I wish to express, as bestly as I can, the importance of our kindred’s relationship with Rúnatýr and how this relationship has rewarded us. Firstly, it may come as a surprise to know that the name of our kinship, though counted by many as a kenning for the Scandinavian Óðinn, is not officially documented in historical sources (as far as I have been able to ascertain). That fact however is inconsequential as we know that the many recorded versions or offshoots of PGmc *wōđanaz have been associated with the many offshoots of the PGmnc *rūnō. The root meanings ascribed to the god’s name are “the furious/excited one” and the meaning of his gift is ascribed to “secret, whisper or hidden knowledge”. As such, we have come to know Rúnatýr or at times Wôdan/Wuodan in his non-hidden mysterious form, as our titular god. Although it may have been viewed at the time that we had selected the name of our kinship for reasons of swift need, without fully understanding why we chose it beyond Rúnatýr being a 1:1 ration evoking Wuodan along with the carved rune staves of modern use. In the years since however, it has come increasingly clear that, through our religious devotion and pursuit of the Mysterious One’s cult we have come to an even more profound and intimate understanding of the fundamental role of Rúnatýr in the establishment of our (kinship’s) world.
For those of us who have put in the time to delve deeper into the mysteries of Rúnatýr, it can be said that we have only scratched the surface of our potential wisdom. Through our devotion to retrieving our cultural and religious foundation, we have learned that with an open ear and a mind worthy of interpreting the signs, we can best orient the never-ending rebuilding of Rúnatýr’s folk towards what the Eldest has been working towards with us. There is a reason that our kinship feels like home, why it has survived as it has thus far and why it is poised to remain so long as Rúnatýr sees fit: The High One has been chanting us into existence and, he is teaching us the spells of our world one day at a time.
In the simplest of terms I am saying that when the kindred was founded, the reasons and purpose in the beginning were far more simple. We came together to honour the gods and share in our company. In the process of this and over the years, I have been observing our development. How we interact, what we are good at, what we seem to be moving towards, etc. what I have found most exciting is that in the very fabric of our being there is a mystery. Many of us have felt it, there is just something about us, something that when we poke at it or try to figure out what it is that we are feeling… it resists being named, tamed or in any way tampered with. In French, it is called a je ne sais quoi. We can also call it a quintessence, that mysterious fifth essence that is mysterious, but cannot be uncovered. Over the past couple of years I have called this as I understand to be the most apt appellation: rune, in the description of “secret, mystery”. But one must not get confused with this mysterious rune and the runes which some cast as a form of divination or even the characters themselves. These characters, which are often accompanied with a poetical understanding of them, are a form of sorcery which emulates the example of Rúnatýr. Rather, the rune of which I speak, the “mystery of the cult”, is the hidden understanding, orally communicated, traditional knowledge of our people. That, our kinship is the result of the divine “sorcery” on the part of Rúnatýr, where we are the product, but also the echo which feeds back to the Whisper God. It is this give and take, gift exchanging of sorts (or rather the result of which) that has made us into an impressive people and that mysterious essence which is our link to the sacred, our link to each other.
At first this may seem a paradox. We have a general, if not a generally understood taboo, which has developed by which over time we have come to set our year’s worship towards other gods and not Wuodan. In the spring, we worship Ing and Frîa, at Midsummer we worship Sunna and in the harvest tide… Dônar. At Yule, however, we have at times honoured various guises of Wuodan, such as Grim, Hâr and the All-Father… but not Wuodan. In the last couple of years, the Yule worship has been given towards the ancestors. But, if we take a closer look at our worship at all times, we without fail give honour to Rúnatýr. It could be argued that when we believe we are hailing our kinship, we are in fact, equally hailing and worshipping Rúnatýr our titular god. This is how I have come to know this custom and I know it is the way it is meant to be. If one imagines a people as the waters of a well, the walls of the well being what bounds the kinship, the wind, the bits of the world above which falls into the waters… can be understood as the effect of Rúnatýr on the people. We are the ripples and, in turn, the echo produced by the influence from above as well as the sound… ever so faint… of the ripples crashing on the stone walls of the well are impressed upon the elements above. Rúnatýr is Rúnatýr, the people descended from the god, the god impressed upon by the people. A gift for a gift, a mystery for a mystery. And so, there is no paradox, Rúnatýr always gets his share.
There are a number of precedents in the lore for this sort of relationship. I am not going to get into detail on each one or debate the validity of these episodes. I merely highlight them here for a general comparison as only our experience is truly “real” as such events have come to pass in our own kinship memory. Of these ancient sources, we find the tales of three legendary figures: Jarl, Jarl Hakon Galen and Kettil Runske. Respectively, their tales are told in the Rígsmál (Lay of Rig : Codex Wormianus 14th Century), Böglunga sögur (Bagler Sagas, ~13th Century Sweden) and the Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (A History of the Northern People, Olaus Magnus 16th Century Sweden). It is possible to see a connection to these three tales, in how they relate to, in my interpretation, Rúnatýr and how these stories can inform the mysterious undertaking which led to our kinship’s inception.
Without going into great detail, in the Lay of Rig (possibly Heimdall or Óðinn, either way, here a “Rune-God”) returns to his sired son, Jarl, who has excelled in nobility and teaches him the mystery of the runes. Eventually Jarl impresses Rig to such a degree that the god legitimises his son and takes him as his own. He gives Jarl his own name and the young man then becomes Jarl-Rig, which in essence translates as “the noble king”. Rig taught Jarl-Rig every rune that he knew and in turn, after conquering 18 kingdoms, Jarl-Rig teaches these to his youngest son Bairn, who becomes Young-King (Kon-Unng). A transmission of the various mysteries of life, specifically noble life from one generation to the other, once the younger has proven himself to the elder. The transmission being from Rig to Jarl (Rig) to Bairn (Young-King).
In the story of Hakon Galen, or Hakon the Mad, we do not encounter Óðinn in any form handing him the secrets of the runes. However we see a few things on note. Mainly that Hakon is a Jarl and that if one takes a literal translation of the name Hakon, we get Hár-Kon or “a descendant, king, of the High One”. This makes for an interesting relation or comparison to Jarl-Rig, who is a descendant of the High One and also Kon-Unng who is the “young king, the young descendant”. As with Kon-Unng, who is the son of a wise man, a descendant of the people, Hár-Kon is the son of a wise man, Folkvid the Lawspeaker. Folk-Vid meaning “widest of the people”, could be another name attributed to Óðinn indicating that he is “broadest or most wise of all his people”. Hakon is also called the “mad” or Galen. Galen itself, which came to be known as “madness” is related to the PGmnc *galdraz which has a broad understanding as “to speak, yell, chant (magically)”. In this way we can understand his connection to the knowledge of runes, various hidden mysteries, by way of his “spoken madness”. The early Christians of his age may have viewed strange mutterings as a form of madness, where in reality he may have been speaking charms. The similarities between Rig, Jarl-Rig and Kon-Unng with (Hár), Folkvid and Hár-Kon Galen are worthy of further study.
In the Swedish folktale of Kettil Runske, we find interesting parallels between it and that of Hakon Galen. In the tale of Hakon Galen, we learn that he is in a race against a Norwegian rival king, Inge Bardsson who was his half-brother. Hakon was from Bergen and Inge ruled from the Archdiocese of Nidaros. Interestingly enough, in the tale of Kettil Runske, we hear that there was a disagreement between a king in Borga and Näsbo which resemble very much the two kingdoms in Hakon Galen’s tale. The king in Näsbo had commissioned a troll by the name of Gilbertil to dig a trench down the center of the island so as to partition the land accordingly. The king in Borga, being incensed, commissioned another troll by the name of Kettil Runske to investigate. When Kettil arrived by boat, he saw that Gilbertil had been digging a tunnel between the two extremities of the island and intended the sea water to finish the job. Kettil opened the earth above him and commanded him to stop. Gilbertil just mocked him and as a result Kettil threw a troll-stick (runestaff?) at him. Gilbertil caught the stick, but his hands became stuck to it. He then tried to pry it off with his feet, but they too were stuck to the stick. He then in a last ditch attempt, tried to free himself with his teeth and they too became fastened. Thus Gilbertil was bound, hands, feet and mouth and Kettil tossed him into a hole which is still known to this day as Gilbertil’s Hole.
It is said that Kettil stole his troll-stick from Óðinn and so brought the runes to mankind. In essence, in this case as with those above, Óðinn is Rúnatýr. Due to the late date of this folktale, it may be that there is much Christian interference there in. For one, it may be that the persons of Kettil and Gilbertil are versions of Hakon and Inge, making them trolls and separate from the kings allows the tale to remain told, without offending early Christian sensibilities. If this is the case, then it may be that in the Lay of Rig, Rúnatýr, taught Hakon/Kettil the runes as opposed to him stealing them. As in the tale of Hakon Galen, Kettil is wise with “gale”, the power to enchant the mysteries (runes). This may be where Hakon owes his nickname, the Mad. Another interesting notion is that, in the recorded history, Inge is eventually victorious over Hakon as Hakon dies before Inge and so does not inherit the kingdom… could it be that Kettil’s vengeance over Gilbertil is a folk memory of “what if things went the other way” and Hakon, through his runecraft won victory in the end? Of this we will never know for sure. If we give the name of Kettil the same treatment as above we can draw a line of runic transmission as such: (Óðinn) – King – Rune-ish/Mysterious Cauldron (Runsk-Kettil).
Then there are two the sections of the Hávamál, which are called the Rúnatal and the Ljóðatal which are attributed to Hár, but in this case most wisely Rúnatýr. In these poem, which seems to have been an effort to itemize important maxims for people to learn from, we are left to wonder about the meaning of the Rúnatal and the Ljóðatal and what are their purpose? Let us draw an interesting comparison between the eighteen runes (mysteries) of the Ljóðatal and the eighteen kingdoms conquered by Jarl-Rig. It is important to note that the runes here which Hár took up are not the little pieces of wood with markings on them, as we know them today. Rather they were either charms or runestaves engraved with a series of incised markings. This is evinced from the Ljóðatal translating to “a number of charms”, the runes (mysteries/engravings) when accompanied with their ljod/gale (charm) make up the spell . Making these more akin to the troll-sticks of Kettil Runske. It is possible that these are an allegory or a similitude drawn with the kingdoms of (Jarl) Rig. Let us not forget that these are “mysteries” which were taught by Rúnatýr, or rather a profound understanding of those mysteries of life. When you understand the mystery (rune) and it’s charm (gale), you can use it to overcome what is pertains to… as we read from the Rúnatal and Ljóðatal.
If we draw on all this above, we can then mirror these ancient examples to our own history. Our kindred was founded in 2008, by two individuals (one of whom parting ways) and chose Rúnatýr as its name as a source of inspiration and modeled on ideas pertaining to runes, albeit a poor understanding of the concept of “rune”. As the years went on the governance structure went through a few changes. Each form was important for the time it served and ushered about positive change. It could be said that as time went on, we learned from the mysteries which grew from our kinship and as such we refined and redefined our ways. In 2014, after a year of inter-governance, a new model, not of governance, but of inter-relation, was chosen. It was the expressed will of the Rúnafolk that we should highlight the strengths and unique characters of our strong Hearths. That each “head of their household” should help steer the collective of Hearths and Heathens, known as “the Kindred” into the future was what was sought. This brought about the recognition of Stewards.
Time goes on and we begin to understand the runes of our kinship, the mysteries of the cult, it can be said that we are following the example of Rúnatýr. We are learning wisely and in turn Rúnatýr, as Rig had done for Jarl, has legitimised our namesake in him. The process of transmission, following the ancient examples being: Rúnatýr – Steward (House Warden) – Rúnafolk (People of the Runes/Mysteries). As I highlighted above, it is that Rúnatýr saw us digging a hole/well, and seeing this good work, he tossed us down the runes. In time the waters of life flowed in and we support each other upon these floating staves. In return, we offer Rúnatýr and the gods worship, which echo off the inner walls of the well and make resound in their ears… in kind they return to us much bounty. The more we learn, the better we will become at our worship and the gift-cycle shall endure.
I will leave off with one such rune we have come to share this past Yule and may we share it for many more years to come. This song, our Weshêling song, called An Eeking Gale, is brimming with many layers of mystery. Each verse, intonation and gesture holds many interconnected meanings which only our kinship knows the depths. It may be read and spoken by anyone, but without the proper tune, gestures and understanding as well as the appropriate time to perform it… it cannot be fully appreciated. The words may seem bizarre, and they are as such for a reason. I will not elaborate upon the meanings or the rune of this piece, but know that if ever you wish to partake in it, you will have to come travelling to our door at Yuletide. We also have other customs, such as our sacrifices, drinking ritual and wortcraft, which are just as teeming with mystery and these too must be enjoyed in the company of Rúnatýr:
I greet thee now,
You greet me how?
A tip o’ the bowl just right.
To sup on good cheer
An’ by that ol’time seethe
For our kinship be-lieve
Eek fro’ ebb: Rúnatýr!
Say Cheer! (Cheer)
An’ wes thu hêl!
Drink up my dear!
An’… (Drink hêl!)”
Stw. Erik of Erikhêm