Taking Up The Runes
by Diana L. Paxson
Publisher: Weiser Books
Publication date: This edition December 2021, Originally Released 2005
This is one of those re-releases of a well-loved book that’s garnered classic status over the years. Released as part of the “Weiser Classics” range, it’s very telling that the book still ranks highly in all the charts it’s listed in on the major online retailers.
I’d not come across Diana’s work in the fields of Paganism or Heathenry before, and was surprised to learn that she is a truly prolific author with many works of fiction published plus several volumes on Asatru and other Pagan topics. This book, Taking Up The Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic, is unique in that it’s a culmination of written work that began with a runes class resource way back in 1989. This study book has been been built on via fantastic levels of academic research and contributions from the author’s trusted sources to create what is essentially a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to understand more about the history and origins of the runes, how to get to know them, and how to use them in a spiritual or magical way.
Diana looks at both ancient meanings and modern meanings for the runes; the literal meanings as given in the rune poems, and the modern interpretations of those as metaphors, allegories, or, indeed, links to other aspects of Norse mythology. One example of this is linking Uruz, the Aurochs or Wild Ox rune, to Audhumla, the cosmic cow created by the meeting of fire and ice. As well as explaining how and why the runes are interpreted in certain ways, Diana explains how to use the interpretations, magical connotations, and how the runes’ meanings may alter if reversed. Each chapter covers a pair of runes, and how they may be studied together. As well as materials to study, there are ideas for rituals and spell work, making this a very practical volume for anyone who prefers their learning “hands on”. The chapters on the runes follow a consistent structure and flow, making it a good point of reference even for experienced practitioners who may need a reminder about certain facets of a particular rune.
Once the chapters on the runes themselves are over, the book moves onto different forms of divination using the runes, more spells, warding, and a whole series of rituals based around the rune pairs learned in the first part of the book. Diana notes that mastery takes many years, and the author still feels that the knowledge within the book is a work in progress, despite 20 years of dedicated experience. The advice to use the runes often and keep studying is solid, and backed up with many wonderful ways to do just that.
As someone currently going through my own journey with the runes, this book is a powerhouse of relevant information and advice for focused study and seeing aspects of the runes from different perspectives. There are considerations for both the group and the solo student or practitioner, and the overall theme of the book is very inclusive. I haven’t vetted all the sources the author uses but, as always, use discernment with any source discussing runes as some sources are still tainted by ideas rooted in white supremacy. Diana’s book, however, speaks out against racism which is always reassuring in any volume about an aspect of Norse Paganism.
The best thing about this book, in my opinion, is that it can be used as a learning resource for an entire group or school of people wanting to learn the runes together, with exercises, group rituals, and even an organizational layout for classes included. This makes sense, considering that was the root of the work, but to combine that with the additional academic material and the author’s own experiences makes this a rich book indeed.
Diana L. Paxson is famous as the co-writer and continuing author of the Avalon series, begun by Marion Zimmer Bradley. She’s also the author of the Chronicles of Westria novels. Diana is heavily involved in the Heathen and Norse Paganism communities, and is a member of inclusive Heathen organization, The Troth. She grew up in Southern California but now lives in Berkeley with family, friends, and various animal companions.
About the Author:
Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist and content creator. She’s a nature-based witch, obsessed with Irish and British Paganism and Folklore, plus she’s a massive plant nerd. She’s also a long-time Hekate devotee and a newbie Lokean. She works extensively with the UK Pagan Federation, including editing their bi-annual children’s magazine. Mabh is a passionate environmentalist and an advocate for inclusiveness and positive social transformation.
Mabh is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors, Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways, and most recently, Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living. Search “Mabh Savage” on Spotify and @Mabherick on all socials.