Thoughts on Irminsul, Wodan and the Runes By Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson
Again, when dealing with things metaphysical the physical plane needs to, in my opinion, be totally discarded. When thinking about the World Tree which we know as Irminsul we try to attach physical points and/or directions to a Tree not present in our mundane world. When Wodan sacrificed himself on Irminsul I’m convinced he did so metaphysically; after all, he is the Shaman’s Shaman!
Wotan’s ordeal on Irminsul gained him his desire; that is, knowledge of the Runes. In Wotan’s own words he says in the Havamal:
I know that I hanged on a windy tree nine long nights wounded with a spear, dedicated to Wotan, myself to myself…
Here is the part that people seem to ignore or simply gloss over it:
…on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.
Wotan understands the metaphysical nature of Irminsul and his ordeal. Irminsul is more vast than we can imagine and smaller than the smallest grain of sand. It has no specific place in time or space. Irminsul just is. Yet, even in lore Irminsul is given an image similar to that of any other physical tree. It has roots, a trunk, branches and leaves. What is problematic about the whole image of the Tree are the roots; after all, the Nine Worlds are connected to them. Nonetheless our lore tries to describe the placement of the Runes on a physical plane with their limited knowledge of what exactly they were describing.
The tree itself has roots. Roots of the roots have roots. The roots pull up nutrients that feeds the tree in order to maintain survival. Lore says there are three roots to the Tree. I cannot bring myself to justify placing them North, South, up, down, whatever, or wherever. If Wodan says no one knows from whence they come that’s good enough for me.
Wodan used his experience on the World Tree to receive the Runes. Lore says:
I took up the runes, screaming I took them, then I fell back from there.
Wodan as the hanged shaman on Irminsul is visualized as both hanging from the neck or from one foot. For this hypothesis visualize Wodan hanging from one foot. In receiving the Runes he had to reach toward Irminsul's roots and falling again from there. This tells me the Runes come up from the Roots of Irminsul and the Runes are at the very heart of nurturing the World Tree.
The Runes have been separated (rightly or wrongly) into three Aetts or sections of eight Runes. People have attached names to these Aetts such as Freyja’s Aett, Heimdall’s Aett and Tyr’s Aett. The only reasoning for it I can see is that the beginning Rune of each Aett equates to an F, H and T; that is, F=Freyja, H=Heimdall, T=Tyr. Just like lore writers who were a bit off in placing The Tree‘s roots on a physical plane, I think whoever divided the Runes into three Aetts was right in doing so, but their attributing names to them in this fashion is a bit misguided.
Just as there are three sets of Aetts there are three roots to Irminsul. Wodan reached towards the roots to obtain the Runes. I postulate the three Aetts represents the three roots that nurtures the Tree to which afforded Wodan success on his Shamanic journey of discovery. I can easily see the three roots of Irminsul equating to the three Aetts thus:
1st Aett; Irminsul’s Root of Creation Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, Kenaz, Gebo and Wunjo
2nd Aett: Irminsul’s Root of Destruction Hagalaz, Naudiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Pertho, Algiz, Sowulo
This same model can be used on the Armanen Runes and the Sacred Eighteen with the same results:
1st Halbdutzend (half-dozen) Irminsul’s Root of Creation: Fa, Ur, Thorn, Os, Rit, Kun
2nd Halbdutzend, Irminsul’s Root of Destruction Hagal, Nod, Is, Ar, Sig, Tyr
3rd Halbdutzend, Irminsul’s Root of Re-Creation Bar, Laf, Man, Yr, Eh, Gibor
It’s the metaphysical Runes that feed the metaphysical roots of Irminsul that feeds the metaphysical Tree that supports the metaphysical universe that supports the metaphysical Folk. Further, as the Runes are at the very root of Irminsul, perhaps Creation itself could never have happened but for the Runes.