Monday, October 31, 2011

Runes 101 - Runes In History 3

It's back to business today and our focus is on Rune Poems.  If you are not familiar with these, let me assure you that these are not poems written in Runes, rather are poems written about the meaning of the Runes of the Elder Futhark.  Remember that, there was an increase in the number of Runes in the British Isles (from 24 to 33), while there was a reduction in Scandinavia (to 16) over time.  These poems return us, as close as we can get, to the original meaning of the original twenty-four letters.

These poems are important historical writings, but they serve a contemporary purpose too, as they have been used to determine the meaning of each Rune for the purposes of "reading" them.  With that, it's important to realize two things.

First, there are three "versions" of the Rune Poems, in Old English (OE), Old Icelandic (OI), and Old Norwegian (ON).  What's truly fascinating about these poems is their general agreement around the meaning of the Rune, with minor exceptions.  Let's use my favorite Rune, Jera, as an example.  The following is quoted from Sweyn Plowright's book, "The Rune Primer".  The Old English version is also available in Stephen Pollington's, "Rudiments of Runelore".

OE – Year/harvest is men's hope, when god, holy heaven's king, let's the earth give shining fruit to the warriors and the poor.
OI – Harvest is men’s bounty and a good summer and a full grown field.
ON – Harvest is men’s bounty.  I guess that generous was Fródhi.

One quick note, in the Old Norwegian version, it is believed that the second lines are largely irrelevant to the Rune's meaning and are there for rhyming purposes.

Second, some books of Rune interpretations and Rune readers do not use these poems for their basis, while others begin with them and build or add additional information around the main idea of the poem's meaning.

When I began doing Rune readings for friends and family, I relied on Ralph Blum's interpretation of them.  While he has ignored some key aspects of the historical information around Runes, such as their order, most of his explanations are fairly accurate.  Here is what he has to say about Jera.

It is the Rune of the Harvest, Fertile Season, One Year.

Following the idea of the process of the harvest, Blum expands on this Rune's interpretation.  He warns that no immediate results can be expected when this Rune is drawn, that the issue has a process through which it must go and you cannot make it move any faster than is required for it to be completed properly, in its own time.  In support of this, he tells the story of the farmer who tried to pull up the shoots of his plants to make them grow faster and reminds us that no one can push a river.  He stresses patience if you draw this Rune.  Although Blum's interpretation drifts away from the specific goal of harvest and bounty, it remains true to the process involved in achieving a good harvest and bounty.

In contrast, the Rune Kano or Kenaz holds a greater mystery.  This is one instance where the poems do not agree.  The OE version calls it a light or lamp, while the OI and ON refer to it as a children's sore.  Blum calls Kano the Rune of openings, but also uses fire and torch to describe it.  Again he diverges, but approaches it from the perspective of renewed clarity and dispelling of darkness, which light does; it allows us to see things we couldn't see before.

I will probably do more on Rune Poems in the not too distant future, but for now, if any of you have an example of an interpretation that is not drawn from the Rune Poems, please let me know.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Valhalla

As many of you are aware, there is a movement called Occupy Wall Street, which, although it started in New York City, has become an international phenomenon.  You may be asking yourself what on Earth this could have to do with Runes.  Well, the movement has spread to the gods.

I'd like to thank my friend Drew for passing this along to me and the Pundit Kitchen for coming up with it.  A little levity this week.  Next wee we go back to Runes 101.

One last thing, I feel I should point out though that Odin doesn't drink mead, only wine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Short Term Long Term

I have a lot of balls in the air right now, which is a good thing, but deciding which ones to catch and which ones to let fall is a tricky undertaking.  Honestly, I don't want any of them to drop, but I realize I can't do everything.  My response?  Organize.  Prioritize.  Plan.  When I jump into this response mode, one of the most pressing challenges is weighing short term and long term investments and outcomes.  Knowing full well what one of the Runes I would draw was going to be, I pulled three and, sure enough, the overview of this situation is Jera.

Jera is my favorite Rune and the Rune of the Harvest, of process.  How could the overview of a situation where I am trying to prioritize things be anything other than realizing, once again, that everything has a process through which it must travel to fruition?  Jera acknowledges the balls in the air and tells me that, if I want to organize, prioritize and plan, I have to look at the required life cycle for each "ball" I have in the air.  Somethings take longer than others; somethings will make more money;  other things will be gratifying in other ways.  So, "Yes," says Jera, "you must keep most of those balls in the air, but you will be successful at deciding which ones only when you consider all of the aspects of each ball."

What are the challenges I face when attempting to keep the right balls in the air for the right amount of time?  Perth (or Perthro) is my challenge.  This is an interesting Rune.  The New Age interpretation of this revolves around initiation, which is accurate in broad terms.  More traditional interpretations relate it to games of chance and skill, friendly competition.  In a way, it's a coming of age issue.  Sorting out which of my balls to keep in the air becomes a game of chance and skill.  I will run into obstacles, but this process is important for two reasons.  First, these balls are major balls and will play an important role in determining my fate.  Second, I must live in this moment while I plan for future ones and remember that I am not alone in this.  Friends, old and new, will be important to cultivate.  They will help me through this phase.

To organize and prioritize my balls and plan how to keep them in the air (a.k.a., accomplish everything) effectively, I must take action.  According to the Runes, that action lies in Ansuz, the Rune of Communication and Signals.  I need to pay attention with all of my senses (sixth sense included), which will allow me to make unconscious perception conscious perception.  If I pay attention with all of my senses as I interpret the world around me, I will find the right answer.  Some short term things will serve as bridges to long term things.  Others will simply be islands that keep me from drowning until I can lay the foundation to make those long term dreams come true.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wonderful Surprises

This post diverts from the Runes this week, but sticks with one of the origins of the Runes magic - Norse Mythology.  You see, earlier this year, I entered a poem in the poetry contest of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba (Islendingadagurinn).   On Friday, I received a letter (and prize) from the contest coordinator telling me that my poem took first place in the contest.

It may not seem like a very big contest to win, but for me it is huge.  More than fifteen years ago, I fell in love with Iceland and have spent much of my time since learning about every aspect of it that I can absorb (and I have only scratched the surface so far).  So, to have my poem, a poem that combines the country's physical history with its mythological one, recognized by that community is a great honor for me and I am very appreciative of this recognition.

This week, rather than share the Runes with you, I would like to share the poem.

Surtsey and the Battle Against the Fertility God

Born of explosions
Quaking ground
Njord floats all-around
His seas swelling
Rushing to a non-existent shore

The water boils
Heated by rage and fury
Fire, ash, lava
Shooting through the watery gate

Arise Surtr from the depths
Giant fire
You destroy fertility
In your wake

Nature, not violence

And, in time,
You fire dies
And you lie there
Frigid seas rolling
Around your waste

No life
Only rocks and ash

Life delivered by life
Seeds sprouting
Growing small, but green
And purple petals too

Surtr, you killed Freyr
But now, he is reborn
And grows
On your corpse
– Karen Paquin

Monday, October 3, 2011

Runes 101 - Runes in History 2

As promised, here is the next installment of Runes 101.  In the last Runes 101 entry, I mentioned that Rune carvings didn't appear until around the year 200, because, prior to that, most Runic carvings were done on wood, bone and antlers, which do not have the endurance of rocks.

Most of the early inscriptions found are simply the owner's name or the name of the person who made whatever the Runes are carved on.  Of course, ancient Scandinavians and the Vikings as well, were prone to naming special items, so the names on some things may be the name of the thing itself.  Think about it; Thor had Mjöllnir, his hammer; and Odin had Gungnir, his spear.

However, in some instances, where the writing doesn't translate or cannot be translated into actual words, the inscription is thought to be a magical one.

With time, the inscriptions get longer, saying things like, "I, Hlewagastir, son of Holti, made this horn."  Likewise, the items on which carvings occurred diversified as well.  They show up on items such as coins, brooches, statuettes, weapons, boxes and horns.

Around the year 700, things begin to shift.  The first shift comes with the production of bracteates, thin gold medals, which were used as coins, pendants or other ornaments, and imprinted with Runes that include known magical words.

The second shift, which occurs around the same time, is the onset of Runestones - large stones, generally erected in memory of a deceased loved one.  Like the smaller Runic carvings, some Runestones included magical words such as 'alu' or variations of it.(More to come on Runestones.)

It was interesting that, as I researched the increase in Runic inscriptions, that the magic associated with them remained a common thread.  So, I guess, even though I am trying to talk about the Runes in History, there is no escaping the magic of the Runes from mythology.