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.

Lighting the Sunwait Candles 2020

As we approach the darkest time of winter in the northern hemisphere, we also enter the period leading up to Christmas and Yule. Even amidst the commercialization and the widely associated christian traditions, Heathens and practitioners of Norse/Germanic Paganism can enjoy meaningful practices during this time.

Lighting of candles at this time of year has been traditional in northern European countries for centuries and are a mix of welcoming returning light to recognizing the birth of Jesus.

Lighting the Sunwait Candles for a Modern Tradition

Recognizing that candles are not only something for one specific religion, the tradition of the Väntljusstaken (Sunwait Candles) has been re-envisioned from the Advent Candles. I discovered this in 2017 from the post of a friend and found the page on Facebook to inspire the growth of this delightful tradition for the entire family.

It takes the premise of lighting a candle for a specific number of days or weeks prior to Christmas eve (usually twelve days) and changes some of the parameters (which are also flexible depending on the individual).  The Väntljusstaken/Sunwait Candles practice came from Swedish traditions and updated for people of today to have a meaningful experience.

It is a tradition that can be created and enjoyed by the whole family. The procedure of the event is to light one candle each week leading up to the solstice, recite the stanza of the poem that coincides with the rune/day (this can also be expanded to include meditation on what it means), and welcome the inspiration of the season. Väntljusstaken poem takes the first six letters (staves) of the Elder Futhark (F-U-TH-A-R-K) as a runic “guide” to bring in blessings for the coming year.

Listen to episode 25 the podcast about Vantljusstaken which includes a reading of the poem in Swedish and English.

Creating the Candles and Holder

Selecting and preparing the candles and candle holder for the Sunwait lighting, can be a fun experience for the family. No need to have commercially prepared materials; though that is also an option based on your ability, availability, and time. Select any six candles you want to use for the year. Any color, shape, size. Be mindful of your candle holders and how you want to decorate them (avoid flammable additional materials). Carve or draw a stave on each candle or onto the candle holder base. You can anoint each candle with an oil or incense and call/galdr the energy of each rune into the specific candle. For example, Fehu (the first rune) represents prosperity and wealth. Anoint with that energy for prosperity of health, love, job, finances, etc.

You can also creatively decorate a base to hold candles using regular holders, plates, clay pots, or however inspired. If you cannot use real flame for safety or other reasons – no worry! Use electronic candles or small lights. Your intent and enjoyment in the process is connecting to the tradition and the energy from the Web of Wyrd. (See the many examples shared on Facebook -linked above- and Instagram – @sunwait_candles – for ideas.)

2020 Dates

Sunwait dates for Thursdays prior to Winter Solstice

December 21 falls on Monday and you can begin on November 16 with the final candle lit on Dec. 21. Or you may start on December 16 and do one each night before Yule.

The Väntljusstaken / Sunwait Tradition

The lighting of the candles begins six weeks prior to the Winter Solstice/ Yule on Thursdays. Thursdays were selected because of a Swedish tradition known as Thorshelg.

“The reason for the Thursdays is that, Thursdays have a traditional significance in Scandinavian folk lore. Thursdays have been the day for trolldom (folk magic) and communicating with the gods and nature spirits long into Christian times,” explained one of the page organizers. “There are accounts as late as the 19th century where the Thorshelg (Thor’s hallow) was celebrated by inviting Thor and Frigga to the house on Thursday night”

She continued to state that other cultures have a specific holy day and that as there isn’t a one day specific to all of Heathendom universally, it makes sense for people to select what works best for them in this “tradition in development.”

Some may choose to do the activity on the six Thursdays prior to the Winter Solstice (21 December), some may  choose to do it on the day that the solstice falls upon for six weeks prior – with the final candle on 21 December, some may choose to begin six days prior with the final day on  the solstice, and some may choose another day that is special to them. “I think everyone should feel free to do as they feel most comfortable. We are creating this together,” she said.

On the chosen night, light the candle while reciting the Väntljusversen poem (available in Swedish, Dutch, French, and German on the page) or one of your choosing that is meaningful to you/your family. The rest of the ceremony is up to you to create to suit  your desires for the winter, Yule, the coming year, etc.  One thing I do with the poem is to contemplate on the energy of the rune of the week. How does that energy/power influence and interact with my life? I call on their specific energies to bless me and guide as I move into the new year.

For example: I call on fehu to give me prosperity in the things I do creatively, at work, with relationships, to generate wealth, etc. I would reach to uruz to give me the strength to meet the challenges the year will bring with the guidance of my ancestors and ability to keep going. And so forth with the rest of the runes.

Extinguish the flame when you are finished. For the next week, relight the prior candle(s), then repeat the program with the next verse of the poem. Some choose to allow all of the candles to burn down on the final night, sending the energy and intents of the working into the universe. (A note of caution: do not leave burning candles unattended, accessible to children and pets, or around flammable decorations or items.)

Vantljusstaken_Pantheon Skulptor
Sunwait Candles with statues by Pantheon Skulptor.

Väntljusversen poem

vantljusversen-swedish.jpg

Fehu – In the first of sunwait we light
The candle of Fehu so bright
Until the return of the queen of skies
May her beauty and splendor in it rise

Uruz – In the second of sunwait we light
The candle of Uruz so bright
With all that has passed and ahead of us lies
May the passing of time in it rise

Thurisaz- In the third of sunwait we light
The candle of Thurisaz so bright
When the force of winter upon us lies
May the return of spring in it rise

Ansuz – In the fourth of sunwait we light
The candle of Ansuz so bright
In worship of gods old and wise
May the powers of Regin in it rise

Raido – In the fifth of sunwait we light
The candle of Raidō so bright
In yearning for that which never dies
May our longing for new life in it rise

Kenaz – In the sixth of sunwait we light
The candle of Kenaz so bright
A light in darkness again shall arise
May the hope of yule in it rise

In Heathenry and Germanic Paganism, we develop our practices and relationships with the Gods in ways that are meaningful to each of us today. The Väntljusstaken is not a right or wrong way to honor Yule or the Gods.  It is a way to do it.  If you find this is a way that brings joy and meaningfulness to the season, please share your experiences and photos on the Väntljusstaken/Sunwait Candles and Gifts of the Wyrd Facebook and Instagram pages (@sunwait_candles and @wyrdgifts1). May your Winter Solstice/Yule Tide seasons be filled with joy and amazement.

Images used in this article are from the Väntljusstaken/Sunwait Candles Facebook page with permission. Header photo is my own.