Hvaml 138-145


The language of the runes (Rnatal)



***Hvaml 138***


A translation as literal as possible


I know that I hung

on the wind gnarled tree (Yggdrasill)

nine whole nights,

wounded by a spear

and given to dhinn,

I to me,

on this tree

of which nobody knows

from which roots it rises.


Explanation of the last lines


The last line must be read as: From the roots of some (unknown) entity, it stands up. Instead of it stands up, we could also use the metaphor it flows, it runs upwards. The usual reading (except Dronke) is on which roots it grows. This could be a possible commonplace understanding of this line but it does not respect the more mysterious wording used in the text. This wording raises another question relating to Yggdrasills mystic role: the lore speaks of Yggdrasills roots and we well know that the roots of our ordinary trees are resting in and on the ground. Upon what are Yggdrasills roots resting? Nobody knows the answer.

This helps understanding the form hvers (genitive of what?, that I put in bold in the Old Norse version). Modern experts qualify it as not very clear (see Evans below) and they vainly tried to emend it.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


Veit ek, at ek hekk              Know I, that I hung

vindgameii                    windy-pole-tree on

ntr allar nu,                    nights all nine,

geiri undar                       by a spear wounded

ok gefinn ni,                  and given to dhinn,

sjalfur sjalfum mr,            self to self mine,

eim meii                      on it pole-tree

er manngi veit                    which nobody knows

hvers af rtum renn.          of which from roots it grows.



Bellows translation


(Bellows 139. He introduced here as his 138, our 165. From now on his numbering = ours + 1. For instance, in the note below stanza 139 is our 138, but his s. 104 is still our 104.)

I ween that I hung | on the windy tree,

Hung there for nights full nine;

With the spear I was wounded, | and offered I was

To Othin, myself to myself,

On the tree that none | may ever know

What root beneath it runs.

[Bellows note139: With this stanza begins the most confusing part of the Hovamol: the group of eight stanzas leading up to the Ljothatal, or list of charms. Certain paper manuscripts have before this stanza a title: Othins Tale of the Runes. Apparently stanzas 139, 140 and 142 are fragments of an account of how Othin obtained the runes; 141 is erroneously inserted from some version of the magic mead story (cf. stanzas 104-110); and stanzas 143, 144, 145, and 146 are from miscellaneous sources, all, however, dealing with the general subject of runes ] [The understanding of these stanzas, as given by Evans in his introduction, though it stays purely academic, does not show the same systematic scorn for our poem. See s. 139 introduction, below, which provides a part of this introduction.]

Special commentary on verb gefa


I obviously deal here with gefa in the context of 138, but these comments we will also be useful in stanza 157 relative to dhinns relations with the hanged ones.

The verb gefa does its past participle in gefinn, it means to give, allow, pay, allot. It is however important to better analyze its meaning in view of understanding what mean dhinn when he states that he has been given to himself.

The expression gefa saman (to give together) describes a betrothal, that is, a kind of self giving to someone else. The idea of a sacrifice is totally absent here, except in an over pessimistic view of marital life.

To be exhausted is uppgefinn and to give up is expressed by gefa upp.

To be a devoted or excessively pious person on a spiritual path is expressed by gefinn.

A fertile ground is said to be given to grass: fat-gefinn.

A socially inferior person is known as given below, undir-gefinn.

Something or someone who is not given is said to be non-given, gefinn. For instance, a free, unmarried woman is known as non-given, gefinn. This negation is quite noticeable since people who understand gefinn as sacrificed would never imagine that a free woman can be called non sacrificed especially in the case of Scandinavian civilization or, perhaps, excessive feminism.

As you see the uses of gefa and gefinn do not include the concept of sacrifice. We cannot say that dhinn is sacrificed to himself: he has been offered to himself.


Commentary on the vocabulary, except gefa


The verb vita, veit in its first person singular indicative present, means to be conscious, to learn, to know, to see. The compound vita (to see on) means to forebode.

The verb hanga, hkk (here spelled hekk) in its preterit first person singular, means to hang, to be hanged. The meaning I have been killed is thus perfectly possible here, though it is certainly understood in a mystical sense.

The noun vindgameii = vindga-meii = vindugr-meir = windy-pole. C-V insists that the word (meir) can never be used of a living tree. For once, de Vries does not seem so reliable here since he refers to Alt Hoch Deutsch meit, meaning, he says, baum while the AHD dictionaries give to meit the same meaning as Old Norse meia, to hack, to cut, never baum. Finally, Lex. Poet. gives also arbor (tree) often used for speaking of Yggdrasill, which we hope to be still a living tree.

All this hints at a primitive meaning of meir being more related to the hacking of the tree than to a living tree, as C-V notices. It may also well be that this windy-pole refers more to a wind- gnarled tree that to a simple pole. Moreover, Yggdrasill is not a tree living in this world and he is described as being hacked at by several animals. The better translation for vindgameir seems to me to be: wind-gnarled Yggdrasill.

The word undar has the regular form of the past participle of a verb unda given only by Vries verwunden (to wound) while C-V and Lex. poet. gives only undar wounded. I thus suppose that the verb unda is not used as Old Norse apart from its past participle. Note that dhinn says that he is wounded, and not struck, stabbed, gashed. These last meanings suggest a specific actor to execute the wounding while wounded is more centered on the state of the wounded one.

The pronoun hvers is the masculine or neutral genitive interrogative pronoun who, what?, it thus means here whose? or of what?.

The expression af rtum combines the preposition af and the noun rt, here in the dative plural, rtum. Af is always followed by a dative and generally indicates a movement from the outside of the thing in the dative case. The English translations easily return it by from roots except Bellows who translates af by beneath.

The verb renna means to run, to rise (for a thing and a plant), to run (for a river).


Digression on Yggdrasill


At first, note that the name of the world tree is written neither ggdrasil (with a long y) nor Yggdrasil (with only one l) in Old Norse. I thus give you here a not very current but exact spelling.

It is composed of yggr and drasill. The word drasill (or drsull) means horse in poetry. The word yggr is not present in C-V who provides only gr (fierce), hence a possible spelling with a , but it contradicts the experts opinion. Lex. Poet. and de Vries give three meanings for this word. As an adjective, it means terribilis, vel potius suspectus, malefidus (terrible, or even suspect, rather unreliable). As a substantive, it means dhinn, and properly gr (fierce) and also metuandus, terribilis (the frightening one, the terrible one) and in de Vries:  furcht, (fear, terror).

No myth describes Yggdrasills creation. Some suppose that it existed for ever, which contradicts too much our cosmogony to be acceptable. I thus have invented a version of the creation of Yggdrasill which is not pure imagination. It is based on the names, Burr (or Borr) and Bestla, of the couple of the gods of the second generation, therefore the parents of inn, Vili and V. Except their kin, this couple of primitive gods disappeared almost completely from our mythology.

               Meaning of the words burr, borr and brr

In C-V, de Vries and Lex. Poet. the word burr means son. In C-V and de Vries, the word borr means digger and C-V says that it is less correct form of brr. Lex. Poet. gives two meanings to borr ligni genus (kind of tree) and filius (son), and notes it as identical to burr.

Lastly, C-V and de Vries give to the word brr the meaning a kind of tree, a son. Lex. Poet. gives also to brr the meaning of ligni genus but not the meaning of son Brr is presented only as inns father, this name is the same as Burr or Borr.

You thus see that the words burr, borr and brr intermingle their meanings and the ones of son and kind of tree. That the first god, Buri (or Bri) has as a son named indifferently Son or Tree already drives us to conceive a possible the bond between this son-tree and Yggdrasill.

               Meaning of the word bestla

The three dictionaries give no more than describing Bestla as inns mother and Blthorns daughter (as we will see it when studying 145). De Vries gives the etymology of her name as being disputable but, in addition, he places it in the list of the words connected to bast. This last word can mean a bond, as in modern German, and also the internal layer of the bark of the lime in which the sap moves up.


Thus, without obtaining an undeniable proof, we can find very strong bonds between Burr, Bestla and the tree. This is why I suggest reinventing a myth, which would have been lost, and according to which the father and the mother of our gods would transform themselves into a cosmic tree, our Yggdrasill.


Comment on the meaning


It seems to me important to understand that this stanza describes four heroes.


The main heroes


The two main ones are inn and Yggdrasill and the two secondary ones are the spear and the runes. inns wording:  sjalfur sjalfum mr impressed everyone and above all Christians who recognized a similarity with the fate of their Christ, with the difference that theirs sacrificed himself for them, at least so they believe, while ours sacrificed himself for himself, at least so we believe. Notice also that the stanza contains nine lines, five devoted to inn and four to Yggdrasill,

inn has not been hung to any ordinary post-tree, but to one grounded on an unfathomable mystery (a hvert, a what? as he says) whose collaboration was necessary for him to grasp the runes and their meaning.

inn became the god of hanged ones and we naturally tend to represent him as hung in Yggdrasill in the same way. He could be hung by the neck or the feet, and both forms of ordeal have some historical existence. Here, I would tend to rather see a form of the Siberian habit to let the corpses rot on an open air platform, before burying their skeleton *. This gives weight to Oleus Magnus remarks**, whose testimony going back to 1555 is often summarily rejected by the scholars.

" in order that their kings and princes should become gods or be raised up among the deities, many nations burned their dead bodies with fire or suspended them with solemn rites in the forests and groves by a golden neck-chain

the man whom chance had presented for immolation was plunged alive into a spring of water if he quickly breathed his last (sic), the priests proclaimed that the votive offering had been auspicious, soon carried him off from there into a nearby grove and hung him up, asserting that he had been transported in the assembly of the gods

Some persons flesh rotting in open air has been thus known for being the royal way towards divinity.

All considered, three assumptions on what exactly is to be hanged are equally probable. One is the fact of being hanged (by the neck), the second, if the subject is hung by the feet, it amounts to an inversion of normality *** and the third is related to the fact that their flesh rots in the open air on the gallows. Because of the way Siberian people deals with its dead ones, I prefer the third assumption and my vision of inn hanged on Yggdrasill (note the on ( meii) that, in spite of the present English use of to hang on, may point at a body hanged in the tree or to the tree, or even lying upon it) is that of a body tied to the tree and lying upon its limbs, and left rotting in the open air.


[A note on hanged on. The English language uses the expression to hang on the gallows in order to point at a body hanging at the gallows. This suggests that the same occurred in Old Norse, which seriously hampers my argument. Now, let us not etymologize from a modern to an ancient language! It is quite probable that this way of speech is inherited from the Old Norse language and could thus can have found its source in the sacrificial way of describing as hanged on bodies tied to or hooked in a tree.]


Note also that, in the majority of civilizations, the hung ones are left to rot on the spot, as a warning, says the rational explanation. Anyhow, the fact of letting rot the corpse in the open air was still in use, even when hanging became a chastisement.

We must now await new information given by stanza 158 to be able to start again this discussion. It is however clear for me that the present stanza suggests the possibility that inn was not hung by the neck but rather hooked, fastened or settled in some way in Yggdrasills limbs.


* For more details, consult archaeological work carried out on the Siberian tombs. See for instance, in French, ric Crubzy and Anatoly Alexeev, Chamane, Errance 2007. Note that the maid-shaman who provided the title of their book is an exception; she had been mummified and preserved by the cold in the permafrost.

** I use Footes excellent edition:  P. G Foote, Oleus Magnus, Hakluyt Society, 1996-1998. The sentences quoted here are in book 3, chapters 1 and 7.

*** See Jere Fleck, inn self-Sacrifice - A New Interpretation:  I:  The Ritual Inversion. in Scandinavian Studies, 1971, vol. 43, N 2, pp. 119-42.


The second hero, is a windy meir (a post, a beam) twice named in this stanza. This cannot be due to a poetic technique intended to respect alliterations and the stanza is thus built around this word. This hints at two ideas. One is the vision of these trees growing in the mountain or the seashore that are twisted by the wind. They offer a view evoking suffering, but they actually thrive in this harsh environment. The other is the one of a beautiful cut tree, the trunk of which has been used to make a mast or a beam. Yggdrasill carries the image of all, with this difference which it has not been cut but put in place as being the axis of the universe by colossal forces which exceed our imagination.

We do not know upon which others roots its roots are based. The modern language uses words that explain very little but what they mean can be measured thanks to Newtons mathematical discoveries, and we call them gravitation forces. They also abundantly feed the mania of astrophysicists in need of advertisement. It is however outstanding that our mythology is aware of the need for an unimaginable force, which defines what is up and down for mankind. We will see here that the Germanic civilization was, just like many other primitive civilizations, one based on the worship of several natural forces, among which the tree. Besides, the eight runes of the second family give us a kind of list of the paramount forces that is summarized by Hail and Sun (Hagala and Sowelo), Need and Wild Animals (Naudiz and Algiz), Ice and Storm (Isaz and Pertho), Buddings and Tree (Jeran and Ihwaz).


The secondary heroes spear and runes


We are unable, at present, to guess which hand held the spear nor in what way inns wound has been enacted. It is also possible to believe that he wounded himself, so that blood could run thus offering a kind of spiritual food to the tree, him to whom (cp. 139) no food nor drink is offered. This spear is a symbol of his warlike abilities and it is plausible that he would choose it to cause his wound, an attitude shared by thousands of mystics in search of illumination, including many Heathens and Christians, all agreeing on this topic. You will find in s. 157 commentaries a detailed note explaining why being wounded by a spear is important to make the difference between offered instead of sacrificed to inn. It explains the importance that inn would have been self wounded by a spear.


Following further the idea that the blood ran, it did ran downwards to the mystical substance equivalent, in the otherworld, to our ordinary ground. The following stanza will say that inn looked downwards in order to take-understand- learn the runes upwards. We do catch the idea of a move in the opposite direction to that of the running blood. inn stands in a middle position, neither chthonian nor really heavenly. He is able to collect the runes on the ground under him, where his blood met the ground and he goes down (the going down is more relevant than any details explaining how this move was carried out) to collect the runes, which are thus indeed of a chthonian nature:  they get out of the ground to be offered to inn, as a result and reward for his suffering and the gift of his blood.


Evans Commentaries



2 vindga - an adj. vindugr (evidently wind-blown here) is otherwise known only in modern Icelandic, but there is nothing suspect about it; the elaborate objections of are over-nice.

7-9 bear a strong resemblance to Fjlsvinnsml 20:  Mmameir hann heitir / en at manngi veit / af hverjum rtum renn; some scholars hold that they are borrowed thence. Hvers should perhaps be emended to hverjum, for as it stands it is obscure; Finnur Jnsson thinks trs [of the tree] is to be understood [i.e. hvers stands for trs] (which would be, as he says, completely illogical), understands kyns [of the wonder or of the kindred].



***Hvaml 139***


Evanss introduction to 139-141


Why did inn hang fasting on the tree in this way? The reasons are supplied in 139-141. These strophes evidently describe his acquisition of occult wisdom through self-imposed ascetic disciplines:  rapt into an ecstatic trance, he wins insight into the hidden depths of nature and attains mastery of runes and poetry. The underlying notion is that self-imposed privations and torments will, if continued long enough, induce an exalted visionary state in which the seer transcends the mundane limits of time and space and is granted a revelation of the hidden secrets of the universe It is probable that such mortifications were thought to bring the seer to the critical border between life and death, or perhaps to take him, by means of his own symbolic death, right into the world of the dead. This was where occult wisdom was to be acquired:  in Vafrnisml 43 the giant Vafrnir explains that he learnt all the fates of the gods, the secrets of the giants and of all the gods, in his journeyings through the nine worlds of the underworld inhabited by the dead and, as we have already noticed, inn is stated to have been able to arouse the hanged and converse with them, doubtless to learn their secrets; some lines by the poet Bjarni Kolbeinsson seem to imply a legend that inn acquired the art of poetry in this way:  llungis namk eigi Yggjar feng und hanga I did not learn the art of poetry beneath a hanged man (implying that somebody else (inn?) [or anyone else] did), Jmvkinga drpa 2 (Skjaldedigtning B. II p.1).

[The literal translation of this line is:  [quite learned-I not (I did not learn at all) Yggrs (ins) prey (mead of poetry) underneath (followed by acc. when denoting motion, this means by going under ) hanging-corpses (acc. plur.).This line unambiguously states that the art of poetry might be learned under the hanged corpses. This line reveals some secret behaviour among inns disciples, not of inn himself, as suggested by Evans. Note also that Barni was a bishop and he would certainly negate his involvement in such hateful Heathen practices!]


A translation as literal as possible


With a loaf to comfort me

nor with a drinking-horn,

I peered down,

I took up the runes,

shrieking I took them,

I thereafter fell again.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


Vi hleifi mik sldu           With a loaf to me comfort

n vi hornigi,                   nor with drinking-horn,

nsta ek nir,                     peered I down,

nam ek upp rnar,                         took I up the runes,

pandi nam,                      shrieking I took,

fell ek aftr aan.               fell I again from there/after.


Bellows translation


None made me happy | with loaf or horn,

And there below I looked;

I took up the runes, | shrieking I took them,

And forthwith back I fell.


Commentary on the vocabulary


The verb nema means to catch, take, learn. Its meaning is similar to to catch in English:  I caught the runes i.e. I caught them and learned (understood) them. The expression nema upp is used to describe the movement from the bottom to the top done when we collect something from the ground.

The verb pa means to shout, to howl. It is given in the form pa by de Vries, with the same meaning. The form pandi is the one of a present participle which can qualify ek i.e. a nominative singular. One of the serious supporters (Fleck, cited above) of inn hanging by the feet supposes an emendation to panda so that it could qualify the runes, rnar, (rn holds the feminine gender, their proposal would be significant if it had the masculine gender) which is the plural feminine accusative here. Since the regular declension of the plural feminine accusative of pandi is still pandi, this emendation just confuses the issue. Indeed, pandi could qualify (shrieking) runes from a purely grammatical point of view.

The adverb aptr or aftr means again, behind.

The adverb aan means from there, from now on.


Comment on the meaning


This stanza provides some new detail on how inn acquired runic knowledge. After nine days fast, his initiation-torment finally ended. He then looked downwards and collected the runes by heaving them to him, upwards. This description cannot agree with the prosaic description of a person hung by the neck and it is therefore used by those who support that he was hung by the feet.

As told earlier, it is not necessary to modify the text for reading that the runes have been the shrieking hero, an interpretation that pushes to its extreme the parallel between the runes and the mandrake root, that are well-known for growing under hanged ones and that are supposed to howl when they are torn off. That the runes might be shrieking is not confirmed elsewhere in our mythology, while inn is presented several times as an intense speaker as some of his names show, for example, Gllni and Gllungr (the howler) or Thundr (the thundering). This is why it seems much less probable to me that runes might be howling than inn does of pain, triumph, relief, he had no lack of causes for shouting.


Evans Commentaries



If this strophe is taken to be in ljahttr, the last line lacks alliteration, and emended atan to ofan. But the strophe is in fact clearly in fornyrislag



***Hvaml 140***


A translation as literal as possible


Nine powerful songs

I caught coming from the famous son

of Bl-orn (Bad-thorn), Bestlas father,

and I obtained a full mouthful of the precious hydromel

versed-sprinkled from Spirit-stirrer.


Prose explanation


Prosaic point of view.

Blorns famous son offered me nine powerful songs. He was the father of Bestla, my mother and I could drink a mouthful of the invaluable hydromel poured from rrir [that made of me a gifted poet].

[Remember that in the Digression on Yggdrasill, s. 138, I explained the meaning of the names of Burr and Bestla and their link with Yggdrasill.]


Mystical meaning.

For better explaining the use of the runes, I must now tell you some details of my birth.

I was born from Bestla, whose father was a giant called Badthorn who owned a very powerful and aggressive magic. According to the antique tradition, I was sprinkled of liquid soon after my birth and my family named me inn, the furious one. In my case, the liquid with which I was sprinkled was the one contained in the vase Spirit-stirrer and my intelligence woke up.

My maternal uncle took care of me and gave me, as a birth gift, nine songs that belong to giants magic and that enable me to combine the runes to exploit their magic.

You will see soon that I present to you, 18 magic songs that complete the 9 ones that the famous brother of my mother offered to me.


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


Fimbullj nu                               Mighty songs nine

nam ek af inum frgja syni           grasped I after him-the famous son

Blorns, Bestlu fur,                 of Balethorn, Bestlas father;

ok ek drykk of gat                          and I a draught got

ins dra mjaar,                            of him-the precious mead,

ausin reri.                                 sprinkled (or poured out) from rrir.


Bellows translation


Nine mighty songs | I got from the son

Of Bolthorn, Bestlas father;

And a drink I got | of the goodly mead

Poured out from Othrrir.


[Bellows note 141. This stanza, interrupting as it does the account of Othins winning the runes, appears to be an interpolation. The meaning of the stanza is most obscure.] [Obscure and untimely, Belows is quite right to judge this strophe in this way, at least in its common sense version, the only one he accepts to notice.]


Commentary on the vocabulary


Blorn means Bl-orn = Bad-thorn.

The verb ausa, here ausinn in the past participle, means to sprinkle. This verb can be used to indicate prosaic actions, like to cover (dust), but it has also a ceremonial tinge. The children were sprinkled with water then named by their parents in pagan times. It was a family-only ceremony. We do not know any further detail about it, but it probably was the ceremony by which the child was accepted in the family, and became exposed to the duties and rights of free person. In Roman antiquity, the ceremony of purification by water was done on adults by a magistrate, and was called a lustration. In the Christian culture, that looks much like baptism, it is thus necessary to distinguish this Germanic Heathen sprinkling from Roman lustration and of Christian baptism. This why I propose you to simply call it a sprinkling since the sagas say:  the child was sprinkled with water.

The vessel containing the hydromel of poetry is called rrir (here spelled rerir). It does roeri in the accusative and the dative, here undoubtedly a dative. This name is made of r-hrrir = intelligence-stirrer. [Recall that r as a substantive means intelligence, spirit. As an adjective, it means furious in our context, furious and clever do not oppose as it does now, because we took the habit to confuse anger and furor.]


Comment on the meaning


This stanza seems, as noticed the experts, is a little out of context. In my prose explanation, you could see that I explain this shift by a kind of side-remark on inn feeling the need of bringing some details on the circumstances of his sprinkling at birth. This assumption supposes that rrir existed before inns birth, i.e. there has been a primitive rrir or, in order to reconcile all versions of our mythology, that Auumlas milk is called here rrir because its magic properties.

inns uncle was in charge of his education and gave him knowledge, i.e. magic. This confirms the well-known importance of mothers brothers in ancient Germanic civilization. These nine songs originate from giants knowledge, often qualified as very knowledgeable in the Eddas. We will see in stanza 143 that the giant who brought the knowledge of the runes to his people is named svir (one of the sirs Tree) what obviously refers to Yggdrasill, and which thus seems a good candidate to name inns uncle.

Stanza 143 is also often said to be disconnected from the others stanzas, which we just shown being false, in our Mystical meaning above. This shows us that the major coherence of Rnatal is observable only through a magical understanding of the poem.

Again in my Prose explanation, I consider this stanza as an announcement of the eighteen songs that inn will deliver in the last stanzas of the poem:  it brings coherence between Rnatal and Ljdatal.


Evans Commentaries



3 Bestla was inns mother. Her fathers name is given as Blorn (sic) in Snorris Prose Edda. Who his son (i.e. inns uncle) was is not recorded.

6 ausinn reri is difficult. Ausa commonly means sprinkle, with the dative of that which is sprinkled (e.g. ausa barn vatni) [to sprinkle the baby (acc.) with water (dat.)] [ and its masculine nominative and accusative declension is ausinn, all other declension cases are different.]. We might therefore take ausinn here as nominative to agree with ek, and reri as referring to the mead itself (as apparently in 107). [we] are then obliged to explain ausinn as moistened (internally). This seems implausible, but the only alternative is to take ausinn as accusative modifying drykk, giving the sense ladled from (the vessel) rerir (so Finnur Jnsson). Such an ablatival construction with ausa cannot be paralleled. [ maybe not paralleled, though making perfect sense. My own reaction has been to see here an impersonal construction as English I have been sprinkled by using rerir, by keeping together both ausinn meanings:  sprinkled and poured.]



***Hvaml 141***


A translation as literal as possible


I then became fertile

and was full of knowledge

and grew and well throve,

a word, out of my speech,

looked for another word,  

a deed, out of my deeds,

looked for another deed.


Prose explanation


It should be understood that each of my words/deeds looked into my words/deeds for helping my words/deeds. This sought is better understood in its negative version:  None of my words/deeds blocked my word/deed by other words/deeds, on the contrary they helped each other.



ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


nam ek frvask            Then became I fertile

ok frr vera                      and full of knowledge was

ok vaxa ok vel hafask,        and grew and well throve,

or mr af ori                  a word out of my word

ors leitai,                        a word looked for help

verk mr af verki                a deed out of my deed

verks leitai.                      a deed looked for help.


Bellows translation


Then began I to thrive, | and wisdom to get,

I grew and well I was;

Each word led me on | to another word,

Each deed to another deed.


Commentary on the vocabulary


The verb frjva, here in the form frva, means to bloom and its reflexive form means to be fertile.

The regular preterit form of leita is leitai he sought. It is followed by a genitive thus or leitai ors, means a word sought a word. Metaphorically, its meaning is to seek help.


Comment on the meaning


The most prosaic way to interpret these two lines is to understand the obvious, i. e. that words and the actions used in the past decide of words and actions to come. But it is nevertheless necessary to take into account two facts. Firstly, inn declares in the first lines of 141 that he acquired this capacity on words and actions while becoming creative. Secondly, the word or (word) tardily only took its grammatical meaning. This word has been used a long time as an opinion expressed by a short sentence as the English Word of Wisdom. We can thus understand how inn became able to invent new ways of describing and to act on his surroundings starting from previous knowledge.

This is a form of active conscience where the words themselves act on other words to create a new conscience starting from these new words. Of course, the thirst for knowledge of of s. 63 is also an important factor.


This stanza is a direct continuation of 140 since it explains how inn, as a baby, grew after having received his sprinkling and his uncles birth gift.

Thus, stanza 141 explains how inn obtained a harmonious destiny, according to which his spirit is fertile and his life is prosperous. The recipe is given by the four last lines:  if your deeds and words intermingle in a harmonious evolution, without ever being hampering each other, you then deserve a harmonious destiny, as the one described in the three first lines. The way in which these two capacities operate and are laid out determines the chaotic destinies - known as unhappy - and the harmonious ones - known as happy.


This stanza also put under a new light stanzas 17 and 18 of Vlusp which show a seldom discussed mystery.

In Vlusp 17, when the gods find Ask and Embla, and before they give them life, these two are described as being ltt megandi and rlglausa.

The verb mega (here with the participle present, means to have strength to do (C-V), vermgen (to be able to make) (de Vries) and posse (to be able of) (Lex. Poet.). Its present participle, megandi took current meaning of powerful, strong but as you see it in the meanings given by the dictionaries, it would be returned better, in the old texts, by having capacity of acting. The adverb ltt means little with a rather pejorative nuance of unable of. We will thus translate ltt megandi by unable to act.

The word rlag means (de Vries) closure, end and its plural, rlg, take the meaning of destiny, death, combat. Lex. Poet. provides only the meaning fata (destinies). To be rlglaus thus means primarily to be without destiny [The Norns, and specially the one called Urr, is are in charge of the rlg of the world. Her name, in the Anglo-Saxon world, was used, a still is again, to speak of rlg. Anglo-Saxon  wyrd is called urr in Old Norse.] When the gods bring life and humanity to Ask and Embla, as described in stanza 18, none of their gifts explicitly comprises neither megin nor rlg. They give them nd, r and l breath, intelligence and sea (= blood in poetry). Breath is associated to speech and intelligence, and blood to activity. It follows that humankind holds the tools necessary to build itself a way of acting and speaking, hence a destiny, in agreement with the way in which inn builds his destiny in stanza 141.


Understanding sjalfr sjalfum mr

inns wisdom


In order to better understand what is inns wisdom, we cannot not  make do with a stanza alone, we need to consider several stanzas together. All these stanzas show the common feature od being somewhat obscure for a modern reader.

I give below the part of the stanza strong point in Norse and in English. It might be judicious to read in parallel the comments in http: //www.nordic-life.org/nmh/IntroNewHavamalEng.htm  .


inns wisdom is exposed through the use of four recommendations given in various Hvaml stanzas. I called them: 

Rules of active thinking,

Unwise thinking,


Rules of active thinking


Stanza 18. s er vitandi er vits (who is being conscious of [or towards] mindfulness). Note:  towards takes into account an implicit til governing vits genitive. This describes an individual who has a solid experience of life.

It hints at introspection during which an individual explores his/her own conscience.


Stanza 63. Fregna ok segja [ s er vill heitinn horsk ] (to question and tell [who wants to be called wise]).

He/she is aware of his/her knowledge he/she knows (and will say it to other people) and of the one he/she ignores  (and ask about it to other people).


Stanza 141. or (verk) mr af ori (verki) ors (verks) leitai (a word (action), out of my word (and action) sought a word (and action)).

He/she can listen to and understand his/her words and actions. His/her understanding leads him/her to seek and find new words and actions.


Unwise thinking



Stanza 27. veit-a mar hinn er vettki veit (This person does not know that he/she knows nothing).

A kind of opposite to s. 18 statement:  he/she has been unable to use his/her conscience to grasp that he/she knows nothing.


Stanza 28. er fregna kann ok segja it sama (who can together question and say).

A kind of opposite to s. 63 statement. In 28, it carries a lot of irony since who does together questions and the answers but no one  believes his/her words and he/she is not conscious of it.


Rules for contractual friendship


Note:  the concept of purely sentimental friendship does not exist in Hvaml:  Two friends are also linked by a contract, they friends and allies. This is why I will call them contractual friends abbreviated in c-friend when it becomes too heavy.


Stanza 43. Vin snum skal mar vinr vera, eim ok ess vin; en vinar sns engi vinar vinr vera. (Of his/her c-friend will be a human c-friend be, and of his/her c-friend but of his non-c-friend, he/she should not be the c-friend of a c-friend.)

This regulates in a quasi mathematical way what is c-friendship:  the c-friend of my c-c-friend must also be my c-friend. The c-friend of my c-friend, though, cannot be my enemy (otherwise c-friendship collapses). This is called in mathematics a transitivity relationship.


Stanza 41. viurgefendr ok endrgefendr (giving back and giving again).

This rule defining a lasting c-friendship. He/she gives in return of a gift and does not hesitate to give several times to his/her c-friends.


inn is humankinds contractual friend


Stanza 111. s ek ok agak, s ek ok hugak, hldda ek manna ml (I saw and I was quiet, I saw and I thought, I listened to human speech).

This stanza is linked to 63. According to my interpretation (opposed to the academics one) inn listens to humankind. He is wise thus he  knows when he must speak. He also knows how to ask by silently listening.


And, as  supervisor, here comes stanza 138:  gefinn ni, sjalfr sjalfum mr (given [offered] to inn, me to myself)


Rule of active faith


We recognize here a formulation la vitandi er vits where the central individual is the object of his/her own attention and actions. What this twisted formula may mean?

In the context of a Christocentric civilization, we will immediately recognize the Christian mystics who offered themselves to Christ and, why not, an obvious Christian influence. But the Viking and pre-Viking civilization lives with an ancestors religion the base of which is an euhemerization, i.e. in which the gods are particularly famous ancestors. My gods are kinds of grand grand grand parents as my own grand parents have been for me. Why should I be offered to them?

In addition, and even for those who remain Christocentric, the rules suggested by inn in the stanzas quoted above are more of the nature of a friendly advice than of an imposed obligation. This is why, even them should understand that stanza 138 provides a paramount rule to catch the runes, and catching  the runes is the first step in direction of the Old Norse faith. They tell us:  My far away grand grand son or daughter, in order to catch the runes you need enough faith in yourself to become able to offer you to yourself. If you do not see at once what that means, you will have to devote your understanding to it, and never forget that you need c-friends to hold on during your search.


This faith is active because to be offered to oneself is an action which can be carried out over years and which uses the rules of active conscience defined in s. 18. It differs from a more passive faith that has been revealed by a kind of miracle and not obtained by an obstinate work.



***Hvaml 142***


Prose explanation


[The translation below, into which I introduced the various possible meanings of each polysemous word, requests a comment, but no particular explanation.]


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation



Rnar munt finna         Runes will you meet/discover/percieve

ok rna stafi,                    and the meaningful carved runes,

mjk stra stafi,                 very powerful/ruthless carved runes,

mjk stinna stafi,                very strong/stiff carved runes,

er fi fimbululr               that painted/got the wise high-storyteller

ok geru ginnregin            that made/set up the higher creative-powers

ok reist Hroftr rgna.        and that scratched/hacked the Hroptr of powers/gods.

                                          [Hroptr = messenger of unsaid truth, a name classically used for inn.]


Bellows translation


Runes shalt thou find, | and fateful signs,

That the king of singers colored,

And the mighty gods have made;

Full strong the signs, | full mighty the signs

That the ruler of gods doth write.


Commentary on the vocabulary


The verb ra means to advise, consult, determine, rule, explain, punish. Its past participle, rinn, usually takes the meaning of determined, resolved and does its plural masculine accusative in rna.

The word stafr has already been met and explained in stanzas 8, 29 and 52 where the translators display boundless ingenuity to avoid translating it by referring to magic. Here, magic is too much indisputable to be hidden to the readers, even by translating stafr by sign, table, symbol, stick. I thus translate it by runes carved on a stick with the short form carved runes.

The verb f gives fi in its third singular person of the preterit. As usual, multiple meanings are allotted to it, see the comments on the vocabulary of stanzas 6, 25, 33, 59, 116, 117. Here, its two main meanings:  to paint and to obtain are completely compatible. See also Evans comments below.

The verb gra does geru in its third plural person of the preterit. It means to make, to prepare, to make ready.

The verb rsta does reist in its preterit third singular person. It means to cut, slash, carve.

The two plural words regin and rgn are very close, both mean the gods in a Christian context. The experts notice that they do not have identical meanings, at least in the nominative and the accusative, since they are absolutely identical in the genitive and the dative. In regin, their creative aspect and even the one of good advice are more important than in rgn, who better fit with the gods without any particular feature attached.

A fimbululr (= fimbul-ulr) is a immense wise storyteller. We already met the radical fimbul, in stanza 103, where it was used pejoratively in fimbul-fambi immense simpleton. We also met the word ulr in the expression the seat of the ulr in 111, from which the word of Wretched Dragon (Loddffnisml) is chanted.

Note that inns name Hroptr, or beginning by Hropt- as in 160, is very often translated by shouter (as in C.V.)  or king (as Bellows) but experts tend to say that its meaning is unknown. The verb nearest to which it may connect is hrpa which means to slander, to shout. If we preserve these two meanings together, we find something as who shouts hidden truths or herald of the concealed truths. This is the meaning I kept.


Comment on the meaning


This stanza requires three types of explanations:  1. A commentary of some nontraditional qualifiers of the runes, 2.  Which features characterize the runes since their creation?  3.  An analysis of the role of the three rune creators. 


1.  How to qualify the runes. 

First of all, the second line says that the runes are rna, i. e.  interpreted, understood what is no more the case nowadays.  This implies that the properties of the runes in the following lines and stanzas relate to correctly interpreted and understood runes.  When we note the mass of the works where a version of the meaning of each rune is stated (and not discussed, explained interpreted), we see that this first inns remark, though implicit, is hardly respected. 

The third line says that they are stra, an adjective which carries the meaning of power associated to some ruthlessness.  It never should be forgotten that the runes quickly become ruthless.  They do not yield to the criteria of compassion and pure love that our civilization romanticizes. 

The fourth line says they are stinna i. e.  strong and rigid.  The notions of power and strength of the runes crossed the centuries as archetypes while the brutal and stiff runes were slowly forgotten.  The last ones were revived by the Nazis who  forgot their  adaptability and possible softness.  It should be forgotten, no more than their brutality and stiffness.  By their stiffness, I understand that inn says that they have a clear meaning and that we should not try to twist it to our whims.  Our understanding must yield and adapt in front of the stiff strength carried by the runes. 


2.  On the creation of the runes

The runes were painted/got, made/set up and scratched/hacked. 

- the last couple of qualifiers is easy to understand.  The Hroptr of the powers etches them on wood and needs more strength to put them on metal or stone. 

- the couple made/set up clearly states that they were designed/shaped by the ginnregin i. e.  the supreme powers These supreme powers might be Nature, as seen by dedicated atheists, or their God for the fundamentalists, or the big-bang, for the mystics of astrophysics.  In all cases, the majesty of the design of the runes remains practically the same.  As the place where the roots of Yggdrasill take their support (stanza 138), the runes belong to the unfathomable mechanisms of the creation of the universe and we cannot say much of their origin can any shaman visit their birthplace?  I doubt it. 

- Lastly, how this wise storyteller could paint/get them We have to paint them, color the runes, possibly with the red of our blood, with the aim to activate them, as we would say now.  We thus get living runes that are ready to be used. 


3.  On the creators of the runes

First of all, the commentators tend to see the same character hidden behind these three names, i. e.  inn.  This means that inn, who is already overloaded with nicknames describing his many functions, should also carry being a fimbululr and the ginnregin (a plural noun).  As for the ginnregin, anyway, this is opposed to our mythology that describes inn like born after the formation of the universe, as he says himself in stanza 140.  It thus appears much more reasonable to me to acknowledge that the creators of the runes are three different divine entities. 

- the fimbululr, that is the immense-wise storyteller, is the one who perpetuates the traditions, who transmits knowledge.  He collected the knowledge of how activating the runes, and he seems to have received it at the origin of the runes. 

- the ginnregin must be the forces that built the runes.  They conceived the structure of Futhark, that is the fact that the 24 runes are structured into three ttir (families) and provided in a given ordering.  The ginnregin look like the architects who conceived the structure of the house they built. 

- Hroptr of the powers seems to be indeed inn owing to the fact that the name Hroptr is often allotted to him.  However as a power reigning over the rgn Moreover why inn would need to collect the runes at the Yggdrasills foot if he were one of their three creatorsinn is called Hroptatr, which qualifies it well as an sirs leader but not as one of the powers.  Once again, as in the case of the final destiny of Burr and Bestla, without inventing a romantic story, I must call upon the concept of a lost myth in order to understand how inn can be called a herald of the unsaid truths according to the translation I propose for Hroptr (or, rather Hrptr).  We know practically nothing of the inn who left Frigg and whose place has been temporarily taken, at Friggs side, by Vili and V.  inns character, such as we know it by later texts, suggests an intelligent god who does not sputter his words.  His blood brother, Loki [again, an unknown myth:  the one in which took place the ceremony which hallowed their fraternity] plays exactly the same role of a hidden truth discloser (not the one of crier).  This role, now degraded in the one of the ragna (kings) fool, might have been played by inn with dignity.  I thus feel it quite possible that the conjunction of Lokis crafty and fragile intelligence and inns sincere and powerful one might have led them to tell to the gods unpleasant truths.  As an example, think of them explain to the other gods the Norns power as a limit to their freedom.  Here is the scheme of a possible explanation the meaning I give to this slanderer (a meaning carried by the verb hrpa) who dares to put the gods in front of their weaknesses. 


As a conclusion, we can as notice that the above three characters cannot integrate Dumzils trilogy of the sovereign gods.  That drives us to think that the present trilogy corresponds to beliefs older than the Indo-European civilization.  The runes could well have not reached their status of written signs before, say, the second century, while they convey a much older knowledge.


Evans Commentaries



5-6 are almost identical with 80 / 4-5.

fi coloured References to colouring runes also occur in 144 and 157, and this same verb appears in a number of Scandinavian runic inscriptions from the early period, e. g.  the Einang stone (Norway, c.  400) has [ek Go]dagastiR runo faihido I, Godagast, coloured the runes, the Rk stone (Sweden, c.  800) has uarin fai, and similarly auaiR fai on two early ninth-century inscriptions from Denmark.  (But in some of the inscriptions the context suggests that f may already have come to be used sometimes merely to mean came or cut, as in later Icelandic. . . ) Gurnarkvia II 22 speaks of hvers kyns stafir (evidently runes) as ristnir ok ronir carved and reddened, and one of the stones at versel (Sweden) states Hr skal standa steinar essir, rnum ronir, reisti Gulaug (spelling normalised).  The verb steina to paint is also found in runic inscriptions in the same connection, e. g.  from Gerstaberg (Sweden):  sbjrn risti ok lfr steindi.  Traces of colour still survive on some Swedish stones

fimbululr the mighty sage Only here and in 80 above.  Doubtless a name for inn, [see my argument against this lack of doubt ]

ginnregin mighty gods, a compound found several times elsewhere.  The element ginn- seems to have intensive force:  it occurs also in the expression ginnheilg go in Lokasenna II and Vsp.  6 etc. , and is probably to be identified with the first element in the early seventh-century runic Danish ginoronoR, ginArnaR on the Stentoften and Bjrketorp stones respectively;

7 Hroptr (or Hrptr? ) is widely evidenced as a name for inn.  The etymology is obscure and disputed, nor is the problem made any simpler by the occurrence of Hroptatr (as in 160) as another inn-name.  Its governing of the gen.  rgna has sometimes been thought to present a puzzle, which some editors have sought to resolve by printing hroptr as a common noun (though the meaning of such a noun is purely speculative).  Most probably the phrase simply means Hroptr among the gods [which shows, however, the one deficiency to have no particular meaning. ]



***Hvaml 143***


Prose explanation


Each of the five following persons carved the runes within and with their people: 

1.  inn with the sir

2.  Dinn with the elves

3.  Dvalinn with the dwarves

4.  svir with the giants

5.  I, the poet or inn, who is teaching mankind. 


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


inn me sum,              inn (the furious one) (together) with the sir,

en fyr alfum Dinn,           and for the elves, Dinn (impotent, entranced)

Dvalinn ok dvergum fyrir, Dvalinn (Dillydally) and the dwarves for

svir jtnum fyrir,           svir (stree the tree of one of the sir) the giants for

ek reist sjalfr sumar.           I carved myself some.



Bellows translation


Othin for the gods, | Dain for the elves,

And Dvalin for the dwarfs,

Alsvith for giants | and all mankind,

And some myself I wrote.


Comment on the meaning


You remember that the adjective r means furious and that the substantive r means intelligence In our civilization, we tend to confuse furious and angry The feelings are certainly similar but anger blinds you while fury enlightens you; for example it will help you to see a truth that someone tries to hide.  Poetry and runes are practiced with creative fury, if not they remain style exercises.  We can thus carve the runes in an inspired fury, a mystical fury, and even a desperate fury.  We then involve our body, our heart and our spirit into the task to be achieved.  The other uses of the runes, the games inspired by the runes are at best ineffective. 

The word dinn means either impotent or filled with wonder, ecstatic By giving this name to the first elf carver of runes, inn shows that he somewhat despises elf magic.  For a god of action as inn, an impotent person (we speak here only of the incapacity to act) is a lower being since he/she is ltt megandi as explained in the comment of stanza 141.  The added meaning of being ecstatic as well shows that inn little respect for ecstatic people because they are unable to act, and they vaticinate without taking their problems in hand. 

The word dvalinn means who waddles, who is unable to decide when to act.  Dwarf magic does not interest inn much more than the one of the elves. 

As opposed to this contempt, the name of the giant magician is more intriguing.  The word svir (s-vir which is read ss-vir) means one of the sir-tree. inn thus exposes his respect for giants magic, which carries no surprise, as stanza 140 taught us.  This stanza, even in its most prosaic and rational version possible, explicitly states that inn inherited nine magic songs coming from his maternal uncle.  If we recall stanza 138, we understand that this svir strongly evokes Yggdrasill which is the tree of the gods sir, to which inn has been hung.  Moreover, as an initiator of giants runic magic, svir name qualifies to be his uncles one. 

In an even more significant way, it shows that runic magic is related to a worship of the tree of world, something left implicit in 138. 


Evans Commentaries



2-3 Dinn and Dvalinn are mentioned together in Grmnisml 33 (and thence in Snorris Prose Edda) as two of the four harts who nibble the twigs of Yggdrasill.  Dvalinn is widely recorded as a dwarf-name (e. g.  Vsp.  11); Dinn also occurs a nurnber of times as the narne of a dwarf (e. g.  Hyndlulj 7) and once, in a ula, as a name for a fox, but nowhere as an elf-narne.

4 svir is not recorded elsewhere.



***Hvaml 144***


ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation


Veistu hv rsta skal?          Do you know how to carve and hack?

Veistu hv ra skal?         Do you know how to advise, contrive, rule and punish?

Veistu hv fa skal?            Do you know how to fetch, win and paint?

Veistu hv freista skal?       Do you know how to try, tempt and test?

Veistu hv bija skal?         Do you know how to ask, try to get (and even) beg?

Veistu hv blta skal?         Do you know how to sacrifice to the gods?

Veistu hv senda skal?        Do you know how to dispatch (and even) kill?

Veistu hv sa skal?           Do you know how to use (possibly) up to wiping out and slaughter?


Bellows translation



Knowest how one shall write, | knowest how one shall rede?

Knowest how one shall tint, | knowest how one makes trial?

Knowest how one shall ask, | knowest how one shall offer?

Knowest how one shall send, | knowest how one shall sacrifice?




Commentary on the vocabulary




Some of the verbs are known to us, I recall you the meaning of them: 


  rsta means to gash, chop, scrape, skin, carve.


  ra means to advise, decide, contrive, rule, explain, punish.


  fa means    to fetch, win, endure, give and to draw, paint.


  freista means to try, tempt.


  bija means to beg. Lex. Poet. gives petere (to seek, reach, obtain), rogare (to question). The meaning to pray God certainly does not date from Heathen time.


  blta means to sacrifice, and also, more seldom in academic translations  to honor the gods.


  senda means to send, dedicate, and according to de Vries, also to kill (in poetry). A ghost called by a wizard and sent against an enemy is called a sending (a sending).


  sa means, for C-V the same as blta to sacrifice, but Lex. Poet. gives to it two different meanings:  1. serere (to intertwine) 2. consumere (to spend, exhaust), interficere (to wipe out). If this is relative to a sacrifice, then sa is much harsher than blta. In stanza 109, I used the meaning to destroy to translate sit (preterit of sa).




Comment on the meaning




Here still a stanza where the choice of the meaning to be given to the verbs employed by inn is capital. Some of these verbs refer to a magic known as black of an incredible ferocity and the translators obviously do not feel at ease with this fierce and politically incorrect aspect of inns knowledge. We will see that, in stanza 145, inn strongly moderates this politically incorrect not by correction, obviously, but by knowledge of the laws of the magic - that he partially reveals to us.




Evans Commentaries






2-3 rsta cut, rda interpret and f colour clearly have runes as the object to be understood, and possibly freista make trial of does too.


7 The force of senda is unclear. suggests it rnight rnean to sacrifice, on the basis of Beowulf 599-600, which states that the monster Grendel lust wige, swefe ond sende executes his pleasure, slays and sends, where sende must mean something like kills. . ..






***Hvaml 145***




A translation as literal as possible




Better to avoid asking


than 'over-sacrifice' to the gods,


always (might) the gift for you to be at the proper value,


Better to avoid dispatching


than over use (magic).


Thus undr (inn) carved


before the peoples origin


[while facing humankinds birth]


there he rose up (after catching the runes)


[or, in a Christian context: he resuscitated]


him who came back


[from Yggrdrasills roots].




ON Text and its pseudo English literal translation




Betra er beit     Better he does not ask/beg for


en s ofbltit,      than over-sacrifice to the gods,


ey sr til gildis gjf;   ever (might) you be (or to you) to the proper value the gift


betra er sent      Better he does not dispatch (and even kill)


en s ofsit.      than too much use (possibly up to wiping out)


Sv undr of reist    Thus undr (inn) carved


fyr ja rk,      before the peoples origin


ar hann upp of reis,   there he up rose


er hann aftr of kom.   who him again came.








Bellows translation




Better no prayer | than too big an offering,


By thy getting measure thy gift;


Better is none | than too big a sacrifice,




So Thund of old wrote | ere mans race began,


Where he rose on high | when home he came.




Commentary on the vocabulary




The two verbs beia and bija do beit in the third person of the indicative present. Beia means also to beg but with the meaning to request or even to hunt.


Recall the verb bija is used in the 5th line of 144.


The verbs blta, senda, sa were already met in 144.


Recall The verb blta is used in the 6th line of 144, it means to sacrifice, and also, more rarely:  to honor the gods.


The first and the second line of 145 thus refer to, or quote, the 5th and 6th lines of 144.


Recall The verb senda is used with the 7th line of 144 and 4th of 145. The verb sa is used in the 8th line of 144 and the 5th of 145.


The first and the second line of 145 thus refer to, or quote, those of the 5th and 6th lines of 144. The 4th and the 5th line of 144 use the same verbs as the 7th and 8th of 144. All things considered, stanza 145 supplements the second half of 144.




The name undr is presented as perhaps meaning The Thundering one by C-V, but the other dictionaries present it a a name of inn without clear significance.




Comment on the meaning






This stanza announces to us very clearly that bija and senda are magic activities that must be very seldom or even never practiced, and blta and sa should never be too much applied.


It is not really necessary to ask (bija) something to magic and to the gods, nor to dispatch (senda) spells or curses, those of the kind by which you do not really try to dispatch (possibly ad patres) a person. A comparison with their Christians equivalent will help to understand the meaning of these two verbs:  see how much the Christians are keen to ask (it is often the base of a prayer to their God) and have horror to dispatch (this black magic). In other words, inn says both supplications and curses are possible but nor primarily important, without including here any particular ethical judgment.


It is dangerous to overdo sacrifices made to the gods (blta) and wiping out (sa) magic. There again, no ethical judgment but a similar opposition to Christian habits, though we need to replace the idea of sacrifice by the one of an offering, more Christian than the brutish pagan sacrifice. inn says that we should not exaggerate the practice of sacrifices (or offerings) while the Christians are fond of offerings to their God. inn says that one should not exaggerate the practice of magic murdering on enemies, while Christians loathe the idea of magic murder. We also see that these lines enable us to specify the meaning given here to the verbs senda and sa. The first means probably to send a spell without any specific will to kill, while the second certainly means to wipe out an adversary by killing him/her.




Explanations relative to the meaning of the last three lines




In the 7th line, fyr ja rk, the word rk is with the accusative and we cannot know if its nominative is rk or rkr. In this case, the context pushes us to choose the meaning origin for rk, though rkr (twilight) would not much change the meaning of the line, if understood as daybreak. The adverb fyrir (here in the form fyr) followed by the accusative means in front of, before including a move; taken temporally, it means before (this is the choice made by the traditional translators) and, metaphorically, it can also mean for, for the benefit of. The three meanings are completely possible. I chose a metaphorical space meaning before understood here as confronted to. The runes existed well before humankind but it seems more interesting to me to conceive them as carved as an answer to the existence of humankind.


This explains the comment of this line:  [confronted to the birth of humanity ]




In the 8th line, ar hann upp of reis, the compound upp rsa to rise up took the meaning of to resurrect. To return to ordinary life means something else that to return to life in a shamanic context. The shamanic meaning is much closer to our to return to a normal (non shamanic) life than to carry out an incredible miracle.


This explains the comment of this line:  [ or, in a Christian context he resurrected]




The 9th line, er hann aftr of kom, expresses the fact that inn returns to his normal life at the end of his ordeal when he falls down on Yggdrasills base after collecting the runes.


This explains the comment of this line:  [or, he then came back from Yggrdrasills roots]



Once again, if we do not take into account the interactions between various stanzas in Hvaml, here between 145, 144 and 139, the meaning of the poem considerably reduces.



Evans Commentaries




3 is evidently proverbial. cp. sr gjf til gjalda Gsla saga ch. 15 sr gjf til gjalda Viktors saga ok Blvus 20.


6 undr is a common name for inn.


7 fyr jda rk seems to mean before the creation of peoples, though aldar rk Vaf 39 certainly means the end of mankind, doomsday. Rk covers a wide semantic field, from basis, reason, origin to course of events, history and thence to destiny, final doom.


8-9 The reference of these lines is obscure; possibly they relate to the events described in 139. [As you may have noticed, this reference is obvious to me.]