First, let’s get confused (Rune Cards)

Standard

Here’s my first reading with the Rune Cards.

—1—
2—–3

I’m going to look at the card image alone first and will then consult the little white book (LWB) that comes with the deck. I’m giving the Anglo-Saxon rune names first, followed by the Elder Futhark names (if applicable) in parenthesis, if only so I can learn all names. The images are borrowed from another website that I sadly haven’t bookmarked, so I can’t tell you the source.

1. Where am I in terms of my spirituality right now?Aurochs / Ur (Uruz)

Two big drinking horns lie on a table, together with a die that has the rune of “ur” carved on it. One of the drinking horns has metal decorations at the rim and point, the other is left plain. A male aurochs stands in the background, facing the left and looking slightly to the front. (Actually, the animal looks more like a buffalo than an actual aurochs, but for now I’m willing to accept that as artistic license.)

The opening of the decorated drinking horn is facing the viewer, looking a bit like an entrance to a cave or something. That makes me think of the oft-quoted tunnel-like passage that many shamanic journeyers encounter at the beginnings of their journeys (particularly to the Lower World). From the outside, it’s just a drinking horn, but there’s no telling where the inside passage leads. The fact that there are two entrances also suggests that choosing one (the right one?) might be of importance here. And the die makes me think that consulting an oracle (or, if you prefer that view, making a choice by a random method) might just be the way to go.

The aurochs itself makes me think of wild cattle and the role they played for our ancestors (I’m only referring to what is now roughly considered European territory here because that’s the cultural background of the runes and the illustrations of this deck. That’s not supposed to suggest that aurochs or other wild cattle weren’t present elsewhere.). Aurochs were hunted (I assume that all parts of their bodies were used for food, clothing, and tools)  and paintings of them appear in several prehistoric caves, such as Lascaux or Chauvet. All in all, it makes me think of a very early time in human history, and different ways of connecting to that ancestry (such as shamanic journeying, experiential archeology, scientific research, etc.). And that suggests that there is always more than one method to reach the goal of connecting, and that most likely a combination of them will bring the best (= most useful, most reliable, most respectful) results.

The fact that the animal depicted on the card is not actually an aurochs makes me think that I need to keep checking the “facts” of whatever I’m told is the “truth” about any spiritual path. While a bison or buffalo is probably closer to an aurochs than a Holstein dairy cow, it’s still not the same, and the difference may indeed matter. So this is not about just believing everything, even if it comes from an “expert” but to do my own research and verification process to get confirmation of something.

So, let’s see what the LWB has to add to that. The rune poem given for Ur consists of four stanzas and centers on the value of strength and the will to fight, as well as on the need to temper it with courage, determination, wisdom and cunning. In other words, “Those who have strength but lack strategy will become the captive of others.”

The divinatory meanings mention assertive strength again (not necessarily physical strength, though) and also speak of the need to conserve strength, to rest and recuperate.

All in all, I would say this card is about allowing for some time until I actively go into that cave/tunnel again (that is, before I take any further steps, especially on a shamanic path). Instead, some reflection of whose values and “truths” I want to take on as mine seems to be in order. And that makes a lot of sense, because I’m still busy shedding all the expectations of my former workplace and related environments and reconnecting to my “roots” (mostly of my own life history for now).

2. What’s the next step for me? What should I do?Weapon / Yr

This shows a scene of hands-on battle. There are a lot of helmets, swords, arrows, a few shields, and some faces contorted in yelling. Bolts of lighting strike down from the night sky, ravens (or crows) fly above the battlefield, and a big battle axe with the “yr” rune engraved on it is held up in the foreground of the picture.

I know that thunder(bolts) are associated with the hammer-wielding Northern god Thor, but I’m not sure that the ravens aren’t borrowed from Celtic/Irish mythology here (as related to the war goddesses Badb and Morrígan). However, Wikipedia tells me that “the word [for raven] was frequently used in combinations as a kenning for bloodshed and battle,” so I might be mistaken here.

The battle looks like a scene of much chaos, violence and fear to me, and it’s certainly not a scene that I’d happily enter. I’m in no way the type to engage in physical battle (although I believe I would be able to defend myself against a physical one-on-one attack), and even shy away from peaceful demonstrations or big concerts because I never trust “the masses” around me to be on my side when push comes to shove. However, the battle axe with the rune suggests a guiding principle which might just give structure (if not sense) to the chaos. The lightning bolts make me think of divine intervention, for better or worse, and suggest there might be a bigger plan to all of it, even if I can’t see it from my current point of view.

Besides the idea that finding my own guiding principles probably is a good idea before I enter any “battle” I’m not quite sure what this card is telling me to do.

Let’s see if the LWB can shed some light on this. The rune poem praises the use of the axe-hammer as a piece of war-gear and suggests it is a useful thing to have with you on a journey. The divinatory meanings for the card list several verbs that describe violent destruction of a thing or person and state that the “enemy could be an opponent or an illness, or anything that could be harmful to you.”

Right now, this seems to underline the wild aspect of the Ur card, so perhaps my reading of that as waiting some more before action takes place isn’t quite right? I hope the third card will clarify this matter some more!

3. What should I avoid?Ing (Ingwaz)

A big fire burns upon an otherwise snow-covered hill surrounded by a forest in the night. Its flames merge with a Green Man-like face made of what looks like oak leaves.

The depiction of a god or land spirit (I think that Ing is another name of Freyr, but I need to check that later on) makes this card different from the other two that only used things that are on the more material side of things (or symbols for deities like the flashes of lightning). In terms of something not to do as my next step I would think this means I’m not supposed to attempt any direct spirit communication at this point.

Okay, let’s check Wikipedia first. Ing, or Yngvi, is indeed an older name for the god Freyr. From what little I already know about the Northern deities, Freyr is a Vanir god and embodies a fertile masculinity that is much tied to the land and to sunshine and prosperity. Thor, on the other hand, is an Aesir god who is associated more with battle, protection, and physical strength. In other words, there are two different kinds of masculinity that appear as “do” and “don’t” for me in this reading.

That alone is rather interesting, since masculinity has indeed been an issue for me in the more recent past. Not only has my partner transitioned into an everyday life as someone who is almost always read as a “man” (despite his remaining self-identification as a third-gender butch), I have also been read as an “unfeminine” woman, especially in work-related contexts (despite my remaining self-identification as a queer femme). I have struggled (and continue to do so) with how the way his gender is perceived now changes the way my gender is perceived by others (no matter that the changes of his gender as I perceive it away from the rest world have actually been minimal – although that kind of separation is of course an illusion possible only for the sake of the argument). As a result, I’ve come to the realization that outside perception plays a much bigger role in one’s gender reality than I initially thought, and that includes the perception of the gender of the people we’re with. While this is all really fascinating in an academic way, it still means that I’m rather unsure of how to deal with this in my practical life.

I’m also wondering if this emphasis on traditionally “masculine” aspects is just a feature of this reading, or if it is part and parcel of Northern Tradition Paganism as such. I have touched on my own gender issues before, so I’ll just say here that it would be a problem for me if femininity and masculinity in Northern Tradition Paganism were divided along the same old lines of warrior and homemaker/caretaker.

But before I continue to draw the different parts of the reading together to make sense of them all, let’s see what the LWB has to say about the Ing card. Once again, I’m not sure how “purely” Northern the story of the Lord (Ing) and Lady (his sister Eostre) and Ing going to sleep over winter and being roused again by burning holly is (Wikipedia says that Freyr’s sister is Freya, not Eostre, and a superficial Google search finds no relation of Freyr to holly). In fact, the whole “Lord and Lady” business sounds awfully Wiccan to me (although, admittedly, Freyr and Freya actually mean Lord and Lady), and holly is mostly mentioned in relation to the twice-yearly fight of the Holly King and Oak King. At any rate, the LWB rune poem mentions Ing as a hero, and someone who traveled over water. It also lists a lot of positive associations along the lines of hope, optimism, fertility, rebirth, etc.

Well, that doesn’t help me much, I’m afraid. I think I shall continue with my own takes for now.

So let’s go back to whats actually on the cards. One thing that stands out to me is the very similar shape of the Ur and Yr runes. Yr looks like Ur with an extra line down. If I leave everything aside that I have read about the runes/cards during the assembly of this reading, I would say that it could be an extra grounding line. In that metaphor, Ur is the idea, the potential and Yr is the application, the manifestation of it. Nevertheless, the Yr and Ing cards are similar in how they show mostly sky (and spirit) and only a little bit of the earth/ground…

Well.

I think we can safely say that I’ve successfully managed to confuse myself to the point of wanting to scratch the reading in its entirety. I guess that what happens when I mix up research and divination to a point that goes beyond checking a fact that I already have in the back of my mind or looking up the translation of an idiom. The part that confuses me most is the battle scene of Yr as my “do” of this reading because I really can’t relate to that imagery at this point in my life. I don’t want to jump headfirst into any kind of battle, but I want to reflect and heal and go slowly instead.

I did learn a few things about this deck and about the runes as such during this reading, though, and that’s always a good thing. I realized that my usual way of reading cards (or other oracles) probably isn’t working very well with this deck as long as I want to use it to learn the runes as such, because what I see in the images is not what I read about the runes and what I would associate with the rune names, the respective stanzas of the rune poem translations, or the rune shapes themselves. I’m not giving up on the approach of doing both things at the same time (reading with this deck and learning the runes as such) just yet, but if future readings turn out to be equally confusing, I might have to do just that. In that case, I might have to decide whether to take this deck as a paper version of the runes (and ignore the images – which would beg the question why I would then use an illustrated deck) or to use the deck as I use my other oracle decks (and ignore the runes – which would lead me to wonder if it’s possible to learn the runes in some other way and still not get distracted by their presence in this oracle).

For now, I’d be grateful for any input on this reading by any of you. Maybe you know more about the runes and can give me some useful pointers about how to interpret what I drew here? Or maybe you see something in the card images that has escaped my attention? All reading methods are welcome!

5 responses »

  1. Looking at the images themselves only:

    Where am I in terms of my spirituality now? The horns are empty, and I’m guessing this is how you’ve felt about some of the spiritual paths you’ve been down. Horns are associated with the head/thinking, and you don’t like to check your brain at the door even if it is spiritual. You’re still searching for something that will “fill” you that isn’t all new-agey fluff.

    Whats the next step for me? What should I do? Among all the chaos in the card, the battle ax stands out in the image. Choose one spiritual tool and use it for a while – meditation, journaling, etc. Stick with it and see how it either changes you or has no effect. As the Buddhists say, “Choose one seat and sit.” The tool that works may lead you in the direction you need to go.

    What should I avoid? The fire burns bright on the mountaintop, but there is a face patiently waiting behind it. Just because the people you admire are going in a certain direction, or a path is “popular” now, doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the one for you. Maybe you have to create your own, or yours may be the “road less traveled;” I don’t think it’s going to be an obvious choice.

    Just my two cents. Please take what’s useful and ignore the rest. :D

  2. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, and thank you so much for your useful input!

    Good call on the head connection of the horns! And you’re so right: my brain needs to be part of my spirituality like the rest of myself or it won’t feel like a good fit for me.

    I like your idea of picking one tool and using that for some time. While I find it hard to say if my current concerns are “really” spiritual, I am feeling a strong pull to write stuff (and also read stuff which then inspires me to write even more) right now. So far, almost nothing of it has ended up on this blog because a) it’s only tangentially related to spirituality as I currently understand it, and b) I’m doing the writing in German. But yeah, it’s taking me to some very interesting realizations already!

    And that last paragraph? I’ve been suspecting already that I won’t ever find any kind of tradition/path that works for me right out of the box. I guess I sometimes just wish I could still get a “spiritual starter set” somewhere, which I could then tweak and adjust to my own needs. Kinda like buying a basic sewing pattern which you then cut a bit wider here, add an inch or two for length there, change the shape of the collar, and finally make the whole thing in yellow fake fur instead of blue denim, until you end up with something that’s exactly the right fit for you. And sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m still browsing the pattern catalog, or if I’m already stitching things up…

  3. Sometimes what doesn’t seem to have anything to do with one’s spiritual path (writing) might end up having a great influence on it. ;)

  4. I’ll give you my reading because I know nothing about runes or whatever else this deck is about, haha.

    Just from the images, and I didn’t read your post first so I wouldn’t be influenced.

    aurochs: I see horns sitting on a table in front of a bison.The two seem tied together, as though the horns are a summons. I know nothing about what bisons “should” represent, my animal symbolism is sadly lacking, but since they once covered North America and now is greatly reduced, I see this bison as representing old and ancient wisdom. It’s ready for you. All you have to do is pick up the horn and call. I get a feeling of hesitation from this card, like you’re afraid or unwilling to commit. You let the horn sit on the table, you wait and watch the animal.

    weapon- You should confront that hesitation, take an axe to it. Hesitation is not a bad thing–sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing, but in this case, it’s holding you back from finding what you’re seeking. Pick up the horn and engage with the world.

    Ing: I feel like this card depicts a ritual where a spiritual entity is summoned. Which seems a bit counter to what I said above, but maybe this spread marks some kind of transition from attempting to communicate with a being to communicating with spiritual knowledge, if that makes sense. This card seems to indicate a more traditional pagan kind of ritual, whereas the first card speaks to a less formulated, wilder magic.

    Overall, I feel like there is an emphasis on tools, action, and the physical world. The spiritual knowledge I speak of in the third card is a knowledge of the world, not of gods or bright white lights. You’ll find divinity in engaging with the “mundane.” As above, so below, and so on.

    I have no idea how this will speak to you, but it was fun!

  5. @ Vee:
    Thanks for your input!

    Aurochs: Hesitation and unwillingness to commit sound about right. Before I commit, I need to find out if it’s the right thing for me to commit to, right? Which makes me realize that I have a hard time understanding commitment as a one-time act. Sort of like a marriage, where you give a promise about your entire future about something you have no way of foreseeing. How can anyone be willing to promise to stick with something/someone forever “in good times and bad” when the bad times may be what it takes to realize that the something/someone really, really, really isn’t right anymore? Maybe I need to think some more about my ideas of commitment, especially in a spiritual context! Because I seem to have all sorts of ideas about spiritual commitments that practically mean signing over my soul, lock, stock, and barrel to some “entity” for good – and I just don’t do that kind of thing. So what would be a form of spiritual commitment that would work for me?

    Weapon: Hm. You’re probably right – just looking won’t get me any closer to experiencing things. Especially since things may not look right but would feel right if only I did them. However, that still doesn’t solve the problem of what exactly this thing is that I should do (and does it even matter as long as I do something?)…

    Ing: “You’ll find divinity in engaging with the ‘mundane.’ As above, so below, and so on.” — Yes, that sounds a lot like me. In my spirituality I never want to get away from the “real world” but I want to get closer to it, feel more connected with everyday things and people. Anything that frames spirituality as something that happens “elsewhere” doesn’t really work for me. I guess I just have a hard time picturing that kind of everyday, grounded spirituality when there are so many cultural images of meditation retreats, cloisters, shamanic conferences, etc. that all place spirituality in a space away from everyday life. Which is not to say that those places can’t be useful – but they’re all temporary by definition (except for cloisters as in fully joining a convent), and I need something that works in my everyday life.

    Wow, that brought up a lot of really interesting thoughts for me – thank you!

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