By Anita Ramchandani
Where are you on your spiritual journey? What are the lessons you need to learn? Uncover your future and your state of mind through runes, an ancient European system of divination that is coming into vogue like tarot has
Although there are several theories as to the origin of runes, the commonly accepted one is that they were an alphabetic script used by the peoples of Northern Europe from the first century until well into the Middle Ages. In addition to their use as a written alphabet, the runes also served as a system of symbols used for magic and divination. Runes fell into disuse as the Roman alphabets became the preferred script of most of Europe, but their forms and meanings were preserved in inscriptions and manuscripts. The word rune literally means ‘tree’. The original runes were either river stones or wood chips… any material that naturally contained the symbol(s) through the ‘course of its life.
Today, runes have been rediscovered as a symbolic system and have gained immense popularity as a means of divination. ‘They are, however, much more than a curious alternative to Tarot cards for divination purposes,’ says Mumbai-based Rohini Gupta, from India, who teaches various methods of divination, including Tarot. ‘There are several methods of divination, in fact, one can also use regular playing cards for divination readings. They can also be used as good luck charms, as the ancient Viking warriors did.’ Rohini is, however, convinced that Tarot provides a more comprehensive reading simply because there are 78 cards to read from, as opposed to 22 runes. Although there is still uncertainty about the number of runes in existence, it remains somewhere between 22 to 25.
The rune method of divination entails placing the individual’s present conditions or elements against the context of an overall spiritual journey. The runes are generally classified into three segments or ‘aetts‘, each symbolizing a progressive step in the spiritual odyssey, which culminates in true maturity. At each step of the journey the traveler, who is the person using the runes for spiritual development, encounters obstacles, receives gifts, and learns vital lessons as he moves from one level to another, one ‘aett‘ to another. The first ‘aett‘ stands for ‘Divine Creation’, the second for ‘Evil’, and the third for ‘Divinity’. A person begins his life from the first ‘aett‘ and gradually grows on to the second and third, signifying his spiritual development. This journey is also called ‘fupark‘(pronounced futhark).
As with every spiritual journey, the first ‘aett‘ begins with the awakening, the desire to know what lies beyond. A desire to seek beyond material possessions. Every ‘aett‘ is a journey within a journey, like chapters of a book; and at the end of each ‘aett‘, although you have completed one chapter or section…the book still remains to be completed. Each new ‘aett‘ marks both a beginning and an end, the end of one pattern, but also the beginning of a new higher understanding. With every positive lesson, as we know well, comes some form of negativity first. So as you graduate from one level to another, you will find yourself many a time in a fury of emotions, good and bad, sometimes even violent. It must be remembered that these are the lessons and until we learn to take control and break out of recurring patterns, the pattern will continue to occur, each time with greater intensity until we consciously break out of it. When you complete the last ‘rune’ in the third ‘aett‘, it not only completes the smaller cycle of the third aett, but also brings you back to the beginning of the entire journey itself. You may now begin the grand cycle of the runic journey again, only at a higher level.
However, nowadays runes are used to answer even everyday questions. Kamla Advani says: ‘Whenever I’m feeling low or uncomfortable, or have something bothering me, I use runes to answer my questions and I am always satisfied with the answer.’ Kamla is so happy with runes that she has even become a collector of various types—she has them in marble dust and amethyst! However, you need not worry about getting one in amethyst just yet, Valerian Mendanha of Mumbai makes our very own local, affordable runes sets. Although Valerian, a feng-shui consultant, doesn’t use them much himself, except as a talisman, he makes beautiful sets in stone or marble dust, complete with stones, pouch, and book.
Bhavya, who has her own set of runes, uses them for answers to specific ‘ life and death ‘ or urgent questions, ‘though sometimes I am tempted to use it for matters of the heart as well. Sets of runes are also available at all leading book stores, and a spokesperson for a leading bookstore in Mumbai says: ‘All age groups seem to be interested in all kinds of divination methods, especially runes, because they are easy to cast and follow.’
Learning to Use Runes
Once you lay your hand on a set, the first step in learning to read the runes must be to get to know the runes themselves. The book/manual accompanying the set of runes usually has a detailed explanation of what each rune stands for. But this doesn’t necessarily mean memorizing interpretations out of a book; instead, take one rune each day, and meditate on it. There are several exercises you can do daily to aid in this: word association with the rune names, visualization, physical connection with the runes.
It certainly helps to keep a record of your rune readings in a notebook. Although it’s not quite as easy to draw a nine-rune cast as it is to record a tarot spread, it might give you a more detailed reading. Even if reading makes no sense to you when you do it, its meaning might become clearer later on, and this will encourage you to pay closer attention to your instincts.
As there are no reliable historical descriptions of runic divination, virtually any method one chooses can be considered valid. The important thing, however, is that you feel comfortable with the method you choose. Most people eventually end up devising their own method of reading, but here are a few to get you started in the meantime:
1. The One-Rune Quickie
As you might imagine, this method is designed to provide a quick, concise answer to a specific question. Think of a specific question. Pull a rune out of the pouch and look at it. The answer may be an obvious ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or the rune might provide a more conditional response. If the rune you picked seems to make no sense at all as a response to your question, ask another question or try again later.
2. THE THREE-RUNE QUICKIE
This method is helpful in getting an overall fix on a given situation and providing some idea about a future outcome. How much information you get out of it will depend on how much time you spend analyzing the reading and how well you understand the rules.
Pull one rune at a time. The first rune represents those events in the past that affect the current situation. Pull another rune—this represents the present situation, which frequently refers to a choice that needs to be made. Pull a third—this is the most difficult rune to interpret for it symbolizes the future or the outcome of the situation/question. In some cases, it might represent the person’s inevitable fate. In others, it might simply be the end result if the current situation remains unchanged, or even just one of several results. You must rely on your instincts to decide which is the case.
3. THE NINE-RUNE CAST
This method will give you a more detailed overview of the situation, providing insight into where you are in terms of the spiritual path, and clarifying the options and possible outcomes available to you. Nine is a somewhat arbitrary number—you may use any number that feels comfortable to you. Pick nine runes from the pouch. Hold them between your hands for a moment, and focus on your question (if you have one). Then scatter the runes on the table, floor, or cloth. Read the runes which land face up first. These will relate to the current situation and the circumstances that led to it.
How the runes are read is largely subjective, but in general, runes lying in the center are the most immediately relevant, while those lying around the edges are less important, or represent more general influences. Runes that are close together or even touching often complement each other, or may even represent a single thing, while runes that fall on opposite sides of the pattern frequently represent opposing influences. Occasionally, a rune will land completely off the cloth or fall off the table. Some people consider such runes to be particularly significant, while others ignore them completely. Once you have looked at the runes which landed face up (and remembered which ones they are), turn over the rest of the runes without moving them from their positions. These represent outside or future influences, and will point to possible outcomes.
It is up to you to decide what the various positions and patterns in a reading mean, but once you have come up with a few general rules, try to stick with them. Try not to impose too much order on your readings and remember to go with your instincts. Just look at the patterns and relationships that appear in each reading and see what interpretations make sense to you.
Once the reading is done, I usually like to pull one more rune out of the pouch. This helps to confirm (or sometimes dispute) the conclusions drawn from the reading and may provide a focus or center to an otherwise scattered and complicated cast.
Remember there is no right or wrong way—it is what works best for you!!
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