Posts Tagged ‘wunjo’
Wunjo! Here we are already at the height of Wunjo’s power. Wunjo is a lovely rune, its meaning is seemingly so simple and benevolent that it is easy to overlook it as we face the ‘winter runes’ with trepidation – but they aren’t here yet…
Wunjo literally means ‘joy’ and its appearance in a reading will signify happiness, fulfillment and the success of wishes. Although the rune poem states that Wunjo enriches everything around you, the rune is often thought to refer especially to the happiness that comes through family, friendship and kinship. While we know that our northern ancestors would have been celebrating the harvest, giving thanks to the ancestors and, for the Norse, celebrating the New Year at the end of this month, today this time has come to represent the ending of harvest and communion with the ancestors for a much broader section of the ‘pagan’ community.
For me this is a time to affirm bonds with both the living and the dead. My work is founded on the belief that each of us is bound up in the great web of being which connects all things; we gather great strength, joy and fulfillment through honouring each other and those who have come before us. On my podcast for Shaman of the North on The Shamanic Voice this month I have shared some of the ways in which I work with and honour the ancestors so, on this blog entry I want to share a very simple rite that I like to do with my family when we meet. It is based on the principles of the symbel rite practiced by modern Heathens, Asatru and other Germanic religious groups. If you are interested in reading about the history of the rite and modern reconstructions I would recommend Wednesbury Shire’s article or Arlea Hunt-Anschutz’s article. My own rite follows on from a workshop I did with Ian Read of the Rune-Gild which I found very powerful and moving.
Symbel is essentially a ceremony where toasts are made which honour those present, their gods and ancestors. The power behind it lies in the words spoken by each participant, and in the act of drinking from a blessed vessel which is passed from one person to the next by an individual who is responsible for ensuring the Wyrd is woven correctly as the vessel makes its journey. In a sense, the passage of the vessel is the motion of the threads of Wyrd; as the vessel passes from person to person their words and intentions are woven into Wyrd and (if spoken with truth and honour) will serve to reinforce the bonds of the clan and the luck of each individual.
My own family are of mixed faiths, and some are no faith at all, so it would be disrespectful to all concerned to try and reconstruct a religious rite such as Symbel. However, the act of speaking words of power and intention, and of passing the cup from person to person to weave stronger bonds and increase personal luck is a beautiful one. From a shamanic perspective, the honouring of ourselves, our loved ones, and our dead is also very healing and empowering; it allows us to speak words from the heart and to engage in a little bit of taboo breaking (as you will see). My family have no problem honouring a tradition which is part of their own heritage (being rooted in the Anglo-Saxon land and language) and we all enjoy the sense of occasion and sacredness - even if the sacred is something different to us all.
For your family rite (you can also do this amongst groups of close friends), you will need a large drinking cup or horn, and something nice to put in it – mead is traditional but my family have a particular fondness of red wine so we tend to use that. It is nice to perform the rite after dark, perhaps after a family meal. Bring down the lights and perhaps put out a few candles to mark the occasion. Take your time thinking about who you would like to toast to. The subjects are a family member (or close family friend) who has passed away, a living family member, and yourself. If you are in a large group then you might choose someone to take the drinking cup around, they will need to use their intuition as to who should go first and how the drinking cup will then make its rounds of the group. Otherwise, you can pass the cup around the circle, or each person can take it at the time that seems right to them. When it is your turn (or when you feel that it is your turn), take the cup and speak your words in honour of the person you have chosen, then drink to seal them and pass the cup around so that all may toast to the person.
Now, you will find that it is easy and heart warming to drink in honour of somebody else, but, it is also really important to drink in honour of yourself. This is where the taboo breaking comes in as the rite demands that you aren’t self deprecating or modest, you need to speak about something you have achieved or to describe personal characteristics or actions that you are proud of. It is no good demeaning yourself in front of your family and then drinking to seal a diminished and weakened version of yourself – you have to believe that your family are going to accept and embrace your words. On their part, each person in the group is expected to accept your words graciously – if you really believe a person has lied then you might get all Viking and challenge them, but I’ve never experienced that in the groups I’ve worked with so I can’t comment on how that gets resolved! Honour, integrity and acceptance are the important qualities for you all to hold in your hearts during the rite.
If you are feeling really brave, then the rite can also be used for oath-making. This is where a member of the family makes a vow over the sacred drink that they will fulfill a particular task they have set themselves. Their resolve is strengthened by weaving it into the rite, however, the whole rite will be weakened if they don’t fulfill their promise – so don’t promise anything you don’t intend to go through with. In the Symbel rite, these vows were witnessed by the gods, as well as the family and ancestors, so they were taken very, very seriously.
At the end of the rite the remainder of the drink is ceremoniously poured out onto the earth. You could offer it (as is right for you) to your ancestors, to the spirits of the earth, to your family’s protective spirits, and to the Gods.
Wunjo is not traditionally associated with drinking rites but, for me it is the perfect rune to call on to bless a drinking ceremony. What more could you want than a happy, harmonious family and the blessings of the rune of wish-making upon your vows for future deeds?
I love this mantra. It comes from an absolutely beautiful and powerful working created by David Rankine which you can find in his wonderful book Becoming Magick: New and Revised Magicks from the New Aeon. I think of it whenever we pass through this time of year, moving through the runes ansuz, raidho and kenaz: inspiration becomes action which becomes manifestation. It fills me with a sense of anticipation and I become convinced that I can jump straight from thought into action Now, if you get David’s book you will see that his working takes a much more balanced approach – I would highly recommend it. As I am a rune-girl I have been looking to the runes to help me rein in some of my most ridiculous beliefs about how much one person can achieve in a finite amount of time.
I, like you I suspect, have a to-d0 list which is far too long. Like a fair number of people I am also stress-prone, I like to heap unachievable deadlines upon myself and then beat myself up mercilessly when I don’t achieve them all. This is one of the reasons why I am studying stress management (the choice to seek a qualification in it also being an example of my tireless pursuit to give myself more to do). That aside, I find that working with the runes helps me to get some perspective. Working with the rune calendar has proven invaluable, balance is key to the runester and, just as singing in your rune circle will bring you balance each day, working through the rune cycle each year ensures that you aren’t taking a lop-sided approach to life.
At this time of year we need to start conserving our energies, laying in a good stock of positive, sustaining energy for the winter ahead. Even though our lives are less obviously tied to the cycles of nature than used to be the case, we are still animals, creatures of the earth who develop, grow and live through the cyclical tides of the seasons. We may not be close to starvation (but there are those in the world who are), and we may not freeze to death (although there will be people who do), but many of us will suffer from seasonal affective disorder or at least find ourselves less bouncy and energy-filled. The hard work of the summer must give way to a more rested, considered approach as winter draws near; give yourself a break, slow down, chill out – why not spend some time meditating with a lovely rune
Following my Raidho meditations last half-month I have reinstated my ‘thinking time’ walks. These are always the first to go when I am stressed, I tell myself I don’t have time and end up lying on the sofa at the end of the day, boggling at the television after a day of frustration and inefficiently used time. I then wake up the next day feeling tired and crotchety and begin the whole cycle again. I find that if I allow myself time for my thinking walk then I am much more likely to find the time to cook proper meals, do my meditation, and make plans with friends. Corrina Gordon-Barnes from You Inspire Me calls this sort of activity your one ‘non-negotiable’ ; Corrina works with self-employed women but I believe her advice holds true for anyone struggling with a to-do list that’s ’whelming’ them (that’s one of my personal promises to myself by the way, I am never ‘over-whelmed’, but I admit to being frequently ‘whelmed’).
So, once you’ve found that bit of routine that is your own, personal ritual, then you can start to tackle your to-do list with a bit more presence of mind. That’s when Kenaz comes in, the fiery rune of creation and manifestation. Use this month’s Kenaz meditation to help you remove those deep blocks and obstacles holding you back, and find the clarity and the energy you need to move forward. Break your to-do list down into managable chunks and focus just on the day’s tasks. If your head is whirling with ideas, then take time each day to scribble them down so you don’t forget them. For small projects, check to see if the idea is still burning brightly three days later – if it’s still drawing your attention after three days then it’s probably worthwhile. If it’s a fairly big project, then three days won’t be long enough – give yourself three weeks and then check back to see if the project still draws your enthusiasm and energy. You can use the time to consult with knowledgeable friends, colleagues and contacts – then when your three weeks is up you’ll be ready to get started if you’re still feeling passionate about the project. The point of waiting is to ensure that the idea isn’t just a throw-away inspiration – place it in the Kenaz furnace and see whether it fizzles to nothing or burns more brighly and fiercly from its time in the flames.
On Thursday this week we will move into the half-month of Gebo, the rune of gifts and fair exchange. Life changes take approximately three-weeks to become habit so the Gebo rune can help us to stick to the commitments we have made during the period of inspiration, change and manifestation we have just passed through. I will be asking Gebo to help me stick to my ‘thinking-time walk’. When I make it into Wunjo , the rune of fulfilment and joy on 13th October, I will know that I have re-established my old habit and am giving myself the best possible chance of having a fruitful, plentiful winter.
For friends, colleagues and students in the sourthern hemisphere, the time is of course different. You are in the lovely half-month of Berkano, the rune of growth and potential. While we in the North are carefully conserving our energy with the sensible Raidho rune of the rider and checking that we are not giving or receiving too much (Gebo) - you will soon be speeding along on the steed of Ehwaz. Enjoy!
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.
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
I started using this technique because it is important to me that the runes are used to shape fate wisely, rather than being seen as messages from a pre-ordained future. I also wanted to see what effect consciously bringing the rune into my life (rather than drawing it and then waiting to see where it would pop up) would have. The technique works equally well for tarot and is a great way of learning the meanings and symbolism behind the rune/card as well as for deepening your relationship with its energy.
Essentially you pick one rune at the beginning of the day (you can do this in the morning or the night before – remember that the runes originate from a culture that viewed day as starting at nightfall). Remind yourself of the different meanings behind the rune using your favourite rune book/s (and yes I am working on a reading list). For the rest of the day you want to try and do some or all of the following:
- Look for the energy of your rune around you and welcome it in. For example, if you picked Wunjo a friend or family member may get in contact – take time to enjoy it.
- Give the rune an opportunity to enter your life. For Laguz you might take a long bath or go out in the rain, for Jera you might reflect on all the changes that have happened to you in the last year and how much you have achieved.
- Embody the rune. Think about its qualities and how you as a person embody them. How often does that nature of that rune express itself through you? How does it make you feel? For Nauthiz you might think about what you really need and whether you are allowing yourself to get it. For Gebo you could focus on generosity – how freely do you give of yourself and how easily do you accept help, support and companionship from others? If you spot that you are out of balance do at least one thing that day to set yourself to rights.
When you read up on the rune it is likely that particular concepts will speak to you more than others. Don’t force yourself to focus on the ones that don’t come as easily, let them simmer at the back of your mind and see whether they mean more to you at the end of the day. You might get stuck with a rune that doesn’t speak to you at all or which seems difficult to work with.
A frequently cited ‘difficult’ rune is Thurisaz which can be a very negative rune, but there is negativity all around us and we must learn to deal with it or lead a very blinkered existence. Embodying Thurisaz might also mean being aware of your boundaries, whether others respect them, and how you react when you feel threatened.