Halloween and ‘Alfblot’ Runes

Did the Norse celebrate Halloween? Plus a message from the runes for you…

The word ‘rune’ comes from an old Norse word ‘runa’ meaning a secret. The runes were the 24letters of the ancient Norse alphabet, known as the Elder Futhark, but the runes were also used for psychic divination and in magical work.  Many words in modern English (eg: Fee, Day, Answer, Need, Lake, Hail, Ice)  derive from these ancient letters, which in turn came from language roots shared with ancient Greek.

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Public Domain: The Elder Futhark Alphabet

What we know of Norse Mythology comes largely from the Eddas, two collections of writings from assorted anonymous writers, dating around 1250 CE.

According to the elder of these, the Poetic Edda, the greatest god, Odin, obtained the secrets of the runes via Yggrasil the Great Ash Tree which connected the Nine Worlds of the Cosmos. Odin hung upside down nine days and nights on Yggrasil, not eating and drinking, tormented by thirst and a self-inflicted wound in his side, until at last he received a vision of the runes, and reached inwards to seize them.

He studied further with his wife, the goddess Freya, pictured here driving her chariot drawn by cats. Freya was the most powerful practitioner and teacher of shamanic Norse magic, just as in real life Norse society, a war chieftain’s wife was given the job of being a veleda – prophesying the outcome of any military action, and performing magic to help her husband succeed. One does not like the imagine the rows that might have followed when he didn’t.

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Public Domain: Freya

All Hallows Eve, Halloween or Samhain is a Gaelic custom, not Norse.  The Norse peoples did mark this time of year although in a different way, with Álfblót – the Elf Ritual.  

Elves were associated with burial mounds (also known as barrows) as it was believed that they lived in or around them, and more than this, elves were associated with the souls of the dead. Since the dead were sometimes referred to as ‘elves,’ Álfblót was rather like a pagan Day of the Dead.

Like the modern Halloween, Álfblót originally marked the general end of autumn, although it may technically be celebrated on any day around this time. However in recent years, it has been predominantly practised on or close to 31st October (Halloween/Samhain). 

Traditionally, Álfblót almost certainly involved an animal sacrifice, (blood) Records suggest this may even have been a (highly valuable) bull. It was intended as a sacrifice to the elves, asking for protection from the ancestors. Connected with this, the elves were also associated with fertility. 

A chief difference here is, unlike Halloween/Samhain, Álfblót was not a community celebration. It was a private ritual performed at the homesteads. Only local people were welcome, and strangers were not permitted to take part or even watch.

How Is A Rune Reading Done?

There are various ways of reading the runes but our reader has used one of the oldest known methods. The reader has drawn a small circle on a piece of black cloth. The runes (pieces of polished, engraved haematite) are placed in their protective pouch, and shaken. The reader asks her question, “what is the message from the runes for the subjects of the cardinal Fire Sign, Aries?’ and so on, repeating this process for each sign of the zodiac. Then she scatters the runes across the cloth. Which rune or runes have fallen within the circle? If more than one has landed there, which has landed most centrally? These are the runes containing your message for this mysterious time of year, All Hallows Eve – Halloween when the veil is thinnest between worlds.

It is important to note, as a matter of historical accuracy, the Norse rune seers did not work with the signs of the zodiac. They thought in terms of natural forces and creatures, the mystic power of the natural elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, but our modern rune reader will here do both.

Runes for the Earth Signs 

Taurus – your rune is Ehwaz (Horse)

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Advice:  This is a positive rune of steady, if gradual progress, and indicates changes for the better coming up around the end of October if not actual travel.  Ehwaz urges physical movement. Go walking or running or dancing. Whatever you like, but move that body. The horse represents a vehicle, and that vehicle is you, but may refer to your means of transport, a car, bus, motorbike. Pay all due proper care and attention to vehicle maintenance. This is a time for teamwork, pulling together as one at work and at home, but you may also feel a need to start something new on your own, to expand your horizons and make new contacts.

Virgo – your rune is Uruz (The Auroch)

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Advice: The Auroch is an ancestor of the first domesticated cattle, a fearsome animal known for its courage and great physical power. Here, the Auroch is you.  You must take action if you want to turn cherished hopes into reality. Do not underestimate yourself, and your power to forge ahead and overcome obstacles. Show you really mean business, a way is cleared. An extra application of willpower will pay off dividends, and you also excel at detail. But- there is a ‘but’…you need to pace yourself. Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Avoid crowds. Take proper care of yourself this month. 

Capricorn – your rune is Kenaz (Beacon)

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Advice:  Seize the day, set the alarm a little earlier, be a morning person if you aren’t already, and see how that works out for you. Kenaz is a fire rune, and the rune of sunrise. It brings a steady light and heat to bear, with change for the better. Kenaz shines a new light on things and is THE rune of study and learning. Learn something new. This is the rune of artists and craftspeople, welding inspiration and skill, and regarding romance. Kenaz is a masculine rune with charisma. You may meet a new man or make a fresh start with an ‘old’ one. Kenaz is a positive, protecting rune.

Runes for the Air Signs

Aquarius – your rune is Laguz (Water, Lake)

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Advice:  Change is happening in you, deep down and hidden, maybe even from yourself, though you may remember vivid dreams and feel these contain a meaningful message, and probably, they do. Work with the flow as far as you practically can.  Don’t fight it and try not to over-think things. Do what you need to do, but without over-working, and for optimum performance, stay adequately hydrated. Nutrients in sea salts, bath salts and sea-foods may be especially beneficial to you at this time.

Gemini – your rune is Perthro (Sanctuary)

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Advice:  This rune is about mysteries and secrets, occult abilities, sometimes a religious or spiritual belief. You may have vivid dreams or psychic experiences. There may be some strange experiences this month. Hidden things may come to light, which you may not entirely welcome.  Your home is your sanctuary, a place in which only trusted friends should be invited. Guard and protect its security, comfort, happiness and privacy. But don’t hide in there. No hiding from an inconvenient truth, either. If something isn’t working, then it hasn’t been working for a long time. Face it. What have you been refusing to face? How can you make it work better?

Libra – your rune is Eiwaz (The Yew)

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Advice:  The rune of the Yew tree is a symbol of age, endurance, death, and eternal life. The path is hard at times, but do not fear the future. You are strong and adaptable, and an honest man can be relied on for help. The evergreen Yew is about transformation and testing, stripping away that which is worn out, making way for strong new growth. This is a good time to review what is nourishing to you and what is not. Aches and pains? Investigate, hydrate, perhaps adding bath salts to your bath, adding extra oils to the diet, fish oils, olive oil, flaxseed oil etc. But above all this month, get rid of junk, review and renew.

Runes for the Fire Signs

Aries- your rune is Gyfu (Partnership, Gift)

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Advice:  This rune is about give and take, love and romance leading to marriage, or partnership and contract. X marks the spot and the symbol of the kiss comes from this rune. You honour your obligations and tend to be generous. But you too, are owed obligations. Watch those who don’t keep their end of the bargain, and if they give less, then you give less. People depend on you, and it is not lazy or selfish to keep up your own strength, and rest when you need to.

Leo –your rune is Ingwaz (Earth God)

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Advice:  This is the rune   of all things masculine and also the warmth of home and the hearth fire. Stay close to your roots. It is a good idea to keep things simple as possible this month, avoiding any unnecessary complications, and no upping the ante. This is a good time to tie up a few loose ends on something, and get ready to move on. There’s a lot on your plate, and a lot of work to do, but you need to put your feet up at home, and in the longer run that is a necessity, not a luxury.

Sagittarius – your rune is Dagaz (Dawn or Day)

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Advice:  A new day dawns. Look and you will see opportunities as well as hurdles. This month looks like a good time to embark on a new enterprise, or a journey. There may be a major shift or breakthrough of some kind,  and it is almost certainly for the better, especially if you have been stuck in a rut, or unwell, or struggling with a stubborn problem that just won’t go away. It can be resolved. Research brings new and useful information to light. Dagaz promises brighter times not far ahead.

Runes for the Water Signs

Pisces – your rune is Mannaz (Mankind)

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Advice: Mannaz is the rune of human intelligence and the rational mind. This rune is particularly beneficial if you are contemplating academic studies, skills based tests and any contests of an intellectual nature. This is a powerful rune of law and order. Proceed in an orderly, organised fashion, keeping others on board. This is a great rune for networking and getting support and co-operation on shared tasks. You behave well towards others and are well liked in return, and this runes holds you protected by them.

Cancer – your rune is Thurisaz (Thorn, Giant)

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Advice:  Change is afoot, and this may mean some tricky moments. It is best not to start fights, but if you do, then you had better finish them properly.  This is a challenging rune of attack and defence, but is also a protecting rune, used in protection magic, and lucky rune for for study and exams. For couples trying for babies, it may be of interest to note that this rune is particularly associated with male fertility and male health. For many Cancer subjects there will be some kind of welcome news to do with something worked for very hard.

Scorpio –Your rune is Berkano (Birch)

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Advice:  This is the rune of the family home, all things feminine, and birth, and it bodes well for your happiness, prosperity, and the blossoming of a creative endeavour. It may also suggest a new love coming into your life, sometimes foreshadowing birth literally, and motherhood. Beyond this, it speaks of personal growth. A child becomes a ‘mother’. Even if your own home life growing up was not always easy or happy, you can ‘mother’ whatever in life you most deeply care about. You can be the birch tree. You can be the start of something happy, and that is also happiness. Home is where the heart is, but you can be your own best friend, and right at home with yourself, wherever you are.

The rune crone calls down upon all readers the Alfblot blessing and protection of the mighty protection rune Elhaz, the Elk or Sedge.

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Find out More -Recommended Sites

Sunnyway Runes

Elder Futhark Runes Blog spot

Tarot Said ‘Ow’!

I’ve been reading Tarot some years but it’s an ongoing study and a daily practice. There is always something more to learn, new techniques for using the cards to get at useful information.

What I often do is pull a few cards at the end of the day, asking for the back-story. This offers the benefit of hindsight as well as the possibility of instant validation.

Last night I asked for the Tarot’s- eye story about my day yesterday and the first card out was The Tower.

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Image from The Gilded Tarot by courtesy of Ciro Marchetti

Keywords: Sudden change, Upheaval, Revelation, Downfall, Shock

Eh? I said to myself. Today began with a Tower moment?

Did it?

No way does a Tower moment escape your attention. It basically says ‘kaboom’!

It may be an emotional shock. It may be physical. It may be getting fired from your job, or learning you have been lied to and now what are you going to do about it? It may be a plane crash, a storm, an earthquake, a tsunami, a detonated bomb.

The Tarot is somewhat under threat of ‘spiritual’ sanitisation these days. There’s a movement afoot to say Tarot’s Death card does not mean Death, the Tower card does not mean physical disaster. And the Eight of Swords no doubt, only means chagrin or an attitude of helplessness, and never means plumbing or toilets (which actually, it may do in my experience)

We are all so engaged in spiritual evolution, these rock bottom, immutable things will soon all be beneath our notice, except that we happen to inhabit the material as well as energetic plane, so had better engage with it while we are here.

But the oracular voice is older than anyone alive, and while it is a living oracle and therefore subject to vagaries of fashion in thinking, it must never lose sight of its roots and neglect the material plane. Life means struggle, Life demands Strength.

The Tower card is ruled by Mars, god of war.It’s day is Tuesday, named for Tyr, Norse god of war. If you ask when something will happen and then I draw the Tower card, it will likely happen on a Tuesday.

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While Tarot is at times exceedingly subtle and The Death card may well not mean an actual physical death and the Tower card may not spell physical disaster, they well MIGHT. Real life readings for real life people demands respect, which means recognising terrible things really do happen, physically, and the reader needs to be prepared to acknowledge that and not seek to sugar coat Tarot with spiritual sounding avoidance, immediately jumping to say things along the lines of ‘the Death card. Well, this card means transformation.’

Oh does it? Does it now? Not that I am necessarily disagreeing, but try for a few specifics, and by the way, I do not wanna be transformed just yet, thank you. I’ve got things to do first, if the universe will allow it, and anyway I am transforming all the time, and so are you , like it or not, and hopefully not just with lines and wrinkles but with each new thing we learn .

And now that I thought about it, staring at my Tower card, I was being plum stupid. My day did indeed start with a teeny Tower moment. Teeny for me, but maybe not for some other living creature.

I can see the bird feeder from where I lie in bed in our first floor apartment. It hangs on the balcony door and it’s my delight to watch the songbirds arriving from about half seven. The robin arrives first and then the coal tit, and they each return a few times in quick succession, stocking up for the day.

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This morning, a dark shape flared suddenly in the window followed by a smack and a thump as a bird hit the glass and the bird-feeder fell of its hook and dropped out of sight.

Il Matrimonio was out, pumping iron at the gym like a macho man, unless he was getting into quarrels with pensioners- again – and this is never too unlikely -the man is incorrigibly irritable and likely constitutionally deficient in Nat Phos -sodium phosphate.

I could not get up to see if there was an injured bird – pesky damn wheelchair business – and in fact when he got in ten minutes later, there was no bird. And no sign of loose feathers or blood.Even so a sparrowhawk could have come and snatched a bird of the feeder, hitting the pane in the process. Or else some little bird misjudged its flight. Either way, some bird got  a shock, and so did I.

Was it the robin? I now draw The High Priestess, so probably it was.

Was it OK? Knight of Cups Reversed. Not really, poor thing. It had a fine fright.

But there was no Death card and I saw the robin again this afternoon, so hopefully, all’s well that ends well.

Till next time 🙂

 

Zero Intolerance: Don’t Fool With The Fool

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Katie-Ellen, resident at True Tarot Tales

When I draw The Fool card in a reading, the Major Arcana card numbered Zero, or in some decks numbered 22, it may classically signify good news; a birth, a welcome opportunity, a fresh start of any significant kind. I drew it this very day, for a client who is not just moving house, but changing a way of life, and it is absolutely the right way to go. It suggests taking a chance, a leap of faith. Reversed, it cautions against hastiness. You need time. You need more information. You need to think, properly think, or you will do summat truly daft.

But the Fool has other, darker associations, as fools and jesters and solitary wanderers always have, in western culture. There are good reasons people are afraid of clowns, the jokers in the pack. The Tarot’s Fool is the Joker in a pack of ordinary playing cards, and means the same things, if you are using playing cards to read with.

The Fool represents that which haunts all margins and borders.  The  ‘outwalker;’ that being. force or agency, which observes and may, given opportunity and sufficient reason, may find its way in to where you do not want it.

There is another Tarot card, more often cited in association with Odin, or Odin-esque associations. This is The Hanged Man, Major Arcana number 12. Odin hung upside down on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for 9 days for knowledge, and for a world view gained through a changed perspective.

But The Fool card, Trump 0 of the Major Arcana, contains something as frightening as it is innocent, not only birth and opportunity but something not quantifiable, as real as it is unreal, a ‘thusness’ or haacceity more implacable than Death.

Google Definition:

haecceity
hɛkˈsiːɪti,hiːk-/

noun

PHILOSOPHY
  1. that property or quality of a thing by virtue of which it is unique or describable as ‘this (one)’
    • the property of being a unique and individual thing.
      “he has a paramount concern with haecceity, the thisness of things”

Zero is a something as well as a nothing. Even leaving the philosophical questions aside, and they are bogglers, without 0, as without 1, there is no binary, and no digital age.

The Fool

Zero draws the Number of the Fool
But only fools will fail to fear
The oddly smiling one who walks alone
Magician, outland, dawn and dusk
Fleeting, glimpsed by tree and mere
Where ripples lap without a breeze
Or single casting of a stone
Zero, Odin’s one remaining eye
His other traded for all kenning
Out-with the knowing of the Norns
Nine days he hung considering
On Yggdrasil, the great ash tree
But Life is flux, and, unfulfilled
Does Odin walk abroad with Men
Entranced, he follows their technology
Their blindly restless struggles to get free
Refusing that their final liberty
Is in their choice of sacrifice
Their ultimate expression
In their direst of necessity
Insatiably, dispassionate, he watches, waits
And sometimes smiles, but has no tears
For what might dim or blind his sight
Of conjurings and reckonings with Fate
The new born come, and dead depart
His scouts of Thought and Memory
Twin ravens, Hugin, Munin, fly
Through Odin’s questing, flaming Eye
The singing echo-chamber of The Gate.

Katie-Ellen Hazeldine's photo.