Runes: That Other Way to Divine.

Divination. Such a strange, misunderstood concept. I’ve written a little bit about my thoughts on divination in general here, and believe it or not, I do actually intend to follow up that incomplete post with a conclusion someday.

But that’s not (directly) why I’m here today.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that there are myriad other ways aside from the revered Tarot to commune with oracular forces. By and large, though, I am fairly disinterested in these, with one notable exception:

The Runes.

This is a Tarot blog, and a Tarot blog it shall remain; but divination is a major theme throughout, and I feel compelled to dedicate at least one post to these other symbols of divination.*

~~~

I recently returned from a trip to Iceland, the land where my beloved Eddas were penned. And, my favorite cycle of mythic literature aside, I have never been to a country so starkly beautiful.

Now, the runes were not invented in Iceland, either in a mythic or an historic sense. However, because the only surviving versions of the myth in which Odin obtains the runes were written there, I say: close enough. The letters of the land may have first been gotten elsewhere, but they were used to their most lasting effect in Iceland.**

As a novice but eager runecaster, I fashioned my own runes while I was there. It seemed only fitting. I selected for my lots several small and smooth igneous stones from a beach of black sand on the southernmost coast of the island.

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This is the place.

Keeping watch over the beach a little ways off-shore were some massive, towering boulders, called the “troll-rocks” by the locals. I couldn’t have selected a better setting for my personal Odinic rune-quest if I lived in a fantasy novel.

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Admittedly not the best photo of the Troll Rocks, and I’m sorry to say that after snapping this one, I got so caught up in the moment of being at the beach in fucking Iceland that I forgot to take more, even though I’d meant to. You get the idea, though.

As I searched in the sand, I instructed one of my friends on the basic lore and what to look for so he, too, could fashion a set of runes (a fun Hierophant moment for me). Once we’d gathered the proper number of stones, my friends and I left the beach. Before we’d gone too far, though, we paused, and we gave thanks to the land for our runestones with pentacles and prayer.

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Just for fun, this is some of what was behind us while we were on the beach.

It wasn’t until later that evening that I sat down to inscribe my stones with the runic ideograms. Afterwards, I left them out to be imbued with the energy of Iceland’s “midnight sun” while I slept.

I must admit, part of my reason for relaying this story here is just so I can bask in the reminisces of my epic journey. But it’s also to illustrate that my new runes were hand-selected and hand-crafted by me, for me, under intentionally symbolic circumstances. Prior to my touch, they were shaped by nothing more or less than the four elements.

None of my many Tarot decks come close to this type of personalized (and elemental) connection, and while such a connection isn’t necessary for effective divinatory tools, it goes a long way. Don’t get me wrong; I do feel a connection with all of my cards. But not exactly this kind of connection.***

I had already been dabbling in runic divination for a few months before this trip. I even considered for a minute re-branding this site as a Tarot and rune blog, but decided against it. You see, the runes do have an intense hold on my imagination, very much like the Tarot. Unlike with the cards, however, my thoughts and feelings regarding the runes are not (for me) as easily put into words (or maybe I just don’t feel like trying). And, despite my occasional struggles elucidating abstractions on this blog, the cards simply offer far more raw material for word-smithing than do the runes.

As tools for divination, I believe the runes are intrinsically the same as the Tarot; yet they are their own entity – one that provides a fascinating counterpoint against which to compare and appreciate the cards as symbols and as systems. The two are as fundamentally different and as fundamentally related as the Earth and Sky.

Or that’s how I think about it, anyway.

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Wrought of Fire and Earth; sculpted by Sky and Sea.

~~~

*Like the Tarot, the runes are not confined only to divinatory uses. However, because divination is common to them both, and for the sake of simplicity, it is what I’ve decided to focus on for this post.

**I’m speaking metaphorically here, since the Eddas were not actually written in runes. To be technical, the runes Odin obtained numbered only eighteen, and are not the same literal runes as those most commonly used for writing and divination, which number 24. Odin’s runes are rather symbolic of all written language (and otherworldly magic), whether it be the ancient Norse with its runic scripts or the subsequent old Icelandic with its more or less Latin-ized alphabet, with which the Eddas were actually composed.

***Someday, I would like to design my own pack of Tarot cards. But that’s really nothing more than a lofty pipe-dream at present.

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3 thoughts on “Runes: That Other Way to Divine.”

  1. Just as I was about to settle in before sleeping to read a bit on runelore I find this wonderful post. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your trip and the magic that was born out of it with the runes. I have to say, I look forward to you sharing more of your runic divinatory experiences. Be well!

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    1. Thanks for reading, the continued interest in my writing, and the well-wishes.
      The trip was one for the books – a real face-melter – so I couldn’t not share a taste of it on my blog (my two friends and I did perform a three-way Tarot reading the same night I inscribed my runes, by the way, which was illuminating. But there was nothing there that I felt necessary to talk about here, so runes it was).
      Plus, I do really like the runes a lot, and find myself itching from time to time to write a post on them. But whenever I try, I lose all the amazing words I’d had in my head at the time of thinking about it. Perhaps it’s that the runes are simple ideograms in a simple system while the Tarot consists of highly symbolic and interpretive artwork in a much more complex system, but something intrinsic about them requires me to just remain mystical, rather than try to break them down and analyze them like I enjoy doing with the cards. I don’t know how else to explain it.
      I wouldn’t do runes if I never did Tarot, I know that, and as such, the two are intertwined practices for me, even if I don’t always use them simultaneously. I really can’t think of a better way than Earth and Sky to describe their relationship, though. They are so different, yet complimentary; they compare interestingly, yet they contrast in such a fascinating way, and to me, the contrast provides much more significance than any similarities. If nothing else, the new depth to my Tarot understanding that this contrast gives me justifies this post about the runes on my blog which I try to keep all Tarot all the time.

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      1. I know exactly what you meam about there being something intrinsic to the runes that keeps me in a mystical, sort of beyond words experience when reading them. I have been using them much more lately but, like you, haven’t felt like sharing the readings. I haven’t used the runes and tarot together, but I can imagine it would be enlightening and complementary.

        I can only imagine the experience of going to Iceland, that is on the top of my list of places to visit before I get old and moldy.

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