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Old 05-16-10   #1
Daedralord

 
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Default Critiques of historical rune magic/divination

A rather interesting topic to ponder. I hear frequently that writers like Edred Thorsson actually invented modern rune magic to a large degree. Or at least the German scholars before World War II who looked back to the past for inspiration did. I have not read the works of R.I. Page but I have heard that he is critical of the claims of magical usage.

Likewise I have seen writers critical of the interpertration from Tacitus and the reference to divination. There may not be evidence that the characters referenced are even runes.

I have seen some writers are critical of the passages in the Edda's that refer to runes as well. Citing other interpretations for the word "rune". Though some of the spells listed in the Runatal section of the Havamal do refer to "carving and colouring the runes".

There are also numerous references in Sagas to the use of runes magically. Are these open to different interpretations? Or literary inventions?

How about the idea of warriors carving runes for protection and bravery on shields and swords? Any actual evidence of this frequently referenced practiced actually occuring?

How about the collection of texts that formed the Galdrabok. Some of the designs are clearly runic in origin?

I have read the book Runic Amulets and Magic Objects. They seem to find evidence of actual magic, without seeing every single inscription as magical.

On the other hand. I have worked with the runes. I have found them to be powerful magically . Divination with runes works much better for me and I get far more accurate answers than with tarot anyway(Another historical fantasy to a large degree that still works)

What is the answer to this. Rational knowledge and scholarship is important of course. It serves to balance our perspectives. Yet I still believe the runes are magical - go figure.

Thoughts on this? (Excuse the writing. I am writing this out of my head and am too lazy to check sources for exact references right now)
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Old 05-19-10   #2
Rick

 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Default Re: Critiques of historical rune magic/divination

I’ve studied pretty much every rune source that I’ve been able to lay my hands on for a long time. I’ve never found a direct, specific reference to divination with runes in any reputable translation of either The Poetic Edda or Prose Edda, nor in any of the many sagas I’ve read. There may be hints and innuendos, but no direct reference. The passage in Tacitus doesn’t state specifically that he witnessed runes being cast, just pieces of wood. Amongst the Northern folk, predicting future events was done by observing the behavior of birds in flight, or observing the behavior of horses (particularly two stallions fighting), although I’d be at a loss to interpret these things except in the most general way. More serious divination would have been done by a spaekona, or by a seidh woman (who might be one and the same, but not necessarily), or by burial-howe-sitting, or by mound-sitting, or by calling up the dead (necromancy), such as the volva from her mound, or a hanged man on the gallows…

That twelfth I know, if on gallows I see
A hanged man on high:
These runes I carve, these runes I stain
That he drops down and speaks his tale.
Havamal 157:1-4

…so the idea of using runes for divination does not seem to be historically supported, but rather is relatively modern.

On the other hand, the magical use of runes, for everything from healing to curses, is prominently documented in the Lore. While the Saga of Icelanders speaks of other methods of magic, rune magic is specifically mentioned several times in Egil’s Saga alone (I find it interesting that the practitioners of these other methods of magic were considered witches, and evil, and suffered the usual fates of literary witches, ie: pressing, drowning, etc, while rune magicians were seen as good and virtuous people, even after the Christianization of Iceland). Likewise, too many weapons and shields have been found bearing ‘traditional’ runic inscriptions for protection, courage, etc for this aspect of rune magic to be ignored. All that said, every rune inscription that’s difficult or impossible to translate into comprehendible language isn’t necessarily magical formula… some are probably as simple as being something akin to ‘text speak’…

Othala Mannaz Gebo! Laguz Othala Laguz! (OMG! LOL!)

It speaks to the power of the runes that they actually DO work in divination, and are so bat-shit-scary accurate…
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Old 05-19-10   #3
Daedralord

 
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Default Re: Critiques of historical rune magic/divination

Thanks for the reply. And thanks for clearing up the discrepencies. I agree with you on the magic part. I just saw some people behave very strange when you mention runes and magic and some of them are in the Heathen or Asatru communities. I also think some of the magical stories are clear and even if some scholar finds something to nit-pick it does not change the fact that runes are valuable and effective magically and for divination regardless.

THe critical element is still valuable of course since it provides a balanced perspective. I have just seen some tip the scales completely in favour of the mundane explantions and rationalism for some strange reason, saying that there is no historical evidence of runes and magic. I don't think is true either.
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Old 08-03-10   #4
EntwinedSoul

 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 724

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Default Re: Critiques of historical rune magic/divination

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
I’ve studied pretty much every rune source that I’ve been able to lay my hands on for a long time. I’ve never found a direct, specific reference to divination with runes in any reputable translation of either The Poetic Edda or Prose Edda, nor in any of the many sagas I’ve read. There may be hints and innuendos, but no direct reference. The passage in Tacitus doesn’t state specifically that he witnessed runes being cast, just pieces of wood. Amongst the Northern folk, predicting future events was done by observing the behavior of birds in flight, or observing the behavior of horses (particularly two stallions fighting), although I’d be at a loss to interpret these things except in the most general way. More serious divination would have been done by a spaekona, or by a seidh woman (who might be one and the same, but not necessarily), or by burial-howe-sitting, or by mound-sitting, or by calling up the dead (necromancy), such as the volva from her mound, or a hanged man on the gallows…

That twelfth I know, if on gallows I see
A hanged man on high:
These runes I carve, these runes I stain
That he drops down and speaks his tale.
Havamal 157:1-4

…so the idea of using runes for divination does not seem to be historically supported, but rather is relatively modern.

On the other hand, the magical use of runes, for everything from healing to curses, is prominently documented in the Lore. While the Saga of Icelanders speaks of other methods of magic, rune magic is specifically mentioned several times in Egil’s Saga alone (I find it interesting that the practitioners of these other methods of magic were considered witches, and evil, and suffered the usual fates of literary witches, ie: pressing, drowning, etc, while rune magicians were seen as good and virtuous people, even after the Christianization of Iceland). Likewise, too many weapons and shields have been found bearing ‘traditional’ runic inscriptions for protection, courage, etc for this aspect of rune magic to be ignored. All that said, every rune inscription that’s difficult or impossible to translate into comprehendible language isn’t necessarily magical formula… some are probably as simple as being something akin to ‘text speak’…

Othala Mannaz Gebo! Laguz Othala Laguz! (OMG! LOL!)

It speaks to the power of the runes that they actually DO work in divination, and are so bat-shit-scary accurate…

my grandmother was born in Iceland.......and I am now just being led in that direction as part of my spiritual journey...........I have googled volva but Rick or anyone else.............if you know of any references I would greatly appreciate the leads..........I have very slow speed and research is painstaking............thanks in advance..........ღི♥ྀღ
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