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?