The Rune Poems | Brown & Moynihan (eds.)

The Rune Poems | Brown & Moynihan (eds.)

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Edited by P. D. Brown and Michael Moynihan
Arcana Europa / Gilded Books, 249 pages, ISBN 9798410339742

The word rune literally means a “secret” or “mystery.” But how does one begin to unravel the mystery of the runes? One good place to start is the traditional rune poems, which are provided here in concise yet elegant—not to mention heavily annotated—translations: the Old English Rune Poem, the Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme, and the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, as well as the lesser known Abecedarium Nordmannicum and the Early Modern Swedish Rune Poem. These oddly compelling verses are a storehouse of gnomic wisdom and early Germanic cultural lore, and their purpose was surely more than just an aid for committing the runic alphabets to memory—as many modern scholars would have us believe. In his introduction, English poet P.D. Brown suggests that the poems were instead tools “to make the mind more generally agile, more adept at making connections, thinking ‘laterally’ and more imaginatively” about what the runes in fact are.

This is also the purpose of the twenty modern rune poems included in this volume, which have been composed over the past four decades by members of the Rune-Gild, an international order that includes scholars and storytellers, poets and artists, musicians and magicians. Like the rune poems of old, these modern compositions encapsulate years—and in many cases, decades—of close study and intense reflection. Traditional and innovative at the same time, and expressed in a myriad of styles, these new poems demonstrate that the runes are much more than an object of idle antiquarian curiosity. They are living mysteries whose depths—like the roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil—will never be fully fathomed.  

P. D. Brown is an English poet, storyteller, and accomplished runestone carver. In the 1980s he started to rework traditional ghost stories, myths, legends, and the ancient history of Britain as tales for oral recitation to live audiences. More recently, his work has incorporated a keen observational delight in the natural wonders of the northern British countryside. He has performed on both sides of the Atlantic and has released five albums of narrative poems and stories, often with musical accompaniment: Fire & IceThe Battle of the TreesThree Tales of the Island of BritainAt Saga’s Stream, and Sword-Song and Swan Maidens. He is the author of a collection of stories, The Hidden Door, and two books of poetry: Dark Fruit of an Ash and A Crown of Runes.

Michael Moynihan is an author, translator, and editor. He holds a PhD in Germanic Philology with the dissertation "From Householder to War-Lord to Heavenly Hero: Naming God in the Early Continental Germanic Languages" (2017). His past work includes Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground (2003), written in collaboration with Didrik Søderlind, which is the basis for the 2018 motion picture Lords of Chaos directed by Jonas Åkerlund; and American Grotesque: The Life and Art of  William Mortensen (2014), which he co-edited with Larry Lytle. He is also one of the editors of the book-format journal TYR: Myth—Culture—Tradition, established in 2002.

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