Monday, February 25, 2013

Runes 101 - Runes in History 8

In the last Runes 101 post, I wrote about the 1955 Bergen fire.  This time, while I complete etching the Runes on my wooden staves, I thought I would figuratively head to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and write about the Manx Crosses in general, and one in particular.

The Manx Crosses are actually Runestones, displaying both Celtic and Norse roots and blending early Christian imagery with Celtic/Norse ones.  This group of more than two dozen stones, dates back primarily to the 10th century, the height of the Viking Age.  There had been a long Celtic tradition of raising crosses to the dead (nearly 200 such stones have been found), prior to the Norse influx, but it is with their arrival that the two cultures merged to create some very interesting and artistic works.  For example, where the earlier crosses had wonderful Celtic knots carved into them in a variety of styles, the later ones build on that idea, twisting animals around each other in a similar fashion.

Another interesting aspect to these crosses is that there are multiple styles of Runes used on them.  There are Anglo-Saxon, elder Futhark, and short-twig or staveless Runes found on different crosses, though none together on the same cross, as far as I can tell.  In addition to Runic inscriptions, the first half of the Ogham alphabet appears on one and Ogham letters are visible on both sides of another.

Most of the Manx crosses are carved in memory to someone, a father, a wife, a son or daughter.  Some are dedicated to the person who raised the cross, while others are simply illegible.  At least one cross records a betrayal.

The Manx Cross that interests me the most is one from the Jurby parish in the northwest part of the island.  It is ornately carved (images above and to the right) and includes other ornamentation along with an Old Norse runic inscription:
"[s]on sinn en annan reisti/retti [hann] eptir Thorb" 

The inscription translates into something like the Rune carver has raised a stone for his son and raised another in memory of someone whose name began with Thor - Thorbjorn, Thorvald, etc.

I confess that it is not the inscription that intrigues me about this cross, rather the fact that this cross includes an image of Heimdall, the Norse gods' sentry, who happens to be the main historical character in my novel, The Son of Nine Sisters.   Although Heimdall is carved on this cross, no evidence exists to support the idea that there was ever a culture, tribe or group that worshiped or sacrificed to him.

I believe this image actually supports that idea and represents the call to the beginning of Ragnarök, the final battle of the Norse gods, rather than highlighting Heimdall as a deity.  As you can see in the enlarged image (left), Heimdall is clearly blowing Gjallarhorn to signal the battle's onset.

Across the Irish Sea, in Cumbria, England, another cross (The Gosforth Cross) depicts another Norse image of a god, which has been identified mistakenly as Heimdall, because he holds a horn in one hand while fighting a beast in the other.  I do not believe this is Heimdall, rather, if it is a god, it is Thor killing the Midgard serpent.  That aligns better with the final battle and Thor's own personality as being able to drink enough mead to lower sea level.  Besides, there is no record or story of Heimdall battling anything other than Loki.

Getting back to the Manx Crosses, The Isle of Man Manx National Heritage Museum is a great resource for learning more about these fascinating stones, including having replicas of some of the stones and a database of illustrated images of all the Manx Crosses.

Long ago, I added the Isle of Man to my places to visit.  How about you?  Have you traveled to the Isle of Man?  Did you see any of these crosses?  If so, please share your experience with us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Runes 301 - Making Your Own Runes 7

The etching has begun!  At long last, I started etching Runes into the cut and carved staves, completing five Runes in this morning's ritual - Laguz, Isa, Ehwaz, Nauthiz, and Kenaz.  Except for Laguz, I chose the other four Runes because of their shape's simplicity.  With Laguz, it was different; I had planned to begin with Isa as it would be the easiest to etch, but Laguz called to me.  I think this may be, in part, because water is my element; it just felt right to etch the water Rune first.

After the success of my first Rune ritual a couple of weeks ago, I decided that I would have to do a ritual with this part of making my own Runes.  I couldn't merely carve the Rune shapes into the wood; I had to do something special to acknowledge each Rune and its meaning.  To begin, I set out the staves and placed one of my temporary Runes under each one so that I would know which one to engrave into the carved out space on the staves.  Then, I got my tools and my holy water and, following the arc of the Runes as I laid them out on the floor and going behind myself where I sat in front of them, I enclosed us in a circle of water.  Each time I added water to the circle, I said, "water is my element."

Once I completed the water circle, I used the water to clean my tools.  As I dipped each tool into the glass jar of water, I said, "I ask for Freyr's blessing, guided by Aegir, Njord, and Mardoll, that I will carve meaningful Runes on this wood."  I've had a few people ask me why I ask for a blessing from Freyr when I am working with Runes; why not Odin or Heimdall?  When I was collecting the water last summer, I viewed it as a form of fertility, required for life, so plants could grow and so on.  Thinking fertility in that vein, I went to Freyr and he has remained, blessing the water each time.  As for the others, Aegir is the related to the sea and some call him the sea god or the sea personified; Njord is also a sea god, but he is more closely aligned with the power of the sea (providing favorable winds as Viking warriors sailed into battle or on a journey of exploration) and the sea's bounty (providing a good catch of fish); Mardoll is a little less clear, some say she is another name for Freyja, but 'mar' has connections to the sea and some think that Mardoll may be the feminine version of Heimdall, where he is likened to Earth and she to the sea.  Suffice it to say, I have asked for support from all of the Norse deities whom I believe have a connection to the water Rune, Laguz.

Now, I am ready to carve.  I began with Laguz, so I added water beneath the temporary Laguz Rune.  I dipped my finger into my holy water and repeated this chant three times, "Infuse this Rune with the power of water, Laguz, flow."  Then, I held the blank stave over the water and waited nine seconds for the energy to move between the water and the Rune.  With that completed, I engraved Laguz on my first Rune.

I went through the same process with each of the other four Runes and chanted a similar ritual.  Here is what I used and what I said for each one:

Isa.  Fortunately, I live in a place where, at this time of year, ice is plentiful.  I just walked out my front door and grabbed a small handful of icy snow from my front yard.  As I set it down  under the temporary Isa Rune, I repeated, "Infuse this Rune with the power of Ice," then held the Rune over the ice for nine seconds before etching it.

Ehwaz.  I had no Yew tree branch to use, so I substituted a piece of cherry for it, acknowledging that in my chant, before carving it.  "Infuse this Rune with the strength and power  of the Yew tree."

Nauthiz.  This one may have been my most creative.  Nauthiz is the Rune of need and necessity.  I could have chosen food, water, shelter, but I chose love, represented by a heart my daughter made for me last year that I keep on my desk.  My chant for this was around the idea of the greatest need at any moment.  I see love as a driving force behind helping you get what you need.  "Infuse this Rune with the ability to see the greatest need."

Kenaz.  The torch.  As you can guess from the picture, I used a candle, but not just any candle.  This is a meditation candle and, given that the torch is sometimes likened to creativity and enlightenment, a good fit when we are using the Runes for guidance.  We must be aware of ourselves and honest about who we are and what guidance we seek if we expect the true wisdom of the Runes.  When I held the stave over the candle I was amazed at the way the smoke swirled and wrapped itself around the soon-to-be Kenaz Rune.  "Infuse this Rune with the enlightenment and creative action that comes with the light offered by the torch."

This week, I hope to complete the rest, so that I can stain them next week, but I would love some ideas on symbols to use to represent some of the Runes.  I have a few thoughts, but am open to suggestions.  If you have ideas, here are the Rune I'd like help with.  Please leave a comment on this post with your suggestion.  If you don't see a Rune listed here on which you want to comment, you can do that too.

Uruz - Aurochs, the ox; Thurissaz - the giant or thorn; Ansuz - communication, Odin; Raido - riding; Perthro - board game, social gathering, friendly competition; Berkana - birch, beginnings; Mannaz - humanity, humans; and Othala - homestead, inheritance.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Laguz

This week, I choose to honor Laguz, the Rune of water.  The saying, "Go with the flow," has been crossing my mind a lot lately, so I decided it was time to investigate why.  My question is how can we work with Laguz to go with the flow?  For me, in particular this week, this represents many potential shifts coming my way both personally and professionally.  I hope this relates to something in your life as well.

 Laguz has the position of prominence in the accompanying image, since it is the Rune I seek to work with this week.  Just briefly, this Rune represents water and the mysteries associated with it.  In some ways, it is the unknown depths of the water that I am focusing on here.  This also represents the subconscious.  Perhaps we must summon our subconscious to successfully "go with the flow".

When I received Ansuz first, I was unclear about its relationship to Laguz in this situation.  This Rune represents the gods, more specifically perhaps, Odin.  It is also the Rune of communication.  I was confused by this draw, because, while I appreciate Odin, I have never felt an affinity towards him.  I decided I needed to draw another rune to provide me with guidance on how to interpret Ansuz.  I got Eihwaz, the Yew tree Rune.  The yew tree represents protection in the sense of toughness, standing one's ground.  This helped me to realize that, for me to go with the flow of Laguz, all I need to do is use my one of greatest strengths, relating to communication - the power of speech and articulation.  These attribute flow most freely from me.  What is your best communication tool?  Remember, it should come effortlessly to you and align with letting things flow.  It can be art work, a compliment, a gesture; communication happens in many ways, some obvious and others quite subtle.

I was pleased to see Fehu in second position, especially after my Rune ritual of two weeks ago using this Rune.  (On a side note, I believe the ritual worked well and I plan to do more ritual posts and also repeat the Fehu ritual personally.)  While we refer to Fehu as the money Rune, it doesn't have to mean only money; it can mean wealth more broadly.  Whatever form of wealth we are seeking flows to us more easily when we are using our most positive characteristics.  That is why I reach for speaking and articulation as my communication strengths.  These are the tools I use to communicate most effectively.  Using that aspect of myself will bring wealth to me easier than if I try to paint a picture or run a computer simulation, because those are not my strengths.

Finally, we have Gebo, the gift Rune.  This is more the idea of giving a gift than receiving one; it's giving without expectation of reciprocity.  Maybe we should think of it as karma Rune.  Giving  gifts will attract its own rewards and give its own benefits.  The question is, what are we giving?  We are giving our greatest tool, the best mode of communication we have.  Simply put, when we want to communicate (or participate) with the world and we utilize our greatest strengths in a giving way to do it, not only do these gifts flow out of us, but they will flow back to us in the form of the greatest strengths of others.

Try to let things flow this week and let me know how it goes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bittersweet Situations

How many times have you experienced something bittersweet?  These situations create conflict within us, split us between happy and sad, joy and frustration, discomfort and peace.  How do we manage them, temper ourselves, and stay focused?  Having experienced a situation like this recently, I decided to look to the Runes for some insight into managing this situation.

We begin with Nauthiz, the Rune of need and necessity.  On some level, this Rune is associated with negative emotions, I would say, in this instance, depicting a struggle.  This is a good summary of bittersweet, for it is a struggle between positive and negative emotions.  At the same time, there is almost a warning being stated that we must proceed with caution and care.  This is especially important to keep in mind, because bittersweet moments almost always involve someone else and, whether they are on the receiving end of the positive aspect of the situation or the negative, we must acknowledge that they are part of the moment.  Beyond that, Nauthiz also tell us that we must act with discipline and, by so doing, become able to do more than just move beyond an uncomfortable situation to actually reaping benefits from it.  In essence, we need to let the situation motivate us in a positive way, to make our own situation better.

Of course, that does not mean that we have to negate our own feelings and emotions in this situation.  But, Algiz, the Rune of protection and self-defense is there to help with that aspect of it.  Coupled with Nauthiz, Algiz helps us to see that, as we move through this moment in our lives, it is okay for us to experience both sides of our emotions.  It is good to see a loved one achieve an important goal or be recognized for their work.  At the same time, it is okay to feel sad that you have not yet achieved something you set out to do.  Although I did not draw Jera around this question, it is important to point out that this experience is a step in our own process, that we have to go through it to get to our goal.  Algiz just reminds us that this frustrating part is okay and that we can be happy for the person who is reaping benefits now and that we can build on this experience for ourselves.

Only if we recognize the split emotions of a bittersweet moment in our lives and realize that, through this process, we can both protect our loved one's feelings, while accepting our own, and make them okay to experience, will we grow and learn.  At that moment, we achieve clarity, which is why, I believe, Dagaz was the final Rune I received this week.  The Rune of day and clarity, Dagaz sheds important light on the situation.  Once we can see things clearly, not only have we processed and accepted the moment, but it helps us move forward in a positive way.  We gain a new understanding and, perhaps, even a refocusing of our goals or the way we were approaching them.

Now, as I watch snowflakes falling gently and seemingly silently in my back yard, I feel a moment of calm and peace, not just because of the view, rather because I realize that the Runes are right; I have successfully traversed this bittersweet situation in my life.  When you have one in yours, I hope that you can return to this post and realize that you can get through yours too.  Have a lovely week!