Fischbach, the Edda and the Runes

In the section entitled “Runic-Lore of the Edda [Runenkunde der Edda ] ” in his 1900 booklet on the runes, Fischback says:

The Runes indicate the Mystery/Secret of the Essence of all Things, they are (so to speak) Characters of the Soul-of-the-World [Weltseele ]

“They stand on the Shield of the Sun; on the Ear and Hoof of the early-awakening [frühwachen], ever-quick Sun-Horse [Sonnenrosses ]; on the Bear’s Paw; on the Wolf’s Claw; on the Eagle’s Beak and bloody Wings; on the Poet’s Tongue” etc.

Heinrich Heine calls the Rune-Sayings of the “Edda” defiantly-enigmatic [dunkeltrotzige ] and tremendously-magical Evocations.

Gods, Humans, Elves, Elements, Sea, Earth, Trees, Stones etc., Everything has its Rune, its Origin-, Existence- and Destiny-Mystery/Secret.

Kant would call it “the Thing in itself”.

Odin knows the Mystery/Secret of Things, but not the Future. This is what the Mother of the Norns (Wala) reveals to him.

He, who gave the Runes to Humans and thus is the highest Rune-God, went to the Norns , when Disaster threatened the Aesir .

At the Foot of the World-Tree these Norns threw their Sticks/Staffs [Stäbe ] and prophesied about the same Situation.

When Baldur’s imminent Death was announced by the Norns , Odin wanted an even more certain Message.

He rode from Niflheim to the Hêl .

The Rock-Structure of the Ground shook
Dull Thunder sounded. Thus he reached Hela ’s High Palace;
But swiftly to the East-Gate Odin rode him through.
There he knew was the Burial-Place
Of the knowing Old-Woman.

He sounded the Wake-Song (for the dead),
Facing North, he drew the Runes
And then demanded with infallible Formulas
Full of Magic-Power [Zaubergewalt ] to be given the Future-Truth,
Until the Reluctant one arose.

Who art Thou, Stranger?
Why doth Thou waketh with Questions
From anxious worry
For my Soul?

Snowy under Snow,
Surrounded by Rain
And wet-with-dew I lay
So lukewarm as if already dead.

After Odin has learned everything and Wala has even greeted him as Odin, the Owner-of-All, he leaves with the Words:

Neither Soothsayer
Are You, nor Wala ;
You are rather
The Mother of the Norns .

She is therefore the Epitome of all Truth.

In the Havamal (Proverbs of the High) Odin gives his People [Volke ] Knowledge about the Importance of the Runes, which are partly used for the Gods- and the Altar-services, partly used for a prosperous Life.

Enigmatic is his Narration, that he hung nine Days on the World-Tree, wounded by the Spear, until he, through runic Sayings which reached his Ear, fell to Earth.

The Interpretation that Odin first descended onto the Altar in Fire, only when the right Words were spoken is probable, and that, having risen again in the Flame, he would come-back through it.

Thus the Thunderer carved them
Before the Kingdom-of-the-People :
In which he ascended,
He will come-back.

With these Runes, it is said in the Havamal :

The most famous Speaker lined them up,
Staffs [Stäbe ] so glorious for strengthening healing.
They were shaped by mighty Gods
And chiseled into the Bark by supreme Masters.

Odin himself did so with the Aesir ,
With the Elves Däin , the Dwarves Dwalin ,
For the Evil-Giant race Aswid he carved them.

Do you Know: how to carve them,
How to lay them out and arrange them,
How to design them in order to find Guidance?
How to pray properly in the process?

Konrad , the son of Heimdall (King Rig )
Learned the Runes, which give right Advice/Councel [Rath ]
For long Life and to teach Sacredness
Thus he soon knew how to blunt the threatening Steel
To dull the Sharpness, to summon the Storm
And to save Humans from the Perils-of-the-Sea.
The voices of the Birds were understandable to him,
Blazing Fires he soothed, he extinguished,
He quieted the Worries and rendered the Strength
Of eight Men to be inherent in One.

The most comprehensive Description of various Runes we find in the first Brunhild -Song.

After Siegfried has awakened the Valkyrie from Sleep and betrothed himself to her, he asks her to educate him in Wisdom.

Brunhild (Sigrdrifa) begins :

Force [Kraft ] and Krirgsruhm drink from the Jug here,
Which I mix for you, brave Hero.
With Magic-Songs, healing Characters [Zauberliedern, heilsamen Zeichen]
And Wisdom-Runes [Weisheitsrunen ], I spice it abundantly.

The Runes, to win Glory and Victories
Learn and dig them into the Hilt of your Sword;
On the Handle and on the Pole engrave them and put
Twice beside it the Names of Tyr

We’ll end our quote there, but clearly Fischbach is impressed by the way the runes were described in the various Nordic Poems.


Guido von List and the Rúnatal or “Odin’s Rune Song” in the Havamal

List went further and associated each of his Armanen Runes with specific verses of Nordic Poems. He explained that the 18 “original” runes or “Ur -Runes” came from his analysis of a section of the epic poem Havamal called the Rúnatal , which has 18 stanzas (of about 2-7 verses each) referring to the different runes.

Although the text itself does not say which runes are directly associated with which stanzas, List makes those associations himself and others authors of the times echoed those associations as well.

The Rúnatal describes what happened after Wuotan/Odin came down off of the “World Tree” and received the Runes:

List’s Associated Rune
  138   I know that I hung,
on a windy tree
for all of nine nights,
wounded by a spear,
and given to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree
of which nobody knows
from what root it arises.
  139   They dealt me no bread,
nor drinking horn.
I looked beneath,
I took up the runes,
yelling I took them up,
and fell back from there.
  140   Nine great songs
I got from the famous Son
of Bolthor, the father of Bestla.
and I had a drink of the dear mead
that was drawn from Othroerir.
{“mead” or ‘beer’ refers to an intoxicating substance, similar to how the term ‘wine’ is used in Christian symbolism}  
  141   Then I prospered
and was wise
and waxed & gained;
my words from words
obtained words,
my works from works
obtained works.
  142   You can find runes,
meaningful staves,
very strong staves,
very powerful staves,
which the Great-Thule [Fimbulthulr] stained,
and that the great rulers made,
that Hropt of the rulers carved.
  143   Odin among the Aesir,
but Dainn for the elves,
Dvalinn for the dwarves,
and Asvith for the ettins.
I carved some myself.
  144   Do you know how you must carve them?
Do you know how you must read them?
Do you know how you must stain them?
Do you know how you must wield them?
Do you know how you must ask them?
Do you know how you must sacrifice them?
Do you know how you must send them?
Do you know how you must immolate them?
  145   It is better not to ask,
than to over-sacrifice.
A yeild always looks for a gift.
It is better unsent,
than over-immolated.
So Thund carved
before the history of the tribes,
when he rose up
and came back after that.
  146   I know those magical songs,
not known to a king’s wife,
nor to any human.
  One is called Help
and it will help you
with disagreements & sorrows
and all afflictions.

FA (1)
  147   I know a second:
that is needed by the sons of men,
those who would live as healers.

UR (2)
  148   I know a third:
if there comes a great need for me
to bind against the opposition.
I dull the edges/blades
of my opposition
so that their weapons and trickery
do not bite.
{“bind” or ‘binding’ as well as ‘to bond’ (to tie or fasten something tightly) is an older way of describing magical effects}

  149   I know a fourth:
if warriors bear
bonds on my limbs.
Thus I chant
so that I may go [free and]
the bonds spring from my feet,
and the bonds [spring] from my hands.

OS and OTHIL (4)
  150   I know a fifth:
if I see a speedy shot,
[like] a spear flying into the folk;
it does not fly so boldy
that I cannot stop it,
if I catch sight of it.

RIT or RITA (5)
  151   I know a sixth:
if some thane attacks me,
with the roots of a wild tree,
he who says he hates me
will get hurt,
but I will be unharmed.
{a “thane” is a man who held land granted by the king, ruler or chief}

KA or KAUN (6)
  152   I know a seventh:
if I see a fire high
on the hall around my seated companions,
it does not burn so bright
that I cannot protect it
when I know the chant to sing.

  153   I know an eighth:
it is useful
for all who know it,
whenever hatred grows
among warriors’ sons,
I am able to quickly remedy it.

NAUTH or NOT (8)
  154   I know a ninth:
if need arises during storms,
to protect my ship on the sea,
I can still the winds,
and calm the waves,
and put the entire sea to sleep.

IS (9)
  155   I know a tenth:
if I see hags [or witches]
playing in the sky,
I can work it
that the they fare away,
so their shapes shall fare home,
so their spirits fare home.

AR (10)
  156   I know an eleventh:
if to battle I must go,
leading long-time friends,
I sing under the shield
and they fare into battle powerfully
and they fare from battle wholely,
they are whole wherever they go.

SIG (11)
  157   I know a twelfth:
if up in a tree I see
a hanged man swinging high,
so I can carve
and stain runes,
so that the man comes [down]
and speaks with me.

TIR or TYR (12)
  158   I know a thirteenth:
if I sprinkle a young thane
with water,
[then] he cannot fall,
though he goes to battle,
he will not be cut down by swords.

BAR (13)
  159   I know a fourteenth:
if I must [with] an army and the folk,
tell them of the gods,
of the Aesir and elves,
[then] I know [these things] clearly,
[while] few of the unwise know so.

LAF (14)
  160   I know a fifteenth,
which was chanted by Thiodrorir
the dwarf before Delling’s door;
He sang power for the Aesir,
advancement for the elves,
and understanding/intelligence for Hroftatyr.

MAN (15)
  161   I know a sixteenth:
if I want the heart and pleasure
of a wise maiden,
I turn the mind
of the white-armed woman,
and switch all her reasoning.

YR or IR (16)
  162   I know a seventeenth:
[I sing it]
so that the youthful maiden
will not slowly forgo me.

EH or EHE (17)
  These songs
you will, Loddfafnir,
be lacking for a long while;
but will be good for you, once you learn [them],
they will be useful, once you understand them,
and needful once you accept [them].
  163   I know an eighteenth:
that I let none know,
neither maiden, nor man’s wife;
[yet] it is always better
when one knows about it;
it follows the last of the songs,
unless [it is known] to her alone
who lies in my arms,
or is my sister.

  164   Now are Har’s sayings
spoken in Har’s hall,
all-needful for the sons of men
un-needed by ettins’ sons.
  Hail the one who speaks [them],
hail the one who knows [them]
useful to the one who gets them
hallowed are those who heed [them].



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