Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crafting the Runes: Haegl

From the Runic Tarot, by Caroline Smith
and John Astrop

Hail is the whitest of grain;
it is whirled from the vault of heaven
and is tossed about by gusts of wind
and then it melts into water.

The rune Haegl translates directly to 'hail'.  The theme comparing hail to grain is found in all three of the extant rune poems, and makes an interesting contrast.  Hail is a frightening weather phenomenon, destroying crops and damaging homes, and a late summer hail storm of the kind that comes once or twice a year here on the prairie would have been devastating to a culture relying on agriculture for survival.  It's important also to note that the seeming loss of the hails power - "it melts into water" - is referenced only in the Christianized version of the poem.  In the Icelandic version, no such ultimate resolution is given; instead it is described as "cold grain, and shower of sleet, and sickness of serpents."  It is clear that the Germanic peoples thought of hail as a bad thing - so why the comparison to grain, the very plant probably most often destroyed by these storms?

In my opinion, it all heralds back to the Germanic idea of ice as the beginning of creation.  Of course ice, like hail, is a destructive force.  But referencing it as a grain, a seed which falls to earth from the sky, seems to say that this destruction also contains the potential for new growth; an ice which melts into nourishing water.

In divination, I absolutely read Haegl as a negative rune.  But it's not the end of the world - after the destruction, the hail melts, and its tiny seeds can grow into something new and perhaps better than what came before.

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