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."