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Interpreting the Runes ~ Berkana ~ Beorch ~ Birch Tree

“The Birch, though fruitless sends out countless shoots; leafy branches, high-crowned, reach to the sky.” — Old English Rune Poem

This rune is a fertility symbol, drawn to resemble a woman’s breasts.  In ancient Viking times, the birch was regarded as the tree of fertility and the act of being lightly whipped with birch twigs was supposed to promulgate vigor and vitality!  The people of Scandinavia still hold this belief; after a sauna people are encouraged to roll around in the snow and then made to endure a lashing with a bundle of birch twigs. The Phallic maypole that was traditionally danced around, heralding in Spring and new life, was usually made from birch. The appearance of Berkana in a reading clearly points toward inception; whether of a child, a project or perhaps a new idea.

Berkana is rather auspicious. Yet  because it represents the mother, and by implication the child, there is an element of “nourishment” associated with it.  Even if the rune is essentially beneficial the new project will need the same kind of feeding or succour as an infant would. Success will not come on its own without some nurturing; effort and attention will be required.  This may explain the duality associated with the birch tree, the “fruitless tree,” implying that all is not as it seems and that success will be achieved only through authentic and genuine application.

Berkana Reversed

Reversed, Berkana becomes a symbol of sterility, implying difficulties and miscommunication, especially on the domestic front. Perhaps a desired pregnancy will prove impossible, or a current pregnancy be terminated. Alternatively, Berkana can point to worries over children, especially in terms of health. The surrounding runes always point to a clearer picture. A reversed Berkana is not particularly malign of itself and requires more ruthless runes to imply any real trouble, while helpful runes definitely reduce the situation.

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Interpreting the Runes ~ Algiz ~ Elk ~ Protection

Interpreting the Runes XV ~ Algiz ~ Elk ~ Protection

Elk sedge grows in the fen, waxing in the water, grimly wounding; it burns the blood of those who would lay hands on it.”  — Old English Rune Poem

Algiz literally means, “elk sedge,” which is a grass widely regarded as having properties of magical protection. This rune is like a protective charm and when Algiz appears in a reading the message is optimistic.  Some say Algiz means “elk” while others insist on its meaning being “amber.” This symbol is not free from dispute; some note its outstretched arms, while others see an antler, and still others a staff.  It is agreed however that this is a most favorable and beneficial rune, no matter what place it holds in the reading.

Algiz signifies that one is shielded from danger or difficulty during the time span to which any questions apply.  Algiz also signifies a new and beneficial influence is about to enter one’s life. This could take the form of a new career, interest, or even a forthcoming union. It is likely that this new influence will not arrive as a result of conscious reasoning or determination.  This is most definitely a rune of friendship and protection but it is through ones inner self that this friendly influence is manifested; it is what is needed and deserved.

Algiz Reversed

When this rune appears reversed, it is expected that one will be duped. People in business or personal relationships have their own agenda’s and their goals will oppose those of the person for whom the runes are being consulted.  Algiz reversed indicates that one needs to take great care and caution because others have only their own best interests in mind. One can expect others to do their best to make sure there will be unjust blame.

Interpreting the Runes ~ Geofu ~ Gebo ~ Gift

Geofu ~ Gebo ~ Gift

“We’re like that!” is what we say when we are trying to communicate how close we are to another, and by crossing our fingers together.  A union, signified by the cross has been used as a representation since ancient times and implies complete harmony.  Gebo is associated with the planet Venus, the goddess of love.  Whenever this rune is drawn for the person being read, know without a doubt that the person is bringing a matter of the heart.  Gebo is a benevolent influence; however the surrounding runes show more and may even show difficulties in relationships.  When this rune is drawn, the person for whom the reading is occurring is, or will soon be in a general state of relaxation and peace with themselves and the rest of the world.

At one’s innermost level the appearance of Gebo may be issuing a form of warning that some gift – be it money, love or wisdom – is likely to come to the person being read.  We all know that nothing in life comes for free and without some sort of cost.  All gifts imply that equality must be attained; one must give back, equal in value to such a gift, either in this lifetime or the next.  There’s always a price to pay.  In a manner of speaking, this rune speaks to the innumerable laws of karma – “As you sow, so shall ye reap.”

As a result, I recommend that one doesn’t consider the appearance of this rune to be entirely positive.  The outcome may prove to be productive, but not, necessarily positive.  Ignore one’s inherent responsibilities and the outcome could be perilous.

The Three Rune Spread

The Three Rune Spread does the job for all but the most demanding or challenging situations.  With an issue clearly in mind, select three Runes, one at a time of course.  Place them from right to left in the order each Rune was selected.  So that one doesn’t make a conscious effort changing the direction of the stones, especially as one becomes familiar with the symbols, it is good practice to place each Rune blank side up, and the turn them over.

With the selection complete, the Runes will be before you as in the diagram above.  Reading from the right, the first Rune reveals the Situation; the second or center Rune identifies the Action; and the third Rune (the one on the left) indicates the New Situation.  The way in which one happens to turn the Runes may have some effect and alter the direction of the symbols to either an upright or reversed position, but remember, this too is all part of the process.  Since only nine Runes read the same upright and reversed, the readings for the remaining Runes will be determined on how the Runes have been placed or turned.

Application

When I was faced with the end of a long term relationship, experiencing emotional pain and grieving over the loss, I turned to the Runes and did a Three Rune Spread.  My issue I felt at the time was, “What am I to be learning from this separation?”

From my journal I am able to recall the Runes I drew: Reading from the right, the first Rune was Algiz, the Rune of protection reversed addressed my sense of being totally vulnerable, and unprotected.  This was the first time in my adult life I would really be on my own; without a partner.  Only right action and correct conduct provide protection in a time such as I was facing.  I would have to grow and learn from the loss of the relationship.

The second Rune drawn was Kano, the Rune of opening.  I was encouraged to trust the process and consider what aspects of my old conditioning would be best if changed.

Third drawn was Nauthiz, the Rune of constraint and pain.  The new growth would not free me from anguish over the situation.  The end of that relationship caused me to begin on my path of personal growth.  For the first time as an adult, I was working on me.  I also came away from this reading knowing that I was being called upon to be mindful of the fact that rectification must come before progress.

Though I was feeling vulnerable and “exposed,” I was made aware that with pain comes the necessary clarity to get on my path of personal growth and change.  As I began to move along that path, I was often reminded to consider the positive uses of adversity.

Interpreting the Runes ~ Uruz (Ur), Manhood, Womanhood, Strength, The Wild Ox


Uruz ~ Ur ~ Strength ~ Manhood ~ Womanhood ~ The Wild Ox

Uruz

The Rune of terminations and new beginnings, drawing Uruz indicates that the life you have been living has outgrown its form.  That form must die so that new energy can be released in a new form.  This is a Rune of passage and, as such,part of the Cycle of Initiation.

Positive growth and change, however, may involve a descent into darkness as part of the cycle of perpetual renewal.  As in nature, this progression consists of five aspects: death, decay, fertilization, gestation, and rebirth.  Events occurring now may well prompt you to undergo a death within yourself.  Since self-change is never coerced, we are always free to resist, remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old.

Prepare then, for opportunity disguised as loss.  It could involve the loss of someone of something to which you have an intense emotional bond, and through which you are living a part of your life, a part that must now be retrieved so you can live it out for yourself. In some way, that bond is being severed, a relationship radically changed, a way of life coming to an end.  Seek among the ashes and discover a new perspective and new strength.

The ancient symbol for Uruz was the aurochs, a wild ox.  When the wild ox was domesticated, an incredibly difficult task, it could transport heavy loads.  Learn to adapt yourself to the demands of such a creative time.  Firm principles attach to this Rune.  At the same time humility is called for, since in order to rule you must learn how to serve.  Uruz puts you on notice that your souls and the Universe support the new growth.

Without ears to hear and eyes to see, you may fail to take advantage of the moment.  The result could well be an opportunity missed or the weakening of your position.  I may seem that your own strength is being used against you.

Uruz Reversed

For some, Uruz Reversed will serve to alert, offering clues in the form of minor failures and disappointments. For others, those more deeply unconscious or unaware, it may provide a hard jolt.  Reversed, this Rune calls for serious thought about the quality of your relationship to your Self.

Take heart: Consider the constant cycling of death and rebirth, the endless going and return.  Everything we experience has a beginning, middle and an end, and is followed by a new beginning.  Therefore, do not draw back from the passage into darkness: When in deep water, become divers.

Interpreting the Runes ~ Fehu

I am going to do my best to explain with as much detail as possible, the meaning of each of the Runes over a series of upcoming blogs.  The interpretations I am sharing are not meant to be definitive in any way. Please consider the information as guidelines.

Fehu ~ Feoh ~ Possessions ~ Nourishment ~ Cattle

Fehu ~ Feoh ~ Possessions ~ Nourishment ~ Cattle

The first letter of the Germanic alphabet and is concerned with worldly wealth and possessions.  In ancient times, the main measure of one’s worth was determined by the number of livestock one owned.  Livestock was far more important in ancient times, as the Germanic peoples were nomadic.

Fehu is a Rune of fulfillment: ambition satisfied, love shared, rewards received.  It promises nourishment from the most worldly to the sacred and the Divine.  For if the ancient principle “As above so below” holds true, then we are also here to nourish God.

This Rune calls for a deep probing of the meaning of profit and gain in life.  Look with care to know whether it is wealth and possessions you require for your well-being, or rather self-rule and the growth of a will.

Another concern of Fehu is to conserve what has already been gained.  This Rune urges vigilance and continual mindfulness, especially in times of good fortune, for it is then that one will likely collapse oneself into success on the one hand, or behave recklessly on the other.  Enjoy good fortune and remember to share it, for the mark of the well-nourished self is the ability and willingness to nourish others.

Reversed: There may be considerable frustration in your life if you draw Fehu Reversed, a wide range of dispossessions ranging from trivial to severe.  You fall short in your efforts, you reach out and miss; you are compelled to stand by and watch helplessly while what you’ve gained dwindles away.  Observe what is happening.  Examine these events from an open perspective and ask, “What do I need to learn from this in my life?”

Even if there is occasion for joy, do not be seduced into mindless joyousness.  Reversed, the Rune indicates that doubtful situations are abundant and come in many forms and guises.  Here you are being put in touch with the shadow side of possessions.  Yet all this is part of coming to e and passing away, and not that which abides.  In dealing with the shadow side of Fehu, you have an opportunity to recognize where your true nourishment lies.

The Poem of the Runes

 

Meditating on the Runes

The main source of information on the Runes is the Anglo-Saxon poem which was translated by the monks from Old English into Latin. It would appear that this translation was not completely unbiased and that many Christian-style references found their way into the translation. However, the core essence of the message is still quite clear. The poem included in this blog was translated by Thomas Howard.

To understand the runes, all one needs to do is look at each rune in turn and read the correct verse of the poem. Then, meditate on the symbol and words. In time the meaning will come to you. This may sound too simplistic to you, but understanding the symbols and words is a process of meditation which requires deep concentration, considerable effort and consistent practice.

Included with the translated poem is the symbol along any associated translation of the symbols’ name and meaning.

Feoh ~ Fehu ~ Cattle

Wealth is a comfort to everyone,

Yet each must give freely,

If he will glory in Heaven.

Ur ~ Uruz ~ Auroch ~The Wild OxUr ~ Uruz ~Auroch

The wild ox is fierce,

With horns above,

A bold fighter who steps the moor,

A mighty creature.

Th ~ Thurisaz ~ Thorn

Thorn is very sharp to everyone,

Bad to take hold of;

Severe to those who rest among them.

Ansur ~ Ansuz ~ Mouth

Mouth is the origin or speech,

The support of wisdom;

And for everyone a blessing.

Rad ~ Raidho ~ Raido ~ Cartwheel

Riding in the hall is very pleasant,

It is more strenuous.

Sitting on a strong horse covering

The mile paths.

Ken ~ Kenaz ~Torch

Torch to all living is pale and bright.

It burns brightest

Where noble folk rest.

Geofu ~ Gebo ~ Gift

Gift is for everyone;

Glory and exaltation, and for the needy;

A help and sustenance.

Wynn ~ Wunjo ~ Joy

Joy is needed not

By those that hath

Little want and sorrow

And hath increase and bliss.

Hagall ~ Hagalaz ~ Hail

Hail is the whitest of grains,

It sweeps from the sky,

Is whirled by the wind,

and turns to water.

Nied ~ Naudhiz ~ Nauthiz ~ Necessity

Need is narrow in the breast,

But can often be a help,

If attended to early.

Is ~ Isa ~ Ice

Ice is cold and slippery,

It glistens like glass,

Is as bright as gems,

The field wrought with frost,

is fair to the sight.

Jara ~ Jera ~ Harvest

Year of fruitfulness,

Is the hope of everyone,

When the Gods allow the earth,

To give her bright increase

to rich and poor.

Yr ~ Eihwaz ~ Yew

Yew is outwardly

A smooth tree,

Hard and fast in the earth,

The Shepherd of fire,

twisted beneath with roots,

a pleasure on the land.

Peorth ~ Pertho ~ Perth

Chess is ever play and laughter

To the proud,

Where the warriors sit

In the beer hall,

Cheerful together.

Eolh ~ Algiz ~ Protection

Sedge grows in the fen,

Flourishing in water,

Burning the blood

Of anyone who touches it.

Sigel ~ Sowilo ~ Sowhelu~ Sun

Sun to the seafarer,

Is always confidence of nobles,

It is ever-moving

And in the darkness

Of night never rests.

Tir ~ Tiwaz ~ Creator

Tir is a token

Which has a confidence

Of nobles,

It is ever-moving

And in the darkness

of night never rests.

Beorch ~ Berana ~ Birch

Birch is fruitless

But bears twigs without increase,

It is beautiful in its branches,

Is laden with leaves,

Heavy in the air.

Eoh ~ Ehwasz ~ Horse

Horse is the joy of nobles,

Where heroes wealthy on

Their horses exchange words,

To be restless is a comfort.

 

Mann ~ Manaz ~ Man

Folk in their happiness

And dear to their kindred,

Yet all must depart

From each other,

Because the gods commit

The body to the earth.

Lagu ~ Laguz ~ Water

Water to the landfolk,

Seems tedious,

If they venture forth in an unsteady boat,

The sea waves will foam,

And the seahorse heeds

Not the bridle.

Ing ~ Ingwaz ~ Fertility

Ing was first seen among

The eastern Danes,

Departing over the waves,

His wagon ran behind,

Thus the warriors named him.

Daeg ~ Dagaz ~ Day

Day is the gods’ messenger,

The light of the gods,

Is happiness and consolidation

To rich and poor.

Othel ~ Othala ~ Othello ~ Home

Home is beloved of everyone,

If they can enjoy their

Rights and labor

And prosper in peace.