Once upon a time, I used runes often—even daily—for divination. The faux velvet bag of my most-frequently used set grew threadbare from use. Yet over the years, they gradually slipped into the back of my mind and literally into the back of my apartment. Inspired by this week’s suggestion at Pagan Blog Prompts (on runes, of course), I went to retrieve mine and found the poor things hidden under a box on a shelf in my closet.
My history with runes began in as about a mundane way as can be imagined: seeing Ralph Blum’s The Book of Runes in the New Age section at the bookstore and finally buying it out of curiosity. For those of you who have not encountered The Book of Runes, it’s a boxed set which includes Blum’s book, a mass-produced set of ceramic (?) Elder Futhark runes and a blank rune (Blum’s invention?), and a drawstring bag to keep them in. Since I’ve never been satisfied having just one book on any topic that I’m interested in, it wasn’t long before I started acquiring other books on runes. The experience was, ah, enlightening. It’s been far too long since I’ve read Blum’s book to offer any specific comments on it. Suffice it to say that he put his own modern spin on what turned out to be an ancient system not only of divination, but of writing and magic as well. (Who knew?) But the runes that came with the set were usable enough. I ditched the book, kept the runes, and went off to practice runic divination. I even occasionally branched out and used the runes for magic, for instance, embroidering Laguz and Ansuz as a bindrune on a bag for my most-used deck of Tarot cards.
I don’t know when exactly I got distracted from using the runes. Coming from a Tarot background, I have always found them easier to use. After all, as many people have pointed out, Tarot cards give you pictures to work with. Runes just give you, well, runes. Since I use Tarot cards and runes for the same sorts of questions, I suspect I ended up grabbing a Tarot deck more and more often, and eventually my rune sets drifted out of sight altogether. Returning to them at this late date, I see that even long-term memorization can fail. At this point, if I wanted to a runic divination, I’d have to have a book close at hand to remind me what the meanings are, whereas if I began to forget Tarot meanings, the pictures would give me visual cues and I might be able to piece meanings together from the number and suit keywords.
Like Tarot cards, it can be difficult to resist all the pretty rune sets out there, although at least as a mercy to my budget, there aren’t nearly as many of them to tempt me. Sure, I still have my original Blum set. It’s a workhorse set; not lovely, but functional. I also have a beautiful set made of blue-green glass and a set carved into quartz. This last set isn’t as easy to work with, since the quartz pieces are more spherical than flat. The classic, of course, would be to get a set of wooden runes although in theory these should be something I can make for myself. As you may have guessed, however, living in a moderately-sized apartment with no good workspace, I don’t keep a saw on hand to cut branches into appropriately-sized runestaves. I assure you I won’t be burning runes into wood any time soon either.
As with many writing projects, this post did not come racing out of my fingertips into the computer. I came up with a few blocks of writing and rearranged them in all sorts of unsatisfactory ways. And then, as I said at the beginning, I thought I’d just go look at my rune sets and remind myself what they look like. As I write this, they’re sitting on the table next to my computer. And the words are (sort of) flowing. Hmm…