Legend has it Odin gave the Elder Futhark to man before the beginning of recorded history. The Elder Futhark, for those who don't know, was the written language of the Norse peoples, the Vikings, as well as various pagan tribes living in Germany and north western Europe. It is an alphabet consisting of twenty-four characters, each having its own unique meaning.
Fehu, the first rune in the alphabet represents cattle and is related to wealth. Gebo, which looks like a capital X, represents a gift, specifically the gift of love. Every rune has a meaning, sometimes many, although it is unknown if the modern interpretations are entirely correct.
The first six letters of the alphabet, Fehu, Uruz, Thuriaz, Ansus, Raido and Kauno, together spell 'Futhark', and this is where the name derives.
In ancient times, as in the present, the runes had another purpose besides being used to write things down for posterity. They were also used as a means of divination, as the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus described around 97 A.D. in his book titled Germania.
Today we use the runes in much the same way as the ancients did thousands of years ago, and the story of their creation has also survived. Odin, always thirsting for knowledge and the ever vigilant protector of mankind, embarked upon a long, arduous journey across the nine realms of existence. After many days of travel he came to Yggdrasil, the world tree which connects all the realms through its branches and roots. I'll let the Elder Edda describe what happened next:
I ween that I hung on the wind swept tree
I hung for nights full nine
With spear I was wounded and offered to Odin
Myself to myself
On the tree that none may know
What root beneath it runs?
Piercing his side with a spear, hanging himself from the world ash, Odin endured nine days and nine nights of anguish, all so he could gain the knowledge of the runes, of the Elder Futhark. And what did he do with them once he had learned all their secrets? Well, he gave them to man of course.
Odin gifted the runes to man, as a new living language but also as a means of communicating with him directly. When one casts the runes they are speaking with Odin, the prime god of Asgard, indeed of the entire universe. Quite a nice phone number to have on hand when one feels the need to gain ultimate knowledge, don't you think?
Now, if you want to know what I think, I don't personally worship Odin, but I don't deny his existence either. I've been using the Elder Futhark for years, and have recently begun scrying with a runic pendulum, so I can personally say I've spoken with the one eyed god of ancient times myself, and he isn't shy about answering my questions. He is very interested in all our doings down here, after all.
I'm not sure exactly what Odin is. A god? Perhaps. A semi-divine entity of mysterious aspect? Possibly. All I really know is that he answers when spoken to, is always forthcoming, is in possession of a wealth of knowledge and is benevolent towards mankind. So yes, I believe he exists, and if the legends are true, he gave us the runes in ages past.
Incidentally, I've found Odin to be a bit short tempered, which isn't at all surprising when one considers many of the stories about him. I asked him a question once, and when I wasn't satisfied with his answer, I asked it again. He told me to shut up, trust him and not push my luck. He doesn't take any guff from mortals it seems. At least, I've also discovered, he does have a sense of humour.
So, if we accept the story of how we came to possess the Elder Futhark as true, does that mean we were given language, at least written language, by the gods? And if this is true, is it also conceivable that written language is in some way magickal or divine? I think so, which brings me to my final point.
Odin gave mankind runes (language) so we could communicate with him directly to gain ultimate knowledge, it is meant to be divine by its very design, but when you take a close look at modern English you find it distorts that purpose for its own ends. I recommend you search out the work of a woman named Laurel Airica if you don't believe me. She has a command of the English language second to none and has a deep understanding of what she calls the 'Spells' woven into it.
She makes it clear we are being manipulated by the very words we use every day, in devious and malicious ways we don't understand. Take the word 'mortgage' for example. Mort is the Latin word for dead flesh, or death, while Gage is Latin for contract. Why would you enter into a 'Death Contract' with anyone?
Where do you live? You probably thought of an address where you keep your house. Okay, well, if you live at your house, what are you doing when you're not there? Are you not alive unless you're at home? Why do you have a place where you are aloud to live? Who decides where you're aloud to live and where you can't? Are you just a dead person walking around when you aren't inside your house? It seems awfully strange to me. I live wherever I am, or I should say, I'm alive no matter if I'm at home or not, no matter what anyone says.
These are only two examples, but there are myriad others, they're legion and I could go on for days if I could. But I can't, so I'll finish with this.
Our modern English works spells on us, that's why they teach us to spell at a young age, and by the time we're old enough to form rational thoughts it's become too engrained to be questioned. Magick spells are verses which rhyme, there's a reason for that. Odin gave us a gift, a divine gift which we should master and control for our own benefit, but it has been usurped and distorted to work against us, sullying our desires and turning them into mirror images within our subconscious. It's devious and malicious, nothing we would choose for ourselves, unfortunately we've forgotten after being tricked for so long and we find it difficult to understand.
Difficult but not impossible. The original purpose still stands, the runes are still with us and we can take back our language if we so choose.
I, Patrick, Wiccan