Posts Tagged ‘rune casting’
The Norns (or Nornir as they would have been called) are three extremely powerful and important figures within the Germanic northern tradition (the tradition from which languages including German, English, Dutch, Norwegian and Icelandic come). Without them there is no time, no story, no evolution, no destiny. In some ways their arrival in the cosmos caused ambivalence among the Gods as it ended the carefree, timeless, golden age; but the stories tell us that their coming was inevitable, they are the inevitable.
The Nornir are often likened to the three Fates, the Moraie of ancient Greece or Roman Parcae. Three women sit and spin the threads of fate, they weave the tapestry of being, they cut the threads at the end of each life. Certainly the Nornir are weavers, but so are the Valkyrie, the choosers of the slain; and, indeed, Skuld, the youngest of the Nornir ia also said to be a Valkyrie. Like the Fates, the Nornir are also spinners, but so is Frigga, the Queen of the Gods who, it is said, has primary responsibility for spinning the threads which the Nornir then use. It is also true that the Nornir take an interest in the lives of individual men and women, in fact, a whole entourage of lesser nornir are described as being guardian spirits who attach themselves to particular individuals at birth, bringing gifts for both good and for ill ( a bit like bad and good fairy godmothers). However, this is also a shared role as the Gods also come to the Well of Wyrd where the Nornir reside to sit and debate the fates of men, perhaps subtly plotting to influence their own fates by dabbling in the Wyrd of man - even the Gods themselves are subject to the laws off the Nornir.
Where the Nornir really come into their own is not so much as spinners, but as law-makers, writers of the inevitable, guardians of the Well of Wyrd: the substance of time and destiny, the waters of the past from which the threads of the present rise.
At StarFire Alchemy the Nornir are regular visitors to our Circles and have also helped shape and weave some of our key courses including shamanic regression, cord cutting and rune casting. All of these techniques deal with a reading of, and interaction with, the stories of the past and the flow of our Wyrd. Who better for our students to work with and journey to for wisdom, protection and guidance than the guardians of Wyrd itself?
- About the Well of Wyrd
- The First Norn – Urd/ Urðr/ Wyrd/ ‘that which was’
- The Second Norn – Verðandi/ Werthende/ ’that which is’
- The third Norn – Skuld/ Sculd/ ‘that which must be’
The Well of Wyrd is also known as Urðarbrunnr, Urd’s Well, or the well of that which was. It is one of three wells found at the root of the great world tree Yggdrasil, the others being Hvergelmir (bubbling/ boiling spring) and Mimmisbrunnr (Mimir’s well); Hvergelmir is the primal well from which the first waters flowed, while Mimir’s well is a place where knowledge and foresight may be obtained. You can see that all three of these wells are, in some way, a manifestation of the idea of origins and the unfolding of time.
The Nornir dwell by the Well of Wyrd and are said to have a shining hall there, they are often depicted as three cloaked figures, almost indistinguishable from each other. Each day the Gods cross over the rainbow bridge and gather at the Well to debate and cast judgements, testifying to the Well’s importance as a place of truth and source of law. Any beings who bathe within the Well of Wyrd are said to emerge shinig white, like the membrane of an egg; and a pair of swans (said to be the ancestors of all other swans), are said to feed at the well each day. Interestingly, some accounts state that Munnin, one of Odin’s ravens, is pure white – Munnin is the raven of memory and, perhaps, he too drinks at the Well.
It is said that the Nornir gather white clay from the edges of the Well and smooth it upon the bark of the World Tree to keep it strong and healthy. In this sense the waters of the past are seen as strengthening and healing the present. As a healer this makes a great deal of sense to me, it is through self acceptance that we come to love ourselves and through acceptance of the truth about ourselves and the world we live in that we gain wisdom. Healing cannot occur when we live in falsehood or deny the past which has made us who we are.
Urd’s name has been translated as ‘that which was’, ‘the past’ or ’origin’; it is the past tense of the Old Norse verb for ‘to become’. Urd is often seen as being the oldest of the Nornir although, as I said above, for others the three Nornir appear as women of the same age with similar faces and builds. As the Norn concerned with the past Urd is often seen working at the Well of Wyrd itself; some say she washes the threads of Wyrd within the Well but, for me, she is drawing fibres of being from the Well itself. To me Urd appears as a wise, round faced woman wearing sensible clothing; she is the Norn who speaks the most frequently – perhaps because, as the keeper of the past, she has the most to say. Over time she has taken on the aspect of wise ‘crone’, echoing the ‘maiden, mother, crone’ archetype of modern witchcraft.
Urd is a force to be reckoned with, she tells it like it is and does not suffer fools gladly. Although the Nornir are harbingers of Fate and might be thought not to take sides, at the final battle between the Gods and their enemies Urd will come forth from the Well armed and ready for action – perhaps to bear witness, or perhaps to ensure that the outcome of the battle is played out to her liking.
Verðandi is said to select the threads and weave them together into the great tapestry of being, her name has been translated as ‘happening’, ‘present’, ‘becoming’, ‘in the making’ and ‘that which is’; it is the present tense of the Old Norse verb ‘to become’. Each person has their own tapestry, their own past and their own destiny to fulfill, but each of these is woven into the greater whole, intersecting and interweaving in a myriad of patterns and colours. When I visit the Well of Wyrd Verðandi is always busy, her hands continually working the thread. To me she embodies the principle of mindfulness: always intent upon the present moment, not weighed down by the past or caught up in fantasies of the future; she is at peace in herself and in her work.
Verðandi is often equated with the energy of the ‘mother’ and, as Urd might be said to hold the wisdom of the crone, Verðandi does indeed resonate with the mother, continually birthing the present and bring it into form as her hands work across the loom. Verðandi often appears to me with a full figure and luxurious golden hair, her nature is gentle and she will not speak unless she has something particularly important to say.
Skuld is often depicted as the youngest of the Nornir, she is a Valkyrie, a warrior maiden and is often considered to be the most frightening of the three. Her name has been translated as ‘debt’, ‘necessity’, ‘that which must be’, or ‘future’. In some ways her function might be said to be the upholding of karmic law - except that this implies an inherent fairness to her actions when, in fact, she might be described more as ensuring the patterns woven into the fabric of the present play out as they must.
Skuld is often seen carrying a knife ready to the cut the threads at the end of a lifetime but, for me, a far more important function of Skuld is as the overseer of the knots within the tapestry of Wyrd. The idea of oath making is hugely important within the northern tradition, an oath made must be fulifilled, to not do so is to damaging both to your own Wyrd and the greater tapestry as a whole. Imagine that two threads are knotted together withina cloth to begin a new pattern, then the weaver forgets about the knot and leaves these threads hanging: the tapestry will either end up tangled up in itself, or with gaping holes where the threads should have been. Skuld’s rune is the Nauthiz rune, the rune of need, to me it follows on from the promises made by the Gebo rune of exchange. oathmaking and gifting - at some point those promises are tested and the knot is pulled taut (have a look at the shapes of the runes to see what I mean). Skuld is the tester, she makes sure the tapestry is strong and that its pattern runs true.
I said earlier that Skuld was a Valkyrie. These terrifying women were maidens of battle, choosers of the slain who would bring fallen warriors to Odin’s hall where they would join his army ready for the final battle. In this sense Skuld selects the brightest threads, the finest heroes for this special purpose – like her sister Urd she is perhaps not so neutral in the affairs of the cosmos as we might believe. In her role as a Valkyrie Skuld bears a shield and wears a shining helmet and cloak of swan feathers.
The Germanic concept of the soul is very complex, indeed, the rich lore of the soul may be testimony to a far greater understanding of the human mind and soul than we presently have. A soul casting cloth works by depicting different aspects of the soul to provide better understanding of personal motivations, desires, fears, strength and weaknesses; this can then form the basis of self-development and healing work. Just as I discussed with the World-Tree Yggdrasil, the different parts of the soul are fluid and permeable – some people may never connect with particular soul aspects, and the configuration of the soul may change over time. You will see as I discuss the different parts of the casting cloth below, that some soul aspects are deeply connected to eachother and may not always be possible to separate; you might think of this form of divination as being a little more like palmistry, some palms are missing particular lines, or have lines which flow together.
The casting cloth design here draws on a number of different sources which discuss soul lore. I have not used every single soul part ever mentioned as the cloth could potentially be the size of a football field, rather, I have taken those elements which seemed the most useful for the purpose of gaining information that could be useful to a querent seeking guidance.
Using the soul cloth is particularly appropriate for those working within the Germanic tradition or who practice shamanically (and so are open to the idea of power animals, spirit guides and the body itself as aspects of the soul). What it is important to remember is that, unlike models of the soul as a separate ‘object’ worked upon, and working upon, the world; in Germanic soul lore the different parts of the soul gather around and within a particular individual at birth – some will remain with the soul throughout life and beyond, others have become, or chosen to work with, the soul during this life time. Even more strange and bewildering is the concept that you share some aspects of your soul with your family and clan groups, but this actually makes perfect sense within a Western scientific model of self where socialisation, empathy and group identity are recognised as important to the health and well-being of the individual. Anyway, enough cogitation, on with the reading.
Mind and Memory
The centre of the cloth depicts Mind (the red half of the central circle) and Memory (the white half of the circle). I am not going to go through all the different names for the soul elements in Norse, Anglo-Saxon etc. but many readers will know about Huggin and Munnin, Odin’s ravens that personify his mind and memory; in old Norse mind is called the hidge and memory the myne - you can see the linguistic relationship. In the reading (see picture at the top). You might also remember me talking about my encounter with my own ravens during my journey with the Algiz rune - in this case my journey revealed to me that work needed to be done with Munnin, I need to work with my memories to release patterns of illness held within them.
In the reading, the realm of memory is not of relevance to the flow of Wyrd at this point, however, the realm of thought is very busy indeed. My client had indicated that she would like guidance on her romantic life and it was clear that there was an issue here. As you can see, the purple rune of partnership, Ehwaz, is sitting happily upside-down surrounded by Fehu reversed beneath it, Wunjo on its side to the right, and Dagaz above. The first thing that came to mind looking at these runes was the, forgive me, sexy element here - meanings for these runes include sensuality, ecstasy, partnership, gateway, need I say more. It was clear to me that partnership was important to my client, and at the centre of her focus at the present time; sweeping my hand over the cloth confirmed to me that the flow of energy from the reading was towards the Dagaz rune – the Ehwaz rune essentially blocking the Fehu and Wunjo runes. Ehwaz can be a very dark rune, the partnership it speaks of is partnership on all levels, including with the shadow self (the bits of you you hope others don’t see). To me, the position of the runes indicated that, although all the sexy deliciousness of these runes was present, there was a more destructive element at play which was effectively blocking the more fulfilling, stabilising and beneficial aspects of Fehu and Wunjo. I went on to note that Raidho rune, down at the tale of the red area of Mind, this rune will come rolling forward soon, bringing change and perhaps releasing the impasse caused by the Ehwaz rune (if Ehwaz is the horse and rider, then Raidho is the road to be travelled). My client noted that she is taking a journey shortly so it may well be that this time provides her with the space she needs to see the road clearly and pass through the gateway of the Dagaz rune.
Originally, the three runes at the top of the Mind were face downwards – we will come to them in a moment.
Wode – immediate connection to the divine
The dark blue crescent above Mind and Memory relates to the person’s immediate connection to spirit and the divine. Its name relates to the God Odin, bringer of inspiration, wisdom and prophecy. It is not so much about instinct, more intuition – that feeling that someone is trying to tell you something (which normally means they are). This crescent, and the Athem (below) are both tied in to the ‘sacred breath’ – gift of Odin, this is the in-breath where wisdom is gathered in, the athem is the out breath. My client has two runes in this section of the cloth, Thurisaz and Othala. The Othala rune (inheritance, ancestry, social capital) rests above the relationship runes in the Mind and counsells that my client will find wisdom through contemplating what advice her beloved dead would give her, and what impact the situation may have on her own descendents. The Thurisaz rune rests above the three runes in Mind which were face down – my intuition told me these runes represented aspects of herself which my client was ignoring (rather than being irrelevant to the reading). The three runes were Uruz, Algiz and Kenaz (strength, protection, creativity). I took from this that my client feels that something is wrong, she may feel angry and frustrated, but not know why; this anger may be caused by a feeling that she is losing her strength, stability and potential to be creative within her life. The reading reveals that this is not the case and that these aspects of herself are still very much present. My client will need to take moment when she feels anger and frustration and try and identify where these feelings really come from; she should also make sure that she takes time to celebrate her own qualities – transforming anger and frustration into power.
The astral body (hamr/ hyde) is somtimes referred to as the ‘appearance’ – it is the bit of you that travels about when you dream and journey in your own form. When you meet someome and you instantly like or dislike to them, you are probably picking up on the energy of their astral body - the way that they project themselves upon the world.
My client has Jera, right at the bottom of her Hamr, suggesting that her self image is undergoing change which will be fairly significant and take the best part of a year. This fits in well with the position of Mannaz within the Valkyrja (see below). My client was also interested in advice about her career, and the position of Jera suggested to me that my client’s identity will shift as she changes who she is in her working life. The position of the Jera rune indicates that patience will be needed and that my client should let her developing career grow naturally, rather than trying to rush this important period of decision making.
Valkyrja – the ‘highest self’
Work with the Valkyrja might be likened to the practices of ‘Knowledge and conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel’, the union of anima and animus, kundalini rising, or any other practice which permanently alters the individual so that they are in closer union with the divine (or have achieved a state of personal wholeness – depending on your world view). The Valkyrja is often likened to a swan, or a maiden. Union with the Valkyrja takes a great deal of work, but that does not mean that they are not at work in your life. My client has Mannaz at the very centre of the Valkyrja section of the cloth (the rainbow coloured segment), this is the rune of humanity itself, of your impact on community and society. As I looked at the rune I saw my client cradled within the arms of the divine and felt a wave of reassurance wash over me. The rune spoke strongly of the fact that the transformation (particularly in terms of career) my client is going through is blessed and that she has great gifts to offer to the community, particularly as a networker, communicator, and an exemplar of her own beliefs and passions - I was also guided to reminder her of the strength, protection and creativity she possesses.
Kin-fetch, Fetch, Hamingja, Lyke
I will do another example reading using this cloth soon so that different aspects of the cloth can be explored. In this reading, the Gebo rune (gift giving, exchange) was positioned at the intersection between the Fetch (your own personal power animal, a companion and representative of your inner self), the Kin-Fetch (like the fetch, but attached to a family, clan or close group), the Hamingja (my client’s reserve of power and luck, and the Lyke (physical body). To me, this further emphasised the message which had come with the Mannaz rune: my client draws strength, and gives strength through her skills as a worker for the community. Her complete sense of physical and emotional well-being comes from these acts of exchange and bonding on all levels. There seemed to be no obvious negative aspect here but I reminded my client of the importance of receiving as well as giving.
The Gebo rune also emphasised the importance of trusting that the right career path will unfold in time. To me, this was a very positive rune which indicated the strength of my client’s value system and her potential for helping others.
As discussed above, the Fetch is a part of the self which is often represented as an animal. Some of the first work rune magicians do is to establish contact with their fetch (also note that in shamanic practice, power animals are vitally important to the work). Sometimes the Fetch is confused with the Valkyrja, in my experience, your Fetch is more intimately connected to your own personal well-being (their strength will be sapped when you are weakened, their spirit will be downhearted when you are depressed) – for this reason working with them can help you understand yourself.
My client had Laguz reversed within the turquoise segment for her Fetch. This suggested to me a personal sadness, probably hidden from others, which should be addressed. I also noted that Laguz was positioned along the edge of the Valkyrja segment, suggesting that the strong sense of reassurance given when we looked at the Mannaz rune was intended to help with this. I agreed with my client that future work together would include a power retrieval to meet her power animal and begin work to address the sadness this part of the reading indicates.
We completed the reading by going over the areas for action and checking that all the areas my client had wanted to cover had been addressed.
Book your soul reading
I am pleased to now be able to offer readings via Skype (as well as in-person and recorded). Registering for Skype is free, you will simply need a webcam so that you can see the cloth as we do the reading. Don’t forget that I also offer free readings if you are happy to be used as an anonymous case study for the blog (and don’t mind which casting cloth you get…)
Buy your own soul cloth
You can buy a soul cloth from my shop. These are hand painted on silk so each one will be slightly different. I am also able to pain cloths on commission if you have a particular design in mind.
Learn the art of rune casting
There are still one or two places left on my two day Rune Casting course on 26th February and 5th March, the next course will be on 27th March and 10th April. Click on the link to view more information or email email@example.com to book!
A rune casting cloth essentially works by dividing up the areas on the cloth into sections with different meanings, there are an infinite number of designs and we are going to explore a few over the next few weeks. The casting cloth featured this week is separated into three sections, representing Urd, Verdhandi and Skuld (past, present, and ‘future’). Some casting cloths are drawn very geometrically, but I like to take a more intuitive, organic approach and my casting cloths reflect this by looking more like pictures than diagrams. The design pays homage to the Well of Wyrd around which the Norns work, the blue ‘well’ in the centre represents the present, the yellow green area on the left is the past and the dark green area on the right is the future.
Prior to the reading I asked for the blessing of the Norns, lighting a candle in their honour and asking for their guidance. As the reading was done at a distance, I chanted the name of my client three times to establish the connection and then cast the runes upon the cloth. Interestingly, the majority of the runes landed face down in a clump within the ‘past’ section of the cloth; this is quite unusual as normally we would have a larger number of runes to work with and they wouldn’t clump together so much. Looking at the casting, I felt that the runes wanted to give a very clear and precise message to my client, hence the simplicity of the spread.
Normally, I would start the reading in the past, but in this instance I felt that starting with the present time was the correct approach. I noted that the Inguz rune was positioned almost at the centre of the cloth, suggesting that my client is building energy, storing it up ready for release – the prominant position of the Inguz rune suggests that this is the client’s main focus at this time. Slightly to the edge of the pool and closer to the ‘future’ part of the cloth, is the Perthro rune; while the Inguz rune has no ‘reversed’ position, the Perthro rune is not the right way up if we are reading the cloth from right to left, however, in this instance I felt that it was very significant that the Perthro rune (associated with the Well of Wyrd) was positioned within the Well and pointed towards the Inguz rune at the centre of the reading. To me, the reading indicated that the store of energy being built up by my client is also being supplemented by external sources, her own ‘seed of potential’ (as represented by Inguz) being fed by the waters of the well poured over it by Perthro. In this reading the Perthro rune is both positive (providing energy to the Inguz rune) and negative – as we will discuss next.
I then looked to the future, noting that there were only two runes – suggesting a level of focus and freedom in the future notably absent in the clogged up past. The two runes, however, are both positioned over one of the lines flowing over the cloth and it seemed to me that there was a threat that they would be swept up, back into the past; this was emphasised by the presence of the Othala rune reversed, suggesting the influence of ancestors, family and learned behaviours will influence my client in a way that threatens to undo the energy she is pouring into her future endevour. The presence of the reversed Kenaz rune, so close to the reversed Othala reminded me of the Kenaz rune poems which speak of illness and childhood – it seemed likely to me that there will be a real threat in the future of past pain resurfacing and old patterns taking hold. For me this was emphasised by the position of the Perthro rune, if we view it as a ‘cup’ pouring water into the Well, then it is interesting that it is facing the past – the flow of Wyrd being directed backwards rather than forwards into the future.
I then looked to the past, noting the large cluster of runes flanked by the Teiwaz rune (the spiritual warrior, martrydom, attempts to remain balanced and objective) and the Algiz rune (protection). Given the messages from the future about learned behaviours and family issues, it seemed likely to me that my client had had to assume the position of the protector and guardian in the past, making difficult choices and personal sacrifices for the sake of family peace or approval. It may be that family issues remained unspoken, literally swept under the carpet with my client being charged to keep it that way. The presence of the Nauthiz rune, the need-fire, suggested that my client had been aware for some time of a sense of emptiness or a lack of completion in the self - perhaps this feeling providing the driving force for the work in the present of storing up energy for future use.
I sought guidance concerning any face down runes that were relevant to the reading (i.e. as a hidden or unacknowledged influence) and was guided to turn over the rune in the centre of the cloth next to Inguz. This turned out to be Berkano, a rune that is very complementary to the energy of Inguz, providing the means by which the energy within the seed can grow and develop. Berkano is the rune of Spring, manifesting new life, hopes, dreams, happiness and fulfilment. I felt that my client would benefit from working with the energies of Berkano, seeking, in a very practical sense, to make real the life she is working towards through amassing energy within Inguz. It may be that, without an outlet for the energy raised to manifest, it will be lost, leading to my client repeating old patterns (as discussed in relation to Kenaz and Othala).
This reading indicates two important questions that should form the basis of future readings (or additional readings within the same session). The first would relate to the way in which the energy of the Berkano rune might be harnessed to allow my client to manifest her dreams and bring growth and development; the second would complement this, focusing on the way in which old patterns of thought and the expectations of others my client feels she needs to meet (whether real or perceived) meet might be resisted. These additional readings would normally provide practical advice on what my client could do to ensure more positive outcomes within the future, perhaps including healing work or working with particular rune energies.
I would also like to say thank you to my clients who have agreed to let me use their readings as examples on my blog. I will be doing a number of demonstration readings using different cloths so, if you are happy to have parts of your reading posted anonymously, do get in touch – your reading will be free (first come first served)!
Before we start looking at different types of casting cloths, we should cover the basics. As the name suggests, rune casting is different to rune spreads because you literally ‘cast’ the runes down – the way in which they fall being just important as the runes themselves. This can make readings much more dynamic and you will need to develop your intuitive and psychic skills to a greater extent as the runes fall in a unique way for each individual. Casting cloths marked out with particular ‘domains’ (e.g. past, present, future) can help to provide a framework for your casting – but a great deal of the reading will depend on your relationship with your runes and your ability to interpret what they are telling you.
Over the next few weeks we will look at particular casting cloths and example readings – this article is intended to give you an overview of some of the basics.
Your casting cloth
Many of the techniques already covered in the articles on rune spreads remain the same – you still need to work in a safe space, connect to spirit, and prepare the runes for your reading (by clearing any energies from previous readings and setting your intention for the present reading at hand). Once you are ready you can either scatter the runes directly from the bag/container or take one or more handfuls and scatter them on your cloth.
Even if you don’t use a cloth marked out with a particular pattern, a casting cloth is really helpful. It will take on energy as you work with your runes, mark out clearly the area you are working in, and the laying out of the cloth will, in time, form part of your preparation for your reading – signalling to your subconscious and spirit that you are ready to begin. The traditional colour of the cloth is white (reported to us by our old friend Tacitus in his records of Germanic divination) but go with what works for you.
How have the runes fallen?
One of the reasons why a rune spread is easier to work with is that you already know what you are looking for - a rune casting is a little bit more complicated, and much scarier to begin with. Possibly the most difficult part of a reading is the very beginning – you have thrown the runes down and now they all stare up at you – refusing to speak or tell you where to start.
Before we start talking about the runes on the cloth, you will also need to decide whether you ignore any runes that have fallen outside the area of the cloth. Normally these would be disregarded, but if one pings off in an unexpected direction, then it could signify an event outside the person’s control or perhaps an aspect of their personal power or soul which they have lost connection with. If you have a ‘pinging rune’, collect it, take a brief look and explain its meaning to your client, then set it to one side to look at again once you have more information from the rest of the reading – often its meaning will be obvious to the client straight away but sometimes the remainder of the reading is needed to cast light on its significance.
Direction of the reading
If you have a casting cloth, then there may be a picture on the cloth to help you (e.g. sections for past, present and future), but the runes will still have fallen in a unique pattern within each individual section on the cloth. You may have a cloth which makes it very clear which way is ‘up’ so you don’t have to worry about working out which runes are well aspected and which ill – but in many cases there won’t be any clues except the patterns the runes make themselves.
To work out what the general shape of the reading is trying to tell me, I like to move my hands over the spread, sweeping them over the runes to help me gauge which rune/s are the ‘pivot’ of the reading – the still point around which the rest of the reading revolves (often these runes can then be taken to signify the person you are reading for). The pivot runes might be clear because of the question the person asked (e.g. they are asking about their physical health, in which case Uruz would be a good rune to look for), or it may be that one rune stands out from the rest (e.g. it is in the centre of the reading, many runes cluster around it or swirl outwards from it). In examples 1 and 2, the green Uruz rune might be identified as being at the centre of its rune cluster either because it is in the middle – or because the question is about health.
Whatever the case, trust your intuition and start to speak (once you open your mouth it will get much easier), if in doubt start with saying the meaning of the rune and indicate that you believe it to be the focus of the reading - inspiration will soon start to flow. If we take spread 1, we might say as a quick overview that the reading is focused on health and that, although there may be threats to health in the immediate present (with the metalic purple Thurisaz hovering menacingly below), these should not be of concern as protection is at hand (silver Algiz rune) through the support of a partner or loved one (purple Ehwaz rune). The focus rune will then act as a point of orientation for the rest of the reading (the position of the other runes being read relative to the position of the first rune).
Once you have determined the key runes in the reading, you will want to look at their individual positions. To start with you will want to have a good grasp of when a rune is indicating a positive influence and when a negative; there are lots of books out there which discuss rune positions, below are some of the most generally accepted meanings for rune positions.
Well aspected, upright, shining stave, bright stave
All of these are words that essentially mean that the rune is the way up it appears when written, you can look to the traditional rune meaning for guidance on what the rune is trying to say.
Ill aspected, upside down, murk stave
All of these are words for a rune appearing upside down to the way it is normally written. Example 2 has the green Uruz rune and silver Algiz rune facing upside down. This changes the meaning of the reading as it suggests that ill-health will be a problem, and that the person will not receive the help and support they need during this time. If the picture showed a full spread, then the causes of the illness might be inferred by runes clustered below and around the Thurisaz rune (metallic purple), while runes around the silver Algiz and indigo Ehwaz could reveal more about why the support needed isn’t available. If a way to alleviate this problem isn’t forthcoming from the casting, then a smaller spread can be done later to find out what action can be taken to help.
You will also get runes that appear on their side or just look lopsided, this is when the position of the other runes will be important. For example, you can see that the triangle of the purple Thurisaz rune is pointing slight upwards towards the Uruz rune – suggesting that its power is directed towards the person (and is therefore impacting on their health). If it were pointing downwards, it might be read as being part of the person’s defence (you would look at the surrounding runes to see whether this was excessive or helpful). Some people always read runes on their side as being ‘murk staves’ – but I haven’t found this to be the case, it is more likely to be an imbalance or be directly related to the position of the other runes.
A rune might also appear face down (so you can’t see its symbol). Some people take this to mean the same as a ’murk stave’ – they turn the rune up and read it in its negative sense. Others (including myself) leave the runes face down and interpret them as being unnecessary to the reading; a significant exception to this would be if the face down rune was in the very centre of the reading (like a ‘pivot rune’ discussed above) – I would take this to signify that the questioner is unaware of this important influence at this time, it is hidden in some way and you will therefore want to look closely at this rune and its significance.
So, you now have a very brief overview of some of the techniques of rune casting – we’ll cover them in much more depth over the next few weeks.
The twenty-four rune spread is very detailed and is also a really good practice spread for the rune practitioner who has mastered the simpler spreads and knows there there are some gaps in their understanding – everyone has runes they connect to more easily and working with all 24 forces you to engage with those you find less accessible. The only problem with the spread is that, as you become more proficient and the runes speak to you more clearly, a reading can take anywhere between one and three hours. Because the spread focuses one each of the runes in the Elder Futhark in order, it also reveals patterns within the Futhark itself and makes it clearer why the order is so important.
The blackthorn runes in the first picture are laid out in the order of the Elder Futhark, while the holly runes below demonstrate a twenty-four rune spread. You will see that I have turned all the runes the right way round but have not turned them upright if they came out of the bag reversed or on their side. A variant to this reading would be to leave any runes that appeared the wrong way up as the are – concluding that they are not important to the reading. I prefer to work with them all, but have found that sometimes two or more runes will be giving exactly the same advice making the reading repetitive (as particular messages are being emphasized). As preparation before trying rune castings this is a really useful spread, it helps you to trust your own intuition and see the way in which particular messages flow through the runes ; on one memorable occasion the message ‘do your accounts’ came up over and over in a twenty four rune spread – a casting may have said exactly the same thing in a more concise fashion, but the twenty four rune spread hammers the message home and helps you trust the information you are receiving before you progress on to castings.
Begin your reading in exactly the same way as normal, asking for guidance from spirit, clearing the bag, focusing on the issues for the reading to address. Then lay all 24 runes out in front of you (or, if you prefer, lay them out one at a time as you speak so you don’t get distracted by the runes that are coming). As an aside, the holly rune set here has runes of an uneven shape and I am often asked whether this detracts from the reading (as you may know what rune you are drawing); some people will find this difficult if they like to move the runes around in the bag while choosing, but I hover my hand over the runes to sense which one is calling and then take the first to brush my fingers (so it doesn’t matter if I immediately know which one it is from the touch).
This post would be exceptionally long if I were to go through a full analysis of this spread, so instead I am going to draw out some of the key points as I see them to give you a flavour of a 24 rune reading:
The first Aett (row of eight) speaks to me of a deep process of inner transformation. Externally it may seem that there is little movement: the ice of the Isa rune on its side stops the energetic flow of the warm Fehu rune; the creative fire (signified by the position of Kenaz) is contained within the gestating enclosure of the Inguz rune, the energy and motion of the Ansuz and Raidho positions are repressed by the downward pointing Algiz and Othala. Internally, however, there is great change at a deep level: the endurance and stamina of Uruz is turned inwards as the core of the self transforms with Eihwaz; the darkness of the subconscious is illuminated by an urgent need for change (with Nauthiz, the need-fire appearing in the chaotic and powerful position of Thurisaz); the communication received through Ansuz comes from the lower world of the ancestors and the subconscious (the rune appearing here being Algiz – personal protection- reversed), the journey takes the soul down into the realm of the ancestors and challenges the self to shake off outmoded thought patterns(with the Othala rune of inheritance appearing in the position of Raidho – to ride). While the upside down runes and winter runes present within the first Aett could be read as signs of danger (for example, the reversed Algiz rune at Ansuz could suggest vulnerability to misadvice from others), but to me the transformation of self seems like a natural process: the will (Wunjo fallen on its side) surrenders to the gift of the Gods (through its position at Gebo) and the rune of self (Mannaz) is found in the place of Wunjo – the self made whole and joyous at the end of the first Aett.
As you can see, the 24 rune spread relies heavily on the way in which one rune interacts with another (see two rune spreads for more on rune pairings). As well as looking at what rune falls in each rune position, you can also trace patterns across the reading. For example, in this reading the Hagalaz rune falls in the position of Berkano, and the Berkano rune falls in the position of Hagalaz – the dynamic formed by the cold hail seed of winter and the exuberant growth of spring will be of great importance to the client. While this continues to speak of a transformation through hardship that will lead to new growth, it also emphasises feminine qualities – the Hagalaz rune being the domain of the Goddess of the Underworld and the Berkano rune the Goddess of Spring. To me these two runes speak of great power and great potential, my client should have confidence that the changes she is undergoing will lead to possibilities she cannot even begin to imagine as yet.
Other runes may provide clues to when changes will occur – the Kenaz rune, which we saw earlier enclosed within the Inguz rune, manifests in the position of Jera (year). Note how interelated the shapes of these three runes are and the way in which the Inguz rune slowly opens out into the Jera rune of slow development and finally the Kenaz rune with its outpouring of creativity. If interpreted as ‘time’ Jera rune may suggest change within a year, but to me it seems likely that the new period of growth will coincide with the turning of the Wheel of the Year – when spring comes and the Hagalaz hail seed germinates into the bright green shoots of Berkano.
When doing the 24 rune spread, do try and consider each rune in turn – it will really help to hone your abilities as a rune reader. Something to ponder on is whether a rune which is found in its own position indicates that the energy is particularly balanced, particualrly powerful, or not powerful at all (as it has no dynamic with the other runes). You will see that in this spread the Laguz rune of water, emotions, dreams and magic is in its own position – it is the intution you develop as a reader, just as much as the your knowledge of each rune, that will guide your interpretation of how each rune has fallen.
I am now making distance readings available for those not based in London (or those who would like to have a recording and picture of their reading to peruse at their leisure). There are three types of reading available: yearly forecast, general rune casting, and specific topic/question (but bespoke readings can also be arranged on request).
My readings focus on the way in which your personal Wyrd (your soul, luck, power and fate) and the Web of Wyrd (the Web making up all the worlds as they flow from the past into the future) are interacting together. The reading will identify particular challenges, obstacles and opportunities in your life and provide guidance on how these might best be approached.
To see the readings available please visit my shop.
My reservations about readings for the coming year are that runes focus on what should be coming to pass – as rune practitioners we can either decide to flow with the reading (taking its guidance and acting accordingly), or to try and manipulate the flow of Wyrd to ensure a different outcome (using our rune crafting abilities to re-shape destiny). This act of re-shaping destiny is a path demonstrated to us by the God Odin, who ensures that the forces of Chaos are defeated at the last battle, though he cannot avert his own destiny to die. For me, a reading is simply the first step in a journey, it is not a declaration of certain truth but rather an indication of the way in which the present is likely to flow into the future. Having said that, a year is a relatively short space of time, and the runes are excellent indicators of the types of opportunities and obstacles that are preparing to manifest upon your path.
The example spread was done on the birthday of my client and used a rune set made from an oak tree which she had planted herself many years earlier. The reading starts at the top with her birth month (November), showing Uruz lying on its side and progresses clockwise. The shape of the rune on its side emphasises the qualities of the wild aurochs, as it looks like a pair of horns driving forward; this said to me that the client was having to use all her strength and stamina to get through a troublesome patch – probably involving a clash of wills and the need to stand her own ground.
The second rune was Ehwaz, the rune of partnership. The rune spoke to me of two people holding hands and walking into a rosy sunset – it suggested that this would be a time of sweet reminisence and teasing possibilities, the client’s attention would be on romance rather than long term partnership.
January sees the opening of a cycle of difficulty centred around self image and, particularly, around where the person is going in her life. The reversed Mannaz indicates a period of soul searching, and anxiety about the way in which others perceive her e.g. is she a success, should she be doing different things? Followed swiftly in February by the Isa rune on its side, the reading indicated to me that my client would be feeling trapped within her life, unsure how to proceed or what to do to free herself from these concerns. This would in turn, lead to the reversed Laguz rune in April, an emotional reaction to the previous months’ frustation – perhaps a recognition of feelings previously bottled up and ignored.
In May the tide turns with the appearance of Teiwaz, representative of the spiritual warrior who is able to look upon things with clear sight and balanced judgement and to take the action (and make the necessary sacrifice) needed to ensure the right outcome. This indicates that the period of introspection and frustration will provide the necessary spur for my client to understand herself better and start to stear a truer course for herself. In turn, June shows a possible negative reaction to this new, active, person on the part of family and friends – perhaps old patterns of reliance and mutual support will change and my client will need to rely more heavily on her own strength and resources.
Sixth months into the reading my client has a breakthrough, the path becomes clear and she is ready to step forward and make the changes necessary to transform her life. Dagaz literally means ‘day’ and it is heavily associated with transformation and swift action. With the light of day, the burdens and fears of the night are lifted, and the traveller upon the wheel of the year may step forward confidentily with the light of the sun upon her back. The appearance of the Dagaz rune prepares my client for the necessity of creating her own light to see by in July – the Nauthiz rune suggests that the inner transformation will be followed by a period of hard work. Following immediately after the Dagaz rune, Nauthiz speaks of the need-fire which is lit on the shortest day of the year to call the sun back – it suggests that my client will be able to carry the fire of day with her and so face further difficulties and uncertainty with greater confidence and strength (as long as the work is put in in July).
August brings the Othala rune on its side, perhaps suggesting a flaring up of the difficulties presented by the Wunjo rune, but at a deeper level. My client may run up, not against her kin of the present, but against the internalised values they have passed on to her (which may now be a hindrance rather than a help). There may also be some difficulties in her home life, perhaps demands placed upon her which require her to hold on tightly to the the fires of Dagaz and Nauthiz kindled earlier in the summer. The Othala rune is on its side, not reversed, so a period of adjustement, rather than great difficulty is suggested.
In September the Perthro rune brings opportunity, excitement and a new rush of energy from an unexpected source. The perthro rune looks like a cauldron on its side, and to me it speaks of a pleasant relief after the hot fires of Dagaz and Nauthiz, as well as being a confirmation that the difficult emotions experienced through the reversed Laguz rune (back in April) have now been diverted on a more productive path.
Finally, in October, with the appearance of Algiz, my client is counselled to take care of herself and not to expose herself to unnecessary danger or risk. I read this rune as indicating that, with all the new direction, purpose and opportunity now coming into my client’s life; she could potentially be misled and end up floundering if she doesn’t keep her head firmly on her shoulders.
Following on from this twelve rune spread, I drew a further two runes to provide more enlightenment regarding the period of difficulty my client would be experiencing from January through to April. I asked that the runes provide information on the challenges faced, and chose blackthorn wood as a representation of potential blockages and issues within the subconscious (you could simply note down the twelve runes and use your full set again to draw supplementary runes). Interestingly, the two runes pulled were Dagaz and Nauthiz, the runes that appear six months later at the point where my client is making change in her life – to me this indicated that the period of difficulty would come because my client already had the sense within her that change was necessary. In a sense, the months from January to April are a gestation period for the light of Dagaz and Nauthiz – these two runes might be read as ‘transformation of that which is coming’, my client is literally changing her destiny.
I then asked for guidance on the action my client could take to assist her in flowing with her own Wyrd and engaging with this process of transformation so as to minimise the obstacles and difficulties presented. I used a holly rune set (sometimes associated with Teiwaz, the rune that starts the process of change in May) and drew Gebo and Laguz. Both are runes which are very open and accepting, speaking of movement that is in continuous motion (rather than being jerky or sudden). Gebo is a rune of acceptance, of gift giving, and counsells that one must fulfill ones obligations to give and also to receive. Laguz is the rune of water and is heavily associated with emotion, as well as with purification. I recommended to my client that, at the end of each day, she spend some time calmly re-capping the day’s events, focusing on the way she felt about them and whether she had allowed herself to truly give and truly receive. By acknowledging her actions and emotions, my client will hopefully be tuned to the messages coming from her subconscious and higher self and so find the adjustment easier.
In Power and Principles of the Runes Freya Aswynn provides a twelve rune reading based on the twelve signs of the zodiac. While we know that the Germanic peoples had their own astrological systems, we know little about them. This spread is provided for you as a taster of the way in which rune casting, astrology and Germic lore can be combined to provide a rich web of meaning to draw from (for example, the rune practitioner is likely to have journied to the twelve palaces and the wisdom they have gained there will inform the reading).
There is significant cross-over between the Hellenic and Germanic cultures in terms of their religious and magickal practices, and so it isn’t too much of a leap to assume some sort of correlation in astrological systems. Nigel Pennick has reconstructed a system of astrology drawing on Germanic, Celtic and Hellenic systems (see Runic Astrology: Starcraft and Timekeeping in the Northern Tradition and my own exploration of Rune Calendars); and he notes that the realm of the Gods included twelve palaces which Aswynn (in Northern Mysteries and Magick) assigns to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
We can therefore create a twelve rune spread using the twelve palaces (augmenting our knowledge of the twelve palaces through Aswynn’s assignation of the zodiac signs):
- Bilskinir meaning ‘lightning’, the dwelling of Thor, a mighty being who fights the forces of Chaos. Aswynn assigns this palace to Aries and a rune in this position would indicate sources of strength, passion and courage.
- Thrymheim meaning ‘thunder-home’, the palace of Skadi, a giantess of such might that the Gods married her to one of their own. Skadi is independent of spirit and a fierce hunter. Aswynn assigns this to Taurus and a rune in this position would indicate sources of endurance, tenacity and as well as the client’s connection to home and sense of security (Taurus being very much associated with home and Skadi agreeing to live separately from her husband because they could not get on in each other’s homes).
- Folkvang meaning ‘field of warriors’, a series of nine castles belonging to the Goddess Freyja, twin to the God Frey, and mistress of magick and sorcery who also claims a share of slain warriors. Aswynn assigns this to Gemini because Freja is a twin. A rune in this position would indicate sources of wit, cunning and the power to persuade which is a feature of this alluring goddess.
- Himmingbjorg meaning ‘heaven hall’, home of Heimdal, the God who guards the bridge to the realm of the Gods and can see all things. Aswynn notes that he is associated with Dagaz and Midsummer and is sometimes none as the ‘Shining Ase’ (Ase – of the Aesir), for this reason she places him at cancer. A rune in this position would indicate the way in which the client makes judgements and interacts with the world around them.
- Breiablikk meaning ‘broadview’, a palace where no evil may enter and home of Baldur, the beloved Prince of the Gods. Aswynn assigns this palace to Leo because it is the sign where everything is in visible manifestation. A rune positioned here would indicate the aspect of the self which the client presents to the outside world.
- Sokkvabekk meaning ‘stream of time and events’, the home of Saga, the goddess of History who drinks in her palace every day with Odin and sing songs of gods and heroes (Saga is sometimes seen as an aspect of Frigga, Odin’s wife). Aswynn equates this palace with Virgo, a rune placed here would indicate the person’s inner nature, his or her inner monologue which may, or may not, be shared with others.
- Glitnir meaning ‘hall of splendour’, the home of Forsetti, the god of justice (‘human’ justice which seeks compromise and agreement). Aswynn equates this palace with Libra and a rune in this position would indicate the way in which the person approaches decision making and conflict resolution.
- Gladsheim meaning ‘shining-home’, the palace of Odin, father of the Gods. Aswynn equates this palace with Scorpio as it is the hall of those slain in battle (except those claimed by Freyja). Odin is a complex deity with many layers and subtle ways, a rune in this position would indicate hidden desires and personal power.
- Ydalir meaning ‘valley of the yews’, the abode of Ullr, the hunter god and bowman, beloved of Skadi (even though she is married to someone else). Aswynn equates this palace with Sagittarius as Ullr is the divine bowman, a rune in this position would speak of the person’s independence and autonomy, as well as their ability to pursue their dreams.
- Landvidi meaning ‘white land or broad land’, this is the home of Vidar who will only speak once he has avenged the death of his father Odin at the last battle. Aswynn equates this palace with Capricorn, a rune positioned here would speak of hidden talents and strengths as well as the person’s tenacity and stamina.
- Valaskjalf meaning ‘halls of silver’ – the palace of Vali who will avenge the death of Baldur and survive the last battle, heralding the new age. Aswynn equates this palace with Aquarius, a rune in this position might indicate a person’s inventiveness, their ability to think outside the box and how ruthless they will allow themselves to be in pursuit of their goals.
- Noatun meaning ‘shipyard’, the home of Njord, father of Freyja and Frey and benevelant God of the sea and harbours. Aswynn associates this palace with Pisces, a rune in this position would indicate the source of a person’s emotional and psychic power.
As the cold deepens and Samhain beckons we move into the half month of Hagalaz. This is the ninth rune of the Elder Futhark, the first of the second Aett (set of eight runes), sometimes known as Hel’s Aett. Hel is the goddess of the Northern underworld, her face beatiful and alive on one half and deathly and corpse-like on the other. If we see the Elder Futhark as a continuum of being, the joy and strength of Wunjo represents the culmination of the energies of the first Aett – the individual who has passed through this Aett knows balance in mind, body and spirit and is now ready to face the testing of the second Aett and so grow and develop. The rune Hagalaz represents hardship, the hailstorm which will come and strip away the old, worn, and outmoded, so that life may develop stronger, more resilient and more powerful. We can see the work of Hagalaz all around as winter sets in and the trees are stripped of this year’s growth, when Hagalaz turns up in a reading you can expect the cold weather to come – but you will be stronger for it once spring returns.
Hagalaz isn’t really a ‘bookish’ rune and, to explore its energies I would recommend getting outside as much as possible, enjoying the beautiful colours of Autumn and watching the slow surrender to Winter. Look for Hagalaz in the bitter cold and storm weather, but also in the clarity and sharpness of clear skies and frost on the dying leaves. An exercise that I will be doing from now until the leaves return is to look for the runes in the branches of trees – if you are learning your Elder Futhark, finding the shape of each of the runes in turn is a really useful habit to get in to.
I am sure it hasn’t escaped your attention how appropriate the beginning of Hel’s Aett is to the season of Samhain. Samhain is an excellent time to seek guidance through the runes: the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest and, if we ask nicely, our ancestors, guides and gods will help us to interpret the patterns of Wyrd. In honour of Hagalaz, a nine rune spread would be appropriate:
Nine Worlds reading
You can try a nine worlds reading by adding the following runes to the top and bottom of the seven realms spread:
- Muspelheim to represent dymanic energies available to you (an ill aspected rune would signify forces that may be out of control)
- Nifelheim to represent sources of strengh (ill aspected this would represent static energies and obstructions)
Thorsson’s Valkyrie knot (The Runecaster’s Handbook) uses three downward pointing triangles representing the realms of Urd (past), Verdhandi (present) and Skuld (that which should be). You read it in a very similar way to the three rune spread except that the first rune in each triangle is rooted in the past, the second in the present and the last in the future (so the first rune in the spread is past of past and the last is future of future). The example spread was done for a client who was asking about business matters. At the top we have Kenaz and Nauthiz reversed, suggesting a time of difficulty, worry and contraction where problems had to be faced and burnt away, but in the immediate past we have a partnership being formed (with the Ehwaz rune). The middle triangle is very interesting, there is a lovely balance between Ingwaz (potential, storing up energy) and Berkano (with that energy then being released and new growth forming) – but perhaps an imbalance as Berkano is on its side, suggesting that attention needs to be paid to how the energy that is being amassed is released. The Mannaz rune suggests that the important thing is for the energy represented by Ingwaz and Berkano to be channeled towards the person’s public persona, building a strong identity for the business. The bottom triangle emphasises transformation and opportunity (Dagaz) but counsels that there may be difficulties translating these ideas into actuality (as the Isa rune of ice is on its side) - there may be obstacles presented (perhaps stubourness or situations that challenge the patience of the client who will want to move forward with new ideas). The last rune is also a warning, the Othala rune reversed suggests some difficulties with the premises of the business (perhaps it will demand more energy than anticipated as, for me, the Othala rune looked a lot like a bag emptying out onto the earth in this reading). The good news is that, as the last triangle tells of what should come to pass (i.e. given the present situation), there are opportunities to re-shape Wyrd. For me the Berkano rune is the key here, if the client is able to focus on how she shapes the very beginnings of the business and translates potential into reality, the difficulties forseen may be averted.
Seven rune readings are fraught with controversy but potentially very rewarding. While the number 7 doesn’t have much by way of traditional lore, both The Runecaster’s Handbook and Galdrbok have interesting things to say about the potential for working with seven of the nine worlds mentioned in the Eddas. The argument goes that, although there are nine worlds, only seven of them can be visited (as Niflheim and Muspellheim are realms of pure force – ice and fire respectively – rather than being actual places); as such, only seven of the worlds have descriptions that can be used to create a rune spread.
The World Tree
Before we go any further I think it is worthwhile drawing a quick comparison between the World Tree and the individual. The concept of a macrocosm and microcosm will be familiar to people working in other Western magickal traditions, but briefly speaking, the idea goes that the macrocosm (the cosmos, universe, all creation) and the microcosm (individual), are intimately connected and reflect each other. While the terms ‘microcosm and macrocosm’ come from the Greek Neo-Platonic School of thought, the concept occurs in many traditions including Kabbalah, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Tibetan philosphies.
In Norse mythology, not only are the worlds connected by the mighty tree Yggdrasil (which therefore embodies all creation), but man and woman were also made from trees which were given life force by the Gods – it isn’t too big a leap to intuit a microcosm/macrocosm model at work here. Thorsson provides a seven world spread which can be used to look at a person’s characteristics (see below), and others have gone further and suggested that the seven chakra system may usefully be meshed with rune work (modern rune practitioners often refer to the Chakras as ‘Hvels’ (wheels) and it is this merging of Eastern and Western systems that often proves controversial). Whatever the provenance of rune and chakra work, I can vouch for the fact that students of mine with no previous experience of the runes and plenty of experience with the chakras have identified particular rune energies as flowing from the same chakras as modern rune practitioners have identified.
Seven rune readings, are therefore particularly suited to investigations into mindy, body and spirit – the forces that make up the individual and the way in which they relate to the world around them.
Seven realm reading
In The Runecaster’s Handbook Thorsson lays out twenty-one runes (three horizonal rows and seven vertical), assigning the first row to the past of the situation (Urd), the second to the present (Verthandi) and the third to that which should become (Skuld). I would recommend practicing with just one row to begin with as you will get plenty of material from just seven runes. Preparing for your reading as normal (see One Rune spread) and then lay out seven runes which will be indicitive of the following:
- Hidden, instinctual or ancestral influences (realm of Hel, the underworld)
- Creativity, memory and emotions (Svartalfheim, realm of the dwarves)
- How you respond to crisis, change and chance (Jotunheim, the realm of etins/giants)
- Manifested reality (Midgard, the realm of humans)
- Planning, cognition and intellect (Ljossalfheim, realm of the elves)
- Vitality, harmony and balance (Vanaheim, realm of the gods of the land)
- Higher consciousness (Asgard, realm of the gods of the ‘heavens’)
Seven ’chakra’ reading
When looking at Thorsson’s seven rune spread I noticed some interesting similarities between the realms and the qualities assigned to the seven chakras. Although there isn’t a complete overlap, it gave me enough food for thought to investigate further. The method I have ended up with draws on Caroline Myss’s seven stages of power and healing (Anatomy Of The Spirit); Myss combines the chakras, kabalah and the Christian sacraments to describe her seven stages and has ended up with some fundamental principles for each chakra which seem to me to correspond well with both the seven worlds and with the first seven runes in the Elder Futhark (note that other runes are normally assigned to the chakras but this system works well for me as it focuses on the flow of energy from one rune to the next, linking the chakras together). Below I give the meaning of each of the seven positions, and an example reading (note that the picture of the example reading as number 1 at the bottom and number 7 at the top as this is how the chakras appear on he body):
- Tribal power, where you come from, connection with all other things. This corresponds to the underworld and connections with ancestors (note Othala (ancestors, home) is the 24th rune and its energies therefore flow into Fehu as the first rune). I assign Fehu to this chakra and therefore connect it to Audhumla, the cow who nurtures all beings. In the example reading the first rune (at the bottom) is Ingwaz; this individual has a great deal of unrealised potential and can draw strength from the power of the land and her divine ancestors (in Norse mythology, man is descended from the Gods and Ingwaz affirms the seed of the divine in each one of us).
- Partnership, emotional and physical relationships, authority and control. This corresponds with the realm of the dwarves who often provide support to the Gods and are able to harness the power of the earth through their skill and creativity. The rune Uruz complements Fehu as it manifests the strength of the mighty Aurochs (a wild cow now extinct) and brings health and vitality, it is strongly connected with rites of passage and the forging of character and tribal power. In the example reading I was guided to draw two runes, the Kenaz rune (creativity and skill) hidden by a slightly inverted Ansuz rune. This suggests to me that the person is trying to control her emotions through the application of logical thought when, in fact, channeling these emotions into creative endevour and expression would be more helpful.
- Personal power in relation to the external world, individuality, self esteem. Corresponding to the realm of the giants, this relates to the person’s ability to deal with events outside their control. The 3rd rune is Thurisaz which builds upon the strength and endurance of Uruz. Thurisaz is often linked to the subconscious as well as forces of chaos and destructiveness – appropriate when we consider how a loss of personal power and self esteem impacts upon the individual. In the example reading the inverted Raidho indicates that the individual does not feel able to support herself or progress on her life journey. As the rune energies seem to flow upwards from one chakra to the next, I would anticipate that the advice given in relation to the second chakra would help with this issue but a further reading might be needed once the Ansuz blockage has started to dissipate.
- Emotional power, mediation between body and spirit. The heart chakra corresponds to Midgard, the realm of mankind and will therefore say a lot about the individual’s feelings about the world around them and the way in which he or she projects his/her identity. The corresponding rune is Ansuz (logical thought, communication, inspiration) which, again, flows out of the Thurisaz rune – emotional power relying on a healthy partnership between the subconscious and conscious minds. In my reading, the individual has Mannaz (the rune of man) inverted and is struggling with her self image and sense of identity – again I believe this is tied in with the previous runes and that work on chakra 2 will start to remedy this problem.
- Power of Will, union with the divine. This chakra corresponds to the realm of the elves and relates to intellect and foresight. The corresponding rune is Raidho which is both the rune of journeying (moving forward with your life journey) and reliance on the parts of the self that connect with the divine. Again, I have found that the energy of the preceding rune is also important – the inspiration of Ansuz flows up from the heart and unites with the ‘right action’ of Raidho to influence the way in which the individual expresses herself. In the example reading, there is a blockage at the throat chakra – the person is finding it difficult to trust in her own destiny and the choices she has made, she seeks logical assurances (with the Ansuz rune earlier) to remedy emotional difficulties and is not aligning herself with possibilties Wyrd has sent her way (represented by the inverted Perthro rune).
- The Power of the Mind, link between mind and spirit, source of wisdom. Vanaheim is the realm of the Vanir, powerful beings who formed an alliance with the Aesir and govern magic, sensuality, wealth and the natural world. The corresponding rune here is Kenaz which is associated with perception, enlightenment and knowledge as well as creativity and crafting. In the example reading the rune Sowelo is a very positive influence, suggesting that the person is open to guidance from her higher self and that the wisdom she is seeking is available to her and will guide her true.
- Spiritual connection, internal awareness, transcendance. The realm associated with this chakra is Asgard, the realm of the Gods. The corresponding rune is Gebo, the gift, a rune of exchange and connection. Again, the example reading is very positive, the rune Wunjo indicates wholeness, joy and an integrated self – in a sense Wunjo represents the harmonious union of all seven chakras within the indivual. The presence of Wunjo suggests that our querent is on the right path, despite the seeming obstacles present within the lower chakras.
Jan Fries counsells that the more runes you use, the more complicated your reading and the less likely you are to get a clear answer - and there is perhaps some truth in this. Once we move into very complex spreads we do run the risk of being overwhelmed by the messages the runes are trying to relay – the age old adage of ‘missing the woods for trees’ springs to mind. If you are going to work with multiple runes then it is vitally important that you already have a clear picture of what each rune will mean depending on where it falls – if you lay out six runes and try and read them blind you are making your task very difficult.
Having said that, you can work with all the runes at the same time if you are clear about what each rune relates to (and by the end of the rune spreads discussion we will have looked at a 24 rune spread).
The six-rune spreads I have come across tend to be adaptations of a cross pattern with some additional runes thrown in (e.g. past, present, future on the horizonal, foundation below, likely outcome above, and ideal outcome to the side). These spreads illustrate the flexibility of the runes and their endless potential – essentially you can design your own bespoke spread to suit the reading.
I have found that a useful way to work with six rune spreads is to treat them as three rune spreads that use rune pairs to cast extra light on the question. Let’s say we take the Overview, Challenge and Action three rune spread. By using rune pairs we can get a better idea of the dynamics at work in a situation and may be able to identify a lot more about the root cause of an issue than would be possible with one rune.
For example: I am struggling with a project which simply won’t get finished, no matter how much effort I throw at it - so I do a reading to find out what the blockage is. A three rune reading gives me Perthro, Teiwaz and Wunjo reversed – from this I read that I have attached great significance to the outcome of the project, I see it in some way as reflecting on myself and my destiny – I therefore soldier on at it and find myself depleted the more effort I put in (the reading makes me realise that the project itself is not the be all and end all and I’ve got to stop beating myself up about it). A six rune spread gives the following pairings: Perthro and Dagaz, Teiwaz and Fehu (reversed), Wunjo (reversed) and Laguz; this reminds me that the project is the first of many I want to achieve and, even though it actually has very little to do with my future plans, I have attached huge significance to it as an indicator of my success in other areas – this is a bad idea. Perthro and Dagaz suggest both fate and a gateway (i.e. I have selected this project as a sort of right of passage which must be endured and will somehow define my abilities in the future). Tewaz and Fehu (reversed) suggest I see myself as a warrior whose luck has failed and who must soldier on despite a slim chance of success. Wunjo (reversed) and Laguz indicate that I will only damage my self esteem and suffer emotionally if I continue on this path (although I will be able to purge myself of this sense of failure with effort). The three rune reading gave useful insights which I could act upon, but the six rune reading gave me a greater understanding of how the project would impact on other areas in my life if I continued to approach it as I was doing.
Ultimately you will form a unique relationship with the runes which will influence the way in which you read them and so the spreads which work best for you (for example, I find rune pairs and rune trios very useful). Although I often work with rune castings (i.e. throwing the runes down and intuitively reading them as they fall); many of my initial castings are followed by exploratory spreads which seek to understand more about the issues and observations that came from the original casting. For example, during a casting we might note that the rune Wunjo was obscured by other runes which fell upon it; we might choose to turn over the runes obscuring Wunjo to see what the blockages stopping self actualisation and happiness were and then do a rune spread afterwards to see what can be done to release those blockages. Other factors in the reading might influence the spread we choose (for example, the influence of other people or emotional difficulties might have come up elsewhere in the reading). Our spread examining blockages to happiness might end up with a single rune in the centre representing the questioner (this often ends up being a rune which was already important in the original casting) with runes on one side representing negative influences from others and emotions holding the questioner back, and runes on the other side representing positive influences available.
Spreads created intuitively during a reading are particularly helpful if you intend to use rune energies to assist your client after the reading (e.g. for healing or spell work) as you will want to work with runes that assist your client in moving forward rather than focusing purely on those that are causing problems. A pre-defined spread will give an accurate picture to relay to your client, but to work with and manipulate Wyrd you have to allow it more freedom to speak.