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.