revisiting runes: overview

©2021 Michael Raven

If it hasn’t been plainly obvious, I am obsessed with runes since I started looking into them earlier this autumn, trying to realize their symbolism, spiritual and shamanistic potential. I am a lifelong student of matters of the spirit and, as time goes on, it is pretty plain to me that my leanings are with Northern European traditions with a shamanic lens filtering how I perceive various elements. The thoughts and stories that touch me most are aligned with early Celtic, Norse and (what little is known about them) Pictish paths, with a healthy dose of traditions found with the far northern pastoral nomads calling themselves the Sámi.

Runes, to me, seem to resonate in a way that other spiritual and occult tools have not, although I still haven’t dug as deep as I need to with ogham/ogam (which I will, after I feel like I understand enough about runes to not conflate the two systems). Runes “speak” to me in ways that other methods of spiritual practice do not.

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runepoem | 08 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

caught up
between dog & wolf
untethered, unmoored
i allow myself to drift
across rippling waters
trusting wyrd's guidance
to homeward shores

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

Rune ranting

©2021 Michael Raven

As I read more of runes and rune interpretation, one of the things that strikes me is that the same things plague rune and sigil study as that which plague most of the reconstructionist attempts at reclaiming our ancestral heritage that was obliterated during the Christian conversions: most are stuck with inferring meaning based on post-conversion texts and are biased in favor of reconstructionist thinking that may or may not be supported by fact (when it comes to facts about the pre-conversion period, there is very little in the way of supporting documentation and much of it is as much fantasy as it is “good old boys” agreeing that their own inferences are accurate representations of what was tradition).

But, even more notable to me is the absolute forcing of dualistic thinking on the runes themselves. I am no expert on the matter, but I find it striking that many of the authors are applying a good/evil (or bad) dichotomy on many of the runes, even when some will argue that there “is no myrkstave interpretation for the [such and such] rune” while they argue about what constitutes a myrkstave reading to begin with.

For those not in the know, a myrkstave or murkstave is derived from the Old Norse work “myrkr” (Icelandic: myrkur) which is defined as “dark, difficult to understand, gloomy or obscure” and supplanting the word “rune” in “runestave”. I don’t recall seeing the word used in other contexts, so I suspect it is a modern invention, not a word supported by the classic Norse sagas and poetry — again, I am no expert on the matter and I could be wrong, but it is noteworthy that a word may have been created to account for a concept that may or may not have been a real concept in a historical context.

So this returning to the dualistic concept of good/evil bothers me somewhat. It’s along the same lines of people insisting they practice only “white” magic, but oh gods no, they are not dualistically thinking because that is a gasp Christian conceptualization of the world. And yet…

I think I might modify the pages I have created for interpretations of the Elder Futhark to get rid of the implication that there are myrkr interpretations for any of the runes. I remain unconvinced that the runes should be classified as having either favorable or unfavorable interpretations — used to understand how wyrd evolves, the runes are more signposts to draw your attention to certain parts of the web rather than predictions of fortune or turmoil. If anything, they illuminate the path, they do not define it.

I’m also more than slightly suspicious when I see so much of the divination portions of books (which is why I decline to treat my drawings as divinatory) that is heavily based in the concepts put forth by interpreters of tarot cards for the purposes of divination. While there is some scant information suggesting that runestaves might have been used for the purposes of divination, I hardly think that they resembled the practices of tarot, which were largely developed in the modern era. Even with warnings that the old ways didn’t think of past, present, and future the same way as modern thinking goes, the experts still seem to lean into such linear (as opposed to cyclic) thinking with the readings themselves.

Additionally, many of the authors place too much emphasis is put on ensuring “favorable outcomes” in the future by following a linear progression, with little emphasis on understanding one’s ørlǫg and how it impacts the totality of one’s wyrd. I’m not convinced ritualization (candle magic, carving runes like wayward graffiti on everything) was used to ensure one future over another. Again, I haven’t seen evidence in my other readings to support such things (and not just with Northern Traditions, but with paganism in general) — but I’m willing to accept that it might have occurred. Just don’t suggest that, in fact it occurred without anything more than inference to suggest it.

I’m a curmudgeon, I know. But I think such thinking is distraction and an attempt to wedge something into pop culture rather than question if anyone really should try to make these ideas fit into our current understanding of the world, which has not been entirely free from mistaken interpretation as it is.

runepoem | 07 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

i know nothing
i am even less
i sacrifice myself
to lose my self
to see the dawn
within

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

runepoem | 06 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

the past is stone and ice
yet, the wheel still turns
balance will prevail
quiet waiting holds
its own rewards
the bonds hold firm and
a reckoning comes with
the changing of winds

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

runepoem | 05 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

rediscovering the past
to inform what should
reclaiming the center
claws, beak and aett
stand as shields while
tearing apart the veil
to let in the light

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

runepoem | 04 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

the wheel keeps turning
old memories orient the path
but are ultimately deadwood
as with all thing serving
their purpose
clear away the path of the old
to reveal those treasures
left buried by the vagaries
of time

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

runepoem | 03 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

tracing my fingers
over your curves in
candlelight & afterglow
giving myself to you
as you give yourself to me
luxuriating
between sighs &
softly whispered oaths

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

runepoem | 02 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

For today’s rune-inspired poem, I was asked in the comments from yesterday’s poem by Harshi to include a rune of their choosing in my random selection of runes meant to inspire today’s poem. They randomly chose tiwaz (ᛏ) as their rune and I drew from lots the other two.

ørlǫg is sometimes
too set to break &
wyrd already writ as a result
cycles upon cycles
lead to unions & bonds
some trials
lead to wyrd's eventual
rewards

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.

runepoem | 01 dec 2021

©2021 Michael Raven

thunder in the distance
i ride towards the storm
to honor my fylgja
to renew oaths
to find myself
reborn 

Note: For the purposes of these runepoems, I randomly select three runes and consider the meanings of each rune as I interpret and understand them based on a number of different resources, which may or may not be in alignment with accepted interpretations. I am a rune enthusiast, not an expert or scholar. These “runecasts” are not intended to be treated as divinatory, although there are elements of personal alchemy and shamanic practice in the crafting of each poem.