Nordic Runes are written letters that were used by the Norse people before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. The symbols used are eternal and powerful forces of the cosmos. The letters or runes allow an individual to access, interact with, and influence the great forces that they symbolize therefore when the Norse god, Odin sought the runes he wasn’t merely attempting to acquire a set of symbols, but was uncovering an extraordinary potent system of magick.
At the center of the cosmos stands the great tree Yggdrasil. It grows out of the Well of Urd, a pool whose fathomless depths hold the most powerful forces and beings in the cosmos including the Norns, three maidens who exert more influence over the course of destiny than any other being in the cosmos. One of the ways they do this is by carving runes into Yggdrasil’s trunk. These symbols carry the intentions of the symbols that were written throughout the tree, thus affecting everything in the Nine Worlds.
Odin, envying the power of the Norns, became determined to gain the power for himself. Since the runes only revealed themselves to those who proved themselves worthy of such fearful insights, Odin hung himself from a branch of Yggdrasil, pierced himself with his own spear, and peered into the Well of Urd calling to the runes. He hung from the tree for nine days and nights without the aid of any other gods, and without even a sip of water. At the end of the ninth night, he perceived shapes in the depths of the Well of Urd. The runes had accepted his sacrifice and revealed not only their forms but also the secrets that were held within them. Odin is the one who imparted the runes to the first human beings.
I recognized the ancient symbols immediately when I spotted them carved in the inside lid of the wooden box that sat on the third shelf in the tall glass case near the entrance of the shop. Elizabeth, the shop owner and I stood before the display peering inside at the variety of unique items.
On the top shelf sat two statues; one was of a bronze figure sitting on a cube with odd engraved glyphs covering it and the other was an angel-like figure standing with wings spread opened. The first statue appeared to be a human form, a man covered in scales with long, narrow wings on his back and claws where his hands and feet should have been, but the strangest characteristic of the statue was that the bald head reminded me of an octopus. The second sculpture, the angel like form was made of a bright yellow resin and wore a hooded robe that covered its face and feet. It was rather a beautiful unsettling piece of art.
The second shelf held numerous daggers and knives of various blade lengths all with ornamental hilts, some had gems fixed to the handles while others had strange symbols carved into the blade itself. Some of the knives had matching sheathes while others without a sheath were displayed on a black velvet mat. A small handwritten sign indicated that these were all ‘Ritual blades’; whatever that meant.
Elizabeth pointed to a sphere sitting in the wooden box I had first spied when we approached the case. It sat on the shelf below the blades with the lid opened so the familiar symbols were clearly visible. The sphere seemed to be made of opaque glass though it looked iridescent with slightly shifting colors, but I wasn’t sure if it was my own perception or an illusion created by the lighting inside the display case.
“What is it?” I asked, mesmerized by the unusual object.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve tried to do research on it but I came up with nothing. I even brought it to the local college’s anthropology department to see if they could identify it but they were at a loss, too.”
“Weird,” I commented without taking my eyes off the object. “Do you know what it’s made of?”
“No. Maybe quartz crystal but I can’t be positive. It has some strange characteristics, nothing I’ve ever seen in any other crystal or stone. And granted I don’t claim to be an expert on rocks but I do know enough to know that this sphere,” she explained pointing to the object in the case. “Is unique.”
“Like how? What sort of strange characteristics?” I didn’t know the first thing about crystals or stones but this thing was becoming more interesting to me the more she talked about it. What the hell was it?
“Well,” she paused, crossing her arms and gazing into the case with me. “I’ve had a few people try and purchase it from me and …”
“What?” I cut her off. The way she said the word ‘try’ was odd. I turned to look at her with a raised eyebrow. “What do you mean ‘try and buy it’?” This lady had to be joking; either that or she was doing her best to hype up the sphere so I would spend my own money on it. She probably tagged it at an exorbitant price and it was undoubtedly just made of common glass. Though I had to admit to myself that she did seem genuine but wasn’t that the key to a successful con? Maybe she wasn’t as genuine as I first thought. Maybe she was a simple charlatan. I mean, look at this place. I’m sure there was a bottle of Snake Oil somewhere on one of these shelves.
“Yeah, try and buy it. But,” she shrugged, “They ended up returning it to me the very next morning. They couldn’t wait to give it back. Each time the customer was already waiting outside my shop in their car for me to open so they could return it.” She held up fingers of her right hand. “Three different people at three different times and each of them had the same complaint.” She paused. “They said that it was too loud.”
“Too loud?” I laughed. “Too loud?”
“I know,” she nodded. “It makes no sense to me either. They said that it would hum and buzz all night keeping them awake and giving them a headache,” she explained. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard it make a sound and I’ve had it in the shop now for over two years.”
I turned back to the display case and pointed to the lid of the box. “Are those Runes on the inside of the lid?” I honestly didn’t know much about the symbols but I knew what they looked like. I had seen them in a few places: books, movies, documentaries, and other television series but I didn’t know what those particular ones were, what they meant, or what their purpose was.
“You have a good eye,” Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, they are. Othilia, Dagaz, Laguz, and Ansuz.”
“What do they mean? Why would someone carve them into the lid of that box?” I wondered aloud.
“Well, the first Rune, Othilia represents an heritance, and Dagaz means transformation, Laguz in that reversed position warns about overreaching or exceeding your own abilities and the last one, Ansuz, in that position refers to Loki, the trickster from the Nose pantheon of gods.” She paused in thought. “I guess someone could have been leaving a message about the sphere. Reminding someone that it was their inheritance and when they received it, they would also undergo some sort of transformation. There seems to be a warning about not using it beyond their limits or Loki would manifest in their life.”
I wanted that sphere. I felt as if it was calling to me, that it was mine. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things that I was finding here in the shop, things that seemed to be meant for me to find and purchase. Was it possible that I was lead here, perhaps by my ancestors, by Syn, to discover more about myself and about my birthright and my role as Syn’s human agent in Midgard?
“But that’s my interpretation. Someone else might get a different meaning from the Runes. Would you like me to take it out of the case so you can see it up close?” Elizabeth asked me.
I nodded. “Yes, I would.”
– Sheri Breault Kreitner