Rúnar munt thú finna ok rádhna stafi, mjök stóra stafi,
mjök stinna stafi,
er fádhi fimbuldhulr
ok goerdhu ginregin
ok reist Hroptr rögna.
Runen wirst du finden und lesbare Stäbe,
sehr starke Stäbe,
sehr mächtige Stäbe,
gefärbt von Fimbuldhurl
gegeben von den magischen Göttern
und geschnitzt vom höchsten Herrscher.
Runes wilt thou find and read the staves,
very strong staves,
very stalwart staves,
which the mighty theal colored
and the magical gods made
and Hropt of the gods carved them.
“Hávamál”, verse 145. Old Norse version & English translation taken from Rune-Song by Edred Thorsson; German translation taken from Helrunar by Jan Fries, with little variations by me.
My first conscious contact with magick happened, when I took ‘magic mushrooms’ (f.e. Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe mexicana, Psilocybe semilanceata asf.). They worked for me as a trigger & made me aware of the fact that self-awareness is a miracle & mystery in itself. Having said that, let me state clearly that the prolonged use of such substances may have disastrous effects on the psyche. I’ve seen that happening to friends! Drugs, including psychedelics, are in most cases no help for spiritual seekers. (Heedful & experienced use of ‘chemognostic sacraments’ is possible in a shamanic and/or therapeutic context as the writings of Stanislav Grof prove. Nevertheless, most people misuse drugs. They try to escape reality & the responsibility of being human.) For spiritual pursuits – and most other endeavors in life – counts the following: Es gibt keine Wunder, nur Disziplin. (“There are no miracles, only discipline.”) Ian Read said this in his brilliant magazine RUNA, No. 19. (North Americans can purchase Runa Magazine from Runa Raven press, orders outside the US here) Most hippies & other protagonists of the 1960s who fished for short-cuts on the spiritual path somehow forgot about that. However, I’d argue that the first manifestation of my magickal path has been ‘psychedelic neo-shamanism’. What followed, sounds to me today like a cliché. An uprooted & alienated, urban & postmodern youngster tries to overcome his youthful nihilism by taking drugs & trying to escape consensus reality by following (what I then believed to be) AmerIndian shamanism. I was introduced to Castaneda’s books, Sun Bear, Terence McKenna, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary & Jim DeKorne’s Psychedelic Shamanism. I visited often the local forest of my town & have been doing ‘shamanic journeys’ to the underworld (today I’d say my subconscious mind or the Deep Mind, as Jan Fries calls it), where I met my ‘power animals’ & asked them questions about certain issues that were important to me. The shamanic journeys came to an end, when I came across a very mysterious & weird book: Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law). This “Book of Claws” :-) has been written by the notorious & furious, half-mad & half-ingenious Devil’s advocate: the Beast 666, also known as Aleister Crowley, called lovingly by us all who were ‘seduced’ by his exhilarated & energized enthusiasm Uncle Al.
Being who I am I found out EVERYTHING about Aleister Crowley & wanted only one thing from that moment on: to learn about magick. This has led me at age 19 to the Ordo Templi Orientis. OTO is a group that promotes Crowley’s religion of Thelema (“True Will”) & occasionally practices (rather boring) rituals of Ceremonial Magick. While having been studying the stale & dogmatic system of Crowley, I slowly realized that there were other systems of magick around that have a far more easier & pragmatic approach to sorcery. (Then being “brainwashed” by modern occultism I thought of sorcery as a kind of ‘lower’ form of magick.) This was the hour of Austin Osman Spare & his ‘revolutionary’ method of sigil sorcery.
Because reading AOS is a rather complicated issue, it was the repeated application of ‘Thee Sigil Ov 3 Liquids’ in Thee Greyer Book that initiated a series of events that convinced me once & for all that magick WORKS as I got immediate results. (This manual was/is the manifesto of Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth that was founded in 1981 by Genesis P-Orridge, Peter Christopherson and others who are no longer its members.) It must have been what they call ‘beginner’s luck’! Such experiences with practical sorcery – those that manifest in the material world – are more important for the budding magician than reading thousand books by Crowley or whomever. I was 22 then. Thus my soul was sold to the Devil. He looked like him:
the inventor of magick and anything else that is fun & forbidden. But at that moment in time I already knew that the Devil was nothing but the degenerated manifestation of far older gods of our pagan forefathers. I believe these pagan gods to be the ecstatic Pan, Óðinn, Loki, asf.Of course any god that was associated with sensuality, sexuality & sorcery became a Devil. Satan does not exist, except in the minds of those that deny these aspects of Self.) As I’m a very loyal person it took me a while until I accepted the conclusion that my path lies outside of Crowley’s Current 93 & I left OTO at age 25. (Though to this day I find the 93rd Current an important one and I do believe that an intelligent and creative person can use Crowley’s work in a beneficial way.)
However, leaving OTO was an initiation in itself. But this initiation was not the kind of ‘freemasonic theatre play’ you pay 100 or 200 Euros/Dollars for to ascend in the artificial hierarchy of a magical order. No! This step has led to a spiritual crisis (the ‘Hagalaz-Nauthiz-Isa-Jera dance). It’s important to die before you die, my friends! This was the time, when I toyed around with chaos magick and, as I said before, there is no doubt that this current has brought fresh and new perspectives into contemporary magick. It synthesized the threads of the antagonistic twins Crowley & Spare in conjunction with the spirit of ‘free-form shamanism’ to bring forth a postmodern approach to magick, where “Nothing Is True & Everything Is Permitted” (Hassan-i Sabbah). I found a lot in chaos magick that inspired me, especially the fundamental insight that Gnosis & Belief are important for magick to work, though some chaos magicians already come to the conclusion that “belief alone is […] the basis of magick and gnosis is optional.” (Dave Lee, in a review of Advanced Magick for Beginners).
Dave Lee, Chaos Magus and Rune Master
But as time progressed my interest moved ever stronger towards the Runes. Simultaneously the chaos magick approach became an integral part of my magical assets, even if my ‘paradigm shifting’ always remained an unconscious process rather than a conscious attitude.
Though I have heard of the Runes for the first time when I was 15 or so, I’ve been confronted at that time only with the inauthentic Armanen-Futhark (composed of 18 Runes, which Guido von List ‘received’ in a state of crisis during which he was blind for a half year) and the terrible New Age nonsense by Ralph Blum (whose ‘system’ is anathema to anyone who is committed to the Runic Tradition). But since then I felt a deep respect for the Runes. Years later I found a book in the university library next to my school. It was called Leaves of Yggdrasil written by the Dutch singer, writer & ‘Norse Occultist’ Freya Aswynn. She inspired me to do a few divinations with Runes that were intriguing. However, as I don’t like to fiddle about too much, my focus has still been to unravel Crowley’s system of magick first. I also understood intuitively that Runes are nothing you can just explore in a few months. I understood intuitively that Runes are not just another ‘paradigm’ to ‘exploit’. Rather the Mystery encoded in the Runes demands of the Seeker to dedicate his whole life – and beyond – to the quest for Her: Runa. Many years later, when I was already studying at university myself, I came across the German translation of Edred Thorsson’s Nine Doors of Midgard.
This was for the first time when it suddenly dawned on me that there is a Runic Revival going on and that the Runes have a tradition of their own. As I became already dissatisfied and disaffected with Crowley’s system and the OTO, and chaos magickalready began to crack open my head, I started to study the religion, culture and language(s) in which the Runes have originated [well, I studied one semester of Icelandic until now and I had to break off the course on Old Norse… but I will come back to it when time allowes!]. And here, for the first time, I realized where my roots lie – hidden.
I am still fairly new to Heathenism and it’s not long ago that I swore my first oath to Óðinn. But from the first moment on I read about the idea put forth by Edred Thorsson / Stephen Flowers that the Seeker has to emulate the archetype of the First Runemaster Óðinn, to emulate His act of ‘Winning the Runes’, for gaining insight into Runa – the Mother of all Mysteries – I knew this is where my magick has led me. (However, as I identify with ANON it must be considered that there is no ultimate destination. „Anon freely transmogrifies its arbitrary personality, refusing any identity defined by its environment. Residing in the ultimate freedom possible on the plane of illusion, it has choice of duality. Everything which exists for it is a form of desire, for this is the universe in which it willed to incarnate.“ — in: Liber Null, by Pete Carrol) Feeling attracted by the Mystery, I swore my first oath to Óðinn whilst holding my Sax against my beating heart and ever since I’m feeling the pull from Runa becoming stronger and stronger. Thusly the trail of the Devil turned out to be the demon’s footprint of the one-eyed God whose Rune-Might still manifests in Midgard. „When the written codes of Gods and Man are abandoned, what remains but the footprint of the Demon?“ (Fire + Ice) Now I began to know my own wyrd and destiny. And I hear the knocking of Sleipnir’s hooves and the winds on the raging sea, whispering from eternity: Reyn til Runa!
And as long as there are those who devote themselves to the Quest for Runa like the First Rune Master did, who arranged and carved the Runes 2200 years ago in the form of the Elder Futhark, the Might of our Holy Gods still lives on. “Our freedom shall hinge on it soon… Take Wyrd in your hands & reclaim your Might.” (Sweyn Plowright/Fire + Ice) And it’s only now that I begin to have glimpses of understanding the words whispered to us through the ages. Just by reading these words and speaking them aloud I get my Óðr rises and combines with my hughr and minni:
Rúnar munt thú finna ok rádhna stafi,
mjök stóra stafi,
mjök stinna stafi,
er fádhi fimbuldhulr
ok goerdhu ginregin
ok reist Hroptr rögna.