The Key to Understanding “The Hanged Man”

“One of the most remarkable and extremely fascinating stories from Norse mythology about the significance and magical power of Divine language is the story of Odin discovering the runes.

A determent seeker of knowledge and wisdom, the Norse god Odin observed the Norns –three mysterious sagacious maidens who create the fates of all beings by carving runes into the Yggdrasil tree trunk. He ached for their powers and wisdom and decided to undertake the task of coming to know runes.

Runes are not just simple letters but the symbols of some most powerful forces in the cosmos. ‘Rune’ means both letter and secret/mystery. These letters called the runes allow one to access, interact with and influence the world-shaping forces they symbolize.

Thus, when Odin sought the runes, he wasn’t merely attempting to acquire a set of arbitrary representations of human vocal sounds. Rather he was uncovering an extraordinarily potent system of magic!

Odin decided to undertake the most severe form of penance or tapas (self-sacrifice) by piercing himself with a spear and hanging upside down on a branch of Yggdrasil (the great tree at the center of the Norse spiritual cosmos rising from the Well of Urd and holding its branches and roots in the Nine Worlds), staring attentively into the depth of the Well of Urd.

Since the runes’ origin is in the Well of Urd with the Norns, and since the runes do not reveal themselves to any but those who prove themselves worthy of such fearful insights and abilities, Odin hung himself from a branch of Yggdrasil and gazed downward into the deep waters below. He forbade any of the gods to grant him the slightest aid, not even a sip of water. And he kept peering downwards and call to the runes.

He survived in this state, teetering on the precipice that separate the living from the dead, for no less than nine days and nine nights. At the end of the ninth night, he perceived shapes in the depths: the runes!

They had accepted his sacrifice and shown themselves to him, revealing to him not only their forms, but also the secrets that lay within them. Having obtained this knowledge, Odin ended his ordeal with the scream of exultation.

Having been initiated into the mysteries of the runes and equipped with the knowledge of how to wield the runes, he became one of the mightiest and most accomplished beings in the cosmos.

Words create reality, not the other way around! Language is an inescapable structuring element of perception. Words don’t merely reflect our perception of the world; rather, we perceive and experience the world in the way that our language demands of us. Thinking outside of language is literally unthinkable, because all thought takes place within language itself – hence the inherent, godlike creative power of words. The runes and other letters/secrets such as matrika or the Malini alphabet are meaningful symbols that can facilitate communication between a human being and the invisible powers that animate the visible world, providing the basis for a plethora of magical acts.”

Excerpt from “Journey into the Heart of Reality”