This first rune sigil is one of my “don’t remember what it means” specials. I used an Indian snake skin tambourine to send it off, dancing, singing, drumming, you name it, until I was frothing and spasming and seething madly. Odin appeared at various points and lectured me about various things I didn’t understanding – perhaps related somehow to the meaning of the bind rune.
At the end of the magic I came under attack by a spectral serpent. I’m good at putting magical attackers in their place and this was no exception. But now I feel rather bad because in hindsight that spectral serpent was probably the snake who once owned the skin on the drum I had been banging.
I think that’s pretty bad form for me to have treated it so poorly (although drumming with mammal-hide drums has never produced a similar reaction for me). I’m not quite sure how to make amends but I’d like to make it some kind of offering since it presumably didn’t like being used for magic or perhaps used in the way that I used it.
The second rune sigil I fired off by reaching a state of intent focus using a tambourine. Tambourines offer an infinite array of musical possibilities when played in the style of Greg Sheehan, a brilliant Australian percussionist who plays them like a tabla or darbuka.
I’m no Sheehan but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. The magic kicked in really hard once I got my feet stamping in 4:4 time, then my left hand cutting across that on the tambourine in what I think was a 12:8, and then my right hand banging away on the tambourine for a while in 5:4, then 7:8 and 9:8. I used my forearms to loosely hold the tambourine across my chest as I did this so that the rhythms were very physical, tangible, for me.
Well! All those poly-rhythms rather did my brain in and so I stared intently at the sigil, drumming and stamping, dissolving deep into the magic and releasing the spell like seed to fertile ground.
I’m not really sure what to call the rune sigil magic I’ve been doing recently. It seems to involve runes, dance, trance, seething, chanting, drumming, you name it. If anything, the thread seems to be a chaos magical attitude – namely that technique and practice are what matter, not dogma or even consistent ideology.
The Old Norse word Galdr is often used to refer to rune magic by modern authors. I’m not sure what actual evidence there is for associating it with runes as opposed to verbal magic in general (Galdr means magic and its root meaning is something like “crow’s call”). On the other hand, we are told, there is seidhr, which is in some sense “shamanic” (but that can be debated from what I’ve seen on the very excellent Seidhr Study email list!)
I accepted these definitions and the hard distinction between galdr and seidh for years but now I am coming to believe that it’s a limiting and difficult to (historically) justify distinction. As far as I can tell it was promulgated by Edred Thorsson, whose runic theology seems to have its own, ahistorical, reasons for wanting to make a strict separation between runes and seidh.
Well that’s fine but had he (and other authors) been clearer about where history ends and personal opinion begins my own explorations might have gotten much more interesting much sooner.
Perhaps Jan Fries’ philosophy on the subject is more fertile. He sees runes as being part of a continuum of symbolic representation that goes back into pre-history (and quite possibly starts with the Neanderthals and not our own species). Certainly archaeologists have found some very ancient rock carvings that look like they could be straight out of a Futhark-literate rune magicians’ arsenal.
Of course the integration of the runes into an alphabetical format does come later, probably a century or two before the birth of Christ, but the psycho-spiritual heart of the runes goes right on back, well before tenuously fine-spun distinctions between rigid ‘types’ of magic would be plausible or even possible to establish.
The runes have a strange sense of being like proto-sounds or proto-words in my own personal experience. They somehow reach across ages and speak straight to the lower brain, to the spinal cord, to the tongue, the ears, the nose, the skin. I am beginning to think they are very happy to be related to in chaotic, atavistic ways – this is probably how the symbols that evolved into the runes got treated by our far flung ancestors were used to being treated, and I’m guessing they liked it.
In the big picture there really isn’t much difference at all between a modern human, a 10th century heathen and a 30,000 year old human from prehistory. I think the crucial distinction is that the prehistoric human would have the most intimate relationship to mystery – if only by dint of living closer to death and change on a daily basis. The more abstract and disconnected your way of being in the world becomes, the less you are able to stand in the eye of the infinity of mystery (and Runa means mystery!)
In a sense then I hope that I am forging a new kind of magical technology, one which is moulded specifically to my needs and desires, and which reflects my unique idiosyncrasies. One which reaches into the history of human psychology (albeit from a subjective point of view) – not just through to heathen times but also earlier.
The purpose of this is not to establish some orthodoxy, nor to promulgate a school of thought or practice. Rather the purpose is to make myself more at home in the world of mystery, of Runa.
The Rune Gild motto is Reyn til Runa – Seek the Mystery. I think this is a pretty cool motto, but it doesn’t really fit for me, since mystery is here, around us, right now, and to me it does not need to be sought out like gold or wisdom. The more we attempt to uncover reality, the more it slips away from us.
For me then, the challenge is a little different. I want to conserve the mystery, to provide it a home and dwelling, a comfortable space where it might unfold according to its own unknowable devices. I want to invite the mystery into my life (where it already is, though obscured). We need but recognise what is already true in order to forge a relationship to mystery, to Runa. There is no need to search either within or beyond. Everything else then becomes a simple challenge of making oneself as welcome a ve (a sacred/secret temple), for Runa as is possible.
Is this all as speculative and subjective as heck? You bet. What fun!