Empty Days

Tuesday, October 12, 2004



Games in nature.

Runes are what is called sacred script - where letters are taken as signs whose meaning extends far beyond the morphology of the written text. The shape of the sign itself carries an indication of meaning - this is why reading runes is a meditative process, of interpreting the world on the basis not of logic but of something else besides. How does a rune-sign feel? Free associative thinking is in order.

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The worst enemy of rune-reading is set meaning. To get out of the trap this kind of approach creates, one first needs to look at the signs themselves and try to see how these signs are shaped and how the shapes relate to each other.

In the preceeding example the right-most rune means "year" - or harvest. Obviously the sign itself supplies its deeper meaning: the cyclical nature of change in life, the passage of time, one thing coming after another, revolving wheel-like repetition.
It also looks plain enough that this sign is related to the one in the middle - which is Kenaz, the light of torch-fire. The rune Yera is made up of two Kenaz signs - one is "closed", the other is "open", and this shade-n-light succession is indicated as equal in itself, it's a revolution of darkness and light, night and day, winter and summer, closing and opening, mystery and revelation, weakness and strength.
Then there is the left-most rune which is Sun (Sowilo). In its shape it is also related to the other two signs - visually it appears as a modulation of the triangular sign of Kenaz, or a different arrangement of the bits found in Yera. One way or another, Kenaz which is the sign of illuminating fire, appears in the three runes at once.

This is how one learns to read runes: looking at what is written and how it's written, without words. From the standpoint of words, this combination of signs would read "S-K-Y". Does it matter? Not really I think. What matters is that there is fire in the three runes - and thus light. Also, in a purely visual way, one can see that Sun and Kenaz are written "open", the line itself is open on both ends, and if you try to draw these signs yourself you will see how it feels to write that kind of line - it's a willful movement. While Yera is already like a prelude to composing a closed circle, a closed line, an enclosure, the trap of time and fate, but still it's not closed completely - changes, taking the pen off the paper, two lines to draw, opposites are not linked - they are linked in Sun.

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There is an implied philosophy to runes, they're not just vague meaningless lines on some surface. There is a history of meaning - these signs come from somewhere, they have a heredity, they take you somewhere you haven't been to before. What can be understood is slim because of the modern conditions - we too have a philosophy, whether we want it or not, our fundamentally implied vision of life. We don't really know what a "harvest" is because we live by formal calendar made up of numerical dates instead of by how the world feels when seasons change. We have clocks on our walls that read time for us - but this time is not real. I don't think it'd be possible to understand the meaning of that runic "Year" without first forgetting what a clock even is. Slim chance of that. We'd also have to forget what "week-end" means - not going to happen except for spending a few years away from all civilization.

Likewise, what does "Sun" mean to us? It simply means that you can get a tan if you go outdoors often enough. There is no direct line that can be drawn from Sun to human. The force of light is not direct - because we don't quite need it, with all our electricity and illuminated streets at night. The full meaning of the word "Sun" has been lost quite a bit. Can you believe that? Right.

Same for fire - the light of that torch. But the darkness is never complete enough - and the warmth of fire is not the only one we can get - there are rechargeable batteries and generators. You need to be a firefighter to even encounter fire on a regular basis - otherwise the closest we come to fire is during a barbecue grill. Something like that. It's never dark enough to appreciate what a fire-torch means.

Therefore everything we understand about runes is already extremely far removed from their most basic original meaning. And this remoteness is not of the rational from the spiritual - it is rather purely physical remoteness from the natural world - we replace it by an intellectual approximation of understanding that is neither true to its object nor particularly relevant. It doesn't serve us well that we firgure out why it is that lions hunt in group and when exactly they mate - it's entirely irrelevant to what life is and how it happens. And yet we are convinced that by knowing all this we somehow understand nature better - while in fact we have ceased to understand it at all. Quite amazing, really.

I am not saying all this to exhort some hypothetical idealist to look for a way back-to-nature. There is no such way - quite simply. However it serves well to describe under which conditions our fundamental philosophy arises and what it's based on. And how we can relate to runic meanings from such premises - we can't really, let's be frank here.

But we try. We can catch an echo of the meaning here and there. That's all I am hoping for. The rest is bound to be some psycho-babbling crap - because there is nothing else left really.

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Another area of the vision of life that has been lost pretty much for good in our times is the notion of what is sacred. There are things we truly love - that's as far as we can get in terms of what is holy. Outside of that all has been sold out to the intellect. To the purely rational mind nothing is or can be quite sacred. Once again, it's hard to see how the Sun could be "holy" - we might mimic that feeling here in there but if you want to take a peek at what this aping looks like, look no further than certain New Age ideas or all the pagan-revival lore - it's a lot of imagination, inventing things out of thin air, and then pretending it's important.

This too is pretty much a done deal - once something like that been lost, it's gone forever, unless you forget who you are or move to another planet altogether. The notion of sacredness cannot exist separately in an individual mind - it has to draw from some surroundings. Our environment is devoid of it by definition.

Therefore we cannot grasp the sacred dimension of the runic signs. All we can get at is symbolism. Which is an intellectual approach at heart. Devoid of the natural and sacred dimensions, modern interpreting of the runes is thus doubly skewed - we play with portentious signs but we cannot grasp them.

The meanings of the runes were given to Odin after he's hung on the tree of Yggdrasil for 9 days pierced by his own spear. It's not just a vague symbol of some vague shamanic initiation: try to bleed for 9 days from an open wound under open skies without food or water and your understanding of the "symbolic" will change quite drastically, I am sure. We don't do that on the internet - we simply click on symbols and hope to understand the universe.

Therefore psycho-babble it will be. And all the rest with it. Such is the extent of my understanding. No one to bless me. No one to bless.
Amen.





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