This book will “rune” you…

Review of Taking up the Runes by Diana Paxson, revised edition of the Weiser Classic Series

Rune books have come a long way since the 1980’s when interest in the runes as a divination tool took off. There have since been many authors providing interesting experiences and perspectives on the runes which include academic works about their use to express language in the written form. One of the definitive works to come out in the last 20 years is that of Taking Up the Runes by Diana Paxson, published by Weiser Books originally released in 2005. 

As part of its Weiser Classics series, the company has given the book a fresh new look and reissued last year. Taking Up the Runes is a must have book on the shelf for anyone who is studying the esoteric use of the Runes. The new edition includes a new cover and introduction, updated bibliography and references, and a new section for the nine Anglo-Saxon rune staves added to the Elder Futhark. Other than these, changes (if any) to the text are minor. 

A comparison to many pages throughout the two books show the main text is identical to the original edition. There may be some minor updates in the more than 400 pages, but they do not appear to be significant to the greater work if there are any.

What makes this book so valuable is the collaboration of ideas, experiences, and understanding presented throughout. The book developed from a rune study course conducted by Diana with her group Hrafnar. The lessons learned and shared about the runes during that year study and subsequent groups form the basis of this work.

Another aspect that makes this book essential to a rune student is the inclusion of ideas from other authors as well as Diana’s own interpretations. By doing this, she shows that the study of the runes is truly more than relying only on one person’s understanding of the runes and how they express them. This provides input for the student to feel comfortable exploring the directions and theories that the runes themselves will lead to.

The book is developed in two parts and is set up so it can be used a study aid for a group or for an individual.  Part I explores the Elder Futhark runes taken in pairs. She provides translated text of the three rune poems: Anglo-Saxon (from which the Elder Futhark is most connected), Icelandic, and Norwegian. Each section explores ancient meanings, how the rune can be used in modern times, and a section on interpreting the rune in readings or other usages. 

Part II contains rituals, songs (with music), and meditations for each of the rune pairs. These are quite extensive and wonderful opportunities to connect on a deeper level with the runes that most books do not include.  These can be especially enlightening when doing them together with a study group, but not necessary. Some of the material was contributed by members of the study group and add that additional community gnosis and shared experience to connect to the runes and each other on the Web of Wyrd.

The new addition to the book is the inclusion of the nine rune staves from the Anglo-Saxon runes. Before getting too excited, however, this is not an in-depth exploration of these runes as with the 24 of the Elder Futhark. That would likely add another 75 pages. What she does include are the remaining five verses from the Anglo-Saxon rune poem in Old English and translated. She also wrote verses for the next four that were added which have names, but not text in the rune poem. Ben Waggoner provided Old English text for the new verses.

If you have a copy of the previous edition and wondering if you should invest in the new copy because of a lot of changes, you may not want to do it. There just isn’t that much different from the original edition that I think would make it worth the cost. However, if you are due to upgrade your old, well-worn copy of the book or haven’t picked up a copy yet, the new edition is perfect. You can easily transfer your important notes to the new copy because the page numbers are essentially the same which will enable you to find the locations to add your references. And consider having it spiral bound so it will open flat and allow for easier note taking and reading. This really improves the study experience.

For anyone studying runes, this is a valuable and essential resource. It will help lay the foundations to build a relationship with the runes and a solid background from which you can explore other interpretations and perspectives.  When you take up the runes with this work, you will indeed be runed.

Holiday Season 2021

It’s coming up on the end of 2021 and the holiday season is in full swing already with loads of things coming up and to have fun with. The biggest for me this year is the release of the second edition of The Christmas Oracle deck!

The Christmas Oracle

The Christmas Oracle is a divination deck themed for Christmas. It’s a delightful nod to the fun traditions of the season without the religious implications. The deck had an limited first edition in 2017 and this year a run of 500 copies were printed. The artwork is the same as the first edition with minor adjustment for the card placement. A full color booklet was created with the card image and meanings and edges gilded in metallic red for a sparkling ornament effect. It’s packaged in a nicely decorated telescoping box.

The artwork is colorful, good for all ages, and includes diverse representation. Listen to the Gifts of the Wyrd podcast episode 53 for an interview with Ancestral Tarot’s Nancy Hendrickson about the deck and it’s creation. You can also see a video of the cards in the deck at Jennifer Ball’s Witch House and a full review by Benebell Wen.

It’s available now for your stocking stuffers, personal use, and as a special divination gift. Join in the card-a-day share as part of #christmasoracledivination which will show each of the decks cards through Christmas day. Visit Etsy Feniks Shop for a short video, details, and to order. #thechristmasoracle


Little Book of Yule

Llewellyn’s The Little Book of Yule by Jason Mankey, published by Llewellyn, is a delightful book to get you ready for your Yule/Christmas season. Compared to other books, this hardback edition may be little at 6.5 x 5 inches in size, but it has some really nice material, tidbits, and fun things to do (exercises).

Mankey includes a lot of history and background from a variety of cultures rising from the Roman celebration to Saturnalia, to the Germanic, English, and Northern European customs developed during the Christian Middle Ages, to the modern interpretation from the United States. Rather than an academic tome filled with pages upon pages of scholarly research (that would likely end up on a shelf rarely opened), he presents the material in a readable style that is accessible to everyone in the family as well as enjoyable to read.

Throughout are projects and exercises, recipes, and rituals/divination to enhance the experiences as you read along. One of the nice aspects of the book is that Mankey doesn’t present it as “this is how it must be done.” Instead, he presents the background for the traditions and customs we enjoy today and lets the reader decide which they identify with and include into their holiday celebrations.

I enjoyed the section describing Krampus and Santa Clause. It seems that Krampus has become more popular in recent years, particularly amongst pagans, so having a little background as a starting point is nice to step off to further study. Having Dutch heritage, I was very happy to see many paragraphs devoted to Sinterklaas, who I grew up with as part of my holiday experience growing up. The recipes are fun, though I chuckle at the inclusion of a bûche de Noël which is not an easy bake.

The title using “Yule” is misleading as the book is not so much about the Nordic Yule (Jul) that one might think when looking at the title. It’s more about reclaiming the pagan roots from the Christian practices and developing ways to integrate them as a vibrant and joyful part of modern pagan practices. This will be a very nice addition to the season’s activities. * #llewellyn Pick up or order from your local book shop, from Llewellyn, or online bookseller.

Sunwait Candles/Väntljusstaken

As of this post, the Sunwait candle custom has passed its second week. The practice is a modern introduction by Swedish Heathens who adapted it from the advent candle lighting. On Thursdays for the six weeks prior to the Winter Solstice, a candle is lit and a verse of a poem recited for each of the first six of the Futhark runes. The purpose is to bring in good luck and energy for the new year.

It’s a fun activity for the family to decorate candle holders and candles and to be part of the lighting ceremony. Although the Swedish light the candles on Thursday as part of very long traditions, they can be light on the day of the week that the solstice falls upon the five weeks prior with the sixth being lit on the 21st.

For more information about the practice, listen episode 25, see the previous blog post, and follow on Facebook (@vanljusstaken) and Instagram (@sunwait_candles). #sunwaitcandles #vanljusstaken

Wolfenoot

Finally, for this post, it’s coming up to Wolfenoot on 23 November. Wolfenoot (wolf-eh-noot <as in boot>) is a totally modern, fun celebration of wolves, dogs, and pets/animals of all kinds created by a young boy out of Australia. He decided that wolves should have a special day and wrote a story about Howly the wolf who returns on the 23rd and leaves gifts for people who are kind to animals.

The lad’s mom casually mentioned it on social media as a cute thing her son did and people around the world took to it. Now in its third year, wolfenoot is being joyfully celebrated by donating to animal charities and sanctuaries, sharing photos and stories of pets, and all around kindness in the world. Hear an interview with Wolfmum on episode 43 and read the blog post here. #nohateonlysnootboops #woolfenoot find the official accounts at: FB: @wolfenootmom IG: @realwolfenoot

Enjoy the season and please share how you are celebrating on Facebook (@giftsofthewyrd) and Instagram (@wyrdgifts1).

(*) I received the book from the publisher for review. Comments reflect my own opinions.

The Christmas Oracle Deck

HO! HO! HO!

A few years ago, I created an oracle deck to tap into the spirit of the Christmas season. The first printing was a limited run and is gone. With the encouragement of friends, Bela Siol, and some inquiries, I decided to see if it could be released again.

Working with Bela, we found a printer, designed a guidebook and box, and a slight tweak of the original artwork to fit on the cards. And now, The Christmas Oracle deck Kickstarter is launched through July 29!

The deck includes full color guidebook, a Christmas charm, 36-card deck, and an optional add-on reading cloth. It will make a wonderful gift for yourself and friends this holiday season.

To promote the campaign, my good friend Nancy Hendrickson took some time to talk with me about the inspiration for the deck. We had a delightful conversation about the deck, artwork, and magic of the Christmas season. Please have a listen and I hope it helps bring the spirt of Christmas about. Please consider backing for yourself and gifts for friends. Check out the podcast episode here and the kickstarter at the link above or clicking below.

#thechristmasoracle #christmastarot #oracledecks #indiedeck #indiedecks #indiedeckcreator #indiedeckcreators #wyrdgifts #giftsofthewyrdpodcast #divinationcommunity #oraclecards

Runic View of 2021

Happy New Year and welcome to 2021!

2020 definitely has been a year, overall, that we would all like to get into the past and leave behind. The pandemic which overwhelmed the world in March 2020 is still going strong. Even as vaccines begin to cross the world, a new strain emerges as well. It will be some months before in-person meetings can begin if all goes well.

Many are doing readings for the new year. Twelve month spreads, seasonal, astrological, and other creative spreads are being used with runes, tarot, ogham, and oracle cards of many themes and styles. As part of this new year tradition, I encouraged a year ahead monthly rune pull with each month have a generic topic. I posted it daily after Winter Solstice as #12DaysofRunes to go along with the holiday traditions of Yule and Christmas.

You can elect to do a daily rune pull for 12 days, or take some time and do all 12 for the 2021 at one sitting. Here are the topics for each month. These are also a guide. You may decide to change it to fit your experiences with the month based on season, holidays you celebrate, or any other influences.

As select each rune, write down what your thoughts are about what insight it brings or how it might guide you during that month. Refer to it during the year and at the end of the year, have a look at it as a whole and see how it matched the year. Take into consideration that this is a potential snapshot based on things now. There are always possibilities for changes, but these can be referred to as advice for dealing with the month or items during that month.

Below is a handy little diagram for your runes. You can place this in a journal, a year planner, or a file on your desktop as a handy reference.

Please feel free to comment about your experiences by email or on in comments on the posts on Facebook (@GiftsoftheWyrd) or Instagram (@WyrdGifts1).

May your year be health-filled, successful, and meet your needs.

Journey to Retreat and Renew

This blog post is a companion to my article A Rune Journey to Retreat and Renewal presented in the December 2020 edition of The Cartomancer Magazine. It is available now as a downloaded pdf. The full journey is available there for now.

When life gets hectic, crazy, and overwhelmed with activity, taking a half an hour or so to reset is an important act for personal and spiritual growth. Sometimes, it’s as simple as reading a book, disengaging from social media, or visiting nature in some way. For cartomancers and other seers, turning to divination cards or divination tools also provides a way to take a journey of retreat and renewal. The runic journey presented here is just one way to tap into the insight and energy of the universe to guide you along this calming path.

The rune journey to retreat and renewal is a mediation designed to take some time aside to calm the mind and shock the system with a bit of a reset.  This will help gain a better perspective, be able to recognize a new idea or different approach, and perhaps just have a needed time out. 

The journey could take a short period of time up to 30 minutes or longer, depending on you. The runes create a type of “rune walk” that leads along a path from the hectic activity you are currently experiencing through a slowing and evaluation period, a revelation and recognition, and seeing the growth of that calmness reveal a renewed vigor. The runes are: kenaz, isa, naudiz, perthro, ingwaz, and berkano.

Expanded Meaning of the Runes

We gain our rune basics from three rune poems composed between the 9th to 10th centuries, written down in the late 12th to early 13th centuries, and preserved as copies later. These are the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem (Old English; OERP), the Old Norse Rune Poem (ONRP), and the Icelandic Rune Poem (IRP).  Here are some expanded meanings of the runes used for the rune retreat meditation.

Runes clockwise from top: kenaz, isa, naudiz, perthro, ingwaz, berkano arranged in a circle.

The runes as arranged for this Runic Journey

  • Kenaz is the torch/lamp burning brightly. In the OERP, it burns brightly and shines where people are calm and relaxing. I shows us that it represents not only the action we are currently experiencing, but also that even in the light of this activity, we can relax. And likely should. Light and fire generally represent activity and action. Much that we are experiencing in modern life and society.  
  • Isa is clearly stated in all three poems as ice. There are many properties to ice. It is cold, slippery, potentially dangerous. Contrarily, it is also beautiful, it preserves, it can also bridge gaps and form large masses like glaciers. When we look the environment of ice, we find other factors to consider for our journey.  One of those is the slowing down and stilling of our activity. Ice is water. Water molecules are always swiftly in motion. As the molecules cool, they slow down and this forms ice. For this exercise, we use isa to remind us to slow down – there will be time to become active again, but for now slow down.
  • Naudiz shows us the things that are needful. When we slow down and contemplate, we can seed what the difficulties and troubles are. It is not easy to have these in our view, but when we do – we can plan how to respond to those needs, how to take them on, and to listen to it in the stillness of isa.   
  • Pertho is the revealer of mysteries, the outcome of the games played. In the OERP, it shows the warriors and community relaxing in the hall. Strive for that peace and relaxation. When you get that relaxed state of mind about something, pieces can get into place (like on a game board) and finally lead you to the solutions you need.
  • Ingwaz is one of the few runes directly connected to and named for one of the gods, Freyr – also called Ing. It is the rune of potential and fertility. Unlocking that seed of potential will require some specific factors. Factors to review during the isa and naudiz portions. These factors include the right timing, the right conditions (some are trials by fire and some by water), and preparing the ground to provide optimum circumstance for it to spring forth.
  • Berkano is the animation growth potential.  Berkano’s renewal comes from within not from without: “The poplar bears not fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers [shoots], for it is generated from its leaves.” (Bruce Dickins translation) Berkano is most often connected to Frigg, goddess associated with hearth, home. It’s the rune used in childbirth and to bring forth new ideas and success. This can be manifested with branches full of green leaves and reaching majestically to the sky.

Taking the Journey Through Tarot or Oracle Cards

In the article, the journey to retreat and renewal was presented with runes for a runic meditation.  But you can also use the journey outline with your favorite tarot or oracle card deck.  If you are feeling adventurous, you can use multiple decks or add the runes to  your card journey to see how they enhance or enlighten the message you received from the tarot or oracle.

Prior to beginning your meditation, shuffle the deck, pull six cards, then place them face down in either a circle or a line. As you progress in the journey, turn over the appropriate card to contemplate on the message it is providing you.

  • Position 1: What is the activity that I need to focus and work with?
  • Position 2: What can help me to slow down, retreat from the bustle, relax? 
  • Position 3: What are the greatest needs that this issue brings out?
  • Position 4: What is revealed to redirect and refocus myself?
  • Position 5: How best to prepare for that new energy to sprout and grow?
  • Position 6: What will help me put those plans into motion to come into its fullness?

That brings you back to the real world with a fresher look at a topic and a direction to move to improve its affect on you.  As with the runic journey, take the time you need to contemplate each message.

Thank you for taking the journey, either with the runes or your tarot or oracle deck. Please consider sharing your experience in the comments or via email.

Rune cards used in feature image from Runes of the Northern Light Oracle by Paola Tartara. Publisher, Llewellyn. Runes made from a Utah Quaking Aspen branch by author with crochet “Heimdall” rune bag.

Yggdrasil: Norse Divination Cards

Yggdrasil: Norse Divination Cards was published in summer 2019 by Llewellyn and is by Haukur Halldórsson with G. Hauksdottir. The deck has 81 black and white illustrated cards depicting gods, goddesses, Jotuns, Dwarfs, Elves, and other beings and realms. This oracle deck is special because, unlike other oracle decks, it includes more than the commonly known gods and goddesses of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotunar.  The inspiration for the artwork and details are from the stories, mythology, and spiritual practices of Northern European Traditions (Vanatru, Heidhrinn Craft, Heathenry, Rokkr, Asatru, Forn Sidh, Norse Paganism, etc). 

Creators Haukur Halldórsson (artist) and G Hauksdottir (writer) open doors to the realms of beings that have a lot to explore and show us.  When I first saw the announcement in a Llewellyn catalog at my local metaphysical shop, I was immediately drawn to the artwork and excited about the potential of this deck. The tiny image showed only the box cover and four of the cards to entice my interest and anticipation for the summer release.

This was a deck that I looked forward to looking at the artwork, the divination/oracle aspect of it, and the stories that would be included. When I received the deck, I eagerly opened the box and flipped through the cards.  What a delight to see so much more of the artwork and to have the accompanying book to begin a journey with these diverse beings.  With that, here are my impressions:

DECK DETAILS

The cards come in a sturdy box, magnetic closures, and an insert that holds the cards in place. The cards are a sturdy cardstock with semi-gloss finish and a size of 3 ½ x 5 1/8”.  

This is a good size to showcase the art, but does make shuffling the deck a bit of a challenge.  Some will find it useful to utilize an over-hand shuffle or riffle shuffle the cards in smaller groups.

ARTWORK

The artwork is very detailed and interesting. Artwork in an oracle deck is pretty important because it is what draws a person to it and sparks that connection to the spirit (wyrd) of the experience. Here the artist goes in a direction not usual for oracles, black and white line work instead of the colorful/fanciful images of other decks. Here it works very well. It is detailed and evokes a sense of classic artwork that is found in very old books which used block prints for images. I really enjoy it on each card.

Halldórsson’s artwork on the characters appears to take different styles or genres.  It is subtle and when I asked about it, they mentioned that it was just the way he draws. I like that it evokes, in my untrained appreciation, the artwork of the classic era, modern Klimt or Picasso, avant garde, and some tribal elements.  It’s really a great way for each of the beings to show just a little bit of their personality.

On just a couple of the cards, the art is slightly overcrowded and probably represents better in a much larger format. When reduced to the card size, it is easy for more detailed images to become more condensed and harder to see. But this is only on a couple of them and does not render the image useless in the deck.

There are also some designs that seem a bit out of place or oddly chosen. When I showed the deck to some of my female friends, they thought that depictions of some of the goddesses diminished their power and strength. I understand their arguments and present it as a topic of thought for others to consider as they work with the goddesses on this project.

BOOK/TEXT

The book that accompanies is a good size and printed in easy to read type. It is laid out with an appropriately sized image of the card and the text of the story. The characters (they are not all gods and goddesses) are categorized into nine groups of nine beings.  Each group is connected to one of the Nine Realms of the Northern Tradition cosmology.

The interesting thing about this form of groups, is that you may be surprised by a group that Halldórsson assigns to a certain character. Rather than get upset or declare his experiences/choices as “wrong”, it creates an opportunity to look into this aspect of expression and see how it will add to your own connection to that being.

The text is written by G. Hauksdottir who includes the stories of the beings along with divination possibilities. Many of these characters do not have easily found sources from which to learn more. Some might even challenge how we look at the “accepted” explanations of them. The most obvious of these is for Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld. In this deck, they are interpreted as present, future, and past instead of the widely accepted and taught past, present, future (resp). 

When I asked G about this, she related that these are the stories they grew up with in Iceland. When looking at the Norns example, for instance, the understanding of them relies more on the nuances of language, interpretations, and how sometimes things are simplified.  I found this freeing and opened opportunities to start with these stories and learn more about a being from a different starting point and looking into those with whom I am familiar with a different approach. 

Just a couple of technical items about the text of the book. 1) A more complete table of contents would be appreciated. Currently it lists only the nine groups. Because there are so many cards with unfamiliar characters, it will be very useful to have an alphabetical listing of each card with the page number. This way, when a card is drawn it can be easily located in the book.

2) The stories are really great and it would be useful is references to where they come from (if they have such references, such as Eddas, mythology, collections, folklore, etc) would be indicated. Also that if something goes in a direction so drastically (as with the Norns), just a short explanation to help readers understand that process.

USING THE DECK

This is a large deck and has a lot of possibilities. Included is a spread for the Nine Realms (Worlds) and how each position relates to the other in a reading as well as when related cards show up in the reading.  It’s a big spread with a lot of possibilities and attention. Slightly complicated, but I think with regular use it will be easier to use. I do not think this deck will lend itself easily to the more common layouts and spreads that are included in many tarot and oracle offerings. In addition to the spread included for topics needing a lot of feedback, I think this deck will be really good companion to use with other oracle, tarot, or rune readings as clarifying or helping advice.

As with any tradition, I believe it is important to become familiar with the culture, mythology, beings, and traditions (historical and modern) that are part of that expression. This deck is based on Northern European Traditions (Icelandic, Nordic, Germanic) that has a rich mythology to explore and include when connecting with the cosmology of that wyrd (spirit). 

This is a really nice work and a very good addition to accompany a divination and spiritual practice.  You can pick up or order from your local bookstore if possible or from your preferred online retailer.  Follow @divination_yggdrasil on Facebook and Instagram.


This article appeared in The Cartomancer Magazine, June 2020. The masthead image is from the article. Order your pdf copy from thecartomansermagazine.com. Reviews have also appeared in Idunna Magazine, published by The Troth and Oak Leaves, published by ADF.