Runevaettir & Landvaettir Class - A Runes for Change class exploring place-based relationship with the runes, Soul Intent Arts

Runes Oracle – Beyond Divination

Yes, the title is tongue-in-cheek. Sort of.

I’ve worked with the runes since I was seventeen, which was about 35 years ago. I came to them as most American settlerists did–as a system of divination. We don’t have consensus on what ‘divination’ means. For some folx it refers to working with an oracle to learn the future, or working with an oracle to gain medicine or insight into a dynamic. In a more broad use, some folx use the term divination to include all manner of approaches to appeal to the spirit world. I have issues with all of the above (for myself), which is why I eventually had to start coming into relationship with the runes a different way.

Beyond Divination

All of this is open to interpretation and each our own mileage. I can only speak for myself and how my relationship with the runes has shaped. I met with a few stumbling blocks in my early acquaintance with them, foremost among them not jibing with the foremost Blum resources that was available. It literally was the only widely accessible text for a decade or more. The 80s and early 90s total lack of cultural context in presentation of the runes was deeply lacking for me, and I felt the absence of it in my education when I worked with the runes. Another obstacle for me was that I quickly found them to be more suited for open-ended dialogues rather than point-blank inquiries. Also, I found them clearer on collective matters rather than individual ones. The final big hurdle in my developing intimacy with the runes was discovering that they needed place-based roots to really tune into me and the dynamics I presented them with. To that end, I realized that just sitting and casting them wasn’t the way for me, and I began working with them in season.

I started writing The Weekly Rune approaching June Solstice in 2012. Around that time, the work of Nigel Pennick (and others who have since outed themselves as deeply problematic that I won’t mention here) revealed the Elder Futhark as something much begger than I ever imagined. Let me back up for a second. Pennick is one of the first pagan authors that I read as a young teen. His book, The Pagan Book of Days was seminal in shaping my spirituality. When I read his Runic Astrology, it ignited my need for a devotional approach to working with the runes. Hence, Runic Book of Days. Imagine my surprise when Nigel wrote the foreward for it.

Runes Oracle

About this tongue-in-cheek thing: I had a conversation with my Data Norn (she who helps me with the digitals of my practice), who had run a semrush assessment on my website to determine what keywords would improve its visibility and conversion rates. I wasn’t joking when I said she’s a Data Norn. She knows how to weave that wyrd. Anyway, the top keyword made my blood boil: runes oracle. *blink* Most of you probably know where I’m going with this, but the nerfing the Elder Futhark to being only a runes oracle is such a misnomer and is total disregard for their animistic history and legacy. The runes were an alphabet used throughout most of continental Europe between 300-500ish CE. Some recent findings date them even older. What I have always found relevant in that history is that the runes weren’t imbued with a magickal origin until much later, coinciding with the decline of animism indigenous European traditions. I’ve never found that a coincidence. When the ensoulment of All Things was on the chopping block, the runes were reborn as magickal.

I explained this to my friend and why it griped my ass for the runes to be reduced this way, and how easy it is to enter something incorrectly on the Internet, then it gets perpetuated that way (by humans AI) until everyone just accepts it as the whole truth. She quickly concurrued and stated I could confront that and improve my visibility by writing a blog post on why the keyword is bad. So, this is my attempt to reclaim that phrase from the Internet and signal boost more inclusive visibility. Share with all your friends.

The other top keyword she found was ‘viking runes’, and I’m just not even going there.

All of that said, working with runic calendars (yes, there are many) gave my relationship to the runes grounding that it had been lacking. I had struggled with approaching the runes merely as an “oracle” for over a decade at that point, and finding a way to meet them in my ecosystem, in my seasonality without stripping them of their rich cultural context made all the difference. You can introduce the runes to your ecosystem in a way that doesn’t detract from the indigeneity of your ecosystem or from the integrity of the runes. Doing so makes all the difference not just in relationship with the runes, but with ecosystem, and your entire cosmology.
Runevaettir & Landvaettir - A monthly community gathering to learn about the Elder Futhark and come into relationship with them where you stand. Soul Intent Arts - Runes for Change community

Runevaettir & Landvaettir

In Runes for Change we’ve been gathering monthly for a class on working with the runes as animists. We focus on working with the runes alongside your ecosystem Nature Spirits and cosmology. Each class we spend some time discussing the topic for that gathering, then have an open discussion about our relationship to it. Join us! Gain more insight into the runes, learn to elder well with ancient wisdom, and cultivate a strong spiritual path.  Our next class is this weekend!

Elder well, Die well, Ancestor well, purple t-shirt with gold lettering from Soul Intent Arts

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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