The Aegishjalmar (Helms of Awe or Terror) are powerful symbols that can be used by the rune magician as a form of operative magic in the objective universe. The symbol can take many different forms and indeed there is nothing to prevent the rune magician from adapting his own forms. One of the best books about this subject is actually a translation of the original Icelandic Galdrabok (The Galdrabok. An Icelandic Book of Magic) by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D. Further information is provided by Dr Flowers in his Northern Magic. Rune Mysteries and Shamanism (Edred Thorsson).
The interesting thing about Galdrastafr is that they have been adapted in Iceland to be written in pen and ink and subsequently they have become stylised and more rounded in form. The Aegishjalmar and the Sveventhorn (Sleep Thorn) are the two most well known of these signs. According to Dr Flowers:
"The aegishjalmur is mentioned in the material concerning Sigurdr Fafnisbani. When Sigurdr slays the great etin-worm, or serpent, named Fafnir in order to win the treasure hoard of the Niflungs[Nibelungen], on of the "objects" of power that he gets is the aegishjalmur. This object is not a "helmet" in the usual sense, but rather a general covering that surrounds the wearer with an overawing power to terrify and subdue his enemies. The power is concentrated between the eyes and is often associated with the supposed power of serpents to paralyse their prey. This is apparently an ancient Indo-European concept, as shown in the etymology of the Greek-the one with the evil eye."
The sign can also be used to attract a mate. According to spell 8 of The Galdrabok after fasting make the sign of awe from spittle in the palm of your right hand when you greet the girl that you have chosen. According to Nigel Pennick in his The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Runes:
"In ancient Iceland, Helm of Awe amulets were made of lead, the metal ruled by the awesome power of the thunder-god, Thor. When a warrior preparing for combat used the insigil, he pressed a small lead Helm of Awe between his eyes. According to custom this is where the insigil should be worn, in the place where its power is greatest. The warrior then made the affirmation "I bear the Helm of Awe between my brows." Visualising the insigil and feeling its power, he went fearlessly into battle."
Aegishjamar may consist of just a 4 armed simple cross or an 8 armed one, some of which may contain 8 Elhaz runes and 24 cross arms, representing the 24 runes of the Elder Futhark. The most basic form is 4 armed with each arm ending in an Elhaz runes or 'angled terminals' as Edred Thorsson would describe them. The basic 4 armed version can be used in order to win a girl's love (according to The Galdrabok). It may be traced with spittle in the palm of your right hand prior to meeting the girl. As an alternative to using the 'angled terminals' one resembling an upturned capital E may be employed if preferred.
What is important to bear in mind that:
"it is a symbol of the outpouring of serpent power from the forehead of the magician." (Northern Magic)
This is surely what is inferred when Wagner refers to the serpent look in the eyes of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde in Die Walkuere Act One Scene One. This is a sign of Waelsing or Volsung blood. The Volsungs were of course directly decended from Odin. Sigurðr ormr í auga (Sigurd snake- in-the-eye) was a son of Ragnar Lodbrok and Aslaug, the daughter of Sigurd and Brynhildr, making him of Volsung blood.
The Helm of Awe has the ability to paralyse one's enemy with fear just as serpents have the ability to paralyse their prey. This power as Edred says pours out from the forehead and after much practice the skilled magician can project this into the objective universe through visualisation, a key skill in any form of higher magic. Using an 8 armed Helm power travels from the centre of the Helm along each of the 4 longer arms and activated by the terminals. Where an 8 armed Helm is used the 4 smaller arms contain square rather than angled terminals which prevent the power returning to the core and thus endangering the magician.
In addition to inducing fear in one's enemy the Helm of Awe may be used to induce a sense of calm and dissipation of anger in the opponent. The Galdrabok suggests tracing the sign on one's forehead with the index finger of the left hand and saying: "It is the helm of awe which I bear between my eyes. Let the anger melt, let the strife stop. May every man rejoice in me as Mary rejoiced in her blessed son when she found him on the victory rock." One must remember that at the time of the writing of these magical books in the 16th century Iceland was xtianised. Nevertheless these manuscripts contain many references to the Germanic Gods.
Walter Blachetta features the Helm of Awe in his Das Buch der Deutschen Sinnzeichen but calls it Das vierarmige Gabelkreuz or the four-armed forked cross. He makes the claim that :
"Ein Zeichen, das zu den ältesten Formen des Kreuzes gehört und schon auf Spinnwirteln aus Troja, der alten Siedlung indogermanischer Wanderungszeit, zu finden ist.-Das vierarmige Gabelkreuz ist das-Zeichen des Willens zur schöpferische Arbeit-."My translation:
"A symbol, that belongs to the oldest form of the cross and are to be found on spinning whorls from Troy, the oldest settlement of the Indo-Germanic migration age.-The four-armed forked cross is the symbol of the will to creative work-."I have yet to properly investigate Blachetta's claim but I thought that this would be of interest to my readers and may indicate that this sign is not only an Icelandic magical stave but may in fact be traced back to Proto-Indo-European times.