Monday, May 26, 2014

Runes 401 - Rune Rituals - Freyr's Fertility

Rituals are an important part of my relationship with the Runes.  I don't do them often, February being the last time I conducted one.    Last November, I performed a ritual around the importance of pacing yourself and, before that, it was the end of last summer, when I honored Idunn.

I have been waiting to do this ritual since February, when I acknowledged the return of light (the to the northern hemisphere).  A month later, I acknowledged a very important point in Earth's annual cycle - the equinox.  These were two key times leading up to the moment when I could till the soil and seed the ground.  After an unusually long winter and a short, wet spring, that meant keeping my plants inside for a while longer than usual, planting season has finally arrived along with the optimism that it will yield a bountiful harvest.

A bountiful harvest requires fertile ground and, when I need that kind of fertility, there is only one Norse god whose energy I seek - Freyr, the god of peace and plenty.  It is to his essence that I dedicate my annual planting ritual.

With the soil turned and ready for planting, I go through a three-step process to honor the fertility god.

24 rocks laid out as Ingwaz
First, I lay out 24 rocks in the shape of Ingwaz, Freyr's Rune.  Each rock represents a Rune and I say each one as I lay down a rock to build Ingwaz's shape.  I confess, it wasn't until my third year doing this that I didn't use a reference to make sure I had the Runes in proper order (mostly because I was a little nervous).

Once the rocks are laid out and I have said the name of each Rune as I laid down each rock, I stand and face northwest and say, "I turn this soil in your honor, Freyr."  (Whenever a ritual involves Freyr, I face northwest when chanting or calling to him.  That is my choice for no other reason than it just feels right; I have a friend who faces east to catch the rising sun; so it is your choice.)

Runes laid out as Ingwaz with
dedication plant in the center
Second, I remove the rocks and make a smaller Ingwaz shape with my Runes.  Again, I say each Rune as I lay it down.  I keep this step separate to help show (visualize) how the soil goes from gray/black dirt to the beginning of plant life with a touch of green.  Once the shape is complete, I take one of my plants and place it in Ingwaz's center.  This year I chose 'the runt of the litter', a small melon plant, because I wasn't sure it was going to survive.  With a little TLC, it sprouted a couple of new leaves, signifying to me Freyr's powerful fertility. With the plant in the center, I go around Ingwaz one more time, touching each Rune as I say its name.

To finish this step, I stand and face northwest again and say, "Freyr, I believe in your power to provide fertility to the planet, to nourish the Earth and all things that live here. This plant represents the garden I dedicate to you."

The third step happens after the garden is planted and the green life becomes more obvious.  I have a jar of holy water, received from Freyr through rain, that I sprinkle around the garden.  Expressing my gratitude to the fertility god, I say, "I believe in the power of Freyr to provide fertility to the planet. My gods walk with me and I know that Freyr will nourish my efforts."

My plants waiting to go into the garden
I have completed the first two steps and will complete step three later this week, once my plants are in the ground.

Do you perform any rituals that you're willing to share?  If so, leave a comment on this post or email me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Runes 201 - Individual Runes - Raido

Yes, I know it's been only three weeks since I wrote about another individual Rune - Uruz - but Raido insisted that this week was its turn.  No matter what question I posed, Raido would be part of the draw and it was usually first.  I could not deny it; besides, it feels right to consider Raido today.

I'd like to begin by looking at its relationship to Ehwaz, the horse.  In the post I wrote about the horse Rune, I pointed out what I see as its main features - loyalty, relationships, pilgrimages, and modes of transportation of journeys.  Simply put, Ehwaz (and its attributes) carries us on our journey and Raido is the journey.  Through Ehwaz's attributes, our journey is made easier.  It reminds us that we are not doing this alone.  Even if we feel we are, we must remember the support of and partnerships with friends and family.

With that support in mind, Raido is the voice inside of us beckoning us to get up and live life.  The first line of the Old English Rune poem warns us that it is easy to sit around telling tales, but much harder to actually step onto the path and take a chance.  It also implies that doing so is worthwhile.  As my dad used to say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Which ever way we say it, Raido represents change, which is a requirement for progress.  On some level, it signifies a physical change, such as in location - a move or a new job, maybe even both - but more specifically, it means a major and intentional change in our lives.

We will never get where we want to be if we don't consciously undertake the challenges life presents.  In other words, Raido says, "Don't just sit there while life happens to you; don't allow yourself to be a victim of your circumstances.  Take charge of where your life leads you."  Yes, there are times when we need to sit and contemplate our next steps and make plans, but now is not that time.  Raido tells us the time has come to follow the path we envision for ourselves.  We must take the reins and move or we will be moved in a direction we do not wish to be carried.

We must remember, however, that though this is our journey, you we are not alone and we must be kind to our horse (family and friends who are supporting you) along the way if our ride is going to be successful and smooth, and to make the hills easier to climb.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in History - The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (ASF) possess some distinct characteristics that differentiate it from its predecessor, the Elder Futhark (EF).  Without leaping into the debate about its place of origin, I want to look at its characters (letters) and Rune poem instead.  (I should also say that the ASF names evolved and changed, but I use the EF names, unless I am referring to one of the additional ASF Runes.)

Where the EF has 24 characters, the ASF has 33.  The additional characters were created to accommodate different sounds, such as the 'ior' Rune to make the ia or io sound.  The table below compares the characters of the first 24 letters of the two futharks and shows how some of the characters in the ASF took on different shapes.  The additional ASF letters are presented in the image directly following the table.  We'll get to those shortly.  For now, let's look at the table.  The EF is presented in the lighter colored rows and the characters that have taken on different shapes in the ASF are highlighted in light squares.  Some changes are subtle, such as the slope in Uruz, which can also be depicted as a straight, slanted line; and Sowilo, where the character becomes more vertical than slanted.   Ansuz, Hagalaz, Ingwaz, and Dagaz add lines to their shapes, but the biggest changes are to Kenaz and Jera.  One other note, although I did not do it here, I've seen instances with the ASF where Dagaz and Othala switch places.  In other words, Othala comes before Dagaz.  Although I've seen them listed in this order in the EF, it seems to be a more dominate occurrence in the ASF.

Elder Futhark (light lines) and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (dark lines)
Of course, the ASF has 9 additional Runes, beyond the 24 shown in the table.  They are depicted like this:

The additional letters of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Although the EF derives it meanings from the Anglo-Saxon Rune poem, the poem itself has 29 verses. Still, this means that the final four Runes in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc have no poem verse.  Even with the four additional verses, some of the corresponding Rune meanings are still unclear.

Notice that the second of these additional Runes is identical to the EF version of Ansuz in its shape.  Despite this, it is the newer shape that has the older meaning from the poem.  It is named os and means god.  The 'new' Rune, aesc, means ash.

I listed the meaning of yr as unclear.  This is because I found it interpreted as bow, saddle, a yew, and one source left it named yr.  The final line of its verse has been interpreted in at least three different ways too, calling it war gear, army gear, and reliable equipment for a journey.  If I had to pick one, I would likely go with saddle, though I'd still be unsure.

Also unclear is cweord.  One source listed it as fire, another as a variation of Perthro, whose meaning is not entirely clear either.  Unlike yr, however, cweord does not have a Rune poem verse to aid in understanding its meaning.

It was interesting that ior is interpreted as eel, snake, and beaver by the different sources I found.  Based on the Rune poem verse, I believe beaver is the closest to the verse's meaning, but eel seems to be the most commonly used interpretation.

There is one other Rune in the image at the top of this page.  I am not sure if this is another form of chalice or spear, though it may be a regional variation.  I found it referred to as both and omitted completely from another source.  Again, there is no verse to help explain what it means.

As you can tell from every other post on this blog, I use the Elder Futhark.  Therefore, I am not entirely familiar with the ASF.  What I have attempted to give you here is the briefest of overviews of it to help distinguish some of the different characters and the simplest interpretation of their meanings.  I encourage those of you who have greater knowledge of this Futhark than I do to share your comments on this post.

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc image credit: Copyright: azzardo / 123RF Stock Photo

Monday, May 5, 2014

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Motivation

I don't know about you, but last week has a few high points in crappiness for me, so I decided it's time for some changes, time to take some initiative and get the ball rolling in the direction I want and need it to go.  So, I turned to the Runes and on one quiet morning late last week, and asked them for some guidance, which, of course, turned into an important dialogue about motivation.

Here's the question that was lingering in my head - why is it that, too often, we have to become fed up with the crap before we do anything to make effective, positive, and long-lasting change?  Once I realized that this was my problem at the moment, I was able to begin to change my perspective and ask about the positive motivation I need to move forward on the things I want to do.  It was this shift that led me to talk with the Runes in an effective way.

Me:  Some crappy things happened this week that are weighing on me and I need some positive motivation.  Where should I focus?

Runes:  It sounds as if you have experienced that first half of Hagalaz - the hail storm.  But, remember the other half, the nourishment that hail storm leaves in its wake.  The negative experiences you've had are leading you to the creative solutions you hold within you.  It is a shame that the negative experiences must occur, but you are correct in your recognition that becoming "fed up with the crap" motivates us to make changes.  The trick is going to be ensuring that you bring these changes to fruition, so that the crap or, at least, this crap doesn't happen again.

Me:  That is an excellent point.  Thank you for helping me see this perspective.  Although it would be nice to not have to deal with the crap, through Hagalaz, it can be a great motivator for change.  So, now that I feel ready and motivated to make serious change, how do I know it is time.

Runes:  Ingwaz assures you of that.  This Rune represents Ing, the hero, but it also refers to Ingvi Freyr, the fertility god, a god of peace and plenty.  This is where you should focus your attention, on these attributes - fertility, peace, and plenty.  Like Hagalaz, the characteristics of this Rune indicate a process.  Where Hagalaz's hail storm provided the motivation you needed to shift your focus to your true goals, Ingwaz reminds you that you stand on fertile ground and that fertile ground will bring you peace; through accepting that peace, you have the potential to achieve positive gains.

Me:  You are right, of course.  Thank you for reminding me that I am standing on fertile ground and that it is my choice in how I proceed.  I must decide the challenges I face.  I know the general direction I want and need to go, but how can I ensure that I follow that path as I need to?

Runes:  Begin with careful contemplation.  Create a plan before simply jumping in.  Isa can help with that.  The ice Rune requires not caution, but care.  Tread with care. Be still.  Listen.  Think.  Those are the first steps your motivation should take.

Me:  But what if I lose my motivation?  I am prone to leaping and figuring things out, in large part, as I go.  How do I curb my enthusiasm without losing my motivation?

Runes:  Jera.

Me: (giant grin appears on my face as I kiss this Rune).  That was sneaky; giving me my Rune.

Runes:  Yes, but you know what it means.  It will even motivate you more, I think.

Me:  You are right about that.

Runes:  Jera is your Rune because you need this prompt to keep you moving in your process.  No Rune, more than Jera does that for you.  This Rune, the Rune of the year and the harvest screams out time to you.  You must take the required time to bring your forward motion to fruition so that you end up where you want to be.  Encompassed within it is the process that Ingwaz showed you.  You are starting on fertile ground and you will find peace through Isa's wisdom and unleashing the creativity of Hagalaz's second half.  Do you see the interlinked processes?

Me:  I do.  Thank you.  One last question.  What tool do I need to assist me along the way?

Runes:  You must use the greatest tool you possess on this front - Ansuz.

Me:  Of course.  Ansuz incorporates not only communication, which will be indispensable, but the gods and the idea of the mouth of a river.  I am standing at the mouth of the river after a rough journey over open seas.  Now, the path narrows and leads to my goals.  The gods will be with me on this journey as they always are and I will use one of my greatest assets - communication.  Thank you.