Völundarkviða: when, where and why

The sources cited on this page can be found here:  https://marnietunay2.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/sources-for-volundarkvida-when-where-and-why/

Contender with Völuspá for the title of ‘most haunting poem’ in the 12th ? cent. Old Norse manuscript known as the ‘Codex Regius,’ Völundarkviða* ‘is hands-down the eeriest of the Eddic poems.  Most probably composed in 10th century British Yorkshire, it tells the story in terse verses (in a free fornyrðislag metre**) of the elf-man who wreaks a preternaturally savage revenge upon the ruthless monarchs who had him shanghaied, robbed of his gold and hamstrung.

*’the song of Völund’

**“old lore metre,” a stanza in 8 half-lines

If you’re not familiar with the poem, Wikipedia can give you a quick rundown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%B6lundarkvi%C3%B0a

and the excellent online site http://germanicmythology.com/   has a good translation into English by Benjamin Thorpe:  http://germanicmythology.com/works/ThorpeEdda/thorpe19.html    (That site also has Eddic translations into other languages, German, Norse and Swedish:    http://germanicmythology.com/works/eddiccollections.html   )

Other free online sources for various translations of the poem include:


[Bellows’ translation with his notes and texts, but the concordance with the Old Norse text is messed up.  If you don’t care about that, then this is a great free source for the poem, as well as for numerous others, including an excellent translation of Völuspá.]

Yves Kodratoff corrected the concordance for the above translation:  http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/VolundarkvithaEngONfacing.pdf   (There’s one typo though, as of this writing; Kodratoff wrote that it was Benjamin Thorpe’s translation, which it is not; it’s the translation of Henry Adams  Bellows.  He may have corrected that by the time this blog-post gets published; I’ve written to him and he agrees it’s a typo.  Moreover, Bellows’ notes are, as Kodratoff says, not in step with the verses.  Kodratoff also has a site rich in Old Norse pagan material:  http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/  and I recommend it.]

Another good free online source for myths from many cultures is sacred-texts.com, and they also have the Henry Adams Bellows translation of the ‘Lay of Völund:”    http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe17.htm   together with Bellows’s notes.

Two other translations I can recommend are Ursula Dronke’s, in her book ‘The Poetic Edda, Volume II, ‘Mythological Poems;’ and Lee F. Hollander’s, in his book ‘The Poetic Edda.’  Dronke’s translations are peerless, I think, and Volumes I and II of her ‘Poetic Edda’ contain painstaking, detailed notes.  However, Lee Hollander’s edition is much cheaper in price than Dronke’s, and he tries to replicate the metric patterns (which he also discusses in his introduction.)

Detailed Commentaries on Völundarkviða.  Recommended

John McKinnell.  ‘Völundarkviða:  Origins and Interpretation,’ in his Essays on Eddic Poetry.  University of Toronto Press 2014                                                                                  John McKinnell.  ‘The Context of Völundarkviða,’ in Vol. XXIII of the ‘Saga-Book of the Viking Society,’ 1990 – 93                                                                                                                        John McKinnell.  ‘The Context of Völundarkviða,’ in The Poetic Edda, Essays on Old Norse Mythology.  Edited by Paul Acker and Carolyne Larrington.  Routledge, 2002    Ursula Dronke.    ‘Völundarkviða,’ in ‘The Poetic Edda:  Volume II Mythological Poems.   Edited with Translation, Introduction and Commentary by Ursula Dronke.  Clarendon Press, 1997                                                                                                                                          John McKinnell.   ‘Eddic Poetry in Anglo-Saxon northern England,’ in Vikings and the Danelaw:  Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Thirteenth Viking Congress.  Edited by James Graham-Campbell et al.  Oxbow, 2001                                                                   Kaaren Grimstad.   ‘The Revenge of Völundr,’ in Edda:  A Collection of Essays.  Edited by R.J. Glendinning and Haraldur Bessason, pages 187 – 209.  University of Manitoba Press 1983                                                                                                                                                      H.R. Ellis Davidson.  ‘Weland the Smith’ in ‘Folklore, Vol. 69, No. 3,’ Sept. 1958

I hope to show herein that Völundarkviða may be read as a subtle cautionary treatise, from both a mystical and from a political standpoint, on the dangers both of that Northern aspect of sorcery known as seiðr* as well as on those dangers inherent in the mis-use of especially political power.

*For a quick and very rough idea:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sei%C3%B0r

I also hope to show that the poem’s enduring power arises in part from the spiritual power of its composer, who, again and again, picks up anew and transforms the elements in his story, never making a false move, never selling out to popular sentiment, and in the end transforming a weather-beaten old tale into an enduring myth, with real power even today to significantly affect the lives of those with the temerity to try to draw nearer.

What I can only say I believe, but of course will be unable to verify, is the poem was composed in North Yorkshire, perhaps in the 10th century, for the benefit of people who were working with techniques to develop their powers of attention.   I believe this, because I think I understand what the essence of seiðr was all about, thanks to the work of scholars such as Eldar Heide, and from this I also understand why seiðr was called ‘ergi,’ ‘perverse,’ ‘unmanly’ by the 13th century writer and politician Snorri Sturluson. [8]  Eldar Heide has argued persuasively that a very significant component of seiðr involved attempting to “attract” someone or something to oneself by ‘hidden’ or ‘magical’ means.  One does that by creating a ‘receptive’ field, in one’s span of attention.  [9]   It’s ‘black magic,’ when it seeks to act on others without their knowledge or understanding.   Certain spiritual techniques, when practiced extensively, certain forms of meditation, for instance, will tend to produce insight into principles of attraction along the way, hopefully at the same time that conscience is developed and an awareness of the risks of using attraction to manipulate the material world.  In the warrior societies of the north, sitting quietly and sneakily attempting to ‘pull’ someone or something to one must have seemed at odds with the warrior ethos, best left to women, in the minds of most, back then.   (The two Northern deities most known for their affiliations with seið and magic in general, were Oðinn and Freyja.)

Age and Provenance of Völundarkviða, ‘The Song of Völund:’                            The brilliant British scholar John McKinnell takes a number of good runs at this aspect of the poem:  in Saga-Book XXIII, he is writing for specialist academics when he sets out (in pages 1 – 14) his case, based on specific vocabulary elements used by the poet, that Völundarkviða may well have been  composed in Yorkshire of Britain in the 10th or early 11th century.   His Saga article assumes his readers have a good knowledge of both Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon or at least the Old Norse text of the poem with a facing-page translation.  [McKinnell (2) p. 1 – 14]

In his 2002 essay, McKinnell focuses on his interpretation of the context, and merely summarizes briefly the points he made in his earlier essay on the age and provenance.  He does, however, provide more translations into English of those elements he discusses with respect to dating and provenance.  [McKinnell (5) p. 198 – 200] He concludes herein that “the poem probably originates from a Norse-influenced area of England,” namely, “in Yorkshire, and hence to date from the period ca. 900 – 1050.”  [ibid, p. 200]

McKinnell’s  2014 essay strikes a nice balance between depth and accessibility; the arguments are both more extensive than those in his 2002 essay, and more directed towards an audience that may not have a working knowledge of Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon. His discussion of provenance is also greatly expanded from that in his earlier articles on Völundarkviða.   [McKinnell (1) p. 221 – 233]   His conclusion remains much the same, however, that “it is in the Yorkshire of the tenth or early eleventh century that [he] would tentatively place the origin of the poem we have, or at least an important part of its form and language.”  [ibid, p. 233]  I find his research and thought in this area to be very persuasive.

The three McKinnell essays on Völundarkviða are distinct, and I recommend reading all three, but, if you must choose only one, let it be the 2014 essay [McKinnell (1)].

McKinnell’s 1997 article, ‘Eddic poetry in Anglo-Scandinavian northern England’   [McKinnell (3)], has an extensive section on  Völundarkviða, including a run-down of the most significant indications of Old English influence together with English translations, and his most detailed examination of provenance with respect to the poem’s metrical structure.  He concludes herein that “Overall, the case for an Anglo-Norse origin for Völundarkviða seems unanswerable; the evidence comes from all major sections of the poem, and later Icelandic alterations or additions are not now detectable except where they consist of editorial or scribal misunderstandings.”  [McKinnell (3), p. 333].  This article is very tightly organised; and the English translations are a nice surprise, as they usually get left out of McKinnell’s articles.  This would be the first article on Völundarkviða that I would recommend, but for the considerable expense of the book itself.

Over the period of some thirty years, John McKinnell’s conclusion that Völundarkviða was most likely composed in the 10th century or in the early 11th century, in Yorkshire, has never wavered; and nobody has seriously challenged his work in this regard for decades.

I will be discussing specific points raised by McKinnell and other scholars as I go through the poem, stanza by stanza (below).

In an earlier work than that of McKinnell’s, Lee Hollander considers that the “brief glimpses of nature” in the poem “leave little doubt that the poem originated in Norway,” (Hollander, p. 158), but McKinnell disputes this in detail .  Hollander goes on to say that the metre of the poem – “a free fornyrðislag –“  [see for ex.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliterative_verse#Fornyr.C3.B0islag ]  “and treatment place it among the earliest in the Edda, that is, perhaps the ninth century.”  [Hollander, p. 158].

McKinnell, however, has made the best case for the poem’s having been composed in tenth or early eleventh-century British Yorkshire, as we shall see.

Kaaren Grimstad does not address the issue of age and provenance at all with respect to Völundarkviða, preferring to address the question of Völund’s identity – man, elf, or god?

Ursula Dronke looks at the issue of origins in a painstaking examination of the earliest traces of the legend of Völund [Dronke (1), p. 258 – 296] and tentatively concludes that the earliest traces of the poem, “ancient Germanic material,” “may be drawn ultimately from England rather than from Germany.”  [ibid, p. 274]  However, she also points out that “The names of the three main characters in the poem, Völundr, Níðuðr, Böðvildr, are not found as personal names in Old Norse or Old English historical records.  In German records, however, all three are found:  Weland and Baduhilt from the seventh century, Nidhad from the eighth.  This points to a German version of this story at this period.”  [Dronke (1), p. p. 269 – 270]


Context of Völundarkviða:                                                                                                        Hollander considered the poem to be an embodiment of an ancient Germanic “glorification” of revenge, and that the “motif belongs essentially to Germanic hero lore…” which was “given its most authentic expression” in Völundarkviða [Hollander, p. 159].

McKinnell echoes this perspective, saying that by the time of this version of the myth, “Völund’s days as a hero were numbered.”  [(1), p. 243]  He thinks that the poet “seems to regard” Völund as a man, “apart from taking over the probably traditional phrases which call him an elf…”  [ibid, p. 242]  He states on (1) p. 234 that “the poem is characterised by an evident mistrust of the power of women…”

McKinnell states that Völundarkviða is “an attempt to assert exact poetic justice” that “must be attributed to the poet rather than the source.”  [ibid, p. 235]   He later goes on  to examine the validity of the acts of vengeance taken within the context of medieval Anglo Saxon law and concludes that Völund’s acts of vengeance, in particular the slaying of the two young boys, have no validity within the context of the law.  [ibid, p. 242]

But, in my opinion, this view of the poem, as being an account of an outstandingly flawed hero who’s ditched by his otherworldly wife and then messed up bad by other humans for no good reason, the latter to whom he dishes it back in spades, fails to take into account at least two critical problems with the ‘heroic’ perspective:

  1. There is nothing heroic whatsoever, even by medieval standards, in any of Völund’s actions from beginning to end of the poem. Just for starters, when his swan-like wife takes off for sunnier skies, Völund doesn’t do the ‘manly thing’ like his brothers do, according to the Viking standard of the times, and head back out into the world, seeking his fortune and maybe seeking after the errant spouse as well.  He stays put; and, about this, McKinnell cites the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs,’ saying:  “… Staying put in such a situation is also more sensible in terms of this relationship; the human will not be able to find his supra-human mate against her will…”  But Völund is not a little pig, and there is only one place in Völundarkviða where the poet refers to him as a human being, using a poetic word for ‘man’ [‘seggr,’see my Note 1]; whereas he refers to Völund several times in the poem as “the prince of elves.”

Ursula Dronke was inclined to think that the poet meant to portray Völund as an elf:  “Are we to suppose that Vǫlundr was called ‘lord of elves’ because he commanded such spirits to aid him in his craft – as a Prospero commands an Ariel?  It is more in keeping (I suggest) with the treatment of fantasy in the poem – that of the swan maidens, for example – that he should be identified as an elvish being, an elf man, as his wife is a swan woman.  He has the radiant complexion of the elves (cf. hvítan háls, 2/9 – 10) that betrays his affinities.  Belief in ‘mixed beings,’ having a human and a non-human spirit within them, has been, and still is, widespread in many cultures…”  [Dronke (1), p. 262]

Hilda Ellis Davidson agreed that the Anglo-Saxon version of Völund was a supernatural being.  She says:  “But although Weland is linked with the world of heroes through his son, and in Deor is apparently accepted among heroes who have known hardship, he was clearly no mortal smith. The weapons he forged were those of legend, and he is at home in the Other World, the world of the unquiet dead and of fierce struggles against hostile magic, where ordinary moral judgments are suspended. The motif of a powerful supernatural being oppressed by a foolish or arrogant king and taking summary vengeance upon him is one familiar in mythology, and Odin himself is found more than once in such a position. Other heroes beside Weland have one foot in the familiar world of heroic loyalties and another in the implacable supernatural world. The outstanding example is Sigurd the Volsung, whose story has many points of contact with Weland, and there are others from Saxo’s collection of stories, in which again cruelty, treachery and vindictiveness are common. We find Weland and his family inhabiting tombs and mountains, descending to realms under the sea, hurling great stones through the air and forging the superb weapons of legendary heroes. His place then would seem to be among those powerful beings we call giants, although they could have dealings with mortals and even mate with them…”   [Ellis Davidson, p. 159]

Moreover, Völund is not tending the crops on a farm while he awaits the return of his wife:  Identified by the poet throughout the poem as being one of those sketchy elven-smiths, he occupies his time in a very dodgy-appearing act of metal-working, namely, making hundreds of gold rings, stringing them on linden ropes, and, get this, counting those rings, every last one of them, apparently as a nightly ritual.  McKinnell thinks it’s the work of a devoted and forlorn abandoned husband, saying that “there is an apparent rightness” about the nightly ritual.  [McKinnell (1), p. 237]  But there is nothing in the text to back up McKinnell’s value judgment of “rightness” and what the poet actually has to say about that, is to immediately preface his account of the nightly ring-ritual with the phrase “prince of elves,” using the phrase for the first but certainly not the last time in the poem.  This appearance of this phrase in the poem’s recital would have immediately alerted an Anglo-Saxon listener that magic was afoot.  McKinnell at least concedes that it is possible the ritual involved magic to compel the smith’s errant wife back to him [ibid]; and he knows elves were viewed quite dimly in Anglo-Saxon Britain as being trouble-making and dangerous supernatural beings [see Alaric Hall, for instance]; so, where he got the idea that there was any appearance of “rightness” about the ritual is beyond me.

We will learn a lot more about that ring-ritual as we go into the poem stanza by stanza (below), as well as others of Völund’s even more clearly unheroic acts; and, as we shall see, the poem fairly reverberates throughout with undertones of magic.


  1. At the end of the poem, Völund finally escapes his captors by flying away, on ‘webbed feet.’ If he’s a “hero,” then his act of flying away is unique in Norse accounts of heroes.  As Kaaren Grimstad remarks:  “… although gods and giants can fly, either by changing themselves into birds or by donning a feather coat, there is no instance of a mortal flying…”  [Grimstad, p. 191].

Gods, elves can fly in the Old Norse myths, but, humans?  –  only as the ‘astral selves of witches.’ [For ex. see st. 157 of the Eddic poem Hávamál here:   http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/ThorpeEdda/thorpe07.html  And for more on that reference in Hávamál see my note [2] below.)

Also, having ‘webbed feet’ doesn’t exactly speak to Völund’s humanness either.

Then there is the poem’s position in the Codex Regius, which is the only manuscript that gives the full reading of the poem:  Völundarkviða is either the last of the mythic poems or the first of the heroic poems, depending on your perspective.  John McKinnell considers it to be “a waste of time” to consider the poem’s position in CR [McKinnell (4), p. 38], but if the poem was placed in that position intentionally, then it cannot be ruled out that the CR scribe intended thereby to highlight a shifting ambiguity as regards the nature of the elf-prince, perhaps, part human and part elf, a “mixed being.”  [Dronke (1), p. 262]

In addition to the foregoing, there is no place in the poem where Ursula Dronke gives a translation of ‘hero’ for the poet’s words for the “prince of elves.”  [Dronke (1), p. 243 – 254]  [See my note 3]

One roughly contemporary Anglo-Saxon account of the Völund, the late-9th century [North (1), p. 101] poem ‘Deor,’ does perhaps go closer to the concept of Völund as being a hero.  See stanza 1 here:  http://www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet/?do=get&type=text&id=Deor   which calls him a man and even “a better man” than the king who had him enslaved and hamstrung – although calling him a “better man” than his tormentor would still be setting the bar awfully low for ‘hero’ status.  In any case, John McKinnell points out that in several significant respects, “the spirit of Völundarkviða is quite different from that of Deor, and probably represents innovation by this poet.”  [McKinnell (5), p. 202]

The same can clearly be said and has been said, as regards the oldest known Anglo-Saxon version of the Völund myth, which is embodied on the 8thcentury Franks Casket [McKinnell (5), p. 201 – 202], namely, that it differs quite significantly from Völundarkviða, and it actually has more in common with the 14th century Þiðrekssaga.  [See Dronke’s remarks on the Franks Casket, my note 4.]

Catharina Raudevere emphasises the importance of remembering that the meanings given to eddic lore could change in different historical periods, saying:  “Too often Old Norse mythology has been presented as a reflection of static and homogeneous conditions rather than as part of dynamic processes and changes in northern Europe.  The same stories must have been given highly different meanings in different times in different areas among different social groups – and presumably also by men and women…. But with sources as scarce as the Old Norse ones it is frequently hard to maintain an animated image that gives the full flavour of complexity.”  [Raudevere, p. 79]

Now I think we are ready to take a look at those elements most critical for understanding the poem, by-passing, however, the inept ‘introductory’ prose, which, as John McKinnell as shown, was added by a later scribe, probably the compiler of the Codex Regius, who struggled to comprehend significant Anglo-Saxon elements in the poem.


Stanza 1.  “1. Meyjar flugu sunnan myrkvið í gögnum, alvitr unga, örlög drýgja; þær á sævarströnd settusk at hvílask drósir suðrænar, dýrt lín spunnu.”

“Maids from the south | through Myrkwood flew, foreign beings, young, | their fate to follow; On the shore of the sea | to rest them they sat, The maids of the south, | precious linen they spun.” 

 alvitr:  Ursula Dronke:  “…The linguistic complexities that arise in any attempt to identify the origins of alvitr suggest that in Vkv it derives from an adaptation of a well-understood OE. term for ‘otherworld being,’ and that it was assimilated into Norse before the workings of analogy had removed such forms as al-, ‘other-‘, and vítt-, ‘being,’ from the ON oral vocabulary…”  [Dronke (1), p. 304]

John McKinnell points out that Vkv is the oldest extant use of the phrase alvitr unga(r), and that the “corresponding Old English word ælwit only appears in Beowulf 1500, where it means ‘alien creatures’ and refers to the monsters swimming in Grendel’s mere;4  but the form of the second element of alvitr corresponds to OE wiht rather than OE vættr, and consequently the prose editor [of Vkv] took it to mean ‘All-wise’* and interpreted it as a proper name.  No cognate word survives in Old Saxon.”   [McKinnell (1), p. 222].  [For more on the Beowulf reference, see my note 5.]

*An error of interpretation perhaps picked up by Alfred the Great and passed on when he translated Boethius and Theodoric and substituted a mention of Völundr for Fabricus the smith, in Book II, s. XIX, [See page 66 in your PDF browser here: http://lfoll.s3.amazonaws.com/titles/1178/Boethius_0543_EBk_v6.0.pdf  ]

myrkvið:  Ursula Dronke gives her best description of this word in her commentary to the eddic heroic poem Atlakviða:  “3/4  Myrkvið:  the archetypal ‘Black Forest,’ on the edges of habitation, beyond which lay the lands of alien peoples.  A messenger riding from the Danube to the Rhine would, in fact, have to cross the great mountainous forests of central Europe, part of which, the Erzgebirge, was still called Miriquidui in the eleventh century… In Norse poetic tradition, ‘crossing Mirkwood’ comes to signify penetrating the barriers not merely between one land and another, but between one world and another:  so Muspell’s sons at Ragnarøk will ride Myrkvið yfir (Lokasenna 42/2), and the swan-wives of Völundr and his brothers fly Myrkvið í gögnum before they find their human mates (Vkv 1/2 , 3/8).”  [Dronke (3), p. 47 – 48]


Stanza 3.  “Sáto síðan sjau vetr at þat, en inn átta allan þráðo, en inn níunda nauðr of skilði.  meyjar fýstusk á myrkvan við, Alvitr unga[r], örlög drýgja.”

 “There they stayed seven winters through; but all the eighth were with longing seized; and in the ninth fate parted them.  The maidens yearned for the murky wood, the young Alvit, fate to fulfil.”

nauðr:  “3/6  nauðr, ‘oppressive, unavoidable, necessity,’ coercion,’ ‘lack of freedom,’ ‘slavery…’  [Dronke (1), p. 307]

Karen Bek-Pedersen discusses the “apparently close connection between nornir and nauð” which “seems to emphasise that these supernatural females were thought of primarily in relation to issues of distress…” on page 34 of her book ‘The Norns in Old Norse Mythology.’

That strong eddic connection between nauðr and the Norns, ‘shapers of fate’ [Note 6], is undoubtedly what made Benjamin Thorpe translate ‘nauðr’ as ‘fate’ in Vkv.


Stanza 5.  (or 6, depending on which translator did the arrangement of the verses]:   “Hann sló gull rautt við gim fastan, lukði hann alla lindbauga vel.  Svá beið hann sinnar ljós[s]ar kvánar, ef hánum koma gerði.”

“Red gold he fashioned | with fairest gems, And rings he strung | on linden bæst ;  

So for his wife | he waited long, If the fair one home | might come to him.”

“Völundr’s detachment from human society is accounted for in the poem (a) by his absorption in his past, and (b) by his belonging to a different society, not human, but supernatural.  Three times he is called ‘lord, or commander, of elves’ (11/3, 14/4, 32/2).  How are we to understand these phrases?  The álfar, revered family spirits, do not seem relevant here:  how could Völundr be their prince?  Völundr’s álfar must be spirits who practice the same skills of smith and craftsman, and whom, by his incomparable art, he excels and masters.  There are only two pieces of evidence that support this interpretation of álfar in Völundarkviða.  In Snorri’s telling of the myth of Sif’s hair (SnE 122 – 4), there is a clear reference to álfar as smiths, making magical treasures of gold, iron, and wood:  Sif’s golden hair that grows to her shorn head; Óðinn’s spear that never fails to kill; Freyr’s boat that brings its breeze with it and folds like a cloth when not wanted.  Völundr’s legendary creations rank with these:  the translucent gems made from eyes, the sword so sharp and hard that nothing can resist it, the artful wings he can fly with.”  [Dronke (1), p. 261]

Tilia cordata, the small-leafed ‘lime’ or linden tree, was an important cultural element in Anglo-Saxon Yorkshire and is still valued there today:  http://blog.bettys.co.uk/nature-notes-the-sweet-scent-of-the-linden-tree/

In Northern medieval times, the linden tree as well as certain other trees could stand in as a poetic metaphor or ‘kenning,’ for a woman:

“And as Wrind is Earth, the later poets will use all the synonyms of earth to swell out their verse, calling their mistresses the ground of gems, the field of gold or of the veil or linen (if married, for Northern matrons, like English ones, ‘ went under the linen,’ and covered their heads after the bridal). From the other class of women came the terms, ‘ the nymph or goddess — Thrud, Freyia, Gefn, Hlokk, etc., of the horn or beaker or cup, or wine, or ale, or mead,’ and the like. That once-found word ‘ lauka- lind,” leech-lady, may refer to the office of nurse to the wounded, and the leek-broth and leech-craft, which women occasionally at all events exercised, as the Kings’ Lives testify. The latter half of the ‘ kenning’ — the nymph’s name — might be replaced by the name of any feminine tree, ‘ linden, oak, fir-sapling, birch,’ and so on. These frigid and pedantic metaphors are even used in the few genuine love-verses that remain.”  [Vigfússon/Powell, p.476]

One of the best-known verses from the Old Icelandic sagas is that in ch. 72:48 of the early-13th century ‘Egil’s Saga,’ (which may have been written by the Icelandic scholar and politician, Snorri Sturluson); the verse ties a use of ‘linden tree’ as a kenning for ‘woman,’ with rune magic, in this case, healing magic, whereby the sorcerer-poet Egil Skallagrimsson reverses a spell-gone-wrong.  Afterwards, he says:  “No man should carve runes unless he can read them well; many a man goes astray around those dark letters.  On the whalebone I saw ten secret letters carved, from them the linden tree took her long harm.”  [Egil’s, p. 141]

leaves and flowers of lime tree (tilia cordata) picture by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:N_p_holmes , creative attribution, share-alike license;  quote is from ‘charm for a sudden stitch, found in the late 10th century [Alaric Hall, p. 109 – 110] Anglo Saxon manuscript Wið færstice

Вæst, es; ml ni The inner bark of a tree, of which ropes were made; tilia:—Baest vel lind tilia. Lye. [Pía!. Dut. bast, m, bark:  О. Dut. bast, m. signifies the bark of a tree and also a rope ; because the inner part of the linden or lime-tree was mostly used for making ropes : Ger. M.H.Ger. bast, m. bark: O.H.Ger. past, m : Dan. bast, m: Swed. bast, и : O. Nrs. bast, n. The word is probably to be derived from bindan to bind, v. Grm. Wrtbch. i. 1 148.”  [Toller, p. 67]

The Anglo-Saxons were the first to institute the custom of wedding rings:  “Wedding rings did not obtain in the Christian Marriage Service until the ninth century. The Anglo-Saxons established the custom of wearing plain gold rings, and these have been worn by married women ever since. There is no rubric on the subject; a ring is all the Church stipulates for. Consequently, we sometimes hear of a bride being married with the ring of the church-door key, in the absence of the more desirable article.”  [Wagner, p. 97]

From Grimm:  p. 1233:  “….  What sounds more significant is a Scotch tradition I take out of Chambers’ Fireside Stories, Edinburgh 1812, p. 37:  ‘When a person has received a sprain, it is customary to apply to an individual practiced in casting the wresting thread.  This is a thread spun from black wool, on which are cast nine knots, and tied round a sprained leg or arm.  During the time the operator is putting the thread round the affected limb, he says but in such a tone of voice as not to be heard by the bystanders or even by the person operated upon:

The Lord rade,              set joint to joint

and the foal slade;       bone to bone,

he lighted,                     and sinew to sinew.

and he righted,             Heal in the Holy Ghost’s Name!’

Here the spell [second Merseburg formula] serves for sprains even in the human body, though it is set out with the sliding of the foal; and to the whispered words is added a ligature of woolen wool in nine knots.”  Teutonic mythology.   Jacob Grimm.  2nd edition 1844  vol. III

In his 2004 paper, ‘Spinning Seiðr,’ Eldar Heide makes a persuasive case [Heide, p. 164 passim] that the “easiest etymology of seiðr, ‘string, cord, snare, halter’, is fully compatible with seiðr as an ecstatic kind of sorcery, with the sending forth of the sorcerer’s mind, because it seems that the mind can be sent forth in the shape of a thread or function as a thread or rope.”  [ibid, p. 166]

However, the act of winding rings on linden ropes initiates a chain of events unforeseen by Völund, which culminates in his dramatic capture.


From stanzas 7 through 9, roughly:

“Stigu ór söðlum at salar gafli, gengu inn þaðan endlangan sal; sáu þeir á bast bauga dregna, sjau hundroð allra, er sá seggr átti.  Ok þeir af tóko ok þeir á léto, fyr einn útan, er þeir af léto.

“From their saddles the gable | wall they sought, And in they went | at the end of the hall; Rings they saw there | on ropes of bast, Seven hundred | that man had.  Off they took them, | but all they left Save one alone | which they bore away.”

Now, a perspicacious listener in any historical period should be thinking: ‘Wait, whaat??  They left 699 gold rings behind and took only one ring away with them?  To where?  And why?”

Without reply, the action in the poem immediately swings back to Völund:  “Kom þar af veiði veðreygr skyti, Völundr, líðandi um langan veg…. Sat á berfjalli, bauga talði, – alfa ljóði – eins saknaði; Hugði hann at hefði Hlöðvés dóttir, – alvitr- unga, væri hon aptr komin.”

“Völund home | from his hunting came, From a weary way, | the weather-wise bowman… On the bearskin he rested, | and counted the rings, The master of elves, | but one he missed; That Hlothver’s daughter | had it he thought, And the all-wise maid | had come once more.”

Here is the first time that the poet refers to Völund as being an elf; translations vary as to whether or not he is a citizen or leader or prince  of the elves, but, as John McKinnell says, “what is undeniable is that Völund is of elvish origin” [7].

And where does the poet elect to announce that Völund is an elf?  It is right in the middle of an activity involving those 700 rings on the linden ropes.  “He counted the rings – the master of elves – but one he missed.”

Clearly, we can’t understand the point of the poem without understanding what Völundr was doing with the rings.

From:  http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/norol-BF-X.html  an online Old Norse dictionary courtesy of the University of Texas, we learn that the word <telja (talða)>  meant:   “reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare  and that it apparently was derived from IE           1. del– IE         to tell, count, calculate”  [  see: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/ielex/PokornyMaster-X.html#P0329  ]

and:  “tǫlðu — verb; 3rd plural past of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare – traced” in  http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/norol-2-X.html#L474

as well as **  “talða — past participle; accusative plural masculine of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare – reckoned”  here:  http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/norol-9-X.html#L371

as well as:  “telia — verb; infinitive of <telja (talða)> reckon, count; trace; number, enumerate; recount; declare — to tally” in here:  http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/norol-9-X.html#L412

Tolley (1):  p. 555 – 556:  “The ring [in Völundarkviða]…. the poet may be intending a general allusion in his reference to eating bear meat, alongside mention of a ring, to magical means of tracking someone down as practiced by the Sámi.  Völundr uses a ring in an attempt to get back his supernatural wife.  The ring plays an important part in various broadly shamanic activities…  In view of the part played by the rings in Sámi bear rites, and in their divinatory shamanism, the coincidence of bear-skin and rings in Völundarkviða may be more than accidental, and intended to recall these Sámi practices.  The counting of the rings appears to be a divinatory activity to determine the return of Völundr’s wife, and he carries out this task as he sits on the skin; the complex of bear-skin and rings may thus fulfil a vaguely shamanic role.  The poet, however, has humanised the scene into one of absorbed, doting loneliness, and it is clearly unsuccessful in bringing back the swan-maiden wife – unlike (we may assume) the shamanic acts which may be alluded to.  The poem also tells us that Völundr sat so long that he fell asleep and woke viljalauss, ‘joyless:”  this, again, may be a humanised version of the ritual trance of the  Sámi shaman, who would awake utterly exhausted after searching in far regions for the knowledge he desired…”

About the possibility of the ring activity involving magic, John McKinnell observes that:  “…Völundr spends his time perfecting rings, whose completion seems to function as a symbol of female sexuality, as well as creating the idea of a chain magically binding the characters to each other…”  [McKinnell (1), p. 237]

Eldar Heide argues that etymological equivalents to the word seiðr from Old High German and Old English include the words “cord, string’ and ‘snare, cord, halter,’” and that these concepts are linked with seiðr, because “because it appears that the sorcerer’s mind emissary could be regarded as something spun: a thread or rope;” and seiðr was largely about attracting things.  “In perhaps half of the prose sources, the effect of seiðr is that desired objects, persons or resources, like fish, are drawn to the sorcerer. The clearest example is Saxo’s version of the seiðr séance in Hrólfs saga kraka. The prophetess’s task is to see where two boys are hiding, and Saxo says that they are “drawn out of their recess by the weird potency of the enchantress’s [sic] spells and pulled under her very gaze”  (Fisher and Davidson 979–80 I:202).  In Icelandic seiðr tradition, from recent times, attraction dominates and most of the sources have the fixed expression seiða til sín ‘attract by seiðr’(Jón Þorkelsson 956; Jón Árnason 958–6 [862–64]). In some of the sources, it is as if the victim is pulled by an invisible rope (cf. Almqvist 2000:263). As far as this kind of seiðr is concerned, the etymology ‘cord’ makes very good sense…”  [Heide, p. 164]

The issue of seiðr:                                                                                                                      Tolley (I) says on p. 221:  “The word ælfsiden occurs in three Old English remedies in Bald’s Leechbook III, S41, and Lacnunga S29 (hall 2007:  119; texts in Cockayne 1864: II, 334, and III, 10).  The contexts provide little help in offering an interpretation, but siden is likely to be related to Old Norse seiðr (see Hall 2007: 119 for the etymology and further references.)  A further related word in Old English is the noun sīdsa, also found in an ælf-remedy in Bald’s Leechbook II $65…. [see ref.]   Hence a type of magic related to that found in Norse sources is here associated with ælfe; just as in Norse, seiðr is particularly associated with the close counterparts of the ælfe, the Vanir (Hall 2007: 155).”

Alaric Hall, A states on p. 96:  “…Falling between these manuscipts in date is BL Royal 12 D. xvii, which contains the collections known as Bald’s Leechbook (in two books) and Leechbook III. The manuscript is handsome if plain, written by the scribe who entered the batch of annals for 925–55 into the Parker Chronicle.(3)  (3) See C. E. Wright (ed.), Bald’s Leechbook: British Museum, Royal Manuscript 12 D. xvii, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, 5 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1955), 12–27; cf. Ker, Catalogue, 332–3 [no. 264]; A. L. Meaney, ‘Variant Versions of Old English Medical Remedies and the Compilation of Bald’s Leechbook’, Anglo-Saxon England, 13 (1984), 235–68, at 250–1; Cameron, Anglo-Saxon Medicine, 30–1.”

Hall, A.  p. 131:  “Linguistically, seiðr had deep roots in Germanic-speaking cultures, and indeed it now seems clear that its medieval Norwegian reflex was itself later borrowed into the Sámi languages, as *sejda, apparently denoting places where prophecy was sought from gods.38 The senses of seiðr may still have been influenced by contact with Sámi culture later; but if we find correlations between the meanings of seiðr and ælfsīden, there is no reason not to accept them to reflect the words’ shared etymology. It is also worth noting that although we cannot link them lexically with sīden, we have evidence for three concepts in Anglo-Saxon culture which are prominent in our prose accounts of seiðr: the capacity for the soul to wander apart from the body; the use of magic wands; and the practice of working magic from a high place.39

Hall, A.  p. 130:  “Seiðr has been discussed extensively in recent years, but not in an Anglo- Saxon context.33 The main intentions behind conducting seiðr seem to have been divination and the manipulation of targets’ states of mind to cause them harm or to facilitate their seduction.34 It has pejorative connotations throughout our evidence, and these should be explained purely as the result of Christianisation only with caution.35


ELVES AND THE CHURCH:                                                                                                        “The phrase Satanæ diabulus ælfæ (‘devil of the elf Satan’) from an eighth-century Worcester prayer-book shows that ‘elf’ could be used as an epithet of Satan.43…  Demonic possession and its cause are the subject of a remedy in The Christian Ritual against Elves (in Lacnunga, following an Irish incantation against venom)*….   [North (2) p. 54]

*See:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacnunga

Alaric Hall observes that:  “However, we do have one Anglo-Saxon text which explicitly situates ælfe [= ‘elves’] in a wider discourse on the relationships between men and monsters in the world: Beowulf. Moreover, this source is probably relatively early, dating from the eighth or ninth centuries.75 As Neville has emphasised regarding Old English poetry, Anglo-Saxon literature offers little in the way of explicit cosmography; what there is, is directly based on Christian theology.76 Beowulf, however, is rich in implicit cosmology, which corroborates, elaborates and complicates my lexically based reconstruction of the relationships between men and monsters in sixth-century Anglo-Saxon culture.  There is one (certain) attestation of ælf in Beowulf, in the explanation of the origins of Grendel in lines 102–14, at the end of fitt I:  wæs se grimma gæ¯ st grendel hāten mæ¯ re mēarcstapa sē þe mōras hēold  fen ond fæsten fīfelcynnes eard wonsæ¯ li wer weardode hwīle siþðan him scyppend forscrifen hæfde in cāines cynne þone cwealm gewræc ēce drihten þæs þe hē ābel slōg · Ne gefeah hē þæ¯ re fæ¯ hðe ac hē hine feorwræc metod for þy¯ māne mancynne fram þanon unty¯ dras ealle onwōcon eotenas ond ylfe ond orcneas swylce gīgantas þā wið gode wunnon lange þrāge hē him ðæs lēan forgeald ·77   “as called Grendel, the famed border-walker, he who occupied waste-lands, the fen and the fastness, the homeland of the giant-race – the ill-blessed man inhabited them for a time, after the Creator had condemned him; the eternal Lord avenged that killing on the kin of Cain, because he [Cain] slew Abel.  He did not profit from that feud, but the Measurer banished him for that crime, from humankind. Thence all misbegotten beings spang forth, eotenas and ælfe and orcneas, likewise gīgantas, which struggled against God for a long while. He gave them repayment for that.”  [Hall, A., 59 – 60]

Alaric Hall concludes on p. 130 that:  “Like other assaults on the health by ælfe, ælfsīden is associated but not synonymous with diabolical tribulations, attesting again to the uneasy, incomplete alignment of ælfe with demons in ninth- to tenth century Anglo-Saxon clerical culture.”

Associations of elves and sorcery [seiðr] in early medieval Scandinavia include:  Hrólfs saga kraka, the Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, “a fornaldarsaga [legendary saga] from around 1400, but it is based on earlier versions and has analogues in other sources such as Saxo…”  [Tolley (2), p.148]

In the preface to his translation of chapter 32, ‘The Battle With Skuld,’ Stephen Flowers states that “Skuld is of the greatest of magical-kind [galdrakind] and descended from [af álfum] on her mother’s side.”*  Flowers goes on to translate the section involving elves and magic thusly:**  “At this time Skuld gathered to herself all the greatest men and also all the rabble of the nearby districts.  This betrayal was kept secret so that King Hrólfr, was not aware of any of it, nor did his retinue have any inkling about it, because the greatest magic [galdrar] and workings [gerningar] were used.  Skuld employed the strongest sorcery [seiðr] to overcome Hrólfr, her brother, so that in her army were elves [álfar], norns [nornir], and an untold number of other vile things such that human power [náttura] could not stand up to it…” [Flowers et al, p. 14]                                                                         *for more on Skuld see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skuld_(princess)#Hr.C3.B3lfr_Kraki.27s_saga

**The bracketed Old Icelandic inclusions in the above translation are Dr. Flowers’, not mine.

Clive Tolley points out that in Kormák’s saga ch.22, the spákona [seeress] Þórdís “performs an act of ritual magic healing, involving sacrificing to the álfar…”  [Tolley (1), p. 136).  About the age of the saga, Tolley states:  “Kormák’s saga is from the early thirteenth century, though the verse in it is, at least in part, much older…”  [Tolley (2), p. 153]

In his section ‘Norse notions of spirits,’ Tolley remarks that in addition to probably being evoked “as helping spirits by magical practitioners,” the álfar also apparently practiced magic…”  [Tolley (1), p. 208]

Evidence that seið, ‘sorcery,’ was likely to have still been a living practice in 10th century Norway:                                                                                                Heimskringla, the compilation of Scandinavian kings’ sagas that was likely to have been written by Snorri Sturluson, is not older than the 13th century.  However, in his preface to his translation of the same, Lee Hollander remarks on “Snorri’s cool impartiality… The opponents of King Saint Óláf have their day in court as well as the hero and his followers.  We are given to understand how ill will accumulates against him, how his harsh justice alienates more and more of his former friends.  Snorri does not moralize, he is “objective,” and is content to let facts speak for themselves…”  [Heimskringla, p. xxiii].  And in his own preface, the reputed author of Heimskringla says has this to say about his sources:  “Now when Harald Fairhair was king of Norway, Iceland was settled.  At the court of King Harald there were skalds, and men still remember their poems and the poems about all the kings who have since his time ruled in Norway; and we gathered most of our information from what we are told in those poems which were recited before the chieftains themselves or their sons.  We regard all that to be true which is found in those poems about their expeditions and battles.  It is [to be sure] the habit of poets to give highest praise to those princes in whose presence they are; but no one would have dared to tell them to their faces about deeds which all who listened, as well as the prince himself, knew were only falsehoods and fabrications.  That would have been mockery, not praise.”  [Heimskringla, p. 4]

What the foregoing indicates is, that Snorri  Sturluson likely wrote the saga of King Harald Fairhair, and he likely believed he was speaking the truth therein, about the historical presence of seiðmaður, ‘sorcerers,’ during the 10th century reign of Harald Fairhair over Norway.

From chapter 34 of the Saga of Herald Fairhair, translated by Stephen Flowers and James Chisholm, with bracketed Old Norse inclusions by Flowers:  “Rognvald Rettilbeini had Hathaland.  He learned magic [fjölkyngi] and made himself a sorcerer [seiðmaður].  King Haraldr thought badly of sorcerers [seiðmenn].  In Hordaland there was a sorcerer [seiðmaður] named Vitgeir.  The king sent word to him and asked him to stop the sorcery [seið].  He answered saying :  It harms little that we use sorcery [vér síðím] we farmers’ children and old women.  Since Rognvald does, Rettilbeini, high-born Harldsson in Hathaland.”  But when King Haraldr heard this spoken, Erik-Bloodaxe with his consent proceeded to the Uppland district and to Hathaland.  He burned his brother Rognvaldr along with eighty sorcerers [seiðmenn] in his hall, and people praised this deed greatly.”  [Flowers, p. 4]

Fun people, those Vikings.

At the very least, the preceding section of Heimskringla speaks to Snorri’s belief that his own readers in 13th century Iceland were still going to know exactly what seið was, and that they would consider his account of its continued existence in 9th century Norway to be at least plausible.

And in his book, ‘Heathen Gods in Old English Literature,’ Richard North presents data indicating that “there appear to have been analogues of seiðmenn in Anglo-Saxon paganism,” citing, for instance Bede’s “admiring” 8th century account of Æthelfrith’s slaughter of “that heretical nation” of Welsh monks for “calling on their God against us, though they bear no arms, they still fight us by pursuing us with hostile prayers.”  [North (2), p. 50 – 51].  As North goes on to remark, “Bede thus presents Æthelfrith as if this pagan king was regarding the Bangor monks as wizards whose magic could disarm his warriors…”  [ibid, p. 51]

From the foregoing, we can see it’s quite likely that 10th century listeners; both in Anglo-Saxon England and in Scandinavia, to the poem Völundarkviða would have readily made a connection between the poet’s epithet ‘prince of elves’ for its protagonist and northern traditions of sorcery.  They would not have needed to have been hit over the head with the idea to get it.  The very fact that armed men evidently on a shanghai mission took one ring out of seven hundred and left the others behind on their first foray into the elf-man’s turf, would have put the expectation into most medieval listeners’ heads, that ‘the Song of Völund was going to figure sorcery as a prominent theme.


Stanzas 11 through 16, roughly, (again, depending on which edition and translator you’re reading), deal with Völund’s capture.  Thorpe’s translation of these passages is nice and terse:

“So long he sat until he slept; and he awoke of joy bereft: on his hands he felt heavy constraints, and round his feet fetters clasped.

[Völund says]:

“Who are the men that on the rings’ possessor have laid bonds? and me have bound?”

 “Then cried Nidud, the Niarars’ lord: “Whence gottest thou, Völund! Alfars´chief! our gold, in Ulfdal?  No gold was here in Grani’s path, far I thought our land from the hills of Rhine.””

This last sentence is sometimes attributed to Völund, which is not reasonable, in my opinion.  The speaker is clearly surprised at the fact of the gold in the dark woods, and that could not possibly be the feeling of the owner of that gold, namely, Völund.

““[Völund says]:  “I mind me that we more treasures possessed, when, a whole family, we were at home.  Hladgud and Hervör were of Hlödver born; know was Ölrún, Kiar´s daughter.””

This last phrase of  Völund’s is often considered to be interpolated, but people in shock often go a little funny mentally;  in my opinion, the sentence supports the idea that Völund was in shock and temporarily divorced from the reality of what had happened to him and his surroundings.

Based on the data I have presented in the section preceding this one, with respect to the historical context, namely, that medieval listeners would have already made a connection between the poem, sorcery and elves by this point, it is reasonable to think that the king does not actually think at this point that Völund is an elf.  Clearly, the latter resembles a man in appearance, except, perhaps, for his ‘radiant’ skin.  As I have shown in the preceding section, at the time of the poem’s composition, elves were still considered to be a real supernatural danger, both in England and in Scandinavia.

Therefore, in the minds of medieval audiences, what king in his right mind would have knowingly mocked a dangerous supernatural being?  Therefore, it seems clear to me that epithet ‘prince of elves’ is given again as mockery, to introduce a dramatic tension, between (1) the ‘reality’ of the situation as given by the poet, who has already clearly stated that Völund is indeed an elf – in fact, ‘the prince of elves! – and what that would have meant to the medieval mind in terms of a significant supernatural threat; and (2) the mockery and massive disrespect now being shown to that supernatural being by an earthly king.


I like Bellows’ translation of the next passage but not the bracketed interpolation that he as well as other scholars (though not Thorpe) insist on ‘borrowing’ from a later passage; the interpolation spoils the dramatic effect, in my opinion, and as I hope to show a little bit later…

“And in she came | from the end of the hall;  On the floor she stood, | and softly spoke: “Not kind does he look | who comes from the wood.”

Clearly, there has been a change of scene not spelled out in either the poem or in the running prose commentary (which McKinnell has shown was probably added by a later scribe).  It’s dazing and disorienting, not unlike what the protagonist must have been feeling.  “She” has not yet been identified; it is perhaps given to us to understand that at first the elf-man doesn’t know who the female speaker is, in relation to the king who has had him kidnapped and chained, perhaps with the other 699 of his very own rings and their linden ropes.  Nor do we yet know why one the kidnappers made off with just one of Völund’s gold rings – before, evidently, returning to jack the other 699 rings as well as the elf-man himself.


The queen continues to speak, and the intervening prose, which was added later by someone other than the poet, isn’t really necessary; we can get what happened in the next three verses, stanzas 16 through 18, approximately:

His teeth he shows, when the sword he sees, and Bödvild´s ring he recognizes: threatening are his eyes as a glistening serpent’s:  let be severed his sinews’ strength; and set him then in Sævarstad.”

The queen still hasn’t been named as such by the poet, but now, the listeners as well as Völund himself, who is evidently present during that speech, can understand who the female figure must be, if she’s practically giving orders to the king.  And now he knows who’s responsible for his savage maiming:  the ruthless consort of the king.

With respect to the poet’s likening of Völund’s eyes to those of serpents:  In her article, ‘Skaldic verse in Scandinavian England,’ Judith Jesch quotes the description of the 9th century York ruler, Eiríkr Haraldsson* given in Egil’s saga, ch. 78:  “… where, under the helmet of terror, the omnipotent ruler, advancer of his people, presided [lit. ‘sat’] over the land; the king governed the wet shores in York with a firm mind.  It was not safe, or without terror, to look at the light of the moons of Eiríkr’s brows** [eyes], when the forehead-moon,** keen as a serpent, of the omnipotent ruler, shone with fearsome rays.”  [Jesch, p. 321]

*For more on Eiríkr see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Bloodaxe

**  ‘light of the moons of Eiríkr’s brows’ and ‘forehead-moon’ are both kennings [poetic circumlocutions] for ‘eyes.’

Jesch goes on to remark of this description that:  “The seated, helmeted leader with fearsome staring eyes, and associated with serpentine forms, is just the sort of impression we get from the warrior portraits of the Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture of Middleton in North Yorkshire (Lang 1991, Figs. 676 – 81, 686 – 9].”  [ibid]

‘The legendary king Regner Lodbrog (Regnar Lodbrog, Ragnar Lodbrok, Ragnar Loðbrók), relief in Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød, Denmark.’  Photo by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Orf3us , creative attribution, share-alike license


The intervening prose between the forgoing section of the poem and the next one that I will look at really shows up the incompetence of the prose writer:  “So was it done: the sinews in his knee-joints were cut, and he was set in an island which was near the mainland, and was called Sævarstath. There he smithied for the king all kinds of precious things. No man dared to go to him, save only the king himself.”

‘No man dared to go to Völund except for the king.’  And yet it’s clear from later passages in the poem that even the king’s children were traipsing off to see the hamstrung elf-prince – and unaccompanied by a chaperon, to boot!                                                           ************

Stanza 17/18, roughly:  “Skínn Níðaði [skyggt] sverð á linda, þat er ek hvesta, sem ek hagast kunna,  ok ek herðak, sem mér hoegst þótti. Sá er mér frán[n] mækir æ fjarri borinnsékka ek þann Völundi til smiðju borinn. Nú berr Böðvildr brúðar minnarbíðka ek þess bót – bauga rauða.”

“At Nithuth’s girdle | gleams the sword That I sharpened keen | with cunningest craft, (And hardened the steel | with highest skill;) The bright blade far | forever is borne, (Nor back shall I see it | borne to my smithy;)  Now Bothvild gets | the golden ring (That was once my bride’s,– | ne’er well shall it be.)”

‘Volund the smith’ by Franz Stassen (1869-1949), courtesy of:  http://germanicmythology.com/works/WOLOZOGENART1920.html, edited somewhat by me

Bellows’ translation of bauga rauða, ‘red-gold ring’ is the most accurate; other scholars, including Ursula Dronke, have pointed out that the singular ‘bauga,’ ‘ring,’is known to have stood in for the plural ‘baugar’ in other writings, and, in the interests of making the elf-prince look less grimly selfish, prefer to emphasise that all of his rings were jacked, not just the one.

However, in my opinion, another interpretation is possible, that doesn’t involve changing the wording of the poem:

The ring that was taken from Völund in the beginning, before he was kidnapped and enslaved, is the ring that was given to the king’s daughter.  This ring had been worn beforetimes by Völund’s other-worldly wife.  It wasn’t just another one of the gold rings; it was the wedding-ring that Völund’s wife had left behind when she took off on him.

At Nithuth’s girdle | gleams the sword That I sharpened keen | with cunningest craft.’

‘with cunningest craft.’  It’s time to talk about the semantics of the word ‘cunning’ in both early medieval Norse as well as in early medieval Anglo-Saxon society.

The use of the word for ‘cunning’ in the poem and its significance:

ON the use of the word ‘kunnig” in Völundarkviða:

Hall, A.  p. 29:  “The distribution of words for supernatural beings in kennings for men is paralleled by other sorts of early Old Norse lexical evidence. Compounds ending in Old Norse -kunnr and -kunnigr (variant forms of the same word, cognate with English kin, not to be confused with the homophonous kunnigr ‘knowledgeable’, cognate with cunning)…”

The Icelandic Dictionary discusses cognates with ‘cunning’ in some detail on page 357 in connection with witchcraft and sorcery.

Catharina Raudvere also discusses the semantics of trolldómr and semantics of ‘kunna’ including ‘kunnig,’  ”

  1. 87: “Trolldómr is chosen here as an umbrella term to indicate the notions, rituals and social interactions in the Old Norse traditions relating to conceptions about the influence certain persons had – by innate qualities or through skill – on the world around them. Trolldómr covered an extensive filed and complex combination of abstractions and ideas as well as ritual practices.  Conceptions of trolldómr were always related to ideas about power and the experience of the balance of power.  The stories are always well integrated into a social setting.  The target for the activities can be a person, an animal, the landscape of a certain vicinity or more abstract entities like prosperity and fortune.  Focused as they are on actions committed, no text gives any formal definitions of trolldómr.  It covers a wide field of assumed abilities to change the visible reality by means invisible and unreachable to ordinary people. …  In Old Norse tradition, trolldómr was first of all a way of explaining the hardships of life – misfortune, illness, theft, unexpected death, etc. (Hastrup 1990a:  197ff.; 1992b; Flowers 1993; Mitchell 1998).  It served as a diagnosis of an uncontrollable situation.  As no established terminology existed, a rich variety of terms to describe the extraordinary capabilities was used, many of them with the connotations of traditional ancient learning and knowledge.”

and on p. 88 Raudvere says:  “Troll is the name of a rather vaguely defined group of supernatural beings in Old Norse mythology (Halvorsen 1982a, b; Lindow 1993).  They are demonic beings, sometimes acting as individual characters but mostly spoken of as a harmful collective.  However, the term is also used to characterize humans with special capabilities, and is even associated with giants, jǫtnar, or related to the dead.  The word is also frequently used in early Scandinavian Christian literature as an equivalent of devils, demons, monsters etc.  But mostly troll refers to the enemies of the Æsir and as a threat to the harmony of Miðgarðr (Hastrup 1981, 1990a, 1992b; Clunies Ross 1994).

“Words associated with trolldómr could point in several directions, particularly those concerning knowledge and speaking out loud.  There was a rich variety in terms relating to knowledge and knowing, and persons affiliated with trolldómr in Old Norse texts were generally described as knowledgeable.  The verb kunna, meaning both ‘to know, to understand, to know by heart,’ as well as ‘to have insight in the old traditions and lore,’ and ‘to behave properly,’ is at the core of this semantic field.  When ‘know’ or ‘knowledge’ are used in an Old Norse context the words have a far more elaborate signification than is usual in modern English…”  [ibid]

More on Seiðr and trolldómr:   Raudvere, p. 90:  “With the exception of seiðr no activity is more closely connected to trolldómr than the art of carving runes with the aim of cursing or healing… Most of the stone inscriptions were memorials of individuals and their deeds, but in the sagas scenes with the carving of runes were also a way of telling of people who made use of their trolldómr knowledge.  The runic alphabet was not just an ordinary writing system used for straightforward communication, but to a large extent associated with the carver’s special abilities… When a phrase like ‘carving runes’ appears in the texts it can also connote performing trolldómr in a more general sense….”

With respect to the power of words in trolldómr:  Raudvere says, p. 90 – 91:  “The most important terms connected to trolldómr either refer to knowledge or to the spoken word.  The importance of the latter in Old Norse literature is well documented (Boyer 1986; Hastrup 1990a:  197ff.; Pálsson (1991).  The importance of words was recognized to have a tremendous influence over the concerns of life.  The impact of a sentence uttered aloud could not be questioned, and could never be taken back  –  as if it had become somehow physical.  Strong and powerful words reappear throughout the sagas.  Many of the deeds of cunning people were not necessarily done but spoken.  The formulaic elements were supposedly vital when performing trolldómr.   Therefore, the verb gala, ‘to say, speak out loud, utter, sing, is the focus in this context…”

Raudvere adds on p. 89 that:  “The multiplicity of meanings is a crucial feature of the trolldómr texts and a key to understanding them…”


From stanza 24 or 25, roughly:   “Sneið af höfuð húna þeira ok und fen fjöturs foetr um lagði.  En þær skálar, er und skörum vóro, sveip hann útan silfri, seldi Níðaði. En ór augom jarknasteina sendi hann kunnigri kono Níðaðar, en ór tönnom tveggja þeira sló hann brjóstkringlor sendi Böðvildi.”

“He smote off their heads, | and their feet he hid Under the sooty | straps of the bellows.  Their skulls, once hid | by their hair, he took,  Set them in silver | and sent them to Nithuth;  Gems full fair | from their eyes he fashioned,  To Nithuth’s wife | so wise he gave them. And from the teeth | of the twain he wrought A brooch for the breast, | to Bothvild he sent it;”

It’s just nonsense to talk, as some scholars have, of this poem as being about a ‘shamanic transformation’ for the king’s sons, or some kind of ‘redemption’ for anyone in the poem. The king’s sons are murdered; their ‘being’ goes down into a lower order of existence, into thing-hood, not ‘up’ into a higher form of existence.  Moreover, the poet knows it:  twice as a refrain in the lead-up to the murders he assesses what is going to happen as being ‘evil’ – “open lay evil.”

However the word ‘kunnigri’ is translated in reference to the queen – ‘wily’ by Thorpe, ‘so wise’ by Bellows,’ ‘wise’ by Dronke, the fact is, as we have seen in the preceding section, that ‘kunnigr’ had definite connections in the minds of medieval listeners with magic-workers, sorcerers and witches.  The implication here is that both the elf-man and the queen are sorcerers, and old Norse sagas feature several other stories of sorceress-queens.

The epithet is in any case given in this section to the queen as mockery:  ‘so wise! so cunning!’ a queen who was sharp-eyed enough to see the elf-prince’s reaction to the loss of his sword and his wife’s ring – but not perspicacious enough to figure out that pay-back was coming ‘round the bend for her.

And the elf-prince sends the queen the eyes of her sons.  “The eyes of the knowledgeable* is a recurring theme in Old Norse literature, but it is the fear of their gaze that is emphasized in other texts…”  [Raudvere, p. 124]

*By ‘knowledgeable’ Raudvere means ‘workers of trolldómr,’ which is the main subject of her essay.


St. 26:  Böðvildr and the broken ring:

As Kaaren Grimstad says:  “The second act of revenge begins abruptly; stanza 26 reveals Böðvildr at the smithy with her broken ring, which she asks Völundr to repair.  Again the audience is reminded of the extraordinary skill of the craftsman, for he replies that he can repair the ring so that it will seem more beautiful…  Unlike the slaying of the princes, the rape of the princess is not expressly stated in the poem…”  [Grimstad, p. 190]

Nor is it expressly stated that the ring was broken as a result of any carelessness on the part of the princess.  In fact, the elf-prince had either cursed the ring, I suggest, or at least predicted its breakage, in an earlier section, wherein he says:  “Now Böðvildr wears my bride’s red ring – never well shall it be!”  [Bellows’ translation]

If the ring was a symbol of his marriage, he may well have been predicting that its appearance on another woman was a sign his marriage to the swan-maiden was truly finished.

I think the poet meant to suggest that the ring had magic in it, intended to bring back Völund’s bride.  But instead of the bride he was expecting and hoping for, he got the king’s daughter.


Stanza 28:  the seduction of Böðvildr:  “28. Bar hann hana bjóri, þvíat hann betr kunni svá at hon í sessi of sofnaði.  “Nú hef ek hefnt harma minna allra né einna íviðgjrna.”

 “Beer he brought, | he was better in cunning, Until in her seat | full soon she slept.  Völund spake:

“Now vengeance I have | for all my hurts, Save one alone, | on the evil woman.” 

Again, the elf-prince’s connection with magic is highlighted with the poet’s repeated use of the word ‘cunning.’  Both Völund and the queen may well be suspected by medieval audiences to have engaged in some form of sorcery in this little drama.   Völund is often said by scholars to have raped the princess, but, as she is later in the poem said to have “cried” to see her “lover” go, and he then refers to her as his “wife,” I’m sceptical that ‘rape’ is the right word for what happened.

I will talk about the second part of the second section of stanza 28:  “Now vengeance I have | for all my hurts, Save one alone, | on the evil woman.” a little bit later, when I discuss the king’s final words in the poem to his wife, the queen.


Völund’s Recovery from his maiming:   “Vel [á] ek,” kvað Völundr- “verða ek á fitjom, þeim er mik Níðaðar námo rekkar!” Hlæjandi Völundr hófz at lopti.”

“Quoth Völund: “Would | that well were the sinews Maimed in my feet | by Nithuth’s men.” Laughing Völund | rose aloft,”

Volund takes flight,’ drawing by Franz Stassen (1869-1949), courtesy of:  http://germanicmythology.com/works/WOLOZOGENART1920.html

Again, there is a probable connection in the minds of medieval listeners, with the traditions of seið and with Völund’s physical regeneration.  For instance, there’s the referral in the best-known of the eddic poems, Völuspá, to an evident link between witchcraft and regeneration:  “21. The war I remember, | the first in the world, When the gods with spears | had smitten Gollveig, And in the hall | of Hor had burned her, Three times burned, | and three times born, Oft and again, | yet ever she lives. 22. Heith they named her | who sought their home, The wide-seeing witch, | in magic wise; Minds she bewitched | that were moved by her magic, To evil women | a joy she was.”*  Heid, or Heith, was by far the name most frequently given to witches, prophetesses and sorceresses, in Old Icelandic literature.   Richard North gives other citations in support of a connection between sorcery and regeneration, and concludes that “The sum of this Norse evidence suggests that the seiðr-magic of the Vanir**was regarded from the earliest time as instrumental in the regeneration and subsequent deification of kings who fell in battle.”  [North (2), p. 108]

* http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa21-25.htm

** one of the two classes of Old Norse deities, to which the witch-goddess Freyja belonged, and of which only she is mentioned in the extant sources to have practiced sorcery.  **********

The culmination of Völund’s revenge:  “Úti stendr kunnig kván Níðaðar, ok hon inn of gekk endlangan sal,- en hann á salgarð settiz at hvílaz -: “Vakir þú, Níðuðr Níara dróttinn?”  “Vaki ek ávallt viljalauss.

Sofna ek minnzt sízt mína sono dauða; kell mik í höfuð, -köld ero mér ráð þín. Vilnomk ek þess nú, at ek við Völund doema.  Seg þú mér þat, Völundr -vísi alfaaf heilum hvat varð húnum mínom.”

 “Stood without, Nidud’s wily wife; then she went in through the hall; but he on the enclosure sat down to rest.  “Art thou awake  Niarars’ lord!”   “Ever am I awake, joyless I lie to rest, when I call to mind my children’s death: my head is chilled, cold are to me thy counsels.  Now with Völund I desire to speak.  “Tell me, Völund, Alfars’ chief!  of my brave boys what is become?””  [Bellows’ translation]

Henry Adams Bellows believed, and so do I, that Völund’s revenge upon the queen wasn’t complete until she saw he’d cost her the thing in life most important to her:  her influence over her husband.  “Now vengeance I have | for all my hurts, Save one alone, | on the evil woman.”

Benjamin Thorpe’s translation of the same lead-up to the end-game is along the same lines but is much more tentative:  “26. He then brought her beer, that he might succeed the better, as on her seat she fell asleep. “Now have I my wrongs avenged, all save one in the wood perpetrated.”

However, Ursula Dronke translates that same verse as being:  “28.  He bemused her with beer, for he was more knowing than she, so that on the couch she fell asleep.  ‘Now have I avenged my injuries – not one, but all of the envious snares!”  [Dronke (1), p. 250 – 251]  In her notes to the verse, Dronke argues that “in order to accept [a translation resembling  Thorpe’s of the last two lines] we need to feel satisfied that Völundr’s escape, together with the crushing níð [black-magic mockery] of his disclosures, could constitute a form of hefnd, ‘revenge…’ [ibid, p. 321]

In my opinion, Dronke shows a startlingly blind spot as regards the position of the king’s consort in medieval times.  We can see what the worst of Völund revenge against the queen actually was, as it plays out in somewhere in stanzas 28 – 31, depending on what translation you use.

I like Thorpe’s, for its terseness, which parallels the original, and I like his use of the word ‘wily’ for the queen, rather than ‘wise,’ which I have already discussed as a separate issue.    “28.   Stood without Nidud’s wily wife; then she went in through the hall; but he on the enclosure sat down to rest.  “Art thou awake Niarars’ lord!”

 “29.  “Ever am I awake, joyless I lie to rest, when I call to mind my children’s death: my head is chilled, cold are to me thy counsels.  Now with Völund I desire to speak.” 

And Ursula Dronke was well aware of the significance of the king’s words to his wife:

“30.  Outside stands the wise wife of Níðuðr and in she walked down the length of the hall, while he by the hall garden settled to rest himself.  Are you awake, Níðuðr, lord of the Níarar?” 

“31.  I lie awake ceaselessly, without joy.  I sleep not at all since my sons died.  My head is icy – your counsels are cold to me.  I long now to speak with Völundr.”  [Dronke (1), p. 251]

Wow.  What a comedown for the queen who had been ruling through her husband up to that point, what a comedown for the queen who had managed to persuade her husband to maim and enslave the prince of elves.  Her humiliation is clear – even without knowing the special significance in Northern medieval culture that this sentence would have had to any woman:  “Your counsels are cold to me.”  [Dronke (1), p. 251]

Ursula Dronke knew the significance of the words ‘cold counsel’ in Old Norse society, although for some reason she signally failed to apply her knowledge in her analysis of what constituted Völund ’s mightiest revenge against the queen who’d got him hamstrung.  In her notes to verse 31, Dronke says:  “31/6 köld … ráð, ‘hostile,’ ‘evil-bringing’ counsel, cf Lks 51/6.  For the deadly implications of kaldr, ‘cold,’ see commentary to Akv 2/6.  That it is ‘coldly fatal’ to follow women’s advice is a proverbial piece of anti-feminism common to ON and ME, earliest record – after the allusion in Vkv – in the Proverbs of Alfred (c. 1150) 122  line 336:  cold red is queen red, ‘women’s counsel is cold counsel…’”  [ibid, p. 325]

In that reference above to the Eddic poem Atlakaviða, Dronke states:  “2/6  kaldri röddo [‘with cold voice’]:  the same phrase occurs in the bitter address of the soul to the rotting body in OE Soul and Body 15… [see (ll. 15-21) here:  https://anglosaxonpoetry.camden.rutgers.edu/soul-body/   ]  ‘Cold’ as an epithet for speech or counsel has the connotations ‘sinister,’ ‘hostile,’ ‘fate-bringing’ in ON… as in OE and ME…”  [Dronke (3) p. 47]

John McKinnell notes the “bitterly appropriate” punishment of the queen with this “loss of her ability to have her advice listened to,” [McKinnell (1) p. 239], and sums up the queen’s ‘appropriate’ punishments, the “ironic gifts made from eyes for the observant woman;”  “loss of influence over her husband which she has misused;” and the “loss of her sons because of her part in the symbolic castration of Völund, in suggesting his mutilation” [ibid, p. 241], without, however, remarking on the significance of the poet’s line:  “köld eru mér ráð þín” ‘cold was your counsel,’ in conjunction with the line:  “”Nú hef ek hefnt harma minna allra nema einna íviðgjarna” ‘“Now have I my wrongs avenged, all save one…”  [Thorpe]                                                                                                              ********

[I will probably continue to update this post in the near future; for example, as I write this, a newer version of the Cleasby-Vigfusson Icelandic Dictionary is on its way to me, and may have an impact on what I’ve written so far about the semantics of the word ‘cunning’ for Northern medieval listeners.]


[1]  ‘seggr’  8. Stigu ór söðlum at salar gafli, gengu inn þaðan endlangan sal; sáu þeir á bast bauga dregna,sjau hundroð allra, er sá seggr átti.  “8. Got down from their saddles| at the hall gable, strode in from there | down the length of the hall.| They saw on the rope of bast rings threaded, seven hundred in all,| which that man ownedg.”  [Dronke (1), p. 245 – 246]  “seggr, m., pl. seggir, [A. S. säcg; from segja?]:—poët. a man, prop. a messenger, which sense can still be seen in Akv. 1, 2, 6, as also in the allit. seggr and segja; at þú mér, seggr, né segir, Skm. 5; seggir segja mér hvártveggja, Hallfred. 2. gener. a man, Vkv. 7, 21; nóttum fóru seggir, 6; sénir vóru seggir (strangers) und hjálmum, Hðm. 20; seggja dróttinn, Bkv. 5: the word remains in mod. usage in such phrases as, grimdar-seggr, a cruel man; óróa-seggr, a rioter. segg-fjöld, f. a host of men, Lex. Poët.”   http://norse.ulver.com/dct/cleasby/s.html

[2]   On the Hávamál stanza regarding witches apparently flying, [see for ex. Thorpe:  “157. For the tenth I know, if I see troll-wives sporting in air, I can so operate that they will forsake their own forms,  and their own minds.”], Clive Tolley says:  “Hamr* and hug** are found together in Hávamál 155 (72).  The speaker proclaims his power over túnriður19 , sending them villar, “astray,” as they leika, “play, go into ecstasy,” up in the air; its allusion to efficatory magic is enforced by the use of charm-metre, galdralag, in the concluding lines \sinna heimhama, sinna heimhuga\  “from their home shapes, from their home souls.”  This stanza is difficult to interpret… but the essential meaning must be that the speaker has the capability to prevent witches’ hugir, which are playing up in the air… from returning to their bodies.

“*hamr   “The basic meaning of hamr is concrete:  it is an animal or bird pelt… Hamr need not imply the existence of a physical pelt at all, but may exhibit a sense of “the outward form assumed by a being,” which certain people were able to change, assuming the forms of animals…  People (or anthropomorphic beings) changing hamr almost always take on animal form, but the word is sometimes used of people exchanging their outward appearance with each other…”  [Tolley (1) p. 189 – 190]

“**hugr  “The basic meaning of hugr and its cognates is “thought, mind, intention.”  [Tolley (I) p. 186]

 19   Túnriður is glossed as “fence-rider” in Cleasby and Vigfússon.   However, tún does not mean “fence” in Old Norse, but rather the farm buildings and yards; the natural way to understand the word would therefore be that the witches are riding on the rooftops of the buildings, just as Glámr does in Grettis saga ch. 32.  This suggestion, made by B. Olsen (1916:  71), is rejected by Evans (1986, comm. Hávamál 155) on the grounds that tún cannot mean simply the farm building, and in any case it is only ghosts that ride on rooftops; the latter point seems to carry little weight (witches and ghosts may be viewed as belonging to the same class of being, but there does seem to be a degree of unsatisfactoriness in the tún as an object to ride upon.  However, the word is almost certainly borrowed from German, and understood just as “witch” without reference to the lexical elements contained within it; in German a term (without linguistic ambiguity) was zúnrite, “fence rider” (it occurs, no doubt as a traditional term, in the fourteenth-century Münchener Nachtsegen line 14 in the form \zcunriten\ (dat. pl.), which can be either feminine or masculine; in Middle Low German túnride occurs as a plant name:  von Grienberger (1897:  347); this illustrates clearly how witches were conceived to operate liminally, on the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds, a notion which is found in Norse too:  cf. the Swedish law (73), where the witch sits on a kvígrindr (cattle fence) when day and night are equal, i.e. she works at a dividing point both in space and time.  The same liminality is evident in the terms kveldiða, “evening rider,” (for example Hallfreðr, Óláfsdrápa 6, Skj B, 149) and myrkriða, “murk-rider” Hárbarðsljóð 20.)”  [Tolley (I)  p. 189 – 190]

Tolley adds that “Hamhleypa was a term for “witch,” derived from the ability to “shift hamr,” as the word indicates.   An instance of a hamhleypa turning into a bird and clucking all night at the window is found in the case of Gunnhíldr in Egils saga ch. 60.”  [Tolley (I)  p. 196]

 [4]  Ursula Dronke on the Franks Casket:  “The earliest testimony to the content of the legend does not come from Germany, but from Anglo-Saxon England, in the carvings on two panels of the whalebone casket from Northumbria, the Franks Casket, usually dated to the early decades of the eighth century… On the front panel Weland is depicted in his smithy; a bent leg may signify his lameness; under his forge lies a headless body.  In one hand he holds an object resembling a narrow cup, which is probably better identified as a signet-style ring seen in profile.  (32)  In the other hand he holds tongs which grip a (boy’s) head.  A woman – Beadohild – holds out her hand to him – it is empty – signifying that she has given him the ring.  Behind her stands a woman carrying a flask in a basket; presumably the maid, with a gift of beer for the smith.  To the right of this woman, in a separate scene, a man is grasping the long necks of large aquatic birds… All of these details can be identified as relating to incidents in one or other version of the story.  On the top panel of the Casket is a vivid scene of armed men attacking a bowman at the entrance to a house in which a woman is sitting.  Above the bowman Ægili is carved in runes.  It would seem to record an incident in the career of the brother of Weland, Egill in Old Norse tradition, which is not elsewhere recorded… The Weland scene [on the front panel] is the only scene on the Casket which has no inscription identifying it or its hero.  It must have been better known than [the facing-inscription on the left side of the Magi], who are identified.” [Dronke (1), p. 270]

[But see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks_Casket#Lid  for other interpretations of the Ægili-bowman.]

[5]   “In Beowulf the hero dives into the waters of a haunted lake in pursuit of Grendel’s mother. The suggestion that this lake is a gateway to the Other World is strengthened by the close verbal resemblance between the description of it in the poem and that of the region where wicked souls are tormented after death in a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon sermon in the Blickling Homilies…  In both cases frost-covered trees hang down from grey rocks above the water, and strange sea creatures haunt the lake. Moreover when Beowulf dived under the waves the impression given is that his journey to the hall of the giants was a long one; not until late in the day, we are told, did he reach the bottom, when he was seized by Grendel’s mother, the ‘she-wolf of the mere’, and carried into a hall where he could see a fire burning (1495-1517)…”  [Ellis Davidson, p. 155]

[6]   On the Norns as shapers of fate, see, for example, stanza 20 of the eddic poem Völuspá:   “Thence come the maidens | mighty in wisdom,  Three from the dwelling | down ‘neath the tree;  Urth is one named, | Verthandi the next,– On the wood they scored,– | and Skuld the third.  Laws they made there, and life allotted  To the sons of men, and set their fates.

the original of this picture is ‘The Norns’ by Franz Stassen courtesy of  http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/IMAGES4/Stassen3.jpg

http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa16-20.htm   ….

[7]   “….What is unavoidable, however, is the tradition that Volundr is of elvish origin, and this is elsewhere found only in Middle English, in Lajamon’s Brut 10,544-5 (1963-78, II 550-1), where Arthur’s mail-shirt has been made by an elvish smith called Wygar, father of Widia; the son’s name shows that the father was once WeIand, the traditional father of Widia (see e.g. Waldere II, 4, 9)…”  [McKinnell (2), p. 3]

[8] For another view on what ‘ergi’ meant with respect to male practitioners of seiðr, see Gardela, p. 48

[9] For a very useful, non-magical and step-by-step explanation of how such a field can be created, see Creative Thinking by JG Bennett, Bennett Books, 1998



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Concerning John G. Bennett and Subud…

update June 22, 2016 at 10:23 AM EDM:  This here is an interesting blog-post written by a woman who says she “grew up in Subud” and later left it:  http://www.subudvision.org/fb/Questioning.htm  What gives the poster, who goes under the pen name Fuchsia Black, some cred, in my opinion, are both the tone of the post and its venue:  it’s on a site that’s actually run by people who are still involved with Subud:  http://www.subudvision.org/  I stumbled the site just now when I was looking for any information I might be able to find regarding the suicide of a young man, Tulio, on my “Basic Course” in Gurdjieff and other teachings, in 1983.  I had said earlier on this post that Subud had not been offered on my Basic Course.  However, after I wrote that, I heard from a reliable source that Subud had been offered at Claymont, at least, as far as the first Basic Course there.  Moreover, I occasionally ‘cut classes,’ and I began to wonder if I might have missed ‘latihan day;’ so I emailed Avrom Altman, who was then on my FB ‘friends list’ and who had been the ‘director in residence’ for my course, and asked him if Subud had been offered on my course.  According to Facebook, Avrom received and read my  email, but he never answered it; so I deleted him.  (He came back a short while later and asked to be friends again, so I took him back, but he then soon deleted me and blocked me. lol)   Anyhoo, Avrom’s non-response got me thinking about Tulio.  Tulio became very depressed and left the course, going to stay in Pierre Elliot’s residential cottage for a few weeks, in the late winter, I think, of 1983.  For some reason, Pierre, then the official director of Claymont, asked me to go and talk to him.  I don’t know why to this day.  I had my own problems.  I can only guess that Pierre thought I might have some influence on him because Tulio liked me.  But I was the wrong person to fix Tulio’s problems;  I was preoccupied with my own miseries at the time.  I remember sitting in the kitchen of the cottage with him.  There was such a heaviness to his presence.  I didn’t know what to say to him to lift it.  He wouldn’t talk.  But close to the end of my visit, he suddenly looked at me and said, “There is always hope, Marnie.”  And that’s all I got out of him.  Ironic, since the next news I got was that he had returned to his home and killed himself.  I heard later that he’d hidden the fact that he’d been previously hospitalized for mental issues from his Basic Course application.  I always accepted that version of events, until Avrom’s non-answer regarding Subud.  Then I began to wonder if there had been a ‘Subud’ day on my Basic Course, which I’d managed to miss, or, managed to sleep through to the point of completely forgetting it ever happened, possibly in the devastating wake of Tulio’s suicide; and if there had been, what about Tulio?

I plan to check into this more when I have time, which at the moment I don’t; but I thought the blog-post from the former ‘Subud girl’ was interesting enough to post.



I have just edited the ‘Subud’ section on John G. Bennett at wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Bennett#Subud  because I find it appalling that Bennett’s account of the death of a student at Coombe Springs was excised from all editions of his auto-biography ‘Witness:  the story of a search.’  Those two pages, pages 345 through 347 in the original 1962 edition of ‘Witness,’ (published in that same year by the ‘Dharma Book Company Inc.  and by Hodder & Stoughton), are to say the least, subjective accounts of the death, but at least they acknowledge that it happened, and record Bennett’s admission in his own words that Subud was the direct cause of the death.

I still consider myself to be a student of Mr. Bennett’s, and you will find numerous references on these pages to his work on ‘triads of will,’ which I still consider to be brilliant.  Moreover, the school he founded in West Virginia for teaching George Gurdjieff’s teachings as well as many of his own ideas, I credit with having saved me.

But I was also very lucky that Subud was not on the menu at Claymont.  I am quite certain that, like the unfortunate student at Coombe Springs, I too would have been vulnerable, and that, had I ever been ‘opened’ by the Subud ‘latihan,’ I would today either be dead or in a madhouse.

Mr. Bennett made an appalling mistake, in my opinion, in rushing to introduce Subud and Pak Subud to his students at Coombe Springs, and it appears to me he never accepted his own culpability in the death of his student, although it seems patent to me reading those pages in the 1962 edition of ‘Witness.’  In his account of that death, John Bennett unwittingly reveals, I believe, his own serious defects as a spiritual ‘guide,’ and show-cases the need to be very careful when the siren call to transform comes along to one, and not to put one’s trust or faith blindly into anything or anyone.

Mr. Bennett’s willingness to sweep that death under the ‘magic flying carpet’ of Subud, shows a profound lack of understanding of the Gurdjieff teachings, in my assessment, which were about more self-awareness and not less, about conscious self-control and self-insight, not giving up control to an unknown force just because it didn’t appear at first go to be malignant.  Subud has nothing to do with the Gurdjieff teachings, and I find it to be really outrageous that Bennett-book-purveyors are still evidently trying to make a buck off of Subud, directly or indirectly.

If you must buy a copy of ‘Witness,’ get the original one, which has the missing two pages on the death from Subud, as well as about fifty more that were removed.  Alibris is an excellent source for rare, second-hand and out-of-print books; I have ordered from Alibris sellers numerous times and invariably found them to be reliable.  As of this writing, amazon.com in the U.S. still has the original version for sale although Canadian Amazon does not.

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Yo, shout out to Calgary: Wolfish ‘credit’ company on the prowl

This here is posted as a public service especially to those Calgarians who might be affected by recent economic misfortunes.  An article in today’s edition of the Toronto Star deserves to become very widely known and passed around:  http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/03/09/calgary-companies-pledge-credit-fix-but-deliver-debt.html  regarding a mish-mash of companies that appear to be preying on the poor and the creditless and which are owned by one person:  one Sheldon Wolf.  Here is Mr. Wolf in a video posted on YouTube that suggests it’s a CNN interview, but which, the Star points out, has nothing whatsoever to do with the real CNN:


And from the foregoing I would take it that you should probably stay well away from the following companies:  NuLife and Credit Slab, and any other companies operated by Mr. Wolf.  No matter how bad things may seem, and I feel for you, I really do, they can always get worse, and if you do business with Sheldon Wolf, you’re probably going to find out just how low you can go.


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Sources for Völundarkviða: when, where and why

Update, April 22, 2016:  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention:  the blog-post has been completed and published:  https://marnietunay2.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/volundarkvida-when-where-and-why/


I know.  I know.  Some of you out there think I’ve been funnin’ you all with talk of writing a blog-post on the medieval Old Norse Poem Völundarkviða.  But the truth of the matter is, I opened up Pandora’s box with that one, and it’s turned out to be hugely more demanding than I was thinking when I first ran my mouth about having a post out by the end of February.  Below you will find a list of critical sources that will be cited in my forthcoming post.  One of those very important sources, Clive Tolley’s ‘Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic,’ is still on its way to me from Finland as I write this here update.

If you’re not familiar with this Eddic poem, Wikipedia can give you a quick rundown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%B6lundarkvi%C3%B0a

and the excellent online site http://germanicmythology.com/   has a good translation into English by Benjamin Thorpe:  http://germanicmythology.com/works/ThorpeEdda/thorpe19.html    (That site also has Eddic translations into other languages, German, Norse and Swedish:    http://germanicmythology.com/works/eddiccollections.html   )

I also do like Saul Bellows’ translation, offered in full by the excellent Eddic site:  http://www.voluspa.org/volundarkvida.htm  and even prefer it with respect to one very critical verse, as I will discuss in the blog-post.

Two other translations I can recommend are Ursula Dronke’s, in her book ‘The Poetic Edda, Volume II, ‘Mythological Poems;’ and Lee F. Hollander’s, in his book ‘The Poetic Edda.’  Dronke’s translations are peerless, I think, and Volumes I and II of her ‘Poetic Edda’ contain painstaking, detailed notes.  Lee Hollander’s edition is much cheaper in price than Dronke’s, and he tries to replicate the metric patterns (which he also discusses in his introduction.)


Bradley, James L.  Legendary Metal Smiths and Early English Literature.  Phd thesis, Philosophy, Leeds, 1987:  http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/615/1/uk_bl_ethos_379363.pdf

Bek-Pedersen, Karen.  The Norns in Old Norse Mythology.  Dunedin Academic Press Ltd, 2011

Boethius, King Alfred’s Version of the Consolations of Boethius. Done into Modern English, with an Introduction by Walter John Sedgefield Litt.D.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900     Free online edition of Walter John Sedgefield’s translation rendering into modern English of King Alfred’s 9th century ersion of the Consolations of Boethius:   http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/Book.php?recordID=0543

Carlisle, Timothy.  The role and status of the smith in the Viking age. MPhil (Research) thesis, University of Glasgow  Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts, 2013    :    http://theses.gla.ac.uk/4083/1/2013carlislemphil1.pdf

Cleasby, Richard.  Icelandic-English Dictionary enlarged and completed by Gudbrand Vigfusson.  Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1869

Dronke, Ursula (1)  ‘Völundarkviða,’ in The Poetic Edda Volume II Mythological Poems I.  Edited, translated and commentary by Ursula Dronke, pages 241 – 328.  Clarendon Press, Oxford,  1997

Dronke, Ursula (2)  ‘Hávamál,’ in The Poetic Edda. Volume III Mythological Poems I, edited, translated and commentary by Usula Dronke.  p. 3 – 63.  Oxford University Press, 2011

Dronke, Ursula  (3)  ‘Atlakaviða, in   The Poetic Edda Volume 1 Heroic Poems, Edited with Translation, Introduction and Commentary by Ursula Dronke.  p. 3 – 74.   Oxford University Press, 1969

Egil’s Saga, translated by Bernard Scudder, in The Sagas of Icelanders:  A Selection.  p. 3 – 184.  Penguin Books, 2001

Ellis Davidson, H.R. ‘Weland the Smith.’ Article in Folklore, Vol. 69, No. 3. (Sep., 1958), pp. 145-159.  :  http://www.maritimeheathen.org/Documents/Weland%20the%20Smith-HR%20Ellis%20Davidson.pdf

Flowers, Stephen E. and Chisholm, James A.  A Source-Book of Seið.  Lodestar, 2014

Gardeła, L. (2008) Into Viking Minds: Reinterpreting the Staffs of Sorcery and Unraveling Seiðr, Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 4, 45-84.

Grimm, Jacob.  Teutonic Mythology Vol. III 2nd Edition.  George Bell and Sons, London, 1844

Grimstad, Kaaren.  ‘The Revenge of Völundr,’ in Edda:  A Collection of Essays.  Edited by R.J. Glendinning and Haraldur Bessason, pages 187 – 209.  University of Manitoba Press 1983

Hall, Alaric.  Elves in Anglo-Saxon England:  Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity.  Anglo-Saxon Studies 8.  Boydell & Brewer, Suffolk, 2007

Hall, John R. Clark.  A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary 2nd Ed.  Cambridge University Press at MacMillan, 1916

Heide, Eldar.  ‘Spinning seiðr,’ in Old Norse religion in long-term perspectives.  Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert & Catharina Raudvere (eds).  Pages 164 – 170.  Nordic Academic Press, 2006.  Eldar’s article is available online:   http://eldar-heide.net/Publikasjonar%20til%20heimesida/Spinning%20seidr,%20Lund%20conf%20Heide.pdf

Helmbrecht, Michaela.  ‘A winged figure from Uppåkra,’ 2012.  https://www.academia.edu/1578398/A_winged_figure_from_Upp%C3%A5kra

Jesch, Judith.  ‘Skaldic verse in Scandinavian England,’ in  Vikings and the Danelaw.  Edited by James Graham-Campbell, Richard Hall, Judith Jesch and David N. Parsons.  pages  313 – 325.  Oxbow Books, 2001

Larson, Laurence Marcellus.  The Earliest Norwegian Laws.  Columbia University Press, 1935

McKinnell, John (1).  ‘Völundarkviða:  Origins and Interpretation,’ in  Essays on Eddic Poetry by John McKinnell.  Edited by Donata Kick and John D. Shafer.  University of Toronto Press, 2014

McKinnell, John (2).  ‘The Context of Völundarkviða,’ in Vol. XXIII of the ‘Saga-Book of the Viking Society,’ 1990 – 93, pages 1 – 27, (available for free online here:  http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Saga-Book%20XXIII.pdf  or the searchable version:  http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Saga-Book%201-22%20searchable/Saga-Book%20XXIII.pdf

McKinnell, John (3).  ‘Eddic poetry in Anglo-Scandinavian northern England,’ in  Vikings and the Danelaw.  Edited by James Graham-Campbell, Richard Hall, Judith Jesch and David N. Parsons.  Pages  327 – 344.  Oxbow Books, 2001

McKinnell, John (4).  Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend.  D.S. Brewer Cambridge, 2005

McKinnell, John (5), ‘The Context of Völundarkviða,’ in The Poetic Edda:  Essays on Old Norse Mythology.  Edited by Paul Acker and Carolyne Larrington.  Pages 195 – 212.  Routledge, 2013 (paperback edition)

North, Richard (1).  ‘Deor,’ and ‘The Lay of Wayland,’ in The Longman Anthology of Old English, Old Icelandic and Anglo-Norman Literatures.  Pages 101 – 117.  Pearson Education Limited, 2011

North, Richard (2).  Heathen Gods in Old English Literature.  Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 22.  Cambridge University Press, 2006 paperback version of 1997 publication

Peters, Edward.  ‘The Medieval church and state on superstition, magic and witchcraft:  from Augustine to the sixteenth century,’ in Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:  the Middle Ages.  Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark, editors.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.  Pages 173 – 245

Raudevere, Catharina.  ‘Trolldómr in Early Medieval Scandinavia,’ in Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:  the Middle Ages.  Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark, editors.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.  Pages 73 – 171

Richards, Julian D.  ‘Finding the Vikings:  the search for Anglo-Scandinavian rural settlement in the northern Danelaw,’ in Vikings and the Danelaw.  Edited by James Graham-Campbell, Richard Hall, Judith Jesch and David N. Parsons.  pages  269 – 277  Oxbow Books, 2001

Spinage, Clive.  Myths and Mysteries of Wayland Smith.  The Wychwood Press, 2003

Sturluson, Snorri.  Heimskringla:  History of the Kings of Norway.  Translated by Lee M. Hollander.   University of Texas Press at Austin, 2013

Toller, C. Northcote.  An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, based on the manuscript collections of the late Joseph Bosworth, edited and enlarged by C. Northcote Toller.   Oxford at Clarendon, 1819

Wagner, Leopold.  Manners, Customs and Observances, Their Origin and Signification.  MacMillan and Co, 1895

Tolley, Clive.  Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic, Volumes I and II  (FF Communications, vol. cxliv2, no 297)  Academia Scientiarum Fennica (2009)

Vigfússon, Gudbrand and Powell, F. York, editors and translators.  Corpus Poeticum Boreale, The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue, from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century, Vol. II, Court Poetry.   Oxford at Clarendon, 1883


Front of the Franks casket, from a picture By Michel wal (travail personnel (own work)), CC BY-SA 3.0, $3, creative attribution, share-alike license, via wikimedia.org ; plume from ‘Pandora’s Box’ by http://kevincu.deviantart.com/


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WARNING: Don’t get involved in any way with Patrick Fox of Burnaby, B.C.

Update June 21 at 07:10 EDM:  According to CBC News today, Patrick Fox has now been charged in Canada with criminal harassment and a weapons offence, weeks after he was picked up by U.S. border agents in  Washington state on May 27:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/patrick-fox-web-charged-attack-revenge-porn-criminal-harassment-desiree-capuano-internet-1.3643686  I reckon his website on his ex-wife is not going to be long for this world now.


The man put the ‘V’ in ‘Vindictive,’ according to this article today in CBC:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/patrick-fox-web-attack-revenge-porn-criminal-harassment-desiree-capuano-internet-1.3444576

Patrick Fox, who would appear to match this linked-in profile in terms of residency time-lines:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickrfox  would make a cobra look like a kitty-cat, a viper like a valentine, a scorpion like a ray of sunshine.  This is nobody you would ever want to get into any kind of a relationship with.  It’s not going to end well.  If you see him on the street, you should probably cross over to the other side.  If you accidentally bumped into him, you’d be very sorry, is my call on it.

He admitted to the CBC that he wants to drive his ex-wife to kill herself, which is actually against the law, although those Arizona law enforcement slackers don’t appear to think so.  [Arizona appears to have a lot of cop problems…]  To say nothing of the police in B.C., who also seem not to have clued in that driving or attempting to drive people to kill themselves is now a prosecutable offence here, too.

I’ve seen Patrick Fox’s web-site regarding his ex-wife; it’s horrific and I’m not including a link here.

Here’s an article that offers a little bit more information on the timelines and residency history of the people involved:  http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/bc-mans-revenge-website-muses-about-killing-his-ex-but-law-ok-with-it

His ex-wife is a poster child for why some people need to be able to carry guns and to shoot them.

picture of saw-scaled viper courtesy of:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Shantanu_Kuveskar  picture of Patrick Fox from one via CBC, which seems to have become widely disseminated online.

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Introduction to Runes and Triads

Correlating the Elder Futhark Runes with John G. Bennett’s ‘Laws of World XXIV:’  an introduction   by Marnie Tunay

 I hope that, in making a connection here between those surviving fragments of runic lore 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.

Introduction to the Elder Runic Futhark

Runes appear on many items created in Nordic cultures during the early Middle Ages. Runes are letters and fulfilled the same purpose as our commonly used alphabet, namely to write down words. They were used for various purposes, to indicate for example the ownership of objects such as jewellery, as engravings on memorial stones, or as carvings on sticks to list goods, such as many runic sticks from Bryggen in Bergen (Norway). Runes were associated with magic powers. Düwel (2001) stated that many runic inscriptions were created in order to gain protection against negative, or even evil, forces.”  [Hupfauf, Signs and Symbols, p. 160]

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, Runica, p. xxii – xxiii]

I would say that the runes of the Elder Futhark represent ordering agents.

The origins of the runes were associated in myths with the pagan god of magic, Óðinn.  “The origin of runes is described in Hávamál, stanzas 138 and 139. Here, Óðinn, the highest of the Æsir [gods], executes a sacrificial ritual by hanging himself on a tree (most scholars agree that this tree is meant to be Yggdrasill), in order to alter his state of mind. Through this process Óðinn gained the wisdom of the runes.”  [Hupfauf, Signs and Symbols, p. 161]   “With this in mind, ’Óðinn’s hanging may be interpreted as a shamanistic technique to alter consciousness. Stanza 140 of Hávamál explains that Óðinn learned nine mighty spells from his mother Bestla’s father, Bolthorn, Óðinn’s grandfather, described in Gylfaginning as a giant. These spells gave Óðinn wisdom.” [Hupfauf, Signs and Symbols, p. 161]

               Bronze-Age rock carving in Tanumshede, Bohuslän, Sweden: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Carvings_in_Tanum   picture from:  http://www.dandebat.dk/eng-dk-historie9.htm

All authors who have contributed to the genetic problem have been led sooner or later to postulate the intervention of an individual creator (or, alternately, of a small group).  (1)  It appears, indeed, that the runic alphabet is based on a careful phonological analysis of the OGmc. sounds, rather than on haphazard borrowing (2).  Such a creative act would of course be far less bound to external circumstances than the diffusion of an ornamental fashion.  This consideration also weakens the arguments founded on a comparison of the runes with their possible models.  If we have to admit a creative act on a number of points, why then rely on the ‘naturalness’ of certain transitions?” [Derolez, Runica, p. xvi]

The runic futharks are named after the first six letters in the runic ‘alphabet:’ ‘futhark,’ for the Scandinavian rune sets, and ‘futhorc’ for the later (expanded) Anglo-Saxon rune set.  The oldest of the rune sets is known as the Elder Futhark (c. 150 AD – 800 AD), and it consists of 24 runes.  The ordering of the runes in the various futharks makes them unique among alphabetic systems and has never been satisfactorily explained, nor the division into three aettir (‘families or ‘sets), although the latter trait was used rather extensively in medieval times on the European continent for codes.

                                                   Picture of a standardized Elder Futhark, from http://einherjarsfolk.weebly.com/elder-futhark.html

Names of the runes                                                                                                                      The names of the runes, unlike those of the Roman and Greek alphabets, for instance, are meaningful and tied to the cultures in which they were used.  The earliest English name list is from the late eighth or ninth century [Page, IER, p. 66].  The earliest Scandinavian rune-name list is also ninth-century, but only lists sixteen names, because the Norse rune-row had become the shorter ‘Younger Futhark’ by that time [ibid].  All but two runes of the Elder Futhark, (and all of the medieval Norse ‘Younger Futhark’ runes) were named on the acrophonic principle:  the beginning sound of the name was also the sound of the letter, so, ‘fehu’ (all forms of portable wealth) for the F-rune, ‘raidu’ (riding, journey) for the R-rune, ‘dagaz,’ (day, daybreak) for the D-rune, and so on.  The two exceptions were the sounds which never appeared at the beginning of a word:  ‘eolhx’ (possibly meaning elk-sedge), for the Z/X-rune; and ‘Ingwaz,’ (an ancient Germanic mythical hero), for the NG-rune.

It is not known whether the names go back to the beginnings of runic writing.  The earliest ninth and tenth-century Continental and English manuscripts “give the Anglo-Saxon and/or Scandinavian younger-futhark runes together with the names by which they were then known to scribes.  Since the younger futhark contained just sixteen runes, there are eight for which we have only Anglo-Saxon designations.  There is, however, enough of a correspondence between the sixteen rune names that survive in both traditions for us to believe that the nomenclature as a whole shares a common origin in the Germanic past….”   [Barnes, Runes, p. 21]

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, Runica, p. xviii]

Environmental and cultural changes led to changes in the names of runes:  so, for example, the U-rune, the original name of which had perhaps been “ūruz (?wild ox)” [Barnes, Runes, p. 22] became ‘aurochs’ in the Anglo-Saxon futhark, but, in medieval Iceland and Norway, where the aurochs had always been rather a rarity, the same rune was named úr ‘slag, dross,’ in Norway and úr ‘drizzle’ in Iceland.

The main sources of information on what those rune names may have actually meant to early northern medieval cultures are the three so-called ‘rune poems:’ one in Old Icelandic, 15th cent. [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 36]; one in Old Norse, 13th cent. or later [ibid, p. 35];  and one in Old English/Anglo-Saxon, probably from the latter half of the 10th century [ibid,  p. 32]

Additionally, although perhaps less reliably, are a number of 17th to 19th century-lists  of kenning-like  (1) periphrases of the rune names – including those of the Elder Futhark – which were compiled in the early 20th century from manuscripts in the National Library of Iceland as well as from private collections by the Icelander Jochum M. Magnusson, writing under the pseudonym ‘Skuggi.’  [Flowers, Rune Poem, p. 54 – 55; Page, Icelandic, p. 16]  (2)

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 aspects of early Germanic life important enough to be kept in mind when letters were named.”  [Page, IER, p. 76]


One likely play by the Anglo-Saxons on pagan myth involves the rune that stands for the soft ‘th’ sound:  /Þ/   (like ‘thorn,’ not that’).

Both of the Scandinavian rune poems, the Old Norse and the Old Icelandic, give the word ‘thurs,’ which is invariably translated as ‘giant,’ often with pejorative overtones.  Not just any ol’ giant, for which the pagans had other words, but, one fundamentally hostile to the gods, tended to be the context in which the word ‘thurs’ was used.  “In contrast to the predominantly neutral term jǫtunn, þurs [= thurs] and troll are both names for evil-minded giants with demonic tendencies.  This distinction does not only stem from Christian tendencies to demonize heathen elements, as it was already used in this way in heathen times.”  [Simek, Northern Myth, p. 333]

The Anglo-Saxon name for the same rune is ‘thorn.’  In connection with giants, the very word ‘thorn’ is a kenning (1) 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:  https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm/thorsd00.html        and line 2:4: “they were eager to oppress Þorn’s descendants [giants]…

There is a reference, moreover, to a BölÞorn [Bolthorn] in the Eddic poem Hávamál, ‘Sayings of the High One,’ in the section dealing with the god Odin’s acquisition of runes, magic-songs and the mead of poetic inspiration:  “I caught up runes – crying out in triumph I caught them.  Back I fell from beyond.  Nine powerful lays I learned from the famous son of BolÞorn, Bestla’s father, and a drink I procured of the priceless mead…”  [Dronke, Edda Vol. III, 30 – 31] (See also note (3) below.)

The corresponding Icelandic rune-poem stanza is “/Þ/  is women’s torment and crag-dweller and Valrún’s* mate.”  [Page, IRP, p. 35]   *a giantess

Ann Sheffield points out that the Old Icelandic word for ‘torment,’ kvöl, ‘is “quite harsh,” basically connoting a form of torture, [Sheffield, Long Branches, p. 55], an interpretation that 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:’     http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/html/oi_cleasbyvigfusson/b0366.html

Relating Runes and Triads                                                                                                     John G. Bennett uses to numbers 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.

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 order.  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.  Understanding 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 possessed by each one of us to participate in the Will that is our source.”  [Bennett,  DU Vol. II, 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 experience 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 understanding 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 manifestations of the Triad.”  [ibid, p. 101 – 102]

If there are valid 24-term systems embedded in both the Elder Futhark and in John G. Bennett’s ‘Laws of World XXIV,’ then it should be possible to relate them in some fashion.  Two systems of the same order can’t be collapsed into each other; thus, they are never going to be exactly the same thing.  But the study of one should enhance the potential for understanding of the other, may even give a means of approaching the other or at least, of highlighting an aspect of the other system.

Some examples of suggested runic-triadic correspondences                                  Another example of a possible Anglo-Saxon elliptical allusion to the pagan mythic overtones surrounding a rune from the Elder Futhark is with respect to the rune known as kaun, ‘ulcer, sore’  in the Norse sources and as cen ‘torch’ in the Anglo-Saxon sources.  Michael Barnes thought the original early-Germanic name was probably kauna ‘boil.’  [Barnes, Runes, p. 22]  Scholarly translations of the Icelandic and Norse sentiments on the k-rune /</ don’t seem to vary much from the classic ones by Bruce Dickens in 1919; (all of his translations plus the original-language editions Dickens used are available online here:  http://www.ragweedforge.com/poems.html

Ulcer is disease fatal to children and painful spot and abode of mortification,” and the shadow of death is repeated in the Norse:  “Ulcer is fatal to children; death makes a corpse pale.

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

As for the Anglo-Saxon version of the K-rune, Ray Page translates the corresponding rune-poem verse as: “Cen is known to all living beings by its flame, pale and bright.  Most often it burns where princes are staying.’ and he goes on to say:  “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, English Runes, p. 69]

However, the Anglo-Saxon word that Professor Page translated as ‘staying,’ is restaþ, which is the present-tense third-person form of the verb ‘restan;’   http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/go.php?D1=23&T1=restan&H1=123    and 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 century.  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-Hall, Dictionary, p. 241]  The Bosworth-Toller ‘Anglo-Saxon Dictionary also links the word to the concept of death:’  “restan To rest.  to cease from toil, be at rest…..  to rest on a couch, to sleep……. 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.”  http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/025736

Those overtones of mortality are not lost on Ann Gróa Sheffield.  In her excellent book on the Younger Futhark runes, 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, Long Branches, p. 89]  Sheffield also points out that, elsewhere in the Anglo-Saxon runic poem, sittan, not restan is used in verses where the author clearly means ‘sit;’ whereas he uses restanto describe lying painfully among thorns.”  [ibid, p. 89, n. 11]

The Gamla Uppsala burial mounds in Sweden, as they appeared in a 17th century book of engravings, the Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna; scanned by Erik Dahlberg, Svecia Antiqua et Hodierna, facsimile, 1983, courtesy of wikimedia.org.

There would not seem to be any inherent difficulty in relating significant aspects of the K-rune to the World 24 triad ‘Mortality.’

[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, DU Vol. II, p. 159]

 The Protestant Reformation  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_in_Denmark%E2%80%93Norway_and_Holstein   took an extra century to make its presence felt in distant Iceland [Hastrup, Nature and Policy, p. 215], which meanwhile retained the concept of the archaic rune-name ansuz‘(pagan) god,’ for the A-rune, even though phonetic changes necessitated an initial vowel change.  Thus, the rune-name became ‘óss’ and the 17th cent. Icelandic rune poem makes it very clear which god is being referenced:  aged Gautr, and prince of Ásgardr, and lord of Valhalla – all of which are epithets for the chief pagan god Óðinn.

Norway, on the other hand, opted for the safer homonym ‘óss’ meaning ‘estuary.’  Both cultures retained the Elder Futhark form of the A-rune:  ᚨ .

“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, English Runes, p. 68]

 “…..the Icelandic rune poem refers clearly to the Ase [god] “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 Jordanes’ 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, Names, p. 430 – 431]

Anglo-Saxon Britain, which never knew from one century to the next who was going to be running the place – pagans or Christians – also opted for a word meaning ‘mouth,’ os, in deference both to religious as well as to linguistic changes, but nevertheless managed to retain by ellipsis the older pagan meaning, both linguistically and conceptually:  “…. 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, however, executes a neat linguistic sidestep here, turning to the unrelated Latin homonym os (mouth) to create a multilayered conceptual pun…”  [Di Napoli, Odd Characters, p. 149]

“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, Runic Inscriptions, p. 74]

Nor does the corresponding verse in the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem entirely dismiss the suspicion that it is Óðinn, the “god of poetry, wisdom, hosts, and the dead…” [Lindow, Norse Mythology, p. 247], who is being referenced in that verse.

As we have already seen, this is not the only instance of semiotic double-play in the Anglo-Saxon rune-naming tradition; and the point is so important in the consideration of just how seriously did rune-masters take the naming of the runes, that I will set out for comparison several scholarly translations of that particular rune-verse:

(i)    as translated by Robert E. Bjork“[os] The mouth is the origin of each language, the support of wisdom and consolation of the wise, and for each and every one, happiness and hope.”  [Bjork, Wisdom and Lyric, p. 127]

(ii)   as translated by Maureen Halsall“[ōs ] The mouth is the source of every utterance, the support of wisdom and a comfort to wise men and the joy and delight of every noble.”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 87]

(iii)  as translated by Louis J. Rodrigues:  “(Os) The Mouth is the source of every speech, the mainstay of wisdom, and solace of sages, and the happiness and hope of every eorl.”  [Rodrigues, Verse Runes, p. 93]

The third translation is the most precisely accurate of the three, because the word eorl, ‘earl,’ actually appears in the text.  That’s important, because the pagan god Óðinn, in addition to being the god of speech, poetry and inspiration, was also the primary patron of pagan kings in Denmark and Norway [DuBois, Nordic Religions, p. 57] and of earls. (4)

Therefore, the reference to earls in the 10th century Anglo-Saxon rune-stanza that also just happens to utilize a homonym for an archaic word meaning ‘pagan god’ cannot be said to be without significance.

Óðinn is described in Völuspá stanza 28 as pledging one of his eyes in order to gain access to Mímir’s wisdom…. Óðinn’s remaining eye is regarded as holding extraordinary powers of a magical nature.”  [Hupfauf, Signs and Symbols, p. 126]

The eddic poem Völuspá also credits the god with the giving of souls to the first humans, ‘Ask’ and   ‘Embla:’   “Soul they had not, | sense they had not, Heat nor motion, | nor goodly hue; Soul gave Othin, | sense gave Hönir, Heat gave Lothur | and goodly hue.” http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa16-20.htm   

 Moreover, even as late as the eight century A.D., the evident repute of the pagan god as being a creator-god was given an Anglo-Saxon nod, albeit in pious Christian rebuttal:

Of at least equal interest must be the provenance and dating of the composition of Maxims I itself. Krapp and Dobbie find no distinctively Anglian features in the poem, and so accept the view that the poem was probably of West-Saxon origin, composed at any time from the eighth century through to the writing of the manuscript. 82 The dating and localising of Old English verse on the basis of dialect and other linguistic characteristics is now recognised to be fraught with difficulties, and we would perhaps be wise not to rely too heavily on the text being of West-Saxon origin, just as we cannot establish a reliable date for the composition of the poem.”  [Shaw, Uses of Wodan, p. 160 – 161]  (But see note (5) in connection with a possible West-Saxon origin for the OE futhorc]

The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry, i, z56 (lines 59-67).  A shield necessarily goes with a soldier, an arrow with a poacher; a ring necessarily goes with a bride, books with a student, the eucharist with a holy man, and with a heathen sins. Woden fashioned idols; the Ruler of all fashioned heaven and the spacious skies. He is the mighty God, the very King of truth, the Saviour of souls, who gave us all that we live on and who at the end will again dispose over all mankind. He is himself the ordaining Lord. 9o   90 Anglo-Saxon Poetry, trans. by Bradley, p. 349.”  [Shaw, Uses of Wodan, p. 163]

How might an Anglo-Saxon audience have understood such a poem? The answer, of course, depends upon exactly which Anglo-Saxon audience one is talking about. A literate Anglo-Saxon audience is the easiest sort of audience for us to approach, for we simply have no idea what ideas and narratives were available in oral form only in Anglo-Saxon England.  Given that we know that Maxims I(B) was available in an ecclesiastical – and therefore literate – context in the late tenth and early eleventh century, when it was copied into the Exeter Book, and when the Exeter Book was in use, it is not unjustified to consider how the poem may have been understood in such a chronological and social context.”  [Shaw, Uses of Wodan, p. 163]

I have no trouble at all in linking the pagan god of creative inspiration, victory in battle and magical powers with the ‘World XXIV’ triad Bennett calls ‘Creativity.’

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 Individuality… 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, DU, p. 158]

  With respect to other runes, the Anglo-Saxon (aka Old English) Rune Poem retains cognate doubles of the Scandinavian rune-names and also manages to subtly reference to pagan mythic content as well.  For instance, the rune ᚾ is called Nauðr in the Scandinavian Rune Poems and Nȳð in the Old English [AS] Rune Poem.  The meanings, as given in the poems, are very similar:  hardship, necessity, hard work, constraint, and both names probably go back to an early Germanic Nauðiz ‘need, affliction,’ [Barnes, p. 22].  But the similarities do not end there.  The Icelandic Rune Poem says the ᚾ rune is “servant’s grief and rough conditions and soggy toil.”  [Page, TIRP, p. 36]  The Norwegian Rune Poem says it “leaves little choice; the naked man is chilled by the frost.”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 182]  The Anglo Saxon poem starts out in the same vein:  “Need is confining for the heart” but then goes on to say:  “although often it turns into a help and a salvation for the children of men if they listen to it beforehand.”  [Bjork, Wisdom and Lyric, p. 129] (6)

The introduction of the concept of help, salvation and healing is interesting in connection with the N-rune because, as Karen Bek-Pedersen remarks in her peerless book on the norns (7), in the Old Norse cosmology there was an “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, The Norns, p. 34]   In the “thoroughly heathen” Eddic poem ‘The Lay of Sigrdrifa,’ (ca. 1000) [Hollander, Edda, p. 233], the Nauðr rune is twice linked both to the Norns and to the concept of healing, protection. (8)

There is a clear connection in terms of context, between the N-rune and Bennett’s triad 1-3-2* Struggle“The establishment of the triad 1-3-2* in the heart of human Self-hood is accomplished through the unceasing 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 impulse.  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, DU Vol. II, p. 171]

  Scant evidence exists for the meaning of the rune Ingwaz, the NG-rune; it disappeared from the Younger Futhark and is therefore only mentioned in the Old English rune poem:  “Ing among the East  Danes was first beheld by men, until that later time when to the east he made his departure over the wave, followed by his chariot; that was the name those stern warriors gave the hero.”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 91]

This stanza makes the [Old English Rune] poem’s first and only unambiguous reference to a figure out of Germanic mythology (compare stanzas IV and XVII, where the references to Woden and Tiw are debatable.  Ing is clearly a man-like being, and his attributes belong to mythology rather than to history… Probably the information contained here owes its survival to the early anthropomorphism of a fertility deity into the legendary ancestor of the Swedes, since the curious details recorded find a parallel in the equally legendary attributes of Scyld Sceafing (the eponymous progenitor of the Scylding dynasty) who brought prosperity to the Danes and whose mysterious arrival and departure are recorded as historical facts and without any apparent religious qualms by the Christian author of Beowulf (lines 26 – 52).  Note, in support of this suggestion, that the only other appearance of the name ‘Ing’ in Old English  is as part of the compound Ingwine (friends of Ing), an epithet sometimes applied to the Danes in Beowulf  (lines 1044 and 1319).”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 146]

“Ample evidence has been gathered from outside England to document the widespread Germanic belief in a being called Ing from Tacitus’ reference in the first century to the Germanic tribe living nearest to the Baltic sea as Ingaevones….”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 146 – 147]

hæle ‘hero,’ a term that could be applied to a divine being, even to the Christian God (compare geong hæleð (the young hero) for Christ in The Dream of the Rood, ASPR II, p 62, line 39).”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 148]

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, Names, p. 431 – 432]

All we have to go on from that is the image of one, possibly two, legendary, perhaps semi-divine, hero-figures.  But perhaps this is enough, for, what marks a hero?  Is it not, in essence, an extraordinary capacity to respond to a critical situation in a manner that serves a higher purpose?

The… triad  2-1-3*… takes the form of responsiveness 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 affirmation 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 Complete Individuality, by way of the triad 1-2-3.  The two triads, working harmoniously together, 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, DU Vol. II, p. 162 – 163]

    Peorð:  About this rune, the renowned rune-scholar 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, IER, p. 70 – 71]

Rene Derolez does give another possible variation on the name, albeit an equally enigmatic one:  “[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, Runica, p. 70]

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, p. 10]

Despite the objections of Edgar Polomé (9), I nevertheless accept, on contextual, historical and mythic grounds, the “best guess” put forward by Stephen Flowers [for ex. Rune Poems, p. 37] that, whatever the original rune name may have been for the P-rune, it was probably semantically related in some manner to a table game of some kind.

I don’t accept Ann Gróa Sheffield’s theory that the word ‘peorð’ together with its verse in the runic poem refers to a pledge or vow given in the context of a group drinking session.  (10)  For one thing, as Sheffield herself agrees, the OE word ‘symble’ means ‘always, continually,’ in this instance;  so,

‘always a source of amusement and laughter;’ and therefore cannot possibly be including that solemn ritual drinking feast known to the Anglo-Saxons as the ‘symbel.’  An Anglo-Saxon ‘symbel’ was:  I. a feast-day, Sabbath, a symbel-dóeg (-doeg); or:  II a. a solemn service, for ex. an Eáster-symbel.  [Toller, Supplement, p. 719]

Both in Viking Scandinavia (11) and in Anglo-Saxon England (12), the solemn ritual drinking feast might very well include wagers in the sense of pledges or oaths.

Therefore, by the very virtue of that single predicate, the Anglo Saxon rune-poem verse:

Peorð is a continual source of amusement and laughter for the great… where warriors sit cheerfully together in the beer-hall.’

Peorð byþ symble plega and hlehter wlancum… ðar wigan sittaþ on beorsele bliþe æt somne’  cannot possibly refer to a drinking-toast, contest or wager, many of which were clearly done in circumstances that were dead serious, such as funerals.

However, with respect to the ‘dice-cup’ theory, if Ray Page was right in thinking that:  “…some twenty rune-names represent aspects of early Germanic life important enough to be kept in mind when letters were named.”  [Page, IER, p. 76], then it would be strange indeed if the ‘game of the gods and heroes’ was not mentioned among them.

Tafl’ board-games are mentioned twice in Völuspá in connection with the gods, in stanza 8:  “In their dwellings at peace they played at tables [literally, ‘tafl’], Of gold no lack | did the gods then know”  http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa6-10.htm   and in either stanza 61:  http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa61-66.htm   or in stanza 58, depending on which text of Völuspá is used:  “There will once more the miraculous golden chequers [töflor] be found, in the grass, those that in the old days, they [the gods] had owned.”  [Dronke, Edda Vol. II, p. 23]

From Ursula Dronke’s very extensive notes on the mythic importance of the tafl games: In choosing the game of tafl as the first conflict in the gods’ career, the poet draws on older tradition that represents the antagonism of gods and giants as a contest of tafl.  The fragment of evidence for this lies in the answer [given by a disguised Óðinn to King Heidrek] to one of the ‘Riddles of Heiðrekr…’Who are the thanes who… send their liegemen over the lands to settle in homesteads?’  ‘These are Itrekr [Óðinn] and Andaðr [‘Dead One,’ a giant-heiti*], sitting at their tafl game… in a perpetual match of winning and losing… 3.  In human affairs, it would seem, the board-board game was believed to have a remote control over happenings.  In the fiction of the Dream of Rhonabwy the fighting  between Arthur’s young knights and Owein’s ravens is governed by the chess play of each leader.  In a story preserved in Gmc historical traditional (Paulus Diaconus I, XX) Rodulfus, king of the Heroli (c. 500)  stays in his camp during a battle and ad tabulam Iudit.”  A watchman reports to him on the distant     battle from a treetop… Though for the Heroli the battle was disastrous, it would seem that Rodulfus had played a ritual game on their behalf…  (13)

*See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heiti                                                                                “For the association of gaming-board, heavens and divine power, see Blathmac** (c. 750) 65, quatrain 192:  “He [Christ] owns the extend that he marks out of the seven heavens about the kingly seat; it is his hand that has strewn in them the gaming board of beautiful stars.”  Carney notes that the Ballincherry board has seven roles of seven holes, and the central hole ringed for the ‘king’ (Blathmac 146)….   8/1 ‘teflði í túni:’ in Haraldskvæði 16 the warriors throw dice ‘í Haralds túni’ (i.e. in the enclosed home-field, which had fine, manured grass).”  [Dronke, Edda, Vol. II, p. 119 – 121]

** Blathmac, The Poems of Blathmac son of Cũ Brettan, ed. J. Carney.  Irish texts Society, 47.  Dublin, 1964                                                                                                                

***http://sacred-texts.com/neu/onp/onp11.htm   and see also Hollander’s note 39

                                                                  The Ockelbo runestone, the original of which was perhaps dated to c. 1020 – c. 1050  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runestone_styles#Pr2_.28Ringerike_style.29   “has several illustrations including matter from the Sigurd legends. One shows two men playing Hnefatafl, a form of the board game called tofl [sic]…”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd_stones

 Taking into account then, the historical and mythical background for the tafl games, and the range of meanings given for the word ‘plega,’ given in Anglo-Saxon dictionary sources (14), this is my interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon P-rune stanza:

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

Tafl games, or ‘tables,’ were the medieval forerunner of backgammon, and in his book ‘Hazard:  the Risk of Realization,’ John G. Bennett discusses the game of backgammon at length in connection with mystical knowledge of how hazard operates in the universe.:

“[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, Hazard, 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]

Further in her extended commentary on the Old Norse mythic poem Völuspá, Ursula Dronke states that:  “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 [Heimskringla in Egils Saga Skalla-Grimssonar]).”  [Dronke, Edda Vol. II, p. 128]

“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, Hazard, p. 28]

“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

“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.”  [Bennet, Hazard, p. 29]

“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.”  [ibid, p. 64]

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, Hazard, p. 67]

The mythical and historical content embedded in the Elder Futhark P-rune resonate in Bennet’s description of Hyparxis:  “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, DU Vol. II, p. 175 – 176]

   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.

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.

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.’

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, Dictionary, 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, DU Vol. II, p. 166]

                                                                                              An illustration of the Norse god Ullr, from an Icelandic 17th century manuscript, courtesy of  http://abdn.ac.uk/skaldic/db.php?table=images&id=22778   via wikimedia.org, public domain

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 actualization in time…”  [Bennett, DU Vol. II, p. 175 – 176]

   From the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, translated by Yves Kodratoff:  “Wealth (or cattle, or movable property) is for all a benefit, though each should share a lot if he wants to cast by lots (or obtain) a destiny (a “doom”) 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:  “(Fé) is “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 pretty much everyone’s translation of the Old Norse Rune Poem:  “(Fé) causes strife among kinsmen; the wolf feeds in the woods.

The central significance embedded in the themes connected to the rune of ‘portable wealth,’ 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.  But, there is also a distinct recognition of the attendant hazards of having wealth, in particular, its tendencies to arouse an envy, all the more dangerous for oftentimes being hidden, in others, as well as a contumacious greed in its owners.

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, Long Branches, p. 26 – 29].  So, there is a fundamental dyad implicit in the significance of ‘wealth:’ the possibilities for personal independence – and the obligations entailed in the responsible management 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.  [ibid, 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]

In a detailed discussion [Rune Poems, p. 29 – 30], Margaret Clunies Ross shows that all of the kennings for the 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:  http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre05.htm   ]

In her notes to the heroic lay Atlakviða (see my note 15), 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, Edda Vol. I, p. 61]

“Dragon Dragon Guarding His Treasure” by  http://khamarupa.deviantart.com/

The image of the dragon guarding his hoard brings to my mind the image of ‘The Enlightened Idiot’ from Gurdjieff’s ‘Science of Idiotism’ (16).

Maureen Halsall, on the other hand, translates the last line of the Anglo-Saxon rune-poem stanza for  the F-rune as “if he wishes to gain glory before the Lord,’ [Halsall, Rune Poem, 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 attempt 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, Rune Poem, p. 100 – 101]

2-3-1*  Independence  “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 the powers the Individuality has in esse.  The powers are not in the Self-hood ready-made, as it were, but require to be born and developed…”  [Bennett, DU Vol. II, p. 166]

   There are no significant differences between either the rune poems or the various translations that I’m aware of, for the Íss rune; all three I’ve given here were done by Dan Bray at the no-longer-extant (old) Northvegr Foundation:

ASRP:  “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.  “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.

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

Ann Sheffield dwells at length and very entertainingly on examples from Northern Literature of ‘fey’ men perishing on ice; however, what comes to my mind when I read the Old Norse and the Old Icelandic verses 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.  But there is another kind of danger with respect 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.

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, Atlas, p. 22]

In my opinion, the spiritual component to the fair-seeming frozen ‘slippery slope’ is Bennett’s Law of Separateness:  “2 – 3* – 1* :  “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,  DU Vol. II, p. 163]

Jökulsárlón, Iceland by  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Simisa  creative attribution license

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

ASRP:  “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.”  [Page, IER, p. 72]

OIRP:  “Týr is the one-handed god and the wolf’s leavings and the temples’ ruler.”

DB’s Notes:  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: “Týr 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, Dictionary, p. 337]

Only one real story concerning the pagan god Týr has come down to us, and that’s the story of how he lost his hand:  he sacrificed it so that the gods would be able to restrain the forces of apocalyptic destruction, personified in the wolf called Fenris (or Fenrir), for a time.  (17)

     Motif from the Týr bracteate from Trollhättan, Västergötland, Sweden.  The bracteate shows the Norse god Týr with Fenrir biting his hand. The gold bracteate is dated to the Migration period. The bracteate was found together with another gold bracteate by the farmer Anders Larsson in Ladugården, Ladugårdsbyn, Naglum Parish, now Trollhättan Municipality, Västergötland, Sweden.  Picture from:  http://historiska.se/upptack-historien/artikel/trollhattan-beromda-brakteater/  and explanation from:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Achird  

3 – 2* – 1 Submission:  “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, DU Vol. II, p. 179]

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 Sigurðr’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, Rune Poems, 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-Christian 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, Tir as Mars, p. 8] “as it holds dependably to its path along the ecliptic..” [ibid, p. 10]

  AS Rune-poem stanza for the R-rune:  “Riding is easy for warriors sitting in the hall, and very strenuous for one who bestrides a powerful horse travelling the long roads.”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 87]

Maureen Halsall refers (noncommittally) to a number of sources with respect to the Northern pagan concept of “death as a journey” in her notes to the AS stanza for the R-rune [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 112 – 113];  she also points out that the phrase she’s translated as “long roads” means “literally mile-paths, meaning the open road which is measured in miles, as opposed to a by-way extending only a short distance; the term is designed to indicate a tedious and exhausting journey, hence translated ‘the long roads.’”  [ibid, p. 113]

René Derolez points out that the meaning of the R-rune may have shifted in continental Europe, to include the concepts inherent in L. ‘cons ilium,’ i.e. ‘a plan, taking advice, judgment,’ and so forth:  “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, Runica, p. 125]

The IRP stanza for R repeats the idea of the journey being an arduous one, and, possibly, suggests the secondary meaning of consilium in the Latin glosses which accompany some of the RP manuscripts.

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

The Norwegian rune-poem stanza, on the other hand, explicitly refers to a pagan myth:  “[riding] is said to be worst for horses;  Reginn  forged the best sword.”  [T/Dan Bray]

The Old Norse mythological references to ‘Reginn’ and to ‘Regin’ are to one and the same being.  [Simek, Dictionary, p. 262]  Reginn, ‘the mighty one,’ [ibid], is the foster father of the legendary hero, Sigurð, for whom he forged the sword ‘Gram,’ with the agenda of having Sigurð kill Reginn’s brother, the dragon Fafnir for him, so that Reginn can get his gold back:

“One day, when he Sigurð came to Regin’s dwelling, he was kindly received, and Regin said:  ‘Hither is come to our hall the son of Sigmund… now of a conflict have I hope from the fierce wolf *…. I will nurture the bold-hearted prince:  now Yngvi’s  kinsman is to us come… Sigurd was thence forward constantly with Regin, who related to him how Fafnir lay on Gnítaheid** in the likeness of a serpent [where he terrorized everyone, according to Regin].  Regin forged a sword for Sigurd, that was named Gram, and was so sharp that immersing it in the Rhine, he let a piece of wool down the stream, when it clove the fleece asunder as water.  With that sword Sigurd clove in two Regin’s anvil.  After that Regin instigated Sigurd to kill Fafnir…”  [From ‘The Lay of Fafnir,’ translated by Benjamin Thorpe] (18)

* The ‘fierce wolf’ is Sigurð.

** ‘Gnita Heath’

Regin’s plot comes back to bite him however; for, although Sigurd does indeed kill Fafnir with the sword, he also soon thereafter whacks Regin’s head off with Gram, in terror that Regin is planning to kill him.

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, Rune Poems, p. 31]

And this technique of “introducing apparently unrelated material to one’s main subject…” “was practiced by a number of Norwegian and Icelandic skalds of the Viking Age.  Their purpose was usually to introduce a wider, often cosmological perspective on their material…”  [ibid, p. 33]      

Moreover, the reference to “the smith Reginn” is to a subject “known to have formed part of a Norse extension of Christian typology to the heroic and mythic traditions of Scandinavia…”  [Clunies Ross, Rune Poems, p. 33]

Sigurd and Regin.  Artist: Josef Hoffman (1831–1904)[1]; Photographer: Viktor Angerer (1839–1894), scanned from a postcard; public domain, courtesy of wikimedia.org

Further, 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.  However, 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, Rune Poems, p. 36]

We could perhaps summarize the rune poem stanzas as saying in effect:  A long journey is easy to talk up but much harder to do, and much harder for the horse than it is for the rider.  And some of the people one meets along the way, even very special-seeming beings, may try to take us along on their trips, in furtherance of their own, quite possibly hidden, agendas.

I think the quintessential Triad of the Way must be the “pure form of Concentration” in Bennett’s    ‘World of XXIV,” which he calls 2 – 1 – 3 Self-Perfecting:  “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, DU Vol. II,  p. 161 – 162]

                                    Detail from a photo of a bronze statue of Siegfried (Sigurd) with Gram, in Upper Castle pond of Hohenbuchau in Georgenborn, in the Schlangenbad municipality of Germany; photo released into the public domain, via wikimedia.org

“The name of the Common Germanic rune that was used to represent all o sounds in early inscriptions can be reconstructed as *ōÞíla (landed property)…”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 148]

The rune “was normally the twenty-fourth rune, from the earliest Germanic futharks… to the latest Old English manuscript futhorcs…  Exceptions to this order are (probably) the sixth century Vadstena bracteate… and the futhorc in the ninth century Brussels ms 9311–9319 which, like the Old English Rune Poem, reverses the order ofand… It is noteworthy that, as if to mark the original ending of the futhark, the [Anglo-Saxon rune poem] stanza reverts here from four to three lines…”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 149]

The ōe rune did not survive in the Younger Futhark, so the only rune poem stanza describing it is that of the Anglo Saxon poem.  “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, IER, p. 74]

In his article ‘Mythic Acts,’ the archaeologist Neil Price offers support for the “idea of the grave as dwelling, an old notion in early medieval studies, reinforced by saga accounts of the dead living in their mounds”  [Price, Mythic, p.30]; and he argues that the archaeological evidence for “most of the [Swedish ‘ship’ graves in] Valsgärde, [as well as for] a large part of [the East Anglian Sutton Hoo ship burial] may well have been “ship halls for the dead, for leading figures living on in their graves, continuing to exercise the same function in society even after death…”  [ibid]

stone ship in Sweden, picture by Måns Hagberg [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons   

Furthermore, Price argues [Mythic, p. 31 – 333] that the 4th cent. – 11th cent. “carved stone memorials to the dead” in Gotland, Sweden, “typically shaped like a keyhole [ibid, p. 31], are “a proven link between stories and monuments to the dead.”  [ibid, p. 33]  “The stones’ ‘keyhole’ shape also resembles the doors preserved in later wooden stave churches;” and they “may have symbolized or even been thought to actually represent doorways to the otherworld beyond…”  [ibid]  “Thus we have people living on their farms, marking their possession with memorials to past landowners of the clan, each one merging into the family story as the property is ringed with points of entry to the realm of the dead.”  [ibid]

                                                                Picture stone from Smiss, Gotland, Sweden, 9th century.  Courtesy of   https://www.pinterest.com/pin/98445941825236402/

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 seventeenth-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, Runica, p. 399]

We must assume that the society that produced the [5th cent. 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, Norwegian, 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, DU Vol. II, p. 174]

    On the meaning of the d-rune, dagaz, from the Anglo-Saxon poem, which is the only one of the three rune poems it appears in: “Dæg [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, ‘IER’ 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-Name, p. 103]

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]

Stephen Flowers points out that:  “Words derived from the Proto-Germanic root dag- provide additional insight into the nuances of the name [dagaz].  There is a verb daga:  ‘to dawn,’ from which the word dagan, ‘dawn’ is derived… The term dægra-skipti denotes the twilight or both morning and evening…”  [Flowers, ALU, p. 118]

‘Dagr’ [ON ‘day’] is widely considered to have been a (supernatural) personification of the day.  [cf. Simek, Dictionary, p. 55]

In the “thoroughly heathen” Lay of Sigrdrífa, “ca. 1000,” the legendary hero Sigurd, fresh from the whacking of Fafnir and Reginn, stumbles upon the grove where the god Odin has punished the Valkyrie Sigrdrífa for disobedience, by casting her into an enchanted sleep.  Sigurd uses the sword Gram to slit the metal dress encasing Sigrdrífa.  “Then she awoke and sate up, and beheld Sigurd, and said:  “What slit my brynie?  How was broken my sleep?  Who lifted from me the leaden weight?  He answered:  Tis Sigmund’s bairn – on Fafnir’s body ravens batten – ‘tis Sigurd’s brand.”  (She said, by way of reply):  “Hail to thee, day!  Hail, ye day’s sons!  Hail, night and daughter of night!  With blithe eyes look on both of us:  send to those sitting here speed!  Hail to you, gods!  Hail, goddesses!  Hail, earth that givest to all!  Goodly spells and speech bespeak we from you, and healing hands, in this life.”  [Hollander, Edda, p. 233 – 234]

Sigurd and Sigrdrífa; painting by Charles Ernest Butler, courtesy of wikimedia.org, public domain   

 And in stanza 6 of the Eddic poem Völuspá, it is said that day is the child of night:  “Then the powers all strode to their thrones of fate, sacrosanct gods, and gave thought to this:  “to night and her offspring allotted names, called them morning and midday, afternoon and evening, to count in years.”  [Dronke, Edda Vol. II, p. 8]  (19)

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, DU Vol. II, p. 158 – 159]


This concludes part one of my introduction to correspondences between the Elder Futhark runic system and that of John G. Bennett’s ‘triads of World XXIV.’  For more rune lore and a complete set of the correspondences, see my rune page:     https://marnietunay2.wordpress.com/marnie-tunays-rune-page/      It’s old and badly in need of updating, which I hope to get to early in 2016, but there it is, for what it’s worth.  I may be contacted directly with respect to any part of  the whole she-bang at:  marnietunay (at) shaw.ca

Notes:                                                                                                                                           (1)  kenning:  a figurative descriptive phrase in Old Norse, Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning

(2)   To the best of my knowledge, the only person who has ever translated any of these later runic periphrases into English is Stephen Edred Flowers, a former professor of Germanic Studies in the University of Texas at Austin.  Unfortunately, his invaluable book, ‘The Rune Poems Volume I* Introduction, Texts, Translations and Glossary,’ published in 2002, went out of print when his private press, Rûna-Raven, went out of business in 2012;  and copies of that book are now extremely hard to find.  (I eventually found one on http://www.alibris.com   which I can also highly recommend as a reliable  purveyor of hard-to-find books.  I’ve bought a number of books from alibris over the past two years, with no problems.  Knock on wood.  Heh.)

*No ‘Volume II’ of The Rune Poems was ever published as such, but, his book 2012 book ‘ALU An Advanced Guide to Operative Runology,’ written under his pen name Edred Thorsson, was probably intended to stand in for ‘Volume II,’ and it is an excellent source of traditional rune-related lore in its own right.

(3)  Rudolph Simek translates BölÞorn as “ON ‘thorn of misfortune.  [Simek, Northern Myth, p. 40]; however, in her notes to Hávamál, Ursula Dronke translates the name as being’ Tree-Trunk-Thorn, saying:  “Óðinn’s mother is named ‘Little Tree-Bark,’ Bestla, while her father is ‘Tree-Trunk-Thorn, BolÞorn, not BölÞorn as often printed [and which is] a later misreading of the name.”  [Dronke, Edda Vol. III, p. 62]  The tree references, if correct, may refer to the tree in Old Northern mythology, namely, Yggdrasil  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yggdrasil

(4)  “… More tempered is [sic] Hákon the Jarl’s actions when rejecting the faith that his ally King Haraldr has imposed upon him:  he simply strands the priests whom he has agreed to bring to Norway, leaving them to fend for themselves, while he renews his allegiance to Óðinn…”  [DuBois, Nordic Religions, p. 44]

(5)  “… there would appear to be no inherent possibility in assigning the composition of the Old English Rune Poem to the same West Saxon milieu [Winchester environs] at… a date indicated by the linguistic evidence to be some time in the latter half of the tenth century.”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 32]

(6)  I quite like Robert Bjork’s translations, but his notes are next to non-existent, which I would find enormously frustrating if his was the only translation of the rune poem that I had at hand.  I selected his translation from several others, all similar, because his is both the most elegant and the most precisely accurate.  As Maureen Halsall says in her notes to the same stanza, the phrase that she herself translated as ‘heed it in time’ literally means “listen to it before.”  [Halsall, Rune Poem, p. 122]  In his excellent glossary to the Old English Rune Poem, Stephen E. Flowers agrees that the literal meaning of the Anglo Saxon adverb ǣror is ‘formerly, before (in time),’ [Flowers, Rune Poems, p. 28] although he too opts for a looser translation, preferring the phrase “early enough.”  [ibid, p. 15]

(7)   The fundamental nature of the norns that has come down to us from surviving mythic sources is that of “a shaping power…” fate working with a purpose:  “it is organising, shaping and arranging events in some coherent order or following some sort of pattern, even if the pattern is not discernible to human eyes.”  [Bek-Pedersen, Norns, p. 35]  Or, as Ursula Dronke drily observes in her notes to stanza 20 of the late-heathen Eddic poem Völuspá:  “They run nature’s lottery.”  [Dronke, Edda Vol. II, p. 128]  There is an excellent anonymous translation of Völuspá together with notes, available online:  http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa.htm

(8)   In the Lindholm Amulet, ca. 500 [Flowers, Semiotic, p. 72] to 600 [Elliott, Runes, Plate VI, fig. 19], the Nauðr rune shows up several times in what is probably an invocatory formula.  [Flowers, Semiotic, p. 72 – 79]  With respect to the amulet’s possible mythic connections, Ralph Elliott makes the brilliant observation that  “… the sixth-century Lindholm amulet has a series of single runes, followed by the magic word alu… the sets of runes do not spell anything, but if we substitute their names, beginning with a = ansuz, ‘god’ and ending with t = Týr ‘god (of victory),’ we are close to a passage in the eddic poem Sigrdrífumál which enumerates victory-runes, ale-runes, birth-runes, surf runes, health-runes, speech-runes, and thought-runes…”  [Elliott, Runes, p. 81 – 82]  The amulet evidently sat in a Swedish bog for a few hundred years and the camera doesn’t love it, but, this web-page:   http://runer.ku.dk/VisGenstand.aspx?Titel=Lindholmen-amulet  has an excellent graphic representation.

(9)   From Polomé’s extensive remarks on the P-rune:  “…Other attempts to explain Gmc. *perðō are equally unconvincing… (2)  Schneider’s assumption of an “unaspirated base *b(e)ret-  besides IE *bh(e)ret-  in terms like E pretty and Du. pret ‘fun’ to allow a comparison of Gmc.  *perðō  (interpreted as ‘dice-cup’ on account of the shape of the rune) with Lat. fritillus ‘dice-box’ is obviously ad hoc!  Consequently we have to resign ourselves to the fact that Gmc. *perðō remains etymologically unexplained.”  [Polomé, Names, p. 433 – 434]

(10)  Sheffield even summarizes her arguments that the word peorð means both ‘drinking]-vessel’ and a ‘drinking-toast’ by referring at the outset to “ceremonial occasions such as symbel and funerals” during the course of which “drinkers bound themselves to vows” “taken over the cup or horn,” [Sheffield, Long Branches, p. 212], without, evidently, considering the contradiction inherent in an interpretation of the p-rune stanza as meaning ‘a vessel and a toast is always amusement and laughter’ – to those medieval cultures within which solemn toasts and vows evidently played a regular and significant part.

(11)  For example, in Snorri Sturluson’s ‘Saga of the Ynglings,’ he says in Chapter 36:  “It was custom at that time,* when a funeral feast was prepared to honor a [departed] king or earl, that the one who prepared the feast and was to be inducted into the inheritance, was to sit on the step before the high-seat until the beaker called the bragafull was brought in; and then he was to stand up to receive it and make a vow, then quaff the beaker, whereupon he was to be inducted in the high-seat which his father had occupied…”  [Hollander, Heimskringla, p. 39]

*the time of the rule of “Ingjald, the son of King Onund,” at Uppsala, Sweden; possibly in the 7th century AD:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingjald

Furthermore, in Chapter 35 in the ‘Saga of Óláf Tryggvason,’ Snorri recounts the following story:  “King Svein arranged a great feast, requesting the presence of all the chieftains in his realm.  He intended to honor his father Harald with a funeral feast, and enter into his inheritance…  On the first day of the banquet, before King Svein ascended the high-seat of his father, he drank to his memory and made the vow that before three years had passed he would have invaded England with his army and  killed King Æthelred or driven him from his country.  All who were at the funeral feast were to drink that memorial toast. …  When that memorial horn had been emptied, then all were to drink a memorial toast to Christ…”   [Hollander, Heimskringla, p. 175]

(12)  For example, the English lawyer and historical writer John Thrupp, writing in 1862 and clearly no fan of the Anglo-Saxons, nonetheless gives a fairly detailed, (to say nothing of colorful), account of their drinking sessions, as well as how those sessions became modified by monks in sort-of-Christianised England:  “Excessive drinking,” says Malmesbury, speaking of the Saxons, “was one of the common vices of all ranks of people, in which they spent whole days and nights without interruption.”  The Danes were (if possible) still more desperate drunkards. In their own country they had carried this habit to so great an excess, that even their religious ceremonies were systematically concluded with drunken orgies. When their sacrifices were ended, they filled and emptied a stoop in honour of Odin, the god of victory and war; others to Njord, and to Frege, the goddess of love and fertility; and to Bragi, the god of eloquence; and then continued to drink in honour of their gods till they could drink no longer. 

 “On their conversion to Christianity, the clergy attempted to put an end to this system of pious intoxication, but finding it impossible to do so, they determined to give it a Christian sentiment. The converts were permitted to drink at the conclusion of religious services, as they had been accustomed to do, but were required in their toast-drinking [emphasis, mine] to substitute for the names of their false deities those of the true God and his saints. 

“Their drinking-meetings were conducted with great ceremony.  The guests being seated in rows opposite to one another, a slave filled a beaker for each guest, and, when every man was served, they all rose together, sang a verse in honour of St. Stephen, St. Eric, or their patron saint, and then emptied their beakers. The cans being refilled, they commenced drinking minnse, or memory cups, in reverence and honour of the dead. A verse was sung in worship of our Lord and Saviour, and the memory-cup reverentially emptied in His honour. Then followed a verse in praise of the Holy Virgin, and a beaker was emptied to her memory. When these toasts were disposed of, they drank brag-botes, or hero-cups, in honour of departed warriors, prefacing each with a verse or song in praise of his deeds. In the intervals between the toasts, it was customary for some one of the guests to rise, and after a speech in praise of himself, to make a vow to perform some act of desperate valour. The vows they made when drunk, we are quaintly told, they often repented when sober…”  [Thrupp, Homes, p. 294 – 295]  Clearly, the 10th century Christian author of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem was not referring to drinking-toasts when he spoke of peorð as being ‘always a source of laughter and amusement.’

(13)  Here is a free online version of ‘The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise,’ translated from the Icelandic, with introduction, notes and Appendices, by Christopher Tolkien:  http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/The%20Saga%20Of%20King%20Heidrek%20The%20Wise.pdf

(14)   plega,’ “quick motion, movement, exercise;’ ‘play’ as in ‘festivity, drama, sport;’ ‘battle;’ ‘applause’   http://lexicon.ff.cuni.cz/png/oe_clarkhall/b0235.png

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:  http://www.oldenglishtranslator.co.uk/    The Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by John R. Clark Hall, Second Edition  http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~kurisuto/germanic/oe_clarkhall_about.html

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.

(15)   Atlakviða:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlakvi%C3%B0a                               Andvari’s hoard:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andvar                                                   Reginsmal:   http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe23.htm

(16)  “The path of knowledge leads only to the stage of the Enlightened Idiot… he would have to descend all the way back to Ordinary Idiot and start afresh.  This was very difficult:  he would have to give up all that he had attained from so much labor…”  Bruno Martin, quoting from an unpublished manuscript on the ‘idiots’ written by John G. Bennett.  Martin’s book, ‘The Realized Idiot,’ recently reprinted and available from Amazon, is a peerless source of genuine Gurdjieff teachings on ‘the science of idiotism,’ as well as of Martin’s own thoughtful ideas and insights.  In addition, there is one other excellent source on the ‘idiots,’ and that is the appendix from the 2006 ‘All and Everything’ Conference, which has three papers:  ‘The Science of Idiotism,’ by John G. Bennett; ‘Toasts to the Idiots,’ by James Moore; and ‘The Science of Idiotism,’ by Nicholas Tereshchenko.  http://aandeconference.org/category/proceedings

(17)   “Hárr said:Yet remains that one of the Æsir who is called Týr: he is most daring, and best in stoutness of heart, and he has much authority over victory in battle; it is good for men of valor to invoke him. It is a proverb, that he is Týr-valiant, who surpasses other men and does not waver. He is wise, so that it is also said, that he that is wisest is Týr-prudent. This is one token of his daring: when the Æsir enticed Fenris-Wolf to take upon him the fetter Gleipnir, the wolf did not believe them, that they would loose him, until they laid Týr’s hand into his mouth as a pledge. But when the Æsir would not loose him, then he bit off the hand at the place now called ‘the wolf’s joint;’ and Týr is one-handed, and is not called a reconciler of men.””  From ‘page 39’ here:  http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre04.htm

(18)   Download a free copy of Thorpe’s translation of the Poetic Edda here:  http://www.heathengods.com/library/poetic_edda/ThorpeEdda.pdf

(19)  From Dronke’s notes on stanza 6 of Völuspá:  “ON poetic texts do not give more than fragments of the genealogy of Night and Day…Tacitus notes that among the Germani night is regarded as ushering in day… In Hesiod, Theogony 123 – 4, Night, child of Chaos, was mother of day…”  [Dronke, Edda, Vol. II, p. 117]

REFERENCES CITED:                                                                                                                       Barnes, Michael P.  Runes:  A Handbook.  The Boydell Press, 2012                                           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.   Hazard, the Risk of Realization.   Bennett Books, 1991                                         Bjork, Robert E.  Old English Shorter Poems:  Volume II Wisdom and Lyric.  Harvard University Press, 2014                                                                                                                             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.  Pages 23 – 39.  Cambridge, 1990                                       Derolez, René.  Runica Manuscripta.  De Tempel, Tempelhof 37, Brugge.  1954                   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, editor and translator.  The Poetic Edda, Vol. 1, Heroic Poems.  Oxford Clarendon Press, 1969                                                                                                                             Dronke, Ursula, editor and translator.  The Poetic Edda, Volume II  Mythological Poems I.  Oxford University Press, reprinted 2001                                                                                           Dronke, Ursula, editor and translator.  The Poetic Edda, Volume III Mythological Poems II.  Oxford University Press, 2011                                                                                                          DuBois, Thomas A.  Nordic Religions in the Viking Age.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999

Elliott, Ralph W.  Runes:  an introduction.  Second Edition.  Manchester University Press and St. Martin’s Press, 1989                                                                                                                   Flowers, Stephen E.  The Rune Poems Volume I:  Introduction, Texts, Translations and Glossary.  Rûna-Raven Press, 2002                                                                                                     Flowers, Stephen E.  ‘How to do things with runes:  a semiotic approach to operative communication,’ in Runes and Their Secrets:  Studies in Runology.  Edited by Marie Stokland et al.  Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2006, pages 65 – 81 Flowers, Stephen E. writing under his pen name Edred ThorssonALU:  An Advanced Guide to Operative Runology.  Weiser Books, 2012                                                                         Griffiths, Alan.  ‘Rune Names:  the Irish Connexion,’ in Runes and Their Secrets:  Studies in Runology.  Edited by Marie Stokland et al.  Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2006, pages 83 – 116                                                                                                       Gunnell, Terry.  The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia.  D.S. Brewer, 1995                                 Halsall, Maureen.  The Old English Rune Poem:  a critical edition.  University of Toronto Press, 1981                                                                                                                                                 Hastrup, Kirsten. Nature and Policy in Iceland 1400-1800: An Anthropological Analysis of History and Mentality.  Clarendon Press, 1999                                                                             Haywood, John.  The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. Penguin Group, 1995             Hollander, Lee M., translator.  Heimskringla:  History of the Kings of Norway, by Snorri Sturluson.  University of Texas Press, Austin, 2013                                                                         Hollander, Lee M., translator.  The Poetic Edda.  2nd Edition, revised.  University of Texas Press, Austin, 2011                                                                                                                                   Hupfauf, Peter R.  ‘Signs and symbols represented in Germanic, particularly early Scandinavian, iconography between the Migration Period and the end of the Viking Age,’ Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Sydney, 2003

Kodratoff, Yves.   http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/IntroRunPo.htm                                          Lindow, John.  Norse Mythology:  A guide to the gods, heroes, rituals, and beliefs.  Oxford University Press, 2001                                                                                                                             Osborn, Marijane. ‘Tir as Mars in the Old English Rune Poem,’ pub. in ANQ. Winter2003, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p 3 – 13.                                                                                                                           Page, R.I. (Ray).  An Introduction to English Runes.  2nd ed. 1999, The Boydell Press, paperback ed. 2003, 2006                                                                                                                     Page, R.I.     The Icelandic Rune Poem.  Viking Society for Northern Research, 1999.  Available as a free download on Anthony Faulkes’ site here: http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/                                                                                                                                Page, R.I.    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, pages 421 – 438

Price, Neil.  ‘Mythic Acts,’ in More than Mythology:  Narratives, Ritual Practices and Regional Distribution in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions. pages 13 – 46   Nordic Academic Press, 2012                                                                                                                            Rodrigues, Louis J.  Anglo-Saxon Verse Runes.  Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach, 1992           Sheffield, Ann Gróa.  Long Branches, Runes of the Younger Futhark.  Lulu, 2013                   Shaw, Philip Andrew.  ‘Uses of Wodan: The Development of his Cult and of Medieval Literary Responses to It,’ Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Leeds, Centre for Medieval Studies December 2002

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Edward Snowden’s tangled web of claims regarding the NSA records

On June 12, 2013,  Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that he hadn’t given everything to American journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald — because he had to review the data he was leaking.   http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1268209/snowden-sought-booz-allen-job-gather-evidence-nsa-surveillance

However, October 05, 2015, Snowden told BBC News Panorama the exact opposite, saying:  ““The question is, if I was a traitor, who did I betray?  I gave all of my information to American journalists and free society generally.”  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/snowden-says-hes-willing-to-face-prison-in-us/article26658125/

Moreover, October 2013, James Risen of The New York Times reported Snowden told him that he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow, and did not keep any copies for himself.  http://www.businessinsider.com/snowden-and-information-to-american-journalists-2015-10

However, on May 27 of 2014, Snowden told Brian Williams that he possessed documents while on the run in Hong Kong but “destroyed” the cache before he reached out to Russian diplomats.   http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/edward-snowden-interview/exclusive-edward-snowden-tells-brian-williams-i-was-trained-spy-n115746

Furthermore, the question of what actually happened to the documents is not the only truth challenge facing Snowden with respect to the NSA records he took:   http://www.businessinsider.com/snowden-and-john-oliver-2015-4

‘tangled web’ photo by http://mpw3d.deviantart.com/  ; headshot of Edward Snowden from a picture of “Edward Snowden Conference 2015” by Gage Skidmore – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/16525688221/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Snowden_Conference_2015.jpg#/media/File:Edward_Snowden_Conference_2015.jpg 

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