In her introduction, Harrell makes a few important remarks and states what she believes this book will do for her readers. Her approach makes the book feel more comfortable. "I'm not interested in preaching a method on how to use the runes. I'm also not going to present my perspective as if it's the gospel according to Freya." This is important, because she also states that she doesn't believe that anyone knows the original context or rune usage with certainty. I agree, and Harrell is consistent in regularly telling her readers to explore and do what feels right and what works for them.
Harrell divides the book into two main parts - Engaging the Runes and Living the Runes. In discussing engaging the Runes, she offers a brief, but thoughtful overview of the history and origin of the Runes with equal time on their more academic beginnings as an alphabet and their mythological story through Odin and the Nine Worlds. Harrell also makes the point that, "A detailed knowledge of Old Norse history isn't required to study the runes, though it helps tremendously." Some understanding of the culture in which Runes were derived gives deeper meaning to their engagement.
Chapter two in Harrell's Engaging the Runes section provides a variety of ways to use the Runes, from tools to ways of reading, and galdr methods. It's a good overview and reiterates her point about doing what works for you. She concludes the chapter by talking about the aetts. After so many years engaging the Runes, I am still hesitant to assign the aetts to a particular god, but there is some common practice there and Harrell's explanations are well-linked to her intention in her practice and creates a strong thread within the book.
Getting into the staves (individual Runes) in chapter three, Harrell touches on an important aspect of their meaning, that its direct translation is rudimentary and the indirect translation stems from cultural and timing issues. "The indirect translations focus on how we experience the literal translation..." This may be why her detailed interpretations of each Rune are thoughtful and range from recognizing the mundane to looking through the lens of the Norse cosmology.
Harrell concludes the first section of the book with a chapter explaining the Runic calendar, including how it came to be, and discusses sabbats, devotionals, initiations, and affirmations.
Part two is where the year-long experience - Living the Runes - begins. The year is split into half months with an assigned Rune, and for each, Harrell offers a devotional or affirmation, and each half month also includes an affirmation. She starts the calendar at the end of June, but since we are at the end of October, I skipped to that part and it explained a lot about the week I'm having. The timing is interesting, because it is a transition from the first aett to the second - Wunjo to Hagalaz, joy to hail. It's a tough transition. October 28th, when Hagalaz takes over, rings in Samhain in the north and Harrell dedicates a few pages to that and another two to the Samhain Sabbat Initiation, ending, of course, with its affirmation.
|Hagalaz Half-Month Affirmation|
If you have any experience with the Runes, this book will deepen your connection to them.