Monday, March 31, 2014

Runes 202 - Bind Runes - Life's pursuits

I began a line of questioning with the Runes today that I intended to relate to job searches, changing careers, and the like.  However, as I contemplated and interpreted the meaning of the three Runes I received - Kenaz, Laguz, and Fehu - I realized that I was limiting them to a single parameter in life, when they applied easily to many pursuits.

Not only could I not confine these Runes, but I wanted to strengthen them by binding them together.  The final product may not look pretty, but it is a powerful reminder of a positive mindset as we endeavor into life's pursuits.

Although it's not the prettiest or most balanced bind Rune I've made, I love it just for the open visual.  This Rune looks like it is open to so many possibilities.  Beyond the visual, the Runes that are bound here are very uplifting.

I drew Kenaz first and its simplicity is revealed in this position.  Commonly referred to as the Rune of the light or torch, Kenaz represents human made fire, made using human creativity and knowledge.  This indicates to me that we should pursue those things that come naturally to us or that we have worked hard to learn and master.  That is where we will find satisfaction.  Even if it is not possible to undertake these things to earn a living, they must remain an active part of our lives, for they feed our joy.

Laguz was next.  Though I often say, "go with the flow" when this Rune appears, it is not simply a matter of kicking back and letting things happen to us.  We must still be active, preferably proactive in life's pursuits.  While we should try not to let things stress us out, we must also realize that life does not flow directly from A to B.  In other words, it's not going to be easy, but if we follow Kenaz (doing the things that come naturally or that we have worked hard to master), it will be worth it.  The thing to remember is that, like the depths of the sea, life is full of mysteries and, like the river making its way across the floodplain to the sea, life is also full of twists and turns, calm waters and rapids.  If we sit back and do nothing, those aspect's of life are going to kick our asses.  We have to navigate these parameters consciously.

I laughed a bit when I saw the final Rune - Fehu.  It seems to be counter to the implication of the first two Runes.  Where they suggest guiding our lives toward joy and contentment, Fehu is the cattle Rune' money; suggesting that money is the happiness we seek.  However, two points stand out against this idea.  First, whereas cattle used to be a form of 'money', in broader terms, it represents wealth and today wealth cannot be measured in terms of financial prowess alone.  The second point ties directly into that idea, because the Rune poems claim that those who have money should dole it out in abundance, essentially share the wealth, and that money is the source of a lot of arguments with loved ones.  In essence, don't put all your eggs in one basket - don't make financial wealth you're only goal.  Good health, good friends, a loving family, work that you enjoy or that allows you to do the things you enjoy, these are all aspects of wealth.  So, Fehu is not counter to Kenaz or Laguz; rather it reinforces them by making you consider the types of rewards you want to achieve through Kenaz and Laguz.

Separately, these three Runes offer important guidance in the pursuit of life.  Together, they unite our natural talents and acquired knowledge with our abilities to proactively navigate the twists, turns, and mysteries of life, and realize that money is only a single goal within and along that path; we will be far richer in the end, if we pursue good health, loving relationships, and activities we enjoy as we pursue financial security.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Runes for the Equinox

Equinox Skies
At the end of last week, we celebrated the Equinox (spring up north, and autumn down south), a time of year with which I have long been fascinated.  Twelve hours of daylight and darkness everywhere on the planet.  Balance.  I find this to be an incredibly important time for us to pause and think about the balance in our own lives, about what it means, how we find it, and what we can do to maintain it.

To that end, I asked the Runes for their guidance in understanding balance in our lives.  I drew - Sowilo, Raido, and Othala.  This response gave me pause to sit with the Runes for a while, so that I could fully understand the wisdom they offered.

Sowilo is a powerful first Rune to draw, especially given that our launching point is the equinox, which implies balance between light (the sun/day) and dark (the night). However, the message here relates to energy, specifically the feminine energy that the sun holds within Germanic cultures.  Sowilo reminds us that in a world dominated by masculine energies - assertiveness, aggression, and personal drive - the feminine gets relegated to the periphery.  It is those feminine features - caring for others, artistic creativity, time for relaxation and reflection - that balance the masculine.  Sowilo's Rune poem (Old English version) also makes clear the importance of navigating the seas using the sun.  I find this to be an incredibly powerful metaphor for society today.  As we navigate our world, we must be guided by the feminine aspects of it.  Notice I did not say ruled.  However, that does not mean that we should be ruled by masculine powers either, rather that the two must balance each other.

I find Raido, in second position, to be quite intriguing.  In general, Raido relates to riding or travel, but it implies doing so on a horse's back. What this suggests is that, to find balance, sometimes we need a new perspective or to have a new experience.  Both of these ideas fit very well with the notion of balance.  If you are doing something that is throwing you off balance, you have two options - try to do it differently (look at it from a different perspective) or try something new, something completely different.  Raido assures us that it is easy to theorize about things, about how things could or should be, but it is quite another to climb on the metaphorical horse and let it take you in a new direction or reconfigure your current path.  In this way, Raido tell us that something has to change in order for balance to be realized.

The final Rune is Othala, which gave me the most pause in trying to discern how it relates to balance.  Then, it became very clear for two very important reasons.  First, why do we need balance in our lives, to have a "happy home", to be content .  Othala as the homestead and inheritance Rune reminds us that, if we are out of balance, it affects all aspects of our life and all those in our lives, especially the people to whom we are closest - our family.  Second, our children (those who inherit from) inherit not only our finances ( money, property, and the like), but our morals/values and, in general, our actions.  If we teach them that masculine aspects of the world are more important than the feminine, we are passing on our own imbalance to them.  If we never teach them to try something new, that it's okay to make mistakes or how to learn from them and gain a new perspective, we pass on our imbalance.  Changing the imbalance or, more appropriately, focusing on finding balance, begins now, with us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Ogham Alphabet

Ogham, Image credit:
vrindavana / 123RF Stock Photo
Today is March 17th, Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland, which got me thinking about their ancient alphabet, Ogham.  I didn't know much about it before I researched it for this post, but it does seem to share more similarities with Runes than the Theban Alphabet does. However, what makes this alphabet most interesting to me is its link to trees.

Just as Berkana represents the birch, so too does the 'b' in Ogham.  In contrast, while Isa, the 'i' Rune represents ice, the Ogham's 'i' is the yew tree, which is Eihwaz in Runes.  For a full listing of Ogham names, you can check out this link.  I should also mention that the use of Ogham for divination purposes relates primarily to these meanings and is referred to as the 'tree Ogham'.

With potential origins ranging from being a secret code used by Irish Christians to an invention of Druids in Gaul, the Ogham's origins are shrouded in uncertainties. It is believed that Ogham was modeled after another script, with the Runes listed as one potential source, but Latin and Greek are also listed as possibilities.

Another uncertainty is the timing of its onset.  The range I found begins with the Gaulish Druids around 600 BCE through the 4th Century, although the earliest inscriptions that remain date to the end of that time frame - the 3rd or 4th centuries.

Whereas 'Runes' tend to be related to similar meanings, such as 'whisper' or 'secret', Ogham's potential meanings present another similarity to them.  They include a reference to the Irish god Ogma and an Irish phrase that means point seam, which is the seam made by a sharp weapon.  Both of these do have potential.  As much as the Runes are associated with Odin during his famous sacrifice hanging on the tree for nine days, before snatching them up, so too, in Irish Mythology, Ogma is credited with creating the alphabet named after him.  However, the idea of the seam carved by a weapon carries equal if not more weight given that (as we shall see shortly) Ogham is written along seams on stones.

Both Runes and Ogham are carved into natural fibers, such as wood and stone.  Moreover, just as many Runestones are carved in honor or memory of someone and establish lineage, so too do Ogham inscriptions, with most having a formula like - X son of Y.  Although Runic inscriptions are found in a larger geographical area, from Italy to Greenland and Sweden to Russia and Romania, they share ground with Ogham inscriptions in Scotland, England, and on the Isle of Man and Ireland, the latter being where Ogham dominates.  Within these countries, nearly 400 Ogham inscriptions have been found.

However, where Runes are carved on the face and/or sides of stones, Ogham is carved at the edge; this relates to the 'weapon seam' noted above.  For example, the figure to the right, shows what my name would look like carved or written in Ogham.  On a stone, it would be carved vertically along the edge from bottom to top.  In a manuscript, it would be horizontal from left to right.  The vertical version would have been carved into stones and is referred to as the orthodox version.  Due to its manuscript format, the horizontal depiction is called the scholastic version.

As we celebrate St.Patrick's Day today, it should be noted that while the earlier Orthodox version of Ogham would have no longer been used in Saint Patrick's time, the Scholastic Ogham would have.  In fact, it was used until the 16th century.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Following Two Paths

Through my most recent dialogue with the Runes, the importance of posing a question just right so that you can understand the answer the Runes offer and so they can understand the true intent of the question being asked, became very clear.  In other words, you have to ask what you want to know.  Don't be vague.

After about twenty minutes of engaging with the Runes over the weekend, I realized we were dancing around the actual question that I needed to ask.  More importantly, perhaps, I was waiting for the Runes to present themselves when what I needed to do was put forth the first Rune myself. Once that was sorted, I laid down Jera as the starting point.
Jera is the year Rune, the Rune of the harvest and the implied cycle or process to achieving a bountiful one.

As I set down this Rune to restart my conversation with the Runes, I asked how I can manage my time over the next year to 18 months as I follow two paths forward - one for my current situation and one that leads to a different future.  Essentially, how can I maintain the path I am required to be on right now, while ensuring that it will lead me to the path I want for the future?

The Runes responded by showing me Laguz, the water Rune.

Me:  Ah, Laguz.  But, you see, part of the problem is that I cannot relax and go with the flow.  I understand that I cannot push the river (control where and how water moves), but I need to define some sort of course to help me move forward.

Runes: Mannaz reminds you of who you are.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Me:  I don't understand.  What is the link between Laguz and Mannaz that you are wanting me to see?

Runes:  Fehu is a bad focus for making your plan.  Laguz is more than flow.  Many mysteries lie below its surface.  If you wish to focus on exploring those mysteries, you must be aware of your weaknesses.  Right now, that weakness is focusing on money.  You showed me Jera to start this, so focus on the process.  Even if money is the ultimate goal (or one of them), your focus should be on the next step, not on the final one.

Me:  Oh, I see now.  Thank you for that clarification.  You are correct and I do tend to jump ahead; that is why I laid Jera.  How do I stay focused on taking a single step at a time?

Runes:  Thurisaz will guide you.

Me:  But Thurisaz is a very powerful Rune and, if not managed well, the power unleashed by it can turn to chaos and create even more trouble.  That would not be good.

Runes:  You are a warrior, are you not?  Tiwaz shows you the warrior you are. Remember that one of the key aspects of a warrior is her strategic ability. You can manage your own power unleashed through Thurisaz.  Channel that power.  Do not be afraid.

Me:  That is true; I am a warrior, but I am also weary of letting my power get way from me, but you are right, I should not be.  And, what will happen if I do unleash it and maintain it?  If I can stay focused on each step and not jump ahead?

Runes:  These are the Runes you want to see in the future - Raido, Dagaz, and Wunjo.  If you trust in your abilities, and unleash them with focus and direction, this is the path that will reveal itself to you in the future.  Raido is your travel on  all aspects of this path.  It will lead you to a point where you can see things clearly, though they may not be so clear right now.  Once you can see things clearly and have a sense of where things are, you will be happier.

Me:  These are good Runes.  Thank you.  That is what I need to do - see opportunities clearly.  I am nervous about how good these Runes are though.

Runes:  You know the Norns.  Raido is your past (Urd) and path, the one that has led you this moment (Verdandi), where you are beginning to see shimmers of light from Dagaz, an end to an arduous journey.  Wunjo is what should be, according to Skuld.  It is still up to you to bring it to fruition.  Realizing that happiness is within your power can be overwhelming, but if it is what you truly seek, you will find a way to guide this path to it.  What you must decide is whether or not this is the path that will get you to Wunjo.

Me:  Thank you for your wisdom.  You have shown me how to follow two paths to secure my current situation and ensure my future one by looking simply at the next step and not focusing on the ultimate goal.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Runes 301 - Making Your Own Runes - Ash Keys

Ask-Key Runes
 "Crying out loud, I grasped the Runes." She heard these words from Havamal during a seidr trance.  At the same time, she saw Odin hanging from Yggdrasil.  As he hung there, he reached out for bunches of ash keys from the branches of the great tree.  On each key, a Rune was marked, glowing red, like coals.

This seidr trance image and words from Havamal, inspired my friend, Polly, to make this shimmering set of ash-key Runes, which she says are not as fragile as they look.  She keeps them safe in a special box, but pulls out three Runes as she needs them.

For those of you wondering or unsure, ash keys are the winged seed of an ash tree.  In the US, the maple key is probably the most familiar kind of key.  When I was a kid, we called them helicopters; others called them whirlybirds.  How ever you identify them, if I saw Polly's ash keys floating to the ground, etched with Runes, I'd scoop them up straight away.

Polly's experience and success in making these Runes has inspired me to attempt making another set of Runes for myself.  I love lilacs and love the leaves on lilac bushes almost as much as I love the flowers and their fresh, spring time smell.  The shape and rich color of the leaves have captivated me.  So, this spring, I will pick some lilac leaves off the bush in my yard, dry them and paint them with the Runes.  I will let you know how it goes.

Polly told me to dry them on a paper towel on a cookie sheet, turning them each day, so that the towel doesn't get damp.  She was worried her ash keys would crumble, but, as the picture above shows, they clearly did not.  In fact, though not red like coals, her ash-key Runes do almost glow.

If you'd like to learn more about the Runes and Heathen history from Polly, you can 'like' her facebook page, Seidkona's Hearth.  She also writes a blog of the same name with lots of interesting history of England, including articles she submits to magazines.  That link is here.

And, if you have a set of Runes that you'd like to share, please post them in a comment below or email them to me with the subject - Runes to share.