Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in History - Maeshowe, Orkney

Orkney: Maeshowe neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave*
There can be no question about the reach of the Vikings during the roughly 300-year period named after them - the Viking Age (~790-1066).  Reaching Asia in the east and North America in the west, Vikings were the greatest navigators and explorers of their time.  They affected life and culture wherever they went, leaving behind evidence of their impact as grand as cities they founded and as simple as runic graffiti they carved.

Just over a year ago,  I provided an overview of some graffiti on the Piraeus Lion in Italy, carvings which were rather elaborate.  Much closer to the Viking homelands, however, lies one of the largest known groups of runic graffiti.

At the end of 1999, on mainland Orkney,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site was named and includes four neolithic structures - the Standing Stones of Stenness, Skara Brae (a neolithic village), the Ring of Brodger, and Maeshowe (pictured above).

However, Maeshowe is not famous just because of its age or its interior chambers and passages.  It is also home to at least 30 runic inscriptions, carved between the ninth and twelfth centuries.

These 30 inscriptions include at least one set of the Norwegian (Younger) Futhark, several common statements such as Vermunt carved (these runes) or Tryggr carved these Runes.  Some inscriptions mention women (Ingbjork the fair widow, for example), while others inform us about some of the men who broke into the cairn and carved the Runes on the walls.  They were crusaders and may have been in search of treasure or, at least, were aware that the cairn once contained treasure that had long since been taken, well before the Rune carvers showed up.

In addition to the Runes, there is also a worm knot and  very ornately carved dragon, which has become a common and recognizable Orkney symbol, appearing on T-shirts, jewelry, and even malt whiskey.  If you search online for images of the Orkney dragon, I guarantee you will see plenty of examples of it.  For now, here are a couple of links to sites that provide more images of and information about the Maeshowe Runic inscriptions:

The Project Gutenburg eBook

Orkneyjar

*Image from 123rf.com, photographer Juliane Jacobs

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Solstice Runes 2

On Sunday we celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  Last year, I also wrote about this solstice by asking the Runes what they wanted to share with us about it.  This year, my question was more specific. I wondered how did we arrive here?  What was the path we followed over the last year and how have we realized it?

I think the response - Jera, Tiwaz, Dagaz - builds on last year's post, which presented Berkana, Laguz, and Othala.  What the Runes told us last year was that we were poised at the beginning of something and that we had to be creative and not be afraid to try new paths and realize that, while those paths may include personal gains, that we should look beyond ourselves in the process and recognize that the things that we do affect and are affected by others as well.  The three Runes this year are offering us guidance in looking back over the past year. 

Jera was the perfect first Rune, because it is the Rune of the year and represents, more so than any other, the idea of process and cycles.  It calls on us in this time of silent reflection during the winter solstice to look back over the year and realize how we arrived here.  Did we follow the wisdom the Runes shared with us last year?  Were we creative in choosing the steps we took that formed the path we look back on now?  Were we conscious of the ways in which our steps (choices) affected others?  As I look back over the year, I can say that, for me, these are some of the most important questions I can ask and I realize that not only was the Rune's guidance last year exactly what I needed, but that in a completely unconscious way, I followed that advice and had wonderful though not always easy outcomes.

The second Rune for this time of silent reflection is Tiwaz.  Now, I confess that I have an affinity to these two Runes (Jera and Tiwaz) more than I do to any others, but their positioning here still holds true.  Tiwaz is the warrior Rune, a Rune that represents strength and sacrifice.  We don't always think about both sides of that coin.  When we are exhibiting strength and making tough decisions or just standing up for ourselves, sometimes we don't acknowledge that sacrifices are being made along the way, especially if they are not our sacrifices, but sacrifices of those who support us.  This comes from Othala last year and the fact that whatever choices we made during this year were supported by others around us.  Rather than think only about the strength that you showed this year in making hard choices, think about who supported you in making those choices.  What strength did they show?  How did they support you?  Did it involve a sacrifice on their part?

Just as Jera was the perfect first Rune, Dagaz is the perfect third one, because it almost presents us with another beginning - the day - but it also reminds us to look back over the past year and find those bright spots that helped us get through the rough ones.  It shows us where we were strong, but it also calls to mind its own set of guiding questions.  What made those bright spots bright?  How did they come about?  What did you have to do to achieve those bright spots?  Think of your creativity.  Who helped you achieve those moments?  How did you on your own and with help from others build on those bright spots to make them more enduring?

Interestingly, these three Runes also set the tone for the coming year.  Jera says remember that there is a process for everything that happens during the year.  Tiwaz reminds us of the strength we carry through that process and that there will, at some point, be a sacrifice required.  Dagaz supports these ideas with a focus on the light, which I take to mean the positive.  By focusing on the positive, when we face a challenge, it will be far easier to over come.

With that practical, but important guidance from the Runes, I will wish you all well in the coming year and Happy Yule!  Gleðileg Jól!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Runes 401 - Rune Rituals - Face Fears

Last month, I experienced one of the most traumatic moments of my life.  I was confronted by a fear whose depth I had not fully realized.  To some, it may sound silly to say that I had a panic attack driving over a big bridge, but that is where I found myself.  I am still not sure how I managed to get across it and it still seems as though the three to five minute drive took an hour or more.  What's worse, the experience began snowballing the week after the event and I found myself becoming fearful of driving over any bridge, big or small and, like it or not, I have to cross a big bridge on a fairly regular basis.  I knew I needed help, guidance; so, I turned to the Runes.

When dealing with situations of facing deeply felt fears, we need something that will make us feel calm, instill a bit of confidence, and maybe give us the slightest sense of empowerment or ability to succeed or overcome.  In essence, we need something that will give us the strength to face our fears and some of you may know what that is for you.  I had no idea what it was for me, but the Runes offered me the best chance of finding something.

The first step of my ritual was contemplation.  Lying in bed, I relaxed and thought about all the Runes and their meanings.  Through that process, I narrowed it down to five Runes - Jera (my guiding Rune), Uruz, Wunjo, Thurisaz, and Eihwaz.

Next, I took each of these Runes and held them in my hand one by one and focused on what they represent.  Jera is about process and getting from point A to B, which is a big part of what I needed to do driving across a big bridge.  However, I did not feel the courage I needed to have as the other part of it.  Uruz represents physical strength and freedom, but I needed mental and emotional strength.  Wunjo, though a strong emotional Rune, did not offer quite the right emotion for this situation.  I really thought Thurisaz would be the Rune, but when I held it in my hand, I felt the power behind it would turn to disaster, because the great power that comes out of this Rune has to be controlled and I did not believe I could control it in this situation.  Then, I held Eihwaz and, immediately, I was calm.  This was my Rune.

It has been a year and a half since I wrote about Eihwaz, where it served as a symbol of bravery and a reminder to be mindful.  The fact that it represents a tree, firmly rooted to the earth (as opposed to being suspended high over a large body of water) resonated well with me too.

Finally, two weeks later, I had to cross another big bridge.  I carried Eihwaz around with me for a few days before having to drive over another big bridge. As I carried it, I thought about its meaning and it helped calm me down, so that I could focus. When the time came to cross the bridge, I held Eihwaz in my left hand and chanted "Eihwaz offers me strength.  As a tree, it is rooted and as a tool its arrows shoot straight from its bows."  I needed the reminder of the tree being rooted to the ground, but I also needed the focus of the arrow being fired from the bow and following a straight path to get me over the bridge without acknowledging one side or the other.  Thank you, Eihwaz.

What Rune would you use to help you get through an anxious experience?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Learning New Tricks

I've never been a fan of the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks", especially when you're talking about teaching a human new tricks... or skills.  I think, in most cases, if you are committed to learning something, "you can learn whatever you set your mind to".  It's a much more empowering line of thought anyway.

I entered into a dialogue with the Runes about the idea of learning new tricks, because I wanted to know what drives us to learn new things, what barriers we put up for ourselves along the way, and how to overcome them.

Note the sword shape of the Runes as
they were laid out during the dialogue
Me:  Do you believe that people can learn whatever they set their minds too?

Runes:  Sowilo is a good place to start.  It gives cause for hope.

Me:  Thank you for starting us on this positive note.  Sowilo does lift the spirit.  It is a very positive and empowering Rune.  So, does it give us incentive to try something new?  That is to say it important to have the incentive if we want to be successful?

Runes:  You must have a desire to accomplish it, for it is akin to undertaking a journey.  Raido tells us that.  Raido also reminds us that such journeys are not always easy.

Me:  But, once we complete them, the results are satisfying.

Runes:  That is not always the case.  Tiwaz shows us that there is always some sacrifice that must be made.  As the warrior Rune, it is also good to have here, because you need to remember that you are capable of completing the task, that it will not necessarily be easy or as easy as you hope, and that there may be times when you want to quit, but those are the times you need to be strongest to see the journey through to the end.  If nothing else, you can say you completed the task before you.

Me:  That is an important reminder; thank you.  When things become challenging or we consider quitting, what can help us to continue?

Runes:  Fehu is the reward.  It is wealth in some form, whether it be financial riches or something else.  Sometimes we think you undertake new things for some sort of financial compensation, but, in the end, the actual reward can be a friendship that develops along the way.  It can be discovering a new way to do something, it can help you to better understand an aspect of who you are or make you realize that the mental, emotional or spiritual growth from the experience is what matters the most.

Me:  That is a great way to view the experience and to remind us to keep our expectations open.  I appreciate that guidance.  Along the way, we may come up against barriers.  I think we are more determined to overcome the barriers placed in front of us by others than we are those we place in front of ourselves.  What can we do to overcome internal blocks?

Runes:  For this, I give you three Runes - Wunjo, Uruz, Isa.  When you undertake something new, it is because you believe that by mastering it or gaining a better understanding of it, you will be more content.  It is important to remember that ideal.  When you set out on Raido's journey, you feel empowered by Sowilo's light and that energy carries you forward for a while.  Part of what drives you forward is Uruz.  Uruz is strong and free; in some ways fearless, but sometimes a pause is required to examine the steps you are taking on the path to make sure you are going in the right direction and how quickly you should move forward.  Isa gives you the time you need, the pause.  You must remember that it is okay to sit and contemplate before taking another step.  The trick is not to sit for too long.  Hesitation for too long can prove to be the biggest barrier to completing a task; it allows fear to develop and creates a snowball effect that can stifle the entire process.

Me:  That is great advice; thank you.  Will you show me Jera now to remind me that learning something new is a process.

Runes:  No, but it is good that you realized Jera is part of it.  Learning something new takes time and Jera is definitely about that.  What I give you here, though, is Ehwaz, to remind you of a few other equally important things.  No matter what you are doing, you are not alone and Ehwaz symbolizes relationships and partnerships.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.  It is also about loyalty and how you get from point A to point B.  At its most basic, Ehwaz is the horse, an extremely important mode of transportation and a loyal companion.

Me:  I appreciate your wisdom.  Is there any final information you would like to share?

Rune:  Ansuz.

Me:  Of course, wisdom, communication.  All important things to bear in mind as we endeavor to learn new tricks.  We gain wisdom through these experiences and the benefits and experience will be greater if we communicate through the process.  Thank you for your wisdom.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Balance Runes for the Equinox

When major changes happen in our lives, we get pulled in the direction of the energy causing the change; sometimes we can feel like we are living a completely different life from that which we lived only a week or a month before.  Dramatic shifts like this can create the sense of being out of balance.  Given that we are approaching the equinox this week, a time of worldwide balance, I asked the Runes how we can find balance when a life shift makes us feel like we are on the verge of losing our balance.

The response I got was not what I was expecting at all.  The image above, of a stream swirling through a calm forest is what I was thinking about; taking time, even a moment, to relax, regroup, and move forward calmly.  That was my image.  The Runes had other thoughts entirely - sometimes things take over our lives and we must embrace them.


Yes, I know that Thurisaz is considered a power not to be reckoned with and carries with it negative connotations and warnings, but that is not what this Rune represents for me.  In fact, I don't think of any Rune as being good or bad and I see Thurisaz as a Rune of great power.  What matters is how we channel that power.  If any warning comes with it, it is to be careful to properly manage it so that it doesn't overtake you or worse, someone else.  Perhaps that is the warning that comes with my question; however, I tend to believe that Thurisaz is telling us it is okay to be out of balance sometimes; that being a bit out of balance, giving more weight to one aspect of your life for a while, can actually be quite empowering.  Don't back away from the change, but manage its force positively.

If I doubted that interpretation, Gebo as the second Rune, reinforces what Thurisaz is saying.  Although we like to feel like we have balance in our lives, no one does, not all the time.  Being out of balance or feeling close to it can be a gift.  For example, I just started a new job and, though I am enjoying it very much, it has meant that other parts of my life, like this blog, don't get the same amount of my time as they used to and it feels out of balance.  As we approach the equinox, that feeling is becoming more obvious to me.  But what the Runes are telling me is that this shift in my life is a gift to embrace, for if we don't get out of balance once in a while, how will we grow and change?  Evolve and experience new and exciting things?

I believe that is why Berkana came third in this draw.  Moments spent out of balance, experiencing things outside of our comfort zone or that we haven't experienced in a while bring out our creativity.  They inspire and energize us.  Without these out of balance moments, we would not have beginnings, the beginnings that Berkana represents.

So, as we approach this equinox, if you are feeling a bit out of balance, do not fear.  Embrace the energy that is pulling you and turn it into something positive, a growth experience.  Consider it a gift that is leading you to new paths or helping you develop new skills, but in some way offering you a positive beginning.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Runes 301 - Making Your Own Runes - New Runes

I am not sure how many people have contacted me to say that someone has given them a set of Runes and they want to know how to make the Runes their own, but I know it's a lot.  In fact, it is one of the most common inquiries I receive.

Making new Runes your own is different from making your own Runes.  As we saw in some of the recent posts of sets of Runes that people made, each one of my friends had a very personal experience when making their own Runes, regardless of the material used - driftwood, ash keys, and chestnuts.

But what sort of experience do you need to have when you get Runes from someone else or even buy a set for yourself.  In short, how do you make new Runes your own?

Some people have shared very elaborate rituals with me and each one is fascinating and makes sense in its own way, though may not be right for everyone, because Runes are a very personal thing.  And truth be told, it is entirely up to you how you make them your own.  You can "cleanse" them in your own way.

Some rituals have involved the gods, usually Odin or Heimdall, but a few people have called on the disir.  Still others have focused on the four elements - earth, air, water, and fire - or stained their new set with their blood.  Others have simply washed them in a stream, passed incense over them or chanted over them.  There is also a large contingency that went through no ritual at all.  However, as I said, it is up to you.

In general, I make two recommendations for making new Runes your own, the second of which is the only one I really urge, because it does give you better results when you engage the Runes. 

First, you can choose to stain them with your own blood, which I have done with new Runes made of wood.  The blood doesn't really stay on other materials so well, because it can't soak into them.  I did wash some stone Runes in holy water with a few drops of my blood added to it.  At first it felt a little odd, because it was the first time I had done anything like that, but by the end, it felt right.

However, the second recommendation is the only one that I feel strongly about and every person with whom I've spoken, who uses Runes regularly, seems to agree with this idea - pose the first question or do the first reading with your new Runes for yourself.  This is an important energy exchange in making the Runes your own.   Take your time; ask as many questions as you need to or have a dialogue with the Runes for as long as it takes for you to feel like you understand what the Runes are telling you.  The comfort and understanding will come.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Family, Friends, and Life

It's been a whirlwind summer for me and I don't expect to have much a weekly routine until early September.  However, until then (and over the past week), my life is going to be filled with family and old friends.  My family and friends are spread out all over the country (and some even around the world), so I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of family and friends and the life they bring to my life.  I asked the Runes how they would summarize this important aspect of our lives.

Their response gave me pause, but answered my inquiry perfectly.  In fact, each Rune seemed to align with a different part the question.

Ehwaz in the first position represents many great aspects of family.  Although we saw Ehwaz just a couple of months ago at the solstice, Ehwaz has four main meanings, each of which relates easily to family - loyalty, relationships, journeys, and the ways in which we make those journeys.  Perhaps these speak to me especially now as I just spent the weekend at a family reunion, but if we think about these words, we can see how easily family fits into these characteristics.  Family is there for you; that's the loyalty.  It's also a comfort I carry with me, knowing that, no matter what happens, my family will always be there for me.  That ties directly into the idea of relationships; for better or worse, family creates the first relationships we have and, most likely, the longest and last.  They travel life's journey with us (whether we want them to or not sometimes) and, I think they are the ones we are most willing to travel for, especially in times of emergencies and celebrations.

I liked drawing Jera to represent friends.  Not only is it the Rune I consider to be mine - my guiding Rune - but it represents cycles, symbolizing the changes that can happen within the span of a year.  In other words, we know that, with friends (just as with family sometimes), our relationships depend on the cycle of our lives.  Sometimes we are so involved in things that are happening in our own lives, we "forget" about our friends for a while.  Other times, it's the reverse and we don't hear from our friends, because they get busy with their own lives.  But the magic of true friendship is that, no matter how much time we spend away from each other, when we cycle back together, that time of separation dissolves and it is as if we have been together continuously.

Sowilo symbolizing life... well, I am not sure I need to explain this one.  Sowilo is the sun Rune, light and life, and the feminine energies of caring for others, creativity, and compassion.  This Rune is energy in all its forms.  Not only is it the basic necessity for life, but through the feminine aspect, it brings those things which make us human, the attributes that give us the capacity to care and create, to life.

If we consider all three Runes together, it paints a picture of hope and reminds us not only of the importance of the relationships we form with family and friends, but of the energy that we bring to them and they bring to us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Berkana 2

Nearly two years ago, I looked at Berkana as I was starting a new business adventure with a friend. Although that adventure has run its course, last week, I started another new adventure and Berkana came to mind once again.  In fact, when Berkana reveals itself to us, we tend to be drawn to ideas of beginnings, birth, and even creative unleashings.

What we tend to forget, because we frame things as every ending is a beginning, is that every beginning also means that something else has come to an end.  I like to think that something coming to an end is a good thing, but it isn't always or, even if it is, it isn't necessarily easy.  So, what I wanted to know is how we can experience the release of what is ending as we move forward into our beginning.  So, I asked the Runes, "Using Berkana to symbolize our beginning, how do we acknowledge what has ended?"

Wunjo, Nauthiz, and Raido came as the Runes' reply.

"Be happy," the Runes say.  Okay, it's not as simple as be happy, but it sets the tone.  More specifically, it means don't regret what happened, what has come to pass.  It may not have been great, but we can take or make something positive from every experience.  We can learn and grow and, in many ways, those experiences that are hard help us to grow the most.  They help us to find strength and courage.  And, even when good things end, we are grateful to have had those moments.  Take the good and move that forward.

Nauthiz came second and focuses on needs, wants, and what is necessary.  I find this Rune to be quite important, because it calls for awareness without actually warning us to be careful.  Instead, it seems to tell us to be smart, to use our wits and be wise in the way we approach things.  It does not say move slowly, rather move smartly.  How does this help us recall what has ended?  It adds to what Wunjo said.  Where Wunjo tells us not to regret things, Nauthiz says take the aspects of the past that we need and bring them forward, but be smart about what we choose.  Acknowledge what has ended, but don't let it weigh us down; we don't need that.

The final Rune is Raido; Raido is the journey.  This is the Rune that tells us that we are not alone on our journey and reminds us to live life.  Basically, Raido in this position, reinforces the need to move forward.  We cannot escape what has ended, because it was part of the journey that got us to where we are now, to that first next step to where we are going.  Coupled with Wunjo, its message is enjoy the ride and, coupled with Nauthiz, it says that even though we are enjoying the ride, we still need to be aware of the path.  Look back and see where you've come from.  Acknowledge the road behind you and build your next moment on the foundation that lies in your wake.  It is stronger than you think.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Runes 202 - Bind Runes - Priorities

I received some interesting feedback about last week's post, but one really stood out, because it was a nuanced aspect to the idea of dealing with change that relates to priorities.  The question was - how can you keep from losing track of your priorities, especially when change occurs?  The example was a personal project this person has been working on consistently for a few years.  However, her family is going through a big change right now and she wants to make sure that she manages to keep working on this project, which has come to mean a lot to her.

I asked the Runes her question and their response was simple, but I felt like I wanted to capture the strength that lies within its simplicity.  So, I made them into a bind Rune.  The Runes I drew were Nauthiz, Laguz, and Mannaz.


This is the way I chose to bind them, because, I felt that Nauthiz and Laguz were tied to Mannaz on the left, almost as if, even though Mannaz was last, it was actually first and they are responding to the foundation of the human experience.

Nauthiz, the Rune of need and necessity, came up about a year ago in a slightly different context, but its overarching meaning is still the same - the idea of need versus want.  Nauthiz acknowledges that it is easy to get caught up in the new things that come with change.  Whether they are good or bad, we can find ourselves dedicating far more time to them than we should or really need to.  As the first Rune drawn, it suggests that we need to create an awareness of the things we need and make sure that we keep them in our lives.  Too often we focus on a single aspect of 'need', such as money, but we need a diversity of things in our lives and that is what Nauthiz tells us.  For some it means time outside hiking or gardening, for others, maybe writing or reading, for example.

Laguz was second and also appeared in our last bind Rune about life's pursuits.  In that bind Rune, it told us that we must not get stressed out, but we cannot simply kick back and let our circumstances take control of lives.  We must move consciously.  Similarly, in this instance, Laguz says that part of moving consciously within the flow of our lives means that our hobbies or special projects or time with family and friends are not just going to happen on their own.  We need to make a commitment to them (maintain it) through the changes in our lives.  In essence, it is our responsibility to ourselves to engage in the activities that fulfill different parts of who we are.

That leads us to Mannaz, the Rune that came first last week and feels first today.  Last week's message was important, however brief.  We are human; we have strengths and weaknesses.  Beyond the self, Mannaz brings the larger human society into the picture.  When considering priorities, Mannaz reminds us to consider how we want our individual self to exist and interact with the society in which we exist.  How will it influence us and we it?  How do we want to be a part of it?

Joining these three Runes together as I have establishes us as part of a larger entity or force.  Placing Nauthiz lower and, in a way, closer to Mannaz allows us to acknowledge what we need to feel fulfilled, especially those things that we might be inclined to let slip away, because of some major change in our lives.  Laguz, then, helps us prioritize those needs and find a way to continue to honor their place in filling our lives with the things we need.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Dealing with Change

Change is a part of life.  In fact, some say that the only thing that is constant in this world is change.  Still, that does not negate the fact that some people really struggle with it.  Someone very dear to me does not deal well with it, but his life is about change in a fairly big way.  Despite it being a positive change, his aversion to change hasn't changed.  So, I decided to engage with the Runes to ask for their guidance in managing it.  How can we deal with change, whether good or bad, for our own well-being without reacting negatively to it?

The Runes make it clear from the onset that this is truly a personal issue.

Runes:  Mannaz reminds us that humans possess both strengths and weaknesses.

Me:  That is true.  Thank you.  So, this tells us that it is okay to not like change; that it is a natural part of who we are.

Runes:  It is, but so is how you deal with it.  You may not like it, but it is going to happen, so perhaps the best way to approach change is the way you approach a new day.  That is why Dagaz comes second.  Each day begins as an opportunity.  What you accomplish and how you feel during the cycle of one day depends on your choices and your perspective.

Me:  You are saying that we need to be more conscious of the things we do, right?

Runes:  I am saying that by being more conscious, you can have a better effect on your day.  Berkana represents birth and beginnings.  When we are born our opportunities are unlimited.  Change presents beginnings too; sometimes not in ways we would like to receive them, but when a beginning presents itself to us, it holds nothing more than potential and you can choose how you engage that potential and what direction it takes.

Me:  Of course.  Thank you.  This makes it seem much easier.

Runes:  Do not misinterpret my intention.  The way you approach change is important, but that does not necessarily mean it will be easier or even pleasant.  However, I place Uruz here, not only because dealing with discomfort requires strength, but also to remind you that it requires you to think freely and critically about such a situation.

Me:  How will we know if we are succeeding or what can we do to ensure that we are thinking freely and critically?

Runes:  Perthro takes this struggle outside of you (Mannaz) and into a social component.

Me:  So, we need to find the fun in the situation.

Runes:  That is only part of it.  It is important to find the lighter side, but more importantly, you must engage socially,  If you withdrawal from the inevitable change, you make everything a struggle.  It is in your best interest to participate in the process of change.  It helps forge new relationships, build loyalty, and it affects your wyrd.  That is where Gebo comes in, for when you give, in this case to a situation, without expectation of an end result, the gift within the situation will reveal itself to you in many ways.

Me:  Your insight has been very wise.  I understand that it is okay to not like change, but that the way that we engage with and accept it will have profound impact on the experience we have with it.  If we resist less and work on building relationships, the outcome is far more likely to be a positive one.  Thank you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in Mythology - The Saga of the Volsungs

Two weeks ago, I reviewed Jesse Byock's translation of The Saga of the Volsungs and I promised to come back to it to talk about the appearance of Runes in the story.  The Runes actually play two important parts in the story, though their first mention is merely the statement that Regin, Sigurd's foster father, taught Sigurd the Runes.

However, I note this not only because it is the first time we see the Runes in the story, but also because Byock points out (reminds us) in his own notes in the book that Runes "had both practical and magical uses."  In fact, this story presents both aspects of the Runes and that is where I want to focus.

In chapter 21, Brynhild shares her knowledge of the Runes with Sigurd.  She recites 14 verses that include at least six types of Runes as noted in the list to the right.

Brynhild's expression of the Runes presents their magical side and talks of spells and how to use them properly.  Aid Runes, for instance, are used to help with child birth and she claims that they are to be cut into the mother's hand and then the Rune carver must take her hand into his/hers and "bid the Disir not to fail".

In another verse, she mentions Tyr when speaking of victory Runes and even says that they should be cut on the sword's hilt on the blade's center ridge.  She never calls this Rune Tiwaz, yet we know that Tiwaz was carved on many swords and is Tyr's Rune.  To be sure, one of the enigma's that surround the Runes is that they are not mentioned by name in many instances.

There is an exception to that in Brynhild's Rune knowledge though.  When discussing ale Runes and the goal of keeping a neighbor's wife at bay, she states that ale Runes are to be carved on your horn and the back of your hand... and Naud (Nauthiz - the need Rune) on your fingernail.  This is one of the few places where a Rune is actually named, even then, she may just be saying "the need rune", but we know that is Naud (Nauthiz).

Using the Runes for "practical" purposes, as opposed to the implied magic of Brynhild's Runes, Gudrun carves a message in Runes to warn her brothers that her husband, King Atli, plans to take Sigurd's treasure from them.  The king's messenger reads the message and changes the Runes to make it appear as though Gudrun wants her brothers to accept her husband's invitation.  With the letter Gudrun sends a ring tied with wolf's hair, which her brother, Hogni, initially sees as a warning until the messenger gives him Gudrun's note, which he altered.  Although Hogni does not recognize the changes, his wife, Kostbera does.  She can tell the Gudrun's message has been falsified.

Interestingly, the story says that Kostbera uses her wisdom to discern what the Runes truly said.  When she figures it out, she wakes her husband to tell him not to go on the trip to see King Atli.  She says:
"You cannot be very skilled at reading runes if you think your sister has asked you to come at this time.  I read the runes and wondered how so wise a woman could have carved them so confusedly.  Yet, it seems that your death is indicated underneath.  Either Gudrun missed a letter or someone else has falsified the runes."
The Saga of the Volsungs is not a happy one, but it does offer concrete examples of both uses of the Runes, along with dragon slaying, great battles, and great deceit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Solstice Runes

Saturday marked the first day of summer (up north) - the solstice.  Last year, I wrote about Runes for the Solstice and decided to inquire about this powerful time of year once more.  While last year's post was more about making the most of the energy and power of the solstice, this year, I asked more about being with the solstice, connecting with it.  The Runes offered their usual keen insight, including a reminder that last year's question still applies.

The first Rune they gave to me was Dagaz, the day Rune.  There is not a more appropriate way to begin to address my question, than there is with the day Rune.  It reminds us simply that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year.  We should acknowledge the time we have to get things done; whether it's work or play, Dagaz lights the way and helps us see things more clearly.  In a way, this enhances our ability to be aware of this energizing time of year.  We can enjoy the warmth and feel hopeful not only about what lies ahead, but about what we've accomplished so far.  In essence, we can be in the present without worry of the past or what the future holds.

Fehu is the cattle Rune, representing money and prosperity.  Two weeks ago, I wrote about Runes for You and Fehu came up there as the Rune from Verdandi (the present).  How timely that, as Dagaz tells us we can be in the present, we draw Verdandi's Rune from two weeks ago.  In that post, I focused on the Rune poem meanings for this Rune and the idea of spreading the wealth/equity.  However, it is important to remember that, in today's world at least, wealth and prosperity can mean far more than simply money.  Given this high energy time of the year and Verdandi telling us to share the wealth, we should focus on sharing all forms of it, not just money - being kind to others, spreading joy and positive energy, doing even small things that could have a big impact.  What wealth do you have that you can extend to others?

As if Fehu's notion of giving to or sharing with others wasn't enough, Ehwaz is our final Rune.  The horse Rune, signifies many important and practical aspects to life that relate to interacting with others and forming relationships, such as loyalty, teamwork, and partnerships.  In this way, Ehwaz supports Fehu, by saying, "We are all in this (life's journey) together."  And, we should try to make the journey a pleasurable one for everyone by doing our small part.  It may even be that the attributes of Ehwaz are the wealth we can spread.

The summer solstice is a powerful time of year. We can make the most of its energy by coming together to share all forms of prosperity, which connects us with this solstice's power and enriches us and those around us.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - The Saga of the Volsungs

If you type "Saga of the Volsungs" into your search engine (aka - google it), there will be no shortage of links to this famous and important saga.  Not only did the Vikings carve this story into the Ramsund Runestone in Sweden, but it inspired the likes of Richard Wagner, William Morris, and JRR Tolkein.

While all three of these artists were inspired more broadly by Norse mythology and history, this book in particular influenced Wagner's opera Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Morris' epic poem The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs, and Tolkein's narrative poem The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.

Moreover, this story has been translated into multiple languages over the years and retold in different versions, including edited summaries.

What is it that is so inspiring about this saga?  It could be any number of things from the more obvious dragon slaying to the more subtle influence of women interpreting dreams and carving Runes.  Maybe it's the relationships. Volsunga Saga is a true-to-form saga, detailing multiple generations of Volsungs and explaining the relationships of their allies and enemies alike.  It is loaded with Viking battles and victories and wealthy kings and fair women.  It even has magic potions and shape shifting. So, what's not to love?  The story is quite fascinating.

Of course, as I said, if you do an online search for it, numerous versions of it will come up.  I chose the version I read for one main reason.  It was translated by my former Old Norse Professor from UCLA, Dr. Jesse Byock and I trust him.  That, I'm sure makes me biased, but I enjoyed The Saga of the Volsungs nonetheless.  Naturally, I liked the story.  However,  the introduction was really helpful in laying the foundation, providing context in the larger back drop of Norse/European society at the time, and noting the story's more recent influence on music, literature, and art.  There were also some useful notes and other sections at the end of the book.

As for the translation itself, Byock does an excellent job of painting a clear story while maintaining the historical presentation.  In other words, he didn't turn it into a contemporary interpretation, rather maintained the original voice in a way that makes it easy to read and follow.  This is a tough spot to find.  I have read versions of other historical writings that have stuck so close to the original version that I could not relate to the story and found myself researching ancient words just to make sense of it.  In other instances stories have been so modernized as to lose any sense of their historical significance.  That is not the case here.

It's harder to review the translation of a story that already exists than it is to talk (or write) about original works, but this is one story that has been handled well by the translating author.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the story are the Runes, a topic I will discuss more soon, so stay tuned for that.  For now, if you want an easy and enjoyable book to read while learning about about historical Norse culture, I recommend putting The Saga of the Volsungs (aka - Volsunga Saga) on the list.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Runes for You

After a completely crazy week and the need to let go and forget it over the weekend, I realized that I could not write the post I had planned, because I did not have the time to finish the book I'm currently reading to review.

However, because the Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld always have wisdom to share, I called on them through the Runes and asked them what knowledge they would like to tell me about your past, present, and future - 'you' representing both you personally and the larger societal you.  Yes, a Norn cast for you.  Here is how they lined up:


Urd, representing your past, showed Laguz.  In this instance, the water Rune represents your past and and you must consider that past as part of your life going forward.  Just as water nourishes you, so too does your past, though in a very different sense.  Where water provides for your physical existence (by drinking it, using it water food, and for cleanliness among other things), your past provides mental nourishment.  Your past experiences have taught you lessons and prepared you for each step forward that you take.  Coupled with this are the mysteries held in a deep or stormy sea.  They can be scary, but you cannot be afraid to try new things; remembering that all of your life experiences up to this point have helped to prepare you for the next challenge you face, the next choice you make.

Verdandi gave me Fehu, the cattle Rune, which symbolizes your present and equates generally to finances.  The Rune poems for Fehu are quite interesting, for while they all clearly call it money, the Old Icelandic and Norwegian poems point out that it causes quarrels among kinsmen, and the Old English poem almost counters that with the suggestion of sharing your good fortune with others - keep things somewhat equitable (perhaps to avoid quarrels and conflict).  I think this is indicative of our current society, where the wealth is being concentrated among the few.  Now is the time to take the lessons from your past and apply them to your current situation.  There are any number of sayings I could call on here to make this point.  How about Margaret Mead, who said. "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world.  For, indeed, that's all who ever have."  This calls the idea of personal responsibility to the fore.  Add to that, "It is better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction" (by Diane Grant), and you have a very powerful opportunity presenting itself.

Skuld offered Raido, the riding Rune.  Having just looked at Raido a few weeks ago, it is fresh in my mind.  Following on Verdandi giving us Fehu, Skuld showing Raido signifies change - a journey.  Essentially, your future should experience a change, it should be different from your present.  However, as we know, this is not a done deal with the Norns.  This is what should be, but only you can make it so.  You will never get where you want to be if you don't consciously undertake the challenges life presents.  You must take the reins and move or you will be moved in a direction you do not wish to be carried.  I will end with a quote from my Raido post, because it flows perfectly with the wisdom we have received from Urd and Verdandi.  In support of her sisters and through Raido, Verdandi says, "Don't just sit there while life happens to you; don't allow yourself to be a victim of your circumstances.  Take charge of where your life leads you." 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - The Waiting

I have to laugh as I begin this post about 'the waiting', because my first inclination was to write that I have been 'waiting' a long time to write it.  It also brings to mind one of my favorite songs of the same name, The Waiting, by Tom Petty wherein he assures us that the waiting is the hardest part.  Given this truth, I asked the Runes what they wanted to show us about managing the waiting.  How do we address that moment in time, that part of the process, when we feel the momentum wanting us to move forward, but we must resist and wait for someone else to make the next move?


The three Runes I drew in response to this question get right to the heart of the matter.  Although Ansuz's meaning in this situation and as the first in the draw may seem unclear at first, a short pause clarifies it very well.   When we see Ansuz, we relate it to the gods, particularly Odin. Of course, it is always good to have Odin with us from the start, but it means more than that here.  I view Odin as stepping in only at critical moments, which signifies to me that this is one of those moments and drawing a Rune that represents him reiterates the importance of waiting through it.

However,  there is another meaning for this Rune, that of an estuary, which is equally important. As I've mentioned before, an estuary is a place of transition between rivers and the ocean, placing us in a position of transition and making 'the wait' a necessary part of it.

That being said, Ansuz has one other meaning that lends us the best way to manage this time.  We know that Odin places significance on the situation and that we are in the middle of a transition, but how do we manage it?  The third meaning associated with this Rune is communication, which tells us that, instead of doing nothing while we wait, we can prepare for the next step, for that moment when the waiting ends and the next step in the process begins.  It is that preparation that will carry us through not only the waiting period, but the next step as well.

Why is that important?  Why should we prepare, especially if we might be unsure what the next step will bring?  Raido, the riding Rune, as the second Rune in this draw tells us that the waiting is part of the journey.  It highlights the transition we are in and that we must approach it in an intentional way, but it also says that waiting does not negate our ability to move. This lends support to what Ansuz says about preparing for the next step this journey is leading to. We can sit and let 'the waiting' happen to us and fill us with angst or we can take control of 'the waiting' so that we are ready when it ends.  Besides supporting the latter, Raido assures us that greater movement is on its way; it is coming and the better prepared we are, the better able we will be to manage it and complete this transition phase smoothly.

The final Rune, Berkana, unquestionably tells us that the result of actively waiting (doing what we can to prepare for the next step while we are waiting for others to move) leads us to a beginning.  Berkana represents the birch tree, and the Old English Rune poem, in particular, highlights one of the most interesting aspects of this tree - though it doesn't flower or bear fruit, its boughs are green and beautiful.  This fits well into our journey's transition and tells us that, even though there is no obvious flowering in our process, the end result will still provide a full bloom.  We just have to wait for it... actively wait.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Runes 401 - Rune Rituals - Freyr's Fertility

Rituals are an important part of my relationship with the Runes.  I don't do them often, February being the last time I conducted one.    Last November, I performed a ritual around the importance of pacing yourself and, before that, it was the end of last summer, when I honored Idunn.

I have been waiting to do this ritual since February, when I acknowledged the return of light (the to the northern hemisphere).  A month later, I acknowledged a very important point in Earth's annual cycle - the equinox.  These were two key times leading up to the moment when I could till the soil and seed the ground.  After an unusually long winter and a short, wet spring, that meant keeping my plants inside for a while longer than usual, planting season has finally arrived along with the optimism that it will yield a bountiful harvest.

A bountiful harvest requires fertile ground and, when I need that kind of fertility, there is only one Norse god whose energy I seek - Freyr, the god of peace and plenty.  It is to his essence that I dedicate my annual planting ritual.

With the soil turned and ready for planting, I go through a three-step process to honor the fertility god.

24 rocks laid out as Ingwaz
First, I lay out 24 rocks in the shape of Ingwaz, Freyr's Rune.  Each rock represents a Rune and I say each one as I lay down a rock to build Ingwaz's shape.  I confess, it wasn't until my third year doing this that I didn't use a reference to make sure I had the Runes in proper order (mostly because I was a little nervous).

Once the rocks are laid out and I have said the name of each Rune as I laid down each rock, I stand and face northwest and say, "I turn this soil in your honor, Freyr."  (Whenever a ritual involves Freyr, I face northwest when chanting or calling to him.  That is my choice for no other reason than it just feels right; I have a friend who faces east to catch the rising sun; so it is your choice.)

Runes laid out as Ingwaz with
dedication plant in the center
Second, I remove the rocks and make a smaller Ingwaz shape with my Runes.  Again, I say each Rune as I lay it down.  I keep this step separate to help show (visualize) how the soil goes from gray/black dirt to the beginning of plant life with a touch of green.  Once the shape is complete, I take one of my plants and place it in Ingwaz's center.  This year I chose 'the runt of the litter', a small melon plant, because I wasn't sure it was going to survive.  With a little TLC, it sprouted a couple of new leaves, signifying to me Freyr's powerful fertility. With the plant in the center, I go around Ingwaz one more time, touching each Rune as I say its name.

To finish this step, I stand and face northwest again and say, "Freyr, I believe in your power to provide fertility to the planet, to nourish the Earth and all things that live here. This plant represents the garden I dedicate to you."

The third step happens after the garden is planted and the green life becomes more obvious.  I have a jar of holy water, received from Freyr through rain, that I sprinkle around the garden.  Expressing my gratitude to the fertility god, I say, "I believe in the power of Freyr to provide fertility to the planet. My gods walk with me and I know that Freyr will nourish my efforts."

My plants waiting to go into the garden
 
I have completed the first two steps and will complete step three later this week, once my plants are in the ground.

Do you perform any rituals that you're willing to share?  If so, leave a comment on this post or email me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Raido

Yes, I know it's been only three weeks since I wrote about another individual Rune - Uruz - but Raido insisted that this week was its turn.  No matter what question I posed, Raido would be part of the draw and it was usually first.  I could not deny it; besides, it feels right to consider Raido today.

I'd like to begin by looking at its relationship to Ehwaz, the horse.  In the post I wrote about the horse Rune, I pointed out what I see as its main features - loyalty, relationships, pilgrimages, and modes of transportation of journeys.  Simply put, Ehwaz (and its attributes) carries us on our journey and Raido is the journey.  Through Ehwaz's attributes, our journey is made easier.  It reminds us that we are not doing this alone.  Even if we feel we are, we must remember the support of and partnerships with friends and family.

With that support in mind, Raido is the voice inside of us beckoning us to get up and live life.  The first line of the Old English Rune poem warns us that it is easy to sit around telling tales, but much harder to actually step onto the path and take a chance.  It also implies that doing so is worthwhile.  As my dad used to say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Which ever way we say it, Raido represents change, which is a requirement for progress.  On some level, it signifies a physical change, such as in location - a move or a new job, maybe even both - but more specifically, it means a major and intentional change in our lives.

We will never get where we want to be if we don't consciously undertake the challenges life presents.  In other words, Raido says, "Don't just sit there while life happens to you; don't allow yourself to be a victim of your circumstances.  Take charge of where your life leads you."  Yes, there are times when we need to sit and contemplate our next steps and make plans, but now is not that time.  Raido tells us the time has come to follow the path we envision for ourselves.  We must take the reins and move or we will be moved in a direction we do not wish to be carried.

We must remember, however, that though this is our journey, you we are not alone and we must be kind to our horse (family and friends who are supporting you) along the way if our ride is going to be successful and smooth, and to make the hills easier to climb.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in History - The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (ASF) possess some distinct characteristics that differentiate it from its predecessor, the Elder Futhark (EF).  Without leaping into the debate about its place of origin, I want to look at its characters (letters) and Rune poem instead.  (I should also say that the ASF names evolved and changed, but I use the EF names, unless I am referring to one of the additional ASF Runes.)

Where the EF has 24 characters, the ASF has 33.  The additional characters were created to accommodate different sounds, such as the 'ior' Rune to make the ia or io sound.  The table below compares the characters of the first 24 letters of the two futharks and shows how some of the characters in the ASF took on different shapes.  The additional ASF letters are presented in the image directly following the table.  We'll get to those shortly.  For now, let's look at the table.  The EF is presented in the lighter colored rows and the characters that have taken on different shapes in the ASF are highlighted in light squares.  Some changes are subtle, such as the slope in Uruz, which can also be depicted as a straight, slanted line; and Sowilo, where the character becomes more vertical than slanted.   Ansuz, Hagalaz, Ingwaz, and Dagaz add lines to their shapes, but the biggest changes are to Kenaz and Jera.  One other note, although I did not do it here, I've seen instances with the ASF where Dagaz and Othala switch places.  In other words, Othala comes before Dagaz.  Although I've seen them listed in this order in the EF, it seems to be a more dominate occurrence in the ASF.

Elder Futhark (light lines) and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (dark lines)
Of course, the ASF has 9 additional Runes, beyond the 24 shown in the table.  They are depicted like this:

The additional letters of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Although the EF derives it meanings from the Anglo-Saxon Rune poem, the poem itself has 29 verses. Still, this means that the final four Runes in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc have no poem verse.  Even with the four additional verses, some of the corresponding Rune meanings are still unclear.

Notice that the second of these additional Runes is identical to the EF version of Ansuz in its shape.  Despite this, it is the newer shape that has the older meaning from the poem.  It is named os and means god.  The 'new' Rune, aesc, means ash.

I listed the meaning of yr as unclear.  This is because I found it interpreted as bow, saddle, a yew, and one source left it named yr.  The final line of its verse has been interpreted in at least three different ways too, calling it war gear, army gear, and reliable equipment for a journey.  If I had to pick one, I would likely go with saddle, though I'd still be unsure.

Also unclear is cweord.  One source listed it as fire, another as a variation of Perthro, whose meaning is not entirely clear either.  Unlike yr, however, cweord does not have a Rune poem verse to aid in understanding its meaning.

It was interesting that ior is interpreted as eel, snake, and beaver by the different sources I found.  Based on the Rune poem verse, I believe beaver is the closest to the verse's meaning, but eel seems to be the most commonly used interpretation.

There is one other Rune in the image at the top of this page.  I am not sure if this is another form of chalice or spear, though it may be a regional variation.  I found it referred to as both and omitted completely from another source.  Again, there is no verse to help explain what it means.

As you can tell from every other post on this blog, I use the Elder Futhark.  Therefore, I am not entirely familiar with the ASF.  What I have attempted to give you here is the briefest of overviews of it to help distinguish some of the different characters and the simplest interpretation of their meanings.  I encourage those of you who have greater knowledge of this Futhark than I do to share your comments on this post.


Anglo-Saxon Futhorc image credit: Copyright: azzardo / 123RF Stock Photo

Monday, May 5, 2014

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Motivation

I don't know about you, but last week has a few high points in crappiness for me, so I decided it's time for some changes, time to take some initiative and get the ball rolling in the direction I want and need it to go.  So, I turned to the Runes and on one quiet morning late last week, and asked them for some guidance, which, of course, turned into an important dialogue about motivation.

Here's the question that was lingering in my head - why is it that, too often, we have to become fed up with the crap before we do anything to make effective, positive, and long-lasting change?  Once I realized that this was my problem at the moment, I was able to begin to change my perspective and ask about the positive motivation I need to move forward on the things I want to do.  It was this shift that led me to talk with the Runes in an effective way.

Me:  Some crappy things happened this week that are weighing on me and I need some positive motivation.  Where should I focus?


Runes:  It sounds as if you have experienced that first half of Hagalaz - the hail storm.  But, remember the other half, the nourishment that hail storm leaves in its wake.  The negative experiences you've had are leading you to the creative solutions you hold within you.  It is a shame that the negative experiences must occur, but you are correct in your recognition that becoming "fed up with the crap" motivates us to make changes.  The trick is going to be ensuring that you bring these changes to fruition, so that the crap or, at least, this crap doesn't happen again.

Me:  That is an excellent point.  Thank you for helping me see this perspective.  Although it would be nice to not have to deal with the crap, through Hagalaz, it can be a great motivator for change.  So, now that I feel ready and motivated to make serious change, how do I know it is time.

Runes:  Ingwaz assures you of that.  This Rune represents Ing, the hero, but it also refers to Ingvi Freyr, the fertility god, a god of peace and plenty.  This is where you should focus your attention, on these attributes - fertility, peace, and plenty.  Like Hagalaz, the characteristics of this Rune indicate a process.  Where Hagalaz's hail storm provided the motivation you needed to shift your focus to your true goals, Ingwaz reminds you that you stand on fertile ground and that fertile ground will bring you peace; through accepting that peace, you have the potential to achieve positive gains.

Me:  You are right, of course.  Thank you for reminding me that I am standing on fertile ground and that it is my choice in how I proceed.  I must decide the challenges I face.  I know the general direction I want and need to go, but how can I ensure that I follow that path as I need to?

Runes:  Begin with careful contemplation.  Create a plan before simply jumping in.  Isa can help with that.  The ice Rune requires not caution, but care.  Tread with care. Be still.  Listen.  Think.  Those are the first steps your motivation should take.

Me:  But what if I lose my motivation?  I am prone to leaping and figuring things out, in large part, as I go.  How do I curb my enthusiasm without losing my motivation?

Runes:  Jera.

Me: (giant grin appears on my face as I kiss this Rune).  That was sneaky; giving me my Rune.

Runes:  Yes, but you know what it means.  It will even motivate you more, I think.

Me:  You are right about that.

Runes:  Jera is your Rune because you need this prompt to keep you moving in your process.  No Rune, more than Jera does that for you.  This Rune, the Rune of the year and the harvest screams out time to you.  You must take the required time to bring your forward motion to fruition so that you end up where you want to be.  Encompassed within it is the process that Ingwaz showed you.  You are starting on fertile ground and you will find peace through Isa's wisdom and unleashing the creativity of Hagalaz's second half.  Do you see the interlinked processes?

Me:  I do.  Thank you.  One last question.  What tool do I need to assist me along the way?

Runes:  You must use the greatest tool you possess on this front - Ansuz.

Me:  Of course.  Ansuz incorporates not only communication, which will be indispensable, but the gods and the idea of the mouth of a river.  I am standing at the mouth of the river after a rough journey over open seas.  Now, the path narrows and leads to my goals.  The gods will be with me on this journey as they always are and I will use one of my greatest assets - communication.  Thank you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Uruz

Uruz is one of those Runes with an obscure meaning, but tends to follow the Anglo-Saxon meaning of aurochs or wild ox.  Though there is some consensus that the Anglo-Saxon Rune poem comes closest to Uruz's original meaning, I wanted to consider the Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian Rune poem meanings too.  The old Icelandic poem calls Ur (Uruz) drizzle and the Old Norwegian poem says that is it slag from bad iron.

Interestingly, when I asked about the Icelandic poem meaning of drizzle, I drew Sowilo, which seems to counteract drizzle.  When asking about the bad iron slag of the Old Norwegian poem, I drew Eihwaz, the yew tree, a strong wood used to make exceptional bows.  This seems to oppose the slag from bad iron, because bad iron makes a weak sword, but the yew tree makes a strong bow.  I don't know if these were supposed to cancel each other out, but they appear to, so I turned back to the idea of the aurochs from the Anglo-Saxon poem and asked about this meaning.

The Rune I drew in response, almost as if to say that it is, in fact, a Rune that represents the wild ox, was Uruz itself.  Still, we cannot consider Uruz without acknowledging that the aurochs is a 'wild' animal.  I would say it means less 'wild' and more free, not domesticated, even independent.  Coupling these ideas - physical well-being and strength with free or freedom/independence - I had the two aspects of this Rune on which to focus.

What should we know about these aspects of Uruz?

With regard to physical strength, though it could relate to several things, the message I've been getting lately refers to taking care of physical health, holistic physical strength, not just physical power.  This stands, in some ways, in contrast to the usual idea of physical strength and power and says, instead, it's okay to have weak moments and it is important to allow ourselves time to heal after them.  We cannot spend our lives powering through everything - going without proper sleep, nutritious food, and some form of physical activity.  There are other aspects to life that give us balance to move forward in a healthy way, not just acting like a bull in a china shop.  As we age, it becomes even more important to pay attention to this for our overall well-being, not just physical prowess.

The other aspect I like about this Rune is the idea of 'wild'ness.  Often times, I see depictions of Uruz standing in contrast to Fehu - the wild ox versus domesticated cattle.  However, I don't think this means run wild, disregard everything else completely and do whatever the hell you want, not in the rebellious sense anyway.  That mindset seems to support the idea of powering through, which has no balance in it.  Rather, what I take from this is the idea of freedom to make choices, not to follow things blindly like a sheep, and question everything and make sure you agree with it before simply following suit.  This is such an important part of this Rune, for even though we talk about being wild, what we are really talking about is using our innate abilities and one of our greatest as human beings is critical thinking.  When we employ that, we have the capacity to become a much more peaceful and accepting society.  However, what Uruz says is start with yourself.  Develop your own critical eye, not in the sense of negativity, but in the sense of thoughtfulness.  Think, consider, and make independent, well-reasoned choices.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in Mythology - The Adventures of Merlin

Last week, I started watching a British fantasy show on Netflix, called The Adventures of Merlin.  Broadly based on King Arthur and Camelot, this show depicts Merlin and Prince Arthur as youth (Late teens, early twenties) and, even though Arthur's father, King Uther, has outlawed magic by penalty of death, there is still plenty of magic and mythology around, which is why this is a Runes in Mythology post.

In season 1, episode 6, a sorcerer comes to Camelot.  While I won't give away the plot, I will say this: he has a small box with him that's full of beetles which he can 'bring to life' and 'freeze' by chanting.  However, what makes the box interesting is that it has four Runes inscribed on it and looks roughly like this:


The first glance of the box caught my eye immediately and I can't tell you how many times I had to hit pause to capture just the right image of it to inspect the Runes.  Once I got it, a few realizations came to mind.

First, Othala is inverted.  Second, like Othala, the third Rune is also an 'o' Rune reversed and, as near as I can tell, from a Futhark called the Latinized or Medieval Futhark (which according to the source I found was used primarily for decoration and not actually for inscription).  Last, the first and last Runes are not etched exactly like the Elder Futhark Runes.


In fact, the 'f' Rune (Fehu) is curved and seems to derive from one of the Younger Futhark versions, while Jera is etched similar to the Elder Futhark, but not exactly, having more of a diamond shape to it, than the interlocked aspect it actually has.

I struggle with Rune usage such as this.  One one hand, I am happy to see the Runes being used and love that family and friends consult me immediately whenever they see anything the suspect is a Rune.  On the other, it bugs me that they are so confused and misrepresented, deriving from different futharks - Fehu from a younger Futhark;  Othala the Elder, but inverted; the third is an 'o' Rune from a medieval futhark; and Jera's similar depiction of the Elder, with a slightly off diamond shape.

Perhaps what struck me as being the most odd about these Runes is that they appeared in a show about Merlin and King Arthur.  I mean these tales are from England, so I would expect the Runes they use in the show to be from the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.

Maybe I shouldn't dwell on such small details, but I can't help but feel like, in anything, if you're going to do it, you should do it as correctly as possible and this clearly isn't.  So, I'm torn - happy to see the Runes and to be able to recognize the short comings of their presentation, but disappointed in those same presentation errors.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Achieving Goals

The way we achieve goals changes depending on any number of variables, such as how long it will take.  Our mental and emotional state can impact our success and stress levels related to obtaining them.  Even our age can affect how we achieve goals.  With this understanding in mind, I used a Norn cast and asked the Runes about achieving goals.

I drew Dagaz, Mannaz, and Hagalaz.  What was most interesting about this draw was that I could see how the results affected at least two aspects of achieving goals - the way we achieve them changes with age (and experience/wisdom) and that we approach short, mid, and long terms goals differently.

Norn Cast for achieving goals

What a wonderful first Rune!  Using Urd to represent both our past/youth and short-term goals, I drew Dagaz.  The Rune of the day represents both of these "Urd attributes" perfectly.  Dagaz is a very positive and uplifting Rune, shedding hope through its light. This characteristic applies easily to youth.  When we are young, we are much more optimistic and willing to take risks.  There is less planning, more leaping and trying new things.  Essentially, it refers to clarity; anything is possible during the day when we can see things clearly. 

However, we can also apply Dagaz to short term goals just as easily.  Short term goals are within our reach; they are manageable.  We can see how to get from point A to point B and, since the path is short, it is much less likely that something is going to disrupt it.  In this way, day sheds light on our path and guides us toward accomplishing those short term goals.  Urd links to this, because just as our past is a stepping stone to our present, so too are our short term goals stepping stones to mid and long terms ones.

When dealing with Verdandi in the present, we become a little more strategic when considering our mid-term goals.  We have gained some experience along the way which we utilize, because now we are really starting to plan for the complexities of life.  Mannaz represents this time and our mid-term goals quite well.

Mannaz is the human Rune.  It incorporates the individual, society, even a higher self.   It is very fitting that, as we get older and have a little life experience under our belts, we become more aware of these different levels of ourselves.  We realize that we do not function in a vacuum, that we are affected by our society and vice versa.  We also seem to become more pragmatic.  While we still take risks, we consider their consequences more than we used to.  That is how Mannaz affects our present self when setting, determining, and achieving goals - through greater contemplation of ourselves as individuals and of that self in the larger picture.

How does Mannaz help us accomplish our mid-term goals?  The same way it helps us understand who we are at this stage.  Mannaz begins to incorporate strategy.  It reminds us of the experiences we've had that brought us to this point and how to use those going forward (having learned from them) .  We know now that everything is not a short term goal and that we can't always jump easily from point A to point B.  By understanding who we are and how we function in the world around us, we can accomplish our mid-term goals despite the twists, turns, and obstacles that will make up the path to getting there.

Hagalaz here, in Skuld's position, is my favorite of this draw.  It explains perfectly what the future should be.  We know it won't be easy (or not as easy as we'd like it to be), but we know that we can continue to build on Mannaz to get through the rough spots.  However, the cool thing about Hagalaz is the second half.  Remember, hail is initially problematic, but once it melts, it provides nourishment.  In a way, Hagalaz takes us back to Dagaz, back to the risks and optimism of youth of the past; it fuels our creativity, creativity that now also benefits from life's experience synchronized with Dagaz by Mannaz.

This sets us up perfectly for achieving long term goals, the ultimate goals we want to accomplish, but whose paths get fuzzier as we look forward.  Despite the fuzziness, we know from our experience with Urd/Dagaz and Verdandi/Mannaz, that those fuzzy spots will become clear; we have the ability  and skills we need (if we believe in ourselves) to achieve these long term goals. If we add the creative juices that Hagalaz unleashes to Dagaz and Mannaz, we allow ourselves to accomplish those goals in intentional and fun ways.