Posts Tagged ‘rune calendar’
The half month of Ansuz began on Sunday 13th August, its billowing wind whipping through the thorn bush of Thurisaz. These two runes are often thought to be in opposition to each other: Thurisaz representing the wild forces of chaos and Ansuz the ordering forces of the Aesir. This is, however, a huge over-simplification of the complex relationship between these two runes. As I discussed in this year’s Thurisaz entry, it was the Aesir who set in motion the conflict that continues to rage between the ‘gods’ and the ‘giants’, so any division of giants as ‘bad’ and gods as ‘good’ is already flawed.
Another popular way of viewing the relationship between these two runes is to see them as representing the heart and the mind. During our lives our hearts and minds are often in conflict with each other, presenting different options, speaking to us of potential futures. As we work to resolve these conflicts we learn about our deepest nature and stretch the limits of our lives, daring to reach further than we had previously thought possible. We often speak of people who are ‘ruled by the heart or by the head’; the agreement seems to be that one must always have dominance over the other. For me, the lessons of these two runes include the teaching that we should strive always towards harmony between heart and head rather than subjugation of one by the other. That is not to say that tension between heart and head should be avoided, rather we shouuld see conflict between what we feel and what we think as an opportunity for growth: once the lesson is learned harmony is restored.
Not surprisingly, as Odin’s rune, Ansuz has a particularly complex and confusing nature. In the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc the rune is ‘subdivided’ into three runes called Os (meaning ‘deity’ or ‘mouth’), Ac (meaning ’oak’) and Aesc (meaning ‘ash’), while the Old Icelandic and Old Norse rune poems give it the meanings of ’Odin/god’ and ‘estuary’ respectively. These successors to Ansuz reveal a spectrum of meaning for Odin’s rune: at one end we have the wild, uncontrollable nature of the All-Father, the lord of the Wild Hunt, the frenzied master shaman; at the other we have the solid and deep-rooted ash tree, or the enduring, sovereign oak.
I mention these different kennings for Ansuz as a precursor to focusing on one of this rune’s particular forms of energy work: the breath. Ansuz is both the rune of inspiration that flows unbidden into the mind, and of the spirit-inspired words that then flow forth as a result. The God Bragi is also a patron of Ansuz, he is known for his wisdom and is the god of poets, skalds and word-smiths; legend has it that Bragi has runes carved directly on his tongue. It is important to remember that, where our modern culture often champions the written word, the northern tradition was an oral tradition: wisdom was transmitted on the breath itself. Working with the breath is interesting because, in different forms, it can work to calm and centre, to induce a trance state, or to enter a state of spiritual ecstasy.
Calming and centering
One of the first techniques people following a path of energy healing, gnosis or magical work will learn is how to use the breath to calm and centre themselves. A common technique is to breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four and then hold for another four (and repeat). Some recommend increasing the number you count to over time, but I tend to just slow my counting down and stick with four. Many schools of thought will then encourage you to choose a particular word to use as a personal mantra to focus on as you count to four each time – the idea being to empty your mind of all extraneous thoughts so that you enter a place of calm and serenity. When I took my first steps on this path I chose the word I still use to this day: rune. It has stood me in excellent stead because it is so simple and the word itself carries no tangible ‘meaning’, it simply indicates something that is mysterious, whispered or unknown.
When you use this technique you might like to focus on the aspect of Ansuz that relates to the Ash or Oak. The calming breath meditation is best carried out lying down, or sitting with your back straight. Focus on the trunk of a tree, feel its rootedness in the earth, the strength and stability of your trunk. Feel the living vitality of the wood, and the solid, protective bark that shields you, allow your roots to sink down into the earth, anchoring you securely. When you are ready allow this visualisation to fade and focus exclusively on the breath, starting with the count of four technique, and then moving to a single word ‘mantra’ if you feel drawn to do so.
If you are having difficulties then you might like to try a variant of this technique known as ‘nostril breathing’. Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale for a count of four, then close both nostrils with your finger and thumb and hold for a count of four, then open the right nostril and exhale for a count of four, then close both nostrils for a count of four; then repeat ( this time closing the left nostril and inhaling through the right to begin with).
You will find a lot more information on these techniques in the following: Magick without Peers: A Course in Progressive Witchcraft for the Solitary Practitioner (covers a number of breath techniques focusing on preparation for magical work), Helrunar: A Manual of Rune Magick (includes a section on breathing and another on Vowel Song for runes), The Pathwalker’s Guide to the Nine Worlds (focuses on preparation for journeying or ‘faring forth’).
Entering a receptive trance state
In myth Odin and his two brothers created the first man and first woman from two trees (an ash and an elm) so we might all be said to be descended from trees. Odin and his brothers gave the gifts of sense, soul and blooming hue; these are approximate translations and there is much debate as to what these three gifts actually mean, the most common guesses being consciousness, spirit and life force. As part of their training my students journey to witness this scene for themselves; sometimes Odin chooses to reveal a personal mystery to the journeyer but others see the process of the life gift being given. On my own journey I saw Odin literaly ‘breathe’ life into the ash and elm tree. The You Tube meditation I have created is designed to help you to reach a light trance state which it is useful to cultivate if you want to embark on the path of ‘direct revelation (i.e. one where spirit communicates directly with you). For me the mystery of Ansuz is one of direct revelation, the rune opens us to receive the gifts of spirit, the divine breath passes through us.
I have not included a space protection rite with the meditation as it would be too long for the video, but I would recommend using a simple space protection such as the Hammer of Thor rite unless you have a permanent sacred space already set up. Setting up a safe space to work in is common sense whenever you are opening up your awareness to perceive and sense things beyond your everyday reality. Setting up a protective space is the difference between picking up the telephone and dialling a number to speak to a specific person and publishing your number on the internet with a big flashing sign saying ‘Ring me’.
This would be a fine blog indeed if I were able to open the gateway of divine ecstasy to anyone reading this page; I should say right now, in case you were wondering, that that isn’t going to happen. In many traditions, the attainment of divine ecstasy is the ultimate goal of years of daily practice and dedication. In the case of the rune Ansuz I would strongly counsel against working exclusively with this rune in the hope of achieving divine ecstasy through union with Odin. There is a reason why there are 24 runes – you need to take a balanced approach to working with them if you are to work safely. Odin is not a gentle and benevolent God, he is a complex deity who doesn’t suffer fools gladly; he will not come skipping happily down the World Tree to shower you in golden sunshine if you repeatedly dial his number and shout at him to bring you spiritual ecstasy. The northern tradition is a tradition which rewards hard work, dedication and a fair exchange of energy, a brush with the breath of the divine is all that is required to help us on our way to the next stage of our individual journeys with the runes. As one of my greatest teachers reminded me this week, perfection is something touched only briefly.
While I am waxing lyrical about the terrors of Odin, I must mention Neil Gaiman’s American Gods which includes a wonderful starring role for Odin. I was reminded about it by one of my students recently and, although it isn’t a traditional take on Odin and his lore, it does provide some interesting food for thought about the relationship between humans and our gods.
It is now exactly one year since I started looking at the rune half months! The time has gone so fast and there is so much to explore that I plan to continue this work, albeit looking at new aspects of the runes this year. If you missed any of last year’s entries you can always look at the full listing under my rune calendar.
The runes are much more than a divinatory system, rune casting represents just one aspect of their mysteries. Runes are also gateways into other worlds, emanations of the full spectrum of energy, repositories of wisdom, lore and healing potential. Each one of them can be used for a range of specific purposes and, combined, their potential is limitless. In this year’s series of articles I plan to focus much more on the Rune Crafting aspects of rune work: working with rune energies to restore balance, bring about change and transformation. This is perhaps the less well understood part of the rune mysteries but, in my view, it is the next step on from rune casting – why bother to seek wisdom if you can then do nothing with it? If the exercises and meditations picque your interest please don’t forget that I offer a number of in-person and correspondence courses ranging from beginner to practitioner level, my aim is to open the fabulous mysteries of the runes up to as many people as possible.
Thurisaz – stress management for your thorny side
The beauty of the runes is that they grow with you, each one has a simple shape, a simple set of meanings and a simple sound. As you progress your familiarity with the rune increases, you learn more about its lore, associations and energies – but you can start off with the simple stuff. The Old English rune poem describes Thurisaz as a thorn. Envision a thorn, dark black, with a wicked point; it sits in front of you, menacing, its sharp tip poised for action. On an emotional level Thurisaz represents what we often think of as our negative emotions: anger, jealousy, rage, fear. In the right context these emotions are designed to protect us, they get our adrenalin pumping so we are ready to defend ourselves and our loved ones, but in this day and age we don’t often need to resort to fisticuffs or a quick sprint to our cave so these emotions have become frowned upon and we are taught to supress them - unfortunately the feelings are still there.
Back in the day Odin and his brothers killed the very first being, the giant Ymir, and created the world from his body. When he was slain, his blood gushed out and formed the seas, but it also drowned all of his children apart from two who managed to get away and found the land of the giants ‘Jotunheim’. This set in motion a seemingly unending conflict between Odin’s kind (the gods) and the giants; the myths are full of stories of the gods outwitting and killing the giants so that they might defend their kingdom and the kingdom of mankind. Now, in my view, the giants have a pretty good case for being upset and, one way of looking at them, is as the emotions we are told are unacceptable – even though we darn well feel like they are totally acceptable at the time. Now, I told you that one of the meanings of Thurisaz is ‘thorn’, well, the more common one is ‘giant’ – the rune might therefore be said to represent those primal, instinctive feelings that com about when we feel hurt or wounded.
Imagine that the thorn tilts towards you, ready to thrust at you. You may, like me, feel a sensation within your body as you prepare, even in your imagination, to defend yourself from attack. This is your fight-or-flight response kicking in, it is your own manifestation of Thurisaz – you are bristling with your own thorns, creating a burst of Thurisaz energy to help you at a perceived time of danger. The problem is that, if you don’t then need to run away or give something a good punch, then the Thurisaz energy has not discharged itself. I can be quite a stressed-out person at times and visualising the thorn helps me to pinpoint where I am holding my stress (for me my heart and stomach feel tense and constrained). I see the answering ‘pain’ in my body as a sign that I am holding negative Thurisaz energy inside me; don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of anger or a bit of an outburst every now and then, but if we hold this inside us all the time it will do us harm.
The interesting thing about all the anger, rage, fear and aggression flowing from Thurisaz, is that we wouldn’t have it if we didn’t have something to lose. Ultimately Thurisaz is the force that protects our survival, and the survival of those we love: the giants are angry because Odin killed their great, great granddad and drowned all their other relatives in his blood, the thorn makes you bleed because it is protecting its flowers and berries. Underneath all that dark Thurisaz energy is a flood of pure love, a will to survive.
The You Tube video below provides a short meditation which you can use as a daily exercise (perhaps during the half-month of Thurisaz), or just when you are feeling particularly crazy. The meditation will help you to release excess energy raised as your personal thorny ‘armour’ so that it doesn’t get re-absorbed into your energy body to float around doing damage to you rather than your absent ‘enemy’. If you feel that there is already Thurisaz energy stored inside your body (e.g. if, like me, the imaginary thorn pointing at you provokes a physical response in your body) then you might want to consider getting in contact with me to discuss rune energy healing, shamanic extraction work or a more intensive form of self-healing that we can devise together through one-to-one mentoring (see my practitioner page for further information).
For more experienced runesters
If you are already familiar with Thurisaz then you may well know that this rune is intimately connected with Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor. I see Mjolnir as a container of Thurisaz energy, the great hammer transforms the dark, angry energy into a controlled form which can be used for protection and blessing (as well as to smash things when necessary, of course). In my Hammer of Thor self-study course I include a working for finding your own Hammer which you can then use to connect you more solidly to the Hammer of Thor itself. Instead of grounding the excess Thurisaz energy into the earth (see the You Tube video), you can channel this energy into your own Hammer, storing it for use when you need it. When using the meditation I have given, see your Hammer resting before you on the ground and channel the thorn energy into it. You might want to draw a red Thurisaz rune upon your Hammer before you channel the energy, and then see it change into the Hammer of Thor sigil at the end of the meditation so that your Hammer knows to transform the Thurisaz energy into a more balanced form ready for you to work with at a later date.
The 13th January saw the beginning of the half month of Perthro – one of the most enigmatic runes in the Elder Futhark thought to represent the motion of Wyrd itself. The dark side of Pethro is making itself known in the world at present; legend has it that the Well of Wyrd would periodically overflow, causing catastrophe through out the Worlds – we are certainly feeling this on Middle Earth at present. Of course, the rune calendar we are following works with the motion of the sun, and therefore in the Southern hemisphere the rune of Uruz is now giving way to Thurisaz; Uruz also has associations with the Well of Wyrd, and Thurisaz is the rune of chaos and hidden depths so their energies are unlikely to do anything to curb the welling over of Perthro, whatever hemisphere it originates in.
Despite its associations with flooding and the devestation this obviously causes, Perthro is normally considered a very positive rune, described as ‘ever play and laughter’ in the Old English Rune Poem. The actual meaning of the rune is lost to us and there has been much speculation regarding what causes ‘play and laughter’; some of the most common suggestions include gaming, birthing, luck, sex, singing and alcohol. The shape of the rune itself has added strength to suggestions that it might be a lot cup (e.g. a cup for throwing dice, or pieces for divination) and this notion of a cup shape has in turn led to its interpretation as a cauldron, pool – or perhaps even the open legs of a woman during child birth.
For me, Pertho is intimately bound up with the act of rune casting. The rune can be interpreted as a representation of the lot cup or rune bag before casting occurs (in this sense Perthro can represent that which is about to manifest). When we do a reading for a particular person or situation, we are asking for individual and/or collective Wyrd to be made known to us – as they fall, the runes become a representation of the way in which Wyrd is flowing. The energy of Pertho starts in stillness within the calm waters of the well, its energy then rises upwards, flowing out into manifestation (perhaps literally as the birth of a child, but also as the manifestation of ideas, hopes and dreams); once it has been made manifest that energy will eventually returns to its source and be renewed within the Well, ready for manifestation once more.
As the Wheel of the Year turns back towards Spring, the energies of the new year are amassing and we may seek guidance on how best to flow in harmony with our individual and collective Wyrd. Simply sitting and chanting the name of the rune as a mantra as a means to know your own desires and how to manifest them will be helpful at this time. Alternatively, now is an excellent time to try your hand at rune casting or to have a reading done for you.
In honor of Pertho, I am offering a special price of only £15 for a 12-month forecast by distance reading (i.e. you will receive pictures and a sound recording of your reading). If you have never had a rune reading before then now is the time to try as these readings are normally £35! You can see an example of a yearly forecast in my entry on twelve rune spreads. Visit my shop to book your reading – this offer will last until 27th February when the half month of Teiwaz (first rune in the last Aett of the Elder Futhark) begins.
Today we welcome in the half month of Jera – the rune of time, harvest and reward for effort. The rune will be at its most powerful on the day of the winter solstice, the two halves of the rune signifying the balance of summer and winter and promising the return of the sun even on the darkest day. With its two halves, Jera reminds us to look back over the previous year and take stock of our achivements, and also to look forward to the coming year – what do we need to sow and harvest in the future? In this respect, Jera might be likened to the Roman God Janus who faces future and past simultaneously, seated upon a throne resting on the hinge of the year – Jera is that hinge.
Jera’s energy builds slowly, its manifestation like that of a tree grown from a single seed. Whereas Teiwaz speaks of divine balance, and Gebo speaks of ethical balance, Jera speaks of natural balance – the laws of Mother Nature herself are signified by Jera. Not taking more than you need, recycling, temperance and moderation – all of these deeds honour Jera. Not that you can’t eat, drink and be merry – far from it, Jera simply counsells balance in all things.
Jera is a rune of time, its name literally meaning ‘Year’, but is connection with the cycle of the harvest also relates to the land itself. Jera is the twelfth rune in the Elder Futhark, together with Eihwaz it forms the very centre of the Futhark (again, like a hinge joining the two halves). The Eihwaz rune is sometimes referred to as the ‘axis mundi’, the World Tree itself; while the Eihwaz rune stands tall, the Jera rune can be envisaged as revolving around its centre – forming the Middle World, Midgard, the realm of man.
At the level of the individual, Eihwaz and Jera can be used to connect the inner and outer world – bringing calm and balance, allowing you the space to journey within and discover your desires. Sit quietly and visualise the Eihwaz rune in silver, running through the centre of your body – your own axis, the core of your being, following the line of your spine; chant ‘Eihwaz’ (eye-wahz) until you can feel the power of the rune flowing through you. See the Jera rune form in gold around you, its two halves revoving around you at the height of your solar plexus, notice how fast the rune is spinning, whether it feels steady or frenetic – chant the rune and let its power merge with that of the Eihwaz rune. As you chant, focus on the pace of the Jera rune, spinning around you – speed it up if it seems slow and sluggish, or slow it down if it seems frantic and disordered. Once you have achieved a steady and even rhythm for the Jera rune, sit in silence and allow the runes to speak to you.
Brrrr. Winter is definitely upon us as the half month of Isa glides in. Isa is the simplest rune, a single line poised and elegant – this rune symbolises the beauty, stillness, strength and treachery of ice. If your need-fire, shouting for attention during the half month of Nauthiz, isn’t lit yet, if you aren’t prepared for winter and full of cheerful thoughts of Yule tide, then the half-month of Isa can be a difficult one. Negotiating Isa is exactly what you would expect of the rune of ice, slow, painstaking and with every likelihood that you will fall on your bottom with a thump at the first ill-considered step. Some choose simply to sit still and enjoy the shimmering beauty of this glittering, smooth rune, but this in itself can be dangerous as the cold creeps in to your limbs and draws the weak and foolhardy into the deathly sleep of the ice kingdom.
Treachery is only one side of Isa though. If you have wrapped up warm and stoked the fire of hope and determination strongly enough, then the strength and stability of Isa can serve you well in consolidating your ideas and strengthening your resolve. The immobility of Isa can act as an anchor, steadying the energies of the more volatile runes within the Futhark. The half-month of Isa presents an excellent opportunity for the consolidation of plans – bringing ideas into solid form.
The Norse rune poem tells us that Isa is a broad bridge, perhaps speaking of the Bifrost bridge that links the realm of the Gods with the realm of man, but also counsells that the blind man must be led. This may be metaphorical and allude to a ’blindness’ of delusion which leads the wreckless man off the safe path – but it may also be a reminder that in times of hardship, we should not forget to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate than ourselves. Isa is a rune of caution and consequences, tread with care and wrap up warm and you will be able to enjoy its beauty, stillness and strength safely.
Today we welcome in the half-month of Nauthiz, the rune of necessity and need – this follows on from Hagalaz, the hail stone which tests our strength and endurance by bringing the hardship and change which we need in our lives if we are to develop and grow. Nauthiz is one of the runes sometimes referred to as the ‘winter runes’ (Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa), and the shape of the rune is thought to represent the kindling of the need-fire, lit through the friction of one piece of wood on another. Nauthiz is associated with the dark night of the soul, the time when one looks inwards and discovers that something is missing; for this reason it can also be associated with the onset of depression and despair. However, if acted on early, nauthiz can be used to help you identify what is really necessary for the fulfilment of your soul before a spiritual crisis occurs.
Two of the colours associated with Nauthiz are black and orange, and I tend to see these as representing its two sides – black being the lack which produces need, and orange being the guidance this rune can provide to help you cross the dark night and find the light and warmth of fulfilment. The feeling produced by Nauthiz can be understood through the need-fire itself; kindled at the darkest and coldest time, you must put effort and energy into kindling the fire (anyone who has tried to light a fire through friction alone will know how difficult it is), but once it is burning, it will warm you and bring sustenance and comfort. Magickally, the need fire is used to call back the sun in the depths of winter, and we can see the need-fire as the kindling of a flame which promises that summer will come again.
In terms of the rune calendar, the position of Nauthiz at the onset of winter (rather than at midwinter itself which is governed by Jera) suggests that we can work with its fiery aspect to prepare ourselves for the dark months – stripping away things we no longer need and gathering that which we will need. Meditate upon the coming darkness and upon the flame which can guide you by showing you what it actually necessary in your life. This is the time to draw the fire into yourself so that when the cold of Isa comes, you are ready.
Yesterday saw the end of the half-month of Gebo and the beginning of Wunjo – the rune of joy. I had a lovely half-month with Gebo practising some new breath and body techniques and re-visiting old ones. I also read The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World by Lewis Hyde which I would definitely recommend for anyone exploring the mysteries of Gebo.
Growing up in the UK I used to associate gifts with Christmas and birthdays, strange rituals of excess where material goods are used to temporarily fill an emptiness we can’t name. Ceremonies of exchange have, in many ways, become infantalised, consigned to childish joy that adults participate in vicariously. As I grew older I looked to the gifts of the natural world - to the changing seasons and the beauty of sun and starlight, and that sense of emptiness lessened. Thinking about Gebo again and, reading The Gift, I saw that the power of Gebo is still alive in our communities and cultures, we still maintain rituals of exchange that resist commodification, and there are more and more people striving to connect with each other and with the world that we are part of. To wear the badge of Gebo upon your heart is to give, to accept, and to reciprocate, in a very personal way; it is to allow the act of gift giving to touch you and to change you.
If the commodity moves to turn a proft, where does the gift move? The gift moves towards the empty place. As it turns in its circle it turns toward him who has been empty-handed the longest, and if someone appears elsewhere whose need is greater it leaves its old channel and moves toward him. Our generosity may leave us empty, but our emptiness then pulls gently at the whole until the thing in motion returns to replenish us. The Gift (pg. 23)
Now we reach the half-month of Wunjo, which brings us another positive and, seemingly, gentle rune. If Gebo is about social partnership and obligation, Wunjo is joy in one another, it is kinship and warmth and happiness within the self. Thinking about the rune calendar, it seems to me that Gebo warns that change must come, the wheel must turn – Wunjo gives us time to prepare ourselves for the winter ahead and the coming of Hagalaz.
An important concept for Wunjo is that of will-power; this week a close friend of mine reminded my that there is a difference between ‘will-power’ and following your true will, and this is very important for Wunjo. When we think of will-power we think of force, of ‘mind over matter’; but the will-power of Wunjo is of a different type, tying in with personal happiness and fulfillment rather than outward success and accolade. In stories and meditations Wunjo is often illustrated with a tale of an individual who visits family and is filled with a happiness which then sustains them during a difficult journey that must be undertaken alone. During this half month think about the things that bring you true joy and happiness, what makes you feel warm inside and will sustain you as the hardships of winter set in.
Suggested reading: The Ultimate Happiness Prescription: 7 Keys to Joy and Enlightenment
With the three rune spread we really start to get into the good stuff; as Thorsson remarks, three is vastly represented in lore, it is the number of process and dynamism, ‘used to quicken and complete things – to move things to action’ (Rune Lore). In myth the Gods experienced a golden age which ended with the coming of three women who, it is largely agreed, were the three Fates – it is after their arrival that all the adventures and excitement starts, but this ending of the golden age also means that the Gods experience ‘need’ for the first time. When someone asks you for a reading, it will be because they feel need, the path is not clear to them; if we lived in the golden age we would experience no need, but also no growth, development or evolution.
The three Fates
Most three rune spreads owe their form to the three Fates or Norns: Urd, Verthandi and Skuld (their names have a number of varients, inclduing Wyrd, Metod and Skuld in Anglo Saxon). Linguistically their names are associated with becoming, measurement (Metod) and need/debt. These concepts are important because they focus not on the future, but on the past, and on the way in which the future must unfold because of what has happened in the past (i.e. there are some things that must now come to pass). As a rune practitioner I believe that we can not only flow in harmony with Wyrd (riding upon the current of that which must be), but we can also change its flow through widsom, skill and hard work.
The spread that I first used came from Ralph Blum’s The Book of Runes which uses three runes, laid from left to right and named Overview, Challenge and Action. Although Blum doesn’t link this reading to the Fates, I think it chimes well with their natures as it doesn’t say ‘this is what will happen’ but it does move from a general, passive, summary of what is happening, to advice on the action that can be taken in order to move forward. When I use this spread I lay from right to left because I find it more intuitive – but traditionally the runes were written left-to-right and right-to-left so I don’t think this matters. I find that, with this spread, the positions of the runes as upright or reversed do carry significance. Let’s say my ‘action’ rune is Teiwaz, if it is upright my course of action might be to look to the law or a higher authority to assist me, whereas if it is reversed, I may need to accept defeat on this occasion and move on.
Reading 1 above uses the Overview, Challenge, Action spread which I drew to help me think about my working life. Interestingly, all of the runes are non-reversible and I actually put the picture into the post upside down at first and didn’t spot in until I started writing this commentary. This actually gave me some comfort as I not sure I would know how to act in the manner of stormy Hagalaz! I made a big career change recently which makes sense with Hagalaz, and the Isa rune is also accurate in that I am now trying to re-form my sense of identity and am finding it quite slow going. The Eihwaz suggests a need to be tough, to weather the storm and to remain focused on what I want for the future - not letting inertia and outside concerns hold me back.
In the The Runecaster’s Handbook: The Well of Wyrd Thorsson provides the ‘Nornic Runecast’ a reading as close to the traditional method described by Tacitus as he can get (see One Rune Spread). He recommends throwing all the runes down and, with eyes raised, picking three runes and laying them in an upside-down triangle (Urd to the left, Verthandi to the right, and Skuld beneath). Urd then represents the root of the question or problem, Verthandi tells us what is happening in the present, and Skuld tells us the likely outcome given the positions of the previous two runes. Thorsson advises that you don’t have to take into account whether the runes are upright (well aspected) or reversed (ill aspected) but can do so if you want to. He also talks about the way in which the runes fall in relation to each other and makes a noble attempt to show with diagrams how runes affect each other through the positions they have fallen in. In my experience, as you become more confident as a reader, you will start to feel that ‘something isn’t right’ in the way two runes have fallen together – it is wortwhile looking closely at Thorsson’s diagrams but ultimately I would go with your instinct when doing a reading.
Grimnisson suggests a varient to the above which is probably more widely used: simply stirring the runes in your rune pouch and drawing three intuitively from it (Rune Rede: Wisdom and Magic for the Life Journey). The Runecaster’s Handbook and Freya Aswynn’s Power and Principles of the Runes both provide some examples and interpretations of ‘Nornic’ three rune spreads.
In Helrunar: A Manual of Rune Magick Jan Fries uses another triad, Wodin, Weh and Willi (or Odin, Veh and Villi – the Gods who gave life to mankind, often thought to be aspects of Odin), to explore the ‘self’. The runes are laid out in a triangle and read as Wodan (the essense, inner being), Weh (the changes and transformations occuring) and Willi (the manifestation of self in material reality). This is a good spread when you are having doubts about your own path, are not sure what to do next, or are uncertain about the life path you are taking.
Fries also suggests a spread relating to the three levels of consciousness i) beast or instinctive self ii) man or every day self iii) god or ideal/higher self (we might also relate these to the id, ego and super ego). The runes are laid out in a vertical line with the instinctive self at the bottom and higher self at the top. Fries doesn’t say, but my assumption has always been that this is a contextual reading (i.e. it will change over time) rather than a reading which demarcates your pattern for this entire life time. In my opinion, the future is always changeable (why bother to do readings otherwise) and runes capture a snap shot of your reality at that particular point. Having said that, if you get a reading you don’t like and decide to do another one, don’t be surprised if the same messages keep coming up – the runes may change but the message they give you will still come across loud and clear until time has passed and Wyrd has changed.
Reading 3 was done for my cat. She is a rescue cat and is extremely loving but what some might term an ‘angry cat’ with some behavioural issues. To me, the Ingwaz rune (subconscious self) reminds me that her genetic pattern is that of a cat and not a person (no matter how much I wish I could discuss these things with her over a cup of tea), it also suggests a deep need for stability, security and fellowship. The Ehwaz rune above (conscious self) emphasises this need for fellowship, this is a rune of partnership and it is, without doubt true that she objects to being left on her own. The Raidho rune (higher self) suggests that I can help her gain the feeling of security and stability she needs by providing routine.
In Simply Runes Kim Farnell proposes a three rune reading covering the questioner’s physical condition, mental condition and spiritual condition. Essentially, the world is your oyster when it comes to three rune spreads. Very broad concepts such as thesis-anti-thesis-synthesis, mother-father-child, past-present-future, mind-body-spirit can be used to finely tune your reading to the needs of the questioner. I am a big fan of using mythical sources to enrich our readings and very much like Fries’s Odin, Vili, Ve method – you might also try Odin (logical mind), Thor (loving heart), Loki (subconscious desire) or the eagle (higher perception), squirrel (conscious mind) and serpent (unconscious mind).
On Monday we moved to the half month of Kenaz. After the inspiration of Ansuz and the planning and action of Raidho, Kenaz gives you the opportunity to combine thought and action to manifest your desire. Kenaz is the rune of the artisan, the craft worker, and particularly of the blacksmith who uses the magic of the forge to transform the elements. In a sense, each of us is our own smith – because we are able to create outselves anew each day. This half month should therefore be a good time for creative projects, burning away the ‘dross’ in our lives, and re-forging ourselves. I ended the half-month of Raidho by going on a firewalk at the Martinsell Centre which was an immensly transformative experience, and began Kenaz doing some decorating and beginning a new painting…
The negative side of Kenaz is the responsibility that comes with its gifts – will yor act of creation be ‘good enough’? Kenaz is not just the fire of the forge, it is the torch light: the light that shines the way but also reveals the shadows lurking ahead. Kenaz is sometimes described as an ‘ulcer’ and, for me, its negative side can be about worries and fears, those ominous shadows that stop us manifesting our desires – although all too often they are just a trick of the light.
The Autumn Equinox falls within Kenaz. Make the most of the remaining light and hold your torch high - ready for the descent into darkness. At this time, prisoners were released, restoring the balance (and perhaps also cutting down on the number of mouths to feed!). Now is the time to burn away your worries and fears, to free yourself to create and harvest: ready for the gifts and binding power of Gebo.
My reading for this half month is The Craftsmanby Richard Sennet. Sennet suggests that there is a craftsman in every person and explores what this means and whether whether our competitive, consumer driven society has eroded the true meaning of ‘craft’.
Yesterday was the last day of the half month of Ansuz. I was teaching a course with some lovely runesters at the time and we definitely felt the departure of Ansuz as I forced the window shut during a gust so powerful the that the ceiling tiles above us were rattling! The group did some really inspired work, with spontaneous poetry and artwork appearing during the course of the day… I have also had a surprising number of people tell me that they have re-discovered their inner poet, or started a creative project, so all in all Ansuz was doing well on that front. Interestingly, Mercury was (and continues to be) in retrograde; Odin is taken to be the equivalent planetary ruler of Mercury in runic astrology, and he also rules Ansuz. Despite all the creative loveliness, I have never known so many horrendous problems with computers, lost messages and post gone astray!
Until 13th September we are in the half-month of Raidho. The new academic year is starting so students everywhere are preparing themselves for the next phase of their learning and parents are looking forward to a return to routine. This should be a great time for taking a quick look around you to check that you are making the most of opportunties, have a good rhythmn of life established for yourself, and are in tune with the world around you. I have re-organised my diary and have a number of new projects starting which I’m really excited about.
Runic astrology: birth months and hours
Michael Cramer from the Facebook Group Runes for Runesters recently suggested that I look into my rune birth-month and hour as part of the rune calendar experiment. The half-month of Raidho is a really good time to do this as the rune governs journeys and the cycles of heaven and life. I have been working with the half-months as given by Nigel Pennick in Runic Astrology: Starcraft and Timekeeping in the Northern Traditionwhich are as follows:
- Fehu: 29th June – 14th July
- Uruz: 14th July – 29th July
- Thurisaz: 29th July – 13th August
- Ansuz: 13th August – 29th August
- Raidho: 29th August – 13th September
- Kenaz: 13th September – 28th September
- Gebo: 28th September – 13th October
- Wunjo: 13th October – 28th October
- Hagalaz: 28th October – 13th November
- Nauthiz: 13th November – 28th November
- Isa: 28th November – 13th December
- Jera: 13th December – 28th December
- Eihwaz: 28th December – 13th January
- Perthro: 13th January – 28th January
- Algiz: 28th January – 13th February
- Sowilo: 13th February – 27th February
- Teiwaz: 27th February - 14th March
- Berkano: 14th March – 30th March
- Ehwaz: 30th March – 14th April
- Mannaz: 14th April – 29th April
- Laguz: 29th April – 14th May
- Ingwaz – 14th May – 29th May
- Othala – 29th May – 14th June
- Dagaz – 14th June – 29th June
Although Pennick doesn’t say (presumably because runes are a Northern tradition), the half months centre around the times of the Solstices; Dagaz reaches full power at the Summer Solistice and Jera at the Winter Solstice – as such, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere the half months will need to be calculated with Dagaz falling on 13th-28th December and the rest falling in sequence after it (e.g. Fehu becomes 28th December to 13th January).
To calculate your birth hour is fairly straight forward as there are 24 runes and 24 hours in the day. The position of Dagaz is again, important, as it will fall at the highest point of the sun (in ‘mean’ time this would be, 12:00 with the hour of Dagaz therefore being 12:30-13:30). Note that, for this sytem, Dagaz is the last rune in the 24 rune sequence with Othala being 23. Pennick then gives each rune a full hour, running in sequence from half-hour to half-hour but does indicate that this is a rule of thumb guide (e.g. Fehu will be 13:30-14:30, Uruz 14:30-15:30 etc).
To get a really accurate reading you should use local time which is slightly different because there are fewer hours of dark and daylight depending on the seasons, so the twelve ‘rune hours’ of night will be longer in the Winter and shorter in the Summer, and the twelve rune hours of day will be longer in Summer and shorter in Winter. Planetary hours are calculated in this way, which is handy for us because there are planetery hour calculators out there which save you having to divide the day hours and night hours into 12 equal segments yourself. Put the location of your time and birth in to the calculator to find the plantary hour of your birth. Each hour is given a numbers from 1-24; note what that is and then see which rune is corresponds to below (don’t get confused with the 1-24 numbers of the standard rune sequence, the numbers below are purely for the calculation):
- Dagaz (this will be the time that the sun is at its highest)
- Jera (this will be the middle of the night when the sun is furthest away)
I was born on 4th May at 15:00 so my half month is Laguz. 15:00 falls bang in planetary hour 8, the rune-hour of Uruz, so I don’t need to worry about the local time much, however, if I was born at 15:28 the accuracy of the calculation would be very important as, according to mean time, I would still be in Uruz, but, according to local time, the hour of Uruz was 14:12-15:26 so I would actually be a Thurisaz baby.