Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Runes 301 - Making Your Own Runes - Shells

The Runes I have been using for several years were not intended to be a permanent set even though I stained them with my blood as part of the ritual.  I made them after the original staves I had been working on were ruined.  They have served me well, but I always planned to make another set and, this year, I committed to making at least three new sets of Runes.  Last week, I finished the first one.  Shells.

I have a strong connection to water and live near a lake.  Earlier this summer, I collected the shells while visiting a friend's cottage on the lake.  When I got home, I washed the shells to clean them so that I could write the Runes on them.  Though I wasn't considering this part of the ritual, I certainly felt Freyr's energy while I was doing it.

With the shells clean and dry, I painted a Rune on each one, going in order of the Elder Futhark.  I applied two coats and let them dry for several days.  I was waiting for the right moment to complete the ritual - a blessing on them.  This also got to be tricky, because I wasn't using my own blood.  When I mixed it with the paint, it changed the color.  Some say a drop of blood will suffice and that may be true, but I prefer a drop for each Rune.  Instead, I decided to take them back to the lake and rinse them in the lake water, but I had to wait for the right moment.

One morning last week, it was raining and I realized this was the moment I needed.  I put the Runes in a pouch and stopped by the lake on my way to work.  As the rain fell on that cool, misty morning, I emptied the Runes into the sand right where the water was lapping onto the shore.  It gently washed over them as I took each one separately and swirled it in the water before wrapping it into a cloth.

Although I called on Njord for a blessing, it was Freyr who presented himself more prominently.  Njord was there, but took a secondary position.  I know that neither god is associated with the Runes like Odin and Heimdall, but I requested Njord as a god with a connection to the sea.  I sometimes sense him along the shore and around marinas, so it felt right.  Still, it was Freyr who stood behind me to the left and watched as I completed my ritual.  I take his presence to mean that this was a good time, a fertile time, for me to bless the Runes and make them my own.  Even though my blood wasn't used, the water from the lake and the rain served to create that bond.

When I got home from work, I drew three Runes for myself to make them my own.  Eihwaz, Jera, and Sowilo.  These are three powerful Runes for me.  Eihwaz has become an important Rune for me when I need to be strong or calm - focused.  Jera is my guiding Rune; whenever it shows up in a draw, it is powerful.  And Sowilo is my Rune for the year, reminding me of feminine energy (to balance last year's Rune - Thurisaz).  I think this sets a good precedence for this set of Runes and the connection between them and me.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - Runes: Ancient Scripts

I came to the Runes through academic channels, which may be why Martin Findell's book, Runes: Ancient Scripts, caught my eye.  Though it's short, Findell provides a reasonable overview of the Runes as an alphabet, which is the primary goal of his book.

There are a number of aspects of this book that I like.  First, for those who are new to Runes, the writing isn't too dense; it does a good job of providing background on the Runes as a form of writing and communication.  And, although most of you who read my blog are engaged with Runes as an oracle, we should understand both sides of this coin.  Findell explains what Runes are in terms of a writing vehicle; he follows a chronology as the Runes changed and split from the original Futhark to the Anglo Saxon Futhorc and the Younger Futhark used in Scandinavia during the Viking Age.  I like the fact that he suggests there may have been more than a single original version of the Futhark.  There is some truth behind it if for no other reason than the existing examples of the Runic writing are scarce and there are inconsistencies in form.  It is similar to different dialects in language.

In his chapter on Rune names, Findell shows us one of the most interesting images in the entire book.  It is an 18th century copy "of an earlier late 10th-/11th-century manuscript [that] preserves the earliest [copy] of the rune-poems from which we can learn about the tradition of runes-names." The picture is from a book by George Hickes, an English Divine (church clergy) and scholar who lived from 1642-1715.  Some researchers believe that the Rune Poems were used as a way of remembering the letters of the Futharks.  I can see that given the ABC songs we are taught as children.  In modern times, we have adopted the meanings named in the poems to serve as the foundation for using Runes as an oracle.

The other insightful piece of Findell's book is his chapter on the work of Runologists.  From an academic and historical perspective, his explanation begins to lend an eye to the depth of work that has transpired to develop our understanding of runic writing and the cultures and environments in which runic inscriptions were made.  Runology, while being its own area of academic study, incorporates work in numerous disciplines - linguistics, archeology, art history, literary history, and cultural history.  I could also see anthropology and geography fitting into that mix.  Findell shares some of the challenges with interpreting inscriptions as well as the processes used to gain a full understanding of each object and not simply figuring out what is carved on it.

In his final chapter, Findell includes a nod to MR James and JRR Tolkien, but claims that there is seldom any connection between "fantasy Runes" (those developed by James and Tolkien in their books) and real Runes.  I would amend that slightly to suggest that the mistake is that some readers take James and Tolkien at face value and consider their fantasy Runes to be the real ones.  Next, he touches on the Nazi misappropriation of Runes, something that still taints the Runes and their surrounding culture.

Where I feel Findell goes astray is near the end when he seems to condemn modern uses of Runes for divination, stating that new age or pagan magic is perhaps the most prevalent present-day use of Runes.  While that remark is true, the tone of his writing changes and he seems to denounce it, stating, "Most pagan books or websites will mention the historical use of Runes as writing, but this is treated as something secondary to their symbolic and oracular function."  He further suggests that the Runes are viewed primarily as magical symbols and function as a writing vehicle "only secondarily and incidentally".  I largely disagree with this, for while Findell points out that most "pagan books and websites" present the Runes as an alphabet secondarily, that is because their primary purpose is to present them as an oracle, just as Findell presents them primarily as a written language and discusses modern uses secondarily.

I am sure there are some people who see the Runes as nothing more than a divination tool.  However, my experience has been that those who take Runes seriously and are dedicated to them as an oracle give equal credence to their history, historical culture, and role as a writing form.  This is actually why I reviewed this book; not to correct his assumptions about the Runes as an oracle, but rather to share information about the Runes as a writing vehicle, which we come to understand through the complex and multi-faceted approach that academics, like Findell, take in their work to unravel the mystery and history of the Runes and the cultural of which they were a part.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Forward Progress

Last week's Solstice got me thinking about cycles and balance, because the latter is not constant.  It comes in cycles, just like the Solstices and Equinoxes.  Equinoxes represent balance (12 hours of daylight and darkness everywhere on the planet), while the Solstices can be seen to to be moments "out of balance" - long summer days and short winter days.

At a time when we are "out of balance", how do we manage to keep making forward progress?  That is the question I posed to the Runes.  At a time when we feel out of balance, how do move forward and not let everything around us that is making us feel off balance over power us?

The Runes presented me with Dagaz, Perthro, and Hagalaz.  I like the circular meanings in this draw and the reminders that each Rune provides.

Dagaz is a very empowering, hopeful Rune.  The day Rune represents the idea that everything is less scary during the day than it is at night.  This works for either Solstice.  In both instances, Dagaz reminds us that we can do this.  For those facing a winter Solstice, it is a message to say that daylight is returning.  Be a little patient.  For those in the summer Solstice, you are in the heart of the day.  Positive energy is all around you.  Absorb it and let it help you to focus and move.

The reminders with Perthro are that we are not alone and that we need to remember to have fun.  Help is there for us.  Maybe knowing this gives us more confidence to actually do it on our own.  We are creating and implementing the plan.  And, we need to remember to have fun.  We have a lot going on and it can weigh us down if we forget to lighten the mood once in a while and what better way to do that than to spend some time being social?

Finally, Hagalaz hits us with hail.  This is a great Rune to end on, because it reminds us that, while things may start off feeling out of balance and like they are beating us down, in the wake there is nourishment.  When the hailstones melt, what's left behind feeds us.  I would argue that, we are responsible for melting the hail and, in doing so, create our own nourishment by tackling the challenges that are trying to knock us off balance.  This is the empowerment that we gain through Dagaz, bringing our interpretation full circle and moving us forward in a positive way.