Monday, July 11, 2011

Runes 101 - Runes in Mythology 4

In my last installment of Runes 101- Runes in Mythology, I mentioned Rigsthula.  In this myth, Heimdall is credited with establishing the three classes of humans - serfs, freemen, and nobility.  However, this myth tells an important story about the Runes too.  In the myth, after Heimdall, going by the name Rigr, establishes the classes, he goes a step further with his nobly-born son, Jarl.  Stepping out of the woods one day where Jarl is, Heimdall greets him as his father and teaches Jarl the Runes.  Then Rigr tells Jarl that, by his birthright, he is entitled to primogeniture lands.

Heeding this knowledge, Jarl goes to battle and, victorious, rules over eighteen estates.  After a time, Jarl marries a woman named Erna and they have eleven children.  Of those children, it is Kon the Young, the youngest child, who learns the Runes from his father Jarl.

Here is where this story gets interesting, not only in the mythology, but in the etymology as well.  Let's do the latter first.  Rig has its origins in Irish/Celtic culture and means "king".  In Old Norse, konr and ungr, which are Kon and Young, together make konungr, the Old Norse word for "king".

Given the boy's name, he is destined to be king.  The important thing to point out here is that he becomes king because of his knowledge of the Runes.  This returns us to the mythology.  As the story goes, after some time Kon's skill with the Runes comes to rival his father's.  He learns life-Runes, birth-Runes, fate-Runes, how to dull sword blades, calm the sea, talk to birds, put out fires, ease sorrow, and he possesses the strength of eight men.  One day, Kon's Runic wisdom surpasses his father's, earning him the title of Rigr or King.

So, why am I telling you this?   For a couple of reasons.  First, it's a great story.  If you haven't read Rigsthula and the other Norse myths you should.  Second, it shows the importance of Runes in Old Norse society.  They were more than letters; each one held magical powers.  Moreover, it is the nobility that receives the gift of the Runic secrets from the gods.

Although I offer free readings to people, I can assure you that I am not of noble blood.  Maybe that is why the readings I do never have anything to do with dulling swords or calming seas, at least not literally.

No comments:

Post a Comment