The Power of Symbols

Way back in the day as I began my exploration of Wicca and other Pagan spiritual paths, two symbols called to me early on that have been with me ever since: the crow and the tree of life. Both of them are near and dear to my heart and are always present on or near my home altar. In the wild, crows often gift me with feathers and I always greet them when I see them. The Celtic Tree of Life is the symbol I chose to represent me on my author page on Facebook.

Fast forward many years and these two symbols joined hands in a beautiful and unexpected way as I recently finished a six month study of the runes. This deep dive included learning some Old Norse as well as reading all the beautiful stories contained in the Poetic Edda. The Hávamál, which is found in the Poetic Eddas, tells the following story about Óðinn and how he obtained the knowledge of the runes:

I know I hung on that windy tree (Yggdrisil)
for nine long nights,
wounded by a spear,
and offered to Óðinn,
myself to myself,
on the tree
that no one will ever know
what roots run beneath it.

No one refreshed me with loaf or horn (bread or drink).
I peered down into the deep.
I took the runes—
shrieking I took them—
and feel back from where I came.
[Hávamál 138-139, David Taliesin translation]

The tree in question is Yggdrasil which, in Norse mythology, is the world tree that binds the nine realms together. It bears more than a similar resemblance to the Celtic tree of life in illustrations I’ve come across on the internet.

Then there are Óðinn’s ravens: Huginn and Munnin who fly all over the world and report back to Óðinn what they find. They are beautifully described in the Grímnismál, which is also found in the Poetic Eddas:

Huginn and Munnin (Thought and Memory),
Fly every day around Jörmungrund (the earth);
I fear for Huginn that he may not return,
But I fear more for Munnin.
[Grímnismál 20, David Taliesin translation]

As soon as I discovered this story, I smiled. I have always understood crows and ravens as divine messengers who bring us wisdom and magic. And here they are, beautifully portrayed in Norse Mythology!

Now, as I begin every rune reading I say a prayer to Óðinn and thank him for his sacrifice on the Yggdrasil tree so that we could obtain the knowledge of the runes. Then I ask him to send Huginn and Munnin out into the world to retrieve the knowledge we need to know in the reading. Who knew these two symbols would have such profound meaning to me as the years passed.

I share this story as a word of encouragement. When exploring and expanding your spiritual practice, pay attention to the things that catch your eye or you feel drawn to. It may be an image, an herb, a stone, a ritual, a deity, etc. We never know how significant these sacred objects will become to us as they years pass so enjoy them when they make their presence known!

P.S. If you’re interested in a beautiful scholarly translation of the Poetic Eddas, I highly recommend the work of Jackson Crawford. His YouTube channel is outstanding!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin,

About David Taliesin

My name is David Taliesin. I'm an writer, teacher and retreat leader who explores the connections between Christian and Pagan Spirituality. E-mail me with any personal comments you'd like to share and I will do my best to answer them. You can also contact me through my Facebook page
This entry was posted in Norse/Germanic Spirituality, Runes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s