• Laguz •
Old English Rune Poem
Lagu (Sea) is by folk thought wide indeed,
If they should dare to go in a ship unsteady,
And the waves terribly frighten them,
And the sea-stallion heed not its bridle.
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And so it is Yule. Unlike Christmas (and even unlike the Winter Solstice itself), Yule is not a single day, and its arrival is not determined by a single calendar date. It is a dark tide of energy that arises, generally on or around the Solstice, and Yule proper lasts for twelve nights, ending in Twelfth Night (which usually falls on or around Christmas Eve).
Its coming is not always predictable; one can plan for Yule and then feel the tide of energy arrive a day early, or a day late. In this modern era, most people are so harried by the commercialism of the Christmas season that they barely even notice when the tide comes in, if they notice at all. I own an online shop and my day job is in customer service, so I certainly am not immune to the hectic atmosphere that prevails. In the midst of the flurry of shopping and making, it can be difficult to feel the moment when the land whispers to you: “It is now.”
Our ancestors (in the Germanic countries) referred to Yule as Rauhnacht, the “rough nights” or “raw nights.” The Yuletide energy is not a gentle one; it is harsh, glaring, strident, echoing the energies of the Wild Hunt that rules this season. It actually meshes pretty well with the frantic shopping and feelings of desperation and often despair that surround Christmas. It can manifest in irritation and snappishness (tempers have been short in my household all week long), or in a surge of energy that one does not know how to channel. Many people respond to it by feeling the need to retreat from the world, to nest with books or movies—which is actually a wise choice. Traditionally, Yule was a time for gathering a home with families and friends—not just to celebrate the return of the sun, but because it was considered a dangerous time. The roads, the wildness, all of the in-between places were particularly dangerous; there was too much chance of encountering the Hunt, or even being taken by it. Only witches, seidhr folk, sorcerers, and other societal vagrants would choose to be out and about on these nights.
They speak to me at times, the ones behind the veil. I can hear them and sense them, but I cannot always see them. Other times I can see them, but cannot hear what they are saying. Its frustrating to have this happen, so see things that you cannot explain to people around you. It's even harder to know that there is something that they are trying to tell me but I cannot make sense of it.
At one time it was easier, before kids, before the business of life. Now the tide is changing and life is slowing a bit - at least for me in some ways - and they are coming back, talking....
Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, in college I discovered that I could advise other people with rune readings, but when I read for myself, all I ever saw was my own death. I was still a teenager the first time I foresaw my death, and it scared me. At the time, I was studying Russian Studies and Soviet Political Analysis at UC-Santa Cruz. I wanted to be an intelligence officer after I got my degree. Actually I wanted a military career, but my eyesight and asthma precluded that, and I thought the closest thing I could achieve would be to become an intelligence analyst. I had already been a freelance writer for several years, and those were the two career paths I asked about when I tried to read the runes for myself.
A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:
“I did a lot of rune readings for myself, friends, and people I met at parties. Acquaintances brought people to me to read runes for them. One evening I decided to read for myself and ask about future courses of action. Was I on the right road? I asked the runes, “What will happen if I join CIA?” and they said, You will die. I was frightened, so I asked, “What will happen if I become a writer?” You will die. “What will happen if I take some third course of action?” You will die.
My fear evaporated. I laughed out loud. “Of course. Of course. Whatever I do, I will eventually die. I am not a god. Of course I will die. It doesn’t matter what I do, the end is the same for everyone. So I should just do what I want to do, and let the end take care of itself.” I resolved to make my decisions based on what I really wanted, and never again ask the runes for advice in deciding a course of action. In the coming years I would sometimes think of asking for advice making decisions, but I always remembered this lesson, and chose without the runes.”
In a way, knowing about my own death since my late teens has been a positive experience, because it has allowed me to act fearlessly. It's not comfortable knowledge, though. Most of the time I ignore it. What I ignore tends to become an unconscious issue that comes back in my fiction writing, and the question of what prophecy is and what it's for and whether it can be changed is one I'm currently exploring in the heathen mythology based novel I'm currently writing.
About 20 years after seeing my death for the first time, after I had been teaching my Rune Seminar for many years, I decided to make a Rune Seminar video and include sample readings. I got several people I know to be in it, with me doing readings for them. I also figured I might as well do a sample self-reading. I had not tried to read for myself since college, but I thought I was prepared for what I would see, since I knew I would see my own death again. This time I saw more than that. This time I saw past my death, and caught a glimpse of my own afterlife.
Since I became a sworn priestess of Freya in 1989, I had expected to go to Freya when I die. When I read for myself again in my 40s, I saw the face of Odin. I only saw it briefly, but it was unmistakable. There was a light like a white cloud in front of the sun, and his white-grey hair and beard were made of that cloud. He had one eye with a light in it like the sun piercing through the cloudy sky.
I was frightened again. Odin had been my original patron and was the god I had actually intended to swear myself to the day I went out in the woods and ended up with Freya instead. But by this time I had been hers for decades, and I associated an Odin-centric afterlife with death in battle, which is not what I foresaw for myself. Even if I did die in battle, Freya takes half the slain so I could still end up with her. But I saw Odin. I was disturbed thinking I had my vision all wrong all this time and I was with the wrong god or things were not going to happen the way I had foreseen after all. I decided to edit that whole sequence out of the video, and just ignore the whole vision, and file that glimpse of Odin in the place where I file experiences I can't explain and don't want to think about too hard.
Link to Rune Seminar video: http://www.amazon.com/Rune-Seminar-Magicalrealist-Gallery/dp/B003KZ5UGG
I don't have any of my self-reading in the video, I cut the entire thing, because the video is supposed to be an upbeat teaching tool and I didn't want to show myself having a negative experience on it. I actively ignored what I had seen and went back to expected to go to Freya after death. Only very recently have I come home to Odin and know that I saw the truth that day. But that's getting ahead of my story. Returning to the chronological order of my journey, next time I'll write about the day in 1989 when I went out in the woods to dedicate myself to Odin and ended up a Priestess of Freya.
The English language is an amazing inheritance: every word a story.
In Norse thought we find the fascinating idea that, as with humanity, there are different tribes of gods. One of these tribes is known collectively as the Aesir. This is a plural form; the singular, unfortunately, is áss. In Icelandic, this rhymes with house, but there's no denying that it's jarring to the eye of the English-reader.*
The English-speaking ancestors knew these gods as well, but unlike the good old pagan word god, ôs came to refer specifically to a pagan god, and so fell out of common usage. Eventually the word became extinct.
Regardless of where you're located, this stave speaks of being frozen metaphorically, likewise berated by the elements. Indeed, as fun as it sounds....
Mannaz - human- Again we have another reversed Rune presenting us with an opportunity to go deeper within. As Mannaz reminds us of the strength in human connection, the power of acting with All That Is, so it's merkstave position calls us to be aware of when we are not connected, when we don't feel part of the greater flow. Note that Mannaz is pictured upright, or bright-stave.
Last week, Eihwaz encouraged us to change, and Mannaz may be asking us to sit with the effects of that change. It calls us to put down rational thinking and go with gut feeling, which for some may be frightening to do....