Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - Runic Book of Days

There are few books that I think hit the mark better than S. Kelley Harrell's Runic Book of Days.  With the exception of wanting a little more history about runic calendars, a point I realize is personal preference, I thought the book moved pretty seamlessly from topic to topic.

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
This brings me to Harrell's claim from the introduction about what Runic Book of Days will do for the reader.  "...you will come away equally unafraid to explore the runes as you choose, while [being] comfortably aware of how they are traditionally situated and understood."  Her statement is true, for me.  I have opened myself to exploring and considering the Runes in new and deeper ways.

If you have any experience with the Runes, this book will deepen your connection to them. 


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Courage

Sometimes it's hard to find the courage to do things that we don't want to do.  I'm talking about big things here, like standing up when you know others will do their damndest to tear you down, to discredit you; to share a life altering experience in the face of ridicule; and to relive trauma.  I asked the Runes to offer insight into how to not only find that initial courage, but to get through the entire process.  The Runes were spot on in their guidance.  They gave me Tiwaz, Perthro, and Hagalaz.

I really like the order in which these are presented, because rather than give me Hagalaz first, which would have started us off on a low note, the Runes offered empowerment in Tiwaz.  Tiwaz is Týr's Rune and it has three strong aspects to it - Týr as a warrior, Týr as a sky god, and Týr's sacrifice.  Starting with the latter, in this instance, a sacrifice was made once (in the past) and now a different kind of sacrifice must happen, one that is tied directly to the first.  This is the requirement or decision to take a stand.  As a sky god, we have a bird's eye view of the situation.  This means that we can see how all the various parts of the situation come together.  It gives us an understanding of things so that we can be strategic, prepared.  Finally, as a warrior, we are reminded that we can persevere, because being a warrior is about far more than hand to hand combat.  Through this single Rune with these three different, but connected aspects, our individual courage is brought to light.

Perthro, in second position, reminds us that we are not alone.  While our friends may challenge us at times, true friends support us through hard times.  In fact, it is often said that in hard times, we find out who our true friends really are.  I would take this a step further to say that beyond friends who support us, there are strangers who share our experience, who understand what it means and the courage it takes to stand up, and they support us as well.  When we have a wavering moment, we can remember that not only do we have our own courage to rely on, but that we have the support friends and unknown others.

This is important to remember, so that when the hail storm of Hagalaz hits, we can weather it and come out on the other side knowing that we did what we needed to do.  This is why Hagalaz is in the third position; the first two Runes prepare us to be hit by the hail and to not only survive, but come out on the other side with new potential.  Remember, when hail melts it provides nourishment from which new things - ideas, perspectives, opportunities, etc. - can blossom.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Runes 101 - Runes in History - The Blank Rune

Occasionally, I am asked about the blank Rune.  Is it a thing?  What does it mean?  Should I use it?

The simple answer to the latter question in my view is no, but the real answer is more complex than that and has to do with historical facts, which I can explain by addressing the other two questions.

Is the blank Rune a thing?  Yes and no.  Yes the blank Rune is a thing, but only since the 1970s at the earliest.  Is the blank Rune a thing in the Elder Futhark or any of the other furtharks?  No.  There is no evidence in the eddas, sagas or any other relative historical documents that even suggest that such a thing existed.

The first mention of a blank Rune comes in Ralph Blume's 1982, "The Book of Runes".  This is where the controversy around the blank Rune begins.  So, let's talk about Blum's take on it.

Blum refers to the blank Rune as "the unknowable", "the Divine, Odin, the Allfather".  Both of these descriptions are entirely inaccurate.

The unknowable.  The whole point of Odin sacrificing himself to himself was to gain the knowledge of the Runes.  So, the idea that there would be a Rune that represents the unknowable goes against Odin's actions.

Old Icelandic Rune Poem for Óss
The Divine, Odin, the Allfather.  All Runes are linked to Odin, because of his sacrifice to gain their knowledge.  If there is a single Rune associated with him, it would be Ansuz, and I say that only because the Old Icelandic Rune Poem refers to Óss (the Younger Futhark) as god (Odin) is progenitor, Asgard's chief, and Valhalla's lord.

I won't even venture into his detailed explanation of the meaning of the blank Rune, where he gives no less than eight different things that it represents.  It further demonstrates his lack of understanding of the cultural history in which the original use of Runes formed.

For those of you who aren't so concerned about the blank Rune's complete disregard for the historical and mythological contexts, consider this simple point.  The Runes are an alphabet.  The term "Futhark" is literally the word formed by the first six letters:
To suggest that an alphabet would have a blank in it is ridiculous.  It would be a non-letter.

So, yes the blank Rune is a thing, a very recent thing.  Should it be used when seeking guidance from the Runes as an oracle?  No.