Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Runes for Transformation (book review)

by Kaedrich Olsen

I was so excited to get this book, I am always looking for ways to deepen my experience with runes. It feels like whenever I read a new perspective, it sort of takes over my thinking for a while before I merge it into my previous understanding. This book, however not only gave me a new perspective, but I feel like it changed my whole view of runes.

The book starts with some very non-rune-centric information, focusing instead on how the mind works. This is another subject that absolutely fascinates me, so I was pretty happy with this. It definitely introduces some deep thoughts, and I think will be something I reread many times. I also think this information is necessary to later parts of the books. That by looking at the nature of the world around us and how our minds interpret the word and influence our experience of it, we are able to grasp some of the ways in which the runes can bring change to our lives. 

Then we start to get into the information on runes. Kaedrich starts by giving us a brief history of the runes and their possible origins, both historic and mythic. I think this is a really great way of looking at their history, as I feel that both feed into how we understand runes today. I also really appreciated the point that he makes about how we have to look at the runes not only through our modern eyes, but also through a historic lens. If we only look at them in one way but not the other, we may not grasp them as fully as we can. This is a very important issue for me, as I find that sometimes Pagan authors either want to draw fully into the modern era and ignore the historical roots or they want to discount our modern life and go back to a previous time. My life may be inspired and influenced by the past, but I live a very modern life, and I need my practice to have application in that modern life.

Each rune is focused on in several different sections in the book, giving a slightly different perspective, though they all build on one another so by the end of the book you have a much broader understanding of each rune's energy and significance. Several runes that I had previously struggled with getting a good grasp on (like Eihwaz and Ansuz) I felt like I understand much better, even after a single read through. I definitely am looking forward to working through the many exercises in the book.

I loved how the book laid out a plan for working with the runes, and it is very personal. Kaedrich definitely supports the idea that runes may represent set energies, but we all may experience those energies in slightly different ways. I am a big believer of this idea, so I love that this book really pushes you to develop your own relationship with and understanding of the runes.

There is a three-fold method for learning the runes from this book. First, you look at the rune energies on their own. This is pretty standard, many books suggest meditating on runes and writing down your impressions, though Kaedrich encourages you to look not only with your conscious mind but first to get your subconscious impressions. Then, you look for the runic energies out in the world. I think this step is huge, and something I haven't seen explored in such detail. Many people may suggest looking for examples of the rune in the world around you, but I really like the approach of finding the runic energy of every rune in everyday objects. It reminds me of thought exercises I used to do in high school, finding a way to solve a problem with every type of energy (for example, if you wanted to shield, how would you shield with fire versus shielding with water, air or earth). I think looking for all the runes in the world around you pushes you to see more subtle manifestations of runic energy that often get overlooked. And then turning that attention inward and looking for the runes in yourself gives you an excellent diagnostic tool for not only self-improvement but also your personal relationship with runes. 

This personal connection is something I have struggled with. I sort of get stuck in my head a lot of times, trying to reconcile my own impressions with the universal impressions. Or I worry that I'm doing something wrong if my experiences aren't the same as the general experiences. This book challenges me to really dig deep and find my own connections and then work with them instead of just giving me the author's perceptions to do with as I would.

The final parts of the book focus on how the runes can be used. I have been doing personal rune divination for a while now, in a few different forms, and I really like the idea of drawing groups of runes and interpreting them as a single sentence. I think this is a very interesting take on divination, but also a good building block for working with bindrunes. 

Bindrunes are also something that are explored, and again, not in just the standard way. Kaedrich not only shows you how to tie runes together, but looks at order as being important. Two runes can be bound together to create different effects. That is one thing that has always appealed to me about runes. I feel they have a lot of innate flexibility. 

I am really excited to work with Kaedrich's approach to sounding the runes as well. I have looked into Galdr before, but this is the first method for rune sound work that I think really resonates with my personal practice. I love how he not only looks at the key sounds for each rune, but how to say the name of the runes themselves. I really like the thought of using the vowels in the words to create the tonal melody. I think this is definitely something I will do extensive work on uncovering my own melodies and tones.

In addition to all this, Kaedrich looks at prominent deities in the Norse pantheon and how they relate to runes, other runewords that are common on historical artifacts and how to incorporate those into your rune practice, and how to create personal statements with runes to be used in working on goals.

I found this book to be really thought provoking. It is full of exercises that I can't wait to start working on. I also feel like the exercises given in the book are not things that I will do only once. I can definitely see myself working through the meditations and exercises multiple times, to keep deepening my connection to the runes and incorporating the things I have learned over time. 

While I don't consider myself a beginner in regards to runes, I also don't consider myself an expert by any means. However, I think this book could be used by pretty much anyone who has an interest in runes, no matter what their level of personal experience is. Some sections (primarily the first parts that delve into how the mind works and universal theory) may be a bit wordy and deep, but overall the book was easy to digest though not lacking in content at all. I would definitely recommend this book to any student of the runes, or anyone wishing to learn about runes.