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?