Monday, January 30, 2012

For Friends and Strangers

I had hoped to return to my Runes 101 series this week, but as my plate is full (overloaded, actually) at the moment, I will hold off for a while more.  However, I promise to return to it the first moment I can.  I realize I want to return to it just as much for my readers as for myself.  I like doing things for other people.  In fact, on Saturday, I held a small retreat at my home for a few of my friends, because they needed it (and so did I).  I can't help myself.  I am just compelled to help others and I know so many of you are too.  So, what is it that makes us want to help friends and strangers?  What are the benefits of helping others?  How can we compel others to do the same?

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the draw begins with Mannaz, the Rune of Humanity, the Self, culture, even the higher self.  As contemporary interpretations suggest, everything begins with the self, and what we are talking about here are the characteristics that make us human.  Traditional references indicate that the meaning behind this Rune is "know thyself".  The claim is that Mannaz refers to a spiritual quest, which, in many ways, this is.  In any spiritual journey, we examine how we fit into the larger scheme of things.  We want to know what drives us to act in a given way - in this instance our action is our desire to help or please others, make them happy.  However, we cannot let that which drives us make us arrogant.  Remain humble and don't let your actions go to your head.  That is the overview for this line of questions though, not the challenge.

Perthro/Perth the Rune of friendly competition or initiation signals the challenge here.  Perhaps this suggests that our challenge is, in some way to initiate a challenge.  My suggestion is that we lead by example.  If, instead of focusing on outcomes, we focus on our own actions, not only are we truly present, but we achieve a state of being that attracts others.  For those of us who thrive on helping others, friendship and loyalty are hallmarks in our relationships.  Cultivating them is important to us and we accept that our fate is tied to those friends.

If we are to lead by example, we recognize that our actions may not always fall within the realm of "acceptable norms".  That is why Hagalaz, the Rune of Hail and Disruption is our action draw for this question.  Hail, on one hand, represents a natural destructive force.  However, it is also a form of water, that supports new growth.  In many ways, this Rune symbolizes an agent for change.  If we lead by example, doing what comes naturally to us, whether it is giving our seat on the bus to a parent with a small child or standing up against an injustice against someone's rights, we are natural agents for change.  We do what we do, because it is how we are wired and, if we have to stir up things a bit, so be it.

Given this draw, I challenge you this week.  Go out and do something for someone else, a complete stranger or a friend in need.  Then, think about how it makes you feel to help someone else and let me know.  I am confident that your actions will put a smile on your face and on those you help.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oh, the Possibilities

When Ehwaz is the overview in a questions about how to deal with possibilities, you have to smile.  Three weeks into 2012, I am feeling very fortunate to have so many opportunities coming to me.  To be fair, most of these these opportunities are the result of a lot of leg work, but others are simply word-of-mouth or being in the right place at the right time.  Still, I don't want to get ahead of myself with these possibilities, so I asked the Runes what should be made of them.

What makes Ehwaz such a good overview for this situation?  Ehwaz is the Rune of the Horse, sacred to many Germanic tribes.  It represents a pilgrimage of sorts through the lens of a horse-rider relationship.  This is a partnership.  Moreover, as any rider will tell you, there is a special bond between horse and rider, especially when you find the right match.  Contemporary interpretations suggest progression and transitions when this Rune is drawn.  Coupled with the comfort of undertaking a journey on horseback, rather than on foot, this moment becomes one where you can feel a slight sense of comfort or confidence in moving toward the future.  Just make sure it doesn't turn to overconfidence.

Perhaps that last bit about confidence is why our challenge with the possibilities that lie just in front of us is Nauthiz, the Rune of Need and Necessity.  While we must not create obstacles for ourselves, our own hubris can become the greatest obstacle we face in accomplishing goals or turning possibilities into realities.  Even though we may move forward with confidence, we must still move forward with discipline.  No matter how badly we need (or want) something, we must remain focused and calm if we expect to bring it successfully to bear.

Gebo, the Rune of the Gift is the required action to address this challenge.  This draw gave me pause for a moment, but I realized that what the Runes are saying to me is that we must offer our ideas (the things we see as possibilities) without expectation, for that is the truest gift.  By offering it in this manner, the gift (possibility) will attract its own benefits.

This week, I have at least three major undertakings in the works, two that are just beginning and one that I hope to expand/extend.  I must be confident in the gifts I give (possibilities I put out there), but put them out there without the expectation of anything more than taking them from theory to practice.  What possibility will you move forward this week?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Role it Plays

Sometimes we think we have great life-altering ideas.  Maybe they are life-altering, who is to say?  However, not every great idea we have works out as we planned.  So, when this happens, how do we process it and give it its rightful place in our lives?  I asked the Runes this very question, because I have tried plenty of things that have not fulfilled my vision of what they would do.  I asked this question, because this situation can, often times, be one of the most emotionally charged things in our lives.  It can make us feel like we are on top of the world or like we've been crushed by a rock, though it's usually something in-between these two extremes.

Laguz is the Rune of the sea and represents the overview of this situation.  So, what does Laguz say about our current circumstance if it is represented by the entire expanse of the water on Earth?  The sea is deep and mysterious, every-changing.  It has stormy areas and calm bays.  There are warm and cold currents, smooth flowing water and torrents that bash rocks at the shore and ships at sea.  Yet, each of these parts works together to balance the ocean.  I can relate to this.  In my life, there are stormy, unsettled areas and places where I can go to have calm, peace.  There are aspects of it that are warm and inviting and others that I must tread carefully.  Sometimes, I feel like I am being bashed against the rocks by the force of the sea.  Traditional interpretations liken Laguz to our subconscious, while new age explanations refer to the ebb and flow of life and the idea of unknown forces at work.  In other words, our current overall situation is very complex, some of it conscious, some not; some areas going really well, others not so much and it's all happening for a variety of reasons from many different influences.  So, how do we balance all of these aspects so that we can function as well as the sea does?

Our challenge is Tiwaz, our old friend the warrior Rune, the Rune of the god Týr.  This is the third time I've drawn this Rune in two months.  (The other two posts were The State of the World last month and, two weeks ago, Opportunities in the New Year.)  We are still in self-sacrifice mode, but we must remain focused on longer term or overarching goals.  Our short term sacrifices support those long term plans.  This is the challenge: to put those short term steps in order, realizing that not every one of them is going to play the role we had intended, but they will play some role, even if it means learning from our mistakes.  It's not always easy, but if we stay strong, we will get through the stormy waters and into that calm bay... successfully.

Although Tiwaz remains our challenge, our action has gone from one of necessity and guidance (Nauthiz) to strength (Uruz) and now, we have arrived at Ansuz, the Rune of Communication.  We began by showing restraint, while we formulated our ideas. Next, we recognized that we have the strength to take our ideas and transform them into plans toward accomplishing our dreams.  Now comes the time to communicate them.  Well, that can mean a lot of things.  New Age beliefs around this Rune lean towards receiving information and, sometimes, refer to Ansuz as the Messenger Rune.  They recommend paying close attention in all interactions, in meetings, relationships, chance meetings, and with "wise" people.  Essentially, be open at all times, because you never know when an opportunity will present itself.  Traditionally, this Rune is associated with Odin, the chief of the Norse Gods.  Odin is the god of many things, not the least of which is the Runes themselves, a tool for magic and communication.  How do we communicate our plans then?  And to whom?  The Runes suggest that, by paying extra attention to things, looking for opportunities and taking advantage of those things that present themselves, we will know how and when.  Perhaps the challenge of Tiwaz's self-sacrifice is that, when we recognize those moments, those openings, we must be brave and present our plans knowing that they may or may not be accepted as we intended.  Only in doing this, in knowing this is true, and accepting it, will we be able to assign things their rightful role in our plans.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Runes 101 - Runes in History 4

During the Viking Age, the Norse expanded the known world westward, first with the settlement of Iceland, then Greenland and even to the east coast of North America.  Although no legitimate Runestones or runic inscriptions have been found in North America, Greenland hosts more than 100 runic inscriptions, including a single Runestone.  The Runestone was discovered in 1824 on the tiny island of Kingittorsuaq, which is roughly 500 kilometers north of where the Norse western settlement had been.


 The inscription says that two men, Erlingur and Thordars, raised a mound on washing day (Saturday).  It also lists their fathers, but doesn't say why they raised the mound or for whom.  In fact, the last few Runes may be considered "gibberish", they don't mean anything.  If you'd like to see this stone, it is housed in Copenhagen, at the National Museum.

While the Runestone is unique in that it is the only stone in Greenland, perhaps the most fascinating Runic inscription from Greenland was written on wax tablets.  Around the year 1189, an Icelandic priest named Ingimund Thorgeirsson set sail from Bergen Norway, on the ship Stangarfóli, bound for his homeland.  He never arrived.  Instead, twelve years later, the wrecked ship was found on the coast of Greenland.  Ingimund's body was nearby, frozen. With his frozen corpse the six skeletons of his shipmates were discovered along with the wax tablets, which lay next to Ingimund.

On these tablets, in Runes, Ingimund had written the harrowing tale of how he starved to death.  Sadly, I couldn't find any other details about his journey, the shipwreck or what he may have tried to prevent starvation.  My contact at the National Museum in Copenhagen assured me that the tablets no longer exist, so those details will remain a mystery.

Still, the fact that he recorded this story is amazing.  That he carved it in Runes instead of the Roman alphabet is absolutely intriguing.  The use of Runes in Iceland and Greenland continued for more than a century after their conversions to Christianity.  However, Ingimund was not the average Greenlander or Icelander, he was a priest in the Roman catholic church.  At one point, Norway's archbishop offered him the position of bishop at Gardar in Greenland.  Regardless of his reasons for choosing Runes to tell the tale of his demise, the fact that a priest was writing about his own death in Runes makes that inscription Greenland's most interesting Runic inscription.