Frequently Asked Questions
What is deathwalking?
What is Ancestor tending?
Ancestor tending is an approach to deathwalking that deals with collective trauma that is not reconciled at death, thus is handed down generationally and culturally. It allows the individual to tend how they are affected by intergenerational trauma, while also dealing with the collective dynamic.
How do deathwalking and Ancestor tending differ?
I situate Ancestor tending as a component of deathwalking. Facilitating the soul of a deceased being out the living realm is a basic deathwalking skill. Resolving ancestral dynamics that being or someone else is held in is a more advanced component of deathwalking.
Why don't souls move on after death?
In my soul work with the dead, the period of time that they linger after death varies. There is no set linear length of time in which they move on, and rituals for observing and facilitating transition from the living realm differ across cultures. Dynamics that delay them from moving out of the human domain are
- not knowing they’re dead (confusion or mental illness)
- having unresolved life trauma that needs to be processed
- having died traumatically and needing to process that
- having unfinished business
- having a deep connection to a person or place that they don’t want to leave (still a form of trauma)
- realizing they’re dead but not knowing what to do at the point of death (because their cosmology relationships weren’t strong)
When souls don’t move on I call them a term coined by Edith Fiore, the “unquiet dead.”
Don't our spirit allies help us move on?
If they did, there would be no unquiet dead. My observation is that the colonization done by the xtian church has disrupted indigenous death rituals around the world for the last 4-6 thousand years. This means we have been disrupted from our indigenous cosmologies that supported us all in living lives in which we knew how to move on at death. The result of this lack is we have a backlog of dead who haven’t received proper death rites, which is not sacred order. Also, because of this break from our indigenous wisdom, we no longer know how to die well. Because of this abruption in our death rituals, humans have to be more involved in facilitating our dead to move on, and our spirit allies can’t accomplish this for us.
How did you learn deathwork?
When I was a child I was visited by the dead. I didn’t have an elder who could put those experiences in context for me, though by the time I was a teenager I understood they were seeking release from this world. I began studying various cultures of shamanism and approaches to energy and soul tending, as a way to honor my inclination to work with the dead. I’ve been a deathwalker for almost all of my life.
What's a runic calendar?
The Elder Futhark runic calendar I work with is based on the work of Nigel Pennick. It has the potential to provide humanity keys for how we live in season with All Things. Through #theweeklyrune I share the Futhark’s insight on how to live better as animists, to make better choices based on keen insight into the present, and to help each of us be more active in creating a better life for us all. That realization includes living with All Things as family, learning to tend what can’t just be fixed, and using every tool at our disposal to do so. The runes are such a tool, and in the Old Norse tradition, this process is wyrdweaving at it deepest potential. The runes provide one way that we can create ourselves as fit elders, so that upon our good death, we can be well Ancestors.
What’s a half-month rune?
“Half-month” is an astronomical concept in which each month is divided into two parts: days 1-15, then 16-month’s end. In terms of the runic calendar, each half-month rune is one of the 24 runes of the Elder Futhark, and governs for a tad over two weeks (14 and 1/4 days, or a fortnight).
How is the runecast done?
The Weekly Rune is a (mostly) three-rune cast, situated among spirits of place. Those runes are the half-month, the intuitive rune, and the sacred overview. When the runecast falls at a half-month transition, the fourth rune is included. The half-month is a set rune, which for the most part follows the traditional ordering of the Elder Futhark. However, in the calendric ordering observed by Pennick, the order is slightly different. The intuitive stave (meaning, I draw it blind) indicates the life force most available to us, and suggests how we can best handle the half-month energies. The final rune (also drawn blind) provides a high overview of the current time, and speaks from voices other-than-human, which are non-human concepts and beyond Earth beings. These sacred voices are Allies, and have been Nature, Earth, Continuity, Creation, First Ancestor, Survival, etc. I note who’s speaking each week, as it is revealed.
Spirits of place are represented through osteomancy, season, elements, and directions. Each brings a nuance of how to work with the half-month rune, or how to engage forces of the season on a more personal level in the reader’s geographical and cosmological context. Osteomancy honors other-than-human Helping Spirits on Earth. The elements indicate our best deathwalking/enlivening/tempering force for the time, and the directions offer relationship to place as the best energetic grounding or area where work is needed. These additional beings in the cast give us actionable ways to engage the runes in season and move among with them. Readers should feel free to work with Spirits of Place that most resonate with this runecast, even if they show up differently in their cosmologies and relationships.
This runecast isn’t divinatory in the sense that each half-month rune represents events to occur in its fortnight. Rather, the timing of each rune allows us to greet where we are with what the dynamics each rune represents. It offers an examination of our relationship with the rune and what it may teach us about current events and dynamics.
What do Spirits of Place have to do with runes?
Everything we do is rooted in place. We are ecosystem. We are relations with place. In order for that relationship to truly be exalted we must formally invite Spirits of Place into our rituals, and ensure that we craft our rituals to the benefit of the whole ecosystem.
I don’t live in Europe, where the Elder Futhark flourished. I don’t live in 200CE, when the runes were in wide use. But my Ancestors did, and to honor them I must carefully include them in my place-space rituals, including this runecast. In order to do include them in a way that benefits the whole ecosystem of my present, I introduced my ancestral Spirits of Place to the Spirits of Place I live among now. Negotiations were made and boundaries were drawn to support this full relationship I walk among to bless us all, as well as readers and their ecosystems.
In this runecast Spirits of place are represented through osteomancy, season, elements, and directions. Each brings a nuance of how to work with the half-month rune, or how to engage forces of the week on a more personal level in your geographical and cosmological context. Osteomancy honors earthly other-than-human Helping Spirits, which includes humanity’s animal and plant Ancestors, and other earth-centric Ancestors and helpers. The elements indicate our best deathwalking, enlivening, tempering, and/or transmutational force for the cast, and the directions offer insight into the best boundaried space for where transmutational work can be done. Season provides an expression of how we can best hold our agency, or the energetic tone of the cast. These additional beings in the cast give us actionable ways to engage the runes for the week and move among with them. Feel free to work with Spirits of Place that most resonate with this runecast, even if they show up differently in your cosmologies and relationships.
New to Runecasting?
- Catch a couple of my IGTV videos, which explain the intention and process behind the runecast, and what makes it different from other ways of casting.
- Listen to my What in the Wyrd podcast, which is available across all popular podcast platforms.
- A few people have asked the reason that I switch between different rune sets for TWR. The short answer is: because. The more nuanced answer is, I ask which sets wants to speak each week. I don’t assume the same elements are in play according to the timing of the runes; I also don’t assume the same elements of my runes are appropriate to speak each week. I did a podcast on this subject, so there’s more info there. (See above)
- Also, for deep work on coming into relationship with the runes in season, check out my book, Runic Book of Days.
Why Join Patreon?
This full version of The Weekly Rune is only on Patreon, and it includes:
- more detail
- no ads
- audio blog, with galdr of the runecast and instruction on how to use each sound for felt sense resonance
- the current runes’ impact on human life force
- insights on how to best manage the curves and twists therein
- introspective prompts to nuance and tend self-work
Other Patreon offerings:
What's a bindrune?
I respect bindrunes, though I don’t work with them often. They are deep magick that I don’t think many people understand well enough to engage safely.
S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div.
I’m an animist, author, deathwalker and death doula. For the last 25+ years, through Soul Intent Arts I’ve helped others to ethically build thriving spiritual paths as fit, embodied elders, who upon death become wise, capable Ancestors. My work is Nature-based, and focuses soul tending through the Elder Futhark runes, animism, ancestral healing, and deathwork. I’m author of Runic Book of Days, and I host the podcast, What in the Wyrd. I also write The Weekly Rune as a celebration of the Elder Futhark in season. Full bio.
#beyourcommunity ~ #youareecosystem
elder well, die well, ancestor well
We don't heal in isolation,but in community
Gift of the Dreamtime Reader's Companion
~S. Kelley Harrell