most holy of runes fearsome stormbringer the gods provided signs and portents greater than the realm of man I ignored the warnings bound in Helheim by Hagalaz Hela braids and unbraids my hair The Hagalaz poem is one of the 33 original rune poems created by Ingrid Kincaid, the Rune Woman. These poems were first published in her limited edition, completely hand made book (un) familiar.
We’re all affected by the storms in nature. They’re bigger and more powerful than we are. It’s not possible for us to predict them, much less control them. I often experience Hagalaz as the rune of Hela. She’s the stormbringer, the destroyer. She’s one of the forces that moves through nature wild and untamed. Dragging her half-corpse self through the worlds she spreads fear and dread as do her siblings, Jormungand the world serpent and Fenrir the ravening wolf. These children of Angrboda and Loki are anything but loved. But there’s a gentle, caring side to Hela. She knows what it’s like to be cast away. You can rest your head in her lap, finding comfort there as she cradles you with her arm of flesh and strokes your hair with her skeletal hand. Have you been bound too soon in Helheim, the realm of the dead because you didn’t pay attention to the signs? Did you not see the storms coming? Do you imagine you can ignore them and carry on with life as usual? Do you insist on chopping wood or riding your bicycle in a hailstorm or do you wisely seek cover, knowing it will quickly pass? Hela the Stormbringer can cause storms, thunder and lightning and hail, just by combing her hair, binding and unbinding, braiding and unbraiding. Her connection with hail is what binds her to Hagalaz. The fear of the power held in a woman’s hair is still evident in countries where women are required to cover their hair and in religious orders where women are required to either shave their heads or cut their hair short. I wonder sometimes why it’s so common, so popular for older women to cut their hair short. In fact they’re often encouraged to do it with claims that short hair makes a woman look more youthful. But does it have something to do instead with how powerful we become when we get old? I wonder also why so many lesbian women are eager to cut their hair short. Have they never considered the ideas that their hair is an aspect of their power? In Germany there still exists the custom of baking special bread at winter solstice and giving it as an offering to Holla or Hela, Mother of the Dead. This bread is braided and called Holla’s Zopf. Even in this practice the connection still exists between braiding and Hela, the mother of death. Sometimes when Hagalaz appears in a reading it will want me to ask the question, would you be so willing to cut your hair short if you knew that it holds great power and cutting it short could be some unspoken giving in to the control that male-dominant, patriarchal institutions have over women? It’s all or nothing with Hela and the Hagalaz rune. As Raven Kaldera says, it’s not enough to burn your house down and walk away. You must be willing to say, I have no name. To truly know the runes we must stop thinking of them as symbols or an alphabet. They’re spirit beings who connect with us once we acknowledge their existence. The rune staves are just their individual signatures. It’s not any different from our relationships with other humans. We can’t really get to know someone by reading about them. We can learn the basics but to really form a connection, we must get to know them through relationship. If you ever come to a place when working with the runes where you feel stuck or confused, don’t automatically reach for a book to find an explanation. Go instead to the rune itself and ask it what it wants you to know.