Articles/Essays From Pagans
December 10th. 2016 ...
A Child's First Yule
November 10th. 2016 ...
What Exactly Is Witchcraft?
A Witch in the Bible Belt: Questions are Opportunities
On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans
What I Get from Cooking (And How it’s Part of My Path)
October 10th. 2016 ...
Witchcraft from the Outside
September 11th. 2016 ...
How Did I Get Here? (My Pagan Journey)
Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess
September 3rd. 2016 ...
Rethinking Heaven: What Happens When We Die?
What is Happening in My Psychic Reading?
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
An Open Mind and Heart
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
June 13th. 2016 ...
Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
How to Bond with the Elements through Magick
Magical Household Cleaning
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected
The Fear of Witchcraft
Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele
Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess
Magic in Sentences
The Evolution of Thought Forms
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
Spring Has Sprung!
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?
Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
May 6th. 2015 ...
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
I Claim Cronehood
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
The Origin of Runes
Article ID: 13130
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,717
Times Read: 3,497
RSS Views: 15,963
Author: Brunhilde [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 5th. 2009
Times Viewed: 3,497
The term rune comes from ancient European dialects. It means mystery or secret. Each rune symbol represents a concept, like wealth or fertility. Runes were not originally used as letters in an alphabet. Ancient shamans used them in a variety of ways: to focus their thoughts, as an aid to meditation, as a means to communicate with the spirit world, for divination, etc. By necessity, much of this activity took place in the mind of the shaman. The inhabitants of the spirit world did not have physical bodies, so they communicated with the shamans through their thoughts, by using symbols such as runes.
Often, the shaman would enter into a sacred cave and draw images on the cave wall. We have numerous examples of ancient cave paintings still intact today. We call this type of display imitative magick. On behalf of the tribe, the shaman would dance, chant, and meditate in this sacred space. Some of these cave walls also feature early runes. These symbols may be messages sent from the shamans to the spirits, or images sent from the spirits to the shamans.
For ancient peoples, these paintings and runes were not mere decoration. They were powerful, energized glyphs that held great potential for action when utilized by the trained mind of the shaman.
Runes and Phosphenes
The origin of rune symbols is the topic of much debate. Just how were these symbols impressed upon the minds of the shamans? One theory is proposed by author Nigel Pennick in his book Magical Alphabets (1992) . The author discusses the effects of various stimuli on the visual cortex of the brain.
"Modern neurophysiology has identified phosphenes, geometrical shapes and images that are present subconsciously in the visual cortex and neural system. These are present in all humans. They are described as entopic, being visible when the eyes are shut. They can also be seen when the consciousness is altered by some means: during meditation, in trance, or in hallucinations induced by fatigue, illness or drugs."
Mr. Pennick’s analysis seems to agree with one modern belief on the possible origin of runes. One can imagine an early shaman entering into a trance state in order to communicate with the spirit world, and perceiving phosphene patterns as part of the process. The shaman would naturally identify these patterns, or runes, as images sent to him from the spirit world.
Odin’s Shamanic Experience
Taken further, this neurophysiologic origin of runes may explain the myth of the god Odin receiving the Norse runes. We find his statements in The Poetic Edda where he describes his own personal shamanic experience. He speaks of a self-inflicted wound, followed by nine days and nights of severe deprivation. He willingly endures this torment in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. And he is handsomely rewarded—he receives the first rune symbols, which he later gives to mankind.
So Where Is the Magick?
If we accept the idea that some of our modern runes are the result of normal neurophysiologic changes in the human brain, a question arises. If rune symbols are simply the product of phosphene production, how meaningful are they? Are runes the result of contact with the spirit world or are they merely the result of chemical changes in the brain? Does their mundane neural origin discredit their spiritual importance? Are they indeed magickal?
Yes. Why? Because with our human brain and its ability to produce phosphenes, it seems that Nature has deliberately provided us with a ready-made vehicle to access the spirit world. First of all, our spirit vehicle is our brain—a preprogrammed cerebral system that is hard-wired to allow for altered states of consciousness.
Transitions to altered states can be tracked by analyzing brain wave functions. Profound changes in human brain wave activity have been reliably documented. Secondly, we now find that our brain vehicle is equipped with signal lights—our sojourn in these altered states can be accompanied by phosphene production.
Rather than discrediting our spiritual journey, and our acquisition of rune symbols, our human neurophysiology validates it. Our brains are uniquely configured to achieve access to other planes, and then signal us when we arrive. If you believe that Spirit deliberately created our human physiology, then our mental abilities are also deliberate. The sentient, guiding hand of Nature has designed us this way. And if some of our rune symbols are derived from meditative states, they those symbols do indeed come from a spiritual source after all.
One Size Fits All
There is another intriguing question about runes that may be answered by phosphene production. Some runes systems from diverse cultures have many symbols in common. Their similarity may indicate that a single “source culture” or progenitor originally produced the runes. Sometime later, those first symbols were adopted by neighboring cultures. The debate continues over which source culture that may have been. Many scripts and cultures have been proposed.
Perhaps the common source for similar runes was not a single source culture. It may have been shamans of several cultures who engaged in similar meditation practices and trance states. Since they all had similar neurophysiology, they all produced similar phosphene patterns, with the result that their visions produced similar rune symbols.
As modern users of runes can attest, there is definitely something ethereal and powerful about these symbols, even today. It may be their origins in the subconscious mind of all humanity. They possess a resonance with each of us.
People from widely diverse cultures can use the same rune symbols to focus their thoughts in meditation and prayer. They also make powerful conduits for our magickal work. And several symbols can be combined into one single glyph to concentrate their power, called a bind rune.
Finally, they are extremely useful as tools for divination, used in the same way as one would use Tarot cards. The interpretation of rune symbols during divination requires us to utilize our intuition, our sixth sense. These esoteric symbols can often help us to express our thoughts better than words.
They will continue to intrigue and fascinate those of us who follow the old ways.
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Author's Profile: To learn more about Brunhilde - Click HERE
Other Articles: Brunhilde has posted 3 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Brunhilde... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).