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.