What Makes Runes Powerful?
by: Donald Tyson
Runes are the manifest symbols through which rune magic is worked. They can be employed for all of the magical purposes that other magical systems serve, but they possess unique aspects that make them superior for certain uses.
Because they were forged over the centuries in the same creative fire that shaped the pagan gods of the Teutonic peoples, runes are indispensable in magical dealings that involve the northern hierarchy. They are a key that unlocks the powers of these gods, and they are a book that unfolds the secrets of their personalities. Before the rediscovery of runes, the Aesir, lords of Asgard – who number among their ranks Odin, Thor, Tiw, Heimdall, Baldar, Loki, Frija and Hel – were difficult to integrate into modern ceremonial magic. An elemental wildness distinguishes them from the more civilized gods of Greece and Rome and the abstract, almost technical natures of the angels and spirits of Hebrew occultism. It would be absurd to invoke the Aesir with Hebrew numerology or Greek words. Yet before the rebirth of runes, the magus had little option.
Because runes form the magical language of the northern gods and express the forces upon which those gods are framed, manipulating the runes gives direct control over the actions- not just of the deities but also of the spirits and lesser entities of Norse mythology, which all arose out of the same primeval crucible of mythic archetypes. They are more than just arbitrary symbols chosen to represent occult forces by the Germanic shamans; each rune contains in its structure the same essence that is in the god, spirit, or magical potential to which it corresponds. It is the magical name of that god or natural power. Anyone seeking to contact and communicate with the northern hierarchy – whether for purposes of worship, divination, or active magic – must use the runes. It is possible to invoke the Aesir without runes, but this is akin to driving a nail with a rock when a hammer is sitting within easy reach. It makes no sense. More and more, those with Teutonic roots are seeking to know the gods of their ancestors. Runes are indispensable in building this bridge to the past.
Perhaps because they rested forgotten for so many centuries, the runes remain undiluted by modem skepticism and rationalization. Of all the symbolic tools of magic, they are the most powerful for causing material change in the world. Rune magic makes things happen – often violently, sometimes unpredictably. Most potent physically, rune magic is also most dangerous to the unwary. The elemental powers contained and defined by the runes are not conscious in the human sense, but they possess a type of animation and awareness not unlike the self-awareness of animals, plants, or embodied spirits – a watchful, quick, sometimes malicious awareness that might almost be called mad in its unexpectedness. But madness is a human concept, and the runes are true to themselves and terribly sane.
All types of occult work that seek material change – or transformations on the human level of emotions and urges that are linked to the body – can be fulfilled with rune magic. Rune magic also embraces the spiritual level of the human soul, and great works of the spirit are possible using the runes. The point that should be grasped here is that runes are weighted more toward the physical, tangible end of the scale than any other ancient magical system. It may be that in their beginnings all magical systems were mainly concerned with material change, but it is only the runes that have descended through time in their pristine, primitive state.
Another unique aspect of the runes has to do with their structure. Because they are simple letters that can be carried in the head and inscribed on any surface as easily as the alphabet, they are the most compact and accessible of magical systems. Bulky temple instruments are not needed in rune magic. They can be written anywhere on virtually anything in moments when an emergency arises. No one can ever take the runes away or destroy them; they live in the mind.
In their portability runes resemble the Hebrew letters, which are combined into magical names and words of power based upon the numerical values of the letters in the system of Jewish occultism known as the Kabbalah. At one time each letter of the Hebrew alphabet also had its elemental meaning, independent of its numerical value. But in modern times, the natural powers embodied in the Hebrew letters have largely been forgotten, displaced by the number values.
As is true of the Hebrew letters, the runes can be combined both occultly in numerical and symbolic groupings and phonetically to form words and sentences. The same runes can both embody a magical desire in their combination of elemental potentials and explicitly define that desire in words. These methods complement and support each other, and are frequently encountered together on rune artifacts made for magical purposes. For example, the sixth-century Lindholm amulet of Sweden bears the intelligible inscription of its magician maker: “I am an Herulian, I am called the Cunning One.” But it also bears a string of runes that cannot be translated, because they convey only an occult, not a literal, meaning.