|Odin on the World Tree by Emil Doepler (1900)|
Compare this to what Helene Adeline Guerber calls "the oldest Northern riddle": "Who are the two who ride to the Thing? Three eyes have they together, ten feet, and one tail: and thus they travel through the lands." In this context, the Thing is the meeting of the gods. One-eyed Odin riding his eight-legged horse equals three eyes, ten feet, and one tail. These two riddles, separated by vast distances of time and space, underscore both the concept of the coffin as horse and the idea of a hereditary connection (common or originating) between the Germanic tribes and the peoples of the Indian subcontinent.
|Runic inscription on Kylver Stone in Gotland, Sweden (circa 400)|
Runic engravings have been found in Germany, Sweden, Iceland, England, and even in Constantinople's Hagia Sophia mosque. The latter has at least two attested runic inscriptions, both grafitti with the name of the Viking adventurer - the equivalent of "Halfdan was here."
Scholarly debate has raged for hundreds of years over the question of magical use of the runes. Some argue that the runes were merely an alphabet like any other, while others argue that they were used for magical incantation, and that each rune had its own magical properties. In Hávamál, Odin himself lays out a list of runes and their magical abilities. He tells the listener, "The runes you must find and the meaningful letter, / a very great letter, / a very powerful letter, / which the mighty sage stained / and the powerful gods made / and the runemaster of the gods carved out." In this and other Eddic passages, runes seem to be clearly described as magically-charged symbols activated by staining or coloring them with blood or other colored dye. Also, in the Saga of the Volsungs, which tells the story of the dragonslayer Sigurd and the valkyrie Brynhild, the mystic warrior imparts runic wisdom to the human hero, instructing him on specific runic rituals for specific magical effects. This all seems to point to a definite tradition of runes for magical use.
|Runes by Jóhanna G. Harðardóttir (2010)|