Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lughnasadh – Celebrating the Early Harvest

Millstone by Nellie Levine
As August approaches, the hay fields are tended. Around the corner from my house is a large field that at this time of year is dotted with newly collected hay bales. Cattails grow tall by the water, and black-eyed Susans, tiger lilies, and goldenrod paint the landscape in rich yellow and orange. It is the time of the early harvest – in European pagan tradition there are several harvest festivals, and Lughnasadh, which is celebrated on August 1st, is the earliest.

 Although many of us do not live an agricultural life, it goes without saying that we still certainly appreciate the importance of the harvest in our lives. Whether or not we grow our own vegetables or bake our own bread, as we smell the sweet scent of apples, run our fingers through silky smooth grain, or drink summer’s sweet berry wine, we feel and connect to the land’s vitality. The spirit of growth and abundance is within us.

Traditionally, this was a time to harvest the first grains of the season, and to bake and share fresh bread. It was also a time to recognize our crafts and skills or begin to learn new ones, and in some areas, it was a time for old-fashioned job or hiring fairs. It was an acknowledgement of labor and the fruits of that labor. The god Lugh was honored, bonfires burned for three days, and deep in our ancestral past, a symbolic grain king would be sacrificed. 

Lughnasadh was also a time for harvesting as well as blessing many herbs that would be used throughout the year. Nine herbs were particularly sacred, and they included arnica, calendula, dill, lovage, mugwort, sage, tansy, valerian, and yarrow. These herbs were gathered by women before the sun rose, and were tied together into bundles, which were then decorated with wildflowers.

At the time, each of these herbs was believed to bring specific health, culinary, or magical benefits. A few examples:
·         Arnica – anti-inflammatory, protective against demons, an herb of Freya

·         Calendula – wound-healing, referred to as “sun bride” in the Middle Ages

·         Dill – aromatic, protective against evil spirits

·         Lovage – spicy, aphrodisiac

·         Mugwort – an important women’s herb

·         Sage – aphrodisiac, used for incense (smudging)

·         Tansy – aromatic, used for expelling worms

·         Valerian – used to calm the nerves and promote sleep, aphrodisiac

·         Yarrow – bitter, cleansing, called the “eyebrow of Venus”

Most of these herbs are still widely used – either as natural remedies, for spell crafting, or simply in cooking, and with the advantage of time and science, we have learned more of their proven benefits. Arnica is a particular favorite in my house, for sprained back muscles and bruises; and our kitchen would not be complete without sage and dill. Calendula is a wonderful, powerfully soothing ingredient in popular salves and balms today, and I know many people who keep valerian capsules or tea on hand, for nights when they have difficulty sleeping.

The act of gathering herbs can be deeply calming, and creating your own herbal teas, tinctures, or powdered formulas can be truly satisfying. Also, incorporating herbs into ritual adds a distinct sense of the magical. Whether or not you can harvest your own herbs, you can purchase any of these from many good sources.

As August 1st approaches, I have to admit I already feel the first inner stirrings of fall. Perhaps it is a connection to the land that surrounds my home – a being-in-tune-with the roots, the soil, and the cycle of things. But while summer is still here, I plan on celebrating it in fullness. Appreciating all that the land has gifted us with, enjoying the grains, fruits, and vegetables of the season, and allowing myself to be imbued with the heat and sun of these days. 

 ~ Nellie Levine

Note:   Please always research any herb or herbal product fully before using, especially for herbs taken internally. For example, arnica is a terrific ingredient in topical rubs for muscle soreness, but can be toxic when taken internally.

You can find out more about Nellie and her wonderful photography on Cargoh.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Ben Isaiah

I first met Ben Isaiah around 5 or 6 years ago.  He was standing in my kitchen early one Sunday morning with my son Adam, whom he had accompanied home from Art School for the weekend.  I was immediately enchanted and intrigued with this artist, listening to tales about his background, travels and some ideas he was perusing in his work.  Time passed, I lost track of Ben for several years until one day my son forwarded me photos of some metal jewelry that Ben had been working on.  I was just completely blown away.  I forwarded those photos to another artist friend of mine to see.  Her reaction:  "Adam's friend Ben....all I can say is WOW."  Wow is right, and I think the art world will be hearing quite a bit about Ben Isaiah and his work for years to come.
                                                                                                              ~ diane fergurson

MBS: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How you got started in art?

Ben:  I've always been blessed with the ability to just see I guess. I would say its the sense that I am most attuned to. My vision was sharp when I was a child, I could spot a lizard or moth on whatever it was camouflaged against. While my parents weren't artists my mother always used to have modeling clay or paints and crayons around and from a young age I took pride I'm how well I could depict the world around me. I'll never forget winning an award in the school art show when I was in 4th grade for a watercolor blue bird painting I did. That might have been the moment I decided that I, wanted to be an artist. I'd paint or draw anything anytime. But there was a mechanical inclination when I was young too, driving my younger brother and I to buy anything we possibly could from yard sales with my mother, from hairdryers to televisions, and tear them to pieces. We were trying to build "machines" we called them. This urge to build things was satisfied with toys like Legos and our unfortunate yard sale finds was not satisfied in my artwork really until I started making metal sculpture with Douglas S. Salmon around the age of 16.  I went to school with his son Perry and lived just down the road from them in Lavale, MD. I'd always be over there playing video games and Doug knew I was into art and one day he made me make a sculpture with him. There was something about the hot steel and the metal melting that really intrigued me. So much so that I pursued a degree in the field of metalsmithing.

MBS: I think that many artists may have an elevated ability to "see", but not necessarily to see and visualize in dimension. What is it about working with sculpture in 3D that is so appealing to you?

Ben:  I was weary at first. I had become very comfortable with the flat two dimensional canvas that had started to feel like home. I was most challenged by the fact that 3D art can be viewed from any direction, and thus you have to think about an object remaining attractive from whichever angle you view it. It was easy for me to draw the right lines, converging to make the right shapes and play them on paper. Creating the object though, and walking around it making minor adjustments until it was just right tested me every time anew. I then discovered that I was actually quite efficient at forging and forming these objects in space slightly more so even than I was at creating the illusion of a similar object on paper.

MBS:  Where did you study art?

Ben:  About the where I studied... well, I really couldn't make up my mind.  My family had always moved every couple of years as I was growing up so it almost felt kind of natural to keep switching up where it was that I was living and attending school. I started in Maryland for one year at Frostburg State University for my foundation work and studied metal under the instruction of Douglas S. Salmon with whom I now work and assist in teaching the next generation of aspiring metalsmiths. I decided then to pursue my schooling at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia for Sculpture which lasted for another year before I transferred again to where my family now lived in Phoenix, Arizona where I began in the Metals Program at Arizona State University, where I did finally stick to it and graduate.

MBS: Sculptors sculpt using all kinds of different materials, but metalsmithing really has become your area of expertise. What kinds of metals do you enjoy working with and what processes do you find particularly intriguing?

Ben:  Currently I mainly work with nonferrous metals.  Bronze, copper, and silver, minus any occasional, unpredictable bouts of blacksmithing with iron. While banging out hot bars of steel is a good stress reliever, I prefer to focus on the smaller more detailed aspects of metalworking. As of late my favorite process is filigree, where two wires are twisted tightly together, rolled flat, annealed, arranged in a pattern within a framework, and then soldered into place. This process is ancient dating back more than 5000 years and when you do it right you can definitely see why we've kept it around for so long. With its minute raised bumps on the wire's edge, when polished produces a stunning effect which has captivated me for a couple years and I incorporate it into many of my projects.

MBS: Your pieces really do harken back to an ancient time and era, and I know you've been working with this particular filigree process for a while now. What is the process called and what cultures or civilizations utilized it? Also, was it used primarily for adornment/jewelry or for other things too?

Ben:  Yes ancient is right! It is originally attributed to the ancient Etruscan culture. And within a few centuries it had spread throughout Asia, Europe and the middle east. And practically it made sense for them. Many ancient metalworking techniques built the metal up soldering wore forms together instead of carving or engraving from sheet, as it was much easier at the time. However the Etruscans weren't the only ones producing intricate jewelry in ancient times as you may know. The Egyptian artisans perfected magnificent cloisonne enamel inlaid into royal Pharaonic jewelry and early Asian casting techniques produced some of the most marvelous religious iconic statuary sculptures of their time. And I've always really felt a connection to these ancient artists...

 MBS: You have an Egyptian heritage, so I'm sure that there really is a definite, intense connection between you and those particular periods of time. When you traveled back to visit Egypt recently, how did that impact your work?
Ben: I definitely rejuvenated my passion for Sculpture and Metalworking after my trips there. From the great pyramids and the Sphinx in their massive glory to all gold and glass work of the burial Jewelry and masks in the National Museum in Cairo. It baffled me that these craftsfolk could produce such stunning pieces with the level of technology they had available at the time. No torches with pressurized gases or kilns with exact temperature programs and settings. Its just amazing!

MBS: What is a typical work day for you?

Ben:  My regular work day is fairly enjoyable. My current main outlet for my work is in Grantsville, MD at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. So when I'm not cranking out new pieces for our displays or out doing a craft show for the weekend, I'm talking to one of our many visitors about the processes, materials, or techniques used in creating the work.

MBS: Is your work available online? Do you sell and exhibit at art or craft shows, or Galleries?

Ben:  I had set up a PayPal business account so that I could sell my things on my website but have recently removed those widgets because of the steep cut taken by PayPal if you actually want the money from the sale in your account. I now use Go Payment by Intuit when I am out doing craft shows or accepting cards at the Spruce Forest shop which is mainly where I do business these days. I still also have some work consigned at Square Peg Artery & Salvage in Center City Philadelphia. But my favorite is definitely going out and doing craft shows, getting to travel and meet new and interesting people, and it really pays off when you do have a great show, not to mention more exposure than you would get staying put.

MBS: What are you currently working on and what would you like to explore next?

Ben:  As of late I have been working on some larger scale pieced for adornment of the chest, most of which contain geode slices, and play off the internal crystalline structure of the stones. But as far as where I am going to go next I never really can tell. I really prefer not to produce a production line of work. Its far more interesting to me working if I am constantly making new unique one of a kind objects.  In addition to that I've also applied to some MFA programs and I'm waiting to hear back.

MBS: Is there any advice you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path? 

Ben:  For advice concerning those looking for a lifetime in art, test how passionate you are about your artistic endeavors by working everyday. This is very important, you must stay sharp because its not always easy to create really good art ...but if you don't practice your chances just lower and lower. Look around you work other artists for support and also their criticisms. Work hard and never stop.

Thank you Ben!

If you'd like to contact Ben Isaiah or find out more about his artwork you can visit his website: 

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Additional interviews from our Artist Series:
Emily Balivet
Laura Milnor Iverson
Joanne Miller Rafferty
Jude McConkey
Atmara Rebecca Cloe 
Alison Fennell

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Today as we hiked I thought about the Center of the World and the connection between Earth and God. I thought of the poteau mitan, the spear, the sacred monoliths pointing to the sky. And I thought about what the mountain means to me and whether or not climbing it is in fact some sort of pilgrimage (I do apparently need to make it every week), or if that was attaching more significance to it than was warranted. Indeed, the mountain is holy to me, and indeed as I stood in a darkening wood, a rain-cloud filling the spaces between the trees, the luminescent shimmery green that glowed brighter in the grey light, I felt, "this is sacred." It was a knowing, a recognition, at least that much can be said.

I have thought so much about all of this before but more words have been put to it since yesterday, when I started reading (finally) Mircea Eliade's "The Sacred and the Profane: the Nature of Religion." It was one of three books I bought at a new used bookstore we stopped in yesterday. It's a great place. I thought I had a serious disorder - a seeming inability to be in a used bookstore and leave without buying. Well hey, I didn't buy the Hegel I wanted, or the gold copy of the Rig-Veda. Next time. What I did buy, besides "The Sacred and the Profane," was Karen Armstrong's "Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World" and "African Mythology" – a very old book by Geoffrey Parrinder. It had a few mentions of Shango and Olokun and Olorun, so I bought it.

Anyway, I began "The Sacred and the Profane" which is why I was thinking in such terms today.

A beautiful trail. What trail wouldn't I say was beautiful? Just as I found every red eft and brown toad lovable, I'd probably find every trail beautiful. It was quite steep, though with many flat sections at first. The woods were sweet and friendly. There was a waterfall to cross and some good scrambling toward the top. We sat and lunched on couscous at the summit. It was a nice place to be. The rain on the way down didn't bother us; it was refreshing and cool. I was way ahead of the others so I did much hiking alone. I was able to stop and look out and think and just be.

So God is obvious on mountains. Should I be worried that I don't find God so obvious in churches and temples? At least those contemporary ones I have been to. I remember seeing in an issue of National Geographic, this amazing church in Ethiopia constructed so many hundreds of feet up. One must climb with diligence to reach it. And there are others that are carved into the Earth, accessible by winding, descending passageways. Perhaps these places, celebrated with such seriousness and that require an undertaking of body and psyche. Perhaps then. And in their decoration, whether it be somber or joyful, muted or bright - again, celebrated. It is an act ... an act of giving, exchange, true worship and faith.

It may be a stretch to compare the mountain, or it may be a simple truth. It too has its challenge of body and psyche, and in it there is great joy. It is generally not easy. And, what we see from the mountain? What better view, than it all. I am so regularly amazed by the moss covered twenty foot high boulders, the tree roots that reach up from the ground and curl and loop and twist, the hundreds (thousands) of leaves shining and wet with rain, the deep smell of soil that makes one heady and hungry and humbled.

I have not yet seen a better place to find the holy than nature itself; I'm not dismissing the possibility. I just haven't found it.

 ~ Nellie Levine

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Symbology, Harry Potter And Real English Magic

The films connected with the Harry Potter franchise have come to an end and, as pointed out by the press, so has many people's childhood (or pretend childhood).  We went yesterday afternoon to see the last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2".  Like anything else in film, art or literature, it's up to the reader or viewer to draw their own conclusions from their personal perspective about the ending.

If you have not read the last book or seen the last film I'm not going to spoil it for you.  I will say though, that for those viewers who have seriously studied mythology and/or symbology, you will find this last film steeped in it, in all the classic ways.  The wrestling of good and evil and/or the light and dark within ourselves, is a theme and belief system that permeates philosophy and religion.  It doesn't matter if you approach it from a Christian, Daoist (yin yang), Buddhist (suffering), Native American, Wiccan or any other perspective.  It's the same general theme.  Same life issues.  And in the end, no matter what you believe, life goes on.

That said, for people who still think that Rowling pulled the ideas for Harry Potter out of some magical hat, or that it is simply this generation's version of Star Wars , I suggest you follow up by reading a book called "The Book of English Magic" by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate, Overlook Press 2010.
I ran across it in a book store one day and it literally jumped out at me - mostly because it did not look like a normal, slick, American mass market publication.  This book is very well written, utterly fascinating and educational.  It presents an enjoyable history of magic in England in a very readable form.  Below are the first two paragraphs from the book to give you a taste.  Enjoy!

~ diane fergurson

"Every country has it's magic: in it's wild places, in its history, and in the traditions of its healers and mystics.  The lands that border England have a special magic - Wales and Scotland are brimming with tales of wizards and seers - but this book focuses on the country that has grown, by design or quirk of fate, into the worlds richest storehouse of magical lore: England.

Our story begins in a bookshop.  Treadwell's in London's Convent Garden is everything a bookshop should be - warm, inviting, comfortable - and yet most of the people hurry past it, because it specializes in a subject they don't believe in: magic."

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tibetan Medical Paintings Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History

This is the last weekend for the exhibit of Tibetan Medical Paintings: Body and Spirit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  We went a few weeks ago and it was definitely worth seeing, particularly if you are interested in this area of study.  On display are 64 paintings from the Museum's  collection.  It's the first time that these paintings have been displayed together.  They are hand-painted, reproductions of traditional scroll paintings which detail some of the history, early medical knowledge, and procedures used in Tibet and are believed to be among only a handful of such sets in existence.

The images are extremely detailed and are painted in vegetable and mineral dyes.  Each of the paintings on display was painstakingly reproduced by hand in the 1990s by Romio Shrestha, a Nepalese artist, and his students.  The originals were created in the 1600s. The exhibit ends July 17th, 2011.

I had taken photos of the exhibition, but ran across an informative tutorial on YouTube (posted below) which explains the Collection pretty thoroughly.  Probably one of my favorite pieces, however, was the explanation in a group of paintings that catalogs various health problems and their origins according to the Tibetan Buddhist system.

"The primary, or deepest, causes for disease are three negative emotions or states:  Craving, Ignorance and Hatred.  These can predispose a person to disease by contributing to humoral imbalance.  Secondary causes of humoral imbalance include improper diet or behavior, change of seasons or weather and toxins or poisons. Even injuries or wounds are associated with changes in the Humors.

Evil Spirits or demons are also seen as affecting health in a variety of ways.  Many illnesses caused by demons must be cured with rituals."

Negative thoughts and emotions...  An obvious heath issue that has plagued the human race for centuries.

If you haven't visited the American Museum of Natural History in a while, or at all, you should know in advance that the Museum has become very, very busy due to the popularity generated by the Night at the Museum movie franchise.  I recommend that you get there when it first opens and that you go in through the side entrance.  We visited on a Sunday morning and were there when they first opened, entered through the side and went right in. When we came outside a few hours later there were so many people we could barely make our way out of the front of the building. Double lines were down both sides of the block and I have no doubt that people were waiting for hours to get in (if they got in at all).  That said, you should still definitely try to go. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our Higher Self

Emissary of Light-Water Lily in Field of Stars

Many times when we read material having to do with our spirituality, esoteric thought or intuition; we run across a phrase which refers to "our higher self".  I've noticed, however, that people do not always have a clear definition in mind of what that term really means.  I came across a very well written explanation recently in a book called "The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World" by Theresa Cheung.  I thought I would share it with you.  The stunning Water Lily photo is courtesy of photographer Karen Casey Smith and is available through her shop on Etsy.

~ diane fergurson

" The term 'higher self' or 'higher consciousness' refers to the concept that each of us has a part of ourselves that is thought to act as a bridge between the spiritual and mental and physical dimensions of our awareness.  Simply put, there is a part of us that is a reservoir of higher wisdom that can help guide us through our lives.  This part of us is better able to see the bigger picture of the daily dramas we get tangled up in and can help bring us perspective.  Acting with the guidance of our higher self can lead us in the direction of our greatest fulfillment."

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Healthy Summer Spinach, Pea and Feta Salad

If you garden and are eating fresh and seasonal, then you probably know that pea season in the Northeast is just about to end.  We have had an over abundance of peas in our garden this year.  Buddy and I have been outside picking them almost every evening!

Studies have shown that green peas stand out as an environmentally friendly food. Agricultural research has shown that pea crops can provide the soil with important benefits.  Peas are also a low-fat food and are high in protein.  They also contain a unique assortment of health-protective phytonutrients and are high in Vitamin K, maganese and Vitamin C.  They also contain fiber.

Here is one of our favorite pea related recipes that I thought we would share.  It has become a mainstay in our household, particularly during the summer months when we cook outdoors.  It also goes very well with grilled Garam Masala Chicken.  With the addition of some nuts, this salad would also make a very good vegetarian entree.  Or leave out the cheese and just add nuts (and maybe soy cheese) to make it vegan.  You could also add chicken or shrimp to it very easily.  It's really versatile.

Spinach, Pea, Feta Salad is from Jamie Oliver's first cookbook,  "The Naked Chef"  copyright 2000.  A book that I believed not only changed how cookbooks are edited, styled and formatted today, but also helped and encouraged people in the US to eat fresher and healthier in a fun, enthusiastic  way! 


                    Spinach, Fresh Pea and Feta Salad from Jamie Oliver (paraphrased)

...take 2 large handfuls of baby spinach, wash and add 2 smaller handfuls of baby peas (raw if you get them young and fresh otherwise you'll have to blanch them).  Dress the salad at the last minute with olive oil and lemon juice dressing (below) and then sprinkle it with crumbled feta cheese.

Dressing:  2 Tb lemon juice, 5 Tb your best olive oil, 1 level tsp. salt, 1 level tsp. fresh ground pepper


~ diane fergurson

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Casting The Runes

Blue Lace Agate Elder Futhark Rune Set
The Mind Body Spirit Odyssey would like to thank the generous folks at spellbinderscorp for contributing this wonderful article to our blog.  Casting the Runes is something that I have been wanting to read more about, and this informative piece definitely provides lots of great information on the subject!  You can visit spellbindercorp's shop on Etsy where you will find a beautiful variety of hand carved and painted rune sets.  You can also read more about the process of how Lilya handcrafts these gorgeous rune sets at the end of this article. 
                                                                                            ~ diane fergurson

Runes are an ancient Germanic alphabet, used for writing, divination and magick. They were used throughout Northern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland from about 100 B.C.E.( Before Common Era) to 1600 C.E. Runic inscriptions of great age have even been found in North America, supporting stories that the Vikings arrived in the Americas long before Columbus.

Runes are an oracle from which one seeks advice. They work best if you detail your current circumstances and then ask a specific question. Rune readings are sometimes obscure. They hint toward answers, but you have to figure out the details. This is when the rune casters intuition becomes paramount. Some times the Runes "sing" to you, and their meaning becomes instantly clear.

Runic divination or "rune casting" is not "fortunetelling" in the sense that one actually sees the future. Instead, runes give one a means of analyzing the path that one is on and a likely outcome. The future is not fixed. It changes with everything one does. If one does not like the prediction, one can always change paths. Runecasting works deeply with the subconscious. The rune pouch with its runic symbols represents the entire universe. As one poses a question, one's entire conscious and unconscious mind is focused toward that question, so that the runelots selected are not truly random selections, but rather choices made by the subconscious.

Runecraft operates on an ancient form of psychology. Even back in Viking times, there was a remarkable understanding of the human psyche. They recognized cause and effect, and the interconnectedness of all things. The word to describe this interconnectedness was "wyrd", which was eventually perverted into the modern meaning of "weird". It did not originally mean something unusual or strange. Rather, it referred to the far-reaching effects of that which one does. The concept of "fate" was also not as we know it now. Instead of a helpless predestination, "fate" meant a destiny created by one's earlier actions. Wyrd was pictured as a web, like that of a spider. This symbolism is an excellent example. When the spider steps onto a thread (a path) the vibrations affect the entire web and that which is contained within the web, just as our actions affect our immediate world and those around us, and the actions of others affect our lives.

When one does a runic reading, one usually addresses a particular issue, and examines the past, the present and the "future", or rather "what will be if one follows the path one appears to be on". The future is always perceived as mutable, changeable. The runic reading is done as an evaluation process, not as fortunetelling. One has an opportunity to look at what has occurred in the past (regarding the issue being questioned), what is occurring right now, and what direction one is headed.

A runecaster does not see the future. He/she examines cause and effect and points out a likely outcome.

Not exactly occult, is it? It's not supernatural and it's not very mysterious--although the uninitiated considered it a delving into mystery, much like a patient of a psychiatrist might. It's certainly not magical or demonic. Instead it is a methodology for examining the path one is on and what the effects might be, by making use of one's subconscious (i.e. an "intuitive perception"), unfettered by limited conscious belief systems.

Dowsing, or "divination" by bent stick or pendulum is similar. It is not supernatural. It is, again, a manifestation of one's subconscious. All "intuitive perception" is such. Nothing magical about it, merely a means of awakening one's right-brain.

Since ancient times, runes have been used for divination and magic, in addition to writing. The word "rune" actually means mystery, secret or whisper. Each rune has esoteric meanings and properties associated with it, beyond its mundane meaning and phonetic value. Each translates into a word or a phrase signifying concepts important to the early peoples who used them, representing the forces of nature and mind. Each rune has a story attached to it, a relationship to a Norse God.

Odin, the Norse High God of the Aesir, hung from the world tree, Yggdrasil, impaled on his own spear, for nine days and nights in order to gain the knowledge of runes. When the runes appeared below him, he reached down and took them up, and the runic knowledge gave him power . He later passed on this knowledge to the Vanir goddess Freya. She, in turn, taught him the magic of seidr. Heimdall, the god who guarded the Rainbow Bridge, taught the runes to mankind.

There are many versions of the runic alphabets. Each has variations in names, shapes, esoteric meanings and magical uses. One should not mix futharks, or the intent and meaning becomes confused. The Elder Futhark is the most frequently seen versions of the runic alphabets in use today.

The runes are broken into three sections or groups of eight, called aett (aettir, plural). This helps one to remember their order, and has significance in magical uses.

"Divination - regardless of the tools - works because in the system one is using the individual card/hexagram/rune etc. represent the whole in some unified way. At the moment of 'random' mixing, because of intent, the cards order themselves to mirror the reality of the querier."
Sig Lonegren,
author of The Pendulum Kit and books on
dowsing, labyrinths, and sacred geometry.

Amethyst Elder Futhark Rune Set
How to do a Rune Casting

Find a suitable place to do the reading. You do not want to be disturbed. Try to sit facing North if possible, the direction of the Gods in Norse mythology. Place a small white cloth on the surface in front of you. You work with the runes on this cloth. This cloth protects them from getting dirty and also forms the boundary for the casting.

Carefully form a question in your mind. Take your time doing this, as it is very important that you do not change the question midway through the reading. Once you have the question firmly fixed in your mind begin to gently mix the runes in their bag. Continue to mix the runes until you feel compelled to take up certain rune lots. Continue to stir and select lots until you have the correct number of runes in front of you for the layout you will be using. Keep track of the order in which the runes were pulled, laying them in their proper position in the layout as you pull them. You can use any Tarot layout, or one of the methods described below.

Runes are oracles, and oracles are often obscure. Each rune can mean many different things. It is up to the runecaster to decide how these meanings apply to the question at hand. You may get even deeper interpretations through your own "gut" reactions to the rune's definition. However, don't delude yourself in thinking that you have a completely different understanding of the cast than indicated by the traditional interpretations. Stick to the recognized interpretations, but learn to expand on their meanings through insight and meditation.

Here is one way to do a rune casting. Reach into your rune bag, stir them around a bit and pick up a bunch. "Cast" them onto a white cloth, and see how the symbols land. Some will be face down ignore them. If a rune is upright, it has a certain meaning. If a rune is upside down, it has a different meaning. The combination of the visible runes affects the interpretation. Sometimes the runes "sing" to you and the answer to the question is instantly clear. Here are the two non-structured castings used most frequently.

Casting the Norns

The Norns are the Norse goddesses of fate. Urdh was the goddess of the past, or what has been. Verdhandi is the goddess of the present, what is. Skuld is the goddess of the future, or what shall be. Fate or wyrd was a very important factor in the psychology of the ancients.

A Norns cast is very simple, consisting of three runes, drawn one at a time from the rune pouch and laid in a row. If face down, flip them over as if turning the pages of a book. The first rune represents the past of the situation in question. The second indicates the present, the path that the querier is currently on. The third suggests the future, a likely outcome if one continues on the present path.

Nine-Rune Cast

This method will give a detailed overview of a person's situation, providing insight into where they are in terms of their spiritual path, and clarifying the options and possible outcomes available to them. Nine is a magical number in Norse mythology. Pick nine runes at random from the pouch. Hold them between your hands for a moment, and focus on your question (if you have one). Then scatter the runes on the table, floor, or cloth if you have one. Read the runes which land face up first. These will relate to the current situation and the circumstances which led to it. How the runes are read is largely subjective, but in general, runes lying in the center are the most immediately relevant, while those lying around the edges are less important, or represent more general influences.

"Runes that are close together or even touching often compliment each other, or may even represent a single thing, while runes which fall on opposite sides of the pattern frequently represent opposing influences. Occasionally, a rune will land completely off the cloth or fall off the table. Some people consider such runes to be particularly significant, while others ignore them completely.

"Once you have looked at the runes which landed face up (and remembered which ones they are), turn over the rest of the runes without moving them from their positions. These represent outside or future influences, and will point to possible outcomes. It is up to you to decide what the various positions and patterns in a reading mean, but once you have come up with a few general rules, try to stick with them. As I have said before, consistency is very important. However, rune readings by their nature are very fluid, subjective things. Try not to impose too much order on your readings by inventing set meanings for every triangle, square and tetrahedron. Runes are like people - you never know how they will get along together until you introduce them. Look at the patterns and relationships that appear in each reading and see what interpretations make sense to you."  ~ from Runic Journey by Jennifer Smith.

Black Moonstone Elder Futhark Rune Set
Here are two simple Rune layouts from from: A Practical Guide to the Runes by Lisa Peschel

Five Rune Layout
Select five runes one at a time and lay them face down on the rune cloth. [Three runes are placed side by side. One is placed above the center and the final one is placed below the center.]

The three horizontal runes represent your past, present, and future. It is usually best to turn over the center rune (1) first. This is the rune of the present and will show your problem as it is now. It can also show your state of mind. A negative rune here, it can indicate an unwillingness to accept the advice given by the runes or another person, or it can indicate delays or slight problems that may impede the speedy resolution of the matter in question.

The rune below center (4) indicates what aspects of the problem must be accepted and cannot be changed. Positive runes here show a lack of troublesome influences and oppositions, while negative runes show the obstacles to your success.

The rune to the right of center (5) is the result rune. This rune indicates the final outcome, given the other factors in the runecast.

This runecast indicates recent future happenings, usually within three months.

Seven Rune Layout

This runecast gives a bit more detail with more information on how to deal with your problem and on what lead you to your present dilemma in the first place. It usually speaks of events three months into the future and into the past.

If you wish to use this layout but want information on happenings more current than three months, be certain to concentrate on your time frame as well when you are concentrating on your question.

The questions you can answer with this layout can be much broader in scope than with some other runecasts. Instead of asking "yes" or "no" or "what about my relationship?", you can ask questions like "How will my job progress if I take this new business course?" or "If I started seeing other people, how would my current lover accept it?" Through questions like these, you can certainly get enough information to solve all but the most complex problems.

Select seven runes and lay them out in a row of 6 with the final one below the row and centered as shown.

In this reading, you will have to be interpreting two runes at a time. The first two runes are the problem.

Runes 3 and 4 are read next. These show the factors in the past which have led up to the situations at present.

Runes 5 and 6 are the two most important runes in this runecast. They represent the advise the runes are giving you, and extra special care must be taken to interpret their meanings as they relate to one another. They can indicate a need to wait and not act or a need to act immediately. They also may indicate a total shift of emphasis to new realms totally unrelated to the problem in question.

The final position, rune 7, is the result position. Keep in mind that a positive rune in this place (or a negative one, for that matter) will only be truly positive (or negative) if the preceding runes indicate such an outcome.

This is a challenging runecast and certainly worth the time it takes to master it.

~ spellbinderscorp

* Most of the information retrieved for this article was from one of my favorite sites
Hand Carved Elder Futhark Natural Bone Rune Set
***At spellbinders Lilya creates the most beautiful hand carved and painted rune sets made
from naturally shed Deer Antler bone and varied high quality Gemstones. Each set is created in her Sanctified work area where they are kept away from any negative influences and are hand carved using a trade secret that gives each rune a nice deep inset. Then the Gemstone rune set is painted with a conductive silver base paint which is actual silver. The Tree of Life is hand stitched in to a Faux leatherette Pouch. When all is done she takes the runes and cleanses them before packaging. So when you receive your Rune set they are clean of all influences.

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