Monday, October 7, 2013

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - Northern Mysteries and Magick

"Everything in this book must be tested in the reader's own experience."  This statement, in Lionel Snell's forward, is a pretty good summation of Freya Aswynn's book Northern Mysteries and Magick: Runes and Feminine Powers, at least as far as trying out her take on divination, Rune magic and such are concerned.

While I confess I liked this book more than Thorsson's Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Study, I had some of the same struggles with it.  Once again, I found myself wanting to understand many of her statements and conclusions.  I am not saying she is wrong; in fact, she is well-versed and knowledgeable, but there are no citations, few references, and many statements that seem to be nothing more than her opinion or based on her experience.  Now, I know this book is largely that - based on her experience - which is why I liked the the Snell quote, but I feel she misses many opportunities to allow her readers to dig deeper into understanding the Runes on their own terms.

After writing so many notes in the margin asking if things were true or how she knows certain things, I was surprised to find a detailed explanation of Odin's encounters with Gunlodd and Rind near the end of the book.  I don't view these as good examples of feminine power, rather how Odin used them to get what he needed.

I had hoped for more consistency throughout the book in understanding the role of feminine powers in Rune use.  In the same vein, although I understand why Aswynn included a chapter on Norse gods, I would have like to see a chapter on the goddesses come first, rather than having them appear as part of a larger chapter on feminine mysteries right at the end of the book.  Moreover, at least two goddesses were missing that I think could have been included, Sif and Sigyn.  For me, Sif is a fertility goddess, related to making mead, while Sigyn represents loyalty and comforts those who are sorrowful or in pain..  I view both of these goddesses as care givers, a very important and powerful feminine trait.

That said, there were many things I enjoyed about the book.  For example, I like her perspective and how she told her story about coming to understand and use the Runes.  Even though I have no affinity to astrology and having nothing to do with occult knowledge,  I appreciate that these are part of and that they inform her experience.  In addition, she introduces a variety of divination methods, including a few different options using drawn wheels with consciousness levels laid out around them; worth considering for those interested in trying new ways of deepening their connection to or understanding of the Runes.  Much of what she presents is her own design, but through seeing how she interprets and uses Runes and creates casts, we can improve our own understanding of and ability to work with the Runes.

With regard to her individual Rune interpretations, I leave that for each reader to decide, because whether or not you agree with her explanations for each Rune, reading and processing them is how you will learn to define each Rune's meaning for yourself.  I will, however, give one example of an interpretation that resonated with me, because I found it empowering and overflowing with the feminine energy I was looking for when I got this book.

The Rune is Raido, the Rune of riding, implying travel, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  Aswynn truly capitalizes on this idea and takes it many steps further, likening Raido not only to movement or motion, but to taking charge of a situation and moving it forward in a directed and conscious way.  She uses phrases like, "to move within one's natural limits", "establishing control over one's circumstances", and "moral responsibility and integrity".  Perhaps my favorite and the most inspiring line in this description of Raido was, "working with the force of Raido means to be in charge of one's own path in life."  How profound to connect the riding Rune with your life's path on all levels.

That is empowering! That is what I hoped and needed to get out of this book.  The feminine aspects are there; sometimes they are just a little hard to find.  Still, I consider this an important book for any library dedicated to studying and understanding the Runes.

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