Monday, December 31, 2012

Personal Reflection

Thank you supporting my blog over the past 1 ½ years.  As I look back over the posts, I see how my blog has grown and changed, matured and become focused, and expanded as I've learned.  Though I look forward to the growth to come in 2013, this is a wonderful time for reflection, before the new year begins.  To help us with our reflection, I asked for some Runes to give us guidance.  The response was interesting.

First, I drew Tiwaz.  This is one of my favorite Runes, as I feel a strong affiliation to Týr, the Norse god of justice, the warrior god, and ancient god of the sky.  This Rune is the Rune of sacrifice and/or self-sacrifice.  We can frame our reflection through this lens, by posing the questions – What sacrifices did I make?  Why did I make them?  How did my sacrifice work out?  When asking the latter question, consider the answer on multiple levels and not just at face value.  How did your sacrifice help you grow?  How did it help another?  How did you feel after making the sacrifice?  What is the lesson from that sacrifice?  One last note on this, everything requires some kind of sacrifice, whether apparent or not.  If you would like some help thinking through this, please contact me.

Perthro was next, the Rune of friendly competition and social gatherings.  However, this Rune is so much more than that, because we must look at what transpires on such occasions.  Here is a chance to ask ourselves what we accomplished with regard to building friendships or simply establishing relationships – networking.  How have we surrounded ourselves with or approached people who can have a positive impact on our lives?  How have we tested or, more appropriately, supported the warrior within us?  It is important to remember that our fate is attached to others in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

The best part, but also the part that warrants the most caution is Thurisaz as our final Rune for reflection.  The Rune of giants and thorns relates to power, focused power.  As we reflect and think about all that has transpired in our recent past, we can build a picture to help us identify where we can most effectively focus our power, for this is the next logical step.  What is the point of reflection if we do not take what we’ve realized and pieced together and move forward to accomplish our goals and ambitions?

I like this approach, because we are not blindly setting or proclaiming “New Year’s resolutions”; nor are we charging ahead without focus or understanding.  By taking a little time today, on this last day of the year, to contemplate what we’ve sacrificed and how we have supported our inner warrior, we can focus our power and move forward to a productive and truly happy new year.

Please let me know how this works for you.  I enjoy and appreciate your feedback.  Enjoy 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace, Love, and Happiness

No matter what holiday you are celebrating this month or, if you celebrate no holiday, I still wish you peace, love, and happiness for the coming year.  Occasionally, I give Runes to people.  By that I mean, I share a Rune with them that best represents a message I want to give them or a meaning I wish for them.  Therefore, today, rather than draw three Runes, I decided to select three Runes to represent this wish  of peace, love, and happiness for you.

To wish you peace, I chose Sowilo, the Rune of the sun and good fortune.  I hope that the great light of the sun warms and lifts your spirit.  Being in good spirits is a key component to finding peace.  May you also find good fortune in the coming year. 

For love, I decided to give you Gebo, the Rune of gifts.  We give gifts to honor or show respect, but also out of admiration and affection.  While giving a gift is more akin to generosity, giving without expectation of receiving anything in return comes closer to love.  When I give a gift simply because I choose to, I feel good inside.  When that gift is appreciated, I feel even better.  When we feel good and make others feel that way too, we build bonds that approach love.  Remember though, a gift is not necessarily a physical thing; it can be spending quality time with someone, paying them a compliment or doing something special for them.

Wunjo is the easiest and most obvious of the three Runes I chose.  It is, after all, the Rune of joy.  What better Rune for wishing you happiness?  Of course, a major component of this requires you to be grateful for all of the things you do have in your life.  Essentially, happiness begins with gratitude.  Moreover, the greatest happiness is found in simple ways, simple pleasures and comforts, not in excessiveness.  That is why I wish you simple happiness.

There it is, the Runes I chose to wish you peace, love, and happiness.  I hope you will carry these good wishes with you this week and I hope your week is wonderful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Runes 102 - Book Review - Song of the Vikings

When I began reading Song of the Vikings, by Nancy Marie Brown, I expected to learn about Snorri Sturluson.  I did; but Brown provides so much more than his life story.  She doesn’t simply walk her readers through this essential historical figure’s day-to-day life; she gives us the context (both in Iceland and northern Europe) in which his life existed; she relates him to his culture, and she even gives us tidbits of the myths he recorded, while inferring potential links that Snorri may have made between the gods, himself, and the influential people of his day whom he tried so desperately to impress.  While all of these details are important to understanding Snorri Sturluson and his writing, perhaps the greatest contribution of this book is to show how Snorri’s impressive writing was not only reborn, but came to influence many great writers and, of course, the illustrious composer, Richard Wagner.

According to Ms. Brown, Snorri wanted two things in life – to be the “uncrowned king of Iceland” and the king’s skald, his poet.  Brown tells us how the shrewd Snorri achieved the first by becoming Lawspeaker and the most powerful chieftain in Iceland.  However, what I found to be truly fascinating and engagingly written was not simply that Snorri wrote the Prose Edda and several sagas, but why he wrote them – to achieve the second thing, becoming the king’s poet.  Brown explains this aspect brilliantly.

As I neared the end of the book, and with Snorri being dead by this point in the story, I wondered what else there could be to discuss.  This is when I found Brown’s jewel – she leads us from the myths being forgotten within a hundred years of Snorri’s death to their rebirth and influence on great writers like Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Terry Brooks, but, most notably on JRR Tolkien.  Brown brings the relationship between Tolkien and CS Lewis to life, so the reader feels their enthusiasm and excitement for Snorri’s work and understands its importance to literature.

For anyone wanting to learn more about the life of Snorri Sturluson, life in early medieval Iceland, the origin of the Norse myths or how these great works have affected world literature and culture, I recommend Nancy Marie Brown’s Song of the Vikings.  She takes all of these aspects of Icelandic culture and weaves them together in an appealing and informative way.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Feeling Energized

Happy Monday!  Today, for no specific reason, I am feeling very energized and positive and wished to share that feeling with you.  I asked for a Rune to express that emotion, then for one to support it and finished with one to ensure it continues throughout the week.

The Rune to best express the feeling I have, the energetic optimism, is Dagaz, the Rune of day and clarity.  And, that is exactly how this sensation feels - like a clarity, but not an epiphany.  The difference between the two is subtle, yet key.  Clarity inspires without necessarily having a predetermined destination or goal.  I have been working hard lately to focus on the positive and, when negative things happen, to not let them take over.  Dagaz offers clarity to support to that idea.  In daylight, we see more clearly and feel safer than in darkness, when something unseen could be lurking in the shadows.  In many ways, we feel more empowered in daylight and, through empowerment, adopt a sense of feeling energized.  This Rune alone would be enough to represent today, but we want support this feeling.

Berkana is a wonderful Rune for support.  This Rune of birch suggests beginnings and creativity.  With our energized spirit leading the way, today, we can begin an endeavor; unleash our creativity; move forward in a positive way and share that energy with those around us.  Let the energy carry you on a positive path.

Ehwaz, the Rune of horse, loyalty, and a spiritual journey helps us keep this feeling going.  There is a special relationship between a horse and rider, one of cooperation and understanding.  I'm imagining myself climbing into the saddle of an Icelandic horse (in Iceland) and that invigorating, yet comfortable feeling of the adventure that is about to ensue flows right to my face and puts an unstoppable smile on my lips.  Of course, yours need not be an actual horse; what matters is the feeling, the sensation, the inspiration!

Think about what inspires you and consciously carry that hopefulness, that optimism with you this week.  Let me know how it goes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Is it an Opportunity Worth Taking?

Sometimes an opportunity comes our way that causes us to pause and give lengthy consideration to it.  Weighing the pros and cons seems to balance out, leaving us unsure or indecisive about what to do.  This happened to me a few days ago, but consulting the Runes helped to clarify whether I should pursue this opportunity or let it pass without acting.  First, I asked the Runes how I know if this is really an opportunity.  The response was Thurisaz, Hagalaz, and Jera.  While these Runes did answer that question (and were almost frightfully accurate), I realized that I needed to refine my question to determine if this opportunity was one worth taking.  Making clarifications like this became especially important to me a few months ago when a friend was pointing out that I wasn't taking advantage of an opportunity.  I realized my reason for not taking action was simply because, at that moment in time, it was not an opportunity that was worth taking.  However, not all opportunities are so clearly 'yes' or 'no', black and white.  So, for those gray scale opportunities, I ask for guidance to determine whether or not I should pursue this opportunity.  I got three different Runes from the previous question - Uruz, Othala, Nauthiz.

Uruz, the Rune of the aurochs (wild ox), tells me that making this decision is going to require strength.  While we usually relate this Rune to physical strength, I believe in this instance, that it refers to mental strength.  I say that, because of the nature of the question.  Because the answer to this gray scale question is not clear to me, I have to think longer and harder about my decision.  Moreover, I would be wading into new water, potentially entering a current that is going to carry my life in a different direction from its current trajectory.  In this case, caution and thoughtfulness are the required strength I must possess to be successful.

The second Rune added to the difficulty around this situation, by highlighting the key aspect over which I am conflicted.  Othala is the Rune of inheritance.  It speaks of appreciating the gifts of our ancestors.  I was not sure if this meant I should pursue the gifts that have been given to me or if I should ensure that my children can do that as they grow up.  After pondering this for a few minutes, I realized that one does not negate the other and that the point is to create "a stable foundation on which to build".  To me, that is my challenge.  I must determine if this new opportunity allows me to create that foundation better than my current path or situation does.

To address that conundrum, the Runes gave me Nauthiz, the Rune of need and necessity.  This is a core issue when confronting any situation - is this something I want or something I need?  The follow up to that is how badly is the opportunity wanted or needed.  Next, comes the question of whether there are other similar options available that would allow me to stay on my current path.  Essentially, is this opportunity available somewhere else, in another form?  Many times, we know the answer to this.  We would not be considering the present opportunity if it didn't have the potential to improve our current state.

However, taking that first step onto that new path can scare us into inaction.  This is what was happening to me, so after asking the Runes several more questions that kept giving me (more or less) the same six Runes in various orders, I stopped.  I took a deep breath and said, "Give me a decisive Rune."  I love the Runes!  I drew Raido.  Let the journey begin...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Runes 102 - Book Review - The Book of Runes

Today, I begin a new series, Runes 102.  In this series, I will  review both books about Runes and the culture from which the Runes originated.  Before I begin today's book review of Ralph Blum's The Book of Runes, I ask that, if there is a book you would like to suggest for review, please add a comment to this post or contact me with your recommendations.  I will be reviewing books about Runes, the Viking Age, and Norse Mythology.

I chose to review Ralph Blum's book for a couple of reasons.  First, there are a number of controversies around this book, which adds to its intrigue.  Second, it was the first book about Runes that I used.  I'll begin with the latter, then move on to the more interesting first aspect.

While I was doing research for my novel (The Son of Nine Sisters), a couple of my sources referenced Blum's book, so I decided to take a look at it.  Now, it didn't hurt that the book came with its own set of ceramic Runes in a velvety gray pouch.  I bought the book and started to memorize the Runes and their meanings.  For me, this was a huge step into a new area, because I was never much of a believer in Tarot or things like that.  But, the Runes spoke to me.  Shortly after I launched this blog, people started to recommend other books to me, books that were more traditional in their Rune interpretations.  While I recognized immediately the differences, I also noticed some similarities and some complements in those interpretations.  That's the next step.

Yes, there are differences, which I will discuss next, but for now, I want to look at the similarities and complements.  Many of the meanings of individual Runes are the same in Blum's book as they are in traditional interpretations.  In fact, Blum states these one-word meanings first.  Although many of his detailed explanations for each Rune differs somewhat from the original meanings, I find that he has taken a specific idea and made it more abstract.  Perhaps this makes it easier for people today to relate to them?  For example, Hagalaz is the Rune of Hail, but he calls it elemental disruption.  Just as a hail storm can ruin a year's crop, the idea can be transferred to present day lives where, instead of hail destroying a crop, maybe an event happens that causes the loss of a job or the end of a relationship.  In this way, Blum makes each Rune more relatable to our times.

Don't get me wrong, I am not tooting his horn by any means.  Blum's book also has several issues, especially if you are looking for the true meaning of the Runes.  The biggest issues include the blank Rune, the order in which he places the Runes, and having meanings for the Rune in upright and reversed positions.  To me, these are the most obvious and biggest differences.  Let's look at them in order.

The Blank Rune.  The simple answer to this is that there isn't one.  There is absolutely no evidence pointing to the existence of a blank Rune.  It is probable that Blum made this up.  I think he did it, in part, due to the way he organized the letters.  He put them in rows of five, which means that he had an extra space in his last line.  So, he created the blank Rune to fill it and referred to it as Odin's Rune, the Rune of the unknowable.  If a Rune is related to Odin, it is Ansuz, not a newly created blank Rune.

Rune Order.  The Runic Alphabet is called the Futhark, because of the first six letters in the alphabet.  Blum's first letters are - MGAQUP.  He also lays them out from right to left.  While some Runestones are carved this way, many also read from left to right, while others are boustrophedon.  However, the standard or Elder Futhark comes in three aetts, three lines of eight.  As Blum himself says, he established his own order and, the final chapter of his book is an amusing, albeit self-serving, justification for it.  Nonetheless, his order does not follow the traditional order of the Futhark, rather ignores it.

Reversed Rune Position.  Another major factor differentiating Blum's study of Runes with the historic understanding of Runes is the idea that the Rune's interpretation changes based on whether it is upside right or upside down.  This is another one of his creations.  If for no other reason, this is called into question, because not every Rune has a reversed position.  Isa is Isa, either way, though Algiz does look different when it is upside down.  It creates an inconsistency.  Moreover, the Rune Poems, on which the meanings of the Runes are based, do not offer different poems for inverted Runes.

Given these blatant inconsistencies with the Rune Poems and the Futhark, am I suggesting that you not use or reference Blum?  No.  What I recommend instead is that, if you use his book for your readings, that it be part of a larger library of sources, because it will give you a fuller, richer picture of what the Runes are saying.  Don't let Blum serve as your only source for Runes.  I say this from experience.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Rune for Time

I know I am not alone when I say that I don't have enough time in my week to accomplish everything that needs to get done.  Something unexpected always seems to arise at some point and throws me off - the kids get sick, the car breaks down, I get sick.  The list, I'm sure, goes on.  Even when I try to set fewer weekly goals to compensate for these "unexpecteds", time still slips away.

When I realized all of the things I need to get done this week and looked at the "unusuals" (not unexpected, but something that doesn't happen very often) happening this week too, I started to make that age old remark - if only I had more time... But, I caught myself and decided, instead, to ask the Runes to give me a Rune for time.  When they gave me Raido, I asked how to use it effectively.

Raido is the Rune of riding or a carriage and signifies a journey, positive progress from where we are now to where we want to be.  That sounds about right to me.  Now for the second part - how to use it wisely.  What shall we do on this journey to be more effective with our time and accomplish the tasks we set for ourselves?  To answer this, we get Algiz, Tiwaz, and Kenaz.  (As an interesting side note, Raido, Algiz, and Tiwaz showed up together earlier this year, when I asked about A Healing Rune.)

Algiz is the Rune of protection and self-defense.  This Rune is appropriate here, because we are attempting to get ourselves into a better place.  When we don't accomplish the things we set out to do, we get frustrated and frustration can turn to anger.  Worse still, if we don't finish the goals we set in the time we've allotted for them, our tendency is not to say, "Okay, I need to slow down and get this done before I move on to other things."  Instead, we pile more stuff on top of our already uncompleted list until we overwhelm ourselves with a list of incomplete tasks and we start to fee like we are failing.  While on some level that may be true, what we fail to realize is why we are failing.  That is why Algiz is our first. Rune.  It reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves, if we are going to be successful in our endeavors.  So, maybe the Runes are asking us what we are going to do to protect ourselves from situations like this.  In other words, as we embark on this journey to be more effective, the first thing we must do is take care of ourselves.

The warrior Rune, Tiwaz, supports the requirements of Algiz.  To take care of ourselves, we must remember that we are warriors and part of being a good warrior requires some sacrifice.  I know what you're thinking - aren't these opposing Runes?  How can taking care of ourselves require self-sacrifice?  Excellent question!  What is the answer?  Self-sacrifice does not necessarily mean sacrificing our well-being; it means sacrificing some part of our life that we have grown accustomed to, but doesn't really provide us with benefit or well-being.  In essence, Tiwaz is saying look at your life, prioritize it, find balance.  I can use myself as an example here.  I am a writer.  I haven't always viewed myself this way, but it wasn't until I stopped spending time on so many things unrelated to writing that I became a writer.  Now, I have specific time set aside each week for my own writing and much of the work I do for others is writing and editing.  I would like to spend Mondays mornings doing pilates and socializing with my friends, but that is the sacrifice I have made for my writing.  Not only was it the right choice, but once I made it, I felt empowered.  By making it okay for myself to spend Mondays writing instead of hanging out with a few friends, I made it okay for myself to make other choices in the same vein and it feels really good.  Challenge yourself to make a sacrifice to get the time you need for your goals, tasks, and ambitions.

Our final Rune for dealing with our Raido-inspired journey, is Kenaz.  Kenaz is an interesting Rune, because it has two potential meanings, which I believe are both useful in this instance.  First is the idea of a child's illness.  In this case, I would say that childhood is full of challenges.  We are growing and learning and there are plenty of illnesses that can afflict children and make life even more difficult.  As adults, we are better equipped to deal with life's "unexpecteds", due in fact, to the things we've learned and the experiences we had as children.  Perhaps, as we try to find more time for the things we need to do as adults, we can think back to our childhood and remember the things we learned as well as the happiness we felt.  Because childhood (these days) is about having fun and being happy, which we did in spite of everything else happening around and to us.  The other aspect of Kenaz is that of a torch or light, which signifies creativity.  Can we take what we've learned and experienced in our lives and apply it to this?  This would demonstrate the crossover from childhood to adult, applying what we've learned in an effective and creative way.  You may even want to call it wisdom.

For those of us looking for more time, the solution is as easy as we make it.  Our goal is to be happy, to protect ourselves from stress and anger and frustration.  How can we, as warriors, do that?  We must make sacrifices and focus on our priorities, placing everything else on a shelf for another time.  We make those determinations through a combination of life's lessons to this point and our own creativity.  Once this journey is complete, we will find we have the time we need.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Theban Alphabet

A few days ago, someone asked me what I knew about the Runes of Honorius, to which I replied honestly that I had never heard of them, but I would look into it and see what I could find.  To help me with my search, this person showed me a picture of the Runes.  Here is what they look like:

 I have to confess, my first thought when I saw them was, "These are not Runes."  After doing a few online searches, my suspicions were confirmed.  Virtually every site I visited agreed that this alphabet is not runic.  They are not Runes.  Remember, Runes are angular shapes, because they were carved primarily on objects made of wood, bone or antler.  Making straight lines on such objects was easier than trying to form curves.  In looking at Honorius' Runes, the only letters that resemble the Futhark are the ones for U, V and W, which look like slanted versions of Wunjo, which serves as V and W in Runes.  Uruz would be U.  The origins of the the Runes of Honorius or the Theban alphabet in form appear to be related to the Latin or possibly Hebrew alphabet.

Honorius of Thebes, whose own origin is cloaked with mystery, is said to be the creator of this alphabet.  There is no information on his life or when he lived, only that he was from Thebes and apparently authored a book called The Sworn Book of Honorius.  (I feel it is very important to distinguish this book from The Grimoire of Pope Honorius, which dealt with very dark, black magic.)  The Sworn Book of Honorius is also where the mystery intensifies, because the book appears not to use the Theban alphabet (though I cannot confirm that to be the case).  Moreover, the earliest extant copy of this book is from the 14th century and, I believe, attributed to someone named Heinrich Agrippa, who was the student of an Italian named Pietro D'Abano, who was tried for heresy.  This last point brings us to the next interesting aspect related to the Theban Alphabet - its magical properties - and its potential link to Runes.

Although none of the extant writings by D'Abano contain the Theban alphabet, D'Abano was a professor of medicine, an astrologer, and philosopher in Italy.  He was accused of heresy and atheism by the Inquisition and tried - twice.  Given his background and the charges against him, it is likely that he was, at the very least, familiar with magical spells and, according to Johannes Trithemius, the man who first published the alphabet in the early 1500s, D'Abano knew of the Theban alphabet.  In addition, we know that the Sworn Book of Honorius was a grimoire, a magic textbook, and the oldest extant copy of the book is attributed to one of his students.  Somewhere therein probably lies the real story of the book and alphabet's origin.  Regardless, this book forms the foundation for the use of the Theban alphabet by many modern-day Wicca for spell-casting, wearing on amulets, and carving into wood or stone.

Having said that, I tried to find out the meaning for each of the shapes, such as the Runes have, but had no luck (though downloading a Theban font is quite easy).  The closest I came was finding a suggestion to write whatever you wanted to rid yourself of, jealously, for example, in Theban script and sewing it shut in a poppet with certain herbs, and burning it.  So, I don't know if one can do readings using the Theban letters.  If anyone has insight into this, I would love to have you share with those of us who have no experience with this alphabet.

Well, there it is.  The Theban alphabet (a.k.. Honorius' Runes) has a mysterious and intriguing origin, and, although it is not a member of the Runic family, its letters are linked to Runes through magic.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fair, Just, and Honest

This week, I wasn't sure what I would write about.  I know I need to finish making my own set of Runes, so the 301 series is nagging at me, but I haven't found the right moment to complete them.  I didn't want to do anything political, because that is not what this blog is for.  This morning, I got a clear signal about what today's subject needs to be and it deals with leadership.

Sadly, these days, true leaders are a declining breed.  To me, a true leader possesses characteristics of fairness and honesty and they should be just.  This is what the world needs today.  So, this week, I ask the Runes how can we all work to make this world a more accepting and peaceful place by working everyday to be fair, just, and honest.

The Runes ring true - Sowilo, Algiz, and Kenaz.

Sowilo is the Rune of the sun, of victory or good fortune.  This is a symbol to lift spirits, which can be seen in a couple of ways.  First, it can be sign of encouragement, something that makes us feel better.  Think about this.  After a day or two of rain and clouds, how do you feel when the sun rises on the third morning and the sky is clear?  It's that feeling, that sense of hopefulness, that we stand to gain by working to be as fair and honest as we can be.  Second, once we begin to feel that way, we empower ourselves to experience it more often.  Imagine what could happen if we share that feeling with others.  It feels good to do something for someone else, no matter how small.  It feels even better to do it just to do it, without expectation of reward.  In fact, I challenge you to do one nice thing for someone, someone you don't know, every day this week.  Open a door, let a car merge in front of you, buy food for the local food bank... just do something.  It doesn't even have to be directly for another person.  Do something for an animal or for the planet.  Doing things that are good for the planet is good for everyone.  It doesn't have to be altruistic; it's okay if it makes you feel good.  That's kind of the point.

How does this play into being fair, just or honest?  In at least one very important way.  If you begin doing nice things for people or the planet, you will feel better.  When others reciprocate, the positive feedback loop will be in place.  That is also why Algiz, the Rune of self-defense and protection challenges us this week.  When we feel threatened, it is our natural instinct to protect ourselves and become defensive.  What if we never find ourselves in a position where we have to defend what we believe, who we love, how we dress... in essence, who we are?  That is our greatest challenge; we have been led to believe that one way of thinking or doing is better than another, simply because it's our belief.  What if we challenge each other to change that perspective of better and worse or right and wrong (in the sense of incorrect) and just acknowledge the differences.  What if we stand up for other people's right to believe what they choose to believe instead of trying to force our beliefs or way of doing things onto others?  By beliefs, I mean all beliefs, not just those related to religion.  What if we respect the differences and work together on the similarities?

At last, we reach Kenaz, the Rune of the torch.  This Rune has been likened to enlightenment and creativity.  This is our call to action, to build an enlightened world, to realize our positive creative potential.  This is the light at the end of our collective tunnel.  We can do it.  Once we begin to be kinder to others and reciprocate when others are kind to us, we create a more fair and just world.  If we are honest with ourselves, isn't that the place we all want to be?

Some may think my comments around today's reading are naive or too simplistic.  We've been trying this for millennia, right?  My response to you nay-sayers is that you are part of the problem perpetuating negative views.  Look, simply by virtue of our numbers, we have made the world a smaller place.  Because of this, we cannot help but come into contact with people who disagree with our perspectives on life.  It is at this level where we must begin to seek change, where we can actually affect change.  If we want to live in a fair, just, and honest world, the solution starts with us.  This is how we serve the public, how we lead; by being kind and fair; by example.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Little Relaxation

When I look at society today, I see one common thread - stress.  People are rushing here and there, demanding answers right now!  Everything is a competition; we must be the best!  But to what end?  And in the effort to "win", what do we give up?  What do we lose?

How many tools and gadgets have been created to assure that we keep up this fast-paced race to nowhere?  The original point of modern conveniences, like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, was to allow us more leisure time.  Instead, we rely on them to get things done quicker so we have more time to work.  Even as I write this, I feel the stress building in my upper back.  So, how do we begin to change this pattern, this insistence that we have to go faster and do more to acquire more stuff?  That is the very question I asked the Runes this week.  How can we take time to relax and incorporate some tranquility into our lives?

The Runes were very understanding.  They know that this is asking a lot, which is why the first Rune in this draw was Thurisaz, the Rune of thorns and power.  I like this Rune here, because, while it acknowledges the difficulty of the situation, how uncomfortable the very idea of relaxation makes us, it also reminds us that, once we begin to focus more on relaxation, we will realize it power.  The fact that this is such a powerful Rune, is reassuring as we attempt to alter the priorities in our lives.  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the old Norwegian Rune poem about Thurisaz mentions "women's illness", which I liken to menstruation and the ability to create life.  As such, drawing this Rune first to answer this question implies that, by shifting our focus to relaxation or perhaps simply mindfulness, we hold within us the ability to create a new life for ourselves, one less controlled by stress and more focused on things that make us happy.

Perthro is next, the Rune of friendly competition and socializing.  This, to me, was an interesting draw, because it may not seem to fit, at first glance, with the question.  However, it fits in two clear ways.  First, when we are in less of a rush, we have more time for friends and family and socializing.  In fact, that may be what we should be striving for, more time for relaxation and fun with those we love.  The competition aspect comes in to remind us that some people may not view this change of perspective - away from the stress-filled world we have created to one more balanced between work and play - as silly or ridiculous or even a waste of time.  The last phrase "waste of time" epitomizes today's mindset.  In other words, if you aren't making money with your time, you're wasting it.  How do you think those people would feel about a friendly competition?  Do you think they could shift away from the stress?

Finally, we have Algiz, the Rune of self-defense and protection.  What a great Rune to draw as a reason to pursue some relaxation, to preserve or restore our well-being.  When we feel balance and reduce the stress we carry, the feeling spreads through our families.  It creates a positive feedback of calm, a reordering of priorities, and, coincidentally, may make you more productive.

Several years ago, I visited Munich and heard this motto or saying from numerous people there - we work to live, we don't live to work.  That is the point the Runes are making.  Work is a tool to help us enjoy our lives.  We are not tools for the work that we do.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Runes for Malala

Two weeks ago, I wrote a Runes 201 entry about Tiwaz, the warrior Rune.  In that post, I expressed what a warrior is - essentially, someone who stands up for others, for what is right and just, and for him/herself.  Having written that though, I have always struggled to identify a true warrior or hero like that.  Without fail, when people have asked me who my heroes are, who I admire, I have come up largely empty.  There are some people I respect and whose efforts and accomplishments I appreciate, but a hero?  A true warrior?  Honestly, I've never had one, until now.

The day after I wrote about Tiwaz, after I explained what a real warrior is, an amazing young woman (only 14-years-old), named Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head in Pakistan by members of the Taliban.  They shot her, because she was an activist for the rights of girls to get an education.

After surgery to remove the bullet, she was stabilized, then flown to a hospital in England to receive specialized care her recovery requires.  I learned last night that, though she is still not "out of the woods", Malala is standing, writing, and snuggling a teddy bear.  This girl is my hero.  She epitomizes a real warrior.  She is standing up for girls everywhere, fighting for what is fair and just - namely their right to an education - and, most importantly, she is standing up for herself both literally in recovering from the attempt on her life and figuratively in fighting for her right to attend school.

So today, for Malala, for my hero, and for standing up to injustice, I give you these three Runes:

Eihwaz - the Rune of the yew tree, of stability and toughness; it comes in handy in battle

Dagaz - the Rune of day, of clarity, and awareness; it sheds light on issues to educate

Hagalaz - the Rune of hail, of creative and destructive forces, and a new phase; it depicts a reality where things that are bad, initially, improve and progress positively

Thank you, Malala, for being a true warrior.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Defining Runestones and Runes

Last week, I found a book chapter online, whose broad topic I'd like to share with you today.  It discusses Rune carvers of today.  Actually, let me clarify that and say runestone carvers of today.  The article does two main things; it interviews two present-day runestone carvers and defines three types of modern runestones.  It is the latter which I found most interesting and want to focus on here, because I see clear links to how we perceive the magic of Runes.

The three types of contemporary runestone carvings highlighted in the article are those that are "exact copies of existing stones", "explicitly contemporary", and "new, but with Old Norse".

Exact copies of old stones is self-explanatory and they can serve as a tool for people who study the past. The replica of the Gimsøy runestone, in Norway, is an example of this. Stones like this, that are copies of Viking Age stones, can be displayed only with the permission of the authorities.

Runestones that are explicitly contemporary relates purely to when they were carved and the language used.  In this category, while the writing is in Runes, the language is Swedish or Norwegian, for example.  In other words, the modern language is simply written in Runes.  This makes determining the status of the stone (Viking Age or contemporary) easy.  The picture above is an explicitly modern runestone that was carved at the Lofotr Viking Museum at Borg in Lofoten, Norway.  The museum representative told me that she was unsure what was carved on it, but it was likely a modern phrase.

Finally, there are new Runes written in Old Norse, the language of Viking Age Scandinavia.  It is important to be able to discern these stones from Viking Age runestones.  In fact, one of the runestone carvers, interviewed in the article, has documented all of the stones he's carved with the National Museum in Copenhagen, because he uses Old Norse on all his stones.

Now, how do these categories apply to the way we use Runes as an oracle today, the magic?  For starters, we don't have to worry about "exact copies of existing stones".  One of the conundrums of reading runes is that we really do not know how Runes were used historically, so we cannot copy, exactly, the process or magic.  In fact, as I have mentioned before, I am not aware of any set of Runes found at any Viking Age archeological site.

However, because we lack the details of their original use, two camps have developed - the purely new age group and the group seeking to be as historically accurate as possible, based on the what we do know about Runes and their meanings.

I do not deny that I began my pursuit of the Runes through a contemporary source, but one that, despite its new age origins, remained reasonably accurate, though sometimes broad, in its interpretation of individual Runes.  As I learned more about the historical meanings of the Runes through the Runes poems, my position has shifted and I now fall within the second group of people, who try to be as historically accurate with our interpretations as our insight provides.  

What about you?  Which category do you fall into?  Do you think the categories work for Runes?

Image credit: <a href=''>merial1 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Monday, October 8, 2012

Runes 201 - Individul Runes - Tiwaz

This morning, I reached into my bag of Runes and asked which Rune I should write about today.  Tiwaz came out and I smiled, because I feel a strong affiliation with this Rune and the god it represents - Týr.  I put the Rune back in the bag and asked the Runes what they would like us to know about the Warrior Rune.  Here are the three key aspects.
Number one:  Thurisaz.  This is a Rune of great power, around which one must be careful.  While it may be good to help us break down barriers, once that power is released, it may become hard to control.  The Rune poems for Thurisaz are a bit varied, for while the old English version talks of thorns and discomfort, the old Icelandic and old Norwegian poems refer to a women's illness.  With regard to the latter, I can't help but think that the reference is actually to menstruation, which was seen as an illness, but it is also quite powerful, holding within it the potential to create life.  These verses make interpreting the Rune more challenging; harder to discern a single meaning, but what is clear is that caution must be used, because of the power this Rune invokes.  With regard to Tiwaz, the same can be said of the warrior.  The warrior is powerful, but, once we realize that power, we must be cautious in how we choose to proceed and use it; a reckless warrior is not a good warrior.

Number two:  Gebo, the Rune of the gift.  The message here is to give without expectation, because giving creates its own rewards.  In many ways, a warrior epitomizes the idea of giving, because s/he is willing to make sacrifices to accomplish the end goal.  Think for a moment of the sacrifice Týr made to make sure that Fenrir the wolf was bound.  He gave his right hand to make sure the gods and goddesses of Ásgard were safe from the beast.  For him, the gift was his bravery, for those he protected, it was safety.  Within this, we must not necessarily think of a warrior as a traditional soldier or our battles as traditional battles.  This is giving on many levels.  We can all stand up for injustices, lend a hand to others, but we must also fight our own battles as we try to give something personal to others, something, perhaps less altruistic, but a gift nonetheless.

Number three:  Dagaz.  The Rune of day and clarity is a good action for Tiwaz, because we need a moment of clarity to give us direction.  We are warriors.  Warriors stand up, speak out, and lend a hand.  Warriors are fair and just.  However, warriors must also be prepared to fight personal battles, stand up for themselves and pursue their goals.  This may be where the warrior within us is most needed.  For many people I know, it is far easier to stand up for someone else, to promote someone else's efforts, than it is to stand up for yourself, promote your own achievements.  Part of what we, as warriors, must realize is that our inner warrior is for our use too. To endure the hills, twists, turns, and obstacles on our path, we need to act like warriors, to be strong, and march forward for ourselves even when the road we're on is anything but smooth.

Tiwaz is the warrior within us all.  It is powerful when we stand up for others.  It must also be so when we are standing up for ourselves.  We can give unlimited gifts to others, from food, clothing, and housing, to books, art, and music.  However, what we must accept is that it is okay to give ourselves some gifts too.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Empowering Ourselves

This week, I'd like to address an issue on which I am working, but one that I realized, through conversations and posted comments, that many people I know are facing too.  So many people feel powerless today and are living lives, doing things that do not make them happy, that do not make them feel fulfilled or satisfied in any way.  In such circumstances, we don't feel like we have a choice, which is wrong.  Within each of us resides the power to stand up and take control of our lives.  So, I asked the Runes how we can do that.  What do we need to know to do it?  How do we approach it?  After drawing the first Rune and thinking, 'Of course.  I should have realized that,' I knew what the other two Runes would be and, honestly, I was a bit freaked out when I was right.

I drew Uruz first.  Do you see why it makes perfect sense that this Rune is first?  Uruz is the Rune of the wild ox, of strength, courage, and determination.  This is exactly what we must find in ourselves to begin our empowerment.  We must find it and trust it.  We are full of potential and strength and, as soon as we realize and accept that, we are taking the first step toward empowerment.  We are strong!

But, how can we do this?  Especially when the world around us is beating us down?  One of the things I love about the Runes is that they don't offer easy, quick fixes; they are honest and present nothing more than the truth.  The truth is that our own empowerment is a process, which is why Jera, the Rune of the harvest and process, came second in this line of questioning.  Empowerment is never easy; it is always a challenge and it will test our strength.  That is why Uruz was first, to remind us straight away that we are strong.  We can make it through this process of regaining our power.  But this would be so much easier if we knew what was coming, right?  If we knew why we're working so hard to empower ourselves.  What is the point?

Funny you should ask, because the third Rune this week is Wunjo, the Rune of joy, a thankfulness for the basic essentials of life.  If we, in our strengthened position through Uruz, realize that there is a significant difference between a want and a need, assess what we allow ourselves to believe is a want versus a need, and act on that, our perspective changes.  The more we decide what we need to be happy, instead of letting outside sources dictate that for us, the more we realize that what we want or need is not the same thing that everyone else may want or need.  We must focus on ourselves, instead of trying to force our values or convince others of our beliefs (when we act as the outside force trying to dictate to others), the happier we will be.  In other words, if we want to be happy, we need to focus on us and not worry about what others are saying or try to tell others what to think.

Here is our path to empowerment - Uruz reminds us that we have the strength we need to empower ourselves; Jera tells us that the path to empowerment is a process that will take time and will be as smooth as we make it, that is part of our empowerment, that we dictate the path; and that, if we want to be happy through this empowerment, as Wunjo offers, we need to focus on ourselves, not at the expense of others, rather to make us more aware of what constitutes our own happiness.

What is the first step you will take toward your own empowerment?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mental and Emotional Healing

A month ago, I asked the Runes for a Healing Rune.  They showed me Fehu.  That was for a physical healing.  After reading that post, a friend of mine asked what the Runes would suggest for a mental or emotional healing.  I know a lot of people that could use a healing like that, so I asked the Runes what guidance they have to offer to help us heal mentally and emotionally.

I should mention that I made a point to ask that they not give us Jera in this instance.  We know that healing is a process.  What I want to share with you is how to approach that healing process.  The answer is simple, but, I find that, hearing it from a completely non-biased, neutral source carries a lot of weight.  Granted, the Runes that are revealed are subject to my interpretation, but, if you disagree with my assessments, please feel free to leave a comment with your perspective.

I found this group of Runes to be quite appropriate for this question - Algiz, Berkana, Perthro.

Aligz, as the Rune of self-defense and protection, is a good Rune to begin this journey.  After all, if we are going to endeavor to heal from mental or emotional pain, we want to know that we are doing it in a safe and protected way.  When we are in what we perceive to be a weakened mental or emotional state, what we attempt to regain is our inner strength, that which we have lost sight of.  However, there is also a warning that comes with this situation - Make sure that you are not protecting or defending your perceived weakened state.  It is easy to use our mental or emotional state to justify lack of action or committing an unfavorable action.  We need to make sure we are protecting and defending our true self, our empowered self, not our weakened self, for it is the empowered self we seek to revive.

Well, we know that's easier said than done, so we should be aware of the challenge we face as we attempt this healing.  That is where Berkana comes in.  The Rune of birth, fertility, and creativity offers us a different perspective, our first chance to empower ourselves.  What if we decide that today is the first day of our consistent healing?  I say consistent, because we are going to make every effort to move forward a little each day.  There will be fall backs, but we commit to the trend toward growing empowerment.  This Rune tells us that we are ready; the ground is fertile; the time is right.  Think of this as a beginning, if that helps.

But, what is the best action we can take down this path, while ensuring a safe, protected process?  For that answer, we look to Perthro, the Rune of friendly competition, social outlets.  In other words, the best place to begin this part of the healing, now that we have decided we are ready, is with friends and family, loved ones.  Surrounding ourselves with the people who love us, getting out and being social, those are the things that will help us begin to feel better.  Before I go on, let me stress that, this in no way should replace professional counseling or therapy.  If you are struggling, you should seek professional guidance.  What I offer here is just one small part of  the healing process that we can do on our own.  Sometimes, making the decision to see someone is easier when  friends and family support us in that pursuit.  Our mental and emotional healing should be us empowering ourselves to be strong and having loved ones behind us as we do it serves only to help us on that path.

Have a safe and happy week.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Compliment or Criticism: Choose Your Focus

For some reason, it seems humans are more inclined to focus on the negative, rather than the positive.  While we appreciate compliments, a single criticism, no matter how small, not only tends to erase the good feeling brought on by the compliment, but makes us angry, frustrated or sad.  I had this experience this morning.  I ran into a friend of mine, who told me that she started reading my novel last night and couldn't put it down.  "Really engaging," she said.  Of course, that made me feel great!  Less than thirty minutes later, I ran into someone else, who criticized something I did yesterday, behavior that he clearly misunderstood, but his comments were enough to piss me off.  At home, I came into my office and sat, staring at my computer screen for 10-15 minutes, so angry that every time I started typing something, I deleted it.  Nothing seemed right.  Then, I realized what had happened.  I decided to ask the Runes how to allow the positive into my life, while letting the negative roll away.

Othala, the last Rune in the Futhark, offers a very interesting overview, focused on the positive.  While Othala is the Rune of inheritance and the homestead, we must look beyond this face value to find its underlying meaning.  It is about the foundation for the way we live our lives.  It is not an entitlement, rather reminds us to appreciate the gifts we receive that allow us to create the life we want.  Although the meaning tends to be geared toward the gifts we've received from ancestors in the form of traditions, property, and inherited characteristics, when we are building our homestead (the life we want), we also receive gifts in the present from friends and family.  This is where our focus should be, but how do we do it?

Well, Raido reminds us that life is a journey.  The Rune of riding or a carriage, travels on the path we take to establish our homestead on a foundation of the gifts we receive.  We must move forward; that is how we progress.  However, what we must be aware of is that the path our journey takes us on is not going to be straight and smooth.  It will contain bumps, curves, dips, hills, bridges, a whole variety of things that make our journey interesting.  Unfortunately, we will hit potholes and other disruptive features in our road, but our challenge is that we must manage and get past those annoyances, so that we can enjoy the rest of the ride and the amazing scenery that surrounds us.  Again, we ask how to do it?

 Can you guess the answer?  It is, of course, Jera, the Rune of the harvest.  As we have seen many times before, a bountiful harvest represents the fruits of a long process.  This means that there is no easy answer to our question, that removing and not allowing negative energy to chip away at our homestead's foundation will take time.  What we can do is make a commitment to the process.  Realize that the power is within us to dwell on the things we choose.  Therefore, as I starting point, I choose to dwell on my friend's positive words about my novel and build on that.

Before I end this post though, I'd like to offer something positive to you.  Simply by reading my blog, you have done two positive things.  First, you made me feel good by reading my writing.  Second, and more importantly, you have given yourself a tool to help you shed negative energy.  So, when someone says something negative to you, stop and think about all the positive things people have said to you and feed on that instead.

Have a positively beautiful week.