The Northern Way

Elder Runes and Magic

  The manuscript of the Old English Runic Poem has been de­stroyed in a fire in 1731, but the text is fortunately preserved in a 1705 edition by George Hickes based on a fairly reliable copy by Wanley; it con­sists of 29 short stanzas, one for each rune of the expanded Anglo-Saxon fuÞorc. The other two poems come from Scandinavia: the Norwegian one is known through various XVIIth c. copies of a manuscript lost in 1728 (the text consists of a set of two lines each for the 16 runes of the shorter new Scandinavian fuÞark, dating back to the latter part of XIIIth century); the Icelandic one is preserved in four manuscripts - the oldest from the end of the XVth c. - and describes each of the 16 runes of the new fuÞark in a three line stanza. A lot has been written about these runic poems, and undoubtedly, they may contain some old traditional material, but it would be nevertheless dif­ficult to assume, as R. M. Meyer did back in 1907 ("Die altgermanischen Runengedichte", in P.B.B, vol. 32, pp. 67-84). that they all derive from a common Germanic prototype. The terseness of the Abecedarium Nord­mandicum fairly well excludes such an assertion, and it is more plausible to assume that the striking formal parallels in the poetic diction of the Nor­wegian and Icelandic texts; e. g.. under Þurs: kvinna kvillu vs. kvenna kuọl; under bjarkan: laufgronstr lima vs. laufgat lim: etc., are simply due to the prevailing scaldic tradition, as Lucien Musset (Introduction à la runologie [Paris, 196..5], p. 127) suggests. The rune ᚦ is called Thurs in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called thorn, whence the name of the letter þ derived. It is transliterated as þ, and has the sound value of a voiceless dental fricative

Ero vǫlor allar frá Viðolfi, ~ All the vǫlor are decended from Viðolfr

vitkar allir frá Vilmeiði, ~ all the vitkar from Vilmeiðr

en seiðberendr frá Svarthöfða, ~ all the seiðberendr from Svarthöfði

jötnar allir frá Ymi komnir, ~ all the giants from Ymir

Völuspá in skamma (The Shorter Völuspá)

Key: seiðberendr = seið-carrier ~ vitkar = warlocks/magicians  ~ vǫlor = seið-witch

Magic either works or it does not work for the sorcerer or witch. The idea of negative or evil magic is a modern concept based around religious Church doctrines stemming back to the Middle-Ages. There is also a Battle Aspect to seiðr which you will find by delving much deeper into the sagas. It is historical.