Runic letter (part 2)

April 27, 2020
Runic letter (part 2)

While runologists argue about the various details of the historical origin of runic writing, there is general agreement on a general plan. It is assumed that the runes were obtained from one of the ancient Roman alphabets used by the Mediterranean peoples of the first century AD, who lived south of the Germanic tribes. Earlier Germanic sacred symbols, such as those preserved in rock paintings in Northern Europe, also likely influenced the development of runic writing.

Probably the earliest runic inscription known to us was found on the Meldorf brooch, which was made in the north of modern Germany around 50 AD. The inscription, however, is very ambiguous, and scholars are divided over whether its letters are runic or still Roman. The earliest explicit runic inscriptions are found on the Vimose ridge from the town of Vimose in Denmark and on the island of Schwebu in southern Norway, both dating to around 160 AD. The earliest known carving of a complete futark (alphabet) in order is that carved on a Kilver stone from Scotland, Sweden, which dates back to around 400 AD.

The transfer of writing from southern Europe to northern Europe was probably carried out through German troops - the dominant North European military institution of the period, which faced first-hand italic writing during campaigns among their southern neighbors. This hypothesis is confirmed by the association that the runes always had with the god Odin, who in the Proto-German period under his original name Woðanaz was the divine model of the leader of the human detachment and the invisible patron of the detachment's activities. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that Odin (“Mercury” in Roman interpretation) was already recognized as the dominant god in the pantheons of many Germanic tribes by the first century AD. A clear understanding of whether the runes and the cult of Odin arose together or the last preceding the first does not matter so much for our purposes. As the distinguished European scientist Georges Dumezil notes:

“If Odin were the first and always the highest magician, we understand that the runes, no matter how recent they were, would fall under his authority. New and especially effective tools for magical works, they will, by definition and without any doubt, become part of their field. ... One could be a patron, possessor of an excellent power of secrecy and secret knowledge, before the name of this knowledge became the technical name of phonetic and magical signs that came from the Alps or from other places, but did not lose its former, greater meaning. "

However, from the point of view of the ancient Germanic peoples themselves, the runes did not come from such worldly sources as the alphabet of ancient italics. They believed that the runes were never "invented", but instead are eternal, preexisting forces that Odin himself gained through a difficult test. This story has come down to us in the Old Norse poem Hávamál (“Sayings of the Supreme”):

Nine days and nights I hung on a tree, With all the winds blown through, Pierced with my own spear, I was sacrificed - To myself - I myself, On an old tree, growing high From roots unknown to the world.

No one gave me any drink or food, And I turned my eyes to the ground in wailing

I raised the runes to the height - I fell then Dolu.

The tree on which Odin hangs is undoubtedly nothing more than Yggdrasil - the world tree in the center of German space, the branches and roots of which store the Nine Worlds. Right under the world tree is the Source of Urda - the source of incredible wisdom. The runes themselves seem to have their native habitat in these waters. The same version is supported by another Scandinavian work, Völuspá (“Understanding the Addressee”):

I know ash by the name of Yggdrasil, a tree washed with muddy moisture; dews descend from it to the valleys; over the source of Urd it turns green forever.

Wise virgins sprang from there, three of a key under a tree high; Urd name of the first, second Verdandi, - cut the runes, - Skuld name of the third; fate was judged, life was chosen by the children of people, lots were prepared.

These three virgins are norn. Their carvings probably consist of runes. Therefore, we have a clear connection between the Well of Urd, the runes and magic - in this case, the ability of the Norn to carve the fate of all creatures.

Apparently, after Odin discovered the runes, sacrificing himself for the ritual and fasting for nine days, looking into the waters of the Well of Urd, it was he who transferred the runes to the first human runic masters. The paradigm of his victim was probably symbolically played out at initiation ceremonies during which the candidate comprehended the meaning and secret meanings of the runes, unfortunately no concrete evidence of such a practice has survived to this day.