Patreon Topic 45: On Runes, Color, and Activation

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Emily comes this topic:

“I’m curious why you associate runes as being activated in red. Is there historical precedent? Also, have you found any use for using runes in other colors?”

I want to first point out the Hávamál stanza 143:

143.
Dost know how to write, dost know how to read,
dost know how to paint, dost know how to prove,
dost know how to ask, dost know how to offer,
dost know how to send, dost know how to spend?

translated by Olive Bray and edited by D. L. Ashliman
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/havamal.html#runes

The way that I understand ‘paint’, ‘tint’, ‘stain’, or ‘colour’ as it is referred to in other sources, eg this translation by Henry Adam Bellows here, and Carolyne Larrington’s translation reprinted here, stanza 145 in this version, is that it is referring to this act with blood. The reference to ‘offer’, or ‘sacrifice’ bears this out in my mind, as does this passage in my understanding of the Runes as vaettir. This is passage is not referring to Gods, Ancestors, or anything other than the Runes here, so anyone applying the passage directly after this to ‘not offering too much’ to Them is doing themselves and the relationships They carry a disservice.

Is there a historical precedent for Runes being activated by the color red? Not that I have found. Runes were etched into bractiates, wood, and stones, and so far as I have read specific pigments were not associated with them. Serje Spurkland in his excellent book Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions, to whit I remember, does not mention anything like that.

It is really important to remember that my work with the Runes, despite really liking and digging into what academic work I can get my hands on and afford, is much more based in spiritwork with Them. It is modern so far as I know. That does not make it less valid, it just bears putting out there.

So what is ‘activating’ a Rune?

It is empowering a surface, item, person, place, thing etc that a Rune is put/carved/painted onto to carry that vaettir and/or Their megin or might. This can take a number of forms. You might paint a Rune tile with blood and so, both feed the Rune and give the Rune the form on a surface in blood. You may carve or scratch Runes into a piece of wood, and then fill the carved wooden Rune space with ochre or acrylic red paint. You might take some of your spit or sweat and mark the inside of a coat with a Rune. You might sing the name of the Rune or write and perform a galdralag to bring the Rune’s power onto a carved candle. Perhaps instead of carving you trace the image of a Rune over yourself or another, and galdr the Rune. Perhaps you use the carrier of your önd, breath, to sing a Rune over/into something/someone. However you make the physical body or whatever carries the Rune, the Rune is activated when the Runevaettr enters the Rune or puts Their megin into Their representation.

I generally look at red as an activating color because it is the color of blood. That’s the long and short of it. I had the option of filling the Rune tattoos on my arms with red and chose not to because, at least to how I relate to Them, I did not want Them to be ‘on’ and working all the time. Not everyone is going to have this association, and that is fine.

When it comes to working with colors and Runework, I think really the sky is the limit. Given we are completely off the historical map and talking spiritwork here, you could look at how you relate to the main colors you can see. Then, get a color wheel, and start building the associations you have with the Runes. Does this color outline put you more in mind of, say, the Icelandic or Anglo-Saxon Rune poem? Does this color with a black outline speak more to you with the Rune’s ability to heal or harm? Do you like clean lines? How about spelling words or writing sentences with Them? If you make a Sowilo with a rainbow gradient in it, does that speak differently to you from a solid yellow or red?

What about bindrunes? If you combined an icy blue Isa with a deep green Jera what does that say to you? How about contrasting with bindrunes that have obvious opposites in them? What about working with complementary colors that speak ‘healing’ or ‘grounding’ to you?

Generally, I do not work with many colors and the Runes outside of black and red. I’m not a great painter by any stretch, and most of the mediums I work in, namely wood, leather, and woodburning in both of those, I tend to work with outlines or black fill more than painting.

What works with me matters far less than what works with you. After all, I have my own relationship with the Runes, my own color associations, and my own understanding with ‘what works’ when it comes to spiritwork, Runework, and being a Rýnstr. So will you. So, enjoy, experiment, and explore.

Question 6: Offerings to Odin

Question 6: Offerings to Odin

From Dreaming in Smoke and Fire:

What types of offerings does Odin like? Do you think he prefers smoked salmon or strong whiskey?
— Do you prefer smoked salmon or strong whiskey?
— Do you like pina coladas?

I’m sure He likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, eating salmon, drinking strong whiskey, and making love after midnight, but I am unsure if that is all at once or in stages.

All jokes aside, a good number of my offerings to Him are alcoholic drinks.  Among the drinks I offer to Him He seems to particularly enjoy mead and the strong alcohol such as whiskey, vodka, etc.  He especially likes mead, and from me He likes Viking Blod where I can afford it.  Sometimes He prefers local varieties, and I find He especially likes good homemade mead.

For me, I am sure He would rather have strong whiskey than salmon.  I am not practiced at cooking fish, and I would not give Him an offering if I doubt my family would eat it.  That said, I love salmon, especially salmon steak, but I have only cooked it all of one time, and that was with help.  I have not had pina coladas in awhile; might be time to again.

What types of offerings does Odin like?  He has accepted water and crackers where I could not afford much, hard drinks when I could, and a cup of coffee when I made a pot for my Gods and Ancestors.  He appreciates time, time spent not just praying to Him, but talking with Him.  I asked Him once why, if He could sit on Hlidskjalf and see all, and have Hunin and Munin bring Him news the Worlds over, did He want me to tell Him about my day?

His answer was something akin to this: is it better to talk to your father through your mother or friend, or is it better to talk with your father?

The offerings we give are intimate to our relationship with the Gods.  We may have lists of traditional offerings, but unless I slaughter and butcher a horse, or order horse meat from a specialty butcher, the likelihood is that Odin will not have an offerings of horse meat from me.  So I give what I have at hand, whether that is water, mead, or beer, crackers, bread, or cake.  I give offerings of incense somewhat frequently because leaving out food offerings sometimes is not possible, not appropriate at the time.  The same goes for offerings of food and/or water.  When I lived in a dorm room I frequently left offerings at trees’ feet since I could not have fires in the room.  There is always singing and/or talking with my Gods, and especially listening to Them.

Sometimes He wants something special, or I am inspired to give Him special offerings.  Sometimes it is the spontaneous nudge in the wine aisle, and sometimes it is a month of devotional poetry written to Him.  It may be that some weeks all He wants is regular contact at the altar, the usual prayers, and not much more.  Some times He wants intense devotional work, intense communication during a trance session where it is less about me speaking with Him, but listening very intently to Him.  At other times it may be hailing Odin during a public ceremony, especially where the ritualist gives space to call to our Gods.

So there are a great any ways to give offerings to Odin, certainly more than I have listed here.  I hope that this post has helped others find new ways to offer to Odin, or to their own Gods.  Regardless of how you offer, may Odin, and the Gods, always be hailed!