Friday, October 31, 2008

Rune Names

*Elder Futhark runes in apple wood, yet to be sealed, arranged by Aett.*

from The Rune Primer, by Sweyn Plowright

"We have no record of the names of the Elder Futhark runes. We cannot really be certain they had any. We do, however, have names for the Younger and Anglo-Saxon runes, & the Gothic alphabet. The consistency between these systems leads us to believe that they reflect and preserve much of the tradition of the Elder row.

"Neither can we be certain of the language spoken at the time of the Elder runes. Very few inscriptions survive, and these tend to be too short to reveal much detail about the language. We do know that the common tongue was made up of mutually intelligible dialects across the Germanic tribes. Linguists have reconstructed this "proto-Germanic" language by comparing the various later Germanic languages and applying the principles of linguistic change over time.

"Thus, by looking at the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and Younger (Old Norse) rune rows and comparing their names and meanings, we can make an educated guess at the most likely Elder Futhark names. Then with a knowledge of the reconstructed proto-Germanic, we can get a fair estimate of the form those names took."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Albert Einstein with a Health Plan

Thanks to Pico at Wild Chihuahuas for finding this gem from Howie and Julie.

Monday, October 27, 2008


*Futhorc runes in apple wood*
Then I began to quicken and be wise,
and to grow and to prosper;
one word found another word for me,
one deed found another deed for me.
The runes you must find and the meaningful letter,
a very great letter,
a very powerful letter,
which the mighty sage stained
and the powerful gods made
and the runemaster of the gods carved out.
Odin for the Æsir, and Dain for the elves,
Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Asvid for the giants,
I myself carved some.
Do you know how to carve, do you know how to interpret,
do you know how to stain, do you know how to test out,
do you know how to ask, do you know how to sacrifice,
do you know how to dispatch, do you know how to slaughter?
Better not to pray, than to sacrifice too much,
one gift always calls for another;
better not dispatched than to slaughter too much.
So Thund carved before the history of nations,
where he rose up, when he came back.
from Sayings of the High One, Poetic Edda, trans. Larrington

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colin Powell's Endorsement


Below is a post I discovered on the internet, written by a godi, a priest of the Asatru, Troy Wisehart, who was kind enough to give me permission to republish it. I’m happy to share his personal statement, which exemplifies the virtue by which a modern Heathen may live when inspired by the Eddic texts.

"Wodhanaz is that which integrates the many into a conscious whole and describes the entire process. ~ I am a Heathen who follows the ancient path of my ancestors known as Asatru (1) and I have sworn the oath of the gothar (2). Life flows to me and through me, and I choose what remains in me. Because I am a microcosm of the multiverse, I bring from the darkest depths to the highest heights that which is needed for me to be able to receive from the realms of light what is required of the deepest abyss. I take from the dark as well as the light because I am my own master. I follow Odin's path as outlined in the Havamal (3), and Freyja (4) is my protectress. I walk between the worlds in the branches and roots of Yggdrasil (5) and sing the runes. Believing that I am my deeds, I ally myself with the Aesir and Vanir (6), whom I consider to be the forces of harmony and beauty, against that which is of chaos and destruction and each conscious choice of right action strengthens the power of my soul and positively contributes to my hammingja (7) and orlog (8). I am free of hatred and resentment because I recognize those feelings as a form of submission to the focal point of those emotions. I absolutely reject all betrayal, beginning with myself and refuse to take into myself anything whose origin is the bringer of distress, she who is the lover of the trickster and the mother of the children of Jarnvid (9). Having once lost everything, I let go of all that I fear to lose and in so doing recover what is mine. I exist tri-partite in time for I am my ancestors as well as my descendents. My soul resides in my blood and will one day return to that from which it came, bringing with me the sum total of my deeds as a contribution to the folk soul in the next cycle of existence. My destination is the journey, and its purpose is to experience and feel so that I will learn and grow and achieve personal power which is preparation, awareness, intent and the ability to focus through the vessel of the self. In this way I will not be consumed or destroyed. I have come into being, and by the process of coming into being I have established the process of coming into being."

The following notes are my additions, and I don’t mean to attribute the ideas to Mr. Wisehart, although we would, no doubt, have productive discussions using them as starting points.
2. gothar, collective priesthood of the Asatru community.
3. Havamal is one of the Poetic Eddas, similar in tone to wisdom literature.
4. Odin is a god seeking wisdom. His “path” is one of honor and virtue. Freyja, as
Elsa-Brita Titchenell explains in Masks of Odin, “represents the higher, spiritual faculty of intelligence.” It is to Freyja’s hall, Sessrúmnir at Folkvangr, that half of mankind ascend. She is the lover the enlightened sought.
5. Yggdrasil, the World Tree, the Tree of Life.
6. Aesir and Vanir are, roughly, the two tribes of Norse gods. The differences between them and what they represent to the Asatru is beyond the limit of space and purpose here.
7. hammingja is, roughly, individual and familial soul power.
8. orlog, roughly, primal layer of being.
9. Jarnvid, Iron Wood. “She,” “the trickster” and their “children” represent testing forces, obstacles which prevent us from recognizing and then realizing ourselves as gods, but they are also the forge fires through which we are tempered.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Egil's Saga

Here’s an example of the dusty analysis, 54 pages, I choked my way through in preface to reading Egil’s Saga.*

These stories are familiar….

…their understanding of the consequences of foolishness and folly, especially in its relationship to character, is uniquely plain, unvarnished and direct.

Thus Icelandic sagas and tales seem far removed from modern literary subjectivity, and yet, the gossip and the comments of other characters supply a practical and readily understandable psychological context. Characters speak up. They say what they want and what their intentions are. Other characters disagree with them and judge them. The saga writer sometimes remarks upon public opinion concerning these events. The result is that the sagas are psychologically complex and yet economical in their analysis.

…turn the page to begin the saga. YeeOW!

Egil Skallagrimsson strides to the shore of the tumultuous Northern Atlantic, cuts the ropes mooring his brother’s ship and extorts his release into humanity’s fray, through which he hacks his way like a god.

"Economical in analysis"? Nay! Extravagant, it’s that. “Plain”? No. There’s nothing “familiar” about this story. In the familiar world, no one intentionally pukes out his guts into the eyes, ears and mouth of his host. Neither does one begin his reign of terror with murder at age seven or ransom his own head with a poem to a king or insist on standing in place of a weaker man in a duel. Far from being familiar, Egil’s Saga is extraordinary, both in history and in the nature of a man.

Nearly napping by the time I finished the introduction (yaa-awn) and began the saga, I was definitely not napping once the story began. With Egil Skallagrimsson, I laughed:

(On earning his life in exchange for a poem)
Ugly as my head may be,
The cliff my helmet rests upon,
I am not loathe
To accept it from the king.
Where is the man who ever
Received a finer gift
From a noble-minded
Son of a great ruler?

(On his own old age)

My head bobs like a bridled horse
It plunges baldly into woe.
My middle leg both droops and drips
While both my ears are dry.

I thrilled:

(on taking revenge) Bern-Onund ran up to the shrubs. He was wearing a helmet, carried a shield in one hand and a spear in the other, and was girded with a sword. But it was Egil, not a bear, that was hiding in the shrubs, and when he saw Berg-Onund he drew his sword. There was a strap on the hilt which pulled over his hand to let the sword hang there. Taking his spear, he rushed towards Berg-Onund. When Berg-Onund saw this he quickened his pace and put the shield in front of him, and before they clashed they threw their spears at each other. Egil darted his shield out to block the spear, at such an angle that the spear glanced off and stuck into the ground. His own spear struck the middle of Onund’s shield and sank in so deep that it stuck there, making it heavy for Onund to hold. Then Egil quickly grabbed the hilt of his sword. Onund began to draw his sword, but had only pulled it half-way out of its sheath by the time Egil ran him through with his sword. Onund recoiled at the blow, but Egil drew his sword back swiftly and struck at Onund, almost chopping his head off. Then Egil took his spear out of the shield.

Hadd and Frodi ran over to Berg-Onund when they saw he had been felled. Egil turned to face them. He lunged at Frodi with his spear, piercing his shield and plunging it so deep into his chest that the point came out through his back. He fell over backwards dead on the spot. Then Egil took his sword and set on Hadd, and they exchanged a few blows before Hadd was killed.

I cringed:

(at seven years old, upon losing a game to an older boy) Thord handed Egil an axe he had been holding, a common type of weapon in those days. They walked over to where the boys were playing their game. Grim had caught the ball and was running with the other boys chasing him. Egil ran up to Grim and drove the axe into his head, right through to the brain.

I lauded:

(surprising his son in supporting him at the Althing) From the assembly, a band of men was seen riding alongside the river Gljufura, their shields glinting. They rode into the assembly led by a large man wearing a black cloak and gilded helmet and carrying a shield decorated with gold by his side. In his hand he held a barbed spear with its socket embossed with gold, and he was girded with a sword. Egil Skallagrimsson had arrived with eighty men, all armed for battle.

I marveled:

(on working a curse) He took a hazel pole in his hand and went to the edge of a rock facing inland. Then he took a horse’s head and put it on the end of the pole.

Afterwards he made an invocation, saying, “here I set up this scorn-pole and turn its scorn upon King Eirik and Queen Gunnhild”—then turned the horse’s head to face land—“and I turn its scorn upon the nature spirits that inhabit this land, sending them all astray so that none of them will find its resting-place by chance or design until they have driven King Eirik and Gunnhild from this land.”

Then he thrust the pole into a cleft in the rock and left it to stand there. He turned the head towards the land and carved the whole invocation in runes on the pole.

By the end, I cried:

(on the death of his son)
Myself I know
That in my son
Grew the makings
Of a worthy man,
Had that shield-tree
Reached manhood,
Then earned the claim
Of war’s arms.

Always he prized
His father’s words
Highest of all, though
The world said otherwise.
He shored me up,
Defended me,
Lent my strength
The most support.

Even in old age, Egil doesn’t give a quarter, thwarting those who thwart him, exerting extraordinary strength, flaunting superior intelligence and spewing cussedness (strangely both generous and honorable) right to his death.

I wonder if the commentator read the same story I did. Far from being “economical in analysis,” the saga is wealthy in detail and almost exaggerated in the analysis of Egil. Coming away from it, I know Egil, from motive to deed. I better understand his world and time, his gods and his folk. I can hardly wait to read the remainder of the tales.


*The Sagas of the Icelanders©2000 with Preface by Jane Smiley and Introduction by Robert Kellogg. In this collection from Penguin Classics, Bernard Scudder is the translator of Egil's Saga.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crazy Good Thin Lizzy

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.
Sayings of the High One, Poetic Edda, trans. Larrington

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. I started a new medication which makes me sleepy. For a week, I've been asleep more than awake. No telling when it will end.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tobacco Hornworm

According to this Wiki article on hornworms, the one I found is probably "wandering." Apparently, there were several of these wayfarers in the driveway this morning. Next season, they will transform into magical creatures, sphinx moths, that will patronize my four o'clock flowers as they do each year. I put this particular one back outside to finish its journey.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Siegfried faces Liudegast

After much disappointment over the Saga of the Volsungs, post pending, I'm giddy again as I read The Nibelungenlied (trans. Hatto). I'm a sucker for a well-written fight and there are few better than that one in The Nibelungenlied between Siegfried and King Liudegast. A taste:

Towards him the noble intruder galloped in fine style, and now lord Liudegast had marked him down, so that the two of them set their spurs to their chargers' flanks and vehemently levelled their spears at each other's shield, with the result that the King was soon in jeopardy. In the train of these thrusts. these princes' mounts bore them past each other at such a pace that they might have been wafted by the wind; whereupon, wheeling with splendid horsemanship, this fierce pair tried their fortunes with their swords. Then lord Siegfried struck blows that filled the plain with their sound and sent fiery sparks flying from his enemy's helmet as though from huge torches. Each met his match in the other, since lord Liudegast struck many cruel blows in answer, and the strength of each was brought mightily to bear on the other's shield.

Heart-pounding. Here's the same scene in rhymed verse (online trans. Needler). Both versions are fantastic. Thrilling, irrespective of the translation, when the original is of such quality!

Who he was I'll tell you / that rode his men before,—
A shield of gold all shining / upon his arm he bore—
In sooth it was King Luedegast / who there the van did guard.
Straightway the noble Siegfried / full eagerly against him spurred.

Now singled out for combat / him, too, had Luedegast.
Then full upon each other / they spurred their chargers fast,
As on their shields they lowered / their lances firm and tight,
Whereat the lordly monarch / soon found himself in sorry plight.

After the shock their chargers / bore the knights so fast
Onward past each other / as flew they on the blast.
Then turned they deftly backward / obedient to the rein,
As with their swords contested / the grim and doughty fighters twain.

When Siegfried struck in anger / far off was heard the blow,
And flew from off the helmet, / as if 'twere all aglow,
The fiery sparks all crackling / beneath his hand around.
Each warrior in the other / a foeman worth his mettle found.

Full many a stroke with vigor / dealt eke King Luedegast,
And on each other's buckler / the blows fell thick and fast.
Then thirty men discovered / their master's sorry plight:
But ere they came to help him / had doughty Siegfried won the fight.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gracie "on Point"

It isn't necessary to teach a "pointing" dog to point. It comes pre-packaged in their genes, an inheritance from wolves, selected for generations in these breeds. Very, very, young pointing puppies will point game. What you teach the dog is to "hold," that is, not to pounce until released on command. Once the hunter is in place, the dog is allowed to flush the birds (or the hunter might), which rise in a heart-rushing flurry, and the hunter takes his shots. This all works beautifully with bobwhite quail, which covey. With other species of upland birds, there is some variation, but that's the principle.

Here, Gracie is learning that no matter how hard she tries, her point and pounce instinct won't yield her the game. A wing is attached to a pole by means of fishing line, then shown to Gracie, who instinctively "points" it, meaning she freezes stock still, all her focus on the prey. As she becomes steadier on the "hold" command, she'll be praised to reinforce it, and the greater part of her pointing education will be in place.

Of course, she also has to learn good manners. She knows most of those already, the no's of the house, to come, sit, etc. She also has some experience with gunshots and reacted well. Now, her big tests will be in the field. I'm not sure my hunter's goals with Gracie, but if he's ambitious, he'll also teach her, along with "hunt 'em up," to quarter and retrieve. She's a wire-haired, so the ability is in her. She only needs guidance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Books Week

Grateful Bear reminds us that this is Banned Books Week. For lists of "Frequently Challenged Books," check the American Library Association's website.

Here's from their site for the top 10 "challenged" books for 2007. I don't read from current genres much, so I've missed all these except the oldie, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain. I notice sexual content is a common complaint, seven of the 10. Violence only made the list once!

How did Americans get into this mindset that violence is preferable to sex? More importantly, how do we get out of it?

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group