The One Tree

However, the Runes were totally unimpressed with my argument that I was not the right person to undertake such a task for them. About six months of persistent argument in dreams and visions later, I gave in. What I felt were sound arguments against my undertaking their project, apparently they felt were my advantages.  I decided to start with the origin myth for the world of the runes found in the first poem of the Elder Eddas, a collection of writings in Old Norse from about a thousand years ago. The story is called ‘Vóluspá’ or the ‘Prophecy of the Seeress’. The Seeress tells us that before time began there was a magically charged field of potential called Gunnungagap.  This field of potentiality develops two poles.  One is the watery Mist world or Niflheimer. It is the source of the Myrkrunar or dark runes.  The other is the Fire world or Mulspeilheimr. It is the source of the Heidrunar or light runes. The wind brings about the interaction of the fiery light runes and the watery dark runes that creates and sustains the nine worlds of the one tree.

Then I started looking for information on the individual runes. I needed to find out what exactly the runes were. One of the more intriguing aspects to the Runes for me was how recent lexicography or the association of specific symbols with specific vowels and consonants is for the Runes.  It began after the Roman Empire and Christianity moved into the northlands of Europe subduing the native peoples and traditions.  The roots of the Runes are much older and more mysterious, for they began as a form of semasoigraphy.  This means that, like petro glyphs and mathematical notations, a great deal of information is conveyed by runic symbols that are not limited to the conventions of our usual idea of an alphabet.

Perhaps because their use as an alphabet is so recent, I found at least half a dozen runic alphabets. They differed radically in the number of letters they use with the smallest having eighteen and the largest over 30 runes. The sounds and the names associated with each rune also varied from alphabet to alphabet but not nearly as much as the variation in the forms of the runes themselves. All in all, the whole field was a chaotic mess. Finally, a friend recommended Edred Thorsson’s Handbook of Rune Magic.  His synopsis of the forms and interpretations of the runes in his chapter on the Lore of the Elder Futhark was invaluable.

I had found the basic information I needed but I was still at a loss as to what the Runes meant by wanting to be told as a story of creation. None of this information gave any indication of how the individual runes were related to the creation story. After some more lengthy discussions with the Runes, I came to understand that my next step was to find a way to integrate the Runes into my World Tree deck of cards (click here for more information) The entire matrix of the patterns of colors and shapes of the 144 cards of the World Tree of Peace deck of cards came to me as one complete gestalt about ten years before my conversation with the Runes began. They are an integration of different ways of viewing the energetic and spiritual anatomy of our human body, and have been an integral part of my personal healing.

The World Tree deck arises out of patterns that are based on the five elements and the five directions. The Roots of my World Tree cards are grounded in the organs of our human bodies and their names come from the  realm of the Plants. The Branches are in the Heavens, so they are named for the Sun, Moon and Stars, and the concepts of the five elements of Water, Fire, Air, Earth, and Love as the principal   organizing energy. The Trunk is named from the animal realm and is based on the seven chakras and our emotional body. It connects the Roots and Branches of the Tree.

The card faces are various combinations of the colors and shapes attributed to the various elements in different alchemical traditions. The color yellow and the shape of a square both represent the Earth element for example, while the color red and the shape of a triangle represent the fire element. Although color and shape carry a great deal of esoteric meaning in themselves, I had not considered extending the principle of meaningful symbols to include any of the alphabets. I had to continue my search for a key to my dilemma with the Runes by reading through different versions and collections of the old writings once more,

Then I found the remnants of a map of the runic world tree in another Old Norse saga or poem called ‘The Beguiling ofGylfaginning’, recorded by Snorri Snorrison. King Gylfaginning is beguiled when the wind-cold serpent ways take him to Valhalla, home of the Norse Gods. The story is a bit hard to follow because at the time the saga was recorded, no one outside the structure of the Church was permitted to own a book, never mind write one. Under such circumstances, even those sympathetic to the histories they were collecting had to present them in a way that would win the approval of the church. While King Gylfaginning might have been a hero in pre-Christian times, he had to be represented as a credulous fool in the eyes of the Church.

In spite of that bias, the saga of Gylfaginnig does explain that there are three roots to the One Tree. One root burns continuously as it originates in the Fire World, one root grows continuously adding wave upon wave of frosty rime as it originates in the Mist World, and the third root is described as ‘the wind-cold serpent ways’ that permit Gylfiginning to travel through the One Tree . Below each root is a spring or well that is guarded by a dragon, and above each root is a branch where the three High Ones sit and speak.  Harr means High One, Jann-harr means just as high, and Thridi means the third.  The names of the High Ones make it quite clear that this is a trinity of three equally essential parts. The High Ones speak of is fire as time, water as space, and wind as the spirit inside that directs all things, including man.

Then I realized that the High Ones are considering the alchemical implications of the essential nature of the elements! At last, I had found a common point between the world of the Runes and my set of cards. I realized I could begin by finding five runes that were associated with five different aspects of Water, five with Fire, and five with Wind and so on.  I decided to choose rune forms that were as distinct and different from each other as possible.

(click here for chapter three)

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