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  No.  There is no evidence in the eddas, sagas or any other relative historical documents that even suggest that such a thing existed.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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Get out of the Funk

In the past few months, more and more people have come to me seeking guidance from the Runes about how to get out of the funk that is surrounding them, how to deal with the chaos that seems to be invading the world, and to simply get out of the rut that they're in.  In short, more than at any other time I can remember in the past few decades, people are feeling discouraged, sad, frustrated, and even angry most of the time.  This is true on multiple levels - the individual, community (regional, national), and global levels.

When a friend of mine told me that she just wants to be happy again, but can't seem to find a way, that prompted me to write about this general sensation through a dialogue with the Runes.

I began the conversation by asking a basic question: When we're in a funk, how can we get out?

Normally, the answer comes in a single Rune, but this time, the Runes gave me three - Jera, Gebo, Berkana - to acknowledge the situation and reframe our thinking.

Runes:  Jera is the Runes of the year, and there can be no doubt that the past year (past while) has been hard - the growing funk to which you refer.  This gives your question context.  Gebo also presents us with a challenge in two ways.  First, we have been giving of ourselves and not in the usual willing way (not out of choice, but out of circumstance), but we must find a way to change the tide of things.  That is the second part - the challenge.  How do we turn something that seems to be a negative into a positive?  Berkana affords that conscious beginning.  You are acknowledging that you want to change things.  That is the starting point.  Now, is the time to take action.

Me:  But how?  What is that step?

Runes:  Begin by acknowledging your funk and accepting the challenge it presents.  With that recognition comes the opportunity to begin to address it.  To take a first step. Let Raido set the path for that journey.  Raido falls under Jera (see image above), to remind you that the journey will take time.  Eihwaz, the yew tree, represents your inner strength; it is what will help you face the challenge of the funk that Gebo gives, and step away from it.  One of the easiest ways to find the strength to begin is to use Fehu find something that you value.

Me:  That makes sense, but it can't be that simple.

Runes:  It is true that some things are easier said than done, but sometimes humans make things harder than they need to be.  Mannaz, the Rune of Humanity, embodies this struggle, but it is also a reminder that humans are not perfect.  Mistakes will be made, but working to correct them and to ultimately make the change you want is all part of Mannaz.  Fehu, once again, reminds you that if you really want to make a change, focus on something that you value, something that is important enough to you that you are willing to do something about it.  Don't try to do it all or be everything to everyone or every cause.  When you are in a rut or funk or everything seems like it has gone to shit, you cannot keep doing things the same way.  Kenaz represents creativity and innovation.  Find a new approach, but don't give up.

Me:  Thank you.  That does help to clarify things.  It is important to remember that most of what we do is our choice and I think those Runes remind us of that.  It sounds like we have to focus on our individual actions.

Runes:  That is true, but individuals don't function on a singular level.  Within each of us are small daily things that we do that build on larger ideals that we continue to aim for.  For example, it is fair to say that people want to be happy, but happy is a broad, higher level way of being.  Wunjo represents that goal.  But how does one achieve it?  They achieve it by empowering themselves through those smaller daily activities.  There is a lot of power behind this simple statement.  Thurisaz, the thorn Rune, is a Rune of power.  As you build that power or empowerment, and channel it toward the things that you value, you will be able to manage the rut, funk, and chaos found in Hagalaz.  Remember, the hail Rune has two parts - the initial destructive force and the beginning that happens once the hail melts.  If you are working toward that higher level joy, and can remain focused on that, you will be able to deal not only with this funk and chaos, but the next round that may come your way.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - Runes Plain & Simple

I struggle with books that are trying to teach the reader something, but have no reference section.  Such is the case with Runes Plain & Simple, by Kim Farnell.  The biggest issue I have with this book relative to not having any citations comes at the back in Tables 1 and 2.  These are magical correspondence tables, where Farnell has likened Runes to everything from specific gods and goddesses to colors, stones, trees, herbs, flowers, and more.  I have no faith in these tables without references and no explanation as to how they were derived.

I also struggled with the errors in her historical references.  Although I can't go into many, I can pick out a few.  The most egregious for me is claiming that Heimdall led the Vanir with Freyja and Freyr in the war against the Aesir.  Another one of her claims is that the Vanir beheaded Hoenir, when, in fact, they beheaded Mimir.  According to the text, Loki created a set of arrows, not the single dart that he actually created, and gave them to Hödr to kill Baldr.  When I began my journey with Runes, three Rune masters told me that I had to understand the culture and mythology from which the Runes came.  I spent years studying both and still recognize that there is far more for me to learn that I already know.

She does offer a chapter on making your own Runes, which is okay.  Some of what she says strikes me as fluff, and some of her "statements" strike me as personal preference more than actually being necessary.  She does offer information about different types of wood/trees, which is interesting, but I still struggle with it (and this is me personally), because she doesn't give any citations about the source from which she derived this information.  Within this chapter, she also has a section called "Consecrating Your Runes".  I would like this section better if her statements were suggestions, because there is no standard practice for how to make your Runes your own.  The same holds true with her comments on "activating" your Runes.  She claims that you should hold each Rune in your left hand, close your hand around it like a cylinder, and blow into it.  What?  There is nothing plain or simple about the processes she describes.

Although this book is called Plain & Simple, I would not recommend it to beginners.  Only someone with some level of expertise could spot the errors and questionable information in this book, and be able to discern the few pieces worth taking away from it.