Bog Fairy Fox
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: the Netherlands
Hávamál: A Runic Comprehension
Full text of the Hávamál
Hávamál, or Sayings of the High One, is an assortment of Old Norse poetry attributed implicitly to the god Odin. Its only surviving source is the 13th century Codex Regius. The part of it that deals with ethical conduct is said to be the eldest, though some stanzas from other parts have been traced back to at least the 10th century.
It is comprised of different sections. Gestaţáttr, or the guest's section, is comprised of 1-79 and focuses mainly on the lore of reciprocity and hospitality. 83-110 deal with romantic love and the character of women. The Loddfáfnismál, in 111-138, deals with morals and ethics and codes of conduct.
Then, from stanza 138 onward, we are introducted to the Rúnatal. It is the section that describes the origin of the runes and Odin's time as the Hanged Man. The last section is called Ljóđatal and deals with eighteen songs/charms that are prefaced with the following statement:
Ljóđ ek ţau kann, er kannat ţjóđans konathat, ok mannskis mögr.
I know the songs no ruler's wife knows, nor anyone's son
It is commonly assumed today that the Ljóđatal actually describes the in-depth working of the actual runes as they were given to Odin (and as Odin took them up) when he hung from the tree. It may be a dualistic statement to say given/taken in the respect of the runes, but the telling itself presents that he hung from the tree for nine nights as a sacrifice to himself ("given to Odin, myself to myself for me") and then investigated 'down below' and took up the runes. Down below would mean earth or sky depending on what direction you are facing, would it not? So the runes are a gift of the earth that can be unearthed through investigation of what lies below you -- the dark of you, the roots that bind you, the subconscious, the heartbeat keeping you alive. And they are also a gift from the sky that can unfurl through investigation of what lies below you in a different respect -- the light of you, the passion that feeds you, the conscious, the heart of the universe.
When you work with the runes, these two things tend to marry one another. On one hand, there is the spiritual concept of hanging from the tree and gaining a profound insight into the universe through the lightning flash of comprehension that comes from the runes. On the other, there is the earthy concept of working with something that has such a practical application that it becomes the backbone of any magical working that needs to take up root in the physical. Their use is powerful and the caution in using them forever present:
Know how to cut them, know how to read them,
Know how to stain them, know how to prove them,
Know how to evoke them, know how to score them,
Know how to send them, know how to send them,
Better not to ask than to over-pledge
As a gift that demands a gift
Better not to send than to slay too many
Runic comprehension basically starts here. It starts with the story of Odin's nine nights. It begins with the songs and charms that follow. Know how to read them -- this is where it begins.
She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message:
for small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
- Carl Sagan