The Nine Worlds Series: Niflheim

In Norse lore, Niflheim is one of the first of the Nine Worlds to emerge into being. Mist-Home is filled with icy mountains and glaciers. The entire realm seemed perilously high but that may be because of where I landed upon entering the world. Obviously, Niflheim is also frigidly cold. The whole world is bombarded with snow and wind, and heavy grey clouds hang in the sky. These were my observations on my first travel excursion to Niflheim nearly a year ago.

I’ve visited Nifl-World a few times since then. One foggy night nearly six months after my very first trip, I visited by astral home and from there made my way to Niflheim. I eventually found the road that I had been shown so many times before and I struggled to move at all. The snow was deep and frigid cold. The wind was howling and a storm was gathering. I made a tiny bit of progress along the way. As the storm gathered, I thought about seeking shelter and in an instant I ended up in a small cave that I think belonged to an ice giant or some other denizen of the realm. The owner of the home, such as it was, was nowhere in sight. The walls of the space were pale and a small window faced the gathering storm in the southwest. The room was warmer than the outdoors but I did not linger. I gathered myself and all of my accompanying parts and left post-haste. I desperately needed the warmth and took ease where I shouldn’t have.

When I returned to the road I paused to ask my guide why I was having so much trouble. I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of progress on this journey so I had to ask. My guide spoke of the sluggish nature of Isa and of the toilsome work embodied by Nauthiz. My journey through Niflheim having been supported by these two runic forces was mired in their might, for better or worse. My guide added that various parts of my soul are energetically compatible with Niflheim and other parts are less so which adds to my challenges with navigating this world.

After sharing these tidbits with me he showed me flashes of the Nifl-Giants, most slow moving and the oldest ones appearing completely unmoving to the naked eye, but all of them present and aware and active in their own way. I understood that they figure time, energy, and awareness differently than I do. What had felt like a literally glacial pace to me was just another hectic day to them.

In a previous divination session and another meditation I was told that my time in Niflheim would be lengthy. My guide’s comments about the flow of Nifl life helped me to see that basically I need to slow down and focus in order to get anywhere or do anything in Niflheim. Again time, energy, and everything are figured differently here. His call was not for the slow ease of a Caribbean vacation but for the careful, meditative engagement that comes through a wise mind sharply focused on a task – which is pretty slow if not “easy”.

After I received my guide’s rede I collected myself and returned to the middle world. I opened my eyes and gasped at the time because what had felt to me like a 30-minute astral journey had in fact been two hours.

When considering the runes that rule this world, a few came to mind. Mist-Home has strong Isa might of course, and Hagalaz factors prominently as well in the form of the cosmic seed. For humans, Nauthiz is a part of Niflheim too because it provides the needed spark of warmth, light, and life to deliver us from the Bone Chill of Mist-Home. I say Nauthiz instead of Kenaz because Nauthiz is is the red blinking emergency light to Kenaz’s warm white hall light. Nauthiz is the last light, the only light, the one standing between us and the teeming hordes of the yawning dark. Nauthiz is the warding force at the edge of the camp fire keeping the predators at bay.

When facing the challenges of Niflhiem, at the human scale of power, the Hrimthursar can’t be bested by overpowering (too much energy) or erosion (too much time). The Rime Thursar can’t be trampled over. They must be worked around or worked with, like mighty glaciers. Glaciers move extremely slowly and yet are powerful beyond compare. They are destructive and also creative – sculpting the continents and nourishing life on Earth for eons. Never forget, the first Well – Hverglmir – emanates from Niflheim.

After having been to Niflheim a few times, here’s some travel advice gained from a giantess I met on my first visit and from experience there after:

  1. Do not travel in human form. The mountains have eyes and humans are generally unwelcome in this realm.
  2. Do not use fire often. It may act as a beacon for woe.
  3. Do not wander in this world. One should be here with a purpose so stay on the road presented to you.
  4. Keep moving! Slow and steady.
  5. If challenged on the way, speak the name of the Power who protects you and under whose auspices you travels. If you are allied with no such being, reconsider your travel plans.
  6. Navigate the storms (and all of this world) with great care. It lives. I’ve found this to be just as true of the Eight Worlds as of our One World.

Blessed Travels!

Rune Songs

Runes are the mysteries of the universe and the complex nuances of our existence on this mighty sphere. If you’ve worked with the runes at all, you know that sound and song are central to their mysteries. That can include anything from toning and chanting to accompanied singing, all of which – with a magical aspect – can fit into what we call galdr. Often with the runes we feel compelled to pull them into the romanticized past where nothing can touch them but our skillfully crafted, oddly rigid imagination under the guise of deep spirituality.

Lately I’ve been focused on situating the runes and their mysteries in the here and now of my daily life, and that includes contemporary music. As the new year dawns I’m determined to experiment with new ways of engaging a host of spiritual topics. So, in my work with runes, I’m bringing them into the present musical moment because their mysteries rattle and shake everything, including the vocal stylings of my favorite artist as well as the artists that I despise. And so, with that, I offer the (probably first of many lists of) songs that I associate with the runes. Enjoy!

If you have some too, please don’t hesitate to include them in the comments.

runesymbols

Fehu – Royals by Lorde

Uruz – Move B!tch by Ludacris ft Mystikal and I-2o

Thurisaz – Toxicity by System of A Down

Ansuz – Roar by Katy Perry

Raidho – Don’t Stop Believing by Journey

Kenaz – Wake Me Up by Avicii

Gebo – Lose Control by Timbaland ft Jojo

Wunjo – Dreams by Van Halen

Hagalaz – Crawling by Linkin Park

Nauthiz – Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas

Isa – Ice Queen by Within Temptation

Jera – Mother Earth by Within Temptation

Eihwaz – The Hanging Tree from The Hunger Games (Peter Hollens version)

Perthro – I See Fire by Ed Sheeran (Peter Hollens version)

Elhaz – Titanium by David Guetta ft Sia

Sowilo – Morning Comes by Delta Rae 

Tiwaz – Renegade by Styx

Berkano – Suvetar by Gjallarhorn

Ehwaz – Howl by Florence and the Machine

Mannaz – Get By by Talib Kweli

Laguz – Blinding by Florence and the Machine

Ingwaz – Nature Boy by David Bowie

Othala – Hometown Glory by Adele

Dagaz – One Day by Matisyahu

Notes on the Rune Ansuz

ansuz

The rune Ansuz is the fourth rune in the first aett of the Elder Futhark. The rune’s literal meaning is “god” or “mouth”. As a “god” rune, I associate it strongly with Odin. He is chief among the gods after all, and so I associate it with him in his many guises. Odin is a changing and changeable god with many forms and many functions across a wide number of domains. In addition he has influence across many realms. Due to its sympathy with his nature, the power of Ansuz can be harnessed to aid in connecting with Odin.

The might of Ansuz is also bound up with consciousness. This is a major part of Odin’s might and of Ansuz’s as well. Through the power of Ansuz, self-awareness emerges. Also, this rune stimulates knowledge and develops wisdom. Ansuz is the sweet breath of the god, Odin, awakening the mind, stimulating thought, seeding memory, and lifting us up on a whirling wind of possibility. Ansuz is our ability to give and receive inspiration as well. As our consciousness expands so too does our access to inspiration.

The_Sacrifice_of_Odin_by_Frølich

Odin’s sacrifice depicted by Lorenz Frølich, 1895

Because I associate Ansuz with expanding consciousness, it signifies the purpose of Odin’s sacrifice, self to self, upon the World Tree. Ansuz is the code for Odin’s Nine Nights of Sacrifice. He hung that he might extend his consciousness which meant growing in self-knowledge, personal power, and wisdom, all of which were necessary for his own enrichment and for the advancement of his creation. In my work, I use Ansuz for a similar purpose, scratched on the forehead with a fingernail (which I do a lot) or painted on in white, storm blue, or red. In addition to writing this rune on my flesh, I also use galdr. In my work, Ansuz is the quintessential rune of galdr magic, of consciousness manifested in breath and expressed in song. Through this rune I draw closer to Odin and the meaning of his sacrifice.

As a “mouth” rune, Ansuz is connected to expression in general. When I think of Ansuz as an expressive rune I think specifically of inspired creative expression. In this way, Ansuz is linked to the Mead of Poetry that Odin won and to the art of poetry as a divinely inspired endeavor intimately linked with Odin’s furious passion. I also consider Ansuz’s power to be an integral part of oracular work in which the gods and spirits open us up and use our breath, our voice to bring messages to the folk. In that work I expand my awareness and my consciousness so that I can access messages from the powers that be. On top of that, I then have to ensure that my mind is open and my tongue is loose so that the message is accurately expressed to those poised to here it. Ansuz is a magical rune for me. So much of my work includes spoken charms, singing, chanting, proclaiming, and prophesying. The might of Ansuz is bound up in that process.

I also associate Ansuz with communication in general; however, it opens not just the mouth but also the heart and mind so that what comes out of the mouth is worth the breath expended. As the Hávamál warns in verse 29 of the Auden & Taylor translation:

Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.

And so for me Ansuz is a rune of potent meaning. It is not simply the act of communicating but of speaking true and well. Ansuz allows us to say what we know and articulate what we understand, about our selves, about the world, about the gods, and more. In that way Ansuz is the rune of legend and lore and it is the stuff of Odin’s conversations with Sága in Sökkvabekkr as they consume draughts of blessed mead from golden cups. Simply put, Ansuz is in wise words well spoken, not idle chit-chat. Here’s a handy meme that captures the type of communication that I often associate with the power of the rune Ansuz:

ihatesmalltalk

With regard to other contexts in which the might of Ansuz may manifest, as an academic in the last leg of Ph.D. program I associate this rune with the academy, with research (i.e., generating knowledge) and dissertating (i.e., recording that knowledge for later intellectual consumption) as well as the academic conferences that I am expected to attend (i.e., orally presenting said knowledge). I am reminded as well of the Greek symposia filled with wine, entertainment, and debate. In addition, this rune conjures images of the Thing to my mind, an ancient annual Germanic assembly of freemen for the purposes of dispute resolution, political decision making, public religious practice, and commerce. In that form, Ansuz is about the kind of communication exchange needed to create and maintain a civilization.

The above are the ways in which Ansuz is exalted and well-manifested from my perspective, but runes are tremendous founts of power and their might has both light and dark aspects. I have seen Ansuz’s might corrupted in the form of gaslighting, mind games, and manipulation and where its might has been twisted Ansuz can be used in bindrunes and charms to help untwist the situation. With Algiz, it forms a quality ward against such foul play. With Thurisaz, Ansuz can help one to mount an active offense designed to detour future bullshit. Void where prohibited and all ethical taxes apply. With Laguz and Algiz, it can be used to ward one’s dreams against foul play of a manipulative nature. With Nauthiz and Algiz, you can give back exactly as foul as you get. Think of it as the Aikido of baleful magic. Contained in Ansuz’s power is the wisdom and savvy to know what manner of person you are dealing with, and to act accordingly. As the Hávamál counsels in verses 18 and 38 of the Auden & Taylor translation:

He who has seen and suffered much,
And knows the ways of the world,
Who has traveled, can tell what spirit
Governs the men he meets

A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.

The might of Ansuz is a howling wind carrying thought and memory, knowledge and wisdom, good communication and divine inspiration within its currents, and I am quite taken. Hail Ansuz and Hail Odin, Winner of the Runes!

Sigyn and the Burden of Her Arms

"Loki and Sigyn" by Mårten Eskil Winge.

“Loki and Sigyn” by Mårten Eskil Winge.

Many moons ago, I fell asleep thinking of Loki. It was a Wednesday night. On the edge of dream, I was drawn into the astral. There, in a dank cave – sometime between ages ago and just the other day – I met Sigyn, one of Loki’s wives. The Lady stood worn, on the edge of her hope. Loki was there, bound to a large boulder. Surprisingly, he slept for most of the time that I was with them. He is sometimes able to sleep just after Sigyn has emptied the bowl.

Timidly, I approached Sigyn and the smaller of the two burdens of her arms. I offered to hold the bowl as an offering to her. I could feel the noxious poison accessing my pores and threatening my life even through the bowl. I warded immediately and also projected Elhaz onto the vessel in an attempt to block its corrosive effect on me. Then I attempted to craft a bindrune, both Elhaz and Thurisaz. That one caused the sleeping Loki to stir and the hanging serpent to hiss. Got it. That rune is off limits in this place.

Very soon after that Sigyn gestured for the bowl and she sent me to obtain a glass of water for her from the stream that runs near her hall, which was some ways away. The waters there are incredibly pure and healing. I drank deeply and felt better instantly upon drinking. I brought a cup of that water back and offered it to Sigyn. She drank her fill and thanked me. A strong scent of licorice filled the cave when I asked what offerings she might like.

And then I was gone.