The runes are powerful Norse symbols intimately linked with knowledge, wisdom, magic, and Wyrd taken up by Odin as the result of his ordeal on Yggdrasil, the World Tree. The Elder Futhark, the most often used, contains 24 runes divided into three aetts (the names of which often vary). I took up the runes in December 2008 and in so doing, I came to know Odin as Runatyr or God of the Runes (among his many other equally engaging guises). At that time, I found that the runes spoke (and continue to speak) to me more profoundly than any other symbol system of magic and divination that I have encountered to date. There are messages that they shout out clear and true and others that they whisper into the inner dark for me to extract over time as the result of great effort and sometimes much emotional pain.
When I began with the runes, I learned them in order and did a brief meditation on each, once I had a handle on their names and basic meanings; however, they are quite demanding because their meanings and ability to speak to many diverse psycho-emotional states, life situations, and community contexts are so great! Consequently, I often feel compelled to immerse myself in their mysteries much more deeply, meditating on them daily and drinking in their myriad secrets. Unfortunately, the time that I have available is obnoxiously inadequate for the task. As a result, when I do divination work with the runes and attempt to deepen my knowledge of them, the runes will speak to me but the cacophony of whispers, the promises of more threaten my sanity because I have yet to heed their call for a deeper relationship, to directly communicate with them on a more intimate level. Now in December 2010, I find myself more seriously and fervently pondering ways to overcome my time constraints and venture into the well where rune wisdom resides.
The primary sources of inspiration for my quest are the runes themselves. Unlike the Tarot, for me, the runes seem to reach out and entice, to lure and seduce, to teach and correct, to demand and persist, to watch and wait. They act. For this reason, I have come to think of them as spirits, animated and powerful with individual and collective wisdom to share with those who would seek admission to their mystery school, and if one does not respect the wisdom shared and the lessons learned (e.g, by trying to take shortcuts), they seem capable of withholding that same wisdom and the accompanying power. True, there are “textbook” meanings of the runes that are available for all to harness and those meanings indeed have power and wisdom, but courting the runes (what I am slowly doing now) versus learning the runes (what I did early on) is the difference between PhD work, where one becomes a co-conspirator with knowledge and wisdom, and being a college student who simply consumes information that has already been pre-packaged for mass consumption. There is an opportunity for spiritual growth in both but through courting the runes as animated spirits, perhaps additional paths to wisdom will open for me and, just maybe, waters from the Well of Wyrd will quench my thirst on the long journey down these new winding paths of becoming.
Am I the first to venture down this path and consider that the runes very well may be spirits? Heck no. A few (rather controversial) folks, including Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova adamantly support the view that the runes are indeed spirit allies. Raven Kaldera (on his Northern Shamanism website) and Galina Krasskova (in her Runes: Theory and Practice book) interpret the rune spirits to have a little more autonomous sentient consciousness than I have found. However, I am willing to stretch a little and embrace the possibility that the runes are indeed autonomous, sentient, conscious spirits with their own complete and whole will, because my journey with the rune spirits is still in its infancy and I know that I have a lot to learn. Perhaps with time the runes will reveal more of their nature to me as I come to know them better and I may (or may not) draw similar conclusions. L. Beth Lynch on her site Gate of the Slain, also shares her perspective on each rune as a spirit. Check out Lynch as well as Kaldera and Krasskova’s sites if you are interested in entertaining the possibility that the runes are more than glyphs carved on wood.