“I think I might have problems with wights,” I told one wight expert about issues at my barn. Never mind that I’m strongly agnostic about wights, and never mind that I don’t believe in magic. I was at wit’s end when it came to my goats getting sick and dying. I had one necropsy performed on a dead kid which proved nothing except that I had a very healthy, dead kid. The expert recommended that I perform a salt purification ritual to rid the barn of negative influences.
One of the things that seems to bind most of us Heathens together is the love of the natural world, in some way. (No doubt I’ll get an argument from someone who says that they don’t give a shit about nature.) However, I’d wager that some number of Heathens don’t have a close–dare I say intimate?– relationship with the natural world. (For those with minds in the gutter, I know where you went–forget it.)
I know, I know. You’re busy making a living. You live where you do because your family lives there. Or maybe you do get out in nature once in a while when you have time for a vacation. But, you live in a city, or the suburbs, where your world is surrounded by asphalt, concrete, steel, and glass. The closest to nature you get to every day is maybe the city park, or your neighbor’s manicured lawn.
I’m Not Discounting Your Efforts
Maybe you have a special tree in your yard; maybe you put an altar out there. Maybe you planted a garden. Maybe you hunt and fish. Maybe you took my advice and have unplugged for a portion of the day. Maybe you’ve made friends with the wights who live nearby. All these things are good. And yet, I’m not sure it’s enough. I’ll explain.
Your Ancestors Didn’t Evolve in Urbanized Settings
Our hominid ancestors were around some 6 million years before us. Homo sapiens, our current species, is about 200,000 years old. Civilization, as we know it, went back some 6000 years. That’s roughly 194,000 years when our species didn’t live in huge cities. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers or lived in small villages. Agriculture started somewhere around 12,000 years ago with hunter-gatherers trying their hand at planting crops.
I bring this up because I want to show you how unnatural our current lifestyle is. We evolved being on the move and with nature, not sitting in a cubicle in an office building. Technically, even the agrarian lifestyle is unnatural to us, but less so. At least that lifestyle still had people close to nature.
It’s Not Natural
I grew up in a suburban setting. I hated every moment of it. I hated having neighbors around my home. When I was older and decided I no longer wanted to play suburbanite, I moved to the mountains. I’d like to say I had peace, but I had some evil neighbors. One died in a crack house on Christmas Eve from an overdose of heroin. Another actually broke into my home and stole stuff. (Got to love that.) Oddly, I wasn’t even in a bad neighborhood. Eventually I arrived where I live currently, where I have people at an arm’s length most of the time.
My work has had me travel to big cities like New York and Chicago. One of the biggest issues I had with those places is the noise. Sure, the denizens there are use to it, but not really. I could see it in their behavior that even if they didn’t consciously register the constant cacophony, their bodies did. Yes, they are stressed just by living there, and they don’t even know it.
It sounds weird and new-agey, but some of not being part of the natural order comes from a complete lack of mindfulness. Most of the time we sit at our computers and type. Get in the car and drive someplace. Walk to work or school with our noses buried in our smartphones. Very seldom do we actually spend time and just observe what is going on around us. When we do, we’re often making judgements or thinking about other things, instead of just observing. When you strip away the so-called “monkey-mind,”–that is, the mind that is busy thinking about a thousand different things– and focus on one thing, you can actually start touching the true nature of the world.
Try it sometime. When you’re outside, sit down and look around you. Empty your thoughts. Focus on something natural: a tree, a leaf, a blade of grass… Let your body relax and breathe slowly. At this point, you enter into a form of mediation. You let your thoughts exist but do not dwell on them. Remember, you are focused on the natural world.
When you are in this state, you will begin to become part of the natural order of things. The world will never look the same as it had before–you’ll see beyond the concrete, metal, and glass to something that is more alive and more vibrant. You’ll feel the world as a Heathen; seeing it for the first time as something beyond words.
Communicating with a Higher World
If you do this enough, at some point in your meditation you may experience supernatural beings because you’re receptive to them. It’s how I sometimes experience the gods. You may speak to wights, gods, or other denizens–all without psychotropic substances. And sometimes you’ll feel them even when you’re no longer mediating. It takes almost nothing to recover that sense of mindfulness once you get good at it.
I call this piece “mindfulness magic,” but in truth, I don’t believe in magic. I do, however, believe that the mind is a powerful thing and we can recover what we lost in the past 6000 years, I do hope you’ll let me know if you try it and where it leads for you. You may just touch more than that blade of grass.
I really hate the M- word. It suddenly puts Heathenry into the realm of Wiccan and other m(agic) based beliefs. It suggests that there isn’t a good reason why something happened. And for the Rational Heathen, that drives me batty.
I’ve been accused in the past of being atheistic because I waffle on certain elements of our beliefs. And yet, there are plenty of nonbelievers in the ranks of heathens, who don’t necessarily believe in the gods as people, but still wish to preserve the old ways. And yet, I have had more encounters with our gods, and even the wights, than some of the staunch believers have.
So, when I talk about runecasting, understand that this is my interpretation of it. It isn’t necessarily the only way to do it. It’s not even the right way. But it is my way and if you can learn some things from my methods, then terrific.
Before I get started on this, I don’t consider myself an expert in the runes. I know the Elder Futhark and I cast those runes. There are other runes that are equally valuable such as the Younger Futhark, the Anglo Saxon runes, and others. None of them are inferior. But unless you make yourself a set, or find someone who makes these runes, chances are the runes you’ll pick up are Elder Futhark. Which is okay. There’s a lot more written about them than the other runes, anyway.
How I Got into Runecasting
My sister (who, weirdly enough is a devout Christian), gave me Ralph Blum’s Book on runes when it first came out when I was in junior high or high school (yeah, it was that long ago). I dinked around with them throughout high school and college, not knowing what the Hel I was doing. Even so, the runes had a tendency to give me consistent, true readings. As I started reading other rune material, I outlined the rules in my own mind, what the runes meant, and how to runecast. Even now, I follow these rules when I do a runecast.
It works for me. It may not work for you.
My Rules to Runecasting
These are my rules when it comes to runecasting. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), and you probably have a method that suits you.
Choose Runes that Speak to You
I’m not talking about actual speech here. I’m talking about what feels right in your hands. I have probably around 10 rune sets, some which I do not like or connect with. There’s one runeset, a runeset made from hematite, that feels right in my hands. I have one runeset I totally despise that is a card runeset (similar to Tarot) that I picked up because I thought it would be different. (Boy howdy, it was.) I’ve been ambivalent on some wooden runes I bought. I don’t know the wood and they don’t seem to have a connection to me. So, I don’t use them. YMMV. Again.
Abandon Conventional Tarot Wisdom
Don’t treat the runes as though they were Tarot cards (they’re not). That means there is no merkstave (upside down) readings. We have enough negative implications with some of the runes, depending on how you read them. The rune, whether you pull it out upside down or sideways, or whatever, is the rune. However, can you read a different interpretation with an upside down rune? You can do what you like. I think it’s incorrect, but hey, that’s my interpretation. Again, YMMV.
Abandon the Blank Rune
This is clearly a Ralph Blum invention, although someone might call me on this and tell me somewhere in yada…yada… lore someone used one. Pertho is more the unknown rune, so we use that. Someone always says to use it as a spare. For the life of me, I don’t know how I would cut into the hematite to replace a lost stone. I’d probably just rob a stone from another set.
Read Right to Left
Okay, I’m sure there’s no real cause for this other than learning it this way. You can read anyway you want, as long as you have the rules settled in your mind and with the runes.
Read as Much as You can on Interpretations
This seems a no-brainer, but I would argue that you need to read as much as you can on the various interpretations of a particular rune. Even when I think I’m settled on an interpretation, I’ll get an odd reading that causes me to go back to the books.
How I Believe the Runes Work
I’m avoiding the M-word when it comes to runes, because I sincerely don’t believe in magic. I suspect how they work is that they tap into our subconscious which pays far more attention to the world than our conscious selves. I remember having the runes come up with a positive outcome to a particularly difficult time in my life and later discussing them with a physicist friend of mine. He thought they worked because they offered only general interpretation that could fit any circumstance, and yet, I’ve hit the nail on the head more times with runes than not. So, if there’s something else going on, I suspect it’s largely subconscious. But occasionally I’ve seen the gods intervene in the runes, which suggest maybe they have a hand in tipping the scales, subconsciously, or through quantum means.
Remember what I’ve quoted Arthur C. Clarke so many times about technology being indistinguishable from magic?
Next week, I’ll do a sample rune reading…