31 January 2019

Elder Futhark Runes - A Comparison With Binding of Isaac

The beauty of being interested in multiple topics sometimes there may be an overlap. There's not a better game that has this much religious or superstitious content. As such it is a great option to take a look at how the game implemented them and how far they jump from what you may call the "real deal" as well as going through them 'cause if you do magick you would want to know about them. Though there are a ton of pages explaining these things.. meh whatever.

Binding of Isaac

It is a roguelike game that features a character called Isaac who flees from his mother who heard God's voice tell her to use her son as a sacrifice. Finding a trap door below his room he jumps down into the depths. You explore different levels literally cry yourself through them (your tears are your weapon in this game) get passive and active items as well as consumables. At some point, you have to decide to go to heaven or hell and so on and so forth.

This game includes a ton of references to religion, god, magick and more. Including nun-items, blessings, curses, tarot cards, runes, devil rooms and devil deals, angel rooms as well as character names such as "Isaac", "Lazarus" and "Cain" for example.
Well enough about the game. Let's get to the less game and more magick related part.

The Runes

The runes that Binding of Isaac implements are some of the runes of the Elder Futhark rune alphabet. To list the one's features in the game alphabetically[1]:
  • Algiz
  • Ansuz
  • Berkano
  • Dagaz
  • Ehwaz
  • Hagalaz
  • Jera
  • Perthro
The meaning of runes depends on many factors. Each rune has a transcript (a Latin letter) assigned to it as well as a symbol, a name, different meanings depending on the context as well as gemstones, weekdays, plants, giants, gods, elements, metals, planets, colors a picture and translations assigned to them.

ᛉ - Algiz (Eolh, Elhaz, Yr)

In Binding of Isaac this rune grants a shield that lasts for 30 seconds. This can be compared to the modern meaning of protection that is given to this rune. It also means that it's worth taking risks when prepared. It represents physical and spiritual power.

ᚨ - Ansuz

This rune reveals the whole map, including secret and super-secret rooms in the game. This rune means communication, meaning, creativity and creation. There are also some interpretations about "revealing" I haven't noted that down though. Well, it could've been something that was forgotten during the transfer of information via presentation. Even without that meaning it sort of makes sense, I guess.

ᛒ - Berkano (Berkanan, Beorc, Bjarken, Bjarkan)

This one summons 3 friendly blue flies and 3 friendly blue spiders. In the game, it represents companionship versus growing strength, the becoming, rebirth, fruitfulness, conceiving, creativity and therefore success. Er... is getting 3 flies and 3 blue spiders comparable to.. nevermind! Let's move on! this one's getting awkward.

ᛞ - Dagaz (Dag Daeg)

Dagas removes any active curses and grants extra health, as such, it shows the theme of purity. The rune means sudden change, unexpected situational change, still or faltering progress and guides to the light. Well given these meanings that are quite open the said function would definitely fall into that category.

ᛖ - Ehwaz (E(o)h)

This one creates a trapdoor that allows you to move on to the next level. Compare this to teamwork, trust, harmony, working together, symbiosis, friends and bringing work further together. While it does match the progressing further part the rest is pretty much left out.

ᚺ - Hagalaz (Heagl, Hagall)

The rune destroys all breakable objects in the room in the game while it is representing a breakthrough, huge change, dissolving, blessing, wisdom, "all-one", becoming complete and positive interruption of outer powers. Yeah, this one seems quite fine in its representation in-game.

ᛃ - Jera (Jeraz, Ger, Ior, Ar)

Jera is the rune that doubles any items in the current room. This does match up with the meaning of it quite well. Jera represents reward, a good time and safety. It does, however, only promise what you deserve. Assuming you didn't deserve any of the items the rune doesn't do anything. However, if you work for the items it will increase the outcome. Pretty nifty, isn't it?

ᛈ - Perthro (Peord, Pertho, Perthaz)

Last but not least we've got perthro. It rerolls all items in the room giving you a new chance on something different. This also fits very well since Perthro is the rune of destiny and of chance. Additionally, it represents the role of luck in the evolutionary process of all.

For Your Information

I have 25 runes noted down, which I probably will write about at some point but for now, these eight will do. I'll probably make a post about transcription of runes and using the transcription of once name to interpret my own. This is something not many people have done (to my knowledge) which makes it even more interesting for those fascinated in these topics.

Also interesting is that runes are supposed to have a very strong reaction. So, if you use a rune in your ritual it would probably empower it by a lot. Such a small simple symbol, so much power.

[1] https://bindingofisaacrebirth.gamepedia.com/Cards_and_Runes

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I'm a B.Sc. Games Engineer and I created this blog to share my ideas, theorycrafting, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.