A New Year’s Reading 2022
What are the runes?
The runes have been described as “an ancient alphabet for modern magicians” – Edred Thorsson in his book ‘Futhark, A Handbook of Rune Magic.’
Runes were the first systems of writing developed and used by the Norse and other Germanic peoples. These runic alphabets are known as “futharks” after the first six runes (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, and Kenaz) – just as the word “alphabet” comes from the names of the first two Semitic letters (Aleph, Beth).
There are three principal futharks: the Elder, Younger and Saxon futharks. The 24-character Elder Futhark was the first fully-formed runic alphabet, dating back so far as we know to the first century CE/AD but was probably in development from at least 200 BC.
The word ‘rune’ comes from the old Germanic, ‘runa’ or ‘runo’ meaning a secret thing, a mystery. This was Animism in practise; a belief in the conscious intelligence of the Earth itself; its forces and all things in nature. Animals, tress, the elements, the weather…they were – are-living forces and mysteries demanding recognition and respect.
So the runes are more than just letters. They can be read that way but they are also a pictographic or ideographic symbol of some natural principle or power as experienced by these Germanic-speaking peoples of the climate and landscapes of northern Europe, including Britain and the island of Ireland.
Rune casters were both welcomed and feared. Runemal (rune craft) took on a ritual function, and went beyond individual personal readings, directed for the protection and prosperity of the entire community. Runes might be used in casting of lots to decide who did what.
They were used in runes spells to influence the weather, the tides, the crops, fertility and healing. Runes were used to send curses or remove them. Runes were carved on amulets, carved into doorways and into the wood of ships. Protective runes can be seen in architecture, in the shapes of the decorative timbering of black and white timbered houses throughout Britain and Europe as seen near where I live at Samlesbury Hall in Lancashire.
A popular rune design you can see here is the multiple use of Elhaz or Elk, a rune of general protection. Picture the antlers of the Elk, or you can picture it as a figure invoking divine protection, arms raised to heaven.
Casting the runes
Rune casters would shake their pouch of runes and scatter them on the ground. Sometimes they would lay a cloth or draw a circle and read only those runes that fell within the circle or on the cloth. Sometimes they would read only the runes that landed upright, and not count those that came out reversed, or ‘merkstave’. Today I am including any merkstave runes.
Given a lack of written history on the subject of rune casting, much information has been lost to posterity to know for sure how things were properly done. A Christian edict was issued in Iceland in 1639 that declared the uses of runic talismans as witchcraft and a man was executed in 1691, burned to death for using them as his forefather had presumably been doing for many generations. This, although runes were still in everyday use at that time in calendars and almanacs carved into wooden staves throughout Scandinavia and Estonia.
Before this and again today the runes were- and are still used today for psychic insights or guidance, or for magical purposes- to request or summon sacred protection or good luck. To pray in other words.
The runes have been found wherever Germanic-speaking peoples settled, travelled, traded or raided, from Iceland to Scandinavia, through England and Central Europe, all the way to Constantinople.
Runes were also chanted or spoken in invocation. We do not know how this sounded, whether it was done falsetto, or done deep as throat singing. Some get quite exercised in these discussions, but however it was done in those times, this chanting is called ‘Galdr’.
Runecast for January 2022
Today we are using the Elder Futhark. You’ll notice the runes are all straight lines, no curves; as scratched or inscribed into wood, metal or stone.
The runes are chosen entirely blindly and at random.
We have drawn three upright runes (Sowilo, Perthro and Kenaz) and two reversed or merkstave runes (Ehwaz and Laguz.) This rune cast therefore translates as more positive than negative for January 2022 and for the rest of year itself. But clearly this is rather a close call. We are part of bigger world events. 2022 promises to be pretty intense, and occasionally downright turbulent, though somewhat more buoyant, optimistic and outgoing than 2021, and brighter by far than 2020.
Position 1: Sowilo/Sigel
Word/Symbol: The Sun.
Meanings: Victory, Success, Health/Happiness.
This rune is standing for the Here and Now- the Question. You can see this rune looks like a modern capital S, or a back to front Z.
This is a positive rune of victory, success, happiness and good health. Well, that’s a welcome rune, cheers! This rune of the sun can literally mean ‘a year’…one journey of the Earth around the sun. This seems a suitable rune therefore, to start a New Year reading.
The question broadly translates as, “when will life be ‘happy’ again/get back to normal?” If we mean, normal as, back in 2019, well, no, we can all see that is not happening this year. There are storms. But there are silver linings.
The days are already noticeably longer again in January. The sun is returning to the northern hemisphere where the runes first originated, just as it is slowly leaving the southern hemisphere.
Beyond this purely pragmatic interpretation, Sowilo is one of the most fortunate of all runes, bringing good news, as if the Norse gods are saying, the sun will shine upon your efforts this New Year. Look on the bright side as much as you can. Seize the day.
We are in troubled times. 2021 was angry, 2020 was grim. Pluto had something to do with that in astrological terms, and its conjunction with Saturn. January 2020. We have all felt it. This year will also be difficult, stormy even on the world stage. It’s not personal even when it feels personal. The sun will shine in between the storms. 2022 is intense, perhaps rocky, but also more upbeat and mobile, less coldly relentless than 2021, somehow, less stuck in a rut, suggesting a new phase in the covid pandemic.
On an individual level, Sowilo drawn with Laguz next to it in the reversed position suggests one has become over-tired. This is hardly surprising after such a long haul for many people. They have become drained, fatigued and depressed, not to mention twitchy, nervous and in some cases, worked up, oversensitive or even paranoid, and also quite likely by this point, physically lacking not only vitamin D but low on vitamin B.
Sowilo means sunshine, and through this connection, may be suggesting that you look into your levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ Vitamin D, so important both for mood and optimal immune function. Vitamin D Supplements are ideally combined with vitamin K2 for optimum calcium absorption. This is standard medical knowledge.
Sowilo is a bit like Jupiter in astrology. It is big, bright, bold, and upbeat. It can burn too of course. It can be wildfires though to the Norse it was always positive. This year really could bring you a lucky break, if you can find the energy, seriously applying yourself to whatever goal you set yourself for 2022.
One might say the faces of the gods are not so set against us this year, though there is still big infighting, and we could come a cropper in the collateral damage.
Position 2: Perthro
Word/Symbol: cup for throwing dice/paddock.
This rune is standing for where we have recently been and what’s been going on, both on the face of things but also deep down.
Perthro is a mystery rune dealing with things far beyond our personal control, like the covid pandemic. Perthro represents sanctuary. We have been seeking sanctuary. What and where for us, represents our own personal sanctuary? Is it at home? Is it with other people? Is it doing something we love that takes our mind away from worry?
This rune deals with karma, destiny; things that are hidden. There are many theories, much speculation, but the causes of the pandemic remain unproven. That it started in the Far East seems certain. The exact circumstances are less certain. When I asked about this, wondering about Wuhan wet markets or labs and all that, my Tarot showed me The Hierophant, the Tarot’s card of Taurus.
This card bears no suggestion of a coordinated plan. It represents the earth itself and suggests natural causes rather than lab engineering gone wrong. This disease has originated in Nature. Humanity should not have come into contact with it at all, but has done so through over-expansion with an accompanying disturbance of previously undisturbed habitats in the Far East. This new virus variant escaped those habitats, possibly via fruit bats or flying foxes, and then infected animal intermediaries, locally farmed pigs very likely, and then humans, thereby entering the food chain through local conditions of animal husbandry and from those sites in the Far East inexorably spread via mass global travel.
Some think this rune is supposed to show a dice cup- meaning a cup once used for drawing lots in gambling games or throwing dice. As such, you may take a bit of a gamble this year, and it pays off. This gamble however, depends on your doing some research beforehand.
Secrets come to light or we learn useful new information starting this month. How do we respond and apply this information for personal progress?
We may notice our psychic abilities in some acutely significant way this year.
Beware leaks and spillages. Is this government leaks in the news, domestic gas leaks? A vehicle leak. Another oil tanker? This January, this year, beware leaks.
Position 3: Kenaz
Meaning: Illumination, learning, opening
This rune is talking about how we handle things for the best in 2022. This is a friendly fire rune, like a domestic hearth fire, cheerful, small and manageable. Uruz the Auroch/physical power rune and Fehu the cattle/wealth rune are also fire runes but more primordial, fiercer.
It is saying, ‘keep the home fires burning.’ It is reminding us of a certain war time spirit that says we are all in this together; an attitude which has fallen out of fashion since the war, but it is salutary to be reminded from time to time, that the world does not revolve around us and our own personal concerns.
Kenaz talks about energy, drive, recuperation from illness, and enlightenment- learning of all kinds, whether this mean formal or informal study.
Kenaz is a positive rune, with a lot of vitality attached. It suggests good news in respect of the turning of the tide in the covid pandemic, even though we are not free of it in 2022. Still, this virus is evolving and over time, is becoming less dangerous, as human immunity is gradually learning how to deal with it as a brand new enemy of mankind, which it was until 2019.
Kenaz is masculine in its energy, and in a relationship will always denote the male partner. What is he offering? What is he looking for? Where is this going? Laguz, the rune next door in this spread is a powerful feminine rune, and says, well, we can have fun, and maybe this is the year to move ahead with a new partner, but keep your head screwed on tight this year.
Kenaz, like Perthro can also be psychic. We get the modern English words ‘canny/uncanny’ from this rune. ‘Beyond our ken’; is a phrase derived from this rune.
We have been more limited in our options than we are used to. Life imposes changing limits from time to time. That is the nature of reality. Still, we make our own choices, in choosing how to respond to challenges. This is our own instinct at work as we operate within our own environment where we can choose how to respond. There will be sudden insights, flashes of some new understanding of our situation – perhaps even a psychic dream or waking insights. You can see by looking at it that Kenaz shows something that is opening up, opening outwards. 2022 brings some kind of new awakening, both on a collective level and on a direct personal level. What new things shall we set out to study or explore this year? Kenaz is a morning rune. Start as you mean to go on this year. The early bird catches the worm and all that.
Kenaz is a positive rune for relationships, two people opening up more with one another, greater mutual understanding. It is a lucky rune for fathers and fertility.
Less glamorously, Kenaz can also mean an ulcer, either literally, as in; we may need some kind of skin care. Are we deficient in Vitamin D or zinc, for example? Or it may be speaking figuratively on an emotional level, as in, what apparently small wound never seems to heal?
If you recognize this wound or hurt, then do not nurse it. Do not let this thing fester any longer. Have the conversation. Bring the issue out into the light of day and sort it out once and for all. Or else draw a line under it. Let it go, let it be, make peace and don’t keep picking away at it.
Position 4: Laguz (merkstave=reversed)
Meanings: Water/Flow/Instinct/Emotion/unseen powers/feminine dominion
This rune forecasts the challenges of 2022. The rune I welcome least in this reading is this one. The Lake represents water, both literally and symbolically. Are we swimming or sinking or just staying afloat? Drawn reversed, this rune signifies confusion up ahead. Beware of getting in too deep, too soon, whatever new waters you try out this year. These waters are deep. This is like Pisces in the zodiac. This is like the planet Neptune.
Dreams could come true or they can become nightmares. This rune reminds us, when those around us get worked up, we do not necessarily need to join in and add to the noise. Laguz reversed can mean collective inebriation, getting drunk or high. It can mean new ideas, new visions, but it can also mean delusions, mass hysteria, paranoia and psychosis.
Looking at it from another angle, this rune says global military and political maritime based events will loom large this year on the global stage. This could mean extreme rainfall, flooding, tsunamis and/or big maritime military or scientific events, perhaps in connection with Taiwan.
Update Tonga tsunami 15 January 2022
In Chinese astrology we enter a Black Tiger year in early February. This is the Water Tiger and it is proud, grand, fierce, expansionist. March/April could be the months to watch for in particular here, and then again later in the year, possibly during the summer months. This is not to suggest a Chinese invasion, but it certainly a further ramping up on its ambitions in respect of Taiwan.
Laguz could be maritime technology; submarines, submersibles and developments to do with spying, surveillance or mineral mining; lithium or other mineral extraction or production. This may or may not feature in the media, but it is big.
Could Laguz also be detecting Nordstream Gas? I think so. Trouble coming, with possible effects on power supplies in Europe in 2022, though not necessarily during the winter. Get in some non-mains power alternatives just in case. A camping stove. Torches. Batteries. Matches. Many of us already keep these sorts of things somewhere safely handy anyway.
Rune 5: Ehwaz (merkstave =reversed)
Symbol: Horse. Imagine you are looking at it sideways on. See the dip in the middle of its back.
Meaning: Movement, travel, vehicle, progress, transits, shifts
This central rune is a recurring theme in January, and perhaps throughout the rest of 2022.
I love this rune. Ehwaz is like the Chariot in the Tarot. It is about physical movement and forward progress. Paired with Laguz as it is here, it could be a ship, a boat, or a submersible craft. It refers to overseas ambitions and far journeys over water.
Among other things this rune suggests an upping of the ante again in January in respect of M Macron and the issue of French fishing rights in British waters. Some progress has been made. But it’s not done yet for either side, and this year France holds the EU Presidency. But it is not only the UK that needs to be careful. M Macron needs to be extremely careful. The Horse also means cars and other vehicles, and car imports from the EU to the UK have declined in 2021, and with new import formalities coming in January 2022.
The escalating arrival of illegal small boats is a serious source of tension between France and UK. This moves up at least another gear in 2022.
Divination detects, reflects and projects. There is nothing here we do not know already. The runes are affirming. But they could just as readily contra-indicate.
It is worth noting that there are 19 runes which have NOT been drawn, some of which are more challenging than the spread we have here.
Clearly there are problems. Maybe we will feel effects of power cuts or pipeline issues in 2022. The causes may be weather related but they might possibly be political. I was already inclined to invest in a camping stove after my parents were left several days without power after Storm Arwen, and would not have had hot food otherwise.
This rune drawn merkstave seems to me only to reinforce that message from Laguz merkstave.
This rune merkstave is not necessarily negative, depending on the surrounding runes, but does indicate continuing stops and starts in 2022, both in respect of control of the pandemic and on a personal level. Ehwaz merkstave brings changes that could be sudden and unexpected. Obviously, these bring challenges, not least with periodic issues to do with trade and international travel in 2022.
It is only wise to be extra careful this January when it comes to vehicles, traffic, travel, and making big decisions just in general. Expect delays and hiccups.
Kenaz encourages curiosity but is opposed by Ehwaz reversed which is saying explore, inquire but do not force any issues. Possibly the timing isn’t right quite yet for you to make a move. January does not look like optimal timing in general for pushing an envelope, and not only because it is winter and nature in the north says, sleep, go slow.
But the birds of the north can’t rest, can they? They must feed or die. Norest for the wicked or the innocent either. We attend to the fundamentals, therefore, and coolly look about us meantime. The spirit of this coming year will make itself better known from March onward.
Wishing you the power of Sowilo, health, happiness and good fortune in a brighter if episodically tempestuous 2022!
By Nigel Pennick
The New Book of Runes by Ralph Blum
Futhark. A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson.
The Runes: A practical Guide to their uses in divination and Magick by Lisa Peschel, published Llewellyn
To discover your personal ‘birth runes’ – your ‘heroic destiny or potential’ https://haquil.com/blogs/viking/how-to-calculate-your-viking-birth-runes