The first two indications that we have of a Runic influence on our language are the names of our days and our use of the almanac as a means of following the changing seasons:
|Saturday||Saturn’s day (Saturn = Loki)|
Like many desert tribes and sea-faring peoples, the Germanic tribes of the Northern Tradition had a moon based calendar. They had observed and were quite aware that the moon and its phases has influences upon people, upon all of nature. They were aware that the tides of the oceans are not just of the oceans. Our bodies, also, are composed of a substantial amount of salt water and are influenced by the pull of the moon. The science of their wise men considered that the day, the months, and the years, all have tides which influence us as well as all of nature. It is not just when we are at the shore or on the ocean that we are affected by these moon-influenced tides.
“They used to engrave upon certain squared sticks…, the courses of the moon…, when the new moons, full moons, and changes, should happen…; such a carved stick they called an Al-mon-aght, that is to say, Al-mon-heed, to wit, the regard or observation [heed] of all the moons; and hence is derived the name of Almanack.”1 This almanac information about the moon’s courses and their influence on all of nature, which was engraved upon runestocks, contains the symbols that later became the code for writing and understanding the symbols of our English language. These runes are expressions of various attributes and qualities that had been observed in nature. The continued use of runes in relating to nature has kept this code accessible to us. Like many types of ancient wisdom, it slipped into the underground of folk knowledge and ‘magic’ while we made use of its products daily.
Those cultures and traditions which have a moon-based calendar also have a great awareness of the planets of the solar system and of their apparent influence on all earthly life. This leads to a greater awareness of the sciences of mathematics, astronomy, agriculture, weather, navigation and exploration, human and animal nature, and therefore astrology.
If it seems strange to use astrology as a source for researching language let me give some perspective with the help of astrologer Rob Breszney:
“Steven Weiss says, ‘The question Do you believe in astrology? is like asking someone if they believe in art”. Breszney goes on to say, “I agree. Picture a Kandinsky painting, with its teeming blobs of mad color and exuberant shapes, and declaring it to be a superstitious eruption of delusion that’s not based on a logical understanding of the world. Like Kandinsky’s perspective, astrology at its best roots us in the poetic language of the soul, and isn’t blindly submissive to the values of the rational ego. It’s here to liberate our imagination and encourage us to think less* literally and to visualize our lives as mythic quests.”2
The language and world view of astrology, of poetry, of the arts is quite appropriate to this subject. We are taking a mythic journey back in time to our human ancestors who first spoke English. We are looking at the ideographic language of these peoples and tracing much of modern day English back to its ideographic roots. The various puns, word plays, and profound observations within this language bring the Druids and runemasters into the present time. They are speaking to us in a poetic code. It takes a different mindset to decode an ideographic language. The pictures in the ideographs represent ideas, concepts and fundamental principles. Translating them requires invoking our poetic and artistic mindsets. All of us have such mindsets but don’t always realize when we are using it. Almost every time that we listen to lyrics in a song or express ourselves in ‘slang’ words, we are using this mindset and this language of imagery. The runes are sketches of observations made by early man about all the matters that were of interest and of concern in daily life. It is appropriate, even necessary, that these matters be encoded in our daily language.
I hasten to add that we haven’t yet discovered all of those matters and understanding them from today’s perspective is a particular challenge. The runes are symbols of meaning just like those in the Egyptian tombs and, like them, represent the ability to speak over time and distance. This a wondrous thing. It is wondrous that we use the same symbols to speak in this day and age. The runic symbols have been translated into a quasi-phonetic code but the original concepts are still here.
Man, the symbol-maker:
The one thing that most distinguishes human beings from other creatures is that we are symbol-makers. Every time that we speak or work with numbers, we are working with symbols. We make the symbols and we not only use them, we are dependent upon them. Money is a symbol. The styles of our clothing and hair are symbols. The words we use, even the particular accents that we affect, are symbolic. The style of our homes and the way we decorate them, the choice of a mate and the family ceremonies are symbolic. The possessions that we accumulate, our names, titles and degrees of attainment are symbolic: mother, father, husband, wife, doctor, lawyer. This is not to say that they are not real. For humans, the symbolism is what makes something real and meaningful. Symbolism is the way that we identify with something to make it ‘ours’, to make it part of us, and to make us a part of the world around us.
It is, therefore, not much of a stretch for me to state the opinion that humans made their languages from symbols, those images which we see in our minds and then extend into the world around us. So far, every authority that I have read emphasizes sounds as the significant trait of language. I submit that images are an equally significant3 factor. Our language code is more symbolic than it is phonetic. That is the primary reason why the ‘phonetics’ are so inconsistent. The runic symbolism in English is presented in an Italic alphabetic code, in units of one to five letters which frequently spell out the names of runes. Each rune represents both abstract concepts as well as concrete realities, as do alphabetic symbols. The more I read them, and read about them, the more sense I discover within them.
Is everyone able to learn to read and write? Is it even necessary that we learn?
In these present days, when magic is all around us and has been made common by its very accessibility, some of us have become a bit barbaric in our complacency and our lack of wonder. We fly! So what? We send sounds, words, and pictures around the world! So what? We make images of light (photos), take them, make them into three dimensional figures, and play with them as though they were imaginary friends made real! The world is a wondrous place and our language is one of those great wonders. No matter how much technology we have, we still need language to communicate. That communication is made more effective by understanding what the words mean. Our English language is an amalgamation of many tribal languages from many different tribal groups. Those languages developed and blended for thousands of years before English became a language. According to the Venerable Bede (673-735), the tribes of his land (England) spoke five different languages but were nevertheless able to understand one another. There were three Celtic tribes, five Germanic, and Latin (classical and the Vulgate). English didn’t begin to take on its current form until the Tenth Century ACE during the reign of Ælfred the Great. He commanded that the language of the land be transliterated into the Italic alphabet in order to restore literacy to the land. Since that time, our English language has added words from many more tribes and languages. It has also grown many new dialects in places all over Earth. And yet:
There are many people in English-speaking lands who are unable to read, write, speak and think in their native language. I have heard and read that it is not necessary, or even possible, for many people to learn. In reading for this Project, I have come across several authorities who posit that not everyone can, nor even needs to be able to read. When two of them said that King Ælfred did not intend or expect everyone to learn to read, that was too much. The King had the people’s prayerbook translated first. To me, that says “intent”. Then I came across that intent in writing, “…Alfred, whose avowed purpose it was ‘’to render into the language we all know some of those books that are most necessary for men to know, so that all free-born youths in England may study and learn to read English books.’…”4
The big joke: We don’t know what the words mean.
We do not have to know what the words mean in order to speak the language. We can get by with just memorizing the ones that we use most often. The downside is that we stop learning at some point because it takes too much effort to read when we have to skip those words that we don’t know. We have to take someone else’s word for what it written that we haven’t read. Words have a tremendous impact on our lives. Every day we remake ourselves, our opinions, our view of the world around us, with words. Sometimes they are our words. Often they are the words that we hear on the radio or television. Sometimes they are abbreviated words in e-mail, snail mail, or web sites. These are the words which fill our minds and inform our opinions. It behooves us to know where they come from and how they get their meanings. If we cannot get a mental picture of what we mean, we haven’t owned the word yet. If all we can do is spell the word but cannot define or describe what we mean, we haven’t owned the word. It is really quite difficult to own a word in English because we really do not know what the words mean. As strange as it sounds, the English language, in particular the Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic part of English, has never been decoded. The English language was established in the Tenth Century ACE by King Ælfred the Great. We do not have the code book to it. The original symbol system was runes and those runes were assiduously removed because of their connection with ‘pagan gods’ and witchcraft. To get a mental picture of what we are saying, we will have to replace the mental image.
So, where did I get this idea?
Many scholars doubt that there is a significant Celtic or Runic influence on English despite the knowledge that King Ælfred had the native language written in an Irish version of the Italic alphabet when he decreed that there would be Latin education in his kingdom.5 I once read that Charlemagne had also tried to establish Latin education among his people but had failed because he tried to replace the native language with Latin. King Ælfred did not change the peoples’ language, but had it translated into the symbols used in Latin. Scholars, at least those I’ve read, presume that the Runes were a phonetic system that represented some simple concepts and the sounds of the spoken language and that the translators only retained three symbols of their own code.6 My reading indicates otherwise. I have included a bibliography at the end of the book so that you will know my sources. The decoding system is mine and I will be explaining that process throughout the book, as well as in a separate section.
From the mouth of Bishop Ælfric:
(-in his own words, with Dr. Burchfield’s translation beneath, and my explanatory comments after the footnotes below.) Please note the difference between ‘beneath’ and ‘below’ <- 3 forms of the verb ‘to be’
“Ic Ælfric wolde þas lytlan boc awendan to Engliscum gereorde of þæm stæf-cræfte þe is gehaten grammatica, siþþan ic þa on twa bec awende on hundeahtatigum spellum, for þæm þe stæf cræft is seo cæg þe þara boca andgiet unlycþ.
“I Ælfric wished to translate this little book [Priscian’s grammar] into the English language from the grammar that is called grammatica. after I had rendered two books into eighty stories [his own two series of ‘Catholic Homilies’], because grammar is the key that unlocks the meaning of the books.”7
Bishop Ælfric makes it clear that staffcraft (rune writing) is the key that unlocks the meaning of the books when some of the text is already written in Italic symbols, with some runic characters.
The translation from runes to Italic wasn’t made in one step. The first step that I know of was at the end of the Sixth Century (late 500s ACE) with the arrival of Christian missionaries. The next was in the early Eighth Century (early 700s ACE), the time of the Venerable Bede and Cædmon’s Hymn, which hymn will be referenced later. The third step is that of King Ælfred’s translation of West Saxon. There were several dialects in the British Isles……and there still are. There have also been many variations in English over the centuries. And, that is precisely why we are starting with where we are right now.
Where we are right now…
When I began developing this ‘pattern system’ for a less capricious8 and more meaningful approach to phonetic instruction, one of the steps was to divide the words into groups that had the same patterns of spelling. They are often called ‘rhyming words’. Not all of them rhymed as we aren’t consistent in our pronunciation of the patterns. For example: through and rough. Though not pronounced the same, there was a very conspicuous relationship among the ideas or feelings being expressed. Even the variant pronunciations followed similar patterns. There is an in depth explanation of -gh, -ough, and other -gh word patterns, as well as their variant spellings, under the Rune section of EOH.
One day I started to read and felt like I was wearing a special filter in my glasses that made the runes conspicuous. The relationships I had been noting were often in established Runic patterns like ing, th, ea, st, kn. The patterns that I was now seeing were larger, up to five letters. To me, this suggested that the language was not translated in a letter to letter transliteration using the Latin alphabet. Rather, each rune or bindrune was translated into Latin symbols that represented either the approximate sound, or the actual sense, of a Runic pattern and that the language was built with compound symbols. There were so many instances of these patterns that there had to be some purpose. Many were sound patterns I had used in tutoring new readers and my patterns are not recognized as part of the curriculum.
The Latin and Greek parts of English are constructed in patterns; but, they are constructed differently. They have a prefix-root-suffix construct and each of the roots and affixes has a meaning. It is possible to break down the words into their elemental sense which represents an image, a mental picture, an idea. When you learn the Gr.L. patterns, it is possible to express new thoughts and ideas. One can memorize ‘definitions’ of words; but, that only sets the limits or boundaries of common usage. What it does not do is allow latitude for broader use of the symbols and sense elements. To put this in the words of current usage: When you use only someone else’s words and definitions, you may not speak, write or think outside of the box. The sense elements of Greek and Latin are available to us though, so we can use them to craft new words and concepts.
Historically, runes were often combined into bind-runes. Mr. Pennick’s books show examples of runes bound into complex messages. Since the Germanic languages are built of compound words, it stands to reason that the Germanic part of English would also be structured with compounds. That compound structure could also apply to runic elements. Each of the roots and affixes also has a meaning. It is possible to break down those words into their elemental meanings. One can memorize ‘definitions’ of words but that only sets the limits or boundaries of current usage and doesn’t allow latitude for broader use of the symbols and elements of meaning. Memorizing definitions also does not convey a representative mental image of the words which makes those words flexible for varied uses. We do have this imagery in our native language; but, it has not yet been identified so that it can be taught.
I should add another possibility here. Since I find considerable order in the patterns and also much of what appears to be purpose, I suspect that this Germanic part of our language has received a great deal of attention at sometime in the not so distant past. Having seen several larger patterns when I got that view of English through the special filter, I decided to look up some of them in our different dictionaries. One of the first patterns which I found, that was not conspicuously runic, was ‘oast’ as in boast, coast, toast, roast, broast. An ‘oast’ is a kiln and three of these words are ways of cooking food. ‘Boast’ is a way that people get heated up. As for ‘coast’, /c/ is the letter that equals KEN the rune of intuitive knowledge. While I don’t have any knowledge about temperature difference as it relates to ocean and coast, the sense element refers to that matter. ‘Oast’ is both a word and a sense element which can probably be declined further; though, I don’t yet know the sense of ‘oa’. For most purposes, it does not really matter. The objective here is to better understand our language by locating the missing code.
After -oast, I looked up -ound and found ‘oundy’, a type of curl. An -ound is circular and semi-circular and can also be what we used to call ‘banana curls’, which is another energetic configuration of ‘ounds’.
Another possibility of why we don’t currently have information about the origins of our Germanic (or Teutonic) words is that we had two World Wars with Germany in the Twentieth Century, one of which also gave runes a black eye. When ugly things happen, lots of histories and other stories get changed. Even cookbooks, prayerbooks, textbooks and fairy tales get revised. I again digress to broach this subject because it is the job of children and of fools to keep truth alive in the world. Truth is a three-legged stool and can’t stand when missing one leg. (TR indicates three.)
Is it permissible to combine Gr.L. and Germanic elements in a single word?
Sometimes the Germanic and Italic elements are combined in one word, to the absolute horror of ‘purists’. ‘Pure English’ is a compound, complex oxymoron: there are so many languages and alphabet systems represented in English that they can’t be disentangled. When the dictionary gives the Greek and Latin etymology of a word, that is not necessarily the origin of the English word. Sometimes the etymology is just a marginally plausible story. We just guess where a word came from based on when and where we first found the word in writing. If the word can be even remotely plausibly connected, the connection is made. Having an origin for a word helps us to put together a map for the territory of our language. Having a source also helps us to remember the words and their sense. Let’s also acknowledge the irresistible temptation to polish our pedigree by claiming royal progenitors. Any languages which are descended from Indo-European progenitors are related and many of the elements look related.
The presence of so many languages being represented constitutes much of the charm and function of English. It also appears so egalitarian. We still have enough unused alphabetic patterns to embrace every language on the planet. Computer language is a binary system; imagine how much English can accomplish with twenty-six symbols. We just need to mind the order system as we develop new words and as we transliterate words and concepts from other peoples. At present I will confine myself primarily to the Teutonic part of English. I will only include enough about the Grecian-Latin elements to demonstrate the word construction and make it clear that there is some difference in the sense elements.
There are many instances when I can’t find a Rune that fits. It appears that other alphabets and other sound elements are being used. There are instances when there is a rune for a letter which we no longer use in English. We have stopped using some of these letters in my lifetime. It is also possible that there are other Runic symbols that I just haven’t identified yet. This will definitely not be a complete translation or decoding of English. It will, however, be a lot more than we presently have.
Different languages and different alphabets ?
Since so many languages contribute to English and several alphabets and writing systems are involved, it is quite possible that some of the sound patterns and conventions of speech come from other languages. Some of them appear to come from the Ogham (Irish) alphabet. There are many similarities between Ogham and the Runes. In each of them, each alphabetic symbol stands for a tree, an herb, an element, a concept, a sound, and a deity. In reading about Ogham, I read that the letter H has a particular significance in that it signals a change in the letter preceding or following it.9 This casts some light on the patterns containing h which change sounds, e.g. -th, th-, ch, -sh, sh-, wh, -ph, ph-. There are also digraph and trigraph vowel combinations and initial consonant blends that neither sound nor look Runic, Italic or French. The physical and cultural proximity of Runes and Ogham for several centuries suggests that Ogham is a linguistic missing link of English. There are some unknowns for which the Celts supply the most likely ‘knowns’.
I don’t think it is necessary to account for all of the sounds and spellings that don’t fit. It is important to establish that the very foundation of our English language is not arbitrary and capricious, just a bunch of words that mean only what we choose to have them mean when we use them. The words have actual root meanings and represent something quite specific. The spellings cannot be changed to sound the way we hear them and still retain their meanings. No individual or group pronounces the sounds or hears them like any other individual or group. We all approximate sounds and depend on context to ‘hear’ those sounds and derive meaning from them. Think of the game “telephone” and recall how the message gets lost with repetition. We need to keep spelling consistent with the sense of the word. That will also help ensure that the words are not confused in the speaking.
Other languages and other alphabets have specific meanings
Every letter of the Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic alphabets have specific meanings. Hebrew and Arabic words are then composed of three-symbol sense units known as ‘shoreshim’ that remain fixed as new words are composed by building on that conceptual root. The English Language has a mixture of several different ways to compose the sense units. We have both the Greek and Latin prefix/ root/ suffix constructs. The foundation of English is a Germanic system of compounded and contracted words. The language is fleshed out with words from the languages and the cultures of every people with whom English speakers have come in contact. We anglicize the pronunciation by altering the speech sounds, the rhythm, and the alphabetic code. When the sounds are compatible we fit the sounds into our grammatical system.
The Latin and Greek components are somewhat, though not thoroughly, well mapped out and there are available texts on the market, some eminently accessible.10 The Germanic part is not clear; it is mostly memory and guess work. I have yet to find a book regarding appropriate use of these words and I can’t recall any instruction regarding these words since second grade in a Catholic parochial school. When preparing the section on ‘Throw-Away Words’, there was no sourcebook available. It took a pile of books. Language conventions develop through common usage and for some time that usage has been declining. Sometimes those usages are errors which become so popular that through currency they become the received use. These changes are tracked through ‘dictionaries of common usage’. In rewriting this paragraph, I rethought it. This is one of the values of writing, working with ideas in a medium which renders them palpable and malleable. It is a lot like kneading bread dough wherein you see, smell, feel, hear and thoroughly experience the process and gain a proper appreciation.
In writing this last paragraph I finally get why we are losing our common language. Why has no one championed the words that we use most often? It is largely because we have contempt for anything ‘common’. For example, the ‘commonality’ is defined as ‘anyone who is not nobility.’ What is ‘held in common’ is something that is not ownable by any one, something that is for all of us. ‘Not ownable’ alone, is a fact that debases it because it doesn’t have a value (a price). Every college dictionary that I pick up is full of Greco-Latin constructs. Every English textbook that I have read in the last four years lionizes anything Roman or Latin in the English. There is a surgically academic intolerance for Anglo Saxon and a disparagement of anything Irish-Gaelic-Celtic. The word ‘common’ is not an Anglo-Saxon word or concept. No A.S. form or spelling of it is in the dictionaries or the texts. In all the reading I have done, there is no A.S. reference to any human being or animal as ‘common’ or any other word that suggests nondescript. As for the word ‘nobility’, it derives from words meaning ‘to know’. The wealthier people were often called ‘nobility’ because they had more leisure time for an education. Now, anyone with money is treated like nobility. I just came across a quote in the dictionary from Blackstone, the legalist, “The commonality like the nobility are divided into several degrees.” “We the people” are the human commons. We are also the Vulgate, which is another word that is used to derogate people. Being contemptuous of commoners is self-loathing. The ‘degree’ that we achieve is based not on birth nor on wealth but on personal effort.
Our English language, as it presently is, started taking form in the Tenth Century ACE. While it does not look the same, there is enough written material extant to allow us to build a codex of sound/sense elements so that we can encode and decode our English Language. My use of the word ‘codex’ is not correct according to my dictionary; however, it is eminently correct according to what I have learned about the element ‘ode’. While decoding several of these elements, I found many that had first appeared to be Greek, Latin, Germanic, or Semitic, may have an older ideographic parent language in common. It is important that we have an English Codex as there is a limit to how long a language can remain coherent when the speakers believe that words don’t really mean anything other than what you want them to mean. That has become a very popular illusion which is being counted as a ‘freedom of speech’, to which I would have no objection if we could assure a ‘freedom of understanding’.
Why English is a popular language
It has often been suggested that standardizing spelling and pronunciation will make it easier, especially for those learning English as a second language. It just might make it easier to learn some trimmed down version of English. I submit that we are predicating this value of ‘English’ on our ethnic ego. The great value of English, which causes so many people to want to learn it, is based on its’ flexibility and the willingness of English speakers to accept new ideas, new words, new sounds, and new alphabetic constructs to accommodate the offerings from other languages and cultures. What is needed in English is an understanding of the sense of words which are basic and fundamental English vocabulary. See the lists of the two-hundred most frequently used words. The sense of many of these words are contained in the section about wh- words and those which I call positional words and throw-away words. There is no way to make any language coherent if we don’t understand the sense of the words, if our words and language do not have a ‘map to territory relationship’.
S. I. Hayakawa writes “…[T]his verbal world ought to stand in relation to the extensional world as a map does to the territory it is supposed to represent.” He then observes of many people that they “…are living in verbal worlds that bear no relationship to the extensional world.”11 Professor Hayakawa is using a metaphor introduced by the semanticist, Alfred Korzybski.
It appeared to be a straightforward bookkeeping project; albeit, somewhat more complicated than most. Then, it turned out that we have neither a map nor a known territory to a substantial part of our language. We have a lot of sounds but we don’t know what they really signify.
We learn the words of our language by a variety of catechisms.12 Sometimes we learn phrases which we repeat in a kind of knee-jerk response to someone else’s stock phrase. Often these are question/answer formats as, “How do you do? Fine, thank you. How are you?” We learn by hearing words repeated frequently, often without having any idea what the words mean, other than what we can figure out by the context or by having heard the same words used in a familiar expression. Then we repeat what we think we heard and figure out what it probably means by the context in which the words and phrases were used. This is not a very effective way of learning to use a tool that we have to use every day, in so many different ways. Even if we use some dictionary to check every word, all we will be finding is the ‘current common usage’. Word fashions change more often than clothing fashions. Sometimes that is a blessing as in when we come upon an old saw like, ‘He is the spitting image of his grandfather.’ That translates to ‘the spit and image’. Or, more commonly, ‘Thank you.’ ‘You’re welcome’ or is that, ‘Your welcome.’? Do you have any idea what ‘Thank you’ or ‘welcome’ signifies?
The word usage that troubles me most is the confusion among words that are essential to the meaning of most of what we say: confusion among /were/ we’re/ where/, /their/ there/ they’re/, /then/ than/, /what/ which/, /your/yore/you’re/. What is more troubling than any confusion about word usage is when people do not use their own words, nor express their own ideas, nor argue about issues which they have defined for themselves.
Words are something that people have devised to express themselves. We are image makers and images are the product of our imagination. We express some of our images with sound but they are more than sounds; they are sound pictures that express our perceptions about the worlds about and within ourselves. We use them to express ourselves and to communicate with kin, kith, and ‘oth’. In early times we drew pictures on walls. We started drawing abbreviated pictures that expressed our observations, thoughts and feelings. Then we had symbols that represented the sounds of language as well as the rudimentary idea being expressed. Some languages have both an active pictographic language and a phonetic system that help them connect the idea to the reality: this is the map/territory relationship.
Being able to express ourselves in symbols is key to fulfilling our destiny, whatever it is.
When we use words with no referent mental image we are limited in our ability to use language to interact with our own minds (think) and with other minds (learn/teach/negotiate). We all need both relationships to function in our world. We are symbol-making creatures; symbols are the tools of our thought, of our understanding, of our imagination, of our unconscious, and of our individual genius.13
Genius ultimately derives from the same root as Genesis, genes, generative, generate, genitals, etc. It is ‘the beginning’. Genius is not the exclusive property of a few gifted people. In Hebrew it is known as “Yetzer ha-Ra” and “Yetzer ha-Tov”. These are good and evil or noble and ignoble. I now think of genius (genii) as gifts and how we use them. Gyfu (gift) is the rune for this concept. This ‘concept’ appears so often in our language that it is more like a fundamental principle. Trying to figure out what our gifts are and how to use them well are the confusing parts. Sometimes the place or way that we apply our particular genius goes awry or is not appreciated. Sometimes genius is even considered madness. The first man to report seeing bacteria under a microscope was called a madman. Galileo was labeled as a ‘heretic’.
Madman, heretic, genius, we never know how we will be seen. We have no control over what others think or say. We do have control over what we say, what we do and what we accomplish with the genius we are given. The route to that genius is the imagination, the image-making faculty that we have. Languages are the route to image-making whether they are mathematical, alphabetic, runic, computer languages, musical notation, movement schemes, sign language, etc. There are different symbol systems for different brands of genius. Many different symbol systems are found in the English language and we all need a language with which to communicate. We lost our connection with our runic roots in part because they were perceived as dangerous pagan symbols and in part because they were seen as barbaric.
I believe that decoding the runes is essential to understanding the sense of much of our English language. Runic symbols were the sense units of the language which ultimately became our English. Prior to this, ‘Ingle-ish’ was an amalgamation of tribal languages used by the many tribes and groups of the area to communicate with one another. According to the Venerable Bede, these various peoples could understand one another’s language. I suppose that if they did have some difficulty with sorting out their meaning of one thing or another, they could resort to a bit of runic notation to work out the specifics. Inserting an explanatory rune is roughly equivalent to drawing a little picture that shows what is meant. You see what I’m saying?
An example of this could be the words for ‘law’. The Anglo Saxon word was ‘lagu’. In Middle English the words were ‘lawe’ and ‘laghe’. The AS word could be spelled with just the rune; however, lagu is the rune of fluidity, of the changeable uncertainties of life. That sounds like what we would call ‘natural law’ or nature’s laws. That sense of ‘law’ probably wouldn’t fit with King Ælfred’s process of nation building. The ME. ‘lawe’ keeps lagu in the form of the italic alphabetic letter ‘l’ and inserts ‘w’ for wyn, which is the rune of ‘joy-balance-harmony. In ‘laghe’, we still have lagu in the ‘l’ and insert ‘gh’ for Ȝ (eoh). EOH is that indispensable energy rune which is representative of continuity and endurance. While we haven’t inserted runic symbols in over a hundred years, we nevertheless continue to refer to the “spirit of the law”. In analyzing ‘law’ runically I gain some insight into the awesome sense of this word. Perhaps to truly appreciate it we have to live a while in a lawless place, like the outer borders of West Saxony, in the early 10th Century.
Since the predominant spoken language of this Ingle-ish language was the West Saxon dialect of King Ælfred’s people, and the predominant written language of all of these common peoples was staffcraft (runes), it makes sense that the peoples’ language (The Vulgate) both prior to and subsequent to transliteration, was contained in these two sources. My conclusion is that it remains for us to decode the sense of both the runic code notations and the alphabetic elements in their various and varied permutations. This is no mean task as several English dialects have held the stage at differing periods and different casts of players have held their castes to be truer and bluer of both sound and sense, and of spelling. There are also many strange English translations by well-meaning souls who have tried to simplify the language, organize it, civilize and Latinize it, purify and Germanize it, and lately, internationalize it. Sometimes I can’t make out what purpose is served by the translation other than that dire need to abbreviate things. Fortunately, the English Vulgate, that spoken and sometimes written language, has persisted and proliferated both on native soil and round the world. We the people, have kept alive the one constant that a language needs to survive. This one constant, unvarying factor can make a multitude of variables manageable. Spelling and sounding are the variables; sense is the constant. We can trace the sense of words by following the elements that they have in common.
Corruption of language – leads to corrupting the thinking:
The problem with losing the sense of a word or altering the sense during translation, is not just an academic matter. Using the wrong word alters the meaning not just of a single document but of every document in which that word translation is used. When the altered sense of a word becomes part of the language, then the thinking of the people becomes corrupted. For example: three particularly disturbing words, that I have come across recently, are ‘race’ ‘service’ and ‘hate’. I was investigating the sense elements -ac/-ace and -erv/-erf. The dictionary gave Latin roots for both of these words; ‘race’ from the Latin for ‘begetting’, which suggests inheritance, and ‘service’ from a Latin word for servant, slave, or serf, which equates service with slavery. Latin is not a plausible source for either of these.
For ‘race’ I would suggest [AS. ræs, a rush, a rapid course, a stream, a swift current of water or the channel for that water]. Near the ræs is a wide spot where fish accumulate and reproduce. A runic translation of ‘race’ would be ‘transformative energy vehicle acting on promising potential and powerful growth’. This is an image of tribes running together and taking mates that improve the quality of the different tribes. The tribes did intermarry and (on one occasion, I read) refused their women to another tribe. The rune of AC literally means Oak tree and is the very archetype of a complete, functioning society in nature. The Oak is the chieftain tree. It brings life into being, sustains it through all ages and is of use even in death, where is returns to EA and supports more life, including new trees from acorns. The acorns are edible and nutritious to man and many animals. Acorns are symbolic of the cosmic egg which contains the primal potential of coming-into-being. The elements a, ac, ace represent oak tree. Yes, even in the deck of cards where it ranks above the ‘royal’ cards. ‘-Ace’ is the sense element of ‘race’.
For ‘service’, as in the service tree, [AS.syrfe a European tree of the rose family, resembling the mountain ash and having edible berries]. Bringing Latin into this brings in a totalitarian master/slave worldview. It took a Latin translation to debase the honor of service into something shameful. I’m certain that ‘syrfe’ or ‘serf’ would be under the rune of Gyfu, the goddess of gracious giving. Since everything is given to us by nature, it is honorable to be generous. The genius of the class called serfs is to be of service in some kind of work. We are bound to sometimes twist meanings of words so that they ‘make sense’ to us. To my mind, it makes no sense to be prideful about being use-less. The idea of hereditary royalty and classes of inferior people was not a mindset of either the Celtoi or the Teutonic peoples of the British Isles. They took their lessons from nature. The greatest blame to speak of the ‘kings’ of either people was that they were inhospitable or ungenerous.
The word ‘hate’ totally perplexed me. The part of the word that was confounding is the /h/ for the rune Hagal. Hagal signifies structure and transformation. The very shape of the rune is a building block of the universe, the hexagonal lattice. All of the definitions are about loathing, despising and otherwise dissipating passions on someone or something that one dislikes intensely. That has never made a lick of sense to me and the runes weren’t enlightening. I looked ‘hate’ up in the ‘Oxford’ and it gave the citations where the word was first found in writing. Fortunately, I had those books, “Beowulf” and “Gregory’s Pastoral Care”. In Beowulf14, it is the place where he comes to confront the dragon who has been attacking the people since someone stole from the dragon’s hoard. Hate’ comes out of the dragon’s cave and burns Beowulf, causing his death. In ‘Gregory’s…’ Ælfred is remarking on ‘hate’ advising us to transform it into ‘love’ so that it will incinerate itself with it’s own heat and be offered up to God. Both of these references are speaking of a naturally generated heat, or passion. Both references are presenting ‘hate’ not as something noxious or bad. Presented this way, hate is a naturally generated body heat which, when we misuse, can be destructive. The dragon was using his defensively. If we recognize the potential of this energy, we could turn it to good purpose. We could probably solve our energy problems in short order by redirecting our energy. The Oxford citations regarding ‘hate’ were strange in that they completely ignored King Ælfred’s most conspicuous uses of the word as a salutation and carrying the meanings, ‘command, direct, bid and order,’15 at the beginning of that same book.
I believe King Ælfred is the one we have to thank for the fact that the sense of our native language made it into the initial translation. It would have been difficult to keep the sense of the native language if he had outsourced the translating to Latin scholars. The first thing that King Alfred did to keep the sense in the language was to keep the language of the people. He needed a language to unify his kingdom and he needed literate people. The smart thing to do was educate the people to read and write their own language. He was a real hands-on administrator and did not leave all of the translating to the Irish monk scribes. While Bishop Ælfric and the monks appear to have translated the peoples’ prayerbook, King Æfred did some substantial translating himself. If anyone has doubts about what he did and why he did it, one of the books that he translated makes his motives clear. The book is “Gregory’s Pastoral Care” He needed literate people to do business, to administer affairs of state, to establish rule of law, to train teachers and preachers. Some kings brought in Greek and Latin scholars. Ælfred the Great made it possible to home-grow his own scholars and teachers. He did this by keeping language with which his people were familiar and symbols which resonated with their experience and with their imagination.
Ælfred the Great is not the first ruler to have tried to change a peoples’ language; he is just one of the most effective because he didn’t try to destroy it and replace it with a foreign tongue. He did better in that he had the language constructed so that it could embrace the many languages that existed in his kingdom and surrounding areas. The English language was constructed so that it was possible to include words and concepts from new languages as they were encountered. Even the Norman Invasion of 1066 did not uproot English. English absorbed much of the Norman language and kept only what worked for the people. That is what continues to happen with English to this day. English speaking countries often craft their own distinctive dialects of the mother-tongue; the language changes to suit the nature of the people.
Changing a language is akin to changing a religion. They are both essential parts of the psychic being, the very spirit of a people. Over the centuries, various church councils have tried to stamp out heathens and pagans by destroying customs and practices of the common people. The pagan16 runes used by these country people, of course, came under attack. You will notice that all of the runes are associated with gods, goddesses, and various numinous forces and symbols; therefore, to stamp out any vestiges of false gods, magic, and witchcraft, the new religious powers must eliminate runes wherever possible. However, not even the language was coherent without reference to the information contained in runecraft. Sailing, fishing, planting, harvesting, woodcraft, herb lore, all manner of signing, crafting, wrighting and writing were not possible without runecraft. The old ways must persist and they did, by remaining in the open and in disguise. It is no happy accident that the runes remained; it was a brilliant bit of word crafting. As in any language, the symbols get used and misused according to human vagaries. There has been noble, even magnificent, runic expression through the English Language. At the other extreme of the spectrum, the Third Reich used a variation of them to tout their totalitarian egos. (Two Sun signs for the SS pishers. Oy!)
The information for translating English back into Runic symbols is very sparse. It is surprising that for all the people who are studying the development of the English Language, I have yet to be able to find one who is studying the code which was used to translate the runic symbols into Italic. I cannot imagine that someone else isn’t working on these questions. It is almost too much for me to wrap my mind around: Our linguists have decoded most of the ancient languages and yet no one is decoding the meaning of our English language. When asked what a word means, we get the answer, “Oh, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just what we say.” We have a language that was translated a little over a thousand years ago and no one knows what the words mean. The regularity and repetition of the patterns indicate that these patterns cannot be totally arbitrary. The words have to have meaning. The repetitive elements in the words have to have a sense. It is not enough that we make an issue over the precise pronunciation of words if we don’t know what they mean. Earlier I expressed the opinion that English, the Vulgate had kept the sense in our language. It is interesting that we use words in our speech, almost instinctively, that express the intended sense. Old words reënter in the form of slang and are used correctly. Based on what I’m finding about the runic elements, I suspect that they are a lot older than we know. Perhaps they are an expression of that “pœtic language of the soul”. I’m always struck when someone reflexively uses strong, spontaneous imagery. Children often do it before they learn better.
It is high time that we decode this language. Too much of our language is falling into disuse and too much of it is the words that we really need, the words which have no substitute. Too many people can graduate from college and still not be able to competently read, write and speak their native tongue. Language is power. At the present time, power is in the hands of too few people. No one needs to take away our right to free speech. If we do not learn to use language, we give away our rights. We don’t have to talk more; but, we do need to know what we are saying and we need to know what is being said to us. It is also time to start reading aloud and time to start reading with others, not just reading as a solitary pleasure. Since language is music, much of the sense comes from hearing the rhythms, upbeats, downbeats, glides, pauses, stops, all the sounds and all the silences. Something as small as a stress on one word can change meaning.
Reading is difficult for many people, particularly reading aloud. That particular skill is often not taught. Even when it is, speaking publicly is stressful. To work on the skill of reading it is not necessary to learn about the runes, other than learning how to recognize the sound/sense elements. The patterns in our language derive from the way that our brains work. I have frequently read that the optimum number for our memory is one to five objects and that is why things that should be memorized are broken into units of one to five. Our entire language is broken down into patterns of from one to five alphabetic symbols. Reading and comprehension come more easily if we learn to see our language as combinations of these patterns. There are sections in this book that list some of the most frequently used patterns and that give descriptions of the meaning of some of those sound/sense elements. There are also lists of words, one of simple constructs, another of compound words, and another of most frequently used, confused and abused words (positional and relationship). Those three lists are mostly Teutonic, including Anglo-Saxon. There is another short sample-list of the Greco-Latin patterns which appear frequently in English. The patterns have both a sound and a sense. Often there is more than one sound. By learning to see the patterns you will read more fluently and will probably improve understanding (comprehension). Just learning a different way of seeing can make a world of difference in what we see.
The Runes, our first English alphabet:
There are more than thirty-one Runes; but, thirty-one is only the number of Runes that are recorded as forebears of the English alphabet. There is also an Ogham (Irish alphabet) contribution that seems to overlap and augment; though, I won’t attempt to puzzle that through yet. Both symbol systems represent several concepts simultaneously. These concepts are elemental ones that represent the dynamic forces in nature which the people experienced and then gave symbols and voice to. These concepts each have companion trees, herbs, natural elements, nature deities, numbers and sounds. These companion symbols have qualities in common which help us to grasp the meaning of the runic imagery. Frequently, the companions are the same in Runecraft as in Ogham, as these people lived in close proximity to one another and shared the same natural surroundings. Finding symbols in common is like finding similar words in several languages. We are not so far apart as our behaviors sometimes make us seem.
This similarity between us is also expressed in the symbolism used to describe our struggles to gain language and those ‘teachers’ who have striven, and who still strive, to bring the flame of learning to the people. Every myth structure that I have read has such a teacher who is a special type of hero. The hero often has to suffer and be sacrificed for having given language/ knowledge/ fire to the people. It had properly been the property of the Titans or gods. I notice that even the one hero-teacher who is a jolly fellow is nevertheless armed to the teeth. Apparently being a teacher has always been a stressful calling.
Since many cultures are represented in the roots of Old English, I’m going to present some stories of how several of them received language and who the teachers were who brought the language. The stories have symbols that are representative of the temperament of those teachers who ‘gave’ language to the people. I find it fascinating that those diverse temperaments persist after thousands of years. It sheds some light on the diversity of English and of English-speaking peoples. We express our temperament through our language and then that language places its impress on future speakers. While the following parables are abridged, you can see the differences in the representative people.
The god, Odin, who gave runes to the Teutonic people, was a friend and companion of the goddess Saga. He is called “All father”, the chief ruler of the universe, the god-most-wise who, as a young man, sacrificed an eye to gain wisdom. As an old man he suffered by hanging up-side-down in the high branches of the world-tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nights, taking neither food nor drink, in order to gain the knowledge of the runes for mankind.17 The Irish god, Oghma, and the Gaulish god, Ogmios, were the source of Ogham.18 He is called Heracles among the Celtoi and, like the Greek Heracles, he is attired in a lion’s skin and carries a club in his right hand. He also carries a bow and a quiver of arrows. In stark contrast to the Greek Heracles, this man is not a virile and young muscle-man who kills lions, woos women, and mucks out the Augean stables. Instead, he is old, wrinkled sun-browned, almost bald, and has a great sense of humor. He is shown drawing behind him, a great number of men bound by their ears with fine cord which is attached to the tip of the old man’s tongue. These ‘prisoners’ do not resist their captor. They dance along behind him. Then there is the Greek, Prometheus, son of the Titan, Iapetus, who gave fire/knowledge to man and is punished for having given the gift to mankind. He is sentenced to spend eternity bound to a rock where every day birds eat his liver and every night it grows back again. These stories also suggest to me that the argument over whether all people should be educated or can be educated is not just a modern issue. More on that subject later.
RUNIC SYMBOLS, our first English alphabet
Our first symbol system was not really an alphabet. Alphabets (abcdearies) begin with ABC and have referent symbols which are different from those of Futharks. In the English alphabet, A and B represent the Bull of Heaven (masculine) and a house or home (feminine) and the symbolism is no longer relevant to the language. In futharks they are called ‘runes’ and begin with Feoh (F) which represents movable wealth. The symbolism of each rune is still relevant to their use; although, most people believe that the runes were removed from the English language.
In the following chart, the information will be arranged as follows: First will be the Rune, then the Runic name, then the number of the English alphabetic order, then the Italic alphabet symbol which represents the English phonetic symbol. The English alphabet has changed in several ways since the 10th Century, as has our spelling. I’m giving just the alphabetic symbols that have been assigned to the English Futhork. Later, I will list the alphabetic characters which have not been covered as well as alphabetic symbols which we use but do not formally acknowledge. It may be time to reconsider a possible update to reflect the reality of the Twenty-First Century.
The term Futhark is used to speak of a Runic symbol system. There are several and they use many of the same or similar symbols. The names are sometimes a little different but the meanings are essentially the same. Different peoples, living in different times and places with their own unique needs and circumstances, make new symbols and combine symbols (bind-runes) to express themselves. The word, Futhark, is an acronym for the first five Runes. In English, the Runes are not in that order; hence, they technically are not ‘Futhark’, but ‘Futhork’.
To be clear about what Runes are and what they do, I would say that they are rudimentary pictures that depict basic and fundamental principles that the Rune makers observed in all of nature, including human nature. Those principles had symbols and probably sound(s). The people related the symbols to some of the concrete objects which were essential in their daily lives. As experience broadened they added new symbols and corresponding sounds. When they encountered tribes with other languages and symbols, they expanded their symbol system in order to be able to communicate with those peoples. Runes are still in use but they are not the dominant linguistic symbol system. It would be more than a tad difficult to spell with the following symbols.19
Runes are keys to the meaning of all of those English words which have their roots in Old English. That fact is asserted in the words of Bishop Aelfric, 10th Century. In reference to his translation of the book “Priscian’s Grammar” and his own two series of ‘Catholic Homilies’, he states, “staffcraft is the key that unlocks the meaning of the books.” 20 Since runes were the key to the meaning of the words, and we are still using those words and other words based on them, it is likely that the runic roots are still there. Doctor Burchfield says, “The surviving runes are fragments of a lost and forgotten art. They were sufficiently numerous to represent all the separate speech sounds of the spoken form of the various Germanic tribes.”21 I submit that they were ideographs that represented the significant observations and concepts of the different tribes. The runes were not phonetic symbols; they were and are ideographic writing whose meaning is still extant in our English language. Any attempts to use runes as phonetic symbols would have muddied and diminished their significance and their usefulness. We generally do not think in sounds, we imagine in images and strive to translate those images into sounds which represent the mental pictures. When we lose the connection between the idea and the sound, we lose the sense of what we say.
I do not believe that all English, or even Old English, may be decoded runically. There have been many meaningful tribal contributions both prior to, concurrent with, and subsequent to the Anglo Saxon period and they have all left their impress. When the English of King Alfred was first set down in writing it was in an Irish form of Italic writing in the Tenth Century ACE. This bit of information alone indicates that the tribal influences were Greek, Roman, Semitic, Celtic, Irish, and Germanic. These ‘tribes’ had subsets each of which brought gifts to the language. Some variations of the Irish Ogham have a Semitic flavour and some have apparent runic relationships and these also cannot have been edited out completely. However, I think that viewing modern English through the prism of Runic worldview would give a clearer image of the English language, the people who have formed it, and have been moulded by it and, in turn, have left their worldwide impress on humanity.
The following list of runes are those of the ‘English Futhark’. First comes the symbol, the name, the number of its position in this ‘futhark’, next a brief description of the idea that the symbol or ideograph represents, then a concise description of the extended symbolic meaning. The bottom line contains the symbolic tree and herb, then the element or elements, the gender or genders, and the representative god or goddess. Each bit of information adds significant meaning to the overall concept.
FEOH #1 (f) Feoh means cattle and signifies movable wealth. Represents the primal cow, the primal power from which we all originate. On a material level it represents accretion of power and control. Responsibilities come with power, control, wealth. Waste, greed, poor stewardship bring disaster and interpersonal discord. Other sources say that Anglo-Saxons had no word for wealth; but, that doesn’t keep English speakers from making one.22 Symbolic meaning: the primal cow, Audhumla
Elder Tree Stinging Nettle fire, earth male, female Frey and Freyja
UR #2 (u) Ur is the raw, tameless might of the Primal Ox. Ur is the boundless power of creation. Ur signifies primal power, vital stamina and perseverance, the embodiment of creative potential. Ur can never be a personal power controlled by a single individual. In human power it is a collective power. Ur is good fortune, personal success, not at others’ expense, and for the common good. Symbolic meaning: horns of the ox.
Silver Birch Icelandic Moss earth male Thor and Urd the eldest Norn (Fate) Urd is “that which was”
THORN #3 (ƿ) Thorn signifies the resistant qualities of the thorn tree. (In sacred terms it is the defensive quality of the sacred hammer.) The “hammer” is also a millstone grinding grain. The thorn is also protective against all things that threaten right orderliness. Thorn is also the masculine creative energy, the willful direction of the generative principle into creativity. Thorn is the rune of harvesters. Symbolic meaning: the thorn, hammer of Thor.
Oak, Blackthorn, Hawthorn or May Tree Bramble & Houseleek fire male Thor
OS #4 (o) Os is specifically the rune of Odin in his mercurial aspect as god of eloquence. Os is the mouth from which the divine sound, the primal vibration of existence. Os signifies the creative power of words and thus wisdom itself. At a deeper level it exemplifies information and its expression which underlies the very processes of life. It’s the core of human culture expressed in song, saga, and literature. Symbolic meaning: mouth, speech, eloquence
Ash Tree Magic Mushroom air male Odin
Rad #5 (r) Rad is the trans formative energy vehicle. Rad represents transformation of energies, spirit, matter or information from one place to another, emphasis on personal transformation. Symbolic of conscious control of the factors which make up our Wyrd (Fate). Come into harmony with the wheel of the year, channel energies in correct manner for desired results. Right place, right time with right act. Symbolic meaning: wheel under cart, fire of the torch.
Oak & Wayfaring Tree Mugwort air male Ing and Nerthus
KEN #6 (c) Ken is illumination and inner knowledge. Ken is the cognate of the Celtic word cen meaning powerful. Ken is the mystical creation by two separate entities of a third which formerly did not exist. (Creation is by union and transmutation.) Ken channels protective energy, regenerative power, and further positive actions. Symbolic meaning: primal fire of Muspellheim.
Deal Pine Cowslip, Bilberry, Whortleberry, Blueberry fire female Freyja and Frey
GYFU #7 (g) Gyfu means gift or giving, a gift of one’s own ability or talent to the service of another. The talent itself is a gift from God. Gyfu signifies the unification through exchange. It also signifies cooperation between individuals. Symbolic meaning: sacred mark
Ash & Wych Elm Wild pansy (Viola tricolor) air male/female Gefn goddess “beautiful giver”
WYN #8 (w) Wyn is joy, harmony, balance. Wyn is a rune of balance, the mid-point between opposites necessary for a sane and happy existence. It is a rune of fellowship, shared aims and general well-being, the removal of alienation by shortage or excess. Symbolic meaning: wind vane, flag.
Ash Flax earth male Frigg and Odin
HAGAL #9 (h) Hagal is the personal unconscious mind. (See #12 Hagal j)Hagal was the rune assigned to J and H. This may represent the Milesian influence on Northern Tradition or vice versa. H and J sounds are related in the Spanish language.
NYD #10 (n) Nyd is not striving against self-knowledge. Nyd has the literal meaning of need. Need can also be thought of as appetites. Humans are creatures of appetite of the mind, of the body, of the soul. The power to be released from need lies within the need itself. The key is “Know thyself”. Don’t strive against Wyrd (Fate) but use it constructively. Nyd is the mother of Dag (Day). Symbolic meaning: fire-bow and block
Beech & Rowan Snakeroot fire female Nott (Nyd) “goddess of night” and Skuld (Norn of future)
IS #11 (i) Is is the principle of static existence, ice melting as the result of loss of energy. As the principle of inertia and entropy it is the polar opposite of the rune Ken. Like the iceberg, one ninth of the true mass is above the surface. Is signifies cessation of progress or the termination of a relationship. It is under the rulership of the Norn, Vernandi, the present “that which is eternally becoming” Symbolic meaning: icicle, primal ice of Niflheim.
Alder Henbane ice female Vernandi (Norn of the present)
HAGAL #12 (j) Hagal the “Mother Rune” is the magic #9. It signifies structure and transformation. The pattern of the rune is the pattern that underlies the universe (like the ice crystal). It links human consciousness with the other planes of existence. Hagal signifies patterns of energy originating in the past which are affecting the present. Wyrd rune Hagal signifies mechanical process rather than a result of human creativity. Natural law. Symbolic meaning: structural beams, the world, hailstone, serpent.
Yew Bryony ice female Heimdall (Watcher of gods) and Urd (Norn of Past)
EOH #13 (Ȝ) Eoh is affirmative of continuity and endurance. Eoh is the domain of Ullr, dweller in the Valley of the Yews. Yew is a “powerful magic wood” used for bows, protective runic staves, yew wands. Yew is defensive. Yew bows were killers of animals in hunting and of men in warfare. Bows were used for locating as were wands. (like dousing rods) Symbolic meaning: vertical column of the yew tree.
Yew & Poplar Mandrake all five elements male Odin and Ullr
PEORTH #14 (p) Peorth is potency of Wyrd (fate) in the world and within it the functioning of free-will, human energies living, loving and working together. Growing within Wyrd like a child within the womb. (My melding of two runemaster’s interpretations) Adapting and growing of the individual within the boundaries of fate. (Like the morning glory, grow where you are planted.) Symbolic meaning: the womb, a dice cup
Beech & Aspen Monkshood & aconite water female Frigg
ELHAZ #15 (x) Elhaz is the resistant power of the elk, and the defensive ‘warding sign’ of the splayed hand. Elhaz is a rune of protection and signifies an optimistic protection and offense against forces in conflict with ourselves. Power of intentional and positive striving, primarily a defensive rune. Rune of the first spring festival of Imbolc or Brigantia. Symbolic meaning: the elk, the flying swan, the open hand
Yew & Wild Service tree/ Sedge/ air/ male/ female/ Heimdall (weather god)
SIEGEL #16 (s) Siegel is the stupendous power of the sun and its light and the clear attainment of goals. Siegel is magical will acting beneficially throughout the world. Selfless spiritual quality that resists death and destruction. Siegel is the rune of victory. It is the herald of triumphant ascendancy of light over darkness. Symbolic meaning: the holy solar wheel
Bay & Juniper/ Mistletoe/ air/ male/ Sol “goddess” and Balder
TYR #17 (t) Tyr is a rune of positive regulation, manifested as the necessity that to rule justly requires self-sacrifice. The shape of the rune infers the targeting of assertive forces in the correct place for the greatest effect. The Northern divinity Tyr is paralleled with the Anglo-Saxon Tiw ruler of Tuesday. (He is like the Roman Mars.) Miscarriages of justice will not occur when Tyr rules. Positive regulation ruling justly. First rune of the oett of Tyr, the lord of Justice. Symbolic meaning: the vault of the heavens over the cosmic pillar.
Oak,/ Sage &Tyrs helm (Aconite)/ air/ male/ Tyr or Tiw
BEORC #18 (b) Beorc represents the birch tree which is symbolic of purity and purification. It is the rune of mystery and is symbolic of rebirth. The birch has no fruit and shoots without seeding. Beorc’s number is twice the sacred nine of Hagal, signifying new beginnings on a higher organic level. Eighteen is one of the Northern numbers of completion. Beorc is connected with the first letter of the Ogham tree alphabet. Symbolic meaning: breasts of the earth.
Birch/ Lady’s Mantle/ earth/ female/ Nerthus, Holda
EHWAZ #19 (e) Ehwaz has the literal meaning of horse, one of the sacred animals of the Elder Faith of Europe. It is a rune of combination associated with twins, brotherhood or sisterhood, or inseparable bond between horse and rider. Requires absolute trust and loyalty for any journey – sacred, physical or spiritual. Ehwaz signifies movement is necessary for any task of life which Wyrd (Fate) decrees. Symbolic meaning: Mother goddess, two poles bound
Oak, ash/ yellow flowered Ragwort/ earth/ male, female/ Freyja
MAN #20 (m) Man stands for the basic humanity of all people whether male or female. The form of the rune represents the archetypal human being as the reflection of all things. Man is the symbolic embodiment of social order without which the full potential of our humanity is not realizable. Man is the shared experience of everyman’s humanity. Both gender polarities are in Man and in every human. Symbolic meaning: marriage of earth with heaven.
Alder, Holly, Maple/ Madder, Rubia tinctorum/ air/ male, female/ Heimdall, Odin and consort Frigg
LAGU #21 (l) Lagu represents water in its many phases and moods. Lagu is the rune of fluidity representing the changeable uncertainties of living. It is the life force inherent in matter, organic growth and waxing force. Growth proceeds in cycles (growth rings). It is the rune of Beltane. We can’t live without water but it can kill us. Mutable uncertainties and fluidity. Symbolic meaning: sea wave, waterfall
Osier (Salix viminalis)/ Leek/ water/ female/ Lunar influence of Mani, Nerthus, Njord
ING #22 (ŋ) Ing stands for Potential Energy, the capability of limitless extension reflected in the geometrical form itself. It is that potential energy that must accumulate before being released as a burst of power, e.g. singing, thinking Symbolic meaning: the genitals
Apple Self-heal water/ earth male/female Ing consort of Nerthus (Earth Mother)
ODAL #23 (œ) Odal signifies the immutable ancestral property of the family. Odal represents the qualities of belonging, togetherness, ancestral heritage. It is the wisdom of integrity, wise husbandry of resources and the liberty of the individual and clan within the framework of the law. See Odil, Ethil, or Ethel. Symbolic meaning: enclosed estate, land property
Hawthorn/ White clover/ earth/ male/ Odin
DAG #24 (d) Dag has the meaning of day, more specifically High Noon, midday, the high point of the sun, and midsummer. Dag is the rune equivalent of the Celtic Ogham Duir from derma, the oak. The physical form of the dag rune mirrors the balance between the polarities, especially light and darkness. Cosmic consciousness and light are source of strength and joy. ‘Day is the god’s messenger.’ Dag is a beneficial rune of light, health, prosperity and openness. Symbolic meaning: balance (night, day)
Norway Spruce/ Clary (Salvia Herminoides)/ fire & air/ male/ Heimdall
AC #25 (a) Ac literally means ‘oak’, the sacred tree of the god of thunder, Thor. The acorn is symbolic of the cosmic egg which contains the primal potential of coming-into-being. The meaning of ‘ac’ is promising potential, powerful growth, and continued unfailing support. In Celtic tradition the oak is the chieftain tree. There was once a death sentence for destroying the oak. The Charter Oak is the oak tree beneath which contracts and treaties were signed. Many towns in the USA had charter oaks. Signing beneath the tree sealed and blessed the contract. The oak was witness. Symbolic meaning: mark tree, boundary oak
Oak/ Hemp/ fire/ male/ Thor
AS #26 (æ) As (26th) and os (4th) are closely connected. As is the 4th rune of the Elder Futhark. As signifies the divine force at work and has its origin in the most archaic period of the Indo-European tradition as the Sanskrit primal sound. As is represented by the Ash tree. The sacred Ash is a version of Yggdrasil, the cosmic axis. As controls the maintenance of order in the cosmos, eternal stability. Symbolic meaning: the Ash Yggdrasil
Ash, Linden/ Fly Alaric, mushroom/ air/ male/ Odin, Estrella
YR #27 (y) Yr is the 27th rune of the Elder Futhark. It has the meaning of a bow which is an instrument of attack and of divination. The bow symbolizes the creative crafts, the combination of knowledgeable skills combined with materials from the physical world. Yr signifies defense, protection at the expense of others, and correct location. Symbolic meanings: yew tree, bow, mid-point
Yew Bryony, Mandrake all 5 elements male/ female Odin, Frigg, Vidar
EAR #28 (êa) Ear is the 29th rune. It refers to ‘ea’ the earth. It is symbolically both the end and the beginning of life. It is the end of the lunar cycle presaging the birth of the new and as such is the root meaning of the English word ‘Easter’. Another name for Ea is Oestre. Ea is just is one of the names of the ‘earth goddess’. The word element ‘ea’ is used in a great many words regarding the many diverse matters on earth. ‘This side of the daisies’ is only one aspect of the earth goddess. Death is another and that is ruled by Hela who pertains to the underworld.
Yew Hemlock(herb) earth female Hela “goddess of death and the under world”
CALC #29 (k) Calc is the 31st rune. It means ‘offering cup’ or ‘ritual container’. In myth it is the Holy Grail. It is an inversion of the 15th rune elhaz- inverted, empty cup thats contents have been drained. Full yet empty, the unattainable.
Maple, Rowan Yarrow earth female Norns (Fates)
STAN #30 (k̅) Stan , the 32nd rune, means ‘stone’ in any of its aspects: rocks, standing stones set up as markers, game pieces. Probably changed to KN which usually means something ‘hard, prominent and lumpy’.23 Even in knitting, knotting, kneading, and knighting one makes something harder, more prominent and rougher textured relative to its original state. This is a human application of natural energy.24 “Stan is a link between human beings, earthly and heavenly powers. Stan can provide protection or act as a block to progress.”
Blackthorn, Witch Hazel/ Icelandic Moss/ earth/ male/ “goddess” Nerthus (Mother Earth, an old name)
GAR #31 (g̅) Gar means ‘spear’ and is the “33rd and final rune”.25 ” It is ‘Gungnir’, the ash-handled spear of Odin. Gar is not assigned to any of the four aettir, but is a central point to which other runes refer. It is an image of Yggdrasil the ‘world tree’, the axle tree of the runic wheel and takes no part in runic time cycles. It is the rune of completion and therefore the beginning of the new order.”
Ash, Spindle tree/ Garlic/ all 5 elements/ masculine/ Odin
Continued use of runes:
“In England, with the institution of Roman-style education by King Ælfred the Great, the runes went out of use except as individual magic sigils and in house protection. …But in Scandinavia, where the runes flourished for all types of writing, sacred and secular,…remained in everyday practical use until the late eighteenth century.26
Additional Bindrunes used in Scandinavia: Aurlaugr ( YR- LAGU) phonetic value of x, Twinmadur (MAN-YR) phonetic value of y, Belgtzhor (JARA) phonetic value of x. (Footnote: op. cit.)
There may have been a cessation of rune use and rune creation in England after King Ælfred made his ruling; however, I would love to know how such a thing transpired, having never in my life met such a tractable populace. Being in such close proximity to Scandinavia, I expect there was some ensuing runic corruption in England that led to runes being used for some Dark Ages vulgate slang parlance, at the very least.
In the “Archaic Dictionary”, which was compiled and published in the late 1800s, there is a frequent use of the symbol for EOH (Ȝ). There is a note prefacing the listing for the words beginning with that symbol. There are also many places throughout the dictionary where the symbol is used within the words. The note states that when that letter is used it is because no other letter will fit the meaning. I sincerely doubt that rune use disappeared in writing, particularly among the Vulgate, we the people. It is more likely that political exigencies have made them too unpopular to mention in polite company given the way that runes have been twisted and misused for a multitude of destructive antisocial purposes. In writing this I suddenly remember a very social use that probably derived from runes. Do people still use X’s and O’s at the end of friendly notes? I remember that they used to be quite common and I still see them occasionally. O represents OS the mouth from which the divine sound emanates, which is the primal vibration. X could either be ELHAZ, the rune of protection and intentional and positive striving. X could also be the symbol of GYFU, the gift rune of unification through exchange. That’s pretty close to the idea of ‘hugs and kisses’. They both express friendly communication.
In Nigel Pennick’s book, “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes”, he gives more information on how rune use continued up to the present day. He also covers the dark time during Nazi Germany when rune use was twisted and distorted for ignoble purposes. That is a fate that can befall any symbol system or language, as the ‘dark side’ exists in mankind, not in his symbols. The dark side can be expressed with many runic and alphabetic symbols; but the dark side of mankind exists in mankind and does not originate in the symbols that man makes. The symbols do not contain that force.
3The root-word in ‘significant’ is ‘sign’ which is a word for a picture. The word ‘sign’ is built from the sense element -gn or -ign which stand for knowledge/fire. This assessment is runic decoding which is the subject of this book. JOH
4“The Story of the English Language” p. 18 Pei, Mario He does not cite his sources, so I went looking in “Gregory’s Pastoral” and found, in the king’s own words, his intention to restore ‘teaching and learning’ to his land, in the first thirty lines of ‘The Pastoral’. It was not the precise quote from Dr. Pei but the intent was unequivocal.
5“Concise Compendium of the World’s Languages” p. 145 Campbell, George L. “OE earliest inscriptions are Runic” “OE literature is written in an Irish version of the Latin alphabet with specific forms for f, g, r, s. Later, two Runic letters.*..were added.” *(Omitted text refers to thorn, eth and wyn.)
6“The English Language” Burchfield, Robert p. 9 “ In practice they (Futharks) were reserved for special purposes, but could have been more widely used if a tradition had established itself.” Instead the tribes encountered a new alphabet… and they forced their language into a new set of symbols, retaining only the thorn, wyn and ash of their own alphabet.” “The surviving (in AS. inscriptions) Runes are a lost and forgotten art. They were sufficiently numerous to represent all the separate speech sounds of the spoken form of the languages of the various Germanic tribes.”)
7op. cit. p. 10 The “Ælfric” who is speaking is the Bishop. Dr. Burchfield translates the word “stæf-cræfte” as “grammar”. “Staffcraft” is the very specific term for rune-writing which indicates that the bishop is saying that staffcraft unlocks the meaning of the books. There is a specific order of AS. or English runerow. Between Dr. Campbell op. cit. and Dr. Burchfield, it seems plain that English was translated from runic symbols into an Irish version of the Latin alphabet. The question remaining is the coding system.
8″Capricious” is a fun and uppity, educated sounding Gr.L. word that derives from the word for, and behavior of, goats- jumping around. Our languages, including Gr.L., are full of such symbolism because we are part of nature and define ourselves relative to it, including goat-nature.-glassy-eyed, wall-eyed ,hyper and mischievous, sounds right.
9″Celtic Tree Mysteries” Blamires, Steven p. 40 “…In short, the letter H is not a letter, but more of an accent affecting other letters. If H is neither vowel nor consonant, it must be something else…” This quality of ‘H’ is in other languages also. JOH
12Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary p. 285 “catechism [Gr. Katechizein] 1) a form of oral instruction by means of questions and answers, particularly in the principles of religion” (memorization of questions/answers – verbatim)
13Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary p.764 “ genius [L. genius,the guardian deity or spirit of a person, spirit, natural ability, genius from gignere,to produce] pl. genii ( 2 ,one good, one evil- supposed to influence one’s destiny) pl. geniuses for 3,4, and more)”…” Arabic pl.jinn”
17 “German Myths and Legends” MacKenzie, Donald A. p. 26 “Secret runes, which have magical influence, did Odin also invent.” All of the “magic” being described are powers which we find in language. JOH
19These symbols and some of the descriptions are derived from the works of Nigel Pennick which are listed in the bibliography. The English alphabet/rune equivalency is from the R. Burchfield book page 8, and in turn was “suggested by Bruce Dickins in Leeds Studies in English, 1933, p.4″
20″The English Language” Robert Burchfield page 10. The words in Old English and the translation are there. I take some issue with the translation of ‘staef craeft’ as ‘grammar’. Staffcraft is the word still used for rune craft.
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