- Intro -
Welcome to the first installment of 'Runes as Pictographs'! This part of my blog will be focusing on the way the runes have effected my consciousness on a glyphic, pictographic & characteristic level.
The reason I'm not starting at the beginning of the Futhark is because there seems to be three runes which hold the primary shapes of all other runes. We can explore the rest of the Futhark from there! Why do it this way? Well because these runes are not just perceived in shape to be primary but also in the myth of the Norse-Germanic people as the three fundamental elements of creation! FIRE! WATER! ICE!
In the mythology of the 'Prose Edda' we see that other than Gunnuningagap there was no other space till two worlds were created out of this raw potentiality - first Muspellheim then Nifelheim. So it was that out of the second realm came water and ice-flow gushing from the well, called Hvergelmir (bubbling-cauldron), in the form of eleven rivers called Elivagar (rivers-whiped-with-passing-showers). That's right folks - fire came first. Now, the creation of ice was by way of a mingling in the flow of the rivers from Nifelheim with that of a venom, which is described as being yeasty in it's substance.
From these three elements, all other things are made in the universe. One can also see the brothers three reflected in this - Odin, Villi, Ve. They also are creators who give gifts to humanity. The Futhark is also divided in to three levels with each rune on separate aettir suggesting three levels of reality - the Celestial abodes, the World of the Living & the World of the Dead. So far I have only written Kenaz but Laguz and Isa are to following shortly - I hope. I had planed on releasing all three together and then the rest of the 24 individually, but found that I had a lot to say about Kenaz and that Laguz and Isa would probably make this one post to long. So consider this the first installment of a three part introduction!
Exciting stuff! Let's get to it then!
- Kenaz -
The first time I looked at Kenaz I can remember thinking to myself, "... is it a C or a K?" Well, whether you think of the C as a useless letter in the English language or not it's interesting to note that the K, the letter which holds true to the original and younger shape of Kenaz, always makes the same sound as it's root rune - almost as if it's staying true to the original sound associated with this particular shape. Perhaps they go hand in hand for a reason.
After my experience with Berkano, which I had while riding my bike no less - though I only realized this synchronicity after I got back from my ride - I started to see Kenaz as a face. The image that Berkano gave me of the mother and child looking out together, in unision. My thoughts drifted to the shapes the rune was made of so I looked to the obvious - Kenaz standing alone in it's 5th position I could see it pointing in a different direction. Strange. Then in a flash it came to me - torches are symbols of guiding light and knowledge. But where is the light showing? Which path? Which way?
Now, there are all kinds and varieties of people. We call these differences quirks and characteristics. Personality traits - perhaps we are really smart and we say things like, ‘She seem to have a bit of a Complex, don’t you think ... ?’ or ‘He seems to have a lot of daemons’. All of these things are allusions to what would be called a human being or a ‘person’. The personality of an individual. But what exactly is a person? Well the word, person, comes from the Old French ‘persone’ which in turn finds it’s roots in Latin with ‘persona’, referring too the mask an actor would ware in a play. A mask? Now we are getting some where, because, you see, Kenaz looks very much like a mask when it’s put on a runic stave - Isa. Don’t be fooled though, masks are more than just face decoration - they convey a meaning that goes beyond color, shape and design for the simple reason that when placed on a skilled actress or actor it comes alive with more emotion and energy than it’s base structure.
What better way to convey such meaning, the personification of a human being, other than the rune for flame - torch. Flames dance, play and illuminate. They create shadows and can mesmerize - generate warmth and fear. Then I looked at Wunjo & Mannaz, with this frame of mind, thinking about their shared characteristic, with Berkano. They all pointed to the right. What was this showing? perhaps some thing different than the torch?
All through out history we have the symbology of the guiding and inner light of divine origin. The divine soul, saiwala (Gothic), sála (Old Norse), sêula (Old High German), sêola(Old Saxon), vital breath, psyche or anima. I am reminded of Sowilo. I find this concept to be especially well communicated and throughly explored in Plato’s ‘Analogy of the Divided Line’. Found in the ‘Republic’ it is a grand part of his metaphysical understanding of the universe. In this analogy Plato shows us a model of the human experience in physical and mental space. First we are to imagine a line which is described as looking like this -
- the space in-between the letters represents a measure of experience. AB is interpreted as Opinions, illusions (eikasia). BC is translated as our beliefs about physical things (pistis), this is including empirical science. CD would seem to be mathematical reasoning (dianoia), as to include theoretical science. Lastly DE is our philosophical understanding (noesis), the greatest ability of the human mind. What this analogy tries to convey is that the spirit is born out of and refined by the knowledge of AC - which is the physical realm - so as to give birth and grow the human soul like any other entity in this world. CE then is the realm of Human consciousness. Plato points out that both have their sources of light or what he calls, “the Sun” & “the most brilliant light of being”. One on the inside one on the out side - as if it were.
The point of Kenaz is focused like a human face is focused with it’s naturally disposition to grow in a fashion that sends our senses in to a specific direction. Hopefully, my theory should be getting clearer now. As Kenaz stands alone it seems to be the human consciousness in it’s raw and naked form. In the mind and thus pointing to the left. As it points to the right it is as the intention of a being in physical reality. Now you see why I picked the Analogy of the Line - linear direction.
- Inner Contemplation
Outer Intention -
In the mythology of the 'Prose Edda' fire is the start of all things - the spark of all things, if you will. Muspellheim is the first of all worlds to exist and in a way it is the land of the divine spark. The Great and Cosmic Attractor which pulls all things in to existence and history. Kenaz does this same thing. As the rune points it watches. Listening, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling & touching - then consuming, dissolving, decocting, condensing, crystalizing & transmuting. Drawing towards it self the rivers of Nifelheim and the hoarfrost of creation. Just as the human consciousness does with the information gathered by the mind/body interface.
Audhumla (a cow) seems to be a being that grows from the melted hoarfrost which grew towards the sparks and embers of Muspellheim while Ymir (frost giant) seems to have come from the melting of the ice-flow coming from Nefilheim. Almost as if he had been in this water and ice from the very start. Now, Audhumla being a creature who was formed from a force which is attracted to fire, hoarfrost, seems to have this force within herself and with it licks, like a flame, out of the salty ice a male creature - Buri. Hair first. Cow-lick any one?
The cavern like nature of the salt lick might add to the reason behind Kenaz -
'Cavern' is an interesting word to meditate about in relation to Kenaz - they certainly seem to look as though they are connected. Perhaps this is why we hear the Christian saying “there is a ‘God’ shaped hole in the souls of mankind, that only he can fill ...”? Could it be that our ‘souls’ are actually like a consuming fire instead of a part waiting for completion?
I believe that Kenaz is the consciousness of mankind which is carried around like the light of a torch - a torch which acts more like a bonfire when fed properly. This fire is not like the fires of the outer world - which imitate the sun - for this light imitates the ‘most brilliant light of being’. However, just like the fires that keep us warm through out our winter nights it will burn what we offer it and like the mouth of the gods will consume our gifts, sacrifices and libations only to produce contemplation, insight and prayer like a pillar of smoke up in to the star lit sky.
Hope you enjoyed this study! Next rune - Laguz! :D