The ambition with this post is to try to show the core of stav, through layers that most Stav practitioners are not aware of. This has not been covered as extensively in English before.
Stav has been labelled as a martial art, but martial art is just one of the components within Stav, and the martial aspect is not the essence of what Stav really is. Sometimes Stav is described as a holistic system that covers body, mind and spirit. Stav contains herbal lore, mythology and psychology and philosophy. All the knowledge within the system is structured around the sixteen runes of the younger futhark.
The foundation of the system is the rune stances- which is a daily ritual performed by the Stav practitioners. It can simplified be described as forming the shapes of runes with one’s own body. The stances has a meditative and spiritual dimension, the stances also teaches the student correct breathing and aligns the body. The stances are the key to understanding the martial art of the system, the stances teach the correct positions and movements. The meditative state of the stances also develops the correct mind-set for the martial arts. There are five different versions of the stances within the system, one for each class. In their simplest form the stances is a convenient way to teach someone the shapes and forms of the runes when there is no pen or paper available. The more advanced forms, called galder stances, teach the student the names and sounds and associations of the runes. The stances are essentially a way to transfer many layers of knowledge in a systemised and structured way.
Stav is extremely systemised; there is no other tradition of Norse paganism known today that is as structured as Stav. Everything within the system follows the same principles and the same logical path. There is one deity within the Stav pantheon that represents logic, intellect and learning; Heimdall. Heimdall is also regarded as the connection point between gods and humans- no interaction between them is possible without Heimdall. Heimdall functions as a mediator that helps the humans relate to the gods- but he also helps the gods to understand the humans.
All the runes within
the system are important to make the system holistic, and all the runes within Stav
have connections to deities, animals, plants, trees, classes and colours amongst
other things. But there is one rune that is essential, the Hagl rune, which
also happens to be the rune connected with Heimdall.
Within the traditional
Stav lore the Hagl rune is stacked seven times to create an illustration that
visualises the web of Urd. All the individual runes are regarded to stem from
this illustration. According to the Stav mythology the web of Urd connects the
humans with the universe.
Within stav there is also an illustration that is used to visualise the seven worlds of the cosmology. The Hagl rune is the only rune within the younger futhark that could be used for this purpose. It is only logical that the rune is the rune of Heimdall, since Heimdall is seen as the connection point and guardian between the worlds. Heimdall is not an active defender such as Thor though. Heimdall stands watch and warns the other gods when danger is coming. Heimdall awaits Ragnarok, but it is not his task to try to prevent what is unavoidable.
There are several traditional bind runes preserved within the tradition. These are constructed with the Hagl rune as the carrier; again, the Hagl rune is the most suitable of all the younger runes. The purpose with the bind runes is to learn and memorize important knowledge. All the mythological knowledge that is associated with the runes is utilized when constructing or decoding the bind runes. The bind runes are read clockwise, but one also needs to consider the pairs and the triplets that naturally occur around the Hagl rune.
The bind runes can
contain everything from mythological knowledge to practical information. The
bind runes help the student to evolve the thought pattern one tries to learn
when studying stav. It is appropriate that the bind runes are created around
the rune that is associated with the deity that represents logic, learning and
There is a traditional
calendar within the Stav tradition, it is constructed around a Hagl rune; all
the other runes of the younger futhark has been placed in a specific way around
the staves of the Hagl rune. The calendar shows the festivals over the year,
and how all the deities relate to the year cycle. No other rune within the
younger futhark could be utilized for this task either. I would recommend those
who study Stav to really take time to understand the calendar. Apart from Easter,
which is the only genuine Christian infusion to the Scandinavian festivals, the
Stav calendar shows the traditional celebrations of Scandinavia.
The Hagl rune is also used to illustrate attack angles within the martial art of stav, it can also show the movements and directions that the five classes prefers during a conflict.
Within stav the five classes of the Norse mythology are essential, they are regarded as five archetypical personalities that are necessary within a community for it to be able to exist and prosper. The Edda poem Rigstula describes in detail how the god Heimdall created the classes. Heimdall is reincarnated as human under the name of Rig. Heimdall then forms and educates the classes in the different areas they need to have knowledge about. The only class he does not educate is the Herse class, I.E the warrior class. Heimdall also teaches the humans how to interact with the gods. Within Rigstula the classes are described out of a social- economic perspective, within Stav the classes are regarded more out of a psychological and spiritual perspective. My impression is that the Stav perspective shares roots with the views described within the Rigstula, but the perspective within Stav makes up a parallel tradition.
Since the five classes hold such a vital role within Stav, the Stav practitioner will have the opportunity to study Stav based on his own needs and ability. When one has reached a deeper understanding of Stav, one will have a personal version of the system based on one’s own personality.
Stav has been passed down through a family that has a very strong mythological connection to Heimdall, Heimdall can be seen as their patron god. The theoretical frame work within stav comes out of a jarl class perspective. Within the tradition Heimdall is seen as the protector of the jarl class, in the same way as Thor is the protector of the common people. The jarl is the type of person that tries to gain an intellectual and structured overall perspective. Stav is unique in the sense of how it connects folk lore, mythology, runes and martial arts into a coherent system. In principle one will never leave the archetypical personality one belongs to, but if one studies Stav for a longer period of time one will evolve a type of jarl perspective since that is the perspective of the whole system. When studying Stav one will also come to understand that all the classes are essential in a society.
Heimdall really must have been a much more important deity in the pre Christian Scandinavian society than one can interpret from preserved sources and archaeology. Most of the deities have lots of place names connected to them here in Sweden, Heimdall stands out, there are hardly any names at all connected to him. There are no signs at all that there been any cult directed towards Heimdall, even though he gave humans invaluable knowledge. But considering how we view him within stav- he is perhaps not the sort of deity that is honoured with gifts and offerings.
In the younger Edda of Snorre Sturlasson there is an interesting reference out of a Stav perspective; Snorre tells us that a kenning (euphemism) for Heimdall is the enemy of Loke. According to the Eddas the animosity started when Loke killed Heimdalls friend Ottar. Heimdall and Loke will eventually kill each other when this world ends during Ragnarok. Too often these depictions are regarded as trivia and left without any deeper conclusions. Within the stav mythology Heimdall symbolises rational thinking and analytic capabilities and a long term perspective. Loke is erratic and spontaneous and lives for the moment.
Snorre also mentions a kenning for head; Heimdalls sword. This kenning stem from the now lost galder of Heimdall, so it is hard to really analyse the deeper meaning of it. But from the perspective described within this text, it would be reasonable that Heimdalls main weapon is his intellectual capacity.
Stav is a logical and
structured form of Norse paganism that is constructed around Heimdall and woven
around the Hagl rune. In essence Stav is a cult devoted to Heimdall, but
Heimdall is not honoured with offerings or worship. Heimdall is honoured with
the properties that represents his character; education and knowledge, logic
and structure. The gods needs to be honoured in an appropriate way to their