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Valknut, or Valk..not

This is a symbol consisting of three interlocking triangles and appears on a wide variety of archaeological finds from the Germanic people. But despite its widespread use, the actual meaning behind this symbol is somewhat undecided.

One chapter of the Prose Edda contains the following description of the heart of the Hrungnir (a stone made giant and obnoxious drunk); “Hrungnir had a heart that was famous. It was made of hard stone with three sharp-pointed corners just like the carved symbol hrungnishjarta.” This would suggest that the Valknut is not actually a symbol at all, but a depiction of a stone heart of someone later slain by Thor.

Valknut is actually a modern Norwegian word that means “knot of those fallen in battle” and was introduced by Norwegians who lived long after the ancient Norse.

So if it’s not to do with Odin, then why is it so often recognised as him?

The Valknut is found in archaeological materials that are of death (runestones and ship burials). Alongside it, you will very often find depictions of Odin, or of animals associated with Odin (horses and wolves for example).

Hilda Ellis Davidson, a Cambridge scholar and Folklorist had a theory that has essentially bought along the modern idea of Odin’s connection. She suggested that the Valknut was actually a depiction of Odin’s power over man; “Odin had the power to lay bonds upon the mind, so that men became helpless in battle, and he could also loosen the tensions of fear and strain by his gifts of battle-madness, intoxication, and inspiration.” Davidson (1990:147). As Odin is closely connected with the gathering of fallen warriors to his hall Valhalla, the Valknut is assumed then to be a symbol of glory in death.

Editors hypothesis

Although most of this Norse 101 blog is designed to be as factual as possible, I have long had further speculation that indeed neither theory is wrong, but just not complete. I invite you to indulge me as I write this conjecture below.

First, let us look at Valhalla. This is a hall in which Odin resides over, preparing the fallen he (or let’s be honest; the Valkyrie) has collected from battle. The basic premise of this hall (that has been documented) is that the warriors are training for the final battle at Ragnarok. But it is the manner of this training that we must pay further attention to. What is supposed is that the warriors battle until only one is left standing, then Odin resurrects the warriors who enjoy a huge feast, to repeat this all again the next day.

But, it is well recognised by many ancient traditions that you feast before, not after, battle. Which brings me to my second point.

Hrungnir’s story is a superb and probably well recognised one of its time. Hrungnir took a bet with Odin on their horses. A somewhat foolish wager when you consider that Sleipnir is an 8 legged horse and considerably faster, so of course Hrungnir’s steed Gullfaxi loses. At some point (and likely to celebrate Odin’s win) Hrungnir enters Asgard but during the celebration, he becomes drunk and obnoxious. The Gods quickly bore of him and request that Thor battles him. Thor with Mjölnir in hand dispatches Hrungnir and there ends his tale.

Hrungnir has been translated to mean “brawler” or as ‘big person, strong man’. So when slain in battle, where else would he end up but in Valhalla, the exact hall to which the intoxication of his death occured. See where we are going with this yet?

If we take the fact that the Prose Edda was collated by Snorri Sturluson in the early 13th century, the chances are it is closer to the truth, thus suggesting that the symbol is in fact Hrungnishjarta. But why then would it be on the runestones, burial ships and other common death-related items?

Perhaps it is in reference to a bigger picture. Not multiple symbols of one God, but in fact the depiction of a full story. Under this hypothesis, perhaps the mourner is offering a hope for their afterlife; drink and eat until you are intoxicated, battle until you fall, and repeat in Odin’s hall. To Valhalla we hope you go.

Far-right misappropriation

Valknut is a symbol often stolen by far-right groups, predominantly due to the “glory in violence and battle” philosophy. The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) state that “Nonracist pagans may also use this symbol, so one should carefully examine it in context rather than assume that a particular use of the symbol is racist.”

We are strong believers that education is key. Unlike the 1940’s, we now have access to vast amounts of information at tip of our fingers. As long as we can continue to counter with facts and education, we can hold those wolves at bay.

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The Norn’s Guide To Reading Runes

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably ordered one of our sets of incredible Runes, and are now looking for better information on how to read them, and a few tips we have picked up along the way.

Runes are quickly emerging as one of the most popular forms of divination. This is likely to do with their ease to read, but also (at least in the UK) for the connection to our ancestors this ancient alphabet gives us.

Runes – The Alphabet

So firstly let’s talk about what runes are. The word rune comes from the Old Norse word rún (meaning “secret, runic letter”), which comes from the Proto-Germanic word *rūnō (meaning “letter, literature, secret”. Generally, runes are the elder futhark symbols or Germanic Futhark. Futhark was a writing system or alphabet used by Germanic peoples during the Migration Period in approximately the 2nd to 8th century. Runes themselves are symbols that were inscribed on a variety of objects such as weapons, deathbeds, gifts etc, and each rune has its own significant meaning, which we will go into in a bit.

There is a younger futhark and also an Anglo Saxon futhark that some people also rely on, but most rune sets you will find are based on the original symbols, due to the fact that it is believed Odin himself gifted them to us. That’s not to say you can’t use the other writing systems if you find that helps you connect better with your ancestors.

We know with quite a bit of certainty the Old English names of all 24 runes of the Elder Futhark, as they are preserved in the Old English rune poem, which was compiled around the 8th or 9th century. Based then also that they are in agreement with the better recognised younger futhark and gothic alphabet, they remain one of the few primaeval writing systems that have very little guesswork in it.

Where did they come from – an Odin’s tale

So marvel will tell you Odin was the god of war but more importantly to Norse Pagans; Odin was also the god of wisdom. He was a truth seeker, and for a time period where a man’s word was as solid as a phone contract nowadays, that was a big deal. It’s not clear if Odin was always intended to become the allfather, but that’s certainly how it transpired over time.

The story goes that at the centre of the cosmos stands the great tree Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil’s upper branches cradle Asgard, the home and fortress of the Aesir gods and goddesses, of whom Odin is the chief.

Yggdrasil grows out of the Well of Urd, which is this big pool whose fathomless depths hold many of the most powerful forces in the cosmos. Among these beings are the Norns, three maidens (one can note here again the power of three which resonates amongst most old beliefs) and they create the fate of all beings. So when i say fates; the Norse didn’t believe that your story was pre-decided, but rather each person had a death date. Your death was determined, but the route you take to get there was up to you. One of the most common techniques they use to shape fate is carving runes into Yggdrasil’s trunk. The symbols then carry these intentions throughout the tree, affecting everything in the Nine Worlds.

Now, Odin is as Odin does, watched the Norns from his seat in Asgard and envied their powers and their wisdom. Like all wise men, you can never learn enough. But the runes do not reveal themselves to anyone except those who prove themselves worthy. Odin hung himself from a branch of Yggdrasil and pierced himself with his spear. He refused aid, and he hung there for nine days and nine nights, on the precipice that separates the living from the dead. At the end of the ninth night, he started to see shapes. The runes had finally accepted his sacrifice and shown themselves to him, revealing to him not only their forms but also the secrets that lie within them.

‘Ere long I bare fruit, and throve full well,

I grew and waxed in wisdom;

word following word, I found my words,

deed following deed, I wrought deeds.

THe Hávamál: Stanza 140

Thanks to knowing the secrets of the runes he became the most accomplished being in the nine worlds. He learned chants that enabled him to heal wounds, to bind his enemies and render their weapons worthless, to free himself from constraints, to put out fires, to expose and banish practitioners of malevolent magic, to protect his friends in battle, to wake the dead, to win and keep a lover, and basically absolutely anything he could think up… like superman with no kryptonite.
So in his wise old age, Odin gifted us the ability to read the runes. We assume by not being gods, our “powers” were somewhat limited, but their meaning was not. And when you think about it, the idea that words wield the most power remains true to this day.

We need to remember that runes are a translation tool to the old world magic. They don’t have the power to see the future, as that is yours to create, but they do have the power to connect us to our ancestors, ask for guidance and generally communicate. If you want to get the most out of runes, look at them as a not so secret alphabet that you and anyone can learn, if you’re willing to take the time to learn them.

For a full list of Runes, Click HERE.

So, there is no set way to use runes and there are many different methods that people adopt and adapt, as the rune is just the alphabet, not the message itself.

Commonly runes are used in Norse pagan altars, or as Sigils on important items, personal and gifted.

The four most popular methods for reading Runes;

With your runes in their pouch, close your eyes, concentrate on what you want an answer for and choose a rune from the bag as your answer.

Gently toss the runes from the bag onto a soft surface and the runes while thinking of what you want an answer for and the rune(s) that stand out the most to you is your answer. If you use this method with our resin runes, please make sure the surface is super soft, and clean (to avoid damage to the polished surface).

Lay the runes out in grid and let your hand pass over the runes slowly while concentrating on what you want an answer for. Use your left hand if you are right-handed and your right hand if you are left-handed. You will sense the rune that holds the answer to your question.

With your eyes closed and while in a neutral state of mind draw three runes from the bag and line them up. The first rune is an answer to a past situation, the second one is an answer to a present situation and the last is an answer to a future situation.

Finally, it is extremely important that whatever you want, whatever you ask, say it clearly out loud. Gods and ancestors can’t read minds, if you are not saying what it is you want to work out out loud, the runes are nothing more than guesswork. You can’t crack a secret if you haven’t got the key right.

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The Runes – Elder Futhark – A comprehensive Understanding

The Elder Futhark consists of 24 runes divided into three groups of eight, known as an ætt (singular of ættir), which are said to be ruled over by both a god and goddess. The first ætt is ruled over by Frey and Freyja, the deities of fertility. The second ætt is ruled over by Heimdall and Mordgud, and the third and final ætt is ruled over by Tîwaz and Zisa.

Pronunciation tip – generally the closest modern language we have to old Norse is Icelandic, so common pronunciation is taken from that. “R” is generally rolled, “u” is strong, and “d” is more of a click of the tongue than a lazy d sound.

What is also important to remember is that the letters do not translate a like for like alphabet, rather focus on the phonetics. Where the most important differentials are, we have included in the list below.

Feru ᚠ (F)

Meaning: Cattle, Wealth
What Fehu means in a rune casting: Power and control.
Fehu represents a measure of a man’s worth, meaning your status within your community and family, as well as hard work toward a goal. Fehu is about your independence, self-worth, income earned, and revenue. When it lands upright, it is considered a sign of financial abundance and wish fulfilment.

Uruz ᚢ (U, Long O sound)

Meaning: Aurochs, Wild Ox
What Uruz means in a rune casting: Power we can never own or control.
Uruz is the bearer of strength, health, vitality, personal willpower and masculine energy. Upright, it indicates your strength will prevail and success is near. In a relationship, it indicates strong emotions.

Thurisaz ᚦ (TH, ð)

Meaning: Giant
What Thurisaz means in a rune casting: Resisting unwanted conflict, protection, change that would have come without warning.
Thurisaz provides strong protection and luck. Thurisaz represents the Hammer of Thor, the mighty weapon Mjölnir, protector of man and gods alike. Casting this rune indicates a stroke of luck and symbolises using force to overcome obstacles. Thurisaz represents the masculine force balancing with the feminine to create a third force. It can indicate destruction in order to create something new.

Ansuz ᚨ (Ah sound -nasal a, also used for O and E)

Meaning: God or Diety (usually Odin)
What Ansuz means in a rune casting: Stability and order.
Ansuz stands for communication and knowledge to be had. Ansuz is the rune for the mouth, as it refers to the spoken word and acquisition of wisdom. It can also indicate written communications of all types, including exams, or a chance encounter with someone who has the knowledge you need. It can Indicate parental types of advice or advice that is freely given.

Raidho ᚱ (R)

Meaning: Ride, Journey, Chariot
What Raidho means in a rune casting: Focusing energy toward accomplishing goals.
Raidho represents swift movement and travel. This could mean in travel in a literal sense, like a vacation, or figuratively, such as moving forward with a new venture or relationship. It might even indicate a journey of your soul.

Kenaz (or Kaunaz) ᚲ (K, G)

Meaning: Beacon, Torch, Ulcer
What Kenaz means in a rune casting: Knowledge and understanding.
Kenaz, the Norse symbol for fire, represents the home fires burning where fertility is possible. It’s not the destructive side of fire, but rather the warmth and comfort fire can afford. Kenaz is a protective rune indicating a time of lessening of worries and troubles, as well as heightened creativity, passion, and personal power. As a rune of fertility, it may appear in a casting to indicate a birth, either literal or figurative (such as the birth of a new idea).

Gebo ᚷ (G)

Meaning: Gift
What Gebo means in a rune casting: Honor and the connection between people when they give and receive gifts.
Gebo symbolises the best gifts in life and is almost always indicative of a blessing you will receive. Gebo indicates some type of partnership, maybe even a marriage proposal. Sometimes, Gebo can indicate the issue is of an emotional nature.

Wunjo ᚹ (W/V)

Meaning: Joy
What Wunjo means in a rune casting: Balance even in the midst of chaos.
Wunjo is another of the positive runes, a symbolic representation of joy and happiness. In a rune casting, it indicates a positive outcome for troubles. Wunjo is a rune of success and shows the wheel of fortune has turned in your favor (or will soon). In a love reading, it could indicate a deep and respectful love with a strong potential for lasting happiness. Wunjo can also mean happiness in your work, especially if the work is creative in nature.
Wunjo reverse merkstave meaning: Slow movement, troubles that are burdensome to surmount.

Hagalaz ᚺ (H)

Meaning: Hail
What Hagalaz means in a rune casting: Hard times that will eventually run smooth.
Hagalaz represents forces outside your control. It is one of the primary runes for delays and limitations, as well as a symbol of disruption. Hagalaz can turn up for someone considering taking some type of a risk.

Naudiz ᚾ (N)

Meaning: Need
What Naudiz means in a rune casting: Needing or wanting something that is limiting.
Naudiz means it’s time to slow down, counselling patience, and is considered one of the three great runes of delay. Naudiz advises you to hold back as no amount of haste will speed things up. Naudiz also indicates passing through a difficult learning situation. It refers to a time of crossing the abyss. Emotional challenges of some nature are indicated by Naudiz. You may be called upon to conquer fear.

Isa (or Isaz) ᛁ (I – the ee sound)

Meaning: Ice
What Isa means in a rune casting: Things frozen in place.
Isa is one of the three main delay runes and indicates a freeze of sorts. No movement will be had will Isa at play. Isa forces us to stop action in a certain direction. Isa in a relationship reading could indicate a breach of loyalty. Isa regardless of the type of relationship shows a cooling off.

Jera ᛃ (J, Y)

Meaning: Year, Good Year, Harvest
What Jera means in a rune casting: The cycle of life.
Jera represents the Harvest and indicates a time when you will reap what you have sown. Looking at the surrounding runes will be helpful in determining the type of harvest being referenced. Jera can also represent legal issues and justice of all types. Jera shows that the harvest can’t be rushed and will come in its own time. In a primarily negative rune cast, Jera can mean that all is not lost.

Eihwaz ᛇ (E,Ey,Ei,I sounds)

Meaning: Yew tree
What Eihwaz means in a rune casting: Magical protection and facilitation.
Eihwaz shows that protective forces are at play. To the ancient Norse, Eihwaz represented the Yew tree. Eihwaz was a powerful ally to the Norse in their daily life. The Yew tree was the tree of Yggdrasil, the great tree which forms the nine worlds of man and spirit. The Yew was also the best tree for making prized longbows. If Eihwaz is in a prominent place, no matter how bad things seem, they will turn for the better.

Perdhro ᛈ (P)

Meaning: Uncertain meaning — possibilities include cup, luck, pear tree
What Perdhro means in a rune casting: Uncertainties of life and free will.
Perdhro or Perthro indicates deep mystery surrounding the issue. Even experts in runology struggle with the meaning of this rune as a letter, but for divination purposes its meaning is a clear indication of things that are hidden, secrets or the occult. Perthro can show something that was once hidden will come to light. In a relationship reading, it can indicate intense chemistry. Perthro can also indicate that you have a strong connection to intuitive or occult abilities.

Algiz ᛉ (Z,X,Y,R)

Meaning: Elk, Protection
What Algiz means in a rune casting: Great restraint, power and protection.
Algiz is the rune of friendship, and means something new is beginning. It can point to a new friendship or positive new influence in your life. Algiz tells you to go with your instincts and use your intuition.

Sowilo ᛊ (S)

Meaning: The Sun
What Sowulo means in a rune casting: The ability to see things more clearly, light shining on dark times.
Sowilo means victory and power abound. In a rune casting, it shows you have much potential for power to bring beneficial changes to your life. If Sowulo is cast in a reading, swift victory is indicated. Since Sowulo is also associated with health, if its in a mostly positive reading it would indicate recovery or a strong life force.

Tiwaz ᛏ (T, D where D sits in the middle to end of the word)

Meaning: The sky god Tyr
What Tiwaz means in a rune casting: Success without personal sacrifice.
Tiwaz or Tiewaz is a victory in the competition, which can really be anything you hope to succeed in. This rune embodies the competitive spirit. If Tiwaz appears in a casting, you may be looking to take up a cause to fight for. Tiwaz shows you are ready to fight for what you believe in, pointing to motivation and overcoming the odds.

Berkano ᛒ (B, P)

Meaning: Birch
What Berkana means in a rune casting: New beginning.
Berkana, the preeminent rune of birth, symbolises the Mother and Child; It’s considered a rune of fertility. The birth may be an actual one or the birth of an idea. In a rune cast for a new project, it indicates a tangible result and plans should be implemented right away. Berkana shows a positive outcome.

Ehwaz ᛖ (E,Eh sounds)

Meaning: Horse
What Ehwaz means in a rune casting: Relationships.

Ehwaz is the movement of a dwelling place, such as a relocation of home or even work. It signifies change but a change for the better, the type of change that is the result of planning and effort, perhaps of a gradual nature. Ehwaz can point to common sense advice that will aid you in troubles.

Mannaz ᛗ (M)

Meaning: Man, Mankind
What Mannaz means in a rune casting: Achieving your full potential, reminding us of the shared human experience, gaining the upper hand.
Mannaz signals depending on community support, having supportive assistance around you. It is a rune of interdependence. This rune can indicate aid or advice that is honest and unbiased. It can indicate you are too close to the problem and need to step back for a broader view. Mannaz can also indicate problems with women, regardless of your gender.

Laguz ᛚ (L)

Meaning: Water, Lake, Leek
What Laguz means in a rune casting: The power of water and its fluid nature.
Laguz means to trust your gut; intuition is key here. Laguz counsels you to pay attention to your intuition. It may indicate psychic abilities, even if you are not aware of any. Laguz is the principal feminine rune, and will often appear when your dreams should be looked to for guidance. Good memory and success in learning are also a focus for Laguz.

Inguz ᛜ (Ng sounds)

Meaning: The earth god Ing or Inguz
What Inguz means in a rune casting: Protective energy spreads far and wide. Inguz means an end to worry is in sight; resolution and peace are forthcoming. Inguz is almost always a positive rune. It shows relief is at hand and the ability to overcome obstacles is with you. Inguz in a rune casting could indicate a milestone event, such as a birth, a new job or a new relationship. Inguz points to auspicious beginnings and an end to over anxiety and strife.

Dagaz ᛞ (D, Starting letter)

Meaning: Day
What Dagaz means in a rune casting: Stability between opposites.
Dagaz means healthy growth, prosperity and hope. In a rune casting, it shows a time of peaceful gains and portends a period of increase, even in a negative cast. When Dagaz appears with delay runes it indicates a softening of their effects. Dagaz shows you that a new day will dawn.

Othala ᛟ (O – Oh sound)

Meaning: Inheritance, Ancestral property
What Othala means in a rune casting: Wealth that cannot be sold.
Othala represents the valuable things money cannot buy, such as friends, family and loved ones, as well as inherited property and wealth. Depending on the surrounding runes in a casting, it can indicate someone who is stingy with material possessions, or alternatively, a person who works very hard.

The Blank Rune (also known as Wyrd or Odin’s rune)

The blank rune has no meaning in traditional rune casting and generally should not be used.
The blank rune first appeared in the 1980’s and is said by those who use it to represent the element of the unknown, showing areas where clarity is needed.

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Mjölnir (pronounced Me-yol-neer) is the depiction of Thor’s hammer. The common assumption of the etymology of this word is that it is the “lightning-maker” and this is depicted in the Marvel Universe.

Image: The Lolland Pendant. National Museum of Denmark

However, there is also a valid argument for the connection to the Old Norse word “Mala” which means to grind and thus “the grinder”. This then offers a clear link to the Vajra, which in Indian mythology is considered the most powerful weapon in the universe, built from diamond and a thunderbolt. Vajra as a symbol and tool comes from the Hindu religion which to date is still considered the oldest religion of the world, and not the only symbol in Norse mythology that shares that link.

Many Heathens wear this symbol proudly as a representation of their faith to the Æsir. To a Heathen, this symbol is important as it represents Thor’s sacred role of protector, both to human and Gods alike. To most Heathens, this is a religious symbol and not a fashion item, which frustrates many with the increased popularity of Viking TV shows and films.

This weapon was created by the dwarves as part of a contest by Loki’s design. It was the weapon of choice for Thor, a weapon that would always return to his hand when thrown, but it is also an instrument used for blessings and protection. It was also documented as used for oaths between men, likely along the lines of “if I break this oath, let Thor’s hammer smite me down”.

Silver Thor’s Hammer: Grave 511, Repton, Derbyshire.

A middle ages Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus makes mention that huge hammers were kept in one of Thor’s temples in Sweden, and that periodically the people would hold a ritual there that involved beating the hammers against a form of drum to make sounds much like thunder. The assumption here is that this was probably a blessing for the local community, and perhaps a protection ceremony.

The Mjölnir is mentioned in many stories but easily the most popular of these is Þrymskviða, which tells the story of how the giants stole the weapon in order to bribe Freyja into marriage. In order to avoid this, Thor dresses as a bride, and Loki joins (most likely for the laughs) and they head off to a feast in Jötunheimr (the giant’s realm). Although making a fool of himself at the feast, Loki’s quick tongue allows Thor to get his hands back on Mjölnir, and subsequently Thor used the weapon to destroy the giants.