Children Of The Void: Runes As Spirit Allies

excerpt from Wyrdwalkers: Techniques of Northern-Tradition Shamanism

runes3When Odin hung suffering on the Tree, coming as close to death as he could without passing over, and in that liminal state managed to rip open a hole in Ginnungagap for the Runes to come through....what were they, really? The answers tend to fall into the categories either of "divinatory symbols" or "magical talismans". It seems that no one ever thinks to see them as spirits in and of themselves, which perhaps is the hubris of the magician...or perhaps a sort of camouflage that they have erected. It seems that no matter how long one works with them, unless it occurs to one to see them as spirits rather than mere symbols, one never does. As soon as it occurs to you, however, it happens, and there they are, as if to say, "We wondered when you'd figure it out."

Yet the Runes are the spirit-allies most called on by those who work with the northern tradition, no matter that they have no idea that the Rune-Spirits exist as such. Have you ever stared at a rune-reading and had no idea what it said? That's the moment to call on the spirits of the Runes themselves and ask them what it means. I'm sure that you can see, now, how this would be useful when it comes to galdr-magic as well. This chapter is my experiences with these spirits, and how they came to me, and how I work with them.

Rune-spirits are a good example of a partnership relationship with spirits; they are very powerful, but not enough to command, compel, or own a human being; nor can they be commanded or compelled. They are generally quite willing to do what it is in their nature to do, and so long as you keep that in mind, you can work with them. If they choose to work for you, great; if not, you can't make them. Once you start working with them as spirits rather than merely constructs, they will expect more of you in your rune-workings. They will have something to say about the enchantments that you use them in, and they will go on strike if they feel that you've done something wrong. On the other hand, they can be invaluable for advice on creating magic or doing divination; nobody understands the Runes better than the Runes themselves. Working directly with them gives your magic a kick that merely playing with sacred sigils doesn't, but you will need to use them more carefully.

For those who have never dealt with the Runes as divination and magic, this chapter will not help you with that. There are plenty and enough books on the subject, as well as people willing to teach, and there isn't room for that here. And, frankly, if you are trying to be a northern-tradition spirit-worker of any kind, you should already be familiar with the Runes, or be studying them and using them now. This is advanced rune-working for those who already know, and no apologies about it. As with all things, since I work with the Futhorc runes, I will go back and forth between the Norse and Saxon names, and people will just have to follow along and deal with that.


Beyond Aettir: Rune Categories

In looking through runish lore, many old Norse terms come up, many of which are fuzzy in their meanings. If unsure, the best thing is to ask the Runes themselves, and let them give the definitions. Some of these troublesome words include audhstafr, flærdgstafr, gamanrunar, hugrunar, malrunar, limrunar, svartrunar, trollrunar, leodrunar, heidhrun and myrkstafr, and galdrastafr. As far as I can figure out, from my own working with Runes in both symbol and spirit, these are categories both of the Runes themselves for their properties, and of how they can be combined. For example, Fehu and Gyfu are both used for wealth, but a bind rune of the two would be even more powerful, and would also be referred to in the same category. Obviously, some categories have been lost, so all we can do is to define the ones that remain, and look for what else we can figure out.

Audhstafr means "stave of riches"; the audhstafr runes are Fehu, Gyfu, and Jera. Use them in combination in order to bring wealth and abundance.

Flærdgstafr means "stave of deception", and the flærdgstafr runes are Hagalaz, Nyth, and Thorn. Thorn is also the Troll-rune, the rune of the Thurses (Thurisaz), and writing it thrice before any other rune will invert that rune's power, recalling the power of the bottom of the Tree to turn things around, no matter what they are - death is change, and all change is death to something.

Gamanrunar means "joy-runes"; the gamanrunar are Wunjo, Sigil, and Chalc. These are antidepressant runes, and in combination they can have a "lightening" effect on nearly anyone.

Hugrunar means "mind-runes", and are used for mental excellence. Malrunar refers to runes that are used for persuasive speech. These seem to be the same set of runes in different combinations. They are Ansuz, Os, Yr, Ken, Dagaz, and Stan. Combine them into bind runes for improving the mind, speech, communications, etc.

Limrunar means "healing runes", and the limrunar are Uruz, Berkana, Laguz, and Ac. They are also called Liknstafr, or "health stave". Combine them into bind runes for healing work.

The Svartrunar are the "dark runes", meaning runes that are used for shadow work, heavy magics that make use of the darkness, and also negative magic. The Svartrunar are Peorth, Ear, Ior, and Cweorth; you will notice that both death-runes are here, the rotting grave and the funeral pyre - slow decay and quick burning, as well as the binding Serpent and the Rune of Fate. These can be used in combination to do serious shadow work - binding or revealing or destroying when necessary.

From here, one could look at the remaining runes and conjecture other groupings; for instance, Mannaz, Othila and Ing combine into a grouping that speaks of the People and the Flesh - bloodlines, sacrifice, and reincarnation. Tyr, Algiz, and Eihwaz are protective/defensive. Raido, Ehwaz, and Isa are movement-runes - stop and go.

The term galdrastafr means a stave of magic, a bind rune stave. Some of the galdrastafar in The Galdrabok, the old Icelandic grimoire, seem to have no resemblance to the Runes per se, being vertical lines off of which various signs and symbols hang. The vertical line is what creates the "stave" in all of these terms, as well as the assumption that these were once carved on sticks for magical purposes.

Two terms that seem to go together, at least in my practice, are heidhrun (or heidhstafr) and myrkstafr. Rather than simply going with their literal meanings - "bright-stave" and "murky-stave", they seem to be referring to the positive and negative aspects of any given rune. Therefore, Heidhstafr Fehu might mean riches or solid values while Myrkstafr Fehu might mean materialism and greed. Myrkstafr Thorn is obvious, but a Heidhstafr Thorn might be that which pricks the lazy into action.

Other terms that bear looking at include leodruna, which means "song-rune" and may refer to a sung galdr using rune names; hlautar meaning "lots", which is a random term for runes and refers to the sortilege "luck" nature of using them as divination (and makes one wonder if runes were used for sacred lots to choose sacrifices); and teinar meaning "twigs" , which seems to be an ancient slang term for magical staves. There is also the mysterious word Jotna-villur, which literally means the shadowy enchantments of the Jotnar, and some people's UPG suggests that this may refer to some or all of Hel's Aett.


The Rune Spirits:

Fehu/Feoh: The Herder or Whore

The Rune-Spirit Fehu is feminine in nature, somewhat materialistic, and quite domestic and home-loving. Fehu keeps and sells herd animals, and that simple fact is a defining quality of her nature. She is more than a simple shepherdess; she owns ample flocks and herds, and thus is wealthy and has power in the tribe. She may appear with cows, or goats, or sheep, or reindeer; what matters is that she knows their worth, and does not settle for anything less than the best. A mature woman of ample proportions, usually clad in green, she likes comfort and even luxury. She loves physical sensuality and her bed is open to many, but like the Sacred Whore there is a price to pay, although it is probably worth paying. Fehu gives abundance, but it is less the abundance of sudden windfalls than of fair trade in an atmosphere of bounty, one's honest efforts paying off better than one expected.


Uruz/Ur: The Chieftain

Uruz is a highly masculine warrior-spirit, manifesting as a tall, broad, greatly muscled man who stands a good head taller than all the others. Brown and bearded, he wears the skins of animals like a barbarian king, and there is a bull-like quality to his face and nature. His totem is the great aurochs, the now-extinct European buffalo, and like the aurochs he will bellow and trample anything between himself and his goals. He is the irresistible force which sweeps all before it like leaves, the strong back that never bows in weakness. However, unlike a berserker, he has the strength of self-control as well, keeping himself in check. Uruz knows that to be out of control is in itself a weakness, as is too much unharnessed rage. His forcefulness can be disconcerting to those of weaker will who summon him; they often expect a brute and instead get a stern, forbidding mountain of a man who can push his case and sometimes bully them, if they prove weak in his eyes. His leadership charisma is intense, and inspires loyalty. Uruz loves the mountains of Jotunheim of all the places in the Nine Worlds.


Thurisaz/Thorn: The Berserker

Thorn is an unpleasant customer. When he laughs, it is probably because someone has suffered some humiliating turn that has brought low their pride. When he is frowning, you can expect that there will be smiting, a bevy of small nasty pricks to drive someone insane. When he has worked himself into a rage by dint of that same method - contemplating and obsessing on all the horrid things in the world - he goes on a bloody rampage unrivaled by any Rune-Spirit save Hagalaz. Thorn lives to bring down the prideful, the hypocritical, the rigid, the cruel, the lazy - and, yes, the naive. Tall, muscled, bearded, his eyes glint red and his fingers drip with blood. If you can bear it, though, no one is better at getting you motivated to do something that you hate. If you ask him to, he will keep at you until you do it; no fog of procrastination can stop his onslaught. He is also something of a reverser, with a gift of turning things around. This means that he can turn around a bad situation as well, if he cares to - but only if the suffering is levered onto someone else. He is married to Nyth, and one way to control him is to invoke her as well. Thorn loves the wastes of Niflheim, where he can be alone with his rage and bitterness.


Ansuz/Aesc: The Winged One

Ansuz is fond of appearing as a bird of various sorts. When this rune has taken a human face to speak to me, it has been an androgynous winged being, not so much a shining angel-type as a half-bird shapeshifter with nervous energy, fluttering or rushing from one perch to the next. Ansuz carries all the power of the bird in flight, and sings a great deal; practically everything Ansuz says comes out in the form of a galdr-song. Ansuz is the Spirit of Freedom, wings outstretched and flying upwards; even the glyph suggests a bird ascending. When not looking at you or some other specific object, Ansuz always looks upwards. As the Messenger Rune, Ansuz has been known to carry messages to and from different parties, or at the least can be asked to guide a spell to the right place, but Ansuz won't tap someone on the shoulder unless they have made some sort of connection with this volatile spirit, so the delivery is more like dropping something in someone's lap and rushing off; they may notice it, or they may not. As the world at the height of the Tree, Ansuz is most fond of Asgard, and the eagle Hraesvelg that lives in the branches above.


Raido/Rade: The Wanderer

Raido is a cheerful dark young male figure, eyes on the horizon and heart always on the next adventure. He appears dressed in warm clothing and worn shoes, perhaps with a stick in his hand, perhaps with a bag over his shoulder, always on the move. Unlike the Horseman who has a specific place in mind and a set time to get there, Raido is happy to wander about as his feet take him. He fully intends to get someplace important, and usually he does, but in the meantime the journey is the important part. To him, it's all about collecting experience, and to do that he has to make no assumptions as to where he might end up. He is a wonderful traveling companion, but not so good for the long haul of a boring life, as his attention span is fairly short. While he loves every world on the Tree - they all have their joys and wonders - his favorite is, strangely enough, Helheim at the bottom of the Hel Road. To most people, this would be where all roads end; Raido calls it his beginning road, where he starts out, and being there means that all roads are ahead of him.


Kaunaz/Ken: The Smith

Ken appeared to me as a blacksmith working at his forge. He is tall, strong, and well-muscled, with a piercing, straightforward gaze, and long hair drawn back out of his smudged face. I got the impression that he might sometimes appear in a somewhat Duergar form, and indeed his favorite place is in Nidavellir in their caves and forges, but for me he appeared as fairly human. He slammed his hammer down on the anvil and spoke of how truth is the fire that forges, that burns and melts away the dross, and the hammer blows of Life are what make us stronger. His manner is very direct, with no frills; he speaks things exactly as he sees and is somewhat scornful of the need for fancy verbal footwork. His words can be painful, scorching like flames or falling like hammer blows, and he spares no one. Ken comes in with noise and ringing and after he is gone, the air at least is clear, if some of the more sensitive souls are fallen in a faint. There is often the smell of smoke and iron when communicating with him.


Gebo/Gyfu: The Giver

Gyfu appears to me as a northern housewife, plump and smiling amidst piles of blond curls, usually bringing some fine dish or fancy trinket, or working on a homemade gift for someone. She loves to give gifts, but they must be properly appreciated or there will be no more forthcoming. She is not interested in the bargaining of fair trade; although they are both spirits of abundance, Fehu's mercenary side makes her shake her head. In Gyfu's world, people just give each other things because they care and because it makes one feel good to give, and one gift leads to another, and everyone gets everything they want eventually. If she is offered something out of duty or obligation, it is not as good to her; she is subjective and emotional and demands equal emotion for her generosity. Even a delighted thanks and a sincere compliment is return enough. She is a good spirit to call upon for ways to increase hamingja, and frith in the community, but she can be confusing for less emotional people to deal with. She loves the craft-halls of Svartalfheim and the fields of Vanaheim, and divides her time between those.


Wunjo/Wyn: The Lightbringer

Wyn came to me in an aura of radiant golden light, a slender figure with long pale hair. She was female, but androgynous, and I got the impression that she could just as easily appear as an androgynous male figure as well, a slender brother to the sister presented. There was something vaguely elflike in her large eyes and graceful movements, and certainly the world that she loves most is Ljossalfheim, and that is where she can generally be found. She is a dancer, sometimes carrying a torch that sheds light everywhere, and sometimes she herself is the torch, wreathed in light like a figure of St. Lucia. When she moves, her figure leaves a track of light on the inner eye that takes a while to fade. Wyn is always smiling - at worse times her smile might be slightly sad, at better ones it is positively beaming - and she is the bringer of light into dark places, and joy into sadness. She is the one who lifts depression, casts away dark clouds, and shines clarity into shadows, bringing forth creativity and laughter. If there is nothing but sorrow about when you call her, and she cannot bring any light, she will merely vanish; her attention span is not a long one.


Hagalaz/Haegl: The Stormbringer

Hagalaz is generally considered to be the harshest of the Runes, and she is not one to be trifled with. She appears as a pale-skinned woman - almost corpse-pale - with long black hair that is either whipping in high winds or plastered to her head with rain; the only time that I saw it floating gently was when she appeared in the middle of a blizzard. Hagalaz brings down storms on people - sometimes chaos, sometimes radical change, sometimes just misfortune. She is a creature of strong passions - she weeps, screams, rages, laughs hysterically - but the thing to remember is that her smiting of people is never random. She always feels that there is a good reason that this person should suffer this trial, although you may not understand or agree with her purposes. To her, either the storm makes you stronger, sweeps away the unnecessary, and clears the air for new growth....or it destroys you, in which case you were weak anyway, and part of the flotsam to be cleaned out. The most dangerous of the svartrunar, she has a strong affinity with the worlds of Helheim (which she finds peaceful) and Niflheim (which she finds invigorating), and occasionally with lightning-struck Jotunheim as well.

Nauthiz/Nyth: The Crone

Nyth is an old woman, stern and upright and glaring, a teacher but not an easy one. She teaches survival skills in a school of hard knocks - when you learn something from her, you will definitely know it well, but it may not be a pleasant experience. She is a tribal judge of the power-behind-the-throne sort, one of the old women that the chief dared not mistreat for their sharp tongues. Her narrowed eyes will look you up and down and judge you quickly and harshly, and then tell you exactly what it is that you need to learn in order to improve your sorry condition. It may be something that seems humiliatingly foolish and basic; it may be something that you despair of ever reaching. She will not, however, offer to teach you; that is something that you must ask for yourself, and then submit to whatever lesson she inflicts. Nyth is the power of the needfire, the warmth without which our ancestors would not have survived, and the skill it took to make it. I am under the impression that she is the wife of Thorn, and the only one who can keep him in check. Her favorite world is Muspellheim, which warms her chilly old bones.


Isa/Is: The Ice Queen

Mistress Isa is, like her name suggests, very much the Ice Queen. Tall, pale, eyes blue as shadows on snow, hair black as the water under the ice, she is robed in white and silver. Her demeanor is stiff and haughty; she dislikes most people and shows it. However, she is not petty and will either help or leave, perhaps with an excoriating remark in the process. Like Nyth, she is a No-sayer, setting limits when they need to be set. "Everything needs to stop sometimes," she says. "Unbridled growth leads to imbalance. Some things must remain still that others can move about them." Appealing to her vanity may make her more likely to help you, as she does actually enjoy using her powers to stop things in their tracks. Never insult her dignity or imply that she ought to loosen up, or that freezing glance will alight on you, and shrivel you. Mistress Isa prefers the snowy parts of frozen Niflheim for her perfect vacation getaway.


Jera/Jer: The Farmer

Whenever Jera appears, she always has some kind of farm implement in her hand - a digging stick, a hoe, a shovel, a threshing flail, a winnowing basket, a bag of seeds to put lovingly into the earth. Although farmers can be any gender, Jera appears as female; a mature woman with calloused hands, sun-browned face, sturdy work clothes, hair braided back so as not to interfere with the Work. And Work it is; she is the Laborer, the hardest-working of them all. To Jera, nothing is left to luck. All worth must be earned, and there is nothing sweeter than the harvest when you have put in your time and the reward can be gathered in. That is the true measure of worth, she tells us. Yet she does not toil merely out of duty. Jera honestly loves the earth that she tends, and she lives day to day in the cycle of weather and time, and shows us how labor can also be sacred. She is most fond of the world of Vanaheim, where the soil is the most fertile and the Wheel of the Year the most keenly felt, and all the farming energy patterns the land like a patchwork quilt of good intention.


Eihwaz/Eoh: The Protector, or Bridegroom

Eihwaz is the husband of Mannaz the pregnant bride, and the protector of their future children. Tall, sturdy, and honest-faced, he bears only his staff of yew as weapon and as proof of his virility. Unlike Tyr who fights out of honor and service to the tribe, or Algiz who guards out of territoriality, or Thorn who battles out of rage, Eihwaz lifts his staff only out of love for those he cares for. He puts his body between his family and the enemy because his love for them is so great that he would die to protect them, yet mostly he wishes for a happy and content home. That is foremost in his thoughts; he does not see battle as glorious but as a temporary obstacle between one content home-bound day and another. He is unsophisticated but loyal, as much or more a lover than a fighter. Though he is poised on the threshold of leaving youth altogether, there is still an innocence about him. Like his wife, he loves Midgard more than any other world, for it is there that the folk most need protecting.


Perth/Peorth: The Weaver, or Priestess

Perth appears as a woman robed in black, silver of hair and of middle years. Sometimes she is spinning or weaving at a loom, although she will not tell you what it is that she is making, or for what purpose. It is likely that her work is linked in somehow to that of the Nornir, perhaps a pale reflection thereof. She will also sometimes appear with a handful of lots made from the pastern bones of sheep, which were used to choose sacrificial victims. If you want her to aid you, she may request that you take your chances with the lots, and see what comes up. While such a request should be pondered for a good long time, life is nothing without risk. Perth is a priestess, and is wise in the ways of Wyrd and hamingja; she is also a good aid for any diviner to have, especially when they must translate inscrutable messages. As one might expect, Perth likes to be near the Well of Wyrd in Asgard, although she will also travel to Mimir's Well and other places of wisdom.


Algiz/Eolhx: The Guardian

Algiz is a warrior, but unlike Tyr, who is quite willing to go on aggressive maneuvers so long as the cause is honorable, Algiz keeps solely to the defensive warding of set boundaries. He is the border guard, the marker of territory, and as such has a strong affinity with all animals who mark territory, especially predators. He is tall, dark, wild, and reclusive, sometimes showing himself in wolf's hame and sometimes antlered, staring through pine boughs from where he watches and guards. He speaks little and does much, and is excellent to be set to watch one's back. There is often a strong animal smell, or sometimes an evergreen-forest scent, when he appears. Generally there will be a few moments of lag-time between calling him and noticing that he has appeared, and you missed it. When aroused to battle, he is a fierce challenger, standing his ground and barring the path, and none shall pass without getting past him. He has a strong affinity for the wilds of Jotunheim, and all deep forests.


Sowelu/Sigil: The Valkyrie

Sigil appears as a Valkyrie, all white and gold with a sword in her hand, and great swan-maiden's wings. Unlike Wyn or Dagaz, the other "bright" Rune-Spirits, she is fairly stern and sometimes even grim, even as she glows mightily. She is known for only appearing briefly; she stays rarely more than a minute when summoned by human beings. She has little use for weaklings and whiners, and will only come to the brave of heart. "Victory is what you make of it," she says cryptically, and then she is gone. If you are lucky, she has pointed out the one thing you need to do in order to be victorious, often she comes and leaves without saying a word. As one might expect, Sigil prefers Asgard to all the other worlds, and she is revered there by all Odin's Valkyries.


Teiwaz/Tyr: The Warrior

It's not surprising that this rune was named for the great god Tyr, Lord of Swords, for Tyr-the-rune is very much like Tyr-the-God. He is quite male, blunt, grim, courageous, valiant, and honorable to the last drop of his blood. He does not like to lend his magic to any aggressive purpose that could be deemed dishonorable, and will silently, stubbornly refuse it; if you incorporate this rune into a bindrune for a stave and he does not approve of it, it simply won't work. He is energetic but not merry; he laughs little but cares greatly. Tyr is a good teacher of the martial arts, especially the psychological side of it: the giving of courage tempered with reason and honor. He has great patience with those who are giving a fight their best shot and losing; he has none at all for those who waste his time. Tyr is fond of both Asgard and Jotunheim, as that is where the greatest warriors lie, and he refuses to choose between them.


Berkana/ Beorc: The Mother

Berkana is the most feminine of all the runes; her very glyph is a pair of breasts, and she overflows with nurturing. She is especially linked with the magic of trees (especially birches, of course) and contains the energy of the tree reaching yearningly toward the sky. She is growth with no limits and no boundaries, and as such she will give until she has no more, and then quietly fade away for a time, and nothing will bring her back until she has recuperated. She is especially fond of mothers, children, and the needy; she hangs in a sort of aura of pearlescent light and pours out love to those who ask for it. Berkana is the greatest of the limrunar, the healing runes, but she can only heal in accord with Wyrd, so if she cannot help, look to the threads for information. If she does not like the purpose of the magic she is being tied into, she will weep, but not strike back. However, some of the other more aggressive runes may strike back on her behalf, so be warned. Berkana is most fond of the realm of Vanaheim, although she has an odd fondness for the tall trees of the Jotunheim forests.


Ehwaz/Eh: The Horseman

Despite all fiction to the contrary, the Horseman Rune-Spirit is no romantic highwayman. He comes across as a cheerful, plain workingman whose job is traveling from one specific place to another, usually on horseback. Sometimes he is a carter bringing a cargo of goods from one place to the next, urging on his plodding carthorse - the original teamster/trucker, bringing Progress one mile at a time. Sometimes he is a courier, galloping on his swift-footed steed, delivering his message and tearing off with the reply without even getting out of the saddle. Unlike Raido, who takes long journeys for the experience of it, perhaps without even being sure where the journey will end, Ehwaz prefers to know where he is going, have a decent map, and get there and back with the mission safely accomplished. The goal is the point, not the trip; he is supremely goal-oriented and stays focused on that. He has a good deal of patience, though - sometimes the horse is just a plodding plowhorse and that's that - as long as he knows that it's all towards the greater goal. Ehwaz is most at home in the world of Midgard, as that is the world from which no other world is too far away, the centerpoint of connections.


Mannaz/Mann: The Bride

I expected Mannaz to be male when I called that Rune-Spirit forth, and I was taken aback to find a young female presence, garlanded with flowers, and very pregnant. "I am the Hope of the People," she said simply. It took me a moment to get over my surprise, and then I remembered that the word Mann has only meant "male human" for a millennium; before that it was were and wif for man and woman, and Mann was a neutral word for person; pluralized it was The People, as in the word for the Germanic tribe Alemanni - All-The-People.. (The story of how "person" came to mean "male person" and "female person" came to mean "married female person" is one not even worth going into for the pain of it.) I remembered, also, that the glyph for Mannaz is the man and woman being handfasted.

So here she was, the pregnant bride. Much younger than Berkana, ripe with her first babe but not yet a mother, just a maiden blossoming to the far edge of maidenhood. Mannaz is the one who carries the future of the People, the one whom they would protect, the one who holds out her hands in frith to bring tribes together on her wedding day. She is the one with constant hope, the mediator who resolves confrontations, the one who is ready to give of herself for the sake of her people, and all people beyond that. Of all the places in the Nine Worlds, it is Midgard that she loves, for her heart is given to those most beleaguered and in need - not out of pity or mercy, but out of the urge to bring peacemaking and justice, and set things right.


Laguz/Lac: The River-Daughter

The Rune-Spirit of Water appears like a river-spirit or lake-spirit, blue-garbed and glistening wet knee-deep in the river, or long hair swirling as she arises naked and sparkling from the lake. Her laugh is the rush of whitewater and her touch is cool and soothing, but there is a coldness to her that reminds us that she is not Berkana or Gyfu. She may laugh or weep in front of you, but it is for her own reasons and nothing to do with you; to grasp her is to see her slip through your fingers like water. She is a healer, but not from compassion so much as casual generosity; if her healing waters fall on you and work; wonderful. If not, she cares little. Her song is hypnotizing; she is solitary but seductive, drowning you in caresses, perhaps actually drowning you in some way if you are not careful. Laguz's ambivalent nature is shown by her favorite lurking places: she greatly enjoys Ljossalfheim's enchanted rivers and streams and springs, but her secret place is the cold waters of Niflheim, around the frozen waters. It is rumored that she is the daughter of Mistress Isa, and just as cold in her own way.


Inguz/Ing: The Corn King

Ing is one of the Rune-Spirits who carries a very clear archetype: that of the Corn King who is cut down that others may live. Like the God Ingvi/Frey whose name he carries, Ing-the-Rune plays the same part, that of sacrificing himself that others may live. Golden and beautiful with haunting eyes, he is perhaps a bit more wistful than the Gods with whom he shares this title. He rarely comes to people unsummoned, and rarely when actually summoned. His job is to aid with sacrifice when it is necessary, and walk the individual through the often painful process. Ing is a romantic, an idealist, one who is willing to give everything that someone else be saved. He often appears wreathed in grain or even bound into a corn-sheaf; he may also appear as a golden lover on the night of his sacrifice. He has a strange and erotic relationship with Perth, whose hand wields the sickle that lays him low. Ing is very much a creature of Vanaheim, where he is honored as First of the Runes.


Dagaz/Daeg: The Awakener

Dagaz is an androgynous Rune-Spirit who comes in a flash of light. Unlike Wyn, who is always surrounded by a glowing nimbus, Dagaz flashes onto the scene in a blaze that startles, then quickly dies down to a humming glow. Indeed, Dagaz practically hums with restrained energy in between dashes, as if being confined to one place for too long would build up so much energy that there would be an explosion. Bright-haired and bright-eyed, quick-fingered and intense, there is an almost hyperactive feel to this spirit. The presence of Dagaz brings an immediate heightening of energy and awakeness; it is impossible to be sleepy with that humming force right next to you. Dagaz prefers the world of Asgard to all others, largely because of its presence near the top of the Tree where morning comes first and longest.


Othila/Oethel: The Grandmother or Grandfather

Othila is another one of the spirits who can appear as either male or female depending on circumstance, but unlike the elf-maiden/elf-youth Wyn, Othila always appears as an aged elder of the community. Sometimes she is the Grandmother, keeping her memories at the heart of the home, guarding the hearthfire and the grandchildren. Sometimes he is the Grandfather, passing on the tales of wisdom, adjudicating inheritance, dividing up land for homes for the next generation. Othila is a quiet, introverted spirit who knows much about bloodlines and ancestry, and has the longest memory of any of the Rune-Spirits. Othila is strongly tied to the past, and does not like to work with modern things or concepts, although that can be negotiated with difficulty. Othila is also very home-bound, and prefers to work with a family on a piece of land that they own, rather than with someone transient. Othila prefers the world of Midgard to any other, especially the oldest places there.


Ear: The Reaper

Ear sometimes appears as male, sometimes as female, sometimes as a figure of indecipherable gender. Either way, Ear is clothed in black, bearing a blade, with eyes that chill to the bone. When male, the blade is a sword, when female, a sickle, when androgynous, a curved knife. Ear is the one to call when something needs to go and you do not have the heart to do the dirty deed yourself. Ear is patient, and strangely compassionate, but it is unwise to summon this spirit unless you have something for Ear to take away, or the Reaper will take something anyway. Ear will, however, listen patiently while you mourn, be a witness to your pain, and never tell you that you should be getting over this now. Ear also does the work of burying the Dead, and returning them to the Earth, and is good to call on for a link to the Ancestors. As one might expect, Ear is most often found in Helheim, the Land of the Dead.


Ac: The Chieftess

Ac is similar to Tyr in that she is a warrior, but rather than being the warrior in service, she has progressed to being the leader of warriors, and then of the whole tribe. Her energy is also similar to that of Uruz, in that strength fairly reverberates from her, but rather than aggressive strength it is more that of endurance, of the oak tree that bears the storm and does not fall. She is a mature female, appearing to me dressed still in her warrior's leathers and cloaked in brown, with a great oaken staff on which she leans, both weapon and mark of office. Sometimes it seems to be the pole that holds up the whole sky, and around which the stars wheel; either way, one gets the sense from her of utter reliability. When all is chaos, she can be depended on to take charge calmly and sensibly, and brooking no argument. She is the power of stable leadership, secure in itself and its confidence, as immovable as a mountain and as decisive as the sweeping staff. She is most at home in Jotunheim, and of course has an affinity for all oak trees.


Ior: The Shapeshifter

Ior is the guardian of all liminal states - that which is neither this nor that, and the passage between - so when Ior comes, Ior is always somewhere in between male and female, or human and animal, or solid and ethereal. Ior's shape changes constantly, and it is impossible to follow the shifts; you will become mesmerized, and then dizzy, if you try. Sometimes conversations with Ior are best done looking away for periods of time. Ior is excellent for helping you shape your hame, and is often summoned for this. On the other hand, another of Ior's gifts is binding, so Ior is capable of binding someone into one shape or another; Ior simply chooses not to do this to Ior-self. When Ior does bindings, there is a definite "twining" or "clinging" feel, like ivy, and then you are solid in the way that you want, until you undo the binding and let it drift away into nothingness, and begin to shift again. In spite of Ior's shifting nature, Ior likes being around Midgard, especially around the Serpent.


Os: The Skald

Os appeared to me as a middle-aged man, proud of bearing and keen of eye, hair touched with grey and long moustaches, and with a mellifluous voice that could put you into a trance if you listened to it too closely. He is the one who teaches about public speaking, making people hear you and making your words penetrate past their boundaries. "It does not matter how they remember that the idea came to them," he says, "only that is get in. In fact, if they remember themselves as coming up with it, rather than you telling them, all the better, for then they will defend it all the more fiercely!" To this end, he can assume many faces: fatherly, authoritarian, humble, impassioned, mystical, direct, sober or cheerful, and all are tools for him to reach his audience. Os is musician, singer, speaker, writer, anything to do with words and sound, internal and external. As the greatest of the malrunar, he bestows the gift of great speech, but only for a short period of time when the need arises.


Yr: The Archer or Craftsman

Yr always appears to me as a very Duergar-like man, small and wiry and craggy and silent. He bears a bow and arrows, and his hands look as if they could bring forth all sorts of wonderful things - potter's hands, carver's hands, sculptor's hands. He is capable of sitting and staring at something for an unbelievably long time, with a gaze that could drill holes through walls, and then with a grunt he reaches out and Makes something of it. The long stare was his way of learning all there was to know about it, so that it is as nothing to tweak some small thing and change it. His patience is immense, and his aim is keenly accurate. He speaks little, but when he speaks it will cut to the quick with a single phrase. As one of the hugrunar, his powers lend focus and aim when bound with other skill-oriented runes. Yr is most fond of the world of Svartalfheim, both the above-ground forests (where he can hunt with his arrows) and the below-ground havens of craft.


Cweorth: The Fire-Keeper

Cweorth always comes with fire. Making fire is what he loves best. That may be carefully tending the communal flame that warms the tribe, cooks their food, keeps predators away, and is crucial to their survival. It may be lighting the funeral pyre for the beloved dead, and marking his face with their ashes in mourning. It may also be burning someone's house down, or even the entire forest, in vengeance for a slight. Fire and its passion is central to Cweorth's nature, as is smoke and ash. He is summoned when something needs to go away fast, now, never mind the pain, just rip it out and burn it down, and he is usually glad to help, although he may not seem so. Cweorth is reserved and guarded, laconic of speech, a thin dark wiry man who crouches by the fire, feeding it wood as if it was his child. He is close with his feelings and does not speak often, although he will sing loudly when the pyre rages and leaps high. His home is, of course, Muspellheim, where he is greatly loved by Surt.


Chalc: The Dreamer

Chalc is another of the Rune-Spirits who can show themselves as male or female depending on the circumstance and the summoner. Chalc is a dreamy adolescent with a high-flown imagination who speaks in poetry and vivid images. Sometimes Chalc is a young girl with faeries in her eyes, sometimes a young boy set on future adventure. Beauty and glory are very important to Chalc, as is the idea of love, but it is not wise to depend on Chalc to carry things through difficult and grubby times. However, Chalc's greatest gift is a deep well of faith in the future, and in one's ability to pursue joy, that many folks would do well to learn to tap into. Chalc's greatest love is the world of Ljossalfheim, for that world contains thousands of dreams and images, and is the most beautiful of all the worlds.


Stan: The Gatekeeper

Stan is one of the androgynous Rune-Spirits whose gender is not apparent. Stan often appears as a grinning, hunched, gnomelike figure wearing a cloak which sprouts moss and weeds, with a face that looks indeed like it was carved out of stone ... but that lumpish figure is not to be underestimated. Stan is wisewoman, cunning-man, hedge-witch, the one who knows many old secrets and keeps them close. Stan is the Gatekeeper to the Mysteries, and knows much but teaches little; you will mostly get riddles and conundrums and metaphors out of that chuckling mouth. Stan loves any arched gate, any door in an outside wall, any circle of standing stones, and will sing unintelligible songs in a high, shrill voice. If Stan shows up without being invited, it means that what is going on now is crucial, reverberating out beyond one person's inner world, and Stan wants to be there to see it happen. Stan prefers to be in Ljossalfheim, and has a great love of the common Alfar and faeries.


Gar: The Door

Gar never shows itself with a human face; it is purely a spirit-presence, sometimes a pillar of light shading to dark at the bottom. Gar is a living spirit-doorway, a connection to the Gods and the Cosmos, the entrypoint of wod. Gar is rarely called on, and when called, rarely comes; it is not possible to command the gateway to the Gods to open. One must summon, pray, and hope. If Gar does come, Gar is the best spirit possible for signal clarity in receiving messages. Gar belongs to no grouping - no aett, no stafr-group. It is simply itself, apart, "all alone and ever more shall be so," as one spirit-worker referred to it, quoting the old song. No world holds any more interest for Gar than any other; its affinity is with the World-Tree itself.