divination with runes
Runes are something in which I have just recently been gaining an interest. Recently – as in, the last six months. Before that time, I was busy with other forms of divination – mostly the Tarot – and number-based divinatory systems. Systems that basically worked together.
When I first started learning about women’s spirituality, wicca, witchcraft, and goddess religions in the late 1980’s, I naturally read books about divination. I read everything I could! I received my first deck of Tarot cards in 1988 – as a gift from a friend – and took to the Tarot right away. Although I was interested in other forms of divination, I focused on the Tarot since I reasoned that it was better to become proficient in one skill than inept in several. And over the years, I think I have gotten pretty good at reading the Tarot, although I am far from professional. But I have become quite proficient.
Since I have started writing “Seeing the Signs”, I have learned about many other forms of divination and widened my horizons considerably. Not only can I see many signs in many different ways, but I can use these signs to help me with reading the Tarot – my original love, so to speak – and to help me with reading whatever signs I happen upon. Systems do work together – often in ways that aren’t obvious at first glance.
As a writer, I use the alphabet on daily. I quite honestly do not remember learning my ABC’s. I know that I knew how to read before I started kindergarten (in 1965) and I already knew how to write my name. I had a great desire to learn how to write. I remember copying my mother’s shopping lists (really!) and reading whatever it was that came my way – school books, the newspaper, magazines. My family was very musical and I learned how to play the piano at a young age – learning how to read music. My parents were lovers of opera and I used to read the librettos, comparing the German or Italian lyrics to their French and English translations. I was fascinated by how words changed from language to language and how the alphabet changed, too.
I first heard about runes when I read the books of J.R.R. Tolkien in the 1970’s. They were very popular. To those of you who are only familiar with the movies that came out starting in 2001, the books are fantastic. I used to own almost all of Tolkien’s books. In the 1990’s – going through a terrible depression and moving almost every six to nine months – I got rid of almost all of my books, including my entire Tolkien collection. Like so many things that I discarded through the years, I do regret letting those books go. But it’s water under the bridge now. Recently I went to the library and got out The Fellowship of the Ring – as you can see, the book itself is decorated with runes!
When I first heard of runes for divination, I have to admit, I really didn’t take them seriously. I thought – well, why not use the Russian alphabet for divination? Or the notes on a musical stave? (Which isn’t a half-bad idea, when you think about it). And when you consider all the silliness surrounding runes – the little book that came with the set I bought the other day says “The Gods’ Magical Alphabet”. Why are runes anymore magical than the Latin alphabet? Or the aforementioned Russian alphabet? Or Chinese or Japanese pictographs? Or hieroglyphics? Maybe I’m just too skeptical and scientific but I personally think you can take any object and use it for divination – if you know what you’re doing with it. Does anyone use the innards of animals for divination anymore? But once upon a time, that was common.
Our wonderful editor, Jennifer Sacasa-Wright, sent me a book called Runes for Beginners: Simple divination and Interpretation, by Alexandra Chauran.
Published by Llewellyn, it is a concisely-written, easy-to-read learner of everything the novice reader of Runes needs to know. There is no nonsense about “The God’s Magical Alphabet”. Although in the Introduction Chauran writes that “Norse legend says that the god Odin himself first discovered runes,” she follows this fanciful claim up with more solid scholarly fact, referencing the Etruscans and the various Nordic and Germanic tribes. She compares runes to the Hebrew alphabet, in that each letter has its own meaning, as well as being able to form meanings with other letters (This was probably true of the Latin alphabet as well, but we don’t think of our letters in those magical ways anymore. Maybe we should). She also writes about how to use the book – to be prepared to memorize. She focuses on the Elder Futhark Runes in this book, although she does talk about other kinds.
I have read this book through three times now. When I first got the book, I didn’t even have a set of runes. I had been walking along the edge of the Merrimack River, collecting small stones to make my own set but I hadn’t even picked up ten stones yet. So, I took some cardboard and cut out twenty-four circles and with a Sharpie, drew the letters of the Elder Futhark on each one.
While these homemade runes helped me to learn the basic concepts, I found myself shuffling the cardboard rounds like they were cards and I knew that really wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. But I pulled one each day and did a meditation on it – as Chauran suggests on page 32 – and I am beginning to get the hang of them.
Last Friday, there was work being done in my apartment building, so I decided to get out for the day. I took a bus out of Lowell and transferred to another bus in Lawrence, getting off in Andover, Massachusetts. Andover is a really nice little town. Massachusetts is – of course – filled with picturesque little towns but the reason I went to Andover was to visit a store called Circles of Wisdom (they have a Facebook page, check it out). As soon as I entered, I felt the positive energy. The owner, Cathy Kneeland, was very friendly and helpful. She said that runes were a big seller over the Yule holiday but she had one set left. Of course, I bought them! They were a tad over my budget but hey, that’s life. And they’re beautiful. They feel smooth and cool in my hand. Each one has their own weight. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there. There’s a nice suede bag in which to store them.
I am still pulling out one of the bag and meditating on it each morning. I am also starting to pull two or three runes at a time and trying to tell a story with them – like you would when you are learning the Tarot. I am under no illusions on my ability to become proficient with this little stones – it’s going to be quite a while before I can say with any kind of honesty that I know what I am doing with them! I deal with divination – not alternative facts!
If you have runes and haven’t yet read Runes for Beginners: Simple divination and Interpretation, by Alexandra Chauran, I highly recommend it. As a total novice with runes, I find it very informative and helpful in learning how to use this ancient alphabet in numerous ways – daily meditation, spell work, and personal empowerment. It is written with a scholarly and scientific attitude toward divination.
And, for sure, if you are ever in the Greater Boston area, take a ride out to Andover – it’s on the Haverhill Line if you want to take the Commuter Rail out of Boston – and check out Circles of Wisdom in person. It’s a fine little store, jam-packed with all kinds of esoteric goodies. Until next month, Brightest Blessings!
Chauran, Alexandra. Runes for Beginners: Simple divination and Interpretation. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2016.