How to do a Rune Reading — Conclusion

Like the circle, the Runes can be deceptively simple, and yet also as complex as life itself...and if you meditate upon either, you can find real illumination!
Like the circle, the Runes can be deceptively simple, and yet also as complex as life itself…and if you meditate upon either, you can find real illumination!

We’ve now covered all of the steps that I run through when performing a Rune reading.  I figured I’d wrap up the series with a summary for use as a handy reference resource for anyone interested in traveling deeper into explorations with the Runes…

I should stress again that this is my own personal process, arrived at after several years of working with the Runes on a daily basis.  Other people will do things differently — you might choose to do things differently.  And that’s all completely fair and legit.  There are a lot of valid methodologies out there, and I only offer mine as a hopefully clear and accessible starting point for anyone who happens upon it in their own quest to learn how to use this outstanding system.

So with all that disclaimer-y language out of the way, here, again, are the major steps in my own Rune reading process:

1)  Use your favorite method for getting yourself sufficiently centered and grounded.
2)  Focus on your question while you mix up the Runes in their bag or pouch, and then select a small handful of them.
3)  Cast them down onto your designated reading surface.
4)  Take note of how many Runes you ended up choosing: a relatively small number may mean that the issue you’re probing into has only a few primary core points, while a larger number of Runes could indicate a more complicated situation with a lot more moving parts.
5)  Examine the overall shape of the scatter of Runes.  Clues here can arise from the way in which the Runes dispersed: are they arrayed uniformly about the space, or did you end up with a few denser clumps and clusters?  And does the shape of the scatter suggest anything to you?  Does it resemble a geometric shape, or more of a free-form blob?  Do the Runes seem to converge to or from a single point, or does it all seem more purely random?  You can then apply the answers to these questions toward the underlying question that you asked at the outset of the Rune-cast.
6)  Evaluate the meanings of the Runes that landed face-up — in my view, these themes will play out in more obvious fashion in the situation that’s being assessed.
7)  Turn over and then evaluate the meanings of the Runes that landed face-down — again, in my own view, the forces symbolized by these Runes will manifest in much more subtle ways than the forces embodied by the Runes that landed with their faces already revealed.
8)  Try to tie all of the individual Rune meanings together into a more cohesive whole as you again refer back to the original question you were asking.  Can you conjure up a workable tapestry of meaning, or a linear narrative…?
9)  Consider the orientations of each of the Runes…  Are they all more or less facing in the same direction (which can signify that the things they represent will be working in a fairly unified and harmonious way), or did they land in a sort of chaotic shambles (which might mean that the underlying situation being scrutinized is also a bit of a messy affair, with component parts that are working against each other)…?
10) If the concept of merkstave Runes is one that resonates with you, locate any Runes that landed so as to be rotated 180 degrees away from you, and then adjust their meanings accordingly (see Part 8 in this series).
11) Similarly, if you find value in analyzing how each of the three Aettir are represented in the spread as compared to the others, this is an excellent juncture for working through that process (see Part 9).
12) Finally, you can translate the Runes in the scatter into their English equivalents, and then try rearranging them into anagrams, to see if you can land on some additional relevant words and phrases (see Part 10).

The Valknut: symbol of Odin, the All-Father, Conjuror and Master of the Runes!
The Valknut: symbol of Odin, the All-Father, Conjuror and Master of the Runes!

Once you’ve made your way through all of these steps, basically in that order…you’ve performed a bona fide Rune reading!  You should practice, practice, practice, but using this template as your guide, you should be able to gain confidence in reading the Runes, and you’ll eventually reach a level of knowledge and skill at which you can modify the process to suit your growing expertise.

I’m considering doing a series of posts in which I offer up my own take on what each individual Rune signifies, but until I get that series up and running, you can also comb the internet for Rune meanings, or you can track down any of several excellent books on the subject.  My own personal favorite is Taking Up the Runes by Diana Paxson.  This is an especially good book because Ms. Paxson not only offers up her own thoughtful interpretations of each of the Runes, but she also summarizes the views of many of the other authors who are regarded as luminaries in the field (in other words, you can start with her book first, and get some sense of what the other Rune authorities say, too, without also having to shell out mega-heaps of dough for all of their books…you can always get those later, if any of them pique your interest).

And there you have it — if you’ve followed this series all the way through to this point, you may not be a true vitki just yet, but you should be on course toward that end!  Please feel free to comment here, or to reach out to me with any questions.  I hope that at least some of you reading this will end up getting as much out of the Runes as I do!

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How to do a Rune Reading — Part 10

We’re definitely in the homestretch-phase of the Rune reading process.  We’ve looked at the size and shape of the Rune-cast, examined all of the Runes individually (both the ones that landed face-up and the ones that ended up face-down), analyzed the ways in which their meanings joined up to form a whole, studied the orientations of the Runes to assess the sense of “flow” running through the scatter, and we even looked a bit to see if the specific Runes that appeared were evenly drawn from among the three Aettir (as we discussed in the last post, the Aettir are three sub-groupings of eight Runes each).

So what next?

I have an odd sort of brain exercise that I like to throw into the mix at this point.  It’s something that, as far as I know, I incorporated myself, as I don’t remember any of the Rune-centric books or websites I’ve studied making use of it, and it certainly doesn’t appear in the ancient Icelandic texts that we look to today as sort of twin “Rune bibles.”

Example of anagram play.  This is a good one, as
Example of anagram play. This is a good one, as “The Alias Men” serves as an anagram for “Alan Smithee,” which is a false name — i.e., an actual alias! — used by Hollywood directors who don’t want their real names associated with especially poor films…

The exercise involves anagrams.  An anagram is what happens when you take the letters of a word or phrase and then rearrange them so as to form new words or phrases.  For example, you can rearrange the letters of “Arrow In Flight” to arrive at “Parlor Whiting.”  A whiting is a fish belonging to the cod family, and it’s commonly found in Europe.  We could therefore be looking at a new phrase here that describes what you might have encountered had one of the old, Rune-using Germanic tribespeople mounted an especially impressive catch of whiting on the wall of their home.  If we agree to call that part of the home in question a parlor…then we’re getting agreeably Viking here!

A big round of applause, please, for Ansuz, the
Rune-cast, revisited!

And how does this anagram business help us in our quest to extract meaning from a scattering of Runes?  Well, in all honesty, sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes playing the anagram game won’t yield up any new words or phrases that have any relevant meaning to what you’re investigating.  Other times, the process won’t result in any usable new words or phrases at all, depending on the letters you have to work with.  If this is what happens with a given sampling of Runes, then it’s not a big deal — you can just cross this step off of your Rune-reading checklist, and move on…  But sometimes you’ll end up hitting upon a new layer of additional meaning that you might not have seen before.  Sometimes the new words/phrases will actually seem like they have an uncanny amount of helpful and on-point meaning to contribute, and had you not played the word-scrambling anagram game, you might have missed this entirely.

So let’s take a last look at the Rune-cast we’ve been working with in this series…

As a reminder, we looked at — in order — the Runes that are the equivalents to our own letters N, T, E, G, and A.  Now, in modern English, there is no such word as “NTEGA.”  So far, the Runes/letters aren’t telling us much.  But what if we do a bit of scrambling…?

When you use the Runes, you're acting as an agent!  Cool artwork by Ben Crowder, used with permission...
When you use the Runes, you’re acting as an agent! Cool artwork by Ben Crowder, used with permission…

Five letters is a pretty small amount when working with anagrams, so this shouldn’t take too long.  Almost immediately, it will become apparent that “NTEGA” is an anagram for…”AGENT.”

And if you remember what we’ve been pondering in this example reading so far, the idea was to probe into those traits that the excellent Rune reader will bring into play when working with the Runes.  So here, we actually do hit upon a sort of reinforcement of that concept: the Rune reader is an agent of sorts of the Runes, and of any Powers That Be that work though and associate Themselves with the Runes!  An agent is someone who acts on behalf of another or who causes something to happen.  So here, this nifty little anagram quite arguably tells us to remember that when performing any Runic work, we’re acting on behalf of the Runes, on behalf of any Runic Powers that might be swirling around the process, and on behalf of those people receiving the readings.  We’re also definitely causing things to happen when we get into Runic work.  We are agents in a couple of very major senses of that word!

And this little anagram exercise actually leads to another Rune-based technique you can practice that will similarly work that old gray matter in Rune-related ways.  All through this series, we’ve been translating each Rune into its English alphabet counterparts.  For instance, I’ve noted how, say, Ehwaz is the “E”-Rune, and Ansuz is the “A”-Rune…  You can do the same in reverse.  That is, you can morph English words and phrases into their Runic forms to see which Runes might appear often, and also which might not appear at all.  I believe that through this process, you can often see which Runic energies are actually present in any word or phrase, and especially in names.  Much like we look at Zodiac Sun Signs in Astrology or Life Path Numbers in Numerology to get a sense of a given individual, you can analyze a person’s name to see which Runes are most present and powerful in it, and this can shed some real light on that person.

Einstein: say it in Runes, and then see what meanings leap forth...
Einstein: say it in Runes, and then see what meanings leap forth…

Here’s an example: take a look at Albert Einstein’s last name, which we use in our modern society as a synonym for “genius.”  As the accompanying image shows, the name Einstein is actually only made up of four separate Runes, two of which appear twice (and please note that some Runes actually stand for combinations of two of our letters, such as Thurisaz, which represents the “TH” sound, or here, Eihwaz symbolizes that long “I” vowel sound that you often get when using the “EI” combo).

So in very quick and simple fashion, the Runes that make up Einstein’s last name could suggest that here we have a person who has a powerful need (Nauthiz = “Need”) to offer up the fruits of his unique perspective (a possible manifestation of Eihwaz energy) in order to illuminate the world (Sowilo = “Sun”) for the greater good (a Tiwaz trait).

Of course, not everyone named Einstein will be a world-changing visionary, but this exercise really can offer up some surprisingly valid insights at times.  Also, translating English words, names, and phrases into their Runic equivalents is a fantastic way to further familiarize yourself with the Runes of the Elder Futhark!  I suggest starting off with your own name, and then moving onward from there…

The next post will wrap up this series with a summary of everything discussed up to this point — please do come back for that one!

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How to do a Rune Reading — Part 9

So the topic for this post is the Aettir.

What, you may be asking, is an Aettir??  And that would be a perfectly legitimate question.  The first part of the answer is that Aettir is actually a plural word…so the question would more accurately be “What are Aettir?”  The singular is “Aett,” by the way, for future reference…

But to answer the question, you may recall my earlier mention of the fact that the Elder Futhark of Runes that we’re using here is an ancient alphabet made up of 24 letters…?  Well, Rune scholars will happily inform you that the few surviving Runic texts from those old seagoing, Asgardian-worshipping days make note of the fact that the Futhark can be subdivided into three equal-sized groupings of eight Runes apiece.  Each Aett is then designated by its opening Rune, and by a Norse Deity whose name begins with that Rune.

So, for instance, the first Aett begins with the “F”-Rune, Fehu, and that Aett is said to be presided over by either the Goddess of Love, Beauty, and Magic — Freyja — or by her brother, the fertility God, Frey (depending on which school of thought you prefer…and for whatever it’s worth, I belong to Camp Freyja, with no disrespect to Frey intended).

The lovely Lady Freyja, who often ventured forth across the Nine Worlds in a chariot drawn by two tremendously large and vividly blue-colored Cats...when she wasn't donning her cloak of Falcon feathers and shapeshifting into that swift hunter-bird so as to get around under her own steam (we here at Arrow In Flight <3 Freyja, by the way...)...
The lovely Lady Freyja, who often ventured forth across the Nine Worlds in a chariot drawn by two tremendously large and vividly blue-colored Cats…when she wasn’t donning her cloak of Falcon feathers and shapeshifting into that swift hunter-bird so as to get around under her own steam (we here at Arrow In Flight

The second Aett launches with the “H”-Rune, Hagalaz, and again, two main viewpoints have evolved here, associating this Aett with either Hela, the Goddess of the Underworld, or Heimdall, the ever-vigilant sentry-God who stands watch on the Rainbow Bridge, Bifrost, which links our earthly realm with that of the Asgardian Deities (I lean toward Hela here, as the second Aett is, for the most part, suitably gloomy for that dark lady…although Heimdall is quite the impressive character!).

The final Aett is the only one that doesn’t seem to generate dissension as to whom it should be accorded: it begins with the “T”-Rune, Tiwaz (which we’ve already examined previously), and this Aett is lorded over by Tyr, the noble Warrior-God who gave up his own hand in order to buy his people a few ages of peace and security from a certain fearsome Wolf…  These three groupings, then, are the aforementioned Aettir — mystery solved!

Aett + Aett + Aett = Futhark...
Aett + Aett + Aett = Futhark…

But so, okay, sure…but then what exactly do we do with these Aettir…?  That’s actually another good question — a really good one.  This one isn’t so easily answered, though…  While Ye Olde Runic Gospel establishes the existence of the Aettir, we’re not really left with any specific guidance regarding how we might then apply that existence to a Rune reading.  A panoply of theories exists, spread across the length and breadth of the internet, but it’s all essentially guesswork.

I actually have a few distinct theories that I’m cooking up here myself, which, when finalized, may allow for some useful employment of the Aettir.  Sadly, though, these remain at present still only about half-baked (or…okay, maybe a third-baked…).  The only one that I’ll mention here now, just so you can get some feel for how various Rune-users are approaching this issue is this:

I’m comfortable enough proceeding on the theory that the three Aettir might each represent stages in the initiatory process.

That is, Freyja’s Aett speaks of the phase during which someone matures enough to be off on their own adventures in the world, and they begin to reach a certain level of skill and power, amassing a legitimate storehouse of knowledge and tools along the way — think of young Odin, rising in might when the Universe was equally young, reworking the world with the help of his brothers, and establishing a new order in the Cosmos…

Hela’s Aett, though, is where the real challenges appear — this can be the phase of heroic trials, such as face-offs with monsters of whatever stripe, journeys into the underworld or other dark and terrifying places, and the confrontation with the grimmest parts of one’s own soul.  Now picture Odin imposing that famous nine-day ordeal upon himself, in which he skewers himself with his magic spear and then hangs himself without food or water on the great World-Tree, Yggdrasil, until something meaningful might come of it all (and as we learned in a previous post, this is how Odin first encountered the Runes themselves).

Hela, Goddess of the Underworld, and proprietress of the second Aett, appears here in the company of her siblings, the ferocious Fenriswolf and Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent, each of whom would grow to gargantuan size in time.  These are the children of Loki, the Mischief-God.  Public domain artwork by Willy Pogany...
Hela, Goddess of the Underworld, and proprietress of the second Aett, appears here in the company of her siblings, the ferocious Fenriswolf and Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent, each of whom would grow to gargantuan size in time. These are the children of Loki, the Mischief-God. Public domain artwork by Willy Pogany…

And then Tyr’s Aett speaks to the final phase, that which follows all of the tests and tempering.  This is what manifests after the monsters have been slain, and after the subject has re-emerged from out of the underworld — what will she or he do with their newfound wisdom and strength…?  What did Odin do after successfully passing through his great trial, wiser and more powerful than ever…?

This may be oversimplified, as the Runes don’t make it easy for us to group them into completely unified categories, and there always seem to be at least one or two exceptions hiding in each Aett to foil a Rune-user’s attempts at creating a smooth system of labels…but so far, this is the best fit I’ve yet come up with myself, or encountered out there on the interwebs, even if this theory is still a bit rudimentary at present…

But anyway, the point of all this is to say that while worrying about the Aettir is probably not going to be one of the most primary components of a Rune reading, it is worth keeping the concept in the back of your mind during the process.  I often check a given Rune-cast to see if any one Aett is either over-represented in the results, or is left out of the mix as compared with the others.  Here in our ongoing example, it turns out that we have two Runes from Freyja’s Aett (Ansuz and Gebo), one from Hela’s Aett (Nauthiz), and two from Tyr’s Aett (Tiwaz and Ehwaz).  This is about as even a distribution as you can probably hope for when analyzing a total of five Runes, so this says to me that the overall scatter spreads its meaning across all three Aettir, and across all three phases of the initiatory process.  In other words, the qualities necessary for a Rune-reader to attain a sufficient level of worthiness should be seen as remaining present through all three stages of experience: beginning, middle, and end…beginner, intermediate, and advanced…neophyte adventurer, initiate under siege, and seasoned veteran.

At any rate, you needn’t stress too much about this concept — I just wanted to be sure I made mention of it, because if you do decide to get into further study of the Runes, you might see the terms “Aett” and “Aettir” sprinkled around, and I figured a bit of advance notice might be helpful.  This is a more difficult and nebulous concept, though, and even people who will tell you with great authority that they know how to utilize the Aettir…probably don’t have such great authority about how to utilize the Aettir.  So don’t be intimidated by this topic!  As you explore the Runes, and get more familiar with the individual meanings of each, you can start to formulate your own working theories about what the three Aettir might really signify.

We’ll pause here for now, and next time, I’ll introduce some brain-exercises I like to use, which can be both fun and illuminating in closing out a reading…

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How to do a Rune Reading — Part 8

So we’ve reached a new plateau of sorts in our ongoing example Rune reading: we evaluated the size and shape of the scatter of Runes that I cast, and we’ve tackled the heart of the reading, which would be the assessment of the individual Runes themselves.  I find it’s most natural to first analyze the more obvious, face-up Runes, followed by turning over and weighing the meanings of the more subtle Runes that had landed face-down.  We also got into the flow of the overall pattern of the scatter — in our example, there was a very strong, unified sense of flow in terms of which ways the different Runes were facing, although this won’t always be the case!

We also discussed how the Runes that presented themselves to us here would serve as answers to our initial question: specifically, they describe qualities that the compassionate and talented Rune-reader will bring into readings.  These are exemplified by the four subtle Runes we examined:

–Tiwaz – showcasing integrity, altruism, strength of character
–Ehwaz – indicating strength, endurance, the willingness to work hard, and a symbiotic relationship between Runes and Rune-reader
–Gebo – spotlighting a need to view the Runes and interactions with them as sacred gifts, and ones that establish powerful bonds between the Runes and their users
–Ansuz – flagging for us the requirement to see the magic and might that are inherent in symbols and language

These are all critical steps, and I can’t think of any situations off the top of my head in which you wouldn’t want to run through them.

And so having traveled to this point, I want to now bring up a few additional checklist items to consider, as they can shed significant amounts of light on the work already performed…

This formidable-looking club was apparently crafted for use as an instrument*persuasion* during the infamous Mitsui Miike coal mine labor dispute of the early 1960's -- a pretty
This formidable-looking club was apparently crafted for use as an instrument of…um…*persuasion* during the infamous Mitsui Miike coal mine labor dispute of the early 1960’s — a pretty “dark stick,” indeed…

The first thing here has to do again with that concept of orientation.  That is, important information can usually be gleaned during a Rune-cast based on the orientations of the Runes.  That part isn’t exactly a big revelation anymore, as we’ve already gotten into this notion a bit throughout this series of posts.  What we haven’t touched upon yet, though — because it really didn’t come up in this particular example — is an orientation/facing concept called merkstave.  As you study various Rune resources, you’ll bump into this term, so I wanted to cover it at least briefly here before moving on.

Merkstave literally means “dark stick,” and it refers to situations in which a Rune lands such that it seems to be rotated 180 degrees away from the Rune-caster who’s performing the reading.  Put another way, the Rune appears to be “upside-down”…although I want to be very clear here that I’m not talking about a Rune that lands face-down, such that all you can see is its blank back-side.  Merkstave indicates a Rune that, when face-up, seems to be rotated completely opposite to the reader, so that it would look perfectly rightside-up to someone sitting across the table from the Rune-reader.

Interpretations of a merkstave Rune will vary pretty seriously from one Rune-reader to the next.  The concept is not unlike reversed cards in Tarot readings, which notion generates similar variances in treatment across any array of readers that you might poll.  Probably the most commonly employed approach toward summing up the impact that a merkstave Rune has upon a reading would be to view that Rune not as opposite to its usual meaning, but more as bringing with it the more negative of the meanings and interpretations that are generally associated with that Rune.

Meet Algiz, the
Meet Algiz, the “Z”-Rune! Algiz means “Elk,” and it has to do with protection…

Here’s an example…  Consider the Rune called Algiz.  It serves as the “Z”-Rune in the Elder Futhark (and sometimes gets tapped by people to stand in for “X,” as well).  Algiz literally means “Elk,” and its primary interpretations revolve around the overall concept of “protection” (think of what an elk’s antlers do for that elk, and you’re on the right track).  So to a practitioner who hails from this “merkstave = darkest meanings” school of thought, if Algiz lands merkstave in a Rune-cast, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person receiving the reading (who is referred to as the “querent” in divination, by the way) will experience a total lack of protection, which would be the polar opposite of the basic Algiz thrust…it will more likely mean that the querent will find herself/himself in a situation in which she/he will need protection — a subtle but definite distinction.  It’s not a black/white flip-flopping of “protection/no protection” — it becomes more a case of “What kinds of bleak realities can springboard out of situations in which the generally prevailing theme is that of protection?”  Having no protection at all arguably fits into that category, yes, but it’s also probably the most obvious and over-simplified way of reading the merkstave Algiz.

But let me pause here to say that just as with reversed cards in Tarot, you are the final judge as to what feels like the best approach in all this.  You should definitely play around with various ways of handling merkstave Runes before you land on any one method for yourself (and you can even feel free to allow your methods to be a bit fluid, and to morph a bit from one reading to another if the Runes seem to be calling for that in a given scatter).  None of the few hallowed texts surviving from the old days when the Germanic peoples sailed the northern seas offers any guidance on this matter, so take anyone’s opinions (mine included) with the requisite grains of salt, and work at determining what resonates most with you!

Here are the five Runes  that we looked at in our ongoing example scatter.  You should be able to see that two of the five -- Nauthiz, which is the first in this array, and Gebo, which comes fourth -- can't be rendered
Here are the five Runes that we looked at in our ongoing example scatter. You should be able to see that two of the five — Nauthiz, which is the first in this array, and Gebo, which comes fourth — can’t be rendered “upside-down,” or merkstave. They refuse to play that game!

For whatever it’s worth, I personally don’t tend to do all that much with the merkstave concept (or with reversed cards in Tarot, for that matter) — I just stay aware of the entire range of meanings for a given Rune, and take them all into consideration.  I feel that as the Runes that surface in a given cast interact, they’ll start to indicate which of their meanings need to be treated as primary, based in great part on which other Runes are present.  And as we’ve covered a bit already, I also place more weight on the orientations of all of the Runes in a scatter on the whole: that is, I believe it’s important to examine whether they all line up consistently and agreeably with each other, versus whether they’re pointing in a chaotic mishmash of directions (which can indicate blockages or disruptions in the situation being explored).  A single Rune can be merkstave from where I sit without that feeling like a big, blaring alarm-signal to me, as long as the rest of the Runes aren’t all swimming in the other direction.  So, I tend to look at the forest when it comes to the Runes’ orientations, more than at each individual tree, if that makes sense…

And here’s one more reason why I don’t cling fanatically to the merkstave concept: 9 out of the 24 Runes in the Elder Futhark can’t be merkstave — they have no rightside-up or upside-down, and are exactly the same when you spin them a half-turn in either direction!  It doesn’t sit right with me to accord this whole merkstave treatment to the majority of the Runes, but to refuse admittance to over a third of the Futhark to this particular party!

In our next post, I’ll get into the Aettir, a concept based on the structure of the Futhark…

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How to do a Rune Reading — Part 7

In a most exciting development, today’s post sees us turning over the last of the subtle Runes in our ongoing Rune reading example!  Let’s clear up that last bit of mystery:

A big round of applause, please, for Ansuz, the
Rune-cast, pic 6: A big round of applause, please, for Ansuz, the “A”-Rune!

The final piece of our Runic puzzle this time around turns out to be the Rune called Ansuz.  While Ansuz doesn’t come first in the Runic alphabet, it is nonetheless the Rune that’s analogous to our own modern letter “A,” and it’s used to represent the same sounds that our A signifies for us.  Ansuz also literally means “Odin.”

For those of you not familiar with that word, Odin — like Tyr, who we discussed a bit when we turned over Tiwaz — is one of the Norse Deities.  He is, in fact, the undisputed monarch of the Norse Pantheon (and brave Tyr is actually one of Odin’s sons).  Odin is also one of the more complex Gods you’ll come across anywhere in World Mythology.  Among other attributes, Odin is a somewhat primordial figure, he’s a bit of a Creator (or at least a Re-Arranger of the Cosmos), he’s a Seeker of Wisdom, a Sorcerer, a War-God, a Sky-God, a Wanderer, a Shaman, a Death-God, a Father-Figure (often referred to as the All-Father), and a Language and Information God.  The Ansuz Rune, then, definitely refers to Odin in his fascinating entirety…but it also holds some special focus aimed squarely at those latter aspects of him…

You may recall that earlier in this series, I mentioned something about Odin having subjected himself to a grueling trial of sorts that led to the introduction of the Runes into the Universe…and I’m going to recap that again here, because it’s important to Rune-usage in general, and to the understanding of Ansuz in particular.  The very short version is that in Norse Mythology, there are Nine Worlds, and each of these Worlds hangs from a vast, cosmic Tree called Yggdrasil.

Magnificent Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds!  Glorious artwork used with the kind permission of its creator, Tina Solstrand...
Magnificent Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds! Glorious artwork used with the kind permission of its creator, Tina Solstrand (see more of her outstanding work at )…

As part of his ongoing quest to amass all manner of wisdom, Odin at one point subjected himself to a rather brutal-sounding ordeal in which he gored himself with his enchanted spear, Gungnir, and then hung himself for nine days and nights upon Yggdrasil without food or water, a sacrifice made freely by himself, and dedicated to himself.  At the end of his period of suffering, the Runes — never before seen or even guessed at in the Nine Worlds — appeared on the ground below him, and he scooped them up, thus bringing written language and communication into existence.  And it’s this association with the Runes that Ansuz specifically invokes — as mentioned above, Odin is a Language God and an Information God, and these are the attributes to consider with some primary focus whenever Ansuz appears in a Rune-cast.  Consider all of the major concepts that fall under this overall definitional umbrella as you work up your interpretations: Ansuz can refer to words, language, sounds, meanings, incantations, wind, breath, lyrics and poetry, names, categorization, communication, messages, symbols, and even the very concept of definition itself.  There may also be a sort of metatextual or self-referential element about Ansuz, as it’s the Rune that conjures the image of the Runes being “born” into the Universe — that is, it’s the Rune that most seems to refer to the Runes.

Ansuz, the
Ansuz, the “A”-Rune: in this one very special case, A is actually for Odin…

How, then, do we incorporate this Rune’s presence into our growing tapestry of meanings within this specific Rune-cast…?

Well, if we continue on with this theory that the four subtle Runes in the scatter are describing traits that we need to embody when working with the Runes, then the message seems to be the notion that every Rune-cast should involve a deep reverence for the power of symbols and language, the realization that connecting certain sounds with certain meanings is a form of actual “magic,” and the idea that words and definitions literally affect our reality.  Put another way, in very vital fashion, Runes (as letters, symbols, and words) can be seen as the building blocks of our lives!  This is pretty heavy stuff, but not exactly an unwarranted approach for the practicing vitki (= user of Runes) to be cultivating.  This is a Rune-centric way of saying “Knowledge is Power.”  The Runes are sacred tools, is the concept here, and they need to be treated as such…

And we can close this installment of the series by noting that once again, another subtle Rune is revealed, and it can be seen to align very well with all of the others in terms of which way it seems to be oriented.  Imagine a current of water or wind flowing from the lower left corner of the scatter toward the upper right, and you can see that with a few very slight deviations in rotation, the Runes are all pretty much lying in agreeable positions that might naturally arise from such a flow manifesting itself.  I usually take this kind of orientational consistency to mean that the subject matter of the Rune-cast is one that should show evidence of a very natural and powerful internal harmony.  In this case, that means that the more obvious thrust of the Runes that appeared for us here — as symbolized by Nauthiz (“Need”), the one Rune that landed face-up — as well as the more subtle undercurrents (discussed in the last few posts as we looked at Tiwaz, Ehwaz, Gebo, and now Ansuz), are all working together without much in the way of contradiction or of any of the Runes working at cross-purposes.  Their messages are essentially unified, and supportive of each other.  Again, the four subtle Runes do in fact seem to be illustrating the primary qualities that a talented Rune-reader will be bringing into each reading…

Next time, we’ll start getting into some wrap-up steps I like to employ at the back end of a Rune reading!

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How to do a Rune Reading — Part 6

Let’s keep right on with the process of turning over the Runes that had landed face-down…  For today’s post, we’ll be dealing with our second-to-last such Rune…

Rune-cast, pic 5: Please say hello to Gebo, the
Rune-cast, pic 5: Please say hello to Gebo, the “G”-Rune!

Readers, meet Gebo, the Elder Futhark’s “G”-Rune…  Like Ehwaz, which we examined a bit last time around, Gebo is one of the Runes that mimics the shape of one of our own modern letters, but which carries the sound functions of an entirely different letter.  That is, Ehwaz looks like a capital letter “M,” but it acts in practice like an “E.”  Similarly, Gebo sounds like our “G,” but it looks exactly like our “X” (interestingly, both letters are used by us to rate the maturity levels of films, with G being the least graphic, and X being the most…although I’ve never seen a Rune expert trying to establish a link between Gebo and the field of motion pictures and other related entertainment…).  But anyway, this is a chance to refresh your recollection that while most of the Runes will at first look like strange symbols never before encountered, a few of them look like letters in our own present-day alphabet…and these Runes usually do not sound like the letters that they resemble!

But so back to Gebo.  The literal meaning of Gebo is “Gift.”  Gebo is usually seen as a “good” or “positive” Rune, which makes some sense, given how much most of us like gifts, although as with Tarot, it’s probably best practice to try not to limit yourself to one-sided interpretations of any given symbol.  Each Rune covers a range of meanings, some tough and others rather user-friendly, and the best readers will take the whole spectrum of possibilities into consideration before arriving at their takes on what the Runes are saying.

The gift of Gebo...but what exactly is in that box...?
The gift of Gebo…but what exactly is in that box…?

So what then would be the full range of Gebo-meanings?  And remember, we’re exploring the notion that the four subtle Runes in this scatter — that’s the ones that landed face-down — are each describing traits that the worthy Rune reader will cultivate within herself/himself, and will try to bring forth into every reading.  Keeping that in mind…here, then, are some of the main “keywords” that will pop up almost every time you go strolling through some Rune resource’s summary of Gebo interpretations: gift, marriage, wedding, exchange, generosity, hospitality, relationship, obligation, binding…

Gebo can definitely indicate actual imminent gifts: material goods, money, favors, promotions, connections.  This is a large part of why this Rune is usually received pretty happily by someone who draws it.  Gebo can also be talking, though, about the perceived obligations and connections that the giving/receiving of a gift can create.  Is gift-giving ever truly one-sided?  If someone gives you a gift, do you owe them something in return, even if that something is simply the expression of sufficient gratitude?  And sometimes the debt can be even greater than that.  These aren’t simple questions (I’m reminded of a “Seinfeld” episode built almost entirely around the gang spending most of the half-hour agonizing over whether Jerry had thanked an acquaintance thoroughly enough after the guy had given him some hockey tickets…and another episode in which a fellow comedian “gives” Jerry a brand-new and expensive suit, but then wants multiple favors in return, hanging the gift of the suit over Jerry’s head in order to fan the flames of Jerry’s guilt-response…).  The point is that the giving of a gift can set up an undeniable energy-tie between the giver and the receiver.  Therefore, when Gebo appears in a reading, it’s wise to think not just about possible gifts, but also about the dynamic that might be established upon the receipt of any such gift.

If the people of Stockholm erect a statue of the Norse Goddess, Freyja, is this
If the people of Stockholm erect a statue of the Norse Goddess, Freyja, is this “gift” of theirs an isolated and one-way transaction? Or does it speak of a more ongoing bond involving Freyja and her devotees? Does the gift feed that bond? Does it obligate Freyja somehow, or does it further obligate her worshippers to live up to the kind of devotion that the statue would imply they possess…?

Since Runes hail from a culture that had a close and active relationship with its Deities, Gebo can take that sort of mortal/Divinity bond into account, as well.  The worship of mortals for their Gods can set up the kinds of ties that might not be out of place in a discussion about Gebo.  Such worship can bring favor upon the mortals, and it lends purpose to their lives, while in return, it strengthens those Deities on the receiving end of that worship — for the participants, this is an organic exchange that can take on a life of its own.  Looking for a possible spiritual component when interpreting Gebo is therefore not necessarily a wrong turn…

How does all of this then fit within that concept of these four subtle Runes capturing the qualities necessary for a strong Rune reader?  One highly possible interpretation would be that the Rune reader must view the bond with the Runes as a “gift.”  Working with the Runes, and using them to help others, should be approached as a profound undertaking.  The reading itself can be seen as a gift, too, and one that’s given to both the reader (who has a chance to do that which nourishes and enlivens them) and the querent receiving the reading (as they’ll gain wisdom through the process).  And finally, some Rune enthusiasts believe that each Rune is itself a living Spirit, like a Deity of sorts…so then in much the same way that a worshipper enhances bonds with their Deities through their reverence, so, too, can the Rune user further strengthen their bond with the Runes by way of respectful, grateful practice.

And to wrap things up for the moment, we shouldn’t lose track of how the Runes are oriented with respect to each other as we turn over the formerly hidden, subtle ones.  As noted last time around, the Runes continue to be more or less facing in the same general direction.  Gebo continues that trend.  Obviously, when we’re dealing with Runes such as Gebo and Nauthiz, which look the same regardless of which end you point up — that is, they have no “upside-down” or “rightside-up” orientations — the odds that the Runes will seem to agree in their facings definitely increase.  Still, the impression that the component parts of this reading are working harmoniously does still carry forward here…

Next time up, we’ll be turning over that final subtle Rune — please tune in for that!  I do promise to go on treating each and every column I write here like a Gebo-gift to you…

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How to do a Rune Reading — Part 5

We’ll continue on over the course of the next few posts with the process of turning over the “subtle Runes” in this Rune-cast.  You’ll hopefully recall from earlier in the series that this is the term I’ve given to those Runes that land face-down in a scatter, as I believe they signify forces whose effects will be…well, subtle (as compared to the face-up Runes, which point toward forces that should be much more obvious in their impact).

So far, we know that the lone face-up Rune was Nauthiz, which means “Need,” and the first of the face-down, subtle Runes was Tiwaz, which references the valiant Norse God named Tyr.  Here’s what we land on next:

Rune-cast, pic 4: Please welcome Ehwaz!  This is the
Rune-cast, pic 4: Please welcome Ehwaz! This is the “E”-Rune, and its literal meaning is…”Horse.”

Here, we meet the Rune known as “Ehwaz.”  This Rune served the ancient Germanic peoples as their version of what we now call the letter “E.”  Admittedly, it looks just like the capitalized version of our own letter M, which it does not correspond with in the slightest — there are a few Runes that follow this same confusing scheme of looking like one of our modern letters but sounding like an entirely different one.  The budding Rune enthusiast has to simply accept that a few of these tricky Runes exist, memorize the specifics, and then try to release the need for certain shapes to always, always mean the same exact thing (that is, it helps, for example, to allow for the idea that the same symbol can mean the sounds and functions of the letter M in one context, but it can serve as an analog for the letter E in another…).

Beyond the sounds that it represents, and the fact that it’s one of the Futhark’s vowels (so, it will crop up a lot for you if, like me, you enjoy nerdishly converting names, words, and phrases from our own modern alphabet into Runic equivalents…), Ehwaz also literally means “Horse.”  When it appears in a reading, then, it’s always important to really consider all the things that the horse can symbolize.  It’s worth the time to spend a few minutes with this Rune, pondering what the horse can mean to humanity, and what traits and functions it’s associated with across multiple cultures…

Twin examples of the noble horse commune with ancient stone beings on mystical Easter Island...  Who's teaching whom here...??
Twin examples of the noble horse commune with ancient stone beings on mystical Easter Island… Who’s teaching whom here…??

Just by itself, the horse exhibits a certain set of characteristics that can generally be applied to the species as a whole.  For one thing, they can be used as shorthand symbols for both physical strength and great speed.  For another, they provide massive amounts of energy that can be harnessed to accomplish a multitude of difficult tasks, many of which would be impossible for humans to tackle alone (think about things like construction, communication, and distribution of resources, especially in lower-tech areas).  Horses are also usually seen as exhibiting or embodying such traits as nobility, loyalty, friendliness, freedom, travel, endurance, commitment, and natural beauty.  Finally, given their long-standing familiarity with humans, and the working relationship that’s been an ongoing reality for centuries, the horse can arguably be seen as a symbol for a symbiotic partnership…

And it’s maybe this last attribute that feels like the most fitting within the context of this reading.  I mentioned at the end of the previous post that I had what I call an intuitive hit on this Rune scatter: I became convinced that the four subtle Runes in the array here are capturing qualities that the most worthy Rune readers will cultivate within themselves.  If Tiwaz suggested bringing forth Tyr-like qualities into our readings (which qualities would include bravery, self-sacrifice, altruism, integrity, and justice), then Ehwaz in like fashion indicates that the best Rune readers will also draw upon their own innate characteristics that echo the energy of the Horse: that would include the aforementioned endurance, commitment, willingness to work, energy, strength, nobility, and mobility.  Beyond those traits, though, the message here may also be the idea that the Rune reader enters into a symbiotic relationship with the Runes like that so often forged by humans and horses together.

The big question that crops up at this point, though, is this: is it a case of the reader acting as the human in this dynamic, while the Runes serve as the horse…or is it the other way around?  I believe it’s a bit of both, all at the same time.  The reader does set the agenda at the outset, much like a human would in leading a horse on some project or journey, and the reader does seem to call the shots, care for the Runes, and use the Runes for “travel” and “work” that she or he couldn’t accomplish on their own.  Looked at in another way, though, there’s an argument to be made that the Runes are the humans in this tableau, riding the efforts of the reader (= Horse!) into the reality of the physical world.  Is either party truly “in charge,” then?  Maybe the reader/Runes relationship is every bit as symbiotic as the human/horse one…  But also, what do you think?  Your take here is as valid as mine, and determining what Ehwaz (and each of the other Runes) truly means to you is a process that will unfold over time…and it’s one that will advance as you consider these types of definitional questions…

And to wrap things up for the moment, as we start to flip over the face-down Runes so as to get a look at them, it’s important to start taking note of how the Runes are oriented once they’re all turned face-up.  That is, do they all seem to face in the same direction, more or less, or are they pointing all over the place, like stairways in an Escher painting?

“Relativity,” by the great M.C. Escher: are your Runes facing every which way, like these staircases? Or are they more harmoniously aligned…?

I’ll keep circling back to this question of the Runes’ orientations as we keep uncovering more of them.  Meanwhile, for now, it will help to just note the fact that up to this point, all three Runes are facing in roughly the same direction (Ehwaz may be slightly askew from the facings of the previous two, but you can still imagine a pretty uniform and agreeable flow coursing through all three of them at once, starting from the same point of origin, and heading generally toward the same ultimate destination…which you probably can’t convincingly say about the stairways in that Escher work!).

Next time, we’ll turn over the next of the subtle Runes.  Meanwhile, you can marvel at the fact that Escher — the artist whose work has supported the latter portion of this post — has a last name that, if written in Runes…would start with Ehwaz…

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