Suggested "Field Trips" for Runic Study
Reprinted from "Rainbow Wind" Magazine
I began this article after discussing with my colleagues just what the Runes mean and how one goes about studying them. I also remembered that my Rune teacher, Thorr Sheil, told me that he and HIS teacher went to a dairy farm while they were studying the Rune Fehu. I think they hung out at Grand Central Station in New York City while working on the Rune Raidho. Here's my take on the matter of how take your Runic studies beyond the merely intellectual "book learning" (a perfectly legitimate Runic function, that of Kenaz, btw). My Runework is rooted in "ordinary" Midgard reality. I advise those studying Fehu to go to a dairy farm. Shovel some caca and feed and milk a cow. Make some butter and eat it on bread. Wash it down with buttermilk. Yummy, especially with cornbread. The old-time Heathens depended on their cattle for survival. Remember that Audhumla, the primeval cow, nourished Ymir, the first Jotun. Save your pennies and donate them to Heifer Project International; giving a peasant family a hand up into adequate nutrition via a heifer, whose first daughter they must pass on to another family in need (www.heifer.org). This ties in to the more "abstract" meaning of Fehu; i.e. what supports you, how you make your living. Working on Uruz? Go observe some buffalo, or failing that, get some videos on them. Run with (from?) the bulls in Pamplona. Thurisaz? Volcanoes would be a good start. Glaciers, avalanches, icebergs. Read up on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The A-bomb is a Jotun's delight! You may want to start recording the Discovery and Learning Channels. Ansuz: read up on the Gods and Goddesses, pathwork to visit some of them (Frey, Freya, Njordh, Thor and Sif are good for beginning pathworkers); look, record and meditate on their influences. Raidho: transportation (and other words beginning with "trans") is the key word. Your car can teach you a lot. Ride with a trucker you know (don't hitchhike). Hang out at a truckstop, or an airport. Kenaz/Kauniz: a torch; also a really nasty boil; both burn. Make a torch and use it to find your way; just remember the boil! Curl up with a good book on Runes. Gebo: have (safe) sex! Buy a friend a gift. Do a bit of bartering. Wunjo: do something you love doing, just for the fun of it. Reflect on how much fun our religion is, especially compared to the competition!
Now that I've started, I may as well finish. On to the second aett. Hagalaz: think back to some nasty hailstorms you've experienced and the havoc they've wreaked. Look at videos of the recent floods on the East coast of the US. Nauthiz: go do some volunteer work in a shelter for the homeless. Contribute to a food drive. Isa: get snowed in. Look back at times in your life when it was going absolutely nowhere. Remember why and how you got unstuck! Jera? Plant a garden, tend and harvest it. Chow down with someone you love. Windowsill gardens are fine if that is all you have room for. Eihwaz: Practice a bit of archery. Read up on yew trees. Observe one closely; they are a common landscaping shrub. Look for evergreen needles and red berries. Touch it. Don't eat it, or this may be as far into the Futhark as you ever get! This Rune has its darker side. Confront your fears, your worst nightmares! Perthro? Explore your evolving Wyrd with a Rune reading. Pathwalk your past lives, whatever form of rebirth you may subscribe to (there were a variety of ideas circulating in the past, just like now; check out H.R. Ellis (Davidson)'s The Road to Hel). Elhaz (Algiz): observe moose and other deer on film and in person if possible. Learn to hunt and go hunting. Get a license and take a hunting safety course first, and don't forget to send a donation to Ducks Unlimited and/or help restore some wildlife habitat. Process, preserve, cook and eat the meat. Ward your home. Protect your vital interests. Be on your guard, but don't be paranoid. Sowilo? Take a walk in the sunshine. Sunbathe. Go to the beach! "Here comes the Sun!"
Third aett? Tiwaz: do a Tyr Blot. Think back on victories (and losses) you have experienced. Get involved in a political campaign. Plan new personal campaigns (plans for your future) with an eye toward victory. Give a "loser" a non-condescending hand up, not a hand out. Contribute to a veteran's charity. Better yet, volunteer in a veteran's hospital. Berkano: go see a birch tree. Do a blot to your favorite Goddess. Contribute to a woman' charity; like a rape crisis center. Better yet, volunteer. Thank the women who have helped you get where you are. Start with your living (and dead) female ancestors. Work for a society free of sexism, so your daughters, nieces, etc. have the chance to "be all that (they) can be." Ehwaz? Easy in Kentucky! Go to the Kentucky Horse Park, or to a race track. Go horseback riding. Take a short trip; just for fun. Think about what our ancestors owed to their loyal equine friends. Eat some horsemeat if you can get it! Our ancestors did that too. Mannaz: what does it mean to YOU to be a good human being? Are you living that way? How can you improve? Mentor a child or youth. Reflect honestly on your strengths and weaknesses. What can you do NOW to increase the former and decrease the latter? Laguz/Laukiz: go to a lake. Explore your subconscious. Seek to heal past traumas, both those you have suffered and those you may have inflicted on others. Visit a hospital. Volunteer to take meals to the homebound. Buy a paper heart for your (least) favorite disease next time they are selling them at the supermarket. Eat lots of gar-lic (lic = laukiz). It's good for your cholesterol and bad for any parasites and disease organisms you may be harboring. Ingwaz: do a Frey Blot. Offer to Elves. Thank the men, living and dead, who have helped you the most in your becoming you. Spend time in Nature. You are a part of it: it made you, sustains you, and you will return the favor by (eventually) dying and thus making room for and nourishing new life by your body's decay. This doesn't have to be your favorite part of the natural cycle, but appreciating and understanding its necessity on a deep level, intuitive as well as intellectual, can do wonders for your peace of mind. Join the Nature Conservancy, so future generations can experience and enjoy Nature's diversity as you are doing. Take a bag to pick up the trash you come across. Recycle whenever possible. Try to live a bit more simply, materially and otherwise. The length of this discussion of Ingwaz should make it obvious that this is the Rune of my patron God, Ingvi Frey. Dagaz: arise before dawn, and be aware of the Day's progression through sunset. Carpe diem! Live for today! Seize the moment! Othala? Read a book on the Vikings, our spiritual and (for some of us) physical forbears. Visit a historical site. Help restore one. Return to the land(s) of your ancestors. Decorate their graves and pour them a libation. Reflect on what your family has given you, and what you would like to pass on to subsequent generations. Take the young folks of your family with you. "To thine own self be tru(e)!"
Have I done ALL these things? Do they replace hard and serious reading about the Runes? Of course not. But I've done a lot of them, in between reading a lot of books about Runes, and they've helped the Runes to become a living part of my life and a tool for understanding and improving that life instead of just an academic, historical and theoretical field of study or an odd hobby.
The following comments are from my friend Pam C., who also works with Thorr and Audrey Sheil's books. They are very clear and contain a poetic beauty all their own. I think they fit in real well here at the end of this article, and of course are posted here with her gracious permission:
"Thinking back, I find that the Ase rune was the first to reveal itself to me, through Sif. She is a good friend, and seems to be always nearby. I often wonder why it is that I felt so strongly about having Freyja as my Female patron instead of Sif, but I suppose it is the warrior attitude that I have which was strongest. Should you ever sit down at a sewing machine to sew something you find confusing, call to Sif. The sewing will be effortless, and it will leave you glowing (hard to explain further than that)."
"I remember Audrey getting very excited over Hagal one day as she was caught in a hail storm on her way home. But Hagal, is there in the dandelion puff suddenly caught in a gust (to a gardener that IS destructive). Isa is in a traffic jam, but also in a situation where one must struggle to not say out loud what one is thinking."
"What I wanted to say was something about the differences in our teaching methods. While your suggestions for experiencing runic ideas sound like fun, and will do much to clarify basic meanings to those eager to know the futhark, I wonder if some might take these as conclusions rather than beginnings. I feel that Fe (Fehu) can be understood, more, HAS to be understood within the context of the student's life. I tend to steer (no pun) away from the cattle example since there are very few modern people that have ever raised cattle for profit and in the East, few that have ever even seen a cow. I find that it is much easier to understand if put in the context of daily life. If I don't perform maintenance on my Blazer, change the oil, add fuel, wash it, then that asset will cease to serve me. The same basic principal goes for friends and family. All are Fe. There is cow pasture that backs up on my land. I have to tell you, Cows are cute. They follow me like dogs, seeming to think that I can always pull peaches off the tree and toss them over the fence. But I don't get a hint of Fe from them. Flies, yes, Fe, no."
Note from Jordsvin: why the usefulness of our relationships with family, friends, and employees may partake of Fehu (and Gebo as well BTW), I do advise folks NOT to treat PEOPLE themselves as Fehu.
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