The runes are the written letters that were used by the Norse and other Germanic peoples before the adoption of the Latin alphabet in the later Middle Ages. Unlike the Latin alphabet, which is an essentially utilitarian script, the runes are symbols of some of the most #powerful
forces in the cosmos. In fact, the word “#rune
” and its cognates across past and present #Germanic
languages mean both “letter” and “#secret
.” The letters called “runes” allow one to access, interact with, and influence the world-shaping forces they symbolize. Thus, when Odin sought the runes, he wasn’t merely attempting to acquire a set of arbitrary representations of human vocal sounds. Rather, he was uncovering an extraordinarily potent system of #magic
. At the center of the #Norse #cosmos
stands the great tree Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil’s upper branches cradle Asgard, the home and fortress of the Aesir gods and goddesses, of whom Odin is the chief.
Yggdrasil grows out of the Well of Urd, a pool whose fathomless depths hold many of the most powerful forces and beings in the cosmos. Among these beings are the Norns, three sagacious maidens who exert more influence over the course of destiny than any other beings in the cosmos. One of the foremost techniques they use to shape destiny is carving runes into Yggdrasil’s trunk. The symbols then carry these intentions throughout the tree, affecting everything in the #NineWorlds
Odin watched the Norns from his seat in Asgard and envied their powers and their wisdom. And he bent his will toward the task of coming to know the runes.
Since the runes’ native home is in the Well of Urd with the Norns, and since the runes do not reveal themselves to any but those who prove themselves worthy of such fearful insights and abilities, #Odin
hung himself from a branch of #Yggdrasil
, pierced himself with his spear, and peered downward into the shadowy waters below. He forbade any of the other gods to grant him the slightest aid, not even a sip of water. And he stared downward, and stared downward, and called to the #runes