Saturday, July 22, 2017

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - Runes: Ancient Scripts

I came to the Runes through academic channels, which may be why Martin Findell's book, Runes: Ancient Scripts, caught my eye.  Though it's short, Findell provides a reasonable overview of the Runes as an alphabet, which is the primary goal of his book.

There are a number of aspects of this book that I like.  First, for those who are new to Runes, the writing isn't too dense; it does a good job of providing background on the Runes as a form of writing and communication.  And, although most of you who read my blog are engaged with Runes as an oracle, we should understand both sides of this coin.  Findell explains what Runes are in terms of a writing vehicle; he follows a chronology as the Runes changed and split from the original Futhark to the Anglo Saxon Futhorc and the Younger Futhark used in Scandinavia during the Viking Age.  I like the fact that he suggests there may have been more than a single original version of the Futhark.  There is some truth behind it if for no other reason than the existing examples of the Runic writing are scarce and there are inconsistencies in form.  It is similar to different dialects in language.

In his chapter on Rune names, Findell shows us one of the most interesting images in the entire book.  It is an 18th century copy "of an earlier late 10th-/11th-century manuscript [that] preserves the earliest [copy] of the rune-poems from which we can learn about the tradition of runes-names." The picture is from a book by George Hickes, an English Divine (church clergy) and scholar who lived from 1642-1715.  Some researchers believe that the Rune Poems were used as a way of remembering the letters of the Futharks.  I can see that given the ABC songs we are taught as children.  In modern times, we have adopted the meanings named in the poems to serve as the foundation for using Runes as an oracle.

The other insightful piece of Findell's book is his chapter on the work of Runologists.  From an academic and historical perspective, his explanation begins to lend an eye to the depth of work that has transpired to develop our understanding of runic writing and the cultures and environments in which runic inscriptions were made.  Runology, while being its own area of academic study, incorporates work in numerous disciplines - linguistics, archeology, art history, literary history, and cultural history.  I could also see anthropology and geography fitting into that mix.  Findell shares some of the challenges with interpreting inscriptions as well as the processes used to gain a full understanding of each object and not simply figuring out what is carved on it.

In his final chapter, Findell includes a nod to MR James and JRR Tolkien, but claims that there is seldom any connection between "fantasy Runes" (those developed by James and Tolkien in their books) and real Runes.  I would amend that slightly to suggest that the mistake is that some readers take James and Tolkien at face value and consider their fantasy Runes to be the real ones.  Next, he touches on the Nazi misappropriation of Runes, something that still taints the Runes and their surrounding culture.

Where I feel Findell goes astray is near the end when he seems to condemn modern uses of Runes for divination, stating that new age or pagan magic is perhaps the most prevalent present-day use of Runes.  While that remark is true, the tone of his writing changes and he seems to denounce it, stating, "Most pagan books or websites will mention the historical use of Runes as writing, but this is treated as something secondary to their symbolic and oracular function."  He further suggests that the Runes are viewed primarily as magical symbols and function as a writing vehicle "only secondarily and incidentally".  I largely disagree with this, for while Findell points out that most "pagan books and websites" present the Runes as an alphabet secondarily, that is because their primary purpose is to present them as an oracle, just as Findell presents them primarily as a written language and discusses modern uses secondarily.

I am sure there are some people who see the Runes as nothing more than a divination tool.  However, my experience has been that those who take Runes seriously and are dedicated to them as an oracle give equal credence to their history, historical culture, and role as a writing form.  This is actually why I reviewed this book; not to correct his assumptions about the Runes as an oracle, but rather to share information about the Runes as a writing vehicle, which we come to understand through the complex and multi-faceted approach that academics, like Findell, take in their work to unravel the mystery and history of the Runes and the cultural of which they were a part.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Runes 403 - Rune Interpretations - Forward Progress

Last week's Solstice got me thinking about cycles and balance, because the latter is not constant.  It comes in cycles, just like the Solstices and Equinoxes.  Equinoxes represent balance (12 hours of daylight and darkness everywhere on the planet), while the Solstices can be seen to to be moments "out of balance" - long summer days and short winter days.

At a time when we are "out of balance", how do we manage to keep making forward progress?  That is the question I posed to the Runes.  At a time when we feel out of balance, how do move forward and not let everything around us that is making us feel off balance over power us?

The Runes presented me with Dagaz, Perthro, and Hagalaz.  I like the circular meanings in this draw and the reminders that each Rune provides.

Dagaz is a very empowering, hopeful Rune.  The day Rune represents the idea that everything is less scary during the day than it is at night.  This works for either Solstice.  In both instances, Dagaz reminds us that we can do this.  For those facing a winter Solstice, it is a message to say that daylight is returning.  Be a little patient.  For those in the summer Solstice, you are in the heart of the day.  Positive energy is all around you.  Absorb it and let it help you to focus and move.

The reminders with Perthro are that we are not alone and that we need to remember to have fun.  Help is there for us.  Maybe knowing this gives us more confidence to actually do it on our own.  We are creating and implementing the plan.  And, we need to remember to have fun.  We have a lot going on and it can weigh us down if we forget to lighten the mood once in a while and what better way to do that than to spend some time being social?

Finally, Hagalaz hits us with hail.  This is a great Rune to end on, because it reminds us that, while things may start off feeling out of balance and like they are beating us down, in the wake there is nourishment.  When the hailstones melt, what's left behind feeds us.  I would argue that, we are responsible for melting the hail and, in doing so, create our own nourishment by tackling the challenges that are trying to knock us off balance.  This is the empowerment that we gain through Dagaz, bringing our interpretation full circle and moving us forward in a positive way.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Runes 303 - Rune Art - Deeper Meanings

Through readings and rituals, the Runes can be very empowering.  They can also provide some great and consistent energy through art.  I've recently started using art to express that very thing and am excited to launch a new series on  this blog as a result: Runes 303 - Rune Art.  Though it wasn't planned, this piece of art turned into something far deeper than the artistic representation I thought I was creating.

I love the coast - the beach, the sea air, the expanse of the ocean, and the life the coastal ecosystem supports.  I wanted to choose three Runes to represent the major aspects of this beautiful natural setting.  I chose Laguz, Ansuz, and Sowilo.


Taking the blank canvass, I wanted to create a background to depict the sand.  Once that was dry, I started to outline the sea with Laguz in the center.  In the upper left, I painted Sowilo to signify the sun.  In the lower right, I placed Ansuz as the embodiment of a river delta or the mouth of the river.  Opposite Sowilo, I made splotchy dots to denote the stars in a night sky.  Opposite Laguz, I painted the tributaries that feed the rivers that leads to the sea.

As I added the finishing touches, I considered the three Runes I chose and realized that they are more than a mere representation of the coastal ecosystem.   I recognized a much deeper meaning to them, one of self-exploration and awareness.

Laguz, the water Rune, is central to the image and beckons us to explore and face the mysteries of the deep where the sea is a metaphor for our subconscious.  The Old English Rune poem warns that people who take to the sea in an unsteady ship will be terribly frightened by the waves.  Similarly, if we venture into new parts of our subconscious, though it might be scary, we must be prepared to accept what is there.  It does not mean that what is there cannot be changed, merely that what we find is the current state.  It is what we do with the recognition of the current state of things that matters.  As we explore, we must remember to look at the good as well as the bad, the accomplishments as well as the challenges.

Having Sowilo above Laguz brings comfort, for Sowilo represents the sun and feminine energies of support and caring.  It lifts spirits and gives hope.  Interestingly, Sowilo's Old English poem mentions the sea-stallion bringing travelers to land, to safety.  This is the same sea stallion mentioned in the Laguz poem that is not heeding its bridle.  When I made this connection, it strengthened the empowerment of the image I had painted.  With Laguz, there is exploration and uncertainty, but Sowilo watches over that uncertainty and provides the space for it to be processed and understood safely.

Ansuz, as the mouth of the river, feeds Laguz, creating an intriguing dynamic when interpreting the image beyond its face.  Ansuz is almost like the beginning, for as the origin of every language (according to the Old English poem), its ideal intention is to provide wisdom and build confidence through knowledge shared.  But, we know that communication does not always follow its intended path.  Though well-intentioned, Ansuz's message can be twisted and contorted in the storms of Laguz, thus creating the challenges an exploration of Laguz might uncover.  In this way, it counters Sowilo nicely to provide balance to the meaning of the image and remind us that we must sometimes pause and reevaluate certain parts of our lives.

I was pleasantly surprised to realize that, through this creative exercise, I had actually produced a piece of art that holds such provocative meaning and insight.  What is especially profound is that what the Runes in this art revealed is exactly the effect that the coast has on me.  When I go to the beach and look out over the ocean, my reality (my current state) becomes much easier to accept and address just by being there.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Runes 302 - Interviews - Kelley Harrell

I am especially pleased to share with you an interview with Kelley Harrell, owner of Soul Intent Arts.  Kelley has been sharing her rune work with me (and many of you) for at least five years, though her practice extends well beyond that.  I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little bit better.  I know I did.

How did you discover the Runes?
I read about them in 8th grade literature, like so many of my generation did.  I was introduced to the Elder Futhark as living items of power by a friend when I was 19.  It was love at first cast.

How long have you been working with them?  How do you use them?
I started working with the Elder Futhark enthusiastically at 19 years old.  I worked with the runes for years, though the resources that were available were very limited and very limiting.  I felt connected to the staves, though not to any interpretation of them that I read.  I thought that meant I was doing something wrong, so I walked away form them as a formal study for a few years.  They popped up in my mind and life, continually, so when I decided to commit to the staves and forgo texts on them, everything came alive.  I'm so glad there are better resources of them now.

What is your favorite way to connect with the Runes?
My path is animistic and shamanic, so asking the spirit of the stave I'm working with to step into my form is very powerful.  I find that embodying them is more sustaining and informing on personal needs than using them in a more traditional divinatory way.  For me, divination isn't about predicting outcomes, rather it's about gathering as much insight as possible about present dynamics, so I can make more informed decisions about how I go forward.  When I hold an intention in mind and embody the stave, I feel its counsel on how to hold my awareness.  It gives me a focus to sustain throughout whatever I need.

How do you use the Rues in your everyday life?  For guidance?  To guide others?
I find that I use them differently for self, as opposed to using them on behalf of others.  For personal use, I connect with them best through galdr, one at a time, and shapeshifting with them as I noted before (in the previous question).  When I work with another person, I ask Heimdallr to oversee the session and give him and the runes access to my awareness, so that when I draw runes for the person, I feel the needed connection to each one as I touch it.  I see the story it wants to relate to the intention that was set forward.  The hardest part of working with others using runes is that they don't sugar coat anything and they are more about giving a perspective on the intention, rather than dictating how to go forward in the intention.

Is there one experience that you've had with the Runes that was especially rewarding, engaging, moving or unexpected?  Will you share it with us?
It wasn't a singular experience, rather a life dynamic that persisted about a year and a half.  I worked with the runes frequently to understand the various currents that were happening during this really difficult time.  I asked them for insight about the true intentions, the best focus I could hold at specific points of the progression, the best focus to take into various meetings, the best way to deal with specific people involved.  Prior to this dynamic, I went tot he runes for insight about diverse needs, usually immediate in timing and short-lived involvements.  There was no longevity to watch how the insights would play out.  This particular dynamic lasted so long and provided such detailed insights over a continuum, I came away even ore convinced of the power of the runes.

The runes were frank, as they always are, though they warned me about hidden motives, things that weren't at all evident in the face-to-face interactions, but became evident as things progressed.  They informed me that the direction was going away from the intended focus of the dynamic.  I truly felt more informed going into meetings because of what the runes taught me along the way.  I sustained my relationship with them as part of a difficult time and they helped me stand in my power throughout it.  They didn't change the outcome; they changed me and how I interacted with the whole ordeal.

What else would you like to share with us about your work with the Runes?
I undervalued the runes for a long time.  Though they spoke to me immediately upon meeting them, I didn't realize their value through everyday life until I committed to them, so to speak.  In shamanism, everything is about direct relationship and that been no less true about the runes.  I really do take them everywhere with me.

Thank you, Kelley, for taking the time to share with us.

Kelley's Bio
Kelley is the author of Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism, Gift of the Dreamtime, and several other books.  Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts, through which she mentors others on the path of modern shaman.  She has written The Weekly Rune, since 2012.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Runes 402 - Rune Dialogues - Equinox and Managing Balance

Since January, many people have contacted me to say that they cannot seem to find their equilibrium.  The passing of the equinox on Monday gave me pause and for perhaps the first time, I really contemplated balance and whether or not it can be attained and, if achieved, how it can be managed.  I decided to consult the Runes on the matter to see what insight they could offer to help me think this through.

My first question was whether such a thing as balance exists in life and the Runes gave me Gebo, which suggests that balance in life is a gift.

Me:  So balance is possible.  What is the secret to achieving it?  And, can it be maintained?

Runes:  Achieving balance requires work and Berkana signals the beginning of that effort.

Me:  How does one begin?

Runes:  It is a process.  Thurisaz reminds you that you have to be strong and focus your energy on this, but Perthro also reminds you that you cannot do it alone.  Do not be so rigid.  Forcing structure into your life is not that same as finding balance.

Me:  So, you're suggesting baby steps?

Runes:  You chose Sowilo as your Rune for this year.  It is a strong supporter of balance.  This is the first step - feminine qualities, self care.  In order to be successful, it is Sowilo that will see you through, provide comfort during those times when your attempt to find or maintain balance fall to the wayside.

Me:  Doesn't Sowilo stand in contrast to Thurisaz?

Runes:  Where the contrasts meet is where balance lies.  You are doing this for yourself, so Algiz represents a form of protection; do what is within your means.  If you extend yourself to far, you will lose your balance.

Me:  Thank you for that clarification.  You also mentioned that balance cannot be accomplished on your own.  Can you elaborate on that?

Runes:  Just as Dagaz shines light on problems and fears and makes them easier to manage and overcome, so do loved ones when you are in distress (and that includes feeling out of balance).  This also means that, occasionally, you will fall out of balance.  Balance is not a constant; it is cyclical at best, but finding and managing it as best you can will empower you and help you progress.

Me:  I see.  Thank you for explaining that piece.  So, once we find balance, will we or how can we manage it?

Runes:  It sounds contradictory, but managing the cycle of balance requires commitment.  Tiwaz explains that.  Tyr made a commitment to saving the gods and goddesses from Fenrir the wolf and that commitment required a sacrifice.

Me:  So, we must be sacrificed if we are to commit truly to finding and properly managing balance in our lives?

Runes:  You cannot think of a sacrifice as a bad thing.  Tyr's sacrifice was small in comparison to what it saved.  It is less about sacrifice and more about commitment.  Ehwaz demonstrates the complexity of commitment. It is a symbol of the horse and represents loyalty, teamwork, relationships, and even ways of moving through life's journey.  All of these things require commitment to flourish, but they also offer rewards for the commitment that you make.

Me:  Thank you for your insight and wisdom.  Recognizing balance as cyclical is important in managing those times when life feels out of balance.  So too is realizing that we are not alone and that we must do manageable things to get back on track.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Runes 102 - Book Reviews - Icelandic Magic


https://www.amazon.com/Icelandic-Magic-Practical-Northern-Grimoires/dp/1620554054
Icelandic Magic: Practical Secrets of the Northern Grimoires, by Stephen Flowers, left me wanting more, but not for the reasons you might think.  The book is divided into two parts.  The first part provided a backdrop into which Icelandic magic occurred and it was informative.  But, it was the second part (beginning with chapter 9),which is supposed to be "a unique book of magic in the traditional Icelandic form", that I felt was lacking guidance and that is where I really wanted more.

In Part One, Flowers provides an overview of the world in which Icelandic magic developed and existed.  He covers some chronology and includes information on how Christian and southern magical influences played roles in it as well.  It was interesting to see how they merged in many regards; for example, he talks about a medieval Rune stick (yes, carved in Runes) that uses "a Christian magical formula to allow for easy childbirth".  Even though the words were carved in Runes, the words themselves were Latin and talked about Christ, Elizabeth who gave birth to John the Baptiste, and the Lord.  Flowers also notes that single spells included references to Norse gods and goddesses, alongside the Christian god and Christian demons.

During his chronology, he highlights a few key Icelandic magicians, all of whom had ties to the church as bishops, vicars or predating Christianity and serving as goði (priest, chieftain) and whom are described in greater detail later.  This leads into a discussion of the Icelandic books of magic, which I felt was the most enlightening pieces of the book.  If you read only one chapter of this book, choose this one.  Although it is just an overview of magic books, it helped to paint a picture of the important historical magic books and their influences.

After this, the book began to get confusing for me, but I thought things would fall into place when I got to chapter 8, which covers preparation and inner work and they begin to.  Flowers claims the outer preparation - setting the ritual space - requires less effort than the inner preparation.  This made sense.  With regard to inner work, he says, "These skills of concentration, visualization, and memorization that are the ones that the ancients took for granted and that modern people almost entirely neglect."  By taking them for granted, he means that the ancients understood that they had to undertake these preparations.  It went without saying.  When we don't do that today, the result is "magical failure".

Chapter 9 is the last chapter before part 2 of the book and it is also where I began to lose interest and feel like I am being deprived of some pivotal information that would help me understand his overview of the process better.  I found many of his explanations lacking and his focus on invoking Odin incomplete.  I confess that I work with the Elder Futhark and acknowledge that the ancient magicians would have used the Younger Futhark, but that is secondary to my ability to understand the process that he lays out in terms of the inner work.  While I understand Odin's role in the Runes, when I invoke a god for Rune work, I choose Heimdall.  So, what does it mean to use another god or even the goddess Freyja and incorporate aspects of seiðr?

The final piece, Part Two - Gray Skin - was really disappointing.  Flowers states that it is a unique book of magic in the traditional Icelandic form and it contains work done in the Rune-Gild, a group that he formed in 1980.  The struggle that I have with this piece is that he doesn't provide a single example as to how these spells were derived or arrived at or how to enact them.  It is that understanding that I need where this book falls short for me.

This book is not the kind of Rune work that I do or am interested in and, with a few exceptions, was not for me.  That doesn't mean that you would not find some benefit in it.  I did find the historical context to be helpful.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Runes 401 - Rune Rituals - A Rune for 2017

Last year, I chose my first Rune for the year - Thurisaz.  For reasons I won't go into here, this Rune turned out to be a wonderful choice and it got me through some very tough and unexpected challenges.  This also prompted me to make choosing a Rune for the year an annual occurrence.

My purpose for choosing an annual Rune is to use its unique and inherent meaning and power as a guide for the next twelve months.  Although I say I choose the Rune, it feels much more like the Rune chooses me.  However, it is my intention and ritual that helps to identify the appropriate Rune.  Whereas last year, I chose my annual Rune under the guise of an individual Rune, and did a three-Rune draw to help me understand how to use Thurisaz's energy, this year, I want to share more of the process or ritual of discovering which Rune will be my annual Rune for 2017.

The ritual is simple, but takes time and a quiet space.  It started off moving rather quickly, but slowed as I went and ended up taking me almost an hour to complete.

If you can do this ritual outside, I would recommend that.  It's too cold outside where I live right now to do that, so I sat in my room on my bed with my Runes spread out in front of me.  Some Runes were easy to remove from consideration, starting with Jera - my guiding Rune always - and Thurisaz because it was my Rune for 2016.  I set aside nine other Runes relatively quickly.  I had no scientific or other reason for removing these Runes other than intuition.  As I ran my hand over the spread of Runes, it was just a sense that caused me to remove these Runes from the process.

There was a second set that I removed because they felt more personal to me.  That is to say that I believe they will serve a more personal and singular issue purpose rather than guiding my overall year.  Allowing my hand to hover over each one several times for as long as a minute, I whittled down my choices even further, removing six more Runes.

At this point, in terms of numbers, I had removed two aetts.  With the remaining eight Runes, I held each one in my hands (resting in my left, covered by my right), closed my eyes and reflected on the Rune's meaning and the sensation I felt from the energy in my hand.  Through this part of the ritual, I discarded five more Runes.

That left me with three, each of which are pretty different from each other - Nauthiz (need, necessity), Eihwaz (yew tree, inner strength), and Sowilo (sun, feminine energy).  I honestly had no idea which one was "the one".  And the ritual became less consistent with regard to deliberating.  I laid them out in a line and moved them around, changing order, and position, trying to determine what story they were telling me.

I grabbed Nauthiz and held it tight in my left hand; squeezing it.  I looked at it in my hand for several minutes, occasionally closing it, and sometimes closing my eyes too.  Nauthiz was not it.  It was not giving off a strong energy, though it did remind me that my annual Rune needs to address a larger need that I have.

Next, I held Eihwaz.  I thought this was going to be the Rune, because I remembered how it helped me avoid a panic attack just over two years ago.  It's ability to keep me calm in the face of a major challenge was stunning.  As I held it in my right hand and wrapped my index finger around its perimeter, I realized Eihwaz is a special Rune for me, but that it already had its very specific place and role for me.

That left Sowilo.  Interlocking my fingers around it as it pressed between my palms, I knew I had arrived at what I need for the coming year.  Sowilo is not a Rune that comes up for me very often, which makes this even more meaningful; it's almost as if it was waiting for this moment in time to reveal its magic to me.  It is especially telling that it comes on the heels of Thurisaz.  Where Thurisaz seems to represent masculine qualities, especially linkages to Thor, Sowilo puts forth feminine energy.  It seems that, at least in part, Sowilo offsets the year of Thurisaz and balances out the two years with a different kind of power.  It is that feminine strength that I will carry forward this year, with qualities of caring, thoughtfulness, and kindness.