Monday, February 24, 2014

Runes 102- Book Reviews - Rudiments of Runelore

Rudiments of Runelore by Stephen Pollington, is a quirky little book that I'd recommend to anyone who is interested in gaining a more academic understanding of the Runes and their origins and historical use as an alphabet.  In his book, Pollington avoids the New Age slant on Runes, instead approaching them from a very linguistic and Viking-Age and earlier perspective.

I really liked that he stated flatly that his intention was "to look at the runes themselves, their origins, what they were used for and how they were used."  He follows what he calls a common sense approach, addressing questions like what Runes are and where they originated.

All of this he does primarily from an Anglo-Saxon perspective, which is interesting, because many people come at the Runes with a purely Norse perspective even when using the Elder Futhark.  We must remember, though, that the Runes are Germanic, which includes at least Germany, Scandinavia, England, and the Netherlands.

When discussing Rune origins, Pollington comes from two locations and is potentially talking about two different sets of shapes that are considered runic.  In northern Europe and southern Scandinavia, he cites geometric shapes that occur in rock carvings, such as zig-zags, circles, and crosses.  The other location is in the southern Alps and links to an alphabetic script related to Etruscan writing.  Beyond this, Pollington walks his readers through how Germanic people may have come to use Runes and assures us that Runes were used widely by about 1800-2000 years ago.  Though not a primary concern of the book, he does mention and relate some uses to magical purposes.

Perhaps supporting his academic approach, he includes the Rune poems in both their native language and an English translation, as he does base arguments on them.  Even Pollington's interpretation of each Rune and its meaning bears his academic background and a fair bit of linguistic information, but offer some intriguing ideas.  For example, he refers to Hagalaz as the first winter Rune and Isa as the last before Jera brings spring.  Perhaps the interpretation that most caught my eye was Nauthiz, within which he includes distress and adversity.  This is quite a different idea on the notion of need and, in fact, is the emotional aspect or result of having a need.

Pollington also includes a section on Runic cryptography, whereby Runes are used in written (Latin alphabet) texts to serve as secret codes.  There are plenty of examples of this provided too.  Still, one of the most engaging bits of information in this book comes in chapter 5, when Pollington discusses the Norfolk 'Tiw' Runes.  I won't give it away here; I encourage you to read it.  All I will say is it has to do with the word 'alu' and gives a few examples as to how it may have been used.

This book is great for people who are still trying to get a sense of the Runes and would like a solid grounding in factual information, that is to say what is actually known, before venturing off into different perspectives.  Don't let the word 'academic' taint this book.  It's not dry or boring as the word might imply.  It is interesting.  Between this book and The Rune Primer, the reader can establish a good foundation for exploring and using the Runes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Runes 301 - Making Your Own Runes - Driftwood

Rune set of driftwood for Maggie Mae
I'm so happy to return to this series and share a beautiful set of Runes with you that were made by Maggie Mae.  The story of this set, as told to me, is so poetic, I won't even try to rewrite it.  I will just transcribe how these beautiful Runes came to be.  It flows like a poem,so that is how I am presenting it:

Rune set of ocean driftwood
Made by Maggie Mae in Cornwall, UK
Driftwood pieces were collected
Whilst we walked by the sea
Day after day

They were chosen for her
This Rune set
Because of her deep and long relationship with the sea

Each was cleaned
And blessed
And made during the full moon
The burning cooled in ice
Then mated to her
With an application of her blood

They gained from placement
In the light of the moon
And the sun
And were kept close for bonding
She and they are as one
And no one else
Save one black cat named Suki
Ever touches them

I wish my Rune set had such poetic origins.  What is especially impressive is how subtly the story weaves the way that the Runes were made into these poetic verses.

Thank you, to my friend, Håkon, for sharing this beautiful story and Rune set with me and allowing me to share it with you.  Håkon didn't know this at the time he shared his story, but my husband also calls me Maggie Mae and I, too, have long loved the ocean, so this story was especially sweet for me.

I hope it will inspire you to create a uniquely personal set of Runes for yourself too.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Runes 401 - Rune Rituals - Othala

This was an entirely unplanned event - a ritual around Othala.  In fact, I was going to try something new in the bind Rune series, but as I drew the Runes, I realized that they were showing me something that is, in fact very old... Othala.  This Rune represents the homestead, inheritance, even family.  As I drew three more Runes - Sowilo, Mannaz, and Laguz, I realized the Runes were painting a picture for me, so I decided to paint a picture using these Runes, while telling the story.

I preface this by assuring you that I am not a painter, nor do I have aspirations to be that type of artist, but I will share this image with you and hope that you will appreciate the story and go easy on the art.  In fact, the point of this ritual is the story.

Here is the picture I painted during the ritual:

And here is the story it tells:

Othala is our foundation; it represents our family.  In this story, it goes even a step further, a step deeper to signify the human species.  It shelters us, which is why Mannaz is placed directly underneath of it, so that we may appreciate our place of shelter and all that it protects.  Our shelter is built of earth and gives our family a place to gather without threat.

While our world is built of earth (and is Earth), two other elements support our life force - sun and water in the forms of Sowilo and Laguz, which is why they are on either side of Mannaz and almost appear to physically support Othala.  Sowilo is the sun that empowers us through the energy it provides not just for us, but for our food and all other life forms on the planet.  We also need water, another basic necessity for life, which Laguz gives us.  Laguz nourishes us, cleanses us and serves as primary means of transport.

To complete our story, I was compelled to paint a white circle around this image.  On the simplest of levels, the circle can represent the protection of our family and our home.  On another simple level that has become complex, it can symbolize our atmosphere, which locks in everything we need to live our lives on Earth, including the air we breathe.  It is white, because it is subtle, barely visible, but without it, we would not be here.  Within that lies the complexity of how we care for Earth as our home and not just our dwelling as our home.

As I painted the circle, I simply breathed deeply and realized that what I had done through this painting and story telling ritual was to create an image that, for me, is humans' existence on Earth and that Othala affords us the daily comfort we need to survive, but that there is so much energy around it from Laguz and Sowilo, that we live among many luxuries, like creativity and love, which we don't always embrace or share widely enough.  Therein lies my original goal - trying something new - by embracing and sharing the love and creativity that surrounds us.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Runes 403 - Runes Interpretations - Return of Light

All week I've been thinking that I wanted to do something related to the sun and the increasing daylight hours in the northern hemisphere.  At the last minute, I balked at the idea and, instead, asked the Runes what they would like me to talk about. 

The first Rune I drew was Sowilo, the sun Rune.  So,okay; it looks like I was on the right track; the Runes want me to write about the return of light too.  The specific focus of its return seems to be on us as individuals and what we can do to be kind to ourselves.  This gives the "Return of Light" almost a double meaning.  The first is obvious - increased daylight.  The second is more personal - shedding of a dark mental or emotional time and how we can embrace sun's returning energy and allow it to help us lift ourselves into its light.

Interestingly, the next Rune I drew was Perthro, which, in this instance, seems to focus on the self - you - rather than the group or social gathering.  Even though Perthro tends to be about forming bonds of friendship by engaging in games or sharing a drink (some sort of social encounter), this time, in this draw, it looks at a deeper issue of being happy and makes us look at whether we are happy with ourselves.  We cannot form true bonds of friendship (or any relationship) if we are not doing something to fulfill ourselves separate from our relationships to others.  We must be happy with ourselves and/or have something in our own lives that makes us happy as individuals so that when we engage with others we can do it wholeheartedly.

When I pulled Nauthiz as the last Rune, I paused and asked for clarification.  Drawing Mannaz in response to my clarification request assured me that our focus should be on ourselves right now.  Nauthiz is the Rune of need.  In essence, it restricts our options and forces us to make tough choices.  Let's use a few cliches to make the point - When push comes to shove, when backed into a corner or when our back is against the wall what do we do?  We make those tough choices and generally come out the better for doing it.  There is something that we need for ourselves, so that we can make the most of Sowilo.

The message in this draw has clearly been that light is returning, we need to make the most of it and we need to do that by focusing on ourselves and doing what we need for ourselves to be happy.  That can definitely put us in a position where we have to make tough choices.  However, in this instance, I think the choice is positive - doing something for ourselves.  It may not always be easy, but it is necessary, because it affects not only our mental and emotional state, but those around us.