Monday, December 30, 2013

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Ansuz

Ansuz, like Ehwaz, signifies many important aspects of life.  Ansuz is considered the mouth Rune (mouth of a river), the mouth Rune (the origin of language and, by extension, communication), and the god Rune.  What makes this especially interesting is that each Rune poem (Old Norwegian, Old English, and Old Icelandic) depicts a different meaning.  In looking at the complex Rune, I want to address each of these features.

Let's begin with Ansuz as the mouth of a river as explained in the Old Norwegian Rune poem.  I like beginning here, because the mouth of a river can mean the beginning, middle or end of a journey, depending on the direction you are heading; it can mean arriving in a new land or returning home.  It symbolizes an adventure, embarking on or completing something new or representing something familiar.  For the Vikings, for example, the seas were roads; it is how they traveled between lands and explored their world.  I mentioned this last week in terms of creative exploration and Laguz.  However, here it can go beyond exploring to settling and managing.  By starting with this aspect, we can determine which path we are on - a new path or strengthening a familiar one - and build from there.

With our chosen path in mind, we can look at Ansuz as it relates to language and communication.  Back in April, I undertook a Rune Ritual around Ansuz's communication feature.  I chose Ansuz for this reason, because I want to make a living off of my writing, a major form of communication.  Moreover, I have used Ansuz to help couples remember that communication is vital to any relationship.  These uses show a beginning (my career) and something familiar (relationships) demonstrating the importance of how we use communication in our lives and how our word choice, the tone of our voice, our gestures, and facial expressions impact them.  Ansuz tells us to be aware or increase our awareness of the way we communicate.  In support of this idea, the Old English Rune poem focuses on this interpretation of Ansuz and puts special emphasis on how wisdom gives warriors comfort (in the sense of happiness) and confidence.  The important thing to remember here is that wisdom is gained not because communication is a one way street, rather includes interpreting and understanding the messages being communicated to us.

On an even more personal level, Ansuz links us to our deity.  In this regard, the Old Icelandic Rune poem points specifically to Odin as the the head of Asgard and the one in charge of Valhalla.  It is fitting that Odin is represented here, because he is the god of poetry and wisdom.  These characteristics of Odin are just as important, if not more so, than Odin as god of war, because they not only imply our own spirituality in communicating with our deity, but they also in highlight, once again, the importance of communication in all its forms.  What is equally important to recognize is that Odin, the chief Norse god is tied directly to communication, implying or reinforcing the importance of the latter throughout the world and and the role it plays in the journeys we take and paths we follow in life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Solstice Runes

Saturday night was the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.  For me, it represents the end of Earth’s annual cycle.  It felt right to ask the Runes what knowledge they would like to share with us about it.  What was most interesting to me was that, while there was an acknowledgement of looking back over the past year, it was veiled in a look forward and planning for the new cycle or year.

The three Runes I drew were Berkana, Laguz, and Othala.

Although we are reaching the end of the annual cycle, Berkana is a about birth and beginnings, reminding us that every ending is also a beginning.  Berkana is the birch Rune, representing a tree that sprouts through coppicing and Berkana’s Rune poem notes that the tree grows despite not flowering.  It is this aspect that reflects on the past year and provides a good reminder for the next one.  We notice when flowers bloom, whether they are individual flowers or on trees or bushes.  Many flowers become food and those that don’t still provide bees with nectar to make honey, which we also use for food.  These are obvious cycles that culminate by bearing fruit literally and serve as a figurative symbol for the way we recognize a completed project.  We complete cycles with something tangible, something clearly visible – our figurative fruit.  However, Berkana tells us that not every cycle has an obvious ending.  Sometimes, it happens over time, without a huge climax.  It is important to recognize and acknowledge these completed cycles along with those that end with a concrete benchmark.  As I look back over my year, I don’t readily see a lot of flowers or fruit.  However, I do see a lot of growth, some subtle and some more obvious.

Laguz supports this idea from Berkana, that not every accomplishment is entirely obvious.  Laguz is the water Rune, but like Berkana, it has more depth than the surface may suggest.  As I have often said, Laguz makes me think of the saying, “Go with the flow.”  While that is still part of the insight offered here – that we must not dwell on the negative, rather accept it, learn the lessons from that experience, and move on – Laguz also represents the mysteries of the seas and stands as a symbol of creative exploration.  I say this from an ancient Norse perspective.  That is to say that although a stormy sea could be detrimental to Norse ships, water was also how they traveled the world.  They traversed rivers and oceans like roads leading to new places and opportunities.  In a similar way, we can explore our world and not be afraid to step off a concrete road to try one that, like the seas, is a little less predictable.  We cannot be afraid try new things or delve deeper into things we are already doing on some level.  This is how we grow and where we find our next beginning.

Our final Rune – Othala – takes us to a level beyond ourselves.  Thinking about endings and beginnings, we can be drawn immediately to the personal aspects of that.  Finishing college, for example, is an ending of one part of our life, but it also marks the beginning or our professional career.  Along with starting a new relationship or leaving one place to live in another, these experiences all possess an individual perspective.  Although Othala can, to some degree, represent the personal in the sense of a legacy, Othala is more about the greater good, the homestead and inheritance.  It represents a larger scale, perhaps even at the community level or higher.  It’s about more than building your own career, though the individual definitely supports your ability to build a homestead.  Othala requires us to think beyond ourselves.   

So, as we complete cycles and begin new ones, these three Runes represent at least two very important things to consider in looking over the past year and aspire to as we move forward.   First, even when our beginnings are or seem self-focused, they reach into the larger community that surrounds and supports us.  Second, we should not be afraid to attempt completely new creative beginnings. What fruit are you hoping the new annual cycle will bear?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Runes 101 - Runes in History - The Piraeus Lion

Image from Wikipedia
The fact that the Piraeus Lion symbolized Saint Mark (the patron saint of Venice) was of little consequence to the Swedish Vikings, who, in the mid-eleventh century, carved Runes into both of the sitting lion's shoulders.  These weren't just simple runic carvings like we saw at the Borgund Church in Norway.  These were relatively elaborate carvings with one at least being on par with the Ramsund Stone carving in Sweden.

There are two really interesting images of the statue's carvings on a site called Darwaza, which looks at "global design history".  The images on this site show the location of the carvings on the lion and a drawing of the carvings displaying the Runes, which appear to be the younger Futhark.

While the carving on the left shoulder does have a nice curve to it, the engraving on the right shoulder is particularly intricate, in a long swirling dragon.

Although the carvings date to the mid-eleventh century, they went unnoticed until the late 1700s, when Swedish-born diplomat and orientalist Johan David Åkerblad noticed them.  Since their discovery, there have been many attempts to decipher their meaning, but centuries of pollution and weathering (erosion caused by rain, wind and other forces), have made the Runes hard to decipher.

The engravings appear to be an account the whereabouts of those involved in fighting and battles in the region. Even though the Greeks forbade it, at Harold the Tall's request, someone named Asmund "cut these runes".  With him were Thorleif, Thord and Ivar.  That is the left shoulder carving.

The right side is not only more intricate with its dragon shape, but the words being carved into that twisting dragon provide more insight into the events that transpired there.  It appears as though the Asmund, who carved the other runes, helped Hakon, Ulf, and Örn conquer the port.  As a result of their attempt to resist them, these vikings and Harold Hafi (another viking listed as imposing the fine, but not listed as one who secured the port) levied a large fine on the Greek people.  The carving also states that Dalk (presumably another viking) is being held captive in some far off land and Egil and Ragnar are on an exhibition to Romania and Armenia.

These interpretations are from translations by Carl Christian Rafn, who was secretary for the Royal Society of Norse Antiquities.  About sixty years after his translation, in 1914, Erik Brate, a renowned Swedish runologist did his own translation.  Although it does not include all the names and locations as the first, it is considered to be more accurate.  Moreover, this translation claims the Runes were carved in memory of Horsi, a good warrior that won gold in his travels.  Both translations can be found on Wikipedia.

The Piraeus lion is one of four located at the Venetian Arsenal. So, if you're ever there look for the one with Runes carved into its shoulders.  Look carefully, because weathering and pollution have made them difficult to spot, even when you know what you're looking for.  There are also copies of the Piraeus Lion at the Swedish History Museum  in Stockholm and the Piraeus Archeological Museum in Greece.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Unfinished Projects

If you're looking for the Winter Solstice Blog Hop post, click here.  Otherwise, please read on.

As 2013 draws to a close, we all have unfinished projects we need to attend to. Why aren't they done yet?  Sometimes we haven't had the time; other times we're waiting on other people or for a part to arrive.  But, speaking from experience, in general, procrastination is a primary culprit.

However, we need to look at what causes procrastination in the first place, then look at the deeper questions - why do we procrastinate and how can we get past it?

These are the questions the Runes and I discussed to help us finish off 2013 on a positive note and energize us as we enter the new year.

The first Rune I drew was Jera and I drew it in response to the question, "What can you tell us about unfinished projects?"  This Rune represents the year or, perhaps, in this case time - time for a process to be completed or finding time.  So, of course, we received Jera, to remind us that unfinished projects have their own process, but they are also part of a larger process - our general forward progression through time.  This Rune sets the stage for addressing our other questions and serves as our guide for finding ways to finish  projects.

We must look at those questions from multiple perspectives, because we procrastinate for many reasons.  Therefore, my next question isn't simply why do we procrastinate, rather what does our procrastination tell us about why we do it?

Runes:  You must use Isa here.  You must pause and think about the truth.  You know why you procrastinate; now you must recognize it,  admit and accept it.  Only that will help you move forward, whether it is toward completing the project or understanding why you won't.  Although Isa is about caution, when you stop and consider your next step, the point of this contemplation is taking that step.

Me:  Thank you.  I agree; reflection, acknowledgement,and acceptance are key components to many processes.  We should take the next step, but we must step with an understanding of where we are placing our foot.  What if we look at procrastinating around the issue of time?  What if we feel we simply can't find the time we need to complete a project?

Runes:  Ingwaz is the Rune you need for this question.  For, when the time is right, when everything is in its place, the situation will be ready for the next step, for completion, whether that means completing the task or letting go if it and moving on.  You may also want to consider this.  Fear may be keeping you from completing a project.  Fear of not knowing what will happen after it's done, fear of succeeding; fear of failing.  What Ingwaz says in this case is that the time has come.  You may fail, you may succeed, you may not know what is coming next, but the time is ripe for taking the next step towards completing that project.  You cannot live in fear, especially when that fear is nothing more than speculation.

Me:  Thank you.  I had not thought of fear, but I can see how that could be an important aspect to consider.  What about external factors?  What if there are things external to us that influence whether or why we finish a projects?

Runes:  Your conflict does not come from outside.  It is internal.  You are doing something that conflicts with who you are and the desires you have.  That is why you cannot complete it.  Nauthiz represents the need to act with discipline and, in so doing, you will acquire what you need.  Sometimes things that seem unrelated are quite close knit in the end.

Me:  Of course, internal issues are part of any challenge or conflict.  That is good advice; thank you.  However,  what if what we need is for the external factor to act?  Let me rephrase a bit. What if we are waiting for someone else?  What if they have to make the next move?  Take the next step?

Runes:  You must move on where you can in a way that you can until that external force, that person you're waiting on, acts.  Tiwaz reminds us that true warriors make sacrifices to get things done.  One sacrifice is time - waiting - or doing what you can until that force acts.

Me:  Yes, thank you, but how can we move forward on other fronts and finish off other projects when one is distracting us from the the others?  Being distracted can cause procrastination, right?

Runes:  Do not look too far ahead.  Dagaz is the day Rune.  Although things tend to be clearer in the light of day, Dagaz, like Jera, represents a time frame.  While Jera covers a year, Dagaz says focus on the next twenty-four hours.  Accomplish what you can in that time.  Choose the path that allows you to move forward and accomplish things.  A sense of accomplishment on some front is important.

Me:  I am grateful for your guidance and insight today.  Thank you.

Finishing up projects is not always just a matter of sucking it up and doing it or forcing our will on others to get things done.  Sometimes we have no choice but to wait;  other times, we procrastinate.  The way we get past that procrastination is by examining why it exists for a particular project or task.  Only then can we know if completing it is the right thing to do and, if so, realize and take the next required step.  When we're feeling overwhelmed with all the unfinished projects that are staring at us, maybe the best thing we can do is not to look too far ahead.  Focus on what needs to be done today and go from there.  After all, isn't that how we create momentum?

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Season of Giving

This is a special blog post.  It' s part of the
Pagan Writers Community: Winter Solstice Blog Hop

A whole array of holidays mark this time of year as we approach the winters solstice in the north.  Whether you celebrate Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or another holiday, the idea of giving gifts to those we love is a common thred among them all.  we give gifts to family and friends and gather together for meals and to spend time with loved ones, who are, in and of themselves, the most wonnderful gifts in our lives.  If they are the greatest gifts we receive, what are the greatest gifts we can give?

While any number of possible answers exist for that question, I want to approach the idea of giving through the lens of Gebo, the gift Rune, in general and its Old English Rune Poem in particular.  (This translation is from The Rune Primer.)
Gyfa (Gebo) is for men adornment and complement,
support and dignity; and for all the dispossessed
forgiveness and sustenance, who otherwise would have nothing
The words of Gebo's poem are so strong - adornment, complement, support, dignity, forgiveness, sustenance.  It embodies the idea not only of giving to loved ones, but of helping those who are not as fortunate as we are.  The empowering words in this poem are the truest gifts we can give.  Yes, it's nice to receive adornments (material things), but that is only one word in a long list of words that imply basic desires.  Who does not want support, dignity and forgiveness? Yet, why are these greatest and simplest of gifts sometimes so hard to give today?

This brings us to the heart of the idea behind the season of giving - making it meaningful on a very basic and necessary level.  This holiday season, think of Gebo and be of two minds.  First, to those you love, be forgiving, show them extra support and encouragement.  Let go of anger and ill feelings.  Chances are that will matter more to both of you than something wrapped with a bow.

Second, while you are out shopping, think of gifts you can give to others - other than loved ones.  Buy an extra bag of groceries for the local food bank; buy an extra toy and donate it to the local children's hospital or a shelter.  Volunteer to help feed the homeless.  Invite a new neighbor or colleague to a party or for dinner.  The list of things we can do to spread this wonderful season of giving is extensive.

In keeping with the spirit of Gebo, and to encourage your participation in this idea, I will donate a canned good to my local community food bank for the first 25 comments on this post (Between December 6-10, 2013) that support the idea of the season of giving.  Simply leave a comment on this post sharing something that you do each season in the spirit of giving to others or that you will do this year.

In addition, to show my gratitude to everyone who reads and follows my blog, I will give away up to three copies of my novel, The Son of Nine Sisters, and three Rune readings to you.   Simply email me something that you plan to do this season in the spirit of giving to others and I will enter you into a lottery to win one of these prizes.  Please make the email subject line: Gebo's season of giving

Finally, I hope that you will try to carry the essence of Gebo with you into the new year.  The world needs more kindness and generosity and Gebo's gift can help build it.

Return to Pagan Writer's Community: Winter Solstice Blog Hop

Monday, December 2, 2013

Runes 202 - Bind Runes - Dreams and Passion

Following your dreams or engaging in something about which you're passionate, even as a hobby, can be quite challenging, especially if you don't feel supported in the way that you need to be or if you have other responsibilities that require a lot of your time.  Still, we feel such a strong sense of satisfaction and joy when we pursue our dreams and passions that putting in a little extra effort to follow that path, even if it isn't as 'full time' as we'd like, is a worthwhile endeavor.

Because I am doing this right now and I know several other people that are in a similar situation, I did a Norn Cast for following dreams and passion.  Then, I used those Runes to create a bind Rune.  The response was ideal:

Thurisaz represents our past pursuit incredibly well and gives us encouragement to follow this path going forward.  Thurisaz's meaning isn't entirely clear, but what we do know is that it is a powerful Rune and that, when that power is released, it can be very potent.  What this means to me is that, in the past, when we we decided to follow our dreams and engage our passions, we were unleashing that potential.  As we moved forward with it, its potential and power has grown and stabilized.

I love Ingwaz to represent Verdandi, the present.  Ingwaz is the fertility Rune.  It signifies that our hard work is paying off.  Reaching this point, though the path to arriving here has likely been filled with plenty of struggle and challenges, and has not been easy, has laid the ground work for the future - making the present quite fertile.  Not only does this represent our current state, a time that is ripe for our next move, but it acknowledges the effort that we have put in along the way and telling us that those efforts are paying off.  We have worked and struggled (and though we probably complained a lot, loved every minute of it and wouldn't change a thing) and now we are on the cusp of bringing that dream into a greater or more regular role in our lives.

The important thing to remember is that, as we prepare to take that next step on the path to following our dreams and passion, we must step wisely.  Eihwaz, the Yew tree Rune, is a symbol of stability and longevity.  The best way to ensure both of these traits is to step wisely down our path.  Be strategic.  However, there is a counter to this, almost visible in Eihwaz's physical form.  Eihwaz has a branch at the top going to the right.  Let that stand for strategy.  But, what about the low branch that reaches up to the left?  That has to be innovation and creativity, because all the strategy in the world will not last if there is no innovation and you can't innovate without creativity.  Together these attributes of Eihwaz help us to create stability and ensure the future success that is tied to our dreams and passions.

Putting these three Runes together provided a very balanced bind Rune, with an almost circular motion to it.  You can sense the motion within it, spinning and building from the center, much as our dreams and passion come from ours.

It is almost as if the image is telling us, "Protect the power and fertility of your dreams and passions.  They will carry you through."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Resistance

There are two kinds of resistance - resisting things that you know are wrong and resisting things that you know are right.  Dealing with the former can mean simply not doing something you know is wrong or it can mean standing up to something that is wrong or unjust.  When you're passionate about a cause or protecting someone or something you love or believe in, resisting things that are wrong is relatively easy, because it thrives on the passion you feel.

However, that latter kind can be much more challenging - resisting something that is right.  Sometimes we know something is right, because we feel it intuitively.  We know, in our gut, that it's right, yet we resist it with every ounce of our being.  Why?  And how can we get out of that mindset?  How can we stop resisting the positive and embrace it instead?  That is what I asked the Runes this week.

A few weeks ago, I created a bind Rune for letting go of anger, but this is slightly different, as we are trying to let go of apprehension and stop resisting.  To address why we resist things that we know are right, I drew Ehwaz, Perthro, and Fehu.

Last week, I looked in detail at Ehwaz, the horse Rune. This week, that Rune came first to answer my questions.  Remember, that the foundation of Ehwaz was loyalty.  Receiving Ehwaz here suggests to me that, when we resist something that we know is right on an intuitive level, we are not being loyal to ourselves, not trusting ourselves.  So, first and foremost, the Runes tell us to trust ourselves.  We must listen to our inner knowledge (a topic - intuitive listening - about which I wrote on another blog earlier this year).

Still, we must also consider Ehwaz's other aspects and look at how those aspects help us stop resisting.  These considerations bring up a number of additional questions to address.  We are not in this alone, so if we stop resisting our intuitive knowledge, how will our actions affect those around us?  What happens if we keep resisting?  What happens if we stop?  Where will our path lead?  In looking at these questions, perhaps it is not that we don't trust ourselves, rather that the timing is not right as it affects others.  So, the Runes also tell us that, although we trust our instincts, sometimes we must consider the timing of acting on them.

Perthro, in the second position begins to shed light on the impact our choices have on others and vice versa; it reminds us that our wyrd (fate) is linked.  This suggests that, while we may know something intuitively and we may not want to resist it, we do, because the time to embrace it has not yet arrived.  I have touched on this idea in discussing anticipation and, earlier this month when I looked at the need to or importance of pacing yourself.  This perspective gives depth to our resistance, implying that we think of others as we make our choices, that we are not simply selfish beings.

The final Rune, Fehu - the cattle Rune - gave me pause at this juncture, because I just proclaimed that we are thoughtful beasts, not selfish or self-serving creatures.  Yet, Fehu represents wealth, riches, perhaps even greed.  Within a moment, though I was reminded that, while cattle may have been a primary measure of wealth in the past, today we measure wealth in more ways than one, from more than a financial perspective.  One of the greatest forms of wealth we possess is the ability to care for the welfare of others.  In this instance and tied to the idea of caring about others is viewing our ability to resist our instincts as a form of wealth.  It shows strength and helps to ensure that, when the time is right and we end our resistance, the benefits will far outweigh the struggle of resisting.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Ehwaz

Over the past few months, Ehwaz has been showing itself more regularly in readings I've done for myself and others and in posts on this blog (Pace Yourself Ritual, Working Runes, and Applying Runes to Different Situations).  Ehwaz, the horse Rune, signifies many important and practical aspects to life.  It is a symbol of loyalty, teamwork, relationships and partnerships, pilgrimages, and modes of transportation on life's journeys.  Because it is coming up so often right now, it is time to investigate it in more detail.

I wanted to see how it reflects each of its attributes.  I drew a Rune for each one and here is what I got.

Loyalty in and of itself is challenging; trying to determine where loyalties lie, to whom you should be loyal and how to manage when someone close to you is disloyal are all pieces of Ehwaz.  Berkana helps explain the loyalty within Ehwaz.  The birch Rune brings to mind beginnings, birth, perhaps indicating that loyalty is the foundation of everything else carried on Ehwaz's back.  It is a key ingredient in the success of any relationship, partnership or team.  A pilgrimage cannot be truly fruitful if the pilgrim is not loyal to the intent of the journey.  Likewise, loyalty to the vehicles you use on life's journeys will determine how well those vehicles carry you.  If you want to be a pianist or a dancer, unless you practice your scales or steps, your vehicle, in this case your talent, will not take you very far.

The second aspect of Ehwaz is relationships, whether with a single person or a group.  Algiz is a great Rune for this aspect of Ehwaz, because it is about protection and self-defense.  What makes it so interesting is that, although we are talking about relationships, it brings self-defense into the mix.  Its meaning here may be a bit counterintuitive, because it is not suggesting that you must defend yourself against others, rather that others supporting you reduces the need for you to defend yourself or to stand alone.  In the process of defining self-defense, it almost shifts to protection as its point.  Essentially, Ehwaz reminds us that we are not in this alone and those who are in our corner will protect and support us (be loyal to us) so that we do not have to be on guard all the time.

Isa supports pilgrimages in that they usually require some reflection.  When undertaking a pilgrimage, we need to understand why we are doing them and what we hope to gain by going on one.  Isa, as the ice Rune, reminds us to move forward carefully, with understanding of what our forward motion means.  What's most important to remember is that a pilgrimage does not necessarily have to be a physical action.  In fact, in this regard,  Isa is even more powerful in supporting the pilgrimage of Ehwaz, because a major component of mental, emotional, and spiritual pilgrimages as inward journeys involves reflection, not only self-reflection, but reflection on the people and situations that affect our lives.

The last key feature of Ehwaz, and perhaps the most obvious, especially as we look at Ehwaz's physical shape - a horse, is a mode of transportation.  Once again, our minds drift first to physical transportation on horseback or in another type of vehicle.  However, we must also consider our talents and desires as modes of transportation, for they drive us forward in a different way, in our careers and personal endeavors, in our relationships and life experiences.  Of course, I drew Ansuz in this regard, for it represents the way that we communicate in this world, how we view ourselves and the images we portray of ourselves to others.  Our mode of transportation can make it easier or harder  for us to get around in this world.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Runes 302 - Interviews - Bifrost and Beyond

This post not only marks the first in a new series - interviews, but highlights the work of a great Heathen artist, CSA, whose body of work is depicted as Bifrost and Beyond.  I've been familiar with CSA for a while now and even used one of his pieces in my post about the Norns.  It has become one of my favorite pieces of art, so I was very pleased when he agreed to this interview and to share some of his work with us.

Thank you, CSA, for taking the time to talk with me.

Many of your pieces contain Runes.  Can you tell us why and how you incorporate them into your art?
The Runes are ancient and timeless symbols from our past.  More than just a primitive form of writing, their simple shapes encompass a vast multitude of subtle and diverse meanings.  They empower us; they teach and guide us; they hold the secrets of the universe.  Sometimes, Runes will demand to be included in an image I'm working on, as they echo the meaning of the piece.  Other times, my work is inspired by contemplating a specific Rune.  I am in the process of producing a series of images based on meditations on the Runes of the Elder Futhark - it's been a really rewarding and enlightening piece of work and I plan to release the images as a book when they're complete.

The book sounds very interesting and the Runes play a key part of it.  How did you come to be interested in the Runes in general and as part of your art?
In my mid to late teens (a long time ago now) I went through something a lot of teenagers experience - a feeling of angst, not really belonging or having a place or purpose in the world.  It's not reflection on my upbringing, just a commonly difficult period of transition for young people when you feel like and adult, but the world still views you as a child.

Tyr woodcarving
In that time, I began to contemplate my heritage and ancestry - not just blood, but the soil I had been born and raised on.  There I found a rich history, culture and mythology that instantly struck a chord with me and that I could intuitively relate to.  I recognized the myths of the Norse and Germanic people as beautifully crafted metaphors for the cycles and phenomena of nature that I could see occurring around me.

It wasn't long before I became interested in the Runes and, after reading a couple of books, I decided there was no substitute for firsthand experience.  I created my first set from a piece of oak over twenty years ago and still have it today - those Runes are my most treasured possession.  Living and working with the Runes over such a long period of time, it's only natural that they would begin to feature in my artwork.

So, first you discovered the culture and myths, then the Runes.  How does that Norse experience inspire your art?  Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Celtic, for example.
I love mythology full stop - the timeless tales of courage, heroism, love, beauty and tragedy.  It's impossible not to be inspired!  I feel a particular affinity with and my artistic style lends itself best to the mythology of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures.  I naturally use cold grey and blue hues that reflect the colder northern climate; I tend to use sparse, simple backgrounds with bold, dominant characters, who look as if they were carved from a great oak or hewn from a rugged rock.  In that way, they represent the earth, the soil and the environment - the timeless essence that spawned such a rich and heroic mythology and culture.

What else inspires your art?
From time to time, I create work inspired by Greek, Roman or Celtic mythology.  Other inspirations have included Steampunk genre, the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and the Soviet era to name a few.

I'm really in the zone when working on the Norse and Anglo-Saxon theme though; that's where I work most intuitively and am, I think, at my best.

How long has this theme been the primary focus of your artwork?  How long have you been working with the Runes in this capacity?
Rather surprisingly, the Runes and Norse mythology have been my primary focus for only about two years.  I took a long break from any sort of creative endeavor in my mid-twenties, for no specific reason that I can fathom.

It was a chance encounter with a fantastic artist, painting in a shop window, that inspired me to engage in the creative process again.  We have remained friends ever since and he remains a source of encouragement and inspiration for me.  I guess, for the first few years, it was trial and error, trying to develop a style and experimenting with a range of themes and subjects.  I produced some pretty awful stuff back then, but I keep it as it marks a step in my journey.

It was only about two years ago that I really developed the style that I have become so comfortable with.  Initially, I was reluctant to work on anything Rune-based as that had always been a very private part of my life, but whenever I relaxed and just let myself draw almost subconsciously, the kind of images that related strongly to my experiences with the Runes came out and they were, by far, the most satisfying and meaningful things I had done.  This led me to ask myself, "What is art, if not a true reflection of the inner self?"

Ever since then, the Runes and Norse mythology and cosmology have been the driving force behind my work.  It really has been the most tremendous experience - externalizing my thoughts, feelings and interpretations really leads me to examine them from new perspectives and teach myself new things along the way.

Do you have a favorite piece that includes the Runes or Norse Mythology/Norse influence?  Can you tell us about the piece?
"Algiz" is, by far, my favorite piece.  It's a portrayal of a potent visionary experience from many years ago.  The image is burned into my consciousness as if it were yesterday.  I always thought it would be impossible to replicate it in physical form, but I found that, as soon as I tried, it was pretty much instantaneous.  It's a technically simple piece, but it pulses with the energy of that experience and exudes everything I wanted to.

There's something very primal about it.  I like to watch people at my exhibitions and see which pieces engage them, which ones they stop and contemplate, which ones they talk about and so on.  Algiz has a tendency to stop people in their tracks and people with no knowledge of Runes or Norse mythology have approached me to say that they like it and to ask what it's about.

How do you use the Runes outside of your art?
I have used the Runes for over twenty years, very privately for the most part to meditate on and consider difficult situations in life.  I don't believe there is any clairvoyant "magic" in the common sense of the word behind the Runes.  Rather, I think that they channel the reader's intellect and intuition, prompting him or her to consider aspects of a situation they might not have otherwise considered.  They won't tell you your future, but will offer possibilities to influence your decisions.

Recently, I held some readings for friends, who seem to have found them very helpful and insightful.  Aside from divination, the Runes are part of my daily life.  I often find that a Rune springs to mind when I'm facing a challenge or difficulty and it offers guidance and inspiration and enhances my understanding of it and myself.  Other times, a sight, sound or smell will bring a Rune or a series of them to mind and bring me to contemplate the sensory experience - sometimes it's quite difficult to stay focused on the mundane, practical matters without such distractions!

As far as I am concerned, you can never master the Runes, only deepen your relationship with and understanding of them.  Their meanings and subtleties are infinite.

Do you have one special moment or unique experience with the Runes, where you had an epiphany or clarifying moment?
I do, although I prefer to keep these things close.  It's a fool who bares his soul for the world to see.

Where can people view and purchase your art?
Currently, my primary exhibiting space is my facebook page, but I am also on Deviantart.

At the moment, I'm selling via PayPal. People can message me on my facebook page about the piece or pieces they want and I'll send them the payment details.

Because the majority of my work is digital, it provides tremendous scope; I can produce almost any of my images at any size on just about anything - a standard print, canvas, mug, T-shirt, mouse pad, whatever!

I'll be exploring eBay and one or two other avenues in the coming months; it just takes a bit of time to list the volume of work I have in an array of available options.

Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your art with us and tell us how the Runes inspire it!

CSA's Bio
Living in southern England, I have been a practicing Heathen for over twenty years.  I have a deep and intuitive relationship with the Runes and a strong spiritual bond with the mythology and cosmology of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon culture and with my natural environment.  All of these things influence and inspire my personal philosophy and artwork.  I strive to portray the values and ethics of Heathenism for what they are - courage, resilience, sacrifice, and heroism - but, at its purest level, Heathenism is the observance and honouring of the wonders of nature, understanding that all things are connected, that we all have a part to play and an influence in the grand scheme and, above all, trying to live a good life.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Runes 401 - Rune Rituals - Pace Yourself

We've all heard and probably used one or more of these idioms in our lives:

"Don't put the cart in front of the horse."    "Don't jump to conclusions."
"Don't get ahead of yourself."                      "Slow and steady wins the race."

But, why is pacing ourselves important?  This is a question I've pondered... a lot!  In fact, it is why I named my company the Jera Institute.

Jera represents the year, the harvest, a cycle or process.  Everything has a process through which it must go to fruition and that process must be honored.  When we skip steps, race through them or jump ahead, we can run into trouble and create problems for ourselves or others.  That is a key reason why pacing ourselves is important, though not always easy, because it requires patience.  Jera represents the importance of process and, in turn, setting and following a pace.  This is particularly important when we have a strong tie (usually emotional) to the outcome.

Given its importance, I decided to conduct a ritual to remind myself that pacing yourself is important and to acknowledge the subtle difference between the routineness of following a schedule and creating an overarching  pace.

For the past week, I've had this image in my head.  Tiwaz painted on a light-colored angular, yet oval-ish rock.  This was the foundation for the ritual, but it took me a few days of contemplating it to figure out why.  It's Tyr's story; it's how he lost his hand.  Tyr placed his hand in Fenrir's mouth, knowing the wolf was going to bite it off once he realized he could not break free from Gleipnir, the tether the gods used to bind him.  But, it was Tyr's ability to remain calm to show a stable, confident pace as he walked up, placed and kept his hand in the wolf's mouth, while the wolf twisted, turned and writhed trying to escape.  It's that calm that's required when you know the outcome or you're trying to force a particular outcome that is the pace.  You're not rushing to the outcome, not trying to make it happen before its time.  That is why Tyr's Rune is this ritual's cornerstone.

In addition to Tiwaz, I asked the Runes what else they would like me to know about pace.  Interestingly, I drew Jera first, reinforcing what I said above about honoring the process.  Nauthiz came second and made me feel that everything to this point is right on track; we are using the things we need to complete this ritual honoring the importance of pace.  Doubly though, it strengthens the idea of needing to establish and or maintain a pace, especially in situations where we are so tied to the outcome.  Finally, I pulled Ehwaz, the horse.  With regard to pace, I think the final line of Ehwaz's Rune poem offers the perfect summary - it is, to the wanderer, ever a benefit.  If pace is the 'it' in this line is pace, it benefits the wanderer, by giving direction and consistency.

My turtle's name
The last piece for this ritual is a turtle, oddly enough named Pace.  It was a gift from my husband when I was struggling through the data processing of my Master's thesis.  It reminded me that, like Tyr, I just needed to do what had to be done in a calm and consistent way, and the outcome would be my degree.  Although Tyr lost his hand, he knew and was linked to the outcome - everyone was safe from the wolf.

With these pieces in place, I began the ritual by setting up its three aspects.  Tiwaz, painted on the rock representing Tyr's calm and confident pace, gives the energy of this great god to the ritual.  The three Runes I drew explain the importance of setting a pace.  At last, I set down Pace, my ceramic turtle, as a personal example of how pace, in a situation when I was so eager to reach the outcome, was important to reaching that outcome successfully, without skipping a step to get there.

As I laid down each item for the ritual, I chanted, "I am grateful for Tyr's brave example of setting and maintaining a pace.  When I am strongly tied to the outcome of a process, I must remember the importance of pacing myself.  Pacing myself has been successful in the past and will be again."

Once all three pieces were in place, I took a breath, held my hands over each piece and repeated my chant over each one, taking a deep breath and exhaling before moving to the next one.

I know it's not poetry, but the repetition solidified the essence of the ritual's components and the importance pacing myself.  The next time I start to get ahead of myself, I will recall this ritual and remember Tyr and find the right pace.