Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Stanza 144

daily 144 featuredThe Hávamál is one of the poems of the Poetic Edda.  It sets out a set of guidelines for wise living and survival.  The Hávamál consists of a number of poems, which shift in tone and tenor and narrative position.  Numerous English translations exist of the text.

Stanza 144

Original -
Veiztu hvé rísta skal?
Veiztu hvé ráða skal?
Veiztu hvé fá skal?
Veiztu hvé freista skal?
Veiztu hvé biðja skal?
Veiztu hvé blóta skal?
Veiztu hvé senda skal?
Veiztu hvé sóa skal?

Translation -
Do you know how to carve them?
Do you know how to read them?
Do you know how to blood them?
Do you know how to test them?
Do you know how to invoke them?
Do you know how to blót?
Do you know how to cast them?
Do you know how to prepare the ritual slaughter?
-Hávamál: Stanza 144

This stanza is where much of our ritual knowledge of the runes use comes from. Some of the rituals here are still known, others have had to be recreated for modern worshipers.
Line 3 - Many translations will say “Do you know how to stain them?”. The phrase is thought to refer to the practice of ritually staining the runes with blood. Generally your own, or that of a ritual sacrifice made at a blot. The tradition of 'blooding' the runes is an ancient tradition that differentiated runic inscriptions from runes used for divination.
Line 5 - In this line we see a reference to ritual invocation. However the ancients might have accomplished this ritual, the knowledge has been lost. The modern tradition, however, is fairly well known and widely practiced. Many believe that one can invoke the runes through a ritual chant. Slowly droning the names of each rune, each name in spoken for the length of one breath.
Line 6 - The ritual of the blót is still alive and well! The blot was a Norse Pagan sacrifice to the Norse Gods and the spirits of the land. The sacrifice now often takes the form of a sacramental meal or feast.
Line 7 - The knowledge of “casting” the runes was actually preserved by the Roman, Tacitus. While studying the Germanic peoples he wrote about the practice, saying:
“They attach the highest importance to the taking of auspices and casting lots. Their usual procedure with the lot is simple. They cut off a branch from a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips these they mark with different signs and throw them at random onto a white cloth. Then the state’s priest, if it is an official consultation, or the father of the family, in a private one, offers prayer to the gods and looking up towards heaven picks up three strips, one at a time, and, according to which sign they have previously been marked with, makes his interpretation. If the lots forbid an undertaking, there is no deliberation that day about the matter in question. If they allow it, further confirmation is required by taking auspices.”
This was written around 100 CE and is one of the only known accounts of ancient runic divination.
While verses like 144 might not contain the beautiful philosophical advice of the Havamal that so many of us love, it’s verses like these that help to preserve our history.


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