Rune Lore of the Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda is a collection of (probably very old) pagan poems written down in Iceland some time during the 11th century AD. The manuscript was hidden throughout four centuries until it was uncovered from an Icelandic farm in 1643 AD and sent to the King of Denmark. The Dark Ages were over and finally the heathen poems could safely be known again to the public. The Runes were a type of letters inspired by the Roman alphabet and used by German and Scandinavian tribes for a thousand years. However, the word rún means secret, and the runes clearly had an occult and sacred use as well. In the Poetic Edda, rune lore reveals the great mystery connected to these inscriptions. The goddesses of Fate, Urdr, Verdandi and Skuld (Origin, Becoming and Debt) created the runes by carving them into the World Tree (Yggdrasil, The Steed of the Old One). Odin, who was a god but nevertheless mortal, learned from Freya the art of Seidr and let himself be the first to be initiated into the mysteries of Fate. He uncovered the Runes of Fate and created a path of initiation. The tragedy was that he through greed and ignorance betrayed the Goddess who had taught him, here called Invitation-to-Battle (Gunnlöd). He recognized his mistake, and the balance is restored when the hero Sigurd, after many lives of trying, managed to wake up the sleeping Goddess, now called Sígrdrifa (Victory over Bad Sight) and later Brynhild (Battle of Armors). She teaches him the runes and asks him whether he will have her counsel throughout his life. Sigurd declares that he will not flee from his Fate (the Goddess), and lives with her guidance in life. At death, she comes after him into the Underworld and saves him from oblivion. The Goddess appears as a giantess and as a valkyria, but the epiteths used to describe her (the Goddess of Gold, the Lady of the Land of the Dead) reveals that she is Freya, The Lady, Great Goddess of the Viking Age. She also reveals that she is the sister of Odin, something Odin confirms in the last stanza of the Hávamál poem. The rune lore of the Poetic Edda are thus tightly connected to stories of male initiation rituals into the mysteries of the Goddess who rules all fates. As all Old Norse poetry must be read metaphorically, we may assume that Odin, the bestower of breath, inspiration and creative intelligence, represents the human spirit, and thus his story is relevant to all of us. The Goddess represents Destiny, and union with her means to unite oneself with one´s own destiny, thus reaching the highest state of divine freedom. Her sleep is “the sorrow of mankind”. I have tried to translate the poems as literally as possible and still reconstruct their poetic and rhythmic drive into the English language.
Some of the names I have translated: STEED OF THE OLD ONE= Yggdrasill, the World Tree. ORIGIN´S WELL=Urdarbrunnr, the cosmic ocean that nurtures the World Tree. ORIGIN, BECOMING, DEBT= Urdr, Verdandi, Skuld, the three norns, goddesses of fate, thought to represent past, present and future. RUNES OF THE SOUL= Húgrúnar. Húgr signifies thought, intent, passion, and soul. SHATTERED ONE= Hroptr (Odin). BRIGHT DROPS=Heiddraupnir. HEAD-TEAR-APART= Hodrofnir. MEMORY= Mimir, whose head is kept by Odin. BAD-THORN= Bólthorn, the father of Bestla, Odin´s mother. His son is Odin´s maternal uncle. Of old, the brother of the mother had a responsibility to educate his sister´s children. POETRY-STIR= Ódrerir, the cauldron in which the mead is kept. INVITATION-TO-BATTLE=Gunnlöd. SEAT OF THE SAGE=Túlarstólinn. THE GREAT SAGE: Fimbultúl. A Túl means someone who recites. It signified a priest, a sage, like a bard who knew how to recite sacred hymns. The Fimbultúl is Odin, the bard of bards. “The shattered one among the gods”=Odin. THIN MIST=Tundr, one of the many names of Odin, in Grimnismál he reveals that he was Thin Mist before anything else. DRINK-HEAVY= Suttungr, Gunnlöd´s father. MOUNTAIN OF THE DOE= Hindarfjöll. GODDESS OF GOLD=Gullna Dís. The valkyria is called this twice in the Helreidr Brynhilds.

Music by Ehwaz: Embla Maria Franz (voice, violin, flutes and percussions), Gustav Holberg (Voice, violin, flutes and percussions), Thomas Kvilhaug (voice, bass, guitar and percussions), John Gunnar Brynjulvsrud (voice, jews harp, kantele, Lótar and percussions), Kjell Øyvind Braaten (voice, ballafon, gambri, bass, guitar and percussions).

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