One of the things I find most frustrating about working in an ‘alternative’ tradition is the sheer volume of unreferenced material out there. I believe that this sometimes stems from laziness, but also from a belief that anything developed in modern times rather than being passed down from ye olde ancient past is somehow of less value. Ultimately, all lore stems either from experience or gnosis and in the case of ‘experience’, sometimes received wisdom turns out to be received idiocy. All I ask for within my practice is to be given information which will help me make an informed decision for myself. As I develop this site I am also working on my own research and tracing each correspondence and technique as far back as I can – one day this will form a tome which some will undoubtedly find dry but which I hope will help those coming after me avoid years of research and investigation.
Of key importance to me is the development of my personal ‘kenning hoard’. You can find out more about the kenning hoard on my web page for the rune Kenaz. For me, the sage combines knowledge from numerous sources which is then filtered through the consciousness of the individual sage – only then does it become wisdom.
Runes for Sages
Look for Fehu in legends of dragons, buried hoards of treasure and in the mysteries of Vanaheim. The tale of Fafnir in the Icelandic Sagas is particularly resonant with the negative aspects of Fehu whilst Peace-Weavers and Shield-Maidens is a lovely exploration of the concepts of frith and aethling which both link to Fehu. Consider the presence of the letter ‘f’ in the following words: fees, funds, finance. Fehu can attract wealth to us but it also demands that those with wealth ensure it continues to circulate back into society.
Kenaz is an excellent rune for the sage as it is the rune of knowledge; the word ‘kenning’ is a direct descendent of Kenaz. A major part of my rune work is the development of my ‘kenning hoard’. This is my own hoard of rune knowledge and it rests deep within me like the dragon’s hoard. I feed the hoard through research and meditation on the runes; the hoard is built just as much on intuitive knowledge as it is on facts learned by rote. The hoard rests within my subconscious and is fed by different aspects of my soul complex including those connected to the Gods and the deep wisdom of the ancestors. Kenaz is the symbol of the hoard and when I lift up the lid of the hoard Ansuz and Kenaz help me draw the correct pieces of rune lore and intuitive wisdom to the surface of my conscious mind. This is an invaluable skill for anyone working with the runes and, for me, signifies the difference between the ‘dabbler’ and the ‘practitioner’.
You will notice Kenaz in my bind rune for the Sage (above). It has been coupled with the Othala rune of inheritance and the ancestors to signifying the wisdom and experience the Sage amasses. In this bind rune Kenaz becomes a mouth, an opening to a mound, or the forked tongue of the dragon through which the experience and wisdom held within the Othala rune is released.
Look for Algiz in the legends of the swan maidens, the gods who wear feathered cloaks to travel between the realms, and the rainbow bridge leading to Asgard. The rune is known both as Algiz and Elhaz and its shape has been likened to a flying bird, the horns of the elk and a human figure with arms stretched up to the heavens. Its shape is commonly found in the supporting beams of homesteads which beggars the question of whether the symbol came before the architectural shape or vice versa.
For me Teiwaz is a particularly helpful rune when it comes to resolving conflicts that arise between my Sage self and my Mystic. The Sage seeks for historically accurate, evidence based practices and teachings whilst the Mystic journeys forth to discover its own, subjective and context-based truth. Teiwaz embodies ‘divine truth’ which, for me, represents the union of many different types of truth which I may not understand on a conscious level but which allow my Sage and Mystic to respect and support each other.
Let’s take as an example the mysteries of the Irminsul pillar and the relationship between Odin and Tyr. If you look up Irminsul on Wikepedia you will see that we know hardly anything about Irminsul and that the latest scholarship undermines previous theories about the succession of kingship from Tyr to Odin. My Sage allows me to remain open to alternative theories which, I believe, enrich my understanding of the myths I work with and ensure I don’t become trapped within one particular perspective. My Mystic has confirmed for me over and over that my intuitions about the link between Tyr and Irminsul are correct – but these are part of my own belief system and kenning hoard and I don’t need them to be confirmed in historical artefacts for them to remain valuable to me. Odin himself teaches us a valuable lesson about truth.
The beginning of the Prose Edda recounts how the current Aesir became powerful by claiming to be the Aesir (who were already part of myth at the time). We can read this as being a Christianised account seeking to undermine the Norse deities and make the human rather than divine; however, we might also taken from this an important point about true power being the ability to shape reality. In this sense we act as if we can do, or be, something until we actually can. If reality is constantly being created and re-shaped then truth itself will change over time. This might make you uncomfortable (for what then is the nature of reality), or it might make you feel immensely empowered and able to do anything you set your will to.
The runes are inherited gifts, passed down to us by the ancestors. Whilst we must each forge our own connection with the runes, our practice should build on and respect what has come before. Working with Othala can help you access the wisdom of the ancestors. The rune can be envisioned as a gateway through which one passes into a place where the boundaries between present and past become blurred. Enter with an open heart and listen carefully to what the ancestors tell you.