The Hagalaz (or Hagel) rune is given the description of hail in both the Anglo Saxon and Norwegian rune poems. Whilst in lockdown this winter, I’ve spent a little time considering this rune and how it plays out in our lives.
In the UK we’ve been in hard lockdown since just after Christmas. The schools are closed, as are all non-essential shops, and it’s illegal to meet anyone from outside your immediate intimate circle indoors, or more than one socially distanced in the open.
Where I live (so far east in the UK it’s closer to France and Belgium than it is much of its own country) the snow has only just melted after sitting on the ground for an entire week.
Jan Fries in his book Helrunar talks about Hagalaz as the winter.
He suggests it represents the time in Norse society where people would sit indoors and shelter from the cold weather. In my book Odin’s Gateways, I talk about it as a time for reflection and evaluation, being alone with one’s thoughts.
Sitting in my home looking out at the frozen starkness of the world outside I began pondering the Hagalaz rune, and how we can use it during this time of lockdown and enforced hibernation and stillness.
The rune poems are interesting when it comes to describing the hail.
The Norwegian rune poem says:
“Hagal is the coldest grain”
(translation taken from Fries 1993)
It seems unusual to refer to hail as a grain. Whilst it’s small and seed like in appearance, it does damage to crops rather than growing it. It shudders down from the sky in a fleeting attack before disappearing into the ground as though it never existed.
How then, can hail be considered grain?
The Anglo-Saxon rune poem says:
“Hail is the whitest corn
It swirls aloft
Tumbles in gusty winds
Then turns into water”
(translation taken from Johnson and Wallis 2005)
Turning into water is an interesting concept. I associate water with emotion. The starkness of the cold sky attack slowly turning to water gives an idea of how Hagalaz can turn into the next rune in the futhorc, Nyd (or Need).
If Hagalaz allows us time with our thoughts and ideas, does the thawing then release the emotions associated with these things to free them and use them for growth?
Nyd as a rune needs no explanation. It refers to longing and wanting. Ralph Blum and many of the authors who referenced him considered Nyd to be about hunger and hardship. I tend to consider it in a slightly more positive light and think of it as a rune which rather than creating these things, is the point in which you realise they exist.
Nyd then doesn’t so much as give you hardship and longing but shows you the things which are missing from your life. This gives you the ability to work on them.
As a gardener I understand March time is the “hungry month” when little is harvested, and the stock cupboards are running low. February and March therefore are the points when we need to use our time to make plans and decide on what we need to grow during the year ahead.
The Hagalaz rune, now melted into water, allows us to feed our needs and plant the seeds of projects and plans. These will then bring the spring (the Jera rune) after the cold ice of the Isa rune has melted for the final time that year.
So how can we use the Hagalaz rune during this time?
Whilst in lockdown we can concentrate on allowing the melting hail and thawing winter to unlock our emotions. The gentle release of energy can highlight our needs and create the drive we need to push through and plant seeds to grow and flourish during Jera.
Invoking the Hagalaz rune and sitting with it can seem a daunting prospect when so many consider it to be one of the more negative in the Futhorc, but I don’t believe any rune to be positive or negative in such a binary way.
Now is the perfect time to invoke Hagalaz and to open ourselves to the cold, and to being alone with our thoughts. We can allow the thawing to bring us the clarity of our needs and start planting the things we need to bring us our spring Jera harvest.