Wednesday 21 May 2014

Havamal Snippets 142: The runes

Alas, this is another stanza that I can't get my head fully around, so I'll leave the explantion of it to the man who runs THIS website:

This stanza requires three types of explanations: 1.A commentary of some nontraditional qualifiers of the runes, 2. Which features characterize the runes since their creation?   3. An analysis of the role of the three rune creators.

1. How to qualify the runes.

First of all, the second line says that the runes are ráðna, i.e.interpreted, understoodwhat is no more the case nowadays. This implies that the properties of the runes in the following lines and stanzas relate to correctly interpreted and understood runes. When we note the mass of the works where a version of the meaning of each rune is stated (and not discussed, explained… interpreted), we see that this first Ódhinn’s remark, though implicit, is hardly respected.

The third line says that they are stóra, an adjective which carries the meaning of power associated to some ruthlessness. It never should be forgotten that the runes quickly become ruthless. They do not yield to the criteria of compassion andpurelove that our civilization romanticizes.

The fourth line says they are stinna i.e. strong and rigid. The notions of power and strength of the runes crossed the centuries as archetypes while the brutal and stiff runes were slowly forgotten. The last ones were revived by the Nazis who, on the contrary, forgot their power and their strength, which can act with softness. It should be forgotten, no more than their brutality and stiffness. By their ‘stiffness’, I understand that Ódhinn says that they have a clear meaning and that we should not try totwistit to our whims. Our understanding must yield and adapt in front of the stiff strength carried by the runes.

2. On the creation of the runes

The runes were painted/got, made/set up and scratched/hacked.

- the last couple of qualifiers is easy to understand. The “Hroptr of the powers” etches them on wood and needs more strength to put them on metal or stone.

- the couple made/set up clearly states that they were designed/shaped by the ginnregin i.e.the supreme powers’. These supreme powers might be Nature, as seen by dedicated atheists, or their God for the fundamentalists, or the big-bang, for the mystics of astrophysics. In all cases, the majesty of the design of the runes remains practically the same. As the place where the roots of Yggdrasill take their support (stanza 138), the runes belong to the unfathomable mechanisms of the creation of the universe and we cannot say much of their origin… can any shaman visit their birthplace? I doubt it.

- Lastly, how this “wise storyteller” could paint/get them? We have to paint them, color the runes, possibly with the red of our blood, with the aim toactivatethem, as we would say now. We thusgetliving runes that are ready to be used.

3. On the creators of the runes

First of all, the commentators tend to see the same character hidden behind these three names, i.e. Ódhinn. This means that Ódhinn, who is already overloaded with nicknames describing his many functions, should also carry being a fimbulþulr and the ginnregin (a plural noun). As for the ginnregin, anyway, this is opposed to our mythology that describes Ódhinn like born after the formation of the universe, as he says himself in stanza 140. It thus appears much more reasonable to me to acknowledge that the creators of the runes are three different divine entities.

- the fimbulþulr, that is the immense-wise storyteller, is the one who perpetuates the traditions, who transmits knowledge. He collected the knowledge of how activating the runes, and he seems to have received it at the origin of the runes.

- the ginnregin must be the forces that built the runes. They conceived the structure of Futhark, that is the fact that the 24 runes are structured into three ættir (families) and provided in a given ordering. The ginnregin look like the architects who conceived the structure of thehousethey built.

- Hroptr of the powers seems to be indeed Ódhinn owing to the fact that the name Hroptr is often allotted to him. However … as a power reigning over the rögn? Moreover why Ódhinn would need to collect the runes at the Yggdrasill’s foot if he were one of their three creators? Ódhinn is called Hroptatýr, which qualifies it well as an Æsir’s leader but not as one ofthe powers’. Once again, as in the case of the final destiny of Burr and Bestla, without inventing a romantic story, I must call upon the concept of a “lost myth” in order to understand how Ódhinn can be called aherald of the unsaid truths’ according to the translation I propose for Hroptr (or, rather Hróptr). We know practically nothing of the Ódhinn who left Frigg and whose place has been temporarily taken, at Frigg’s side, by Vili and Vé. Ódhinn’s character, such as we know it by later texts, suggests an intelligent god who does not sputter his words. His blood brother, Loki [again, an unknown myth: the one in which took place the ceremony which hallowed their fraternity] plays exactly the same role of a hidden truth discloser (not the one of crier). This role, now degraded in the one of the ragna (king’s) fool, might have been played by Ódhinn with dignity. I thus feel it quite possible that the conjunction of Loki’s crafty and fragile intelligence and Ódhinn’s sincere and powerful one might have led them to tell to the gods unpleasant truths. As an example, think of them explain to the other gods the Norns’ power as a limit to their freedom. Here is the scheme of a possible explanation the meaning I give to this ‘slanderer’ (a meaning carried by the verb hrópa) who dares to put the gods in front of their weaknesses.

As a conclusion, we can as notice that the above three characters cannot integrate Dumézil’s trilogy of the sovereign gods. That drives us to think that the present trilogy corresponds to beliefs older than the Indo-European civilization. The runes could well have not reached their status of written signs before, say, the second century, while they convey a much older knowledge.

Rúnar munt þú finna
ok ráðna stafi
mjök stóra stafi
mjök stinna stafi
er fáði fimbulþulr
ok gørðu ginnregin
ok reist Hroptr rögna          
You can find runes
and meaning staves,
very mighty staves,
very strong staves,
which a mighty sage coloured
and mighty powers made,
and Hroptr of the gods carved.


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