Normally, when people talk about runes, they think of casting the runes in order to get a view into the potential future. The image of the Volva (seeress) sitting in a dark cave with a fire, throwing down the runes, and telling a young adventurer whether his next quest will be profitable (or even survivable), carries with us, even into today.
However, when the Vikings were at their height, the use of runes in magic didn’t reach just to the concept of divination. In fact, there are very few references to “runic divination” in historical literature.
Runic magic, does extend into the concept of “active” magic, where one just didn’t try to see into the future, but attempting to have an impact on it. A common practice was to combine a series of runes into a pattern that asked upon the gods for a given result. This result could be a blessing, or it could even be a curse.
While we don’t focus on this practice today, it’s actually still very common.
Here we’re going to talk a little bit about “Active” magic in the Northern European Traditions, a little bit about ethics of practice, and then we’ll finally get to bind runes, the process of creating them, and how to effectively use them.
On the Nature of Magic in the Northern European Traditions
Magic in many pagan practices (and Northern European traditions are no different) often times is expressed as focusing our will to have an impact on the events that will transpire in the future. We desire a given result, and hope (or expect) that through a given series of actions, these events will happen. Many times there is very little detail with respect to why these practices work, we just believe they do.
One could write an entire book on various magical beliefs, and where the “power to change things” comes from. But I’ll leave that to someone else. In fact, I’m not going to talk significantly about the technical details of where the power of Northern European magic comes from because honestly, I don’t think anyone is absolutely sure.
However, what we can say is this:
Northern European philosophy rests highly on the concept of self-reliance.
The gods don't bless us because we're needy, they bless us because we've shown them that we're productive,
and are striving to make life better on our own.
Only with our own hard work will the blessing of the gods come.
In short, “The Northern European gods help those who help themselves.”
This means that in order for any magical practice to work, we must not only ask them for their help, we must also strive to change the future ourselves.
It’s through own will, and our actions, that we begin the magical process, as our will to change things “starts” the gods of the North take notice, and give their blessings if they deem it appropriate.
Bind Runes can be a critical piece to this process. They serve as a visual cue to ourselves of our intent, and the process through which we create them, and display them is a sign to the gods that we’re striving for a given set of events, and are asking for their assistance.
So, when creating a bind rune, it’s always important to remember that the creation of the bind rune is not the end, it’s the beginning. The bind rune is the beginning of a magical (and perhaps mundane) process that may last weeks, months, years, or even decades.
A Little Bit on Northern European Ethics
Many pagan belief systems hold that one should “harm none,” or they strive to reach a “peaceful utopia.” Many traditions hold an ethic that magical practices should never be used against another, and perhaps even shouldn’t be used on unwilling person at all.
The historical practice of Northern Europeans, both in their day to day activities, and their magical practices doesn’t hold that any use of aggressive magic against or on an unwilling participant is bad. In fact, history has shown that the use of magic aggressively can be extremely effective.
In the Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson we see that Egil was at war with King Eirik Bloodaxe. The war had taken many lives. Egil placed a “Nithing Pole” (A series of runes carved into a pole with the intention of causing a curse upon someone) with the following curse:
"Here I place this "Nidstang" ("curse-pole"), and turneth it against King Eirik and Queen Gunnhild
- turneth I this against all the gnomes and little people of the land, that they may all be lost,
not finding their homes, until they drive King Eirik and Queen Gunnhild out of the country."
Some time it transpired that the King and Queen fled to the British Isles.
So we see, that historically, the use of magic, even extremely aggressive magic, might be ethically appropriate.
This isn’t to say that one should go about “casting” aggressive magic without thought. One must presume that if one has an ethical standard that allows for such actions, that the one is using the magic on may reasonably use the same practices on you.
So, while the Northern European traditions certainly don’t have the “harm none” philosophy, and also don’t have the concept of only using magic on those who are aware of it, we are also cognizant of the responsibility (and potential repercussions) of that philosophy.
A little More on “Them” and “Us”
It’s also important to remember that Northern European tradition has a strong sense of family, hearth, and community vs. “everyone else.” Ones obligations to ones family and community are extremely different from those obligations one has to the world as a whole. This doesn’t mean that everyone else is “bad” or we don’t have any obligation to them (hospitality indicates otherwise), but the obligations are indeed different. I would expect that one would never (or almost never) engage in aggressive magic with respect to a family member without their knowledge, or consent.
A 10 minute guide to the Runes
Understanding the runes, and their meaning in depth is a course (and a lifetime practice) in and of itself. If you’re unfamiliar with it, start with Introduction to Rune Reading as its critical that one understand all the runes, and their meaning.
Here’s the “short cut” guide to the runes and their meaning. If you’re unfamiliar with the runes, it can get you started:
— Fehu — “Fay – Hoo”
Fehu represents wealth earned or won through luck. Fehu is commonly used in a Bind Rune when one is concerned about a business, gaining wealth, or future financial prosperity.
— Uruz — ” ooo – rooze” as in “Moo” Auroch, a wild ox.
Uruz represents untamed physical strength and speed. If one is low on energy, or has started working out at a gym, Uruz may be used to help you focus on developing your “physicality.”
— Thurisaz — “thur — ee — saws” as in “Thursday.” Thorn or a Giant.
Thurisaz represents a force of destruction and defense or conflict. Thurisaz can be used to “break down” barrier or things that are blocking you. It could also be used against someone to create a negative impact.
— Ansuz — “awn — sooze” as in “Awning” The As, ancestral god, i.e. Odin.
Ansuz represents a message, or unexpected insight. If you’re trying to increase your own “metaphysical” or psychic knowledge and understanding, this would be a good rune to use. If you’re studying the runes, and want a bind rune asking for Odin’s assistance, this would also work.
— Raidho — “Rye — Though” Wagon or chariot.
Raidho represents travel, either in a physical sense, or in terms of lifestyle. If you want blessings during a trip, or want help “going somewhere” Raidho is a good rune to use in a bind rune.
— Kenaz — “Cane — Awes” Beacon or torch.
Kenaz represents knowledge and technical ability. For those going to college, Kenaz is an excellent one for purposes of helping with studies, and remembering. If you’re about to take an exam (though at that point it may be too late) Using a Kenaz on your palm with other runes might help.
— Gebo — “Yee — Boo” Gift.
Gebo represents gifts of generosity and the obligations they bring. It can be used in a bind rune to hope for unexpected gifts (though as always, remember “a gift demands a gift.”) It can also be used on behalf of a charity, hoping that they receive gifts.
— Wunjo — “Woon — Yo” ‘Joy.’
Wunjo represents joy and comfort. If you’re looking for a happier life for yourself (or someone else) Wunjo is an excellent one to use. Using Wunjo and Fehu in combination can provide a blessing of “Wealth, happiness, and joy.”
— Hagalaz — “haw — gaw — laws” ‘Hail.’
Hagalaz represents uncontrolled destructive forces. Hagalaz in a bind rune may be used as an attempt to gain control over bad things that are happening. Or alternatively, Hagalaz can be used to bring about destructive results.
— Nauthiz — “now — these” ‘N: Need.’
Nauthiz represents delay, and frustration due to lack of progress. If live is going to fast, and you need to slow it down, Nauthiz can be used. Once could also use it in combination with other runes to try to speed up progress.
— Isa — “eee — saw” ‘Ice.’
Isa represents a complete lack of progress. If you’re needing stuff to “stop” one can use this rune. For example, If bad things are happening that are destructive in your life, you could take Hagalaz, and then place Isa on top of it, hoping to stop the bad stuff from happening.
— Jera — “yare — awe” ‘A year, a good harvest.’
Jera represents the harvest, the rewards of hard work. If you’ve been working on a project, and want a good result, Jera is a potential rune to use.
— Eihwaz — “eye — was” ‘Yew tree.’
Eihwaz represents the sturdiness, strength and dependability of a tree. If you’re finding the need to be emotionally strong, or need emotional strength, Eihwaz would be a good rune to include in a bind rune.
— Perthro — “perth — row”
‘Lot cup, vagina.’
Perthro can represent hidden things or mysteries. If one is exploring “secret things” or things magical (such as Seidhr) Perho might be a good rune to use in a bind rune to help you with your studies in that area.
— Algiz — “all — yeese” ‘Elk, protection.’
Algiz represents protection, like a shield. If you are looking for help in protecting something (such as yourself, your family, or your house) Algiz is an excellent rune to use in a bind rune.
— Sowilo — “soe –wee — low” ‘The sun.’
Sowilo represents honor through achieved goals. It can also represent good health. Positive changes occur with Sowilo. IF you use Sowilo in a bind rune you’re probably looking for something positive to result out of “work” (not necessarily paying work).
— Tiwaz — “Tea — Whaz” ‘Tyr, the sky god.’
Tiwaz represents vows, honor, and justice. It can be used in a bind rune regarding agreements, or upcoming legal issues.
— Berkano — “Bear — Kawn — Oh” ‘Berchta, the birch-goddess.’
Berkano generally refers to fertility and childbirth. If you’re hoping to have a child, this is a good rune for a bind rune.
— Ehwaz — “Ay — Wawz” as in “day” ‘Horse, two horses.’
This should not be confused with Eihwaz.
Ehwaz is similar to Raidho in that it represents a Journey, as opposed to arriving at a destination. If you’re following a “new path” or going through new experiences (or want to) Ehwaz is a good rune for a bind rune.
— Mannaz — “Man — Awes” ‘Man, mankind.’
Mannaz represents yourself, your attitude, and your attitude towards others. If you’re on a path of Self improvement, or changing yourself, Mannaz is a rune to use.
— Laguz — “Law — Goose” ‘Water, or a leek.’
Laguz represents the healing power of water, and the power of renewal. If you’re needing regeneration, or are looking for “renewal” regarding something, Laguz is a potential rune to use.
— Inguz — “Ing — Goose” ‘Ing, the earth god.’
Inguz represents the home, family love, and caring. If you’re trying to have an impact upon your family, Inguz is a good rune to use.
— Dagaz — “Daw — Gawz” ‘Day or dawn.’
Dagaz represents a time of change. If you’re “starting your life over” or starting a new job, Dagaz may be a rune you want to use.
— Othala — “Oath — Awe — Law” ‘Ancestral property.’
Othala represents wealth that was neither earned (like Fehu) or given to you (like Gebo). Othala represents “familial wealth.” If you’re concerned about someone “raiding the family coffers” or hoping for the family to increase their well, this may be a good one.
Designing your Bind Rune
There are a myriad of ways to design bind runes, from simply placing them in a line like this:
to a circle like this:
to putting them together in an image set that works for you like this:
Any method will work, it’s a matter of your personal preference. In fact after you’ve chosen your runes, you may try several different types, to see which one sits with you. Over time, you’ll become adjusted to one type or another. The important thing to keep in mind is that whatever glyph you end up with, it must be something that you feel you can focus your will through to change the world around you.
First– Determine your intent
The first step you should take it sit down and think, really think, about what it is you want to accomplish. Think of it not just in terms of end results, but how you get there, and what you need to do, or need help with to accomplish. This will help you not only in focusing your energy, but also in picking your runes.
Second– Pick your runes
Examine each rune, and its meaning, think about whether it fits within your goals. Some runes will be obvious that they should, or should not belong. However, it helps to go through each rune individually, and explore the possibilities.
Third– Decide on your set
After you’ve gone through your runes, look at what you’ve got. Do you have too many? (generally more than 4-5 is too many), or too few? If you have too many, your thoughts may be unfocused, If you have too few, its possible you aren’t considering all the possibilities in terms of achieving your goal.
A note on runes that don’t reverse
There are nine runes that don’t have a mirror image (we talk about that next).
- Isa –
- Jera –
- Dagaz –
- Sowilo –
- Eihwaz –
- Gebo –
- Hagalaz –
- Inguz –
- Nauthiz –
If you’ve got one of these in your set, it serves as an excellent “center” or “base” for your other runes. Some traditions have required you have at least one of these in your set. This is entirely up to you, but it’s something to consider.
Fourth– Design your runes
Sit down with your runes, and draw them, in several different “shapes” or patterns. Be careful not to reverse (create a mirror image) your runes, that may results in unintended results. Experimentation is the key here, use lots of paper, and keep trying. Eventually you’ll come up with a pattern that seems to “work” for you.
Fifth– Look for other buried runes
Now that you’ve got a pattern you like, look for other runes that may be “hidden” in your design. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (for example, since Isa is a straight line, it is technically “hidden” in every bind rune), but its good to be “aware” of it. You may also find runes that you were on the fence about that you’d discarded that reappear as you look at your design.
Creating your Bind Rune
So you’ve decided on your intent, picked out runes, created your design, and you’re ready to create your bind rune that you’ll save. While certainly the process of creating the bind rune is a central part of the process, it’s important to remember that in terms of exercising your “will” you’ve already taken several steps towards this process.
The next thing is to pick materials, both what you’ll draw the bind rune on, and also what you’ll draw the bind rune with. Virtually anything will work, from paper and ink, to leather and leatherworking tools to wood and a burner. What you do need to remember is a) How long do you expect this to last? (Paper is good for maybe a few months, but certainly not years or decades), and b) Where are you going to carry or display it?
For example, a bind rune regarding saving money may be best put in your wallet. That way, every time you open your wallet, you see it there, and it may tell you to close your wallet instead of spending that extra $2 for the jumbo fries. Obviously a big plaque made of wood doesn’t work so well here.
On the other hand, if you’re protecting your house, you may want something you can hang above your door (like the Pennsylvania Dutch) or over a mantle. Here it needs to be visually attractive, and reasonably permanent. Leather or wood may be a better choice.
Your choice of a “writing implement” is largely governed by what you’re writing on, but you can still make some choices. Pens, wood burning kits, bodily fluids, paint, and several other fluids are available to you. Think about what your choices are, and pick one that works for you.
The Creation Ritual
Northern European traditions tend to have less formalized “structure” to rituals, including their ritual magic. Because of the very nature of the society being mobile in many cases, the ability to “cast a spell” quickly without concern of ritual space, date, etc. took a back seat.
How formal you want to make your creation ritual is entirely up to you. There is something to be said for creating a “highly ritualized” set of circumstances, because it provides a focus for your intent. However, it may also be that you aren’t in a position to do this, or wherever you’re casting makes it inappropriate to pull out the candles, incense, statuary, and the horn that holds an entire bottle of mead.
It’s up to you, just remember, when you create this rune, it’s all about focusing your intent and will into the image you are creating.
Start by laying out your material and taking your writing implement in hand. Now write/carve the runes one at a time. It’s important that you do each rune separately, instead of just the shape. While we have one shape, it’s a combination of runes, and your intent needs to be focused on each rune as you place it.
Think about the rune and how it fits with the others, how they interconnect. I also recommend you chant (galdor) the name of the rune as you are creating it. It provides additional focus and energy that can help in your creation process.
After you’ve completed all the runes, meditate on it. Meditate on the shape, the individual runes, and your intent.
After this, you can close your ritual space. I typically offer a blot to Odin, thanking him for the runes, and to any other gods or goddesses that I may want to come to my assistance.
So now the spell is over, right? Wrong!!! We’ve created the foci, but the magical work continues, until we’ve accomplished our goal.
Using your Bind Rune
Now you’ve got a piece of paper, a leather piece, or a plaque with a very odd looking (but hopefully now familiar) image on it. What do you do now?
This is your focus point for you now. Put it somewhere where you’re going to see it. Whether it be in your wallet, taped to your computer screen, above your mantel, it’s up to you. The important thing is to put it somewhere where you see it. That way, when you see it, you’ll be remember to focus your intent, and also your own self-reliance on your goal. You should keep the bind rune as long as you need it. Once your goals are accomplished, you may decide you want to destroy the rune, either through ritualized burning, or some other process, it’s up to you. Since you’ve accomplished your goal at that point, it’s no longer a center of energy, so you no longer need it.
Bind Runes provide a somewhat unique magical practice. Unlike ritualized magic which has a definite start and stop in “ritual space” bind runes are more a magical process. The process of creating the bind rune generates a foci of will that persists. How long it persists can be days, weeks, months, or years. It’s entirely up to the caster, their intent, and their ability to maintain the physical representation of the bind rune.
Bind runes also provide anyone with a basic knowledge of the runes the ability to create a bind rune. One need not go through years of training, have complex materials, or significant preparation time to practice the magic.
However, to get good at it requires more than just learning the mechanics. Its about focusing intent and will on a situation. It’s about taking the basic steps to causing the events you want to have happen to occur. The bind rune is a sign to the gods you are taking these actions, and they will pay attention. If you don’t help yourself, they certainly aren’t going to help you.
With that, I hope you enjoy creating your first bind rune, and will find them a useful part of your magical repertoire!
—Mohnkern 03:55, 11 May 2008 (UTC)