship to the eternal world in which he hoped and believed.  The poet must have been well aware of the fact that his proposed task would prove very demanding.  The rune names, as he knew them, were both heterogeneous and uncompromisingly secular in meaning, perhaps even still tinged by the pagan past; and their traditional order imposed rigorous constraints on his freedom to develop his theme.  Yet the poet was prepared to take up the challenge of forging all this mass of inherited rune lore into a Christian unity; and in my view he had considerable success.”  [Halsall, p. 56]

Background on the Elder Futhark and the Rune Names

The Kylver Stone from Gotland, Sweden, tentatively dated back to 400 CE [AD], is the oldest known epigraphical record of the ‘Elder Futhark,’ “the letters of the oldest runic ‘alphabet’” [Spurkland, p. 02, 05]  The rune-row is named after its first six signs.  And “no theory that can satisfy the demands of linguistics has ever been advanced to explain why the Germanic peoples chose” that particular sequence.  [Spurkland, p. 06 – 07]  Terje Spurkland believes that the Elder Futhark originated in “Proto-Scandinavian, which was spoken and written in Scandinavia, in the period AD 200 to 500. [ibid, p. 07]  For the most part, each letter in the Elder Futhark stood for one sound, with the exception of two letters:  the ‘Ing’ Rune:

and the ‘yew-tree’ rune:

[I take the names for the Elder Futhark as given by R.I.Page in ‘Introduction to English Runes, p. 65 – 75, unless otherwise noted.]

Terje Spurkland suggests that the ‘yew-tree’ rune, the original sound of which is not cer-tain, may be a survival from an even older stage of the language, [Spurkland, p. 07], which would have significant implications for the age of the Elder Futhark, if true…

However, as Michael Barnes points out [Barnes, p. 57]:  “If the acrophonic principle had been strictly applied, none of [the ‘wunjo, ‘yew-tree,’ ‘eh’ or ‘Ing’ runes] would have preserved their original values.”  Barnes develops his argument in detail on pages 57 – 58.  Since nobody’s exactly sure what particular sound(s) the ‘yew-tree’ rune stood for, I’m not sure how well his argument applies there, but I take his point in particular for the ‘wunjo’ and ‘eh’ runes, (which I address later, in the section for the ‘gyfu’ rune, as it happens.)

Wunjo Rune

 Eh Rune

There’s not a whole lot of epigraphical evidence for the rune names outside of the medieval rune poems; nevertheless, Michael Barnes cites “eight instances of etymological and (bas-ic) semantic correspondence between the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian rune names…” as an indication of the “antiquity of the rune names (unless we are to assume the one trad-ition was heavily influenced by the other – for which there is no evidence.)”  [ibid, p. 161]  Ray Page states that there are eleven cases in which a comparison of the English and Scan-dinavian rune-names shows that “the names in the two tongues agree adequately in form and meaning.”  [Page (1) p. 76]

Stentoften Runestone photo StentoftenRunestone.jpg

The Stentoften rune-stone circa 7th cent. CE from Blekinge, south-eastern Sweden, picture by, creative attribution license

Michael Barnes develops a cogent argument on pages 25, 30 and 161 that the Stentoften rune-stone is a clear example of an older-futhark inscription in which a rune (‘yera,’ ‘harvest,’) stands for the rune-name itself and not merely a letter.

Yera Rune

Terje Spurkland states that “Runes are thought to have been established some time around the birth of Christ or in any case in the first century…” [Spurklandp. 51] and, that “the driving force behind the origin of the runes was the need to be able to communicate in writing.” [ibid, p. 45].  Ray Page agrees that “Clearly the inventors of runes cannot have worked later than the first century A.D., and they are usually placed some-what earlier.”  [Page (1), p. 105]  Michael Barnes states:  “In recent years it has been increasingly argued that the whole writing system must be taken into account when considering the origins of a particular script, not merely the characters that make it up.  Following that line of thinking, archaic greek [sic] writing from around 400 B.C. has been identified as a likely source of the runes…” [Barnes, p. 13]  He goes on to make out the case for that theory, and then points out that “Twenty-two of the twenty-four runes appear to denote distinctive sounds of what is confidently assumed to have been the phonological system of most forms of Germanic around the beginning of the Christian era…” [ibid, p. 13]  He then suggests that the first of the two exceptions to that case, the ‘yew-tree’ rune and the ‘Ing’ rune, may have originally denoted “a vowel rather like that in English cat…” which would “take the creation of runes well back into the BC era.” [ibid, p. 13]  Barnes states that “The oldest runic inscriptions that can be (reasonably) reliably dated are from AD 150 – 200” but that “these are unlikely to be the very earliest, however, since they are spread over a wide area of northern and eastern  Europe.” [ibid, p. 2 – 3]

Elmer Antonsen argues that “the presence of the 6th vowel-rune , , in the fuþark” can be explained “on the basis of linguistic evidence;” saying, “….it is apparent that the runes   and   originally represented only short vowels, since their names begin with short vowels.  Had they also been the designations for long vowels, their names would have begun with a long vowel, as is true of the runes    and  , and is still true for letters of the alphabet in the West European tradition…  There is therefore an exact fit between the vowel system of Proto-Germanic and the orthographic system provided by the fuþark.  This must mean that runic writing arose during the Proto-Germanic period**, that is, well before our earliest runic records.”  [Antonsen, p. 46 – 47]  He then goes on to set out “yet further evidence pointing to the origin of runic writing in the Proto-Germanic period” related to linguistic changes.”  [ibid, p. 47 – 50]  He puts forward data suggesting that the earliest runic “alphabet” is “closely related to the Greek And Roman alphabets of the Mediterranean world.”  [ibid, p. 49, 93 – 116]

**  Antonsen doesn’t think to define what he means by ‘Proto-Germanic,’ which is really unfortunate, because “Estimates of when Proto-Germanic became a distinct language vary considerably.”  [Sheffield, p. 4]  “There is general agreement, however, that, by the begin-ning of the Nordic Iron Age around 600 B.C.E, the inhabitants of southern Scandinavia were speaking a language that can reasonably be termed Proto-Germanic.”  [ibid]

Michael Barnes does not dismiss Antonsen’s idea outright.  He says:  “The case that leads Antonsen (and his pupil Morris — cf. Morris 1988) to move the origin of runic writing back to near the middle of the first millennium B.C. is cogently argued and by no means without interest.”  However, “It founders not because of its artificiality but because of the dearth of runic inscriptions between the supposed period of origin and A.D. c. 160, and the lack of a trail of such inscriptions leading from the Mediterranean northwards towards Scandinav-ia.”  And, “My complaint against Antonsen and Morris is rather that they have been unwil-ling to engage with the reasonable criticisms their proposal about the high age of the fuþark has attracted.”  [Barnes (2), p. 24]

For more on theories concerning runic origins, see appendix I:  The Origins of the Runes, here:

Ray Page makes out the best case of the authors I refer to here, in my opinion, for the uses of runes in his chapter “How to Use Runes,” in ‘An Introduction to English Runes.’  He thinks it “probable that the Anglo-Saxons used runes quite extensively in all three” “pur-poses for which runes were used:  monumental inscriptions, practical correspondence and general use, witchcraft.” [Page (1), p. 114]  Page further states that at least in medieval Iceland if not indeed in all of medieval Scandinavia there was a “tradition that associated intimately runic letters and magical or supernatural powers.” [ibid, p. 110]  Runic sticks found after 1955 in Bergen, Norway show the Futhark script was “used for passing every-day messages as a practical means of communication” with “profound” implications for medieval literacy.  [ibid, p. 97]

Professor Page was “prepared to accept that runes were sometimes used to enhance magi-cal activities and even to suspect that they may sometimes have been a magical script, or at least an esoteric one that could be used in magical practices, without wanting to think them essentially magical during the Anglo-Saxon era, or to interpret all difficult or obscure texts in magical terms.”  [Page (1), p. 13 – 14]  Michael Barnes allows that “There is cert-ainly evidence that runes and magic were connected in the popular mind, not least in Iceland” [Barnes, p. 194]; but also states that “While there is some evidence from parti-cular times and places that certain people acquainted with runes believed [they had magi-cal or healing or divinatory powers], there is no indication that those who created the runic characters or the majority of those who used them ever thought in such terms.” [ibid, p. 8]

John Bennett’s ‘Laws of Self-hood’ as Acts of Will

“The triad is the simplest multi-term system in which mutuality and relatedness begin to show their deep significance for understanding ourselves and the world in which we live… Understanding has been defined, in Book I, as the subjective aspect of Will.  Whereas knowledge can described by the two-term system of ‘knower and known,’ understanding is a relationship that involves the exercise of a power that is distinct from the functional ord-er.  Understanding is thus a three-term property, recognizable in such a system as ‘self – situation – decision,’ where the three terms are independent in nature and origin.  Under-standing is manifested in such powers as attention, choice and decision… Understanding is a power, like those of attention and choice, but far more comprehensive than these in its range of application.  Every self has a power of understanding that, in the truest sense, determines who and what he is.  Our understanding does not fluctuate like our states of consciousness.  Our powers are the measure of our will, and our will is the ability possess-ed by each one of us to participate in the Will that is our source.”  [Bennett, p. 100 – 101]

“One practical advantage to be gained from the study of Will and Laws is to open our eyes to the conditions of our present existence.  A man who lacks understanding cannot exper-ience voluntarily more than one of the forces acting on him at a given moment… The dawning of the possibility of acquiring understanding comes to the man who can open himself to the action of both the affirming and denying forces that are present in every situation.  He who can persist in this practice soon begins to acquire sensitivity to the action of the third force and ultimately to foresee its entry, and hence to ‘know the future.’

“We, as human selves, can exercise the powers latent in us for the development of under-standing and, by doing so, learn that they are the powers of Will.  We can observe and verify that so long as they remain isolated from one another, we remain blind to the true character of the Will and are liable to mistake the automatic reactions of ‘our’ functions for acts of ‘our’ will.  Man can have no will of his own until, through understanding, he has brought his powers into an inner relationship that can respond to the various manifesta-tions of the Triad.”  [ibid, p. 101 – 102]

“Our present task of intellectual analysis cannot take the place of the experience that only the endless variety of situations in life can bring us.  Although understanding requires the perception of triadic relationships, it must not be assumed that such perception can be recognized by the mind.  The mental associative apparatus, commonly referred to as ‘the mind of man,’ has not the power of apprehending triads.  Nevertheless, such apprehension may be present in some higher part of the self, without mental awareness either of its pres-ence or its nature.  Hence it can occur that a man who has never heard of triads, but who has attentively contemplated the variety of situations created by life, can acquire under-standing,…….  and with it the power to choose and decide his actions, while a trained thinker may be unable to pass from knowing to understanding.

Understanding can grow spontaneously by sensitivity to the presence in all situations of the Reconciling Impulse.  Nevertheless, a theoretical study of triads can be an aid to the right interpretation of their operation as we meet it in our direct experience.”  [ibid, p. 102 – 103]

The numbers John Bennett uses to symbolize the laws of “World 24,” the world of ‘self-hood,’ balanced between the material and the spiritual dimensions of existence:  1 – representing what he calls the ‘affirming’ impulse; 2 – representing the ‘receptive’ or ‘denying’ impulse; 3 – representing the ‘reconciling’ force.  The * character after one of the numbers indicates an impulse that is ‘conditioned’ by external exigencies, i.e. an impulse that is not wholly of the essence in its nature.


On the Futhark Division into Aettir:

The distinctive division of the runes into ‘aettir,’ ‘groups’ or ‘families,’ by Scandinavian rune-masters, dates at least as far back as 500 CE.  [Page, ‘Introduction to English Runes, p. 83]  Professor Page gives a detailed discussion on the division and its later significance for “code runes” on pages 82 – 83, together with a detailed look at epigraphical examples on pages 84 – 88.  “The Scandinavians continued to divide their rune-row into aettir even in later times when it had been reduced from twenty-four to sixteen characters…” [Page, ibid, p. 82]

Thames Scramasax photo Thamesscramasax.pngThe Seax of Beagnoth (also known as the Thames Scramasax), courtesy of, released into the public domain

The ninth-century single-bladed knife known as the Thames scramasax has the only known epigraphical inscription showing the expanded 28-lettered rune-row of the later Anglo-Saxon runic period.  It does not show the Scandinavian division of the rune letters into aettir, and neither do “most of the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts that describe runes.” [Page, ibid, p. 82]

The Vadstena Bracteate, courtesy of  “The bracteate was stolen in 1938 from the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities and has not yet been found.” source:  “The Vadstena (Sweden) bracteate has the inscription tuwatuwa followed by the [Elder Futhark]. [The Danish runologist A. Baeksted] admits tuwatuwa to be magical, but not the [futhark], apparently explain-ing the latter as a meaningless text… But it is hard to see why an inscription beginning with a magical charm should end with a meaningless sequence of letters.” [Page, (3) p. 109]

The Vadstena Bracteate, circa 450 – 550 A.D  [Page (1), p. 82], is one of “the earliest exam-ples yet found” [ibid] of the Scandinavian division of the Elder Futhark into three groups of eight letters each, called ‘aettir,’:  the groups are separated by vertical pairs of points.

The 10th century Old English runic manuscript, British Library MS  Cotton Domitian ix, on the other hand, is one of the very few Anglo-Saxon manuscripts to show an overt aware-ness of the tripartite runic division:  “The scribe who drew the futhorc… put a single point between individual letters, but two in vertical line before ‘h’ and three before ‘t,’ showing that he too recognised the aettir.”  [ibid]

Manuscript Image: BL Cotton Domitian ix, fol. 11: 11v

With respect to the Old English [aka Anglo-Saxon] rune poem and the aettir divisions, Maureen Halsall says:  “the reader wonders why a poet capable of writing eight consecutive uniform three-line stanzas on a variety of different subjects should suddenly switch to two-line hypermetric stanzas for numbers IX and X, back to the earlier three-line norm for four more stanzas, and then to four-line stanzas (interspersed with three-line stanzas) for numbers XV, XVIII-XXII, and XXV, culminating in a five-line stanza for number XXIV… It is interesting to note…. that these irregularities occur in patterns that follow the boundaries of the ancient tripartite groupings of the Germanic Futhark and of both Old English and Norse descendants… “  [Halsall, p. 50 – 51]

Halsall goes on to discuss the metrical divisions in detail, saying:  “all [of the first eight stanzas] are three lines in length… Then the opening of the [second group of eight] stan-zas… is marked unmistakeably as a new beginning  by the crowded hypermetric lines of stanzas IX and X.  After this, the poet returns to his previous three-line norm for the mid-dle four stanzas of the [second] group.  Next he breaks the sequence with a single four-line stanza, to be followed after two more stanzas by a run of five four-line stanzas; the two intervening three-line stanzas thrust into prominence in this way deal with the final rune of the second group, sigel (sun), and the first rune of the third group, tīr (the name of a star).                                                                                                                                                   “After the tīr stanza, the bulk of the remainder of the third traditional group…. consists, as previously noted, of five four-line stanzas.  When the stanza length reverts to three lines again, the effect is to emphasize by contrast the two final runes of the original Germanic Futhark…”  [Halsall, p. 52]

After her analysis of the final five stanzas in the Old English extended futhorc, Halsall concludes that:  “While the scheme of varying stanza lengths described above results in a poem that lacks stanzaic symmetry, it seems quite likely that it is the result of deliberate planning.  The author of the Old English Rune Poem appears to have seized upon the traditional divisions of the futhorc as cues for appropriate places to create metrical effects that would readers into continued alertness, thus maintaining our interest in both the form and the content of his twenty-nine riddling definitions of the runes.”  [ibid]

The late tenth-century Anglo-Saxon (Old English) rune poem, as it appears in George Hickes’ Thesaurus, 1705


The Futhark Aettir and Runic Cryptography:

The St. Gall [SG] MS 270, as well as four other continental manuscripts, also include a text on runic cryptography [the so-called isruna tract], all four varieties of which “proceed from the same principle:  the Germanic fuþark was divided into three sections or groups of eight runes (cf.p. xviii). Each rune could be defined by two figures:  one indicating the group to which it belonged, the other its place in the group…”  [Derolez, p. 89]

“The isruna tract is a systematic account of runic cryptography founded on a peculiarity of the OGmc. fuþark, viz. the division of that alphabet into three groups of eight runes.  In the later English tradition, the new runes seem to have formed a croup by themselves.  Secret writing on this basis may have existed at an early date, but it was probably develop-ed on the model of the Old Irish ogham and it cryptographic variants.  The systems des-cribed in the tract may have been invented in England… but the names of the last three are at least translated into OHG., and there can be no doubt that the text in its present form was written on the Continent… At an early date a somewhat modernized version reached the lower Rhine area… and from there a new edition came to Salzburg in the tenth centur-y.  The text describes four types of cryptography and one of secret signalling.  This last is found only in the St. Gall and the Brussels versions; it remained in use at St. Gall for at least two centuries.  It does not seem to be based on the fuþorc, but rather on the Latin alphabet.  The four other devices first indicate the group to which the rune belongs, then its place in that group.”  [ibid, p. 161]

“It is hardly possible to decide when this last type of cryptography originated.  The possib-ility of such cryptography existed as soon as the fuþark had been divided into groups of runes.  Our earliest evidence does not seem to reach farther back than the sixth century:  the fuþarks on the bracteates of Grumpan and of Vadstena into three sections of eight runes…”   [Derolez, p. 138 – 139]

“The manuscript context of the [St. Gall isruna tract] is “worth noting.  This handy codex may well have been a teacher’s manual (1).  It contains matters to be taught in the later stages of the trivium (dialectics, rhetoric),  and also for the quadrivium (music).  Of course we cannot infer from this situation that the cryptic systems explained in the tract were actually taught in class.  P. 52 being the last page of a quire, the text on the runes may simply have been considered as a stopgap.  On the other hand, a magister with a sense of paedagogics may well have used it to relieve a dull stretch in his course, e.g. in connexion [sic] with the Greek numerals.  A comparison with the Brussels and Vatican manuscripts shows that we probably have to favour the latter possibility.”  [ibid, p. 94]



Regarding the Rune Names:

It’s my belief that the contents of all three of the so-called ‘Rune Poems:’ the ‘Old English’ or ‘Anglo-Saxon’ poem, the ‘Old Icelandic poem’ and the ‘Norwegian Rune poem,’ as well as “the ninth- and tenth-century Continental and English manuscripts” that are the “ear-liest direct evidence” for the rune names [Barnes, p. 21], originated in insights regarding the runes as symbols for ordering agents with respect to energies and attention in human selves.

“For a third feature of the fuþark we have no direct epigraphical evidence at all.  Yet there can be no doubt that it goes back to the first centuries of runic writing.  Each rune had a name, usually a word (either a common noun or a proper name) beginning with the sound indicated by the name… The runes were not only abstract sound-symbols such as we are used to, but they had also something of ideograms.  They were learned and called by their names.  When the initial sound of such a name was affected by a phonetic change, the value of the rune itself was affected… Only two rune names make an exception to the acrostic principle, i.e. the principle that the rune-name begins with the sound indicated by the rune:  nos. 15 and 22…”  [Derolez, p. xviii]

In his ‘Runica Manuscripta,’ René Derolez indicates that two of the nine continental ‘runica manuscripta’ with “English fuþorcs” have both the rune values and the rune names, and “belong to the ninth century, whilst no English fuþorc is older than the tenth.”  [Derolez, p. 3]  Those two 9th cent. continental manuscripts are Brussels MS. 9311 – 9319 and St. Gall MS 270.  [SG]   [Derolez, p. 2 – 3]

The origin of the 9th century [Derolez, p. 63, 64] Brussels MS 9311 – 9319 is unknown.  [ibid]  It bears traces of a Germanic origin [ibid, p. 64, 65] and of “an Irish ancestor.”  [ibid, p. 65]  “The fuþorc [in Brussels MS 9311 – 9319]  is not a careless addition of the probation penne* sort.  The runes are carefully, if not always skillfully drawn.”  [Derolez, p. 66]

The runes and names of the Brussels MS 9311 – 9319 are undoubtedly of English origin.  [ibid, p. 72]  “The fuþorc includes such typically English features as the runes o, j, and the additional runes; such names as os, rad, ken, inc, sigil, ti, lago, ac can only be English…”  [ibid, p. 72]  “Such translations as not, odil, dag… result from a conscious effort to substitute Continental forms for the English rune-names…”  [ibid, p. 73]

“The Anglo-Saxon names are known only from Christian times, but the Abecedarium Nordmannicum recorded the Norse ones when much of Scandinavian was still heathen…” [Page, (1) p. 67]

“The name forms themselves are fairly well attested, for there is quite a large number of lists of rune-names, and we can cross-check.  But we cannot assume that all go back to the earliest runic times in [England], nor can we expect the [Anglo Saxon] Rune Poem verses to be safe guides to the meanings of the English rune-names at all dates…” [ibid,’ p. 68]

“In general (and despite the late date from which our records of the rune-names derive) it seems likely that most of the sixteen names we can check [with both the Anglo Saxon and the Scandinavian sources] go back to Germanic ones, and the same probably applies to the names we cannot check.  It seems therefore that some twenty rune-names represent as-pects of early Germanic life important enough to be kept in mind when letters were named.”  [ibid,’ p. 76]

“In inscriptions [the rune names] occur very sparingly… There are nevertheless clear indi-cations that rune-carvers knew the names and used them as a mnemonic tool – and some-times for other purposes.” [Barnes, p. 153]

“Even in later Anglo-Saxon times rune and rune-name could remain intimately linked, with the effect that a rune could be used to represent the word that supplied its name…” [Page, (1), p. 77]

“…. there are certainly [epigraphical] inscriptions from Scandinavia, and probably from Continental Germania too, where runes are used as ideographs…” [ibid, p. 78]

“[A runic inscription dated perhaps c. 1200 from Bø Church in Telemark, Norway which begins ‘suæfnbanarmïr…’] indicates that medieval rune-carvers were familiar with a tradition by which rune names could be described in riddling ways.  Comparison of its text with those of the Rune Poems also suggests that the form of the riddles could vary.  The different versions of the Icelandic and Norwegian Poems may thus reflect diverse oral traditions rather than gradual alteration by copyists.  This could apply equally to differ-ences between the Scandinavian Poems and the English.  One can envision a world in which a large and varied stock of rune-lore circulated orally among rune-carvers, regularly subject to change and innovation…” [Barnes, p. 160]

“The oldest English name list… is from the late eighth or early ninth century… Linguistic evidence, such as it is, puts [the earliest surviving manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Runic Poem] not before the end of the tenth century; critics have suggested, on stylistic grounds only, that the poem goes back to the eighth or ninth… The earliest catalogue of Norse rune-names, without definitions occurs in [the ninth-century manuscript known as the Abecedarium Nordmannicum] …. By the ninth century the Norse rune-row had been reduced from twenty-four to sixteen characters, [known as the Younger Futhork], so that only sixteen Scandinavian rune-names are recorded.  The Norwegian and Icelandic Runic Poems are only tentatively dated, perhaps to the late twelfth-/early thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries respectively…” [Page, [1] p. 66]

“The Anglo-Saxon Runic Poem… formed the most detailed of the early accounts of the English rune-names to come down to modern times…. The poem has twenty-nine stanzas of alliterative verse, each from two to five lines long.  Each begins with a rune whose name the rest of the stanza expounds…” [Page (1), p. 63]

“… we must always keep in mind the possibility that, at some dates and under some cir-cumstances, rune-masters may have understood the rune-names in different and wider senses from those recorded in the [Anglo Saxon Rune Poem].” [Page, (1), p. 77]


On the Rune Poems:

The chapter titled ‘The Textual Background of the Rune Poem,’ in Maureen Hal-sall’s book, ‘The Old English Rune Poem:  a critical edition,’ painstakingly sets out linguistic data and a historical context to support her arguments that (i), the Old English [aka Anglo Saxon] rune poem was written “some time in the latter half of the tenth century” [ibid, p. 32], and (ii) that the rune names were probably “added to the poem by some later hand than that of the original scribe…” [ibid, p. 28]

“In spite of the late date at which the Icelandic and Norwegian Rune Poems are preserved, there is reason to believe they go back to a much earlier period – or at least that the material in them does…” [Barnes, p. 159]

“A comparison of the A and B texts of [the Icelandic Rune-Poem] shows they cannot be traced directly to a common archetype.  Though there are close resemblances and common readings, there are too many essential differences… there probably never was a definitive text; only a series of individual exploitations of a large and varied body of material.” [Page, (2),  p. 15]

Aya Maria Sofia Van Renterghem’s 2013 Master’s thesis, ‘The Anglo-Saxon Runic Poem:  A Critical Reassessment,” offers an exceptional analysis of the poem:

See also J.R. Hall’s interesting article, ‘Perspective and Wordplay in the Old English Rune Poem:’

Maureen Halsall’s book, ‘The Old English Rune Poem:  a critical edition,’ is a must-have for anyone seriously interested in the poem.  It’s very unfortunate that the University of Toronto press has allowed it go out of print.

In ‘The Icelandic Rune-Poem,’ Ray Page suggests that the purpose of the rune-poem was to present the rune-names “in riddling fashion.  When read aloud or recited from memory, the opening sound of the rune-name was given, and then its name expounded by the three periphrases which acted as riddling clues.” [Page (2), p. 15]  “The Icelandic Rune Poem presents the meaning of the name in the form of three “kennings” (poetic circumlocu-tions…)… [The texts exhibit] wide differences of wording… [and] in the order of the ken-nings…” [Barnes, p. 161]  As Ann Sheffield discusses in depth, those kennings reference various aspects of heathen mythology.

“The usual form of each verse [in the Norwegian Rune poem texts] is as follows:  the first line defines or describes the rune and contains two words that alliterate with one another.  The first word of the second line alliterates with the two alliterating words of the first line… More often [the semantic connection between the two lines] is obscure or tenuous.” [Sheffield, p. 20 – 21]   Kind of like a Norwegian version of a Zen koan, if you ask me…  “The most accessible English version [of the Norwegian Rune Poem] that provides the Old Norwegian text is included in Bruce Dickins’ Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic Peoples.”  [ibid, p. 20]  The whole shebang is available online right here:   with Dickins’ English translations of all three of the Rune Poems, as well as the original-language texts he used for his translations.

“The Norwegian Rune Poem depends principally on one version of a set of rhetorical devices that rely on the juxtaposition of apparently disparate material in order to jolt its audience into an awareness of the factors that relate the yoked subjects….”  [Clunies Ross, p. 31]



Early Uses of the Runes:

“The Bergen finds [in Norway] did a lot to correct the suspicion that [runes were merely a literary device in Scandinavia by the advent of the Middle Ages], partly by their proof that letters were in fact cut in runes and on wood during the Middle Ages, [in Norway, at any rate], partly by showing how extensively mediaeval Norwegians used the script:  on what a wide range of occasions, official, commercial, personal and magical.”  [Page, ibid, p. 98]

Bergen runestick resized photo RunestickfoundinBryggenNorwayresized.png‘Gyða segir at þú gakk heim’ ‘Gyða tells you to go home’ Rune-stick found in the Bryggen quarter of Bergen, a mediaeval mercantile town in Norway

“The early runic inscriptions are mostly very short.  They are found on loose objects:  weapons, jewels, talismans.  The general appearance of the runes, however, is usually explained as resulting from their being carved on wooden sticks.  This led automatically to the avoidance of curved lines and of horizontal lines; the former would have been harder to cut, the latter would not have been easily distinguished from the grain of the wood.  Inscriptions on wood would of course only survive in exceptionally favorable circumstanc-es.  Carving runes does not appear at first to have had a utilitarian purpose.  It is generally assumed that religious and magical factors were often decisive.  Some authors, to be sure, suppose that runes were used much like the Greek or Roman letters from which they were derived, and that the use in magic developed at a later date, or is almost negligible (1).  Since direct evidence is extremely scarce, and indirect information is often late and obs-cure, it is not very difficult to reject all religious or magical connotations.  But on the whole I believe this leaves more questions unanswered than those authors assume.”  [Derolez,  p. xvi – xvii]

“At the origin, and for quite a long time, the runes were essentially an epigraphical and non-utilitarian form of writing.  They seem not to have been used systematically for writing down law books, poetical texts, accounts, etc., or if they were, no convincing proof has come down of such usage.  Their main usefulness lay in other fields than in those of communication and recording.  It is usually assumed that they played a part in magic  :  they conveyed a special power to the inscribed object.  They protected against the evil eye, they acted as love-charms and brought victory or defeat, abundant crops or disease and misfortune.  It did not matter whether the inscription was read : as soon as it was carved, it became efficient.”  [Derolez, p. xxii – xxiii]



The Runes of the Elder Futhark:

I am introducing the Runes in the traditional ordering of the Elder Futhark, which is made up of 3 sets (aettir).

The translations I use in the main here are courtesy of Yves Kodratoff:  and  the Northvegr Foundation:  which, sadly, is no longer extant…  The “new” version of the foundation: has a wealth of Old Northern materials but virtually nothing, as of this writing (June 15, 2013) on runes.  All of the authors I have previously mentioned above have done their own translations of the rune names.  Ann Sheffield and Ray Page have done their own translations of all three of the ‘Rune Poem’ sets, the Anglo Saxon, the Old Icelandic and the Norwegian.  Moreover, in an Appendix, Ms. Sheffield not only translates the poem versions most commonly used in translations, she also translates the ‘kennings,’ or paraphrases, given in alternate manu-script versions of the poems.

But the idea here is to simply to give the reader a sense of what the Elder Futhark runes are all about, and some idea of the distinct character of each one.

The First Aettir:


Feoh Rune photo FeohRune.png


On the rune Fehu, or ‘Fe`’ from the Rune Poems:

from the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem (henceforth:  ASRP), translated by Yves Kodratoff: FEHU:  “wealth/cattle/movable property is for all a benefit, though each should share a lot, if he wants to obtain a destiny/fate [lit. ‘cast by lots’], in front of the master.”

from the Old Icelandic Rune Poem (OIRP), translated by Dan Bray (from the (old) Northvegr Foundation), together with his notes:  FE’:  “wealth is kinsmen’s strife, and ocean’s beacon(1), and grave-fish’s(2) road.”  (1) a kenning, [poetic term standing in for the name of something], for ‘gold’    (2) ‘grave-fish’ is a kenning for ‘serpent,’ and ‘serpent’s road’ is a kenning for ‘gold’

from the OIRP, translated by Northvegr Foundation* members (T/NF):  FE’:  “is kinsmen’s strife, and flood’s fire, and serpent’s path.”  gold.   war-band’s leader

*This is the old, no-longer-extant Northvegr Foundation, not the newer one under the same name.

From the Old Norse Rune Poem (ONRP), Y/DB:  “FE’ causes strife among kinsmen; the wolf feeds in the woods.”

The central significance embedded in the themes connected to the Fehu rune is that of independence.  A man – or woman – for women could and did own property in their own right in Norway and Iceland – who had cattle or gold was not beholden to or a serf to anyone.

2-3-1*  INDEPENDENCE  JGB:  ““The triad of Identity, 2-3-1*, is the power that resides in the Self-hood to unite with the Individuality.  It can be called the Law of Independence.  By the presence of an essential reconciling impulse within the triad, the ‘I’ has in posse [in potentia] the powers the Individuality has in esse [in being, actually existing].  The powers are not in the Self-hood ready-made, as it were, but require to be born and developed…”  [Bennett, p. 166]

Havamal verses 75 – 78 form a mini-homily on the material and spiritual significance of ‘personal wealth:’

“(75)  He knoweth nothing knoweth not, either, how wealth may warp a man’s wit; one hath wealth when wanteth another, though he bear no blame himself.

(76)  Cattle die and kinsmen die, thyself eke [too] will die; but fair fame will fade never, I ween, for him who wins it.

(77)  Cattle die and kinsmen die, theyself eke soon will die; one thing, I wot, will wither never:  the doom over each one dead.

(78)  A full-stocked farm had some farmer’s sons.  Now they stoop at the beggar’s staff; in a twinkling fleeth trothless wealth, it is the ficklest of friends.”  [Hollander, p. 25]

The sentiment expressed in verse 75, that being poor was not necessarily one’s own fault, may seem fairly obvious to us today; but, as Ann Sheffield sets out in some detail on pages 26 – 27 of her book ‘Long Branches,’ it was considered a personal disgrace to be poor and/ or friendless in early Germanic societies.  So in its day, verse 75 would have been consid-ered a fairly radical idea among the heathens.  Verse 76 goes on to tie the concepts expressed in the ‘Feoh’ rune to the notion of ‘fair fame,’ which in its turn is transformed into an eternal “‘doom’’ [Hollander, p. 27] in verse 77.   I checked an original-text version of ‘Havamal:’    edited by David A.H. Evans, and published in 1987, where the word Hollander translated as ‘doom’ is given as being ‘dómr.’  On page 112 of Evans’ edition of ‘Havamal,’ he states that the literal meaning of dómr was ‘judgment,’ but that in practice, the meaning of the word was “restricted to ‘renown…’” In the related ‘Glossary and Index:’  compiled by Anthony Faulkes, the meaning is given as being:  ‘judgement [sic], reputation.’

Ann Sheffield discusses at some length the need for Northern leaders to be generous in sharing out wealth if they wanted to keep followers and garner support.  [Sheffield, p. 26 – 29].  So, there is a fundamental dyad implicit in the significance of ‘wealth:’ the possibil-ities for personal independence – and the obligations entailed in the responsible manage-ment of it.  I would say the same also applies to ‘wealth’ in other respects, such as the ‘wealth’ of knowledge.  Ms. Sheffield goes on to draw upon numerous examples in Northern mythology and poetry, the Volsung cycle, for instance, to illustrate the Northern peoples’ sharp awareness of the potential wealth has to cause deadly divisions within a family or [social] group.  [Sheffield, p. 29 – 33].

“the wolf feeds in the woods.’  Ms. Sheffield discusses the phrase in connection with the status of being an outlaw in Old Norse society. [ibid, p. 34 – 36].

But, perhaps the best known ‘wolf’ from Old Norse myths is ‘Fenrir’ (O.N. “fen-dweller”) or ‘Fenris-Wolf.’  From the Voluspa` ‘The Prophecy of the Seeress:’   “In the east sat the old one, in the Iron Woods, bred there the bad brood of Fenrir; will one of these, worse than they all, the sun swallow, in seeming a wolf.”  [Hollander, p. 08]

In any case, we can readily see right in the beginning of the rune-row that the authors of all three of the ‘rune poems’ indicate an abiding interest in the significance of wealth, its potential ramifications from a number of different aspects, for its owner and for the society around him or her.

“Dragon Guarding His Treasure” by                               ……..

In her notes to the heroic lay  Atlakviða,  Ursula Dronke states:  “From early Roman times and throughout the Middle Ages, gold was washed from the sands of the middle Rhine… This industry may have encouraged the myth of hidden treasure in other rivers… though the notion of gold as the causer of strife was no doubt a commonplace (cf. the Norw and Icel Runic Poems…), the association of gold and strife in kennings is not frequent and seems to spring from the legends of Andvari’s hoard   (and its subsequent owners)….”  The ancient association between rivers and gold is reflected in the pike-shape which the treasure-owning dwarf Andvari assumes (Reg 1 – 5 and prose prelude)    …”  [Dronke (1), p. 61]

‘Andvari’ by the German painter Franz Stassen, 1914,  public domain in the U.S.A., courtesy


“Hleotan, however, also has the more specific meaning ‘to cast lots’ (Old English hleot, hlit becomes modern English ‘lot’), and the primary meaning of dom is ‘doom, decree, judgment, ‘ so the stanza may be retranslated [sic] to emphasize quite a different meaning:(Wealth) is a comfort to everyone; but every man must share it generously if he wishes to cast the lots of judgment before his lord.” [Osborn (1) p. 169]

I’m skeptical, but Osborn does make a close argument, citing Beowulf and 9th cent. Latin notices among other items, in support of her translation of that runic verse as well as her main premise that the Old English [or Anglo-Saxon] rune poem is “a native list of oracles… a guide to ‘divinatory meditation,’ a kind of meditation drawing upon signs in the secular world as a focus for deeply absorbed contemplation.”  [ibid, p. 172]

Robert DiNapoli, on the other hand, doesn’t offer much in the way of factual support for his highly idiosyncratic translation of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem verse for the first rune:  “WEALTH (F) “is a comfort to every man, but nevertheless each must part with much if he wishes to play for his lord’s good opinion.”                                                                               In connection with this, DiNapoli mentions only that “… if, as some believe, the verb carries further connotations of the kinds of sortilege that may have been practiced with runes…” and in the accompanying note states:  “See, for example, Marijane Osborn, ‘Hleotan and the Purpose of the Old English Rune Poem,’ Folklore 92. (1981):  168 – 73.  The related noun hlyt gives us the modern English ‘lot’ (as in ‘to cast lots’).  [DiNapoli, p. 149]                                                                                                                                                             I have that article by Marijane Osborn, and the only mention made in it of the word ‘sorti-lege’ is in the following paragraph:    “Nor are they mentioned in the famous passage where Tacitus describes the Germanic ritual of sortilege in the first century A.D. I give Matting-ly’s 1948 translation (heavily revised since then) to demonstrate how suggestive this pas-sage is to a speculative reader of Latin:   “For auspices and the casting of lots they have the highest possible regard. Their procedure in casting lots is uniform. They break off a branch of a fruit-bearing tree and slice it in-to strips; they distinguish these by certain runes and throw them, as random chance will have it, on to a white cloth. Then the priest of the State if the consultation is a public one, the father of the family if it is private, after a prayer to the gods and an intent gaze heaven-ward, picks up three, one at a time, and reads their meaning from the runes scored on them. If the lots forbid an enterprise, there can be no further consultation that day; if they allow it, further confirmation by auspices is recjuired.11” (Germania X)”  [Osborn (1), p. 170]                                                                        I really don’t think that’s much support for DiNapoli’s translation of ‘gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan‘ as, ‘if he wishes to play for his lord’s good opinion.’   Moreover, that phrase as translated by DiNapoli doesn’t even really make any sense, objectively speaking.  In order for it to have meaning, one would have to add a new verb and turn ‘play’ into a verbal noun:  ‘if he wishes to make a play for his lord’s good opinion.’  DiNapoli makes no other attempt to justify his translation, which he surely must know was non-standard.


In a detailed discussion [p. 29 – 30], Margaret Clunies Ross shows that all of the kennings for the  Feoh Rune photo FeohRune.png rune found in both the Norwegian and the Icelandic ‘rune poems’ have close links with the legend of the Niflung hoard.   [See XXXIX passim here:  ]


Maureen Halsall, on the other hand, translates the last line of the stanza as “if he wishes to gain glory before the Lord,’ [Halsall, p. 87], and argues that “this pun [on the “earthly and heavenly dryhten,” ‘lord,’] on the two realms, mundane and spiritual, sets the tone and approach for the rest of the poem, which was designed, not merely as a hodge-podge of disparate mnemonic verses explicating the traditional rune names, but as one more at-tempt to extend the policy of pouring new wine into old bottles established for the mission to the English by Pope Gregory the Great…  Throughout the poem, we see its anonymous author deliberately imitating and refashioning traditional Germanic gnomic utterance so as to declare the glory of God and his works in the at best religiously neutral context of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc.”  [Halsall, p. 100  – 101]



      u’ as in ‘rule’ or ‘oo’ as in ‘doom’

April 10, 2014 update:  See also the brilliant article on this rune by Inmaculada Senra Silva, ‘The Name of the u-Rune,’ in the 2010 edition of the Runic Journal ‘Futhark:  International Journal of Runic Studies,’ which is available as a free download as are all of the Futhark Journals here:

On the rune Uruz, from the Rune poems:

ASRP. T/YK: “‘Aurochs/bison’ [uruz] is resolute, mightily horned.  A very bold/dangerous fighting beast with horns.  A stalker of the moors, this is a mighty being.”

OIRP. T/NF: “drizzle [u’r] is the cloud’s weeping, and the destroyer of hay, and the shepherd’s hate.”  shadow/shower.   leader.

ONRP.  T/DB:  “u’r (flakes) are from bad iron; often the reindeer gallops over hard snow.”

In my opinion, the three fundamental material concepts outlined in the rune manuscript verses on the Uruz rune, the aurochs, untimely “drizzle,’ and slag from poor iron, can be related in a central theme of a trial of strength or endurance.  Killing an aurochs, a particularly untameable – and large, really large – form of wild ox, was a test of manhood.  Ann Sheffield gives recent evidence that the Aurochs did indeed “stalk the moors.”

Sheffield also makes the brilliant observation that the Finns, who share an environment akin to that of their fellow Northerners, give a powerful description of a thing called ‘bog iron’ in their renowned epic, the ‘Kalevala.’  [Sheffield,  50 – 51].

I checked out what ‘slag’ meant to a medieval European mind in the domestic context:  “The small particles of iron produced in this way fall to the bottom of the furnace and become welded together to form the spongy mass of the bloom. The bottom of the furnace also fills with molten slag, often consisting of fayalite, a compound of silicon, oxygen and iron mixed with other impurities from the ore. Because the bloom is highly porous, and its open spaces are full of slag, the bloom must later be reheated and beaten with a hammer to drive the molten slag out of it. Iron treated this way is said to be wrought, and the resulting nearly pure iron wrought iron or bar iron. It is also possible to produce blooms coated in steel by manipulating the charge of and air flow to the bloomery .[1] …. In England and Wales, despite the arrival of the blast furnace in the Weald in about 1491, bloomery forges (probably using water-power for a hammer as well as the bellows) were operating in the West Midlands region beyond 1580. In Furness and Cumberland, they operated into the early 17th century and the last one in England (near Garstang) did not close until about 1770.[11]”

“An iron bloom just removed from the furnace. Surrounding it are pieces of slag that have been pounded off by the hammer. “ by , creative attribution license

If pounding slag wasn’t a trial of strength and endurance, I really don’t know what was back then….

Sheffield focuses on the mention of reindeer in the wilds; however, there is a possibly relevant domestic context as well:  “Sami herders call their work boazovázzi, which translates as “reindeer walker,” and that’s exactly what herders once did, following the fast-paced animals on foot or wooden skis as they sought out the best grazing grounds over hundreds of miles of terrain.”

[for more on the history of reindeer herding in Scandinavia see also: ]

1 – 3* – 2  OPPOSITION  JGB:  “ [The ‘I’] can exist alone, but its outward action always requires the cooperation of a factor external to itself.  When this factor corresponds to its own nature, the ‘I’ becomes powerful and can have the attributes of a fully independent entity.  We can observe this in the lives of so-called ‘men of destiny,’ who appear to have the support of some cosmic power that, for a period, makes their external activity effective and even ‘unerring.’  When the assisting factor ceases to act – which usually happens through the Self falling into the delusion of infallibility – the power of the ‘I’ evaporates and it becomes even more helpless than the Reactional Selves of ordinary men….”  [Bennett, p. 169 – 170]

“Life restoration of an Aurochs bull found in Braunschweig, done by using the skeleton as direct reference for the proportions and horns; body shape and colour is based on what we know of the aurochs and primitive cattle breeds.” by Jaap Rouwenhorst (photograph) DFoidl (GIMP modifications) , courtesy, creative attribution license; ‘Spring Drizzle’ by ; ‘Attack on Plancenoit by Prussian Divisions of Hiller, Ryssel and Tippelskirch which overwhelmed the French Imperial Young Guard and the 1st Battalions of the 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs.’ artist:  Adolf Northern, courtesy, public domain; “A 200 kg lump of slag from iron ore melting. It was found near Snorup in western Jutland, Denmark. It’s estimated that it’s from around 200-500 AD.” by:  Knud Winckelmann and Nationalmuseet – – CC-BY-SA-3. creative attribution license

“Placed where it is, under the action of forces both too strong for it to withstand and too subtle for it to comprehend, the ‘I’ is called upon to accomplish the work of transformation, while remaining subject always to the triad 1 – 3* – 2, with its properties of separation, incompleteness and contingency.” [Bennett, p. 169 – 170]


The aurochs was closely tied in England’s history to Stonehenge.  About two miles away, northeast of Vespasian’s Camp, near a spring called Blick Mead, the bones of at least five aurochs have been found:  [p. 4]

Blick Mead spring, picture by

As for Stonehenge itself, it appears it was an early major burial ground:  and ritual site:


‘Stonehenge sun through trilithon,’ courtesy of, public domain; aurochs reconstruction original photo by Jaap Rouwenhorst via, creative attribution, share-alike license


“the value u is shown to indicate long u by the spelling of the name uur” in [the 9th century SG MS 270]”.  [Derolez, p. 125]



      ‘th’ as in ‘thin’


On the Thorn/Thurs rune from the Rune poems:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Thorn is severely sharp to the liegeman, catching it brings evil, excessively reckless to the human who rests with it.”

Yves Kodratoff:  “The Eddic poem ‘In praise to Thor,’ speaks of:  ‘thorns nidhjum,’ (children of the thorn); ‘sivira thorns,’ (thorn’s neck); and ’ithornram,’ (towards thorn’s home); where obviously ’thorn’ refers to a living being, a Thurs [frost-giant, in O.N. mythology], from the context of the poem.”

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Thurs is women’s torment, and a crag-dweller, and Valrun’s(1) husband.  Saturn.   thing-leader(2)  (1)  the name of a giantess  (2)  ‘thing’ – all-thing, the governing assembly

ONRP.  T/DB:  “Giants cause women’s illess; few are merry from misfortune.”

Ann Sheffield points out that the Old Icelandic word for ‘torment,’ kvöl, ‘ is “quite harsh,” connoting a form of torture, basically, which seems to be borne out by the definition ‘the home of torment, hell,’ given for ‘kvöl-heimr’ in the Cleasby/Vigfusson 1874 ‘Old Icelandic Dictionary:’

Sheffield then goes on to dwell at some length on the fears and torments of women in connection with giants in the mythology of the Old North.  She allows that the phrase ‘women’s illness’ might refer to giving birth, but thinks that more plausibly it refers to sickness in general, especially, the ‘sickness’ of unrequited desire.  I disagree with her perspective on this.  “Women’s torment” quite plausibly refers in the ‘mundane,’ ie. non-mythical sense, to the act of giving birth – as any woman who’s been there can readily attest.  And, especially in Medieval times, it must have seemed like a special brand of hell to women.  Moreover, “women’s sickness” plausibly refers to ‘menstruation,’ – indicating fertility, and, until very recent times, considered to be women’s ‘special sickness’ pretty much everywhere in the world.

As for the Anglo-Saxon ‘thorn,’ as I’ve already discussed in “v.13” on my Hrafnagaldur Odins (Odin’s Raven Magic-Song) blog page, there are very close mythological ties both with magic and with giants.  Further along those lines there is: “On the mountain sleeps a battle-maid, around her plays the bane of wood [kenning for ‘fire’], Ygg [Odin] with the thorn hath smitten her thus, for she felled the fighter he fain would save.” [‘Poetic Edda,’ ‘Fafnismol,’ (‘The Lay of Fafnir’) v. 43, Benjamin Thorpe’s translation] Lee Hollander’s translation states that the “battle-maid” is Brynhild, a Valkyrie – “choosers of the battle-slain,”  and translates “sleep-thorn” for ‘thorn.’ [Hollander, p. 231]

In connection with giants, the very word ‘thorn’ is a kenning for them in the tenth-century skaldic poem Þórsdrápa (Thorsdrapa, Lay of Thor).  See the translation of the Lay of Thor, together with Old Norse text, and English-language commentaries by Eysteinn Bjornsson here:  and line 2:4: “they were eager to oppress Þorn’s descendants [giants]…”

There is a reference, moreover, to a BölÞorn [Bolthorn] in the Havamal, ‘Sayings of the High One,’ in the Poetic Edda.’  Rudolph Simek translates Bolthorn as “ON ‘thorn of misfortune.’  According to the Havamal, Bolthorn was Odin’s granddaddy on his mama Bestla’s side.  [Snorri Sturlson took this reference to Bolthorn in ‘Gylfagginning’ ‘The Deluding of Gylfi.’]  The problem with the Havamal reference is that Bolthorn is not, as Simek points out, “mentioned otherwise as being one of the primeval giants;” nor does his name “fit into an old mythological concept, either.” [Simek, p. 40]

Fortunately, I don’t have to care overly much about the length of ‘Bolthorn’s’ lineage, because I’m not trying to revive a long-dead heathen tradition.  I’m only interested in what thoughtful men who were trying, (covertly, in my opinion), to preserve remnants of a runic tradition had to say, and those men pretty much belonged to the medieval period.  In other words, I’m interested in what the rune names meant to the men who wrote the rune po-ems.  Only in that particular context do I personally care about the heathen traditions.   So, if there was a connection via a knowledge of mythology between ‘thorn’ and ‘giant’ in the Anglo-Saxon rune-poem writer’s mind, then that tells me there was a definite intent on his part to preserve something important to him, when he substituted the word ‘thorn’ for the overtly heathen name ‘thurs.’ And, since scholars are agreed he was “deeply Christian,” (Ann Sheffield’s words), odds are it’s not really just about old heathen tales of giants and gods, either…

One of the most awesome cursing-poems ever is in the ‘Lay of Skirnir’ (Skirnisma`l), a possibly 10th century poem in the Poetic Edda.  The last verse of the cursing section, 36, references the Thurs rune:  “A ‘thurs’ rune for thee, and three more I scratch, lechery, loathing and lust…” [Hollander, p. 72]  The fundamental concept that, to my mind, keeps coming up is that of a principle of procreation, in the context of what that meant to the people of that period.

And then, of course, there is the very shape of the rune….

1 – 2* – 3 PROCREATION  JGB:  “[The triad of Procreation] is the action of the male principle in Existence.  It is the secret of homo faber. Through it, man is aroused to a creative activity which is the expression of his own ‘I.’  [ie, in artifacts]  Through this triad, the ‘I’ comes to birth in the essence.  Here, the heart of the triad is in Existence, but it stands between two essential impulses.  It can therefore be regarded as the power of the Essence directed upon Existence…” [Bennett,  p. 158]

“Awakening and Procreation are the two forces of growth in the Ego.  Man stands between these forces, and his purification consists in arriving at a harmony between them.” [ibid, p. 159]



        ‘a’ as in ‘father’


The Rune Ansuz

from the Rune Poems:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “A’ss [‘god,’ ‘mouth’] (1) is the fount of discourse, support of wisdom and help/compensation for the wise one, rest and refuge to each nobleman.”  (1) YK:  “The Icelandic rune poem speaks of áss (one of the Aesir (ON ’gods’).  The ONRP speaks of ‘os’ (river/mouth).  Wo’den (Odhinn) is also the gods’ ‘shouter,’ and the owner of the mead of poetry that allows poetic speech.”

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “óss’ is ancient Gautr [a kenning for Odin] and A’sgard’s king [Odin] and Valholl’s captain [Odin].  Jupiter.    leader.

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray: “Estuaries are fared most on journeys; and a scabbard is for swords.”

“The Norwegian poem has the name ‘óss,’ clearly ‘river-mouth.’  The Icelandic poem has óss = áss, ‘heathen god…’  Most scholars accept ‘god’ as the primary meaning… [Page (1), p. 68]

“The rune-name ‘os’ (originally = ‘god’), a word very rare in Old English… survives only in the personal name element ‘Ós…’ That rune-name is, however, identifiable by reference to its cognates, the common ON ‘áss’ and the Gothic acc. pl. ‘ansis.’” [Page (3), p. 74]

It’s a lot easier, IMO,  to make sense of the myths and legends surrounding Odin, and to understand the seeming contradictions in the stories of his behavior and character, if one thinks of a demiurge (angelic power), who is the personification of the spiritual Principle of Creativity.

JGB:  “The wholly essential law 1 – 2 – 3, is that by which the Cosmic Affirmation is transmitted through all Worlds.  It reaches the Self as the affirmation of Individ-uality… When the Self finds that it is under the action of a creative power, the purity of which transcends its own understanding, it is awakened to the significance of its own existence…  In moments of awareness, the True Self realizes that the [Cosmic Involution] concerns its own existence and that it can come under the action of a Divine Affirmation that can transform its own nature.  Through its ability to participate in this triad, that has its origin in [a higher World], the Self has a creative power of its own.  This is the triad of Creativity.” [Bennett, p. 158]

My personal favorite story about Odin is Grímnismál, ‘The Lay (or ‘Sayings’) of Grímnír,’ who is Odin in disguise:

The story explicates a concept of hazard as being inherent in the fact of human failings.  Grímnír aka Odin, disguises himself as a poor, unknown traveller seeking hospitality, to test the ethics of his “foster-son” and protégé, King Geirröth, who fails miserably and fatally.  Interestingly, in the Lay, Odin is not said to have killed his erstwhile protégé personally:  “Full long I spake, but little thou mindest:  faithless friends betray thee:  before me I see my foster son’s sword, its blade all dripping with blood.  A death-doomed man will soon drink with Ygg…” At which point, the doomed king bolted upright from his chair to take the god from the bonfire where he’d been very unwisely roasting him for nine days.  King Geirröth’s “sword slid from his hands with its hilt downward.  The king stumbled and fell forward, the sword pierced him, and so he lost his life.  Then  Óthin vanished…” [Hollander, p. 64]

Grimnir and Agnar by George Wright, public domain, courtesy of

“They say:  “Why is not an angel sent down to him?  If We did send down an angel, the matter would be settled at once, and no respite would be granted to them.”  –  Quran, S. 6:8, translated by Yusuf Ali


We can see in the progression of the rune-row descriptions an ever-present quality of Hazard, yet, one which is constantly changing in character…

The particularly free-wheeling character of Odin has a lot in common, by the way, both in appearance and in character, with another enigmatic spirit – that of Khidr, from Middle Eastern legend, about whom stories are told even in the Quran.


“[The 9th century St. Gall MS 270] stresses the length of this rune “by spelling the value oo…”  [Derolez, p. 125]


“…..  the Icelandic rune poem refers clearly to the Ase “par excellence –  Óðinn  –  described as the old Gautr, the prince of  Ásgarðr, the lord of  Valhöll.  Undoubtedly, this must reflect the original meaning of the term, which designates the sovereign gods and is etymologically cognate with OInd. ásuraḥ ‘lord, sovereign god’ (literally:  ‘endowed with asu,’ i.e., ‘vital potency’) and Hitt. Ḫaššuš  ‘king’ (related with  ḫāš – ‘beget’)….  Reducing *ansuz to ‘a spirit favorable to man,’ as Jungandreas (1974:  369) does, by deriving *ansuz from the root of Gmc.  *unnan (pret *ann ‘grant’)  (*anstis ‘favor’) and referring to Jor-danes’ translation of ansis by “demigods,” does not account for the importance of the Æsir in the Germanic pantheon and for the evidence that shows them as fully developed deities in Roman times under the interpretatio romana of Mercurius for *Wōđan(az) and Mars for *Tiwaz…”  [Polomé, p. 430 – 431]


“…. Its Old English name, os (god or divinity) occurs virtually nowhere else.  Religious writers prefer the word god or traditional expressions for ‘lord’ (dryhten, frea, etc), and os otherwise appears only in [Metrical Charms 4.23]…  The author of The Rune Poem, how-ever, executes a neat linguistic sidestep here, turning to the unrelated Latin homonym os (mouth) to create a multilayered conceptual pun…”  [Di Napoli, p. 149]



        trilled ‘r’

On the rune Raido, from the Rune poems:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff: “Riding/travel in the hall, for each warrior, makes them soft, and something mighty strong [is one who] sits on a strong horse for a path of miles.”

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray: “[Reið] is seated bliss, and a swift journey, and the horse’s labour.”  journey.   host-captain

ONRP  T/Dan Bray:  “[riding] is said to be worst for horses; Reginn  forged the best sword.”

“Reginn declared to [Sigurd] where Fafnir lay on the gold, and incited him to seek the gold.  Then Reginn fashioned the sword Gramr which was so sharp that Sigurdr, bringing it down into running water, cut a flock of wool which drifted downstream onto the sword’s edge.  Next, Sigurdr clove Reginn’s anvil down to the stock with the sword.”  [Brodeur, p. 104]

In s. 18 of R.G. Finch’s translation of the Volsung Saga:     (page 103 in the PDF reader):   Regin [sic] then goes on to give Sigurd bad and potentially fatal advice, which Odin, however, rectifies in time.  After Sigurd has stabbed the man-turned-dragon Fafnir, and Fafnir lays dying, the two, man and beast, bandy words for a while.  Then, Fafnir’s last words to Sigurd, s. 18 [107 in your PDF reader] are advice to ride away on his horse or he (Fafnir) might yet prove capable of avenging his own murder.  Sigurd replies that he’ll do no such thing; he’s after the dragon Fafnir’s gold-hoard.  Fafnir replies, truthfully, as it turns out, that Sigurd will find more than enough gold to last his days;  but, Fafnir warns him, the gold will be the death of Sigurd and every other person who comes into possession of it. And so it comes to pass…

Rudolf Simek translates ‘Reginn’ as “ON, ‘the mighty one,’” and clearly identifies him as being one and the same as the ‘Regin’ of the Volsung Saga.  There is no question, therefore, but that the author of the Old Norse rune poem intends to draw our attention to a journey well known to the audience of the Volsung Saga.  And I would say, having read the saga in its entirety, that it is the moment in the saga I have summarized above, where Sigurd comes to a ‘cross-roads’ in terms of his choices of action:  will he head to the fatal hoard in hopes of beating the curse on it, or let go the hoard won by blood, and ride away?  It’s a pivotal moment in the personal journey of Sigurd.  And he chooses ill-gotten gold, even while knowing it dooms him.

“In its pure form, 2 – 1 – 3, [Self-perfecting], the triad of Concentration is the participation of Self-hood in the universal striving of Existence towards Being.  It is experienced as a demand that is made upon the self to enter the way of evolution.  This demand produces the tension which is [a characteristic quality] of Existence.  It is experienced by the Self-hood as the yearning for self-perfecting.  Man has the impulse to assert and also to deny himself.  Between these two impulses, the Self is unable to rest, and must either succumb to inertia and disintegrate, or go on, by way of self-perfecting, to achieve unity with the Individuality… The hazards of Existence are nowhere so plain as in the uncertainty that surrounds the struggle for self-perfection…” [Bennett, p. 161 – 162]

‘Double Edged Sword’ by , creative attribution, no commercial, no derivative license


“The name rat, [in the  9th century* St. Gall MS 270 as well as in other Continental runic manuscripts that also have the isruna tract], compared with OE. rad, shows an adaptation to Continental Germanic phonology.  The shift may imply a conscious or unconscious change of meaning:  OE. rad ‘riding’ :  OHG, rat ‘consilium’.  It may also help to localize the isruna tract, as the shift of final d to to t did not occur further North than the Rhine-Franconian area.”  [Derolez, p. 125]


Departing sharply from other translations of the Anglo-Saxon verse for the fifth rune, (and without explanation, unfortunately), Louis J Rodrigues translates ‘Rad’ as ‘Harness.’ [Rod- rigues, p. 93]  The only conceivable connection I could find with ‘Rad’ and ‘Harness’ is a mention by Maureen Halsall (whose book is referred to in Rodrigues’ own book) of a pun in the Bosworth-Toller dictionary “on two otherwise unrecorded Old English definitions of rād as the ‘furniture’ of a house and the furniture or ‘harness’ of a horse…”  [Halsall, p. 112]  Here’s a link to that Bosworth-Toller reference:

Even Stephen Flowers, writing under his pen name Thorsson and normally quick to give every possible meaning for one of the rune names, does not mention ‘harness.’  Flowers aka Edred Thorsson says:  “This rune indicates both the idea of riding (on a horse) and a vehicle which might be drawn by a horse.  the name is consistent throughout all three languages.  In Old Norse the plural form reiðar, means ‘a clap of thunder,’ as a result of Þórr driving his wagon across the sky.  In Old English the word can also mean ‘road,’ especially in compound words, e.g,. brim-rād:  “brine-road” (=sea).”  [Thorsson, p. 59]

And Thorsson goes on to discuss the fifth rune as being “both the action and the vehicle of motion… [ibid] for two pages, never once mentioning or suggesting a particular connec-tion with the idea of the horse’s harness.  Rodrigues’ idiosyncratic translation of rād is all the more curious given that most if not all of his other translations for the Old English rune verses adhere in meaning to standard translations (and they often  have a superior aesthetic quality).


John Haywood makes the point in ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings’ that:  “Mountains, forests and bogs have always made overland travel difficult in the Scandin-avian peninsula:  most long-distance travel took place in the winter when the ground was frozen hard.  However, Scandinavia is well provided with sheltered coastal waters, fjords, lakes and navigable rivers; from the Stone Age, boats and ships became the most import-ant means of transport, so the Vikings were heirs to a long tradition of seafaring and ship-building…”  [Haywood, p. 17]  What’s interesting in this context is the complete agreement in the structure of the verse for the fifth rune for all three of the rune poems:  they all em-phasize the difficulty of travel by horse, within the ‘every stick has two ends’ dynamic of its being easy to talk about, but hard to do


According to Margaret Clunies-Ross, reið is “perhaps surprisingly, never used in extant Icelandic poetry of the Middle Ages in the sense, ‘riding, ride,’ though this sense occurs in prose and the meaning ‘vehicle, carriage’ is found in both eddic and skaldic verse.  How-ever, all the Rune Poems use the word in the sense of ‘riding’ and other wisdom poems in English and Norse confirm the importance of the concept.”  [Clunies-Ross, p. 36]



        ‘k’ as in ‘kick’ or ‘ch’ as in ‘chalk’

On the Kaun Rune  from the Rune poems:

OIRP.  T/Old Northvegr Foundation: “(Sore) is children’s bale, and a scourge, and rotten-flesh house.” whip.   king.

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray: “Kaun (sore) is the affliction of children; misfortune makes a man pale.”

ONRP.  T/Old Northvegr Foundation: “Sore is curse of children; sorrow makes a man a pale.”

Yves Kodratoff firmly disputes the above translations from the ONRP, saying that   “böl means ‘curse – not ‘bale’ or ‘misfortune.’

In her exhaustively researched book, ‘Nature and Policy in Iceland 1400 – 1800,’ Kirsten Hastrup discusses at length the “remarkably high infant mortality rate” [p. 284], which, together with “a high ration of still births” [p. 175] and “compounded by a very high overall mortality” [p. 175] meant that “few” of the children in Iceland during that period “would grow up to maturity.”  [p. 180]

ONRP.  T/YK: “Kaun (sore) is a child’s curse; bale makes a man pale.”

Mr. Kodratoff also very kindly gives the original-language edition for the Old Norse Rune Poem:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Cen [torch]*/pine/torch of pinewood is obviously fire or each living being, shining, glittering, most often it burns where the princes rest.”

Ray Page says:  “The Runic Poem says ‘Cen is known to all living beings by its flame, pale and bright.  Most often it burns where princes are staying.’  From this is deduced a meaning ‘torch’ which is confirmed by the OHG cognate chien, ken, ken glossing Latin facula and perhaps meaning specifically ‘torch of pine-wood.’…” [Page (1), p. 69]

“In the 18th century Scotland, men would stand behind seated guests and hold a burning splinter of bog pine that naturally has a high concentration of turpentine.” [‘Let there be light,’ p. 3]

Now, the first thing that strikes me about the Anglo-Saxon verse, particularly when read in the light of the others, is what the Anglo Saxon writer doesn’t say.  He doesn’t say the princes are laughing or having a jolly time, which, as we’ll see later with respect to other runes, he is quite quick to do when the context seems suitable to him.  Perhaps appropriate to the context of the Kaun rune are remarks by Rudolph Simek, concerning early Anglo Saxon burial practices:  “From the post-Roman Iron Age to the end of the pagan era both cremation and inhumation burial can be found side by side among the western and northern Germanic peoples.  Whilst in the south Christianization accelerated the transition to inhumation, which was only accepted slowly in Scandinavia, cremation continued to be the preferred form of burial by the Saxons and the Friesians until the 8th century when the Church had to take a definite stand against it.” [Simek, p. 48 – 49]

JGB:  “[In the Existence-dominated triad, 1 – 2* – 3* Mortality], the power of growth penetrates into Existence and wears itself out.  The Self is mortal.  The lower nature is subject to the laws of actualization in time.  Here, the determining-conditions [of space, time, eternity and hyparxis] are separated, and time takes its inevitable toll of Existence.  Through this triad of passive expansion, the Self can remain bound to Existence.  Its creative power is directed to the satisfaction of its own existential impulses.” [Bennett, p. 159]

‘Saxon Crypt at Repton’ by  , creative attribution license

Halsall is dismissive of attempts to link the Kaunaz rune with intimations of mortality in the phrase ‘ðær hi æþelingas inne  restaþ,’ saying:  “Although the word cwicera (the liv-ing) might seem to lend some support” to such attempts, “readers less committed to the theory of a Germanic ur-poem tend to see this stanza as belonging to the image of the hap-py mead-hall of life, to which the pagan priest alluded in Bede’s account of the Christian-ization of Northumbria (Ecclesisastical History, iii, 13) and which also appears in stanzas I, VII, XIV, and XXIII of this poem.”  [Halsall, p. 114]

However, it appears the root word ‘rest’ had already been linked with the concept of death well before the Anglo-Saxon rune poem was written in the second half of the tenth cent-ury.   In addition to the meanings ‘quiet,’ ‘repose,’ ‘sleep,’ ‘A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary’ also references the meaning ‘grave’ in a number of manuscripts, including:  Chr, [10th cent. Saxon Chronicles), Mtl  (8th cent. Lindisfarne Gospels), MH (late 9th cent. Old English Martyrology), and VPs (mid-8th cent. Vespasian Psalter).  [Clark,  p. 241]

restaþ is the present-tense third-person form of the verb ‘restan,’

The Bosworth-Toller ‘Anglo-Saxon Dictionary also links the word to the concept of death:’

“restan To rest.

  1. to cease from toil, be at rest…..
  2. to rest on a couch, to sleep…….
  3. to rest in death, lie dead, lie in the grave…..

and gives a number of examples from Anglo-Saxon manuscripts including:  “Augustinus on Brytene rest on Cantwarum” from ‘Menologium seu Calendarium Poeticum, ex Hickes-iano Thesauro,’  edited by S. Fox, London, 1830. Quoted by line.”

Moreover, the AS rune poem is rife with intimations of mortality.  I’m really quite sur-prised that Halsall, a dedicated scholar, missed the possibility of such overtones being present in the sixth stanza.

Those overtones of mortality are not lost on Ann Gróa Sheffield.  She translates the AS stanza as “[cēn] is, to everyone living, known by its fire, pale and clear; it most often burns where the nobles rest within;” and she says:  “This is a strangely apt description of hau-gældr,’ the unearthly  “howe-fire” that burns over burial mounds at night…” [Sheffield, p. 89]

She also shrewdly points out that, elsewhere in the AS rune poem, “Halsall herself translates blāc as “livid” [ibid, p. 89, n. 10] and, that the author of the rune poem uses sittan, not restan in verses where he clearly means ‘sit;’ whereas he uses restan “to describe lying painfully among thorns.”  [ibid, p. 89, n. 11]

Sheffield discusses the theme of mortality at length in the context Old Norse myths, sagas and legends concerning draugr  dwarves, Neolithic burial mounds.  [ibid, p. 89 – 96]  Her discussion is very interesting and gives a whole new power to the Icelandic description of the kaunaz rune as being the “house of rotting flesh.”  [Sheffield’s translation, ibid, p. 96]


“… In my opinion, with chozma reflecting a Goth. *kusma in the Salzburg ms. and most probably designating some kind of festering boil, it is advisable to maintain the original meaning ‘ulcer’ with the form *kaunaz as the symbol of a plague that strikes man.  The term may have had magico-religious connotations – such plights being inflicted by evil spirits upon mankind – and hence have been replaced by quasi-homonyms in the partial Christianization process of the names of the runes that took place at a later date – hence, OE cēn ‘torch’ (the idea of “burning” may have been the common element shared seman-tically with “flaming  ulcer”?).”   [Polomé, p. 428]



“Saint Catherine Church in Kingisepp. Leningrad Region, Russia, July 17, 2005” by     The quote is from the poem ‘The Last Words of My English Grandmother.’



       ‘g’ as in ‘gift’

Gyfu Rune

Gyfu only shows up in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem.  The Icelandic and Old Norse rune poems only describe the runes in the Younger Futhark, which lost a few along the way…

“That redundant runes like [eihwaz and yeran] went out of use is no more than one might expect in a one-sound-one symbol system.  And a graphic simplification to make the runes less labour-intensive to carve is also easy to understand.  But to reduce the number of runes by a third when the system should be providing for an increase in the number of symbols – that is not easy to explain…. And it is even more remarkable considering that the Anglo-Saxons did do exactly what would have been expected.  Old English underwent dramatic changes in the spoken language, just as happened in Scandinavian [sic], but the Anglo-Saxons invented extra symbols for the new sounds that were created….” [ Spurk-land, p. 79]

“Reform or no reform, it is a mystery how the same eight runes could be universally abandoned throughout a society that seemingly lacked the central authority or bureaucracy to implement change on a broad scale.  And it remains a puzzle why [the gyfu and dagaz runes] were eliminated or lost. “ [Barnes, p. 59]

The Anglo-Saxon rune poem entry for the Gyfu Rune:   T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Gyfu (gift/generosity/favor/sacrifice) is, for the heroes, ornament and dignity, and impels their grace, but (it is) a support for those (lonely) ones with no other .”

Gyfu has the primary meaning ‘gift,’ but the Runic Poem uses it with the genitive plural gumena in the sense ‘act of giving, generosity.’ ‘Men’s generosity is a grace and an honour, a support and a glory; and a help and sustenance to the outcast who lacks any other.'” [Page (1),  p. 69]

Perhaps the closest the Old Northern heathen mythologies come to an apotheosis of giving as a principle is in an attribute of the goddess Freya:  “Gefn (ON ‘giver’).  A name for the goddess Freyja…” [Simek, p. 102]

3-2-1 Grace  JGB:  “The first and greatest freedom is that which proceeds from the Divine Immanence, and is recognized in religion as the working of the Holy Spirit in man.  The freedom of Grace is ineffable, for it is beyond the Self-hood and therefore cannot be spoken of in functional terms.  Being without existential limitations, the first freedom is the instrument of divine Omnipotence.”  [Bennett, p. 179]



On the rune *Wunjo [“reconstructed probable or possible older Futhark ”name” [Barnes, p. 22]]

Wunjo was lost to the Younger Futhark;  only the Anglo-Saxon rune poem retained a memory of it:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Wen (joy/hope/probability) never ends for the one who knows little of woes, sores and sorrows.  He gets success and bliss and enough (protection in a) fortress.*”   *YK:  possibly word-play meaning both ‘fortress’ and ‘security’

wynn, ‘joy’, though the Rune Poem manuscript apparently recorded a Kentish form wen.  ‘Joyful is the man who knows no miseries, affliction or sorrow, and who has prosperity and happiness and the wealth of great towns.’ No Scandinavian name is recorded but the ‘Gothic’ letter-name uuinne sufficiently confirms the Anglo-Saxon…” [Page (1), p. 69]

What a person who has health and wealth has, in principle, is choice.  The connection was not entirely lost in the Younger Futhark, as we shall see:   The Old Norse rune poem ‘verse’ for the  nauðr rune states:  “Need makes for scant choice; the naked freeze in the frost.”

3-*2-*1 Choice  “The lower part of the Self has a freedom that is exercised within the limitations of Existence.  Only the Reconciling Impulse is essential in origin (3 – 2* – 1*).  This triad indicates that, even within Existence, freedom can be exercised.  It is manifested in the powers of the Self.  We take the power of choice as characteristic, for this power places the lower part of the True Self in a position of responsibility for its own actions.” [Bennett, p. 179 – 180]



The Second Aettir:


       variant form:  

On the rune Hægl  from the rune-poems:

ASRP.  Hægl “is the whitest of grains.  It swirls from the heights of heaven, and gusts of wind toss it about.  Then it turns to water.”  [Page (1), p. 69 – 70]

OIRP.  Hægl “is cold corn and driving sleet and snakes’ sickness.” [Page (2), p. 36]

OIRP.  T/Old Northvegr Foundation:  “Hagall [hail] is cold grain and sleet-shower and snakes’ sickness.”  hail.   battle-leader

ONRP.  T/ONF:  “Hail is the coldest grain; Krist fashioned the world in ancient times.”

ONRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Hagall is the coldest seed; Christ gave shape to the ancient dwelling.”

It has been suggested that, in the original version of the Old Norse rune poem, the word Hroptr [‘the hidden one,’ Odhinn,*] stood in place of the word ‘Christ.’

[Incidentally, ‘the hidden one’ is also an epithet for the Middle Eastern figure, Khidr, whom Odin resembles in a number of aspects, appearance and character-wise.]

‘Hail’ was also a common kenning [poetic expression] for a volley of arrows:

for example, from ‘Skládskaprámal’ by Snorri Sturluson, (transl. Arthur Brodeur), in XLVII ‘battle kennings:’ “Thus sang Einarr, The stark prince lets Hildr’s Shield-Sails take the sternest crashing Storm-Wind of the Valkyr, where hail of bow-strings drives; the sword-blade hammers.” [Brodeur, Prose Edda, p. 125] and in kennings for weapons:  “Missile weapons are often metaphorically termed sleet or storm.” [Brodeur, p. 126]

“These gold medallions, from the period AD c 450 – 550, also sport other single words whose meaning seems relatively clear but whose purpose is not immediately obvious [including hagalu ‘hail-stones,’ in the singular form hagala, ‘hail’].  On the grounds that the words concerned can be placed in a context of belief and worship… and that the bracteates may have functioned as amulets, these minimal runic texts may have been connected with the world of the supernatural…”  [Barnes, p. 32]

Alan Griffiths points out that there is “a remarkable metaphorical correspondence” between aspects of the 4th century AD Irish ogam-name for ‘H,’ ‘ úath,’ and the OE stanza on hail:

úath:   horror, asper; white (sur)faces; breath of aspiration; “melting of signs”

hægl:  wintry weather; white (grains/surfaces); wind, air; “it turneth to water”

[Griffiths, ‘Rune-names:  the Irish connexion,’ in ‘Runes And Their Secrets,’ p. 83 – 90]

Alan Griffiths also points out “specific imagery” in Psalm verses in the Christian Bible “linking the breath of the anima mundi to a hailstorm, which may be the  Christian allusion behind the OE stanza in that the physical melting refers to conversion by the Spiritus Sanctus.”  [Griffiths, ibid, p. 92]

Psalm 147: 17 – 18, New English Bible translation:  “17.  crystals of ice he scatters like breadcrumbs; he sends the cold, and the water stands frozen;  18.  he utters his word, and the ice is melted; he blows his wind, and the waters flow.”

1 – 3* – 2*  UNREST:  JGB:  “Each of the four triads of Interaction [in World XXIV, the world of Selves] determines one of the basic relationships that can arise in a world in which Essence and Existence are divided both inwardly and outwardly…  The [triad 1-3*-2*] produces undirected activity of every kind.  It is the aimless but inevitable inter-action of all existing things, by which the stream of Existence is kept in motion…. It is a condition of… the entry into Existence of the Transcendental Reconciling Impulse.  If Existence could be at peace with itself, it would lack the urge to seek reunion with the Essential Reality of Being…” [Bennett, p. 171 – 172]



On the rune Nauðiz from the rune poems:

ASRP.  T/YK:  “’Nyð’ [necessity/duty/hardship/trouble/also possibly ‘desire,’ ‘longing,’] is distress on the chest and often strife of the servant.  It becomes help and healing for the children, if they listen soon enough.”

R.I.Page:  “Nyð  The Norwegian and Icelandic Runic Poems have the cognate Nauðr with the meaning ‘constraint…’  OE nyð has a range of meanings, ‘need, oppression, affliction,’ and it is the latter which the [OE] Runic Poem defines.  ‘Affliction constricts the heart, but it often serves as a help and salvation to the sons of men, if they attend to it in time.’”  [Page (1), p. 70]

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Nau’ð [need] is the bondwoman’s throes, and an oppressive condition, and waterlogged work.  work.   Niflung.”

OIRP.  T/ONF:  “Need is bondmaid’s grief, and hard condition, and toilsome work.  work.  mist’s descendant.”

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Need makes for scant choice; the naked freeze in the frost.”

Ann Sheffield cites numerous examples from Norse literature to support her statement that “”Compulsion” or “coercion” comes closer to the meaning of Nauð than does modern “need.””  [Sheffield, p. 105 – 109]

In her excellent book ‘The Norns in Old Norse Mythology,’ Karen Bek-Pedersen remarks on the “apparently close connection between nornir [norns] and [the] nauð [rune]” which “seems to emphasise [sic] that these supernatural females were thought of primarily in relation to issues of distress, although this may have found positive as well as negative expression.”  [Bek-Pedersen, p. 34]

The spiritual counterpart is the principle of  1 – 3 – 2* Struggle:  JGB:  “The establish-ment of the triad 1-3-2* in the heart of human Self-hood is accomplished through the un-ceasing struggle of affirmation and negation [denial/receptive force] between the higher and lower natures…  Hence we may describe the triad as the Law of Struggle.  This may be regarded as the search of the Self for its own fulfilment.  It is a search that does not yet look beyond Existence, for it is not the ‘I’ that struggles; the ‘I’ bears the reconciling im-pulse.  The entire situation represented by the triad is one of self-affirmation, wherein the ‘I’ learns how to maintain itself between the higher and lower natures of the Self.  For the achievement of the aim of union with the Complete Individuality, there must be ‘right effort;’ that is, a struggle that will harmonize Essence with Existence.” [Bennett, p. 171]



        ‘ee’ as in ‘feet’

On the Rune Íss from the rune poems:

ASRP.  T/ONF:  “Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery; it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems; it is a floor wrought by the frost; fair to look upon.”

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray: “Íss is river-bark, and wave’s thatch, and fated men’s bale. ice.    warrior-king*”  *DB:  “In non-Scandinavian Germanic languages, cognate forms refer to wild boar, so metaphorically it would seem to refer to a warrior with the ferocity of a boar or possibly wearing a boar-helm.”

OIRP.  T/ONF:  “Íss is river-rind and waves’ roof, and fey men’s danger. ice.   boar-helm wearer”

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Íss is called a broad bridge; the blind need to be led.”

Ann Sheffield dwells at length and very entertainingly on examples from Northern Litera-ture of ‘fey’ men perishing on ice; however, what comes to my mind when I read the Old Norse and the Old Icelandic verses, at any rate, is the aptness of the descriptions for a peculiarly Northern kind of ice danger:  icebergs.  Of course the fate of the doomed Titanic was an exemplar of one kind of danger from icebergs:  the fact that we tend to think we’re seeing the whole picture of one when we are not.  As this recent story from Iceland shows, there is another kind of danger peculiar to icebergs:  They can flip over on you, or take off when you least expect it… They are a pictorial metaphor for a fair-seeming situation that is inherently untrustworthy, hazardous.

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lake in Iceland, where icebergs which break away from the glacier flow out to sea. photo by Martin Peeks, courtesy of, creative attribution license

2 – 3* – 1*  Separateness  JGB:  “The fourth form of the Triad of Identity determines the lower nature of the Self.  Nothing essential remains except the denying or passive character of Self-hood.  The triad explains the isolation of the lower nature.  It is unable to enter into the experience of the Essence.  It can only know Existence and yet its own origin is essential.  For this reason the triad 2-3*-1* may be referred to as the Law of Separate-ness.  The identity of the Separated Self consists in its own existence and it is seized with anxiety, which is the simultaneous experience of hope as well as fear.  Not seeing beyond Existence, the Separated Self is fearful of perishing, but, since it is linked with the Higher Self through the ‘I,’ it is also aware of hope.  It is caught into temporal actualization.  For this reason, the Will subject to the triad 2-3*-1* is also sometimes called ’the denying part of the Self.’”  [Bennett,  p. 163]

Jökulsárlón, Iceland by  , creative attribution license


On the other hand, John Haywood makes the point in ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings’ that ice afforded the Northerners their best opportunity for overland travel, at least in Sweden, where “rivers and lakes offered the best routes into the densely forested country; long-distance travel overland mainly took place in winter, when the bogs and rivers were frozen.”  [Haywood, p. 22]



     ‘y’ as in ‘year’

On the rune Jêran, from the rune poems:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff: “The year, (or, ‘good year,’ – hence the classical translation ‘harvest’), is a joy for the men when the god, holy king of the skies, (Freyr, also called King Freyr and god of fertility), makes earth supply brightly the noble and the poor.”

OIPRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Ár [1] (harvest) is men’s blessings, (2nd kenning is unreadable), and dales’ blood [2].  year.  sovereign king [3]“

DB: [1]  cognate with English ‘year,’ or can mean both ‘year’ and ‘harvest’  [2]  seemingly, a later addition to an originally two-kenning line, since ‘dales’ blood’ is kenning for ‘river,’ (Á), not ‘harvest’ (Ár)

[3] literally, ‘all-powerful’ or ‘all-mighty’

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray: “ (Ár) the year/harvest is men’s profit; I say that Fröthi was generous.”

“The Germanic name of the rune was clearly *jera – whence ON ár with loss of the initial semivowel… ON ár (=NE ‘year’) often has the specialised meaning ‘fruitful year’ and so ‘fertility, abundance’ a quality which literature often attributes to the god Freyr…” [Page, ‘Introduction to English Runes,’ p. 70]

According to Michael Barnes, the original name of the rune was “*jãra” [Barnes, p. 57]

“Froði (in Saxo Frotho) is a legendary Danish king… during whose reign the famous Peace of Froði lasted, [manifesting itself in] “repeatedly good harvests, plentiful schools of fish, outward peace and inner security, a lack of any crime.”  [Simek, p. 95, 19]

The downfall of the legendary king is compellingly described in the ‘Lay of Grotti,’ Grótta-söngr,‘which sets out King Froði’s journey to Sweden, where he bought two hand-maids, Fenja and Menja, to turn the massive millstones at the hand-mill named ‘Grotti,’ ‘Grinder – a mill which had been given to King Froði by Odin in disguise. “And these stones had the power to grind out whatever he who turned them bade them grind.”  [Hollander, ‘Poetic Edda,’ p. 154]  “Fróthi had the maids led to the mill and bade them grind him gold; and so they did, and at first ground for Fróthi gold and peace and happiness.  Then he gave them rest or sleep no longer than whilst the cuckoo was silent, or a lay could be sung.”  [Hollander, ibid, p. 154]

Here are some excerpts from the ‘Lay of Grotti:’

(Menja said)  “Now are we come to the king’s abode, of mercy bereft, and held as bond-maids; clay eats our soles, cold chills us above; we turn the Peace-Grinder; ‘tis gloomy at Froói’s.”  [Brodeur, p. 114]

“The chained ones churning ay chanted their song:  “Let us right the mill and raise the millstones.”  He gave them no rest, to grind on bade them.” [Hollander, p. 155]

(Menja said)  “A fool wert, Fróthi, and frenzied of mind, the time thou, men’s friend, us maidens didst buy; for strength didst choose us and sturdy looks, but didst no reck of what race we sprang.” [Hollander, p. 155]

Because, of course, Fróthi’s ‘handmaids’ are actually Valkyries, giant-born…

(Fenja said) “My eye sees fire east of the castle; battle cries ring out, beacons are kindled!  Hosts of foemen hither will wend to burn down the hall over thy head.  No longer thou Leire shalt hold, have rings of red gold, nor the mill of riches.  Harder the handle let us hold, sister; our hands are not warm yet with warrior’s blood.  My father’s daughter doughtily ground, for the death of hosts did she foresee; even now the strong booms burst from the quern, the stanch iron stays – yet more strongly grind!”  [Hollander, p. 157]

“The mighty maidens, they ground amain, strained their young limbs of giant strength; the shaft tree quivered, the quern toppled over, the heavy slab burst asunder.  Quoth the mighty maiden of the mountain giants; Ground have we, Fróthi, now fain would cease; we have toiled enough at turning the mill.”  [ibid, p. 158]

1 – 3- 2 Participation  JGB:  “Each of the four triads of Interaction determines one of the basic relationships that can arise in a world in which Essence and Existence are divided both inwardly and outwardly… In [the world of Selves, World XXIV], the triad 1-3-2 admits the True Self into the universal process of transformation.  It can be called the Law of Participation.  Being altogether essential in its character, it allows Selves to share in a common will.  The Triad of Participation is not committed to any one particular existence, and herein lies its significance for the Self-hood.  World XXIV is such that Selves are generally committed to a particular form of existence, but the compositeness of planetary existence allows the commitment to affect only part of the Self  The higher part remains uncommitted and can either retain its essential character or ally itself to existing forms.” [Bennett, p. 169]

Historic Corn Mill in Fagernes, Norway, photographed c. 1850 – 1870 by Francis Frith, born 1822 – died 1898 (maker), creative attribution, non-commercial license; courtesy of



On the Eoh rune:

“The Anglo-Saxon Runic Poem shows the meaning to be ‘yew-tree….’  The rune does not appear in the later Norse futharks, but the Scandinavian rune-masters attached the cognate name ỹr to the rune which is usually represented [in the ASRP] as [the form of the 15th A.S. rune, ‘eolhx’]…”  [Page (1), p. 70]

“ẽoh, ‘yew,’ is cognate to Old Norse ỹr, and it retains both its primary meaning of ‘yew tree’ and its original position and shape in the Anglo-Saxon Futhork…” [Sheffield, p. 225]

Taxus baccata – Tree from Botanical Garden Bergen Museum in Norway by Svein Harkestad at , creative attribution and share-alike license ‘European Yew from Bergen in Norway’

from the rune poems:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff: “Eoh [Yew] is a tree rough from the outside, hard and fast in earth, a shepherd of the fire, its roots under the pillar, a joy on the native land.”

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray: “ỹr is a bent bow and brittle iron… [rest is indecipherable]. bow.   Yngling”

OIRP.  T/YK: “ỹr is a stretched bow and iron ‘liable to rebel’ and Farbauti [‘striker,’ a kenning for ‘giant’] of the arrow. bow, rainbow.   ynglingr”

‘Farbauti of the arrow’ is not found in the oldest Old Icelandic Runic Manuscripts according to Ray Page [‘Old Icelandic Poem’], but it is found in a later manuscript version of the poem.

ONRP.  T/ONF: “ỹr is winter-greenest wood; expected, when burning, singeing.”

Perhaps Yew was burned regularly in Anglo Saxon England, perhaps not; I found mixed reviews of its virtues as firewood.  All of those reviews mentioned its poisonous qualities.  The English yew wasn’t considered to be suitable for making bows, however, unlike its counterparts elsewhere in Europe, and the Anglo Saxons had to ship yew in from else-where, for the making of longbows.  Yew was used regularly in Northern Europe, along with elm, for making longbows, where it was highly regarded for its elastic properties.

Yew longbow from Viking Age burial at Hedeby in Denmark.  Picture by © Kai-Erik Ballak / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), creative attribution and share-alike license

What is clear about yew, is its association until the late heathen period in Northern Europe with the god ‘Ullr,’ possibly meaning ‘glory.’  The god of the longbow, shields, skis and oaths was mentioned in the two oldest lays of the ‘Poetic Edda,’ the Lay of Grimnir and the Lay of Atli.  His home was in the ‘yew dales.’

Rings found at Lilla Ullevi excavation site, dedicated to Ullr, in Sweden , picture via, original source unknown; the rings are very likely to have been ‘oath-rings.’

The Lay of Grimnir establishes that, in early times, Ullr was a very important god:  [King Geirroeth, the about-to-be-former protégé of Odin, has been roasting the latter in a fire-place for nine days, unaware of Odin’s true identity.  And the god has finally had enough.  Just before he reveals his true identity, reeling off the names – in spades – which the doomed king has been trying to wring out of him for nine days, he refers to Ullr.]  “Will Ull befriend him, and all the gods, who first the fire quenches; for open lie to the Æsir all worlds, when kettles are heaved from the hearth.”  [Hollander, p. 62]

An illustration of the Norse god Ullr, from an Icelandic 17th century manuscript, courtesy of via, public domain 

“The name of the god Ullr (or the other form Ulinn) is found surprisingly often in place names in Norway and Sweden, although this god appears hardly anywhere else and seems particularly insignificant in the literary sources.  This fact must lead to the supposition that Ullr must have played a much greater role at the time that the place-names were formed than in the late heathen period when our oldest literary sources were written.”  [Simek, p. 257]

In my opinion, the Old Icelandic verse for ‘yew-bow’ describes a context of tension and a fairly dramatic one, at that…

2 – 3* – 1  Tension  JGB:  “In the second triad of identity, 2-3*-1, we see the ‘I’ turned away from the complete Individuality and facing the lower nature.  It is the essential aspect of Ego-ity.  Because it is formed by the conjunction of two opposing triads, the ‘I’ is in a state of perpetual tension.  It is not free, either outwardly or inwardly.  In one direction it is dependent upon the Higher Self for its power.  In the other direction, it needs the body and its functions for the exercise of its powers.  Its task is to reconcile the conflicting factors, and for this it must submit to the mutual action of the higher and the lower natures within the Selfhood… Tension differs from force inasmuch as it is triadic – a relationship – and not a dyad.  The ‘I’ experiences tension because it is between two opposing forces; it experiences force when it is itself identified with one of two forces… the ‘I’ can be defined as the reconciling power of the Self turned towards Existence.  this is a direct interpretation of the triad 2-*3-1… Each ‘I’ is a pattern of Will – that is, a type – and type determines fate.”  [Bennett, p. 166]


A special property of the ‘I,’ acquired through its two-fold relationship to space and time, is that it can exercise the power of directed attention.  Through this power, the ‘I’ can overcome the limitation of the Lower Self that consists in being tied to a single actual-ization in time…”  [Bennett, p. 175 – 176]

picture by:


picture by:



Peorð:  About this rune, Ray Page said:  “peorð  This word is a mystery.  There is an equivalent ‘Gothic’ letter-name pertra but no recorded rune-name from Scandinavia.  Peorð  (or peord as it is also written) appears only as the name of an English rune, and its Runic Poem verse, as well as being defective* in one place, is too general to give much clue as to its precise meaning. ‘Peorð is a continual source of amusement and laughter for the great… where warriors sit cheerfully together in the beer-hall.’ [Page (1), p. 70 – 71]*

Ray Page’s perspective pretty much sums up that of the scholars:  The name of the ‘p’ rune is a mystery; the writer of the sole verse concerning it (in the Anglo Saxon runic poem) messed up when he wrote it; and the mystery will never be solved.  Ann Groa Sheffield has made a valiant and fresh attempt to solve the mystery by referring to Old Norse customs, devoting a whole chapter to the rune, despite the fact that her book ‘Long Branches’ is focused on the Younger Futhark, not the Elder one.  She agrees with Page and the others that the verse is “defective,” and concludes that the word ‘peorð’ together with its verse in the runic poem refers to contests or wagers undertaken in the context of a drinking session.  I don’t accept Ms. Sheffield’s conclusions as to the meaning of the rune name peorð, because, for one, as she points out, the runic verse clearly does not refer to the “solemn” feasts known as ‘symbel,’ – and yet, as she and the others point out, the context of the drinking in the verse of a certainty includes “always laughter” as being a significant element in the meaning of the rune-name.  However, Ms. Sheffield inspired me to take a crack at solving the runic puzzle myself.  Moreover, I think she’s come closer to the essential significance of the name than anyone else has.

I decided to take what strikes me as being a fairly radical perspective:  I began with the premise that the author of the runic verse knew what he was doing, made no mistakes, and wrote exactly what he intended.  From that perspective, I took a very close look at the content, structure and relevant background of the runic verse, and this is what I’ve learned and concluded:

Here is an accurate facsimile of the sole runic manuscript to include the Anglo Saxon runic poem:

“The sole manuscript recording the poem, Cotton Otho B.x, [“dated to the 8th or 9th century”], was destroyed in the Cotton Fire of 1731, and all editions of the poems are based on a facsimile published by George Hickes in 1705.”  ….Fortunately for history, ““the great palaeographer, Anglo-Saxonist and antiquarian, Humfrey Wanley” [  ] had already copied out the poem for inclusion in Hickes’ dictionary.

Here is the content of the runic verse for the ‘p’ rune, exactly as it appears in Hickes’ dictionary:

Peorð byþ symble plega.    and hlehter wlancum ðar wigan sittaþ on beor sele

bliþe æt somne.

Peorð’ has no other known use in Anglo Saxon literature.  It appears only in the Anglo Saxon runic poem, as the name for the letter ‘p.’  All other writers have either assumed the word is a corruption of another word from a different language, or, they’ve given up on the mystery altogether.  I decided to operate from the paradigm that the writer wrote peorð for a reason, and that it behoved me to try to develop a framework for learning what that reason might have been.  With that in mind for the time being, I looked at the rest of the verse.

I accept Ms. Sheffield’s statement that ‘symble’ refers, not to the solemn feast of ‘symbel,’ but to the Anglo Saxon adverb meaning ‘always,’ ‘continually.’

The next significant word is plega.  The first thing that struck me about the word, even before I had learned all of its possible meanings, is the importance the writer seems to have given it.  There is what appears to be a period after the word, meaning, at the very least, a full stop.  I appear to be the only one who thinks that dot might be significant and not an error on the scribe’s part; so I spent a great deal of time researching the history of punctuation in Anglo Saxon literature.  What I learned is that, although the comma and semi-colon have only been around since the 11th century, dots indicating full stops for oral readings have been around for centuries longer than that.  Of course the 18th century copyist, Humfrey Wanley, would certainly have known about the punctuation; however, research into that personage’s character quickly persuaded me that he was highly unlikely to have tampered in any way with a manuscript he was copying out for posterity. Here’s what I found for the range of meanings for ‘plega:’

‘plega,’ “quick motion, movement, exercise;’ ‘play’ as in ‘festivity, drama, sport;’ ‘battle;’ ‘applause’

‘plega,’ play quick motion movement exercise play (athletic) sport game play festivity drama game sport battle gear for games an implement for a game clapping with the hands applause source:

The Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by John R. Clark Hall, Second Edition.

gives “plega IV:  “an implement for a game,”  from AS dictionary, p. 680  the only meaning the compiler actually gives, outside of examples, all written in Anglo-Saxon,  of the word’s use.

Keeping that range of meanings in mind, I went on to the next word in the verse:

From P. 609 of the  :

hlehter = var. of ‘leahter,’ ‘laughter.’ used with ‘ful’ to mean ‘full of laughter’,

[If you decide to download that dictionary, beware, the PDF is almost 90 MB in size. You could read it online, instead,  but it’s very very slowwww….]

Next up is ‘wlancum:’wlancum:  “stately, lofty, magnificent, rich: boastful, arrogant, proud.”  source:

and this:  told me that ‘wlancum’ is the dative case for ‘wlanc.’see also:

wiga’ means ‘warrior, fighter, man,’ BUT ‘wigan’ means ‘to fight, make war,’

wigan’ ‘fighting men,’ possibly – only plural in nominative or accusative cases, NOT dative (or genitive)  in dative case, it’s a Singular.


sele’ = ‘hall, house, prison’ whereas ‘+sele’ = ‘tabernacle,’ so, not beer-hall, ‘beer-tabernacle,’

æt‘  [preposition, roughly, at the time or in the place of; see]

somn’ = ‘samn’  ‘adverb meaning, together,’ or with verbs of motion ‘where’

Now, looking at the pattern of references in the totality of the Anglo Saxon runic poem, I think the author very consistently uses words for concrete things, not abstract ones.  Even the word ‘riding’ refers to a concrete and specific action, one that can be seen, one that is not overly broad in its range.  Therefore, I ruled out most of the meanings given for ‘plega,’ as being either too abstract or too broad, or in the case of ‘applause,’ simply meaningless in the runic context.  The word ‘plega’ is very important to the verse.  The only meaning that makes sense in the overall context, in my opinion, is ‘game piece.’

‘peorð’ is always a game (piece).  and laughter to the high and mighty, wherein the beer-tabernacle he sits.’ 

Games resembling backgammon were so important to the Northern Heathens that they are mentioned in ‘Voluspa’ twice in connection with the gods, near the beginning and near the end of the poem.

The word for the game of the gods was some variant or other of ‘tafl,’ or töfl, as for instance in  the ‘Corpus Poeticum’ by Guðbrandr Vigfússon: ‘Teflðo’ on page 184, line 131; [“tables”] and ‘tæflor’ [“tables”]on page 201, line 190    [see verse 8  re töfl, f. [tafl], a tablet, a piece in a game, Fms. vi. 29, Fas. i. 285. ]


So, if it’s true that peorð is actually a stand-in for a word meaning ‘game-piece,’ that begs the question ‘why would a stand-in have been used at all?’

“The most useful sources for the Anglo-Saxon rune names include three ninth-century manuscripts, two of c. 900 and 1000 respectively, and the early twelfth-century St. John’s College, Oxford, 17 [manuscript]…. The [Anglo Saxon Rune poem] text is based on a transcription made in the early 1700s from a manuscript of c. 1000… [Barnes, p. 157 – 159]

The historical timeline for the ‘table games’ shows that at times the games were banned:

… which could certainly have accounted for a stand-in word being used for the game-piece – if the writing of the poem had coincided in time with one of the periodic bans on the games, which, according to scholarly estimates of the age of the rune name, it did not.

So, perhaps Stephen Edred Flowers got it right when he concluded [as does Michael Barnes, ibid, p. 23] that the Old Germanic root of  “peorth” was “perthro,’ and possibly related to a Gothic word, ‘pairthra’ meaning ‘dice cup.’  Moreover, insofar as Dr. Flowers’ linking of the ‘p’ rune with the Old Germanic heathen conception of fate goes, well, there are numerous suggestions in the oldest heathen literature that human beings were themselves frequently the ‘game-pieces’ of the gods.  For example, in the ‘Lay of Grimnir,’ to which I have previously referred several times, the odds of King Geirrod’s passing the test of gentlemanly behavior set for him by his grim patron Odin had been severely skewed to the negative by Odin’s wife, Frigg, before Odin showed up at Geirrod’s door, seeking hospitality in the guise of a stranger who refused to give his particulars, stating only that his name was Grimnir.  Frigg and Odin had made a wager concerning the character of Odin’s favorite, and Frigg was determined to win…. …..Of course, Geirrod could have still come through for his patron, but, it would have required a greater act of conscience than what he proved to be capable of mustering…

Random notes:   *Professor Page also pointed out that the ‘p’ rune was not a late innovation.  It had been around long enough and accepted well enough by 670, that it was used in the “semi-official context” of a moneyer’s name on coins from that period.  [Page, ‘Runes and Runic Inscriptions, p. 10]  I looked for the Gothic ‘pertra’ online, for instance in this 682-page, 62 MB online Gothic “comparative” glossary:  ] and here:  without success.  I did find gothic ‘pathro’ here  but no English translation, and, anyway, it seems a bit of a stretch to me to try to relate it to a (presumably) Anglo Saxon ‘peord.’

Here are some interesting comments on that ASRP verse, by Ragnar at  “A possible candidate for the [‘fruit tree’ interpretation of ‘Peorth’ suggested by runologist Wolfgang Krause] might well be the elder.  ‘Devil’s wood’ is a folk-name still extant for elder in our time, because of its difficult properties when burning.  Elder is wood associated with witchcraft, and its name is said to be derived from the Slavonic ‘hohl,’ ‘hollow,’ itself a synonym for the female genitalia.  The use of both elder flowers and berries for wine, Odin’s intoxicating staple diet, is well known…”

Jorgen Bang: says in ‘Runes 2003:’ on page 34, quoting Michael Barnes to Erik Moltke:  “Note 7 The English version (MOLTKE 1985: 66) includes a passage that is not included in the Danish version: “On this point I have had a laconic query from Michael Barnes, of University College London, who asks, “Isn’t the p-rune p B with two of the side staves moved?”, and adds, “Cf. the phonetic relationship of p and b.” Brilliant! He must certainly be right. It then becomes illuminatingly obvious that p was modelled on an existing B , in the same way as we may legitimately suppose that o o was hit upon, “designed”, after 5 ng and m after e (Σ) e (though in these there is no “phonetic relationship” to compare) [Yes, indeed, in the Semitic words, or syllables, AYIN/OJING (‘eye’, ‘øjne’), MEM/EM/ME, cf. my interpretations, JCB] In all probability the first runic forms to be sanctioned were those that were directly copied from Roman capital letters, B < B, F < F, R < R, and so on.”

“Old backgammon game recovered from the Swedish war-ship, the Vasa, sunk in 1628 , picture by , creative attribution, share-alike license

“[The game of backgammon] consists of moving a number of disks of wood or ivory from a starting point to a goal and depends upon finding a hole into which it is possible to move. The player is not permitted to move at will into the available holes; this is left to the arbitration of the dice, which in Sumerian times stood for the chance that enters into every natural process.  This game is really a representation of a cosmic doctrine that has been lost, rediscovered, and lost again…  The principle of the game of backgammon is that one has a certain path to traverse, and one traverses this path by moving from available hole to available hole; however, one does so under the control of an uncertain factor introduced by the throw of the dice.”   [J.G. Bennett (2), p. 16]

“[In the evolutionary process] here again, the play of hazard is like this game [of backgammon] I am taking as a paradigm.  There are the holes that are made by the jumps or mutations.  Who will be able to get into the holes depends also upon how the conditions are being set up in that environment, resulting in the elimination of one strain and the reinforcement of another.  The strain that would have been eliminated under one set of conditions is strengthened and stabilized under another set.  This is in accordance with how the dice are thrown.

“[In the working of the law of hazard] there is this combination of the opening and closing of situations and the possibility of gaining or losing by one’s relationship to those changes.  The door opens, and he who can and does enter the door has made a step.  Opportunity and decision play together to make transformation possible.”  [ibid, p. 22]

In her extended commentary on the Old Norse mythic poem Völuspá, Ursula Dronke states:  “When Norsemen drew lots, each man had a similar wooden piece which he marked with his own symbol; the pieces (hlutir) were tossed together on a cloth and picked out by hazard by one of the men  (cf [Hreimskringla in Egils Saga Skalla-Grimssonar]).”  [Dronke (2), p. 128]

3-1-*2  Hyparxis  JGB:  “In the ordinary, or subjective, condition of human experience, there is no direct perception of the relation between inner and outer events… Only when there is mutual action between different levels, that brings the higher and lower parts of the Self into contact, does the ‘I’ awaken… One feature of this experience is the recognition of a special quality in space and time that the Reactional Self cannot perceive.  Becoming aware of the repetition of events, the ‘I’ begins to understand their meaning and to see the significance of its own position… A special property of the ‘I,’ acquired through its two-fold relationship to space and time, is that it can exercise the power of directed attention.  Through this power, the ‘I’ can overcome the limitations of the Lower Self that consists in being tied to a single actualization in time…”  [Bennett, p. 175 – 176]


“[in the fuþorc of the 9th cent. Brussels MS 9311 – 9319] the name of the rune is much obscured by the old reagent, but no doubt seems possible:  we have to read pert.”   [Derolez, p. 70]



      the sound is somewhere between the modern ‘z’ and the ‘s’ in pleasure

Eolhx Rune

From the Anglo Saxon Rune Poem:

Eolh-secg eard hæfþ oftust on fenne.

wexeð on wature, wundaþ grimme,

blode breneð beorna gehwylcne

ðe him ænigne onfeng gedeþ.

(courtesy of ]

T/Yves Kodratoff:  “(eolhx) The elk of the sedge* (eolh = elk) often dwells in fens, grows in water, grimly wounds and burns with boils the blood of the hero who seizes it.”  *YK:  “In the Eddic poem called “In praise to Thor,” a giant, widely called a monster throughout the poem, is also alluded to by means of the kenning, ‘parent of the deer sedge;’ so that the ‘sedge deer’ [reference in the ASRP] seems to point at a wild monster.  The elk of the sedge could then be a mythical monster, akin to the giants.  All this evokes Grendel, the wild monster, described in the poem, ‘Beowulf.’”

However, Eysteinn Bjornsson, in his translation of “In praise to Thor,”  says that ‘sedge buck’ is probably a kenning for ‘wolf.’  [04:8  ]

ASRP.  T/ONF:  “The Eolh-sedge (secg) is mostly to be found in a marsh; it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound, covering with blood every warrior who touches it.”

eolhx, with many variants… This too is a baffling name.  The equivalent rune of the Ger-manic Futhark had the value /z/ principally in inflexional endings.  Old English had no need of such a rune, so some English rune-masters used the character of the equivalent of the roman letter /x/.  Since this occurred only in texts of a learned nature, the rune is rare in Anglo-Saxon epigraphy, usually appearing in Latin surroundings… The Runic Poem, which needs emendation at this point, defines, not eolhx, but a compound eolhxsecg, some form of sedge-grass which ‘usually lives in the fen, growing in the water.  It wounds severe-ly, staining with blood any man who makes a grab at it…’”  [Page (1), p. 71]

Elk-Sedge, possibly what is referenced in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem.  Illustration by Thomé, Otto Wilhelm. Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. In 4 Mappen ; 531 Tafeln in naturgetreuen Farben mit 668 Pflanzenarten. Leipzip: Teubner, 1938.  Courtesy of 

However, Bruce Dickens says in his note 41 to stanza 15 of the AS rune poem:  “… This letter, originally z (which disappeared finally, and became r elsewhere in AS.), is a fossil found only in Runic alphabets. An earlier form of the name is seen in Epinal-Erfurt, 781, papiluus : ilugsegg, ilugseg (cf. the ilcs of the Salzburg Codex), which cannot be connected with the word for elk, and Wright-Wülker, Foe. 286. 36, eolxsecg: papiluus, where papil-uus probably = papyrus. Cf. Epinal-Erfurt, 795, paperum, papirum : eorisc.   Corpus, 1503, papirum: eorisc (bulrush).  The subject of this stanza is therefore some rush, species unknown. In this connection it is interesting to note that both secg and the Lat. gladiolus, which it glosses in E.E. 463, and Corpus, 977 are derived from words for sword ;  cf. Skeat, Etymological Dictionary, p. 546 (Oxford, 1910).”  [Dickens, p. 17]

“The sound value of the rune is given as equivalent to Latin X, but apart from the manuscript record the only known inscriptional record of the rune with this value is in the rendering of rex on the so-called Interlace dies for coins of King Beonna in the mid-eighth century.”  [Alan Griffiths, ‘Rune-Names:  the Irish Connexion’ in ‘Runes and their Secrets, Studies in Runology,’ p. 94]

For more on King Beonna’s runic coins see:

“Elsewhere the same compound [eolhxsecg] occurs closing papiluus (?= papyrus)…”  [Page (1), p. 71]

“The combination eolhxsecg has been compared with words glossing papiluus, namely ilugsegg, *illugseg (Epinal-Erfurt, 781], papilivus:  *wiolucscel (Corpus 1487) and eolxsecg (Wright-Wulker, Voc. 386.36).  Papiluus is generally presumed to be papyrus, as paperumpapirum: eorisc (Epinal-Erfurt 795) and papirum: eorisc (Corpus, 1503).”  [Griffiths, ibid, p. 94]

‘Cyperus papyrus’ by  , creative attribution, share alike license

“The latest certain date for the use of papyrus is 1057 for a papal decree (typically conservative, all papal “bulls” were on papyrus until 1022), under Pope Victor II…”

“Papal bulls were originally issued by the pope for many kinds of communication of a public nature, but by the 13th century, papal bulls were only used for the most formal or solemn of occasions.”

‘Papal Bull 15 Feb 1113’ “Papal bull Pie Postulatio Voluntatis confirming the foundation of the Knights of Malta, dated 15th February 1113, authored by Pope Paschalis II” , courtesy of , public domain

“By the 8th century, Anglo-Saxon England was at least nominally Christian, the Anglo-Saxon mission contributing significantly to the Christianization of the continental Frankish Empire.  Germanic paganism again briefly returned to England in the form of Norse paganism, which Norse Vikings from Scandinavia brought to the country in the 9th to 10th centuries —but it again succumbed to Christianization. Thus, mention of the Norse “Thor, lord of ogres” is found in a runic charm discovered inserted in the margin of an Anglo-Saxon manuscript from the year 1073.  Polemics against lingering pagan customs continue into the 9th and 10th centuries, e.g. in the Laws of Ælfred (ca. 890), but England was an unambiguously Christian kingdom by the High Medieval period.”

The poem ‘Beowulf’ references both a lair “in a haunted mere [pond]”  [lines 1360 – 70] “under the fen-banks”  [lines 815 – 821] for Grendel and his mother, as well as a dwelling “apart among wolves on the hills…” [1358]  The projected historical time-frame for the writing of both poems meshes:  800 or 900 for the ASRP; and 700 – 1000 for ‘Beowulf.’

In particular, ‘Beowulf’ references Grendel’s mother in connection with a watery dwelling:  “the one who haunted those waters… sensed a human observing her outlandish lair from above”  and “the hero observed that swamp-thing from hell…”   [lines 1300 – 1320, translated by Seamus Heaney]

3-1*-2* Time   JGB:  “As all potentialities are held in order by the conditions of eternity and space, so are their actualizations held in order by hyparxis and time.  Here we meet with a distinction that is most significant, both philosophically and psychologically.  The ‘I’ is subject to hyparxis and the lower part of the Self is subject to time.  The ‘I’ is not by nature a temporal entity, subject to actualization… Actualization in time, and hence ‘doing,’ is characteristic of the lower parts of the Self… it is only the ‘I’ that is capable of experiencing recurrence.  The lower part of the Self reacts automatically to the existing environment and can be aware of a single line of actualization only.  In other words, hyparxis-blindness is characteristic of the lower part of the Self.  So long as the ‘I’ is asleep, it is not aware of recurrence.  In the ordinary, or subjective, condition of human experience, there is no direct perception of the relation between inner and outer events – all is merged in the kind of dream-state that is characteristic of the Automatic Self.”  [Bennett, p. 174 – 175]

For more on European elk-sedge, see also:


Another plant fitting the description given for ‘elk-sedge’ in the ASRP and well known throughout Northern Europe is the stinging nettle:

picture by Uwe H. Friese, Bremerhaven 2003, creative attribution, share-alike license


The value of this rune is x, and the name is elux in the 9th century St. Gall MS 270.  [Derolez, p. 127]

In the  9th century Brussels MS 9311 – 9319  “part of the name ilix, too, is obscured by old stains, but the reading is not doubtful.”  [Derolez, p. 70]


Detail from the St. Gall MS 270 of the futhorc;  original of picture courtesy of

“The SG manuscript is probably from the mid-ninth century.  [ibid, p. 91]  It does not appear to have been written at St. Gall [ibid, p. 90 – 91] and “There seems to be no mention of the manuscript in St. Gall catalogues before 1461…”  [Derolez, p. 91]

“From feh, eh, ger, elux, and probably also from perd and berg (i.e. OE. berc) we may infer that the original [of the St. Gall MS 270 as well as of certain other continental runic manu-scripts] came from Anglian territory, and was written down at an early date [8th century].  The fact that the g-rune is found in other sources pointing to a Western region (Exeter MS. 3507, Cotton MS. Vitellius A 12, Nemnvius’s alphabet) may help to narrow down the areas…”  [ibid, p. 131]


“…as [Ralph] Elliott (1989:  68) points out, the OE gloss eolxsecg. papiluus (presumably ‘papyrus’) apparently rules out any connection with elks….” “…in my opinion, [Wolfgang] Jungandreas (1974:  375) is right in assuming that OE eolh-secg (˂*elhsagios) means liter-ally ‘elk-sword,’ a kind of reed from which arrows were made (hence, the later substitution of  ýr ‘ewe’ [sic] for the material from which bows and arrows were made in Anglo-Saxon times); with ezec in the Salzberg ms. and helix ‘elk’ in Venantius Fortunatus, there seems to be good evidence for the term elk…”   [Polomé, p. 427]



On the rune Sigel from the rune poems:

From the Anglo-Saxon rune poem:

T/Ray Page:  “’The sun is a continual joy to seamen, when they take a sea-steed over the fish’s bath until it brings them to land.”  [Page, p. 71 – 72]

T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Sigel* is feast-day and hope for those who depart on the fishes’ bath [ocean], until the wave-steed [ship] brings them to land.”  *YK:  “sigel = ‘sun,’ sige = victory”

T/Bruce Dickens:  “The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers   when they journey away over the fishes’ bath, until the courser of the deep bears them to land.”

From the Icelandic rune poem versions:

OIRP.  T/DanBray:  “[Sol] is the clouds’ shield, and a shining halo, and ice’s deadly sorrow.  rota (wheel).  siklingr* (king)”  *DB:  “The etymology is obscure.  It is not derived from sigr, ‘victory,’ as Thorsson claims.  It is possibly derived from siklan, ‘flowing of the spittle,’ – possibly in reference to the alliance of the Aesir and the Vanir, [MT:  two main groups of ON gods], or, from sigl ‘sail,’ – ie. a sea-king or leader of a fleet?”

T/Ray Page:  “[s] is cloud’s shield and shining halo. [The third kenning is ‘ice’s despair’ in AB manuscripts; in CRJOab it is ‘turning wheel.’]”  [Page (2), p. 36]

“Cleasby and Vigfusson define röðull as “halo, glory” and state that in the plural it refers to the saints (570); however they also state that röðull can mean “sun…”  [Sheffield, p. 140]

From the Norwegian rune poem:

T/Bruce Dickens:  “Sun is the light of the world; I bow to the divine decree.”

“According to Eddic mythology, Sol is one of the Æsir goddesses, but in fact she is only the personification of the sun and only played a role in poetry… There is much evidence for a devotion to the sun in the Bronze Age (rock carvings; sun chariot of Trundholm), and certainly as a life giving heavenly body, the sun probably always received a certain veneration. It is only evident from the occurrence of the Æsir goddess Sól in Old Norse literature and the goddess Sunna in the Second Merseburg charm that it was also considered to be a divine person, but both these occurrences are insufficient evidence to assume a sun cult… The combination of sun symbols with the ship in cult contexts, which occurs  frequently from the Bronze Age to medieval times, seem to go back to a cult of a fertility god (Njörðr or Freyr), hardly however to a personified sun.”  [Simek, p. 296]

JGB:  “The triad 3-1-2 [Eternity] determines the primary condition of all Existence, that is, the separation of possible and impossible…. We need not hesitate to assign the name Eternity to this first form [of the Law of Order], which exactly fits the description, ‘storehouse of possibilities.’  Eternity is the simple condition of receptivity in which the actual and the non-actual can both find a place.”  [Bennett, p. 174]

‘Morning Sun’ by


Margaret Clunies-Ross points out that there is “a close verbal and conceptual parallel [in the Norwegian rune-poem stanza for the Sigel rune] with the sun-stanzas of the [early-medieval Norwegian poem] Sólarljóð… in which the dying seer bows to the sun…”  [Clunies-Ross, p. 32]  See stanza 41 here:



The Third Aettir:


On the rune Tir or Týr [from *Tiwaz] from the Rune poems:

ASRP.  T/Ray Page:  “Tir is one of the guiding marks (tacn).  It keeps its faith well toward princes.  Above nights’ clouds it is always on its path and never fails.”  [‘Introduction to English Runes,’ p. 72]

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Týr is the one-handed god and the wolf’s leavings and the temples’ ruler.”  Mars.  tiggi(2) [king]  (2)  DB:  “from older ‘tyggi,’ ‘king,’ – derived from the verb ‘tju’ga,’ ‘to draw,’ also ‘toga,’ ’to draw’ (cognate with Mod. Eng. ’tow.’)

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray: “Ty’r is the one-handed god; often must a smith blow.”

“Týr  The Old Scandinavian name for the Germanic god of the sky, war and council…  Snorri [Sturluson] names him repeatedly as one of the more important of the Æsir…  The idea that Týr was one-armed, which is only explained by Snorri in the myth of the fettering of Fenrir, is mentioned both in Norwegian and Icelandic folklore and appears to represent an old feature of the myth…”  [Rudolph Simek, p. 337]

From Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, translated by Arthur Brodeur, in ‘The Beguiling of Gylfi,’ pages 32 – 34, source:   :  “The Wolf the Æsir brought up at home, and Týr alone dared go to him to give him meat. But when the gods saw. how much he grew every day, and when all prophecies declared that he was fated to be their destruction, then the Æsir seized upon this way of escape: they made a very strong fetter, which they called Lædingr, and brought it before the Wolf, bidding him try his strength against the fetter. The Wolf thought that no overwhelming odds, and let them do with him as they would. The first time the Wolf lashed out against it, the fetter broke; so he was loosed out of Lædingr. After this, the Æsir made a second fetter, stronger by half, which they called Drómi, and bade the Wolf try that fetter, saying he would become very famous for strength, if such huge workmanship should not suffice to hold him. But the Wolf thought that this fetter was very strong; he considered also that strength had increased in him since the time he broke Lædingr: it came into his mind, that he must expose himself to danger, if he would become famous. So he let the fetter be laid upon him. Now when the Æsir declared themselves ready, the Wolf shook himself, dashed the fetter against the earth and struggled fiercely with it, spurned against it, and broke the fetter, so that the fragments flew far. So he dashed himself out of Drómi. Since then it passes as a proverb, ‘to loose out of Lædingr,’ or ‘to dash out of Drómi,’ when anything is exceeding hard.

“After that the Æsir feared that they should never be able to get the Wolf bound. Then Allfather sent him who is called Skírnir, Freyr’s messenger, down into the region of the Black Elves, to certain dwarves, and caused to be made the fetter named Gleipnir. It was made of six things: the noise a cat makes in foot-fall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a rock, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird. And though thou understand not these matters already, yet now thou mayest speedily find certain proof herein, that no lie is told thee: thou must have seen that a woman has no beard, and no sound comes from the leap of a cat, and there are no roots under a rock; and by my troth, all that I have told thee is equally true, though there be some things which thou canst not put to the test.”

Then said Gangleri: “This certainly I can perceive to be true: these things which thou hast taken for proof, I can see; but how was the fetter fashioned?” Hárr answered: “That I am well able to tell thee. The fetter was soft and smooth as a silken ribbon, but as sure and strong as thou shalt now hear. Then, when the fetter was brought to the Æsir, they thanked the messenger well for his errand. Then the Æsir went out upon the lake called Ámsvartnir, to the island called Lyngvi, and summoning the Wolf with them, they showed him the silken ribbon and bade him burst it, saying that it was somewhat stouter than appeared from its thickness. And each passed it to the others, and tested it with the strength of their hands and it did not snap; yet they said the Wolf could break it. Then the Wolf answered: ‘Touching this matter of the ribbon, it seems to me that I shall get no glory of it, though I snap asunder so slender a band; but if it be made with cunning and wiles, then, though it seem little, that band shall never come upon my feet.’ Then the Æsir answered that he could easily snap apart a slight silken band, he who had before broken great fetters of iron,–‘but if thou shalt not be able to burst this band, then thou wilt not be able to frighten the gods; and then we shall unloose thee.’ The Wolf said: ‘If ye bind me so that I shall not get free again, then ye will act in such a way that it will be late ere I receive help from you; I am unwilling that this band should be laid upon me. Yet rather than that ye should impugn my courage, let some one of you lay his hand in my mouth, for a pledge that this is done in good faith.’ Each of the Æsir looked at his neighbor, and none was willing to part with his hand, until Týr stretched out his right hand and laid it in the Wolf’s mouth. But when the Wolf lashed out, the fetter became hardened; and the more he struggled against it, the tighter the band was. Then all laughed except Týr: he lost his hand.

“When the Æsir saw that the Wolf was fully bound, they took the chain that was fast to the fetter, and which is called Gelgja, and passed it through a great rock–it is called Gjöll–and fixed the rock deep down into the earth. Then they took a great stone and drove it yet deeper into the earth–it was called Thviti–and used the stone for a fastening-pin. The Wolf gaped terribly, and thrashed about and strove to bite them; they thrust into his mouth a certain sword: the guards caught in his lower jaw, and the point in the upper; that is his gag. He howls hideously, and slaver runs out of his mouth: that is the river called Ván; there he lies till the Weird of the Gods.” Then said Gangleri: ‘Marvellous ill children did Loki beget, but all these brethren are of great might. Yet why did not the Æsir kill the Wolf, seeing they had expectation of evil from him?” Hárr answered: “So greatly did the gods esteem their holy place and sanctuary, that they would not stain it with the Wolf’s blood; though (so say the prophecies) he shall be the slayer of Odin.”

3 – 2* – 1 Submission:  JGB:  “The second freedom, 3 – 2* – 1, is that which arises within the Self by its contact with the essential Reconciling Impulse, and issues as an essential affirmation.  This freedom is very similar in its manifestations to the freedom of Grace, and is often mistaken for it.  We call it inspiration, or enthusiasm, to indicate that it is the entry into the Self of the essential quality of the Individuality.  In the perfected Self, this freedom is always present.  It then operates as Submission to the Divine Will.  The Self in whom the second freedom is permanently established is a saint.”  [Bennett, p. 179]

Tyr and Fenrir, from the original illustration by John Bauer, courtesy of , public domain


With respect to the other two Týr-kennings in the Icelandic rune poem, ‘the leavings of wolves’ and ‘the ruler of temples,’ Margaret Clunies Ross points out that those are “of a kind not usually associated with the pagan deities.”  The first of those has “its closest parallel in eddic poetry, and specifically in a passage in the Second Lay of Guðrún, where Guðrún describes how she made her way to the woods to retrieve all that was left of Sig-urðr’s body after the wolves had feasted on it:  ‘I went alone from there, from the talking, to the wood, to pick up the leavings of the wolves.‘”  [Clunies Ross, p. 38]

And the remaining Týr-kenning “seems to have been modelled [sic] on kennings for the Christian deity, which in their turn are based on those for secular rulers in the pre-Christ-ian poetry, as Meissner has observed.”  [ibid, p. 38]


Marijane Osborn makes a careful and to my mind persuasive argument that, in the Old English Rune Poem “… Tir refers to the planet Mars, but to Mars as a navigational planet only, not as a god” [Osborn (2), p. 8] “as it holds dependably to its path along the ecliptic..” [ibid, p. 10]

Mars, by Hubble, 2001, courtesy of:



On the rune Bjarkan from the rune poems:

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Beorc (birch) has no shoots’ it carries its rods without fruits; radiant high twigs; high, its crown with leaves, fairly laden, reaches the sky.”

Ray Page points out that the Anglo Saxon Rune poem text “clearly describes a tree grown from root suckers rather than a seed, and this cannot be a birch.”  [Page, ‘Introduction to English Runes,’ p. 72]

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Bjarkan (birch) is a leafy limb, and a little tree, and a glorious wood.”  fir tree.   king (budhlungr)* *DB:  “Etymology is obscure.  Possibly derived from ’budh,’ ‘booth,’ (ie, someone important enough to have their own booth at the [Assembly]…

Ray Page translates ‘bjarkan’ as ‘birch-twig.’  [Page (1), p. 72]

ONRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “Bjarkan (birch) has limbs of the greenest leaves; Loki bore deceit’s luck.”

Ragnar, at ragweedforge: on the descriptions of the rune Berkana in the rune poems:  “[The ASRP]… describes a tree which is more likely to be a poplar than a birch.  [The NRP and the IRP] agree that birch has the greenest leaves of any shrub, and [the NRP] comments cryptically that Loki was fortunate in his deceit, which would appear more perfectly applicable to the mistletoe.”

“Loki was lucky in his deceit.”  The only connection I personally know of between a birch tree and Loki being, well, Loki, is in the story related in the Prose Edda of the murder of Odin’s son, ‘Baldr the Good.’ And this is also the story that Ragnar was referencing in his comments (above).

The story of Baldr’s death, translated by Arthur Brodeur,   [p. 71 – 72]:  “Baldr the Good dreamed great and perilous dreams touching his life. When he told these dreams to the Æsir, then they took counsel together: and this was their decision: to ask safety for Baldr from all kinds of dangers. And Frigg took oaths to this purport, that fire and water should spare Baldr, likewise iron and metal of all kinds, Stones, earth, trees, sicknesses, beasts, birds, venom, serp-ents. And when that was done and made known, then it was a diversion of Baldr’s and the Æsir, that he should stand up in the Thing [Assembly], (1) and all the others should some shoot at him, some hew at him, some beat him with stones; but whatsoever was done hurt him not at all, and that seemed to them all a very worshipful thing.“But when Loki Laufeyarson* saw this, it pleased him ill that Baldr took no hurt. He went to Fensa-lir to Frigg, and made himself into the likeness of a woman. Then Frigg asked if that woman knew what the Æsir did at the Thing. She said that all were shooting at Baldr, and moreover, that he took no hurt. Then said Frigg: ‘Neither weapons nor trees may hurt Baldr: I have taken oaths of them all.’ Then the woman asked: ‘Have all things taken oaths to spare Baldr?’ and Frigg answered: ‘There grows a tree-sprout alone westward of Valhall: it is called Mistletoe; I thought it too young to ask the oath of.’ Then straight-way the woman turned away; but Loki took Mistletoe and pulled it up and went to the Thing.

“Hödr stood outside the ring of men, because he was blind. Then spake Loki to him: ‘Why dost thou not shoot at Baldr?’ He answered: ‘Because I see not where Baldr is; and for this also, that I am weaponless.’ Then said Loki: ‘Do thou also after the manner of other men, and show Baldr honor as the other men do. I will direct thee where he stands; shoot at him with this wand.’ Hödr took Mistletoe and shot at Baldr, being guided by Loki: the shaft flew through Baldr, and he fell dead to the earth; and that was the greatest mischance that has ever befallen among gods and men.”  1. The Thing was the legislative assembly of Iceland; less specifically, a formal assembly held for judicial purposes or to settle questions of moment; an assembly of men.

The connection may be that the parasitic European mistletoe often attaches itself to a birch tree…

In his article, ‘Some Controversial Aspects of the Myth of Baldr,’   Anatoly Liberman points out that the mistletoe “does not grow in Iceland. It is known in a very limited area of Norway ( Hanssen 1933, 294–314, see the map on p. 313, and 326–27; von Hofsten 1957, 47), and in Sweden only in the south ( von Tubeuf 1923, 111–12). Yet nothing points to Sweden as the place where the Baldr myth originated. Consequently, the Voluspá poet probably had no knowledge of the plant, and Snorri certainly did not see the mistletoe at home; the same holds for their audiences…” [ibid, p. 26 – 27]  Liberman makes a case that “in an earlier version of the myth Baldr was killed with a thistle or more probably with a reed.”  [ibid, p. 27]  He says “it cannot be doubted that in the ancient myth the plant which killed Baldr looked harmless.” [ibid, p. 35]  He argues that “The mistletoe superseded the reed (let us call it this for the sake of the argument) at the time of intense Scandinavian-British contacts, that is, at the height of the Viking Age when English legends and superstitions became popular in Norway and Iceland. The plant’s characteristics, whether botanical or taxonomic, have nothing to do with the original myth.” [ibid, p. 36]

Snorri Sturluson’s kennings for ‘understanding’ are a very good fit for what are otherwise known as Loki’s chief qualities:  “”Understanding is called wisdom, counsel, discernment, memory, speculation, intelligence, arithmetic, far sight,[1] craft, word-wit, preëminence. It is called subtlety, wiliness, falsehood, fickleness.”   p. 240

3 – 2 – 1*  UNDERSTANDING  JGB:  “The third freedom, 3-2-1*, is that which comes from the awakening of the ‘I’ in the Self.  Through this freedom, the Self is enabled to be a creative power in the existing world.  The triad 3-2-1* leads from Essence into Existence, from Value into Fact.  Man is able to exercise this freedom of Understanding when the ‘I’ is established as the ‘master of the Self.’  Through understanding, the Self can submit to the Individuality and through understanding also, the ’I’ becomes the ruler of the lower selves and a responsible agent in the external world.”  [Bennett, p. 179]

‘Mistletoe In SilverBirch’ “European Mistletoe (Viscum album) attached to a silver birch (Betula pendula)” by  his website is:  creative attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license


The 9th century St. Gall MS 270  has the name berg.  [Derolez, p. 128]  “In berg [and in another continental MS form berh] we have to see adaptations of OE. beorc, berh, probab-ly accompanied by a change of meaning (‘mountain’ instead of ‘birch’, which should have become OHG. biric, birich).  The reading berg is supported by Munich MS. 14436.”  [ibid]



        ‘eo’  =  ‘a’ as in ‘fate’ plus ‘o’ as in ‘poetic’

On the rune *Ehwaz, [or ‘Eh’ Rune, following Page], from the Rune poems:  *The probable older-futhark rune name [Barnes, p. 22]

The Ehwaz rune only appears in the Elder Futhark; therefore, it isn’t mentioned in either the ONRP or the OIRP.

ASRP. T/Old Northvegr Foundation: “The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.  A steed in the pride of its hoofs, when rich men on horseback bandy words about it; and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.”

ASRP. T/Ray Page:  “The horse, charger proud in its hoofs, is a prince’s delight in the presence of fighting men, when rich men on horseback discuss its points.  For the restless it is always a means of relaxation.”  [ Page (1), p. 72 – 73]

“These are the names of the Æsir’s steeds:  Sleipnir (1) is best, which Odin has; he has eight feet…”   – from ‘The Beguiling of Gylfi,’ in ‘The Prose Edda,’ section 28, translated by Arthur Brodeur.

“Sleipnir, “Runner,” is the best of horses.”   – from ‘The Lay of Griminir,’ stanza 44  [Hollander, p. 62]

“… Odin is portrayed astride an eight-legged horse on Gotland pictorial stones from as early as the 8th century (Tjangvide; Ardre)… “  [Simek, p. 293]

“As would befit the horse of Odin, Sleipnir is used for trips to the world of the dead.”  [Lindow, p. 275]

“Riding Sleipnir (ON, ‘Slipper, Sliding one’), [enables Hermód the Bold, Odin’s son] to jump over the fence around Hel [on his mission to try to bring the slain Baldr back], [from ‘The Beguiling of Gylfi,’ st. 48].”  [Simek, p. 293]

“[Úlf Uggason’s use of the kenning ‘sea-Sleipnir’ for Baldr’s funeral-ship in his Húsdrápa] may show that Sleipnir’s role in the failed recovery of Baldr was known at that time and place in Iceland [in the last part of the 10th century]; it certainly indicates that Sleipnir was an active participant in the mythology of the last decades of paganism.”  [Lindow, p. 277]

See also Katrín Sif Einarsdóttir’s master’s thesis, published in September of 2013, ‘The Role of Horses in the Old Norse Sources: Transcending worlds, mortality, and reality:’

2 – 1* – 3*   DESIRE   JGB:  “The fourth triad [of Concentration], 2 – 1* – 3*, has a two-fold commitment to Existence.  The action no longer has a determinate direction.  It is the desire of the lower nature to achieve its own well-being.  Desire is not a property of the True Self, but only enters into its lower nature.  Although the triad is essential in its origin, the power of self-assertion turns it into an egocentric striving that looks for its results in Existence.  The lower nature finds itself in a state of tension and disharmony, because it cannot be complete except by union with the higher nature with which it has lost contact.  It seeks to liberate itself from suffering that is not of its own choice.  Not placing its aim above and beyond itself, it seeks to achieve a harmony that is impossible.  The inevitable outcome is a restless activity that leads outward into Existence.

Nevertheless, the desires of the lower nature are necessary for the evolution of the Self as a whole.  It is the task of the awakening ‘I’ to give a direction to the striving that cannot direct itself, but can only yearn blindly for what it cannot understand.”  [Bennett, p. 163]


‘Sleipnir Statue’ by  “On a hill overlooking Wednesbury Great Western Street Metro Stop stands Steven Field’s 6m. (18ft.) high stainless steel statue of Sleipnir, Woden’s eight legged flying war horse.”



On ‘Hazard,’ by John G. Bennett

“No one who has observed human affairs and human history can doubt that uncertainty and hazard are as real as order and completeness.  No account of man and his world would be worth much that did not give full weight to the reality of uncertainty, and show the way beyond it.”  [Bennett, p. 64]

“Hazard is not simple chance.  For instance, we do not know whether heads or tails will come up when we toss a coin.  This in itself has no significance.  It is only when the toss of the coin is linked to some important event, such as who will kick off in a football match, that hazard enters.

Hazard is the combination of uncertainty with significance.  If there is no significance with uncertainty, there is no hazard.”  [Bennett (2), p. 29]

“The Law of Hazard tells us that any process directed toward a definite aim is bound to be deflected by reactions it produces, and if these deflections are not compensated, the process will either come to a stop or change direction so completely as to ‘become its own opposite.’  It also tells us how the compensation can be achieved.  This is basically by the cooperation of processes of independent origin… [George Gurdjieff] formulated the Law of Hazard in terms of a musical octave that goes by tones and semitones from ‘do’ to ‘do.’  The semitones at mi-fa and si-do correspond to the points at which other processes must make their impact…” [Bennett, ‘Transformation,’ p. 87 – 88, as quoted in Bennett (2), p. 28]

“It is probably true that without hazard there could be no experience of the presence of God – for faith is the work of the reconciling impulse in the core of man’s three-fold nature that enables the impossible to become possible.  Since existence is spiritualized by faith, hazard must be accepted as a fundamental necessity of existence – as the very condition of the transformation of existence.  Hazard is the condition of faith and, when we apprehend it rightly, this makes it also the precursor of freedom.  It is through hazard that death and resurrection are made possible.  The selfhood, by accepting the hazards of the essence, permits the birth in its own center of [an independent and complete will.]”  [Bennett (2), p. 67]



“set of gaming pieces from the late 6th century burial mound at Taplow, found next to a pair of (Aurochs) drinking horns;” picture © Trustees of the British Museum; background by



On the rune *Mannaz from the Rune poems:

*According to Michael Barnes, [Barnes, p. 22], this is the probable older-fuÞark name.

“‘man, ‘human being,’ supported by the Scandinavian maðr and by the ‘Gothic’ letter-name manna.’”  [Page (1), p. 73]

ASRP.  T/Ray Page:  “In his mirth man is dear to his kinsman.  Yet each is bound to fail his fellow because the Lord, by his decree, wishes to commit the wretched body to the earth.”  [ibid]

OIRP.  T/Dan Bray:  “[Man] is man’s delight and earth’s addition* and ship’s adorner.”  man.  gentleman**  *  ie, ‘mortal,’ as, after death, one becomes an addition to the earth.  **  literally, ‘one who is mild, merciful, kind, gentle, liberal’

“Young was I once     and went alone,     and wandering lost my way;                                                  when a friend I found     I felt me rich:    man is cheered by man.”                                               –  from Havamal [Hollander, ‘Poetic Edda,’ p. 21]

ONRP.  T/Bruce Dickens:  “Man is an augmentation of the dust; great is the claw of the hawk.”

Odin’s name  Olgr,  ‘hawk, protector,’ is attested to in a number of manuscript fragments cited here:  [6]  note 7

2 – 3 – 1 TRUE SELF  JGB:  “The division of the Self into higher and lower parts enables it to constitute triads that link Existence with Essence.  This is the supremely important and characteristic task of the Will in World XXIV.  In the higher worlds, Will is power.  In the lower worlds, Will is exercise.  The power is in Essence; it is exercised in Existence…

“The Self is committed to a pattern of potentialities which is eternal and indestructible.  This pattern is the higher nature of the Self; and its realization, by way of actualization and recurrence, is hazardous and unpredictable.  The ‘exercise’ of the powers of the Will is possible just because of the uncertainty of Existence.  Thus power and its exercise are complementary and necessary to one another.  The Self can exercise the powers of the Will because of its peculiar tripartite nature.

“The triad 2-3-1 in World XXIV can be called the Triad of the Cosmic Identity of the True Self.  It places the True Self in the context of the universal pattern of Existence.  To be in World XXIV means to be ‘something.’  The Cosmic Identity of the True Self is derived from higher part of the Self…”  [Bennett, p. 162 – 163]


Robert DiNapoli points out that:  “Here [in the corresponding OE rune-poem stanza] the poet appears to be voicing a Christian commonplace about human mortality and the transience of earthly comforts, presumably in the orthodox context of death’s entry into the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s fall, yet the explicit context is one of treason among kinsmen, not only the central motif of the story of Cain and Abel but also a staple villainy in the mead hall melodramas of the heroic tradition.  One again the perspectives of secular literary tradition and Christian reflection overlap in a fashion that leaves unclear which is the literal matter and which the figural.”  [DiNapoli, p. 151]



On the rune Lagu from the Rune poems:

ASRP. T/Stephen Edred Flowers:  “Water is to people seemingly unending, if they venture out on an unsteady ship, and the sea-waves frighten them very much, and the brine-stallion does not mind his bridle.”

‘The Viking Ship’ by Edward Burne-Jones, F.V. Du Pont Acquisition Fund 1985 , photo by , creative attribution, share-alike license

ONRP.  T/Stephen Edred Flowers: “[Water] is (that) which falls from the mountain (as) a force; but gold (objects) are costly things.”

ONRP. T/Stav Academy:  “Waterfall is a River falling from a mountain; but ornaments are of gold.”

OIRP. T/Ray Page:  “is bubbling Vimur and great cauldron* and fishes’ field.”  *literally, ‘kettle,’ [See Page’s notes on page 37 of ‘Old Icelandic Rune Poem’]

Vimur (ON, the bubbling one’?…)”  [Simek, p. 362]

“… Vimur, greatest of all rivers.”  [Brodeur, ‘Prose Edda,’ in  Skáldskaparmál, section XVII, p. 82]

Hvergelmir ON ‘the bubbling cauldron’?…”  [Simek, p. 166]

Strokkur Geyser in Iceland by

“In Eddic mythology alongside Hvergelmir, there also other springs near Yggdrasill, namely the Urdarbrunnur and Mimisbrunnr, but [Jan] de Vries is undoubtedly correct when he considers all three differently named springs as being originally one and the same mythical spring.”  [Simek, p. 167]

“Eikthrynir the hart is called that stands o’er Odin’s hall, and bites from Lærad’s branches; from his horns fall drops into Hvergelmir, whence all waters rise: –“ [Benjamin Thorpe, ‘Poetic Edda,’ p. 34, in  Grímnismál]

“27. I know of the horn | of Heimdall, hidden

Under the high-reaching | holy tree;

On it there pours | from Valfather’s pledge

A mighty stream: | would you know yet more?”  from ‘Voluspa’


2 – 1* – 3 Generation:  JGB:  “The second form of the law [of Concentration], given by the triad 2-1*-3, is manifested in the generative action of the essential, or cosmic, feminine principle [by ‘feminine,’ JGB means, ‘receptive,’] upon the male [affirming] impulse asso-ciated with Existence.  Through this action the means are provided for the transformation of the ‘I.’ Here the ‘I,’ as male power, is brought under the combined influences of the Cos-mic Impulses of Receptivity and Reconciliation and is thereby regenerated.  The affirma-tion, which by its nature tends to produce a triad of expansion, finds itself constrained to submit to the manifold commitments of Existence.

“In our human experience, we can observe the contrasting development of men with great affirmative power.  Such men may initiate movements of existential expansion and, in doing so, be themselves destroyed; or else they may submit to the discipline of essential constraint, [whereby] they are themselves transformed into saints or sages, and can transmit a higher influence without being destroyed.

“The almost invariably observed relationship of mutal need between women and men in creative activity can be referred to.. the triad of Generation…”  [Bennett, p. 161 – 162]

Strokkur Geyser erupting in Iceland by



      ‘n’ as in ‘going’

On the rune Ing from the Rune poems:

The Ing rune only shows up in the Elder Futhark.

ASRP.  T/Old Northvegr Foundation: “Ing was first seen by men among the East Danes, till, followed by his chariot, he departed eastwards over the waves.  So the Heardingas named the hero.”

ASRP.  T/Stephen Edred Flowers: “Ing was first among the East Danes seen by men, until he again eastward went over the waves; the wain followed on; this is what the warriors called the hero.”

Beowulf cover from ‘Art Of American Book Covers 1875 – 1930’ By Richard Minsky, courtesy of

Ing, ‘the hero Ing.’  The Scandinavian name is unrecorded:  the ‘Gothic’ letter-name is enguz.  ‘Ing was first seen by men among the East Danes until he travelled east (reading est which some scholards amend [sic] to eft, ‘back,’) across the wave [sic].  His chariot followed on.  This is what the Heardings (or perhaps ‘the warriors’) called the hero.’  A hero Ing is unknown to Anglo-Saxon tradition but his name forms the first element of Ingwine, ‘friends of Ing,’ as Beowulf sometimes calls the Danes…”  [Page (1), p. 73]

‘Beowulf Burial Mound,’ The barrow of Skalunda, a barrow that was identified by the archaeologist Birger Nerman as Beowulf’s burial mound, photo by  “This is a picture of an archaeolog-ical site or a monument in Sweden, number Skalunda 3:1 in the RAÄ Fornsök database.”  creative attribution, share-alike license

“[Eolhx rune] and [Ing Rune] denote sounds that never occurred at the beginning of a word in Germanic.  There are some grounds for thinking their names may originally have been [*al(g)iz] and *ingwaz respectively, in which case they each incorporated the relev-ant sound, but in final [*al(g)iz] and medial (*ingwaz) position instead of initial.”  [Barnes, p. 21]

2 – 1 – 3* Responsiveness:  JGB:  “The… triad  2-1-3*… takes the form of respons-iveness to the demand for the perfection or completion of the existing entity.  There is no guarantee that the direction taken will be that of the Cosmic Concentration.  It may even lead the Self on the path of isolation from the Essence and to imprisonment in the bonds of Existence.  The hazards of Existence are nowhere so plain as in the uncertainty that surrounds the struggle for self-perfection.  The essential impulses of denial and affirma-tion are too subtle for the limited understanding of the Divided Self.  Unable to recognize their true relationship, the Self is always in danger of losing its direction.  Consequently, the triad 2-1-3* can work rightly in man only when it is related to the action of the Com-plete Individuality, by way of the triad 1-2-3.  The two triads, working harmoniously to-gether, can establish a direction that will coincide with that that of the Cosmic Evolution.

“It must be recognized however, that there is an eternal as well as a temporal significance to the relationship of the impulses.  Therefore the Law of Responsiveness must not be understood only as a temporal process of actualization.  It is the condition of the sensitivity of Existence to the Plan of Creation.  This sensitivity gives the responsiveness that is needed to enable Individuality to make its appearance in the Self.  Whereas the Law of Order can maintain the general relationship of co-existence of all entities, it does not provide for the adjustment of the lower to the higher that could be called ‘sensitivity in the upward direction.’  The triad 2-1-3* can be looked upon as the projection of receptivity, but it has a general integrative influence that could be expressed in the phrase, ‘everything seeks its own place.’  [Bennett, p. 162 – 163]


“According to the OE Runic Poem the name Ing was given to the (divine) hero by the Heardingas (˂Gmc.  *Hazdingōz “(those) with the feminine long hair – a feature of the priests of the divine twins among the East Germanic Naharvali, to which the royal dynasty of the Vandals owes its name… as well as the Lugian tribe of the Hasdingi… Germanic tradition, as reported by Tacitus (Germania, chap. 2) made *Iŋgu– the son of Mannus and the eponymic ancestor of the North Sea Germanic people… [Polomé, p. 431 – 432]



On the rune Daeg from the Rune poems:

The Daeg rune only appears in the Elder Futhark, hence, only in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem.

ASRP.  T/Yves Kodratoff:  “Daeg [day] is sent by the Lord, mankind beloved, glorious light of the creator, joy and hope for the rich and poor, useful for all.”

Yves Kodratoff’s translation captures the double meaning of AS ‘sond,’ meaning ‘gift’ or ‘messenger’ [cf Page, ‘English Runes,’ p. 74], as does the next one by Alan Griffiths:  “(day) is sent by the Lord, beloved by mankind, the glorious light of the Creator, a source of joy and hope to the haves and the have-nots, of benefit to everyone.”  [Griffiths, Rune-Names: the Irish Connexion, in ‘Runes and their Secrets:  Studies in Runology,’ p. 103]

From page 405, Benjamin Thorpe’s translation of the Lay of Hamdir in the ‘Poetic Edda’:

“1. In that court arose woeful deeds, at the Alfar’s doleful lament*, at early morn, men’s afflictions, troubles of various kinds, sorrows were quickened.”

*BT:  “‘The Alfar’s Lament’ is the early dawn, and is in apposition to ‘early morn,’ in the following line.  The swart Alfar [dark elves/dwarves] are meant, who were turned to stone if they did not flee from the light of day.  This is the best interpretation I can offer of this obscure strophe.”

Breaking dawn over the Potomac River, Mather Gorge, Virginia/Maryland by

From p. 146 of ‘Teutonic Magic,’ Kvelduff Gundarsson’s excellent book on “the magical and spiritual practices of the Germanic peoples:  “The Svartalfr [‘dark elves’ or ‘dwarves’] are said to be miserly and grudging, more ill-tempered than other races of Alfr [elves].  The word ‘dwarf’ is etymologically connected with the idea of harming, oppressing, or oppressing, or maliciously deceiving.”

“The Rune Poem focusses on the drihten and metod, the dominus and creator, with their obvious echoes of the opening verses of Genesis…”  [Griffiths, ibid, p. 103]

1 – 2- 3*  Awakening:  JGB:  “The third triad [of Expansion], 1-2-3*, is the action of the Individuality upon the Self-hood.  It is the Awakening of the True Self that results from the affirmation of Complete Individuality.  The Individuality itself is the seat of Conscience.  The triad 1-2-3* is the voice that awakens the ‘I’ in the essence of man; even so, it must reach his existing Self in order to influence his understanding.  This triad thus produces results outside the True Self.  It finds expression in works of true or objective art; it is conveyed through all ideas and teachings that show man that he is destined to participate in the Cosmic Drama.  This form of Expansion is manifested through the Self-hood but issues in works that can themselves have a creative quality.  Among organic species we can recognize the operation of the law 1-2-3* in the extraordinary beauty and fitness of form and function that makes of animals and plants symbols of creative achievement.”  [Bennett, p. 158 – 159]


George Gurdjieff, speaking in Peter Ouspensky’s  ‘In Search of the Miraculous:’  p. 143.  “[Man] is a machine, everything with him happens.  He cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention.  He lives in a subjective world… of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want…. The real world is hidden from him by a wall of imagination.  He lives in sleep…”

ibid, p. 144.  “There is nothing new in the idea of [spiritual] sleep.  People have been told almost since the creation of the world that they are asleep and that they must awaken.  How many time is this said in the Gospels, for instance?  ‘Awake,’ ’watch,’ ‘sleep not.’  Christ’s disciples even slept when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsmane for the last time.  It is all there.  But do men understand it?  Men take it simply as a form of speech, as an expression, as a metaphor…”

ibid, p. 219.  “First of all it must be realized that the sleep in which man exists is not normal but hypnotic sleep.  Man is hypnotized and this hypnotic state is continually maintained and strengthened in him.  One would think that there are forces for whom it is useful and profitable to keep man in a hypnotic state and prevent him from seeing the truth and understanding his position.

“There is an Eastern tale which speaks about a very rich magician who had a great many sheep.  But at the same time this magician was very mean.  He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to erect a fence about the pasture where his sheep were graz-ing.  The sheep consequently often wandered into the forest, fell into ravines, and so on, and above all they ran away, for they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins and this they did not like.

“At last the magician found a remedy.  He hypnotized his sheep and suggested to them first of all that they were immortal and that no harm was being done to them when they were skinned, that, on the contrary, it would be very good for them and even pleasant; secondly he suggested that the magician was a good master who loved his flock so much that he was ready to do anything in the world for them; and in the third place he sug-gested to them that if anything at all was going to happen to them it was not going to happen just then, at any rate not that day, and therefore they had no need to think about it.  Further the magician suggested to his sheep that they were not sheep at all; to some of them he suggested that they were lions, to to others that they were eagles, to others that they were men, and to others that they were magicians.

“And after this all his cares and worries about the sheep came to an end.  They never ran away again but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins.

 “This tale is a very good illustration of man’s position.”


Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn, from the mischief of created things; from the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads, from the mischief of those who practice Secret Arts, and from the mischief of the envious one as he practices envy.”  – Quran, S. al Falaq (The Daybreak), translated by Yusuf Ali



I want to note in passing that the ordering of the last two runes in this set, Othala and Dagaz, varies on the extant artifacts:  some show Dagaz as being the last of the two.


On the rune Othila from the Rune poems:

It only survived in the Elder Futhark, hence, only in the ASRP.

ASRP.  T/Stephen Edred Flowers: “eÞel [Estate] is very dear to every man, if he can enjoy what is right and according to custom in his dwelling, most often in prosperity.”

Old Germanic othala = ‘ancestral property;’ Gothic othal = ’property;’ Old English e’thel = homeland, property; Old Norse o’dhal = nature, inborn quality, property.

Yves Kodratoff:  “The German ‘Adel und Edel,’ which means ‘nobility of birth and nobility of soul,’ helps us to get the full meaning of Othala.”

eÞel, ‘land, ancestral home, landed property.’  Elsewhere the name appears with rounded initial vowel, as œÞil, œÞel.  The Scandinavian name is unrecorded.  ‘Gothic’ has a letter-name utal.  ‘The ancestral home is dear to every man, if in his house there he can enjoy what is right and decent in continual prosperity.’”  [Page (1), p. 74]

“We must assume that the society that produced the [5th century Norwegian runic] Tune inscription was ordered in such a way that there were common regulations that governed law in certain areas, such as land use and ownership rights and inheritance settlements.  They may also have had a concept of an allodial system, since the o-rune in the elder fuÞark appears to have had the name * õÞila, which is Proto-Scandinavian for ON õðal n. ‘property held under an allodial system.’  In Old Norse, the word can mean both ‘property’ pure and simple, and ‘family ownership rights to land.’  It is impossible to ascertain what õÞila meant, but we cannot get away from the fact that in this period it already may have been related to inheritance rights.”  [Spurkland, p. 41 – 42]

3 – 1* – 2 Space:  JGB“The possibilities of the Complete Individual are not limited by space and time.  This is allowed by the determining-condition 3-1-2.  When the condition is divided, there remains the non-fixation in time, but there is localization in space.  Thus, 3-1-2 becomes 3-1-2 as distinguished from 3-1*-2.  We thus have the proposition:  ‘Space stands to Eternity as Existence to Essence.’  They both share the quality of an essential receptivity, but space is existentially determined by its existential nature, whereas eternity is determined as to Essence alone; that is, the co-existence within one entity of multiple potentialities.

“Eternity is the condition that characterizes the higher nature of the Self, whereas space is the field of action of the ‘I.’ This can be expressed in the formula: ‘Eternity is inner receptivity by which the Individuality can act upon the Self.  Space is outer receptivity by which the Self is exposed to the action of external influences.’

“As all potentialities are held in order by the conditions of eternity and space, so are their actualizations held in order by hyparxis and time.”  [Bennett, p. 174]


‘The Christian Radich at Sunrise’ by , creative attribution, share-alike, non-commercial license


“The rune is œ is used several times for the word for the word eþel : three times in Beowulf, once in Waldere and once in King Alfred’s translation of Orosius.  The Beowulf manuscript (2)  [CottonMS. Vitellius A 15], consisting of two parts joined by a seven-teenth-century binder, was written about the end of the tenth century…  [In the third folio, 167r], the rune is part of the compound eþelweard ‘guardian of the native land,’ ‘king.’”  [Derolez, p. 399]



 List of Sources:                                                                                                                              Andrén, Anders et al ed., ‘Old Norse religion in long-term perspectives,’  Nordic Academic Press, 2006                                                                                                                 Antonsen, Elmer H., ‘Runes and Germanic Linguistics,’  Mouton de Gruyter, 2002   Barnes, Michael P.,  ‘Runes, A Handbook,’  The Boydell Press, 2012                                 Barnes, Michael P. (2)., ‘What is Runology and Where Does It Stand Today?‘   in ‘Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies 4 (2013)’                                                                                                                             Bek-Pedersen, K., ‘The Norns in Old Norse Mythology,’  Dunedin Academic Press, 2011                                                                                                                                               Bennett, J.G., ‘The Dramatic Universe, Vol. II The Foundations of Moral Philosophy,’  Bennett Books USA, 1997                                                                                           Bennett, J.G. (2),  ‘Hazard, the Risk of Realization,’ Bennett Books, 1991         Bosworth-Toller ‘Anglo-Saxon Dictionary:’                Brodeur,  Arthur G., ‘The Prose Edda,’ Oxford University Press, 1923  Clark,              Clark-Hall,  John R.  ‘A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary [2nd  ed.],’ The Macmillan Company 1916                                                                                                                                                Clunies Ross, Margaret, ‘The Anglo-Saxon and Norse ‘Rune Poems:”  a comparative study,’ in ‘Anglo-Saxon England 19,’ p.  23 – 39.  Cambridge, 1990   Derolez, René.  ‘Runica Manuscripta.’  De Tempel, Tempelhof 37, Brugge.  1954           Dickens, Bruce, ‘Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic Peoples,’                    …    Cambridge University Press, 1915

DiNapoli, Robert.  ‘Odd Characters:  Runes in Old English Poetry.’  in Verbal Encounters:  Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Studies for Roberta Frank.’ edited by Antonia Harbus and Russell Poole. p.  145  –  162.  University of Toronto Press.  2005           Dronke, Ursula (1), ‘The Poetic Edda,’ Vol. 1, Heroic Poems,’  Oxford  Clarendon Press, 1969                                                                                                                                             Dronke, U. (2)  ‘The Poetic Edda, Vol. 2. Mythological Poems,’  Oxford Clarendon Press, 1997                                                                                                                               Dronke, U. (3)  ‘The Poetic Edda, Vol.  3. Mythological Poems, Vol. II,  ibid, 2011 DuBois, Thomas A., ‘Nordic Religions in the Viking Age,’   U. of Penn. Press, 1999

Flowers, Stephen E., ‘Runes and Magic, Magical Formulaic Elements in the Older Runic Tradition, Third Revised and Expanded Edition,’   Rûna-Raven Press,2010                                                                                                                                  Griffiths, A., 2013, Doctoral thesis, ‘A family of names:  rune-names and ogam-names…‘ Leiden University            Gundarsson, Kveldulf, ‘Teutonic Magic…’   Llewellyn, 1990                                                     Hall, John R. Clark.  ‘A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary,’ 2nd ed. Macmillan, 1916       Halsall, Maureen, ‘The Old English Rune Poem,’  University of Toronto Press, 1981 Haywood, John.  ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings.’  Penguin Group.  1995                                                                                                                                              Heaney, Seamus, ‘Beowulf,’ W.W. Norton and Company, 1999                               Hollander, Lee M. ‘The Poetic Edda,’ 2nd Ed. revised,   University of Texas Press,   2011 Kodratoff, Yves, at

Lindow, John, ‘Norse Mythology, A Guide to…‘ Oxford University Press, 2002           Makaev, È.A. ‘The Language of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions. A Linguistic and Historical-Philological Analysis,’ (translated from the Russian by John Meredig in consultation with Elmer H.)   Antonsen, Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademiens Handlingar, Filologisk-filosofiska serien 21, Stockholm 1996                 McTurk, Rory. ed. ‘A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature,’  Blackwell, 2005                                                                                                                                             Orchard, Andy, ‘Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend,’  Cassell, 2002

Osborn, Marijane. (1) ‘Hleotan and the Purpose of the Old English Rune Poem.’ in ‘Folklore, Vol. 92, no. 2. Folklore Enterprises Ltd. 1981                                                     Osborn, Marijane. (2)  ‘Tir as Mars in the Old English Rune Poem,’ pub. in  ANQ. Winter2003, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p3-13. 11p.                                                                         Ouspensky, P.D., ‘In Search of the Miraculous,’ Harcourt Inc,. 2001                         Page, R.I., (1)  ‘ An Introduction to English Runes,’ 2nd ed.  The Boydell Press, 1999   Page, R. I., (2)  ‘The Icelandic Rune Poem,’ Viking Society for Northern Research, 1999 Page, R.I., (3)  ‘Runes and Runic Inscriptions,’   The Boydell Press, 1998           Polomé, Edgar. C. ‘The Names of the Runes,’ in Old English Runes and their Continental Background.’  edited by Alfred Bammesberger.  Heidelberg.  1991       Raudvere, Catharina, Trolldómr in Early Medieval Scandinavia,‘ published in ‘Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, The Middle Ages,’  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002                                                                                                                                           Rodrigues, Louis J., ‘Anglo-Saxon Verse Runes,’ Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach.  2002

Sheffield, Ann Groa, ‘Long Branches, Runes of the Younger Futhark,’   Lulu, 2013   Simek, Rudolph, ‘Dictionary of Northern Mythology,’ (translated into English by Angela Hall),   D.S. Brewer Cambridge, 2007                                                                                 Sturluson, Snorri, ‘Edda,’ transl., intro, Anthony Faulkes,  Everyman Library, 1995   Spurkland, Terje, ‘Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions,’ (translated into English by Betsy van der Hoek,) The Boydell Press, 2005                                                               Stoklund, Marie et al ed. ‘Runes and Their Secrets, Studies in Runology,’                  ……………   Museum  Tusculanum Press at University of Copenhagen, 2006                              Thorsson, Edred, ‘ALU An Advanced Guide to Operative Runology,’  Weiser Books, 2012


12 Responses to Marnie Tunay’s Rune Page

  1. Pingback: google

  2. Ryan says:

    Wonderful page! I have read many (but not all) of the authors you site, and I am glad to see someone siting Page, and Sheffield rather than just Thorsson and Aswynn. Thank you.

    • Marnie Tunay says:

      I did actually reply to this comment in a timely manner, as the commentator Ryan will know. I don’t know what happened to my reply; perhaps I got a little trigger-happy recently when I was cleaning out spam comments recently. Anyhoo, so I am not thought to be a churl on this account, what I said here was; “Thank you for your comments! I will try to update this page as time permits.” And I certainly have updated it considerably since April of last year.

  3. mark says:

    Hi. As time permitted, I’ve so far made it down to Eiwhaz. I at first rolled my eyes in finding yet another attempt to correspond divergent systems. Though I doubt Bennet had runes in mind in formulating his model; which to me seems a tweaking of the zodiacal decans idea, I’ll have to admit that your correlations seem plausible.

    Jason Cooper makes the Aetts out as progressed Initiatory trials, experience and outcomes. His elaborations, too, seem surprisingly plausible… I’ll agree that Flowers and Freya, as talented as they are, may have “cooked up” a bit too much.

    Alas I’ve nothing of substance to offer you today (and we’ve just been hit with a mean blizzard) – but to say this is a wonderful and much appreciated effort.

    I can however add my own generalities. I may have mentioned at amazon that I’m looking at this in the larger context of The Alphabet(s). What I have only recently learned – after two decades of perusing and yet something which I suspected for some time – is that as far as Western systems, there is an underlying meme behind all of them.

    Meaning, it was the same Group or Network of Initiates involved with all these Western systems. Call them what you will and naturally in latter days some are called (ie Continental) Masons. One clue apparently being Odin’s words in the Havamal where he says one word lead to another etc. I always wondered about that because that thought has a wholly different feel as compared to the rest of the prose.

    The English alphabet is based on Pi. It’s been coined as the Construct and all the crazy stuff one can find via gematria is Because it was Designed that way (not some trick by God)… I’ve spun my wheels on Hermetic Kabbalah only to recently find out that it’s a false flag or only half of the equation; along with the Hebrew alphabet. Both are diversions as far as the intentionally conceived Western Construct is concerned (another clue is how Jews spell god; G-D… note that Jews won’t do same with say Allah or Any Other God! There is a reason for this and is part of what I’m conveying). The real source is Egypt with Osiris and Isis… Crowley et al, as suspected, worked in the diversion camp overemphasizing the role of Hebrew.

    I’ll cut this short because there is another approach to the Hebrew letters which at least seems to indicate otherwise. So we’re now in speculation mode.

    Have you ever used runes/galdr in either divination or spells?

    Seems to me their real power lies in the fact they are culturally loaded, so to speak. Rather than “playing with stick figures” or linguistics etc, one is (also) tapping into all that went before when they were in use in Northwest Europe. And there’s that particular style….

    In Any case, thanks for the wonderful read. Marc (Massachusetts)

    Oh you’re up in Canada, eh?

    • Marnie Tunay says:

      🙂 Thanks for your comments and for your interest. You might find Alan Griffith’s doctoral thesis of interest to you. It’s available online, I give the URL under sources on this page. 🙂 I don’t do divination or spells. I’m not a witch. (And any rumors you may have heard to the contrary are just that, rumors.) Yes, I’m in Edmonton, and I think you Easterners stole our winter. It was raining here last night. Turned the roads into a skating rink. As for the runes, I will say this: their power lies in their influence upon You, for better or for worse. They represent ordering agents. How that works itself out in your life depends on the spirit in which you approach them.

  4. mark says:

    Quite the storm and we’ve had enough thanx. And again thanks and kudos for this wonderful effort. It appears the (new agey) rune craze that started somewhere around the 80’s has really petered out, as far as the larger crowd/market anyway. You are right in those closing lines. It’s really not about magical work and you can use anything for divination. I myself think the local Environs are the best medium for divination… I’ve considered the Elder Futhark (etc) more as a, phenomenon.

    I’ll have to add that the hit’s I’ve made with my rune deck both validates, ironically, your thinking as well as my own. It appears that they will sometimes reveal a general or overall outcome… I do not use them in my visualization for manifesting (this is like using an unnecessary buffer!).

    Here’s the sort of stuff I get with my (hand painted) deck on a repeated basis. Countless times walking in the woods, visualizing one rune…to then draw that very rune later that evening. Asking same question, months apart, and drawing the same rune. I once placed 9 cards, randomly drawn, face down; after reading a very inspiring piece about Thor’s Hammer, Valkyries and Tiwaz. Incredibly, I drew all the staves that make up the concepts therein. After playing “Scrabble” to see what I could find, the runes drawn were; mjolnir plus z and t……… Elhaz for Valkyries, Tiwaz for same and Mjollnir for you know what. Stuff like this will ensure my runic interest! I’ve a tarot deck as well and this kind of stuff never happens. Bigger deck tho. Still!

    I Should add that there have been many times indeed where I’ve drawn a rune that Reflected the question. No new information, just an “echo” of the question. Like what’s going to happen; perthro…

    There are So many rune or rune like rows, almost identical. Our Psyches are funny tho with their unique or personal quirks. I’m not drawn to any of the other rows from further East (which the Futhark was based on). There’s that style thing.


    ps notification doesn’t work.

  5. Gafas De Sol Ray Ban Rb3016 W0366 51 Mm Clubmaster says:

    What I wouldnt give to have a debate with you about this. You just say so many things that come from nowhere that Im pretty sure Id have a fair shot. Your blog is great visually, I mean people wont be bored. But others who can see past the videos and the layout wont be so impressed with your generic understanding of this topic.

  6. Pingback: Nikevvfree

  7. Pingback: Introduction to Runes and Triads | Fakirs Canada

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s