In the basic plot of the old Germanic heroic poem Sigrdrifumal, a richness of information regarding the details of the quest of the spirit to transcend the limitations of the conditioned mind can be found. Here we have a small portion of the saga of the Volsungs isolated into its own book for a reason which has been buried by history. Perhaps the ancient scalds who recorded it recognized its completeness. We can only speculate. The Codex Regius combines the two poems into one with no breaks, while other sources separate them. This is easy to understand considering the chaotic structure of Sigrdrifumal. It appears as though there a missing section may have been added from a later manuscript, and yet the end of the poem is still obscured.
While riding on Hindarfjoll Sigurð sees a great light coming from the mountain. He finds a structure made of shields containing a figure lying as if dead. He approaches, removes the armour and discovers that it is none other than a Valkyrie lying within (Valkyries are Oðin’s ‘shield maidens’ who tap the slain warriors on the whoulder and carry their spirits to Valhalla upon their deaths) How to Be Guided in the Present Moment . This is a familiar event in Scandinavian folklore. It seems to relate to the discovery of the Fylgja (Fylgja-‘to follow’. It is an attendant spiritual servitor, or guide, cognate with the “holy guardian angel’ of hermetic lore).
A light shining on the mountain reminds one very much of the iconography associated with a state of illumination that transpires once the sexual energy contained in the pelvic girdle is drawn up the spine into the head. The shield-burg could be the skull or the spirit seed that contains the part of the soul that connects the individual to the divine.
In one version of Sigrdrifumal, the figure is mistaken for a man before the helmet is removed, and then recognized as a woman as her golden locks spill out onto the pillow. This androgyny may indicate that Oðinic wisdom is similar to what in the martial arts is referred to as ‘soft’ power as well as ‘hard’. Soft power in this sense is not weak or ineffectual, but rather that it attains its power through subtle means and chi rather than through muscle strength. This coincides with Oðin having been taught Seidhcraft by Freya, for which he was sometimes accused of being effeminate. The Fylgja of a warrior was also thought to come either in the form of an animal guide, or as a human of the opposite gender which may point in the direction of Jung’s concept of the ‘Anima’.
The Valkyrie then tells Sigurð her history. We hear of times long ago, which may indicate a secret about the Fylgja connecting it with previous incarnations or genetic memory in the individual. If that is so, then Sigurð’s fylgja being punished by sleep for disobeying Oðin may be related to his having become cursed for winning the Rhinegold from the dragon Fafnir, and thereby invoking the curse of the Rhinegold. Another reading gives the conclusion that the sleeping nature of the Fylgja may relate to Sigurð’s own personal history, as psychology teaches us that the loss of the sense of divinity that children have as a matter of nature occurs due to social conditioning or trauma, which in this case manifested in the burying of his sense of personal wisdom in a wall of shields within him. This locked power becomes accessible after having destroyed the beast Fafnir and finding his power by facing this shadow. This is strangely reminiscent of Reich’s ‘character armour’ and by cutting into the centre of the armour, we reveal the true nature of the soul as androgynous and wise.
The next several stanzas seem to deal with some various magical uses of the runes.
The first stanza begins with two lines relating to the offering of the magical draught to Sigurð. Then Sigrdrifa claims that the beer is filled with magical songs and Gamanrunar, or pleasure runes. This is interesting as it is a well known fact that beer recipes, up until the 17th century, when Germany passed the first purity laws against beer additives, included a variety of ‘magical’ herbs that may easily have been associated with magical songs and pleasure. That aside, the runes that might be associated with pleasure and song would be Ansuz, Wunjo, and Gebo.
The second stanza dealing with the runes lists the uses of the Sigrunar, or ‘victory runes’. By their very title, the first of the Futhark to enter the mind is Sowulo, which is known in some systems as ‘Sig’ (‘Victory’). Other runes that might fit the mold of ‘victory rune’ might be Algiz, Thurisaz, or Tiwaz, each of which have protective properties. This may be misleading, as protection and victory are very different things. In that case, the victory runes might be Othila, as it is Oðin’s rune, the rune of completion of a long task. The feeling of being victorious might be encapsulated in Wunjo, the rune of joy. The only one we can know for certain from the text would be Tiwaz, as the last line of the stanza says to call on Tyr twice and that rune is named for Tyr. This might be instructions to place a Tiwaz rune on the sword twice, or once on each side.
The third stanza deals with Ölrunar, or “ale-runes”. The text seems to suggest that these runes deal primarily with trust issues, though combining that with the fact that the persons being asked to keep one’s trust are ‘the wives of another’ it follows that they are perhaps better known as “fling-runar”. These runes are to be written on the back of one’s hand or on ‘horn’ (either a drinking horn, or a phallus could be indicated here). Nauthiz is listed in the text as being drawn on the nails to ensure one’s illicit secrets are kept secret. A moment of reflection would beg the question as to why the figurehead of a culture that believed that ‘those who committed evil with other men’s wives’ would be chewed for eternity by serpents and wolves would be sending an emissary empowering one of his agents to do just that. It is either a mistranslation, or there is something we have missed. The stories seem to suggest that the typical attitude of the immortals towards human sexual dramas is taken in a lighthearted manner to say the least. Perhaps the many millennia of being disincarnate leads them to the conclusion that the pains and pleasures of incarnation are to be experienced in as much relish as one can muster, while there is still time. Perhaps, also, it provides the gods with some much needed entertainment. Perhaps there are a few of them up there who prefer soap operas to comedies.
The following stanza seems to also deal with ale-runes, but of a different sort. This type is more for protection against poisoning. The leek was a common charm against poison in ancient times. ‘Leek’ may also be a reference to the Laguz rune. It was known to be a common custom among Germanic peoples to bless the drink with a Thor’s hammer sign before imbibing. This serves perhaps as proof against poison, as stated, but also perhaps as a means of dedicating the drink as an offering to Thor. As Thor is the warder of human kind, then it would make sense in both readings.
Bjargrunar are described in the next stanza. These are runes used to ease childbirth and protect the mother and child in the act of giving birth. Runes that might be suitable for birthing would be Berkana, Inguz, Perthro. They are to be ‘risted’ (written) on the palms and limbs of the mother. Also, the Disir are called in at this point. This makes perfect sense considering the role of the Disir as protectors of mothers and of the hearth and home. One translation refers to the Nornir (Fates) in place of the Disir. This coincides runically as Perthro is associated both with the Norns and with birthing. Inguz is here indicated due to its energetic similarity to a womb.
The next stanza deals with Brimrunar, or ‘brine-runes’. These are charms relating to the safety of ships at sea, which must have been a very useful skill to know in times where boats were the primary method of distance travel. The first rune that immediately leaps to mind when dealing with the brine would be Laguz, the water rune. Considering its shape, Laguz might be considered a suitable candidate for the ‘mast rune’ mentioned in the text. The reference to ‘laying fire’ on the the oar might suggest Kano. It may also be that the runes are expected to be burned into the wood of the oars, which seems a suitable way of writing them on wood. Of course, another possible reading of the brine runes would deal with the water element on an emotional level. If this were the case, then the runes most likely to ‘calm the seas’ as it were might be Laguz, for its association with flow and water, Raido for bringing the errant mind back to the proper path and calming the fury, and perhaps ehwaz as it would be the rider on the horse of the emotions who wishes to get control and be the rider instead of the ridden.
Next is the Limrunar, or ‘limb-runes’. These are runes dealing with healing. Leechcraft was thought to be a half-magical practice in ancient times, combining rune lore with hands-on healing and, one can assume, wound dressing. Runes that might be of use here are Uruz, which would give a definite charge of powerful health giving energy, Sowulo, who’s positive energy and light would be greatly beneficial to the mental and emotional aspects of the patient, and Ansuz, which would call upon the powers of Oðin. These runes were probably written on the bark of trees to transfer the illness from the patient to the wood. In different translations the boughs to be used would either be to the east or to the west. This is confusing as it is therefore difficult to decide what the meaning would be without knowing for sure which direction.