Tarot or Runes – what to choose?

In this post I will examine some pros and cons for choosing either tarot or runes for a few different purposes. You can of course choose to learn both, but as they are quite different from each other it would also mean it would take twice as much effort. For the purpose of this post I just assume that a standard tarot deck based on RWS is being used.

Both tarot and runes can be used for both magic and divination. I should probably also mention that there have been some attempts to combine the two by making various Viking or Rune tarot decks. I am not a big fan of such attempts for several reasons, but mainly I find that it complicates things if you try to force one system into another system. Let’s just leave it at that and keep them separate. Having that said, I don’t mind as much to bring some tarot knowledge into a runic system and the reason for that is that there are quite a few gaps to fill with the runes. I touch a little upon that subject in this post. Assuming that you have no prior experience with either tarot or runes, learning the runes will therefore take much more effort, but there are some good books to get you started. For example this one I reviewed here. 

                        Divination

I have done tarot much longer than runes and personally I prefer tarot as it is a much more developed system. Runes are a lot less visual and they don’t give you many clues to their meaning just by looking at them. I also find that with runes you need to develop your own system and meanings a lot more. There is an abundance of information written on the tarot, but when it comes to the runes there is so little that we know that we have to close the gaps ourselves. It works too, but it requires a lot more effort.

In a standard tarot deck you have 78 cards in contrast to when you are working with the Elder Futhark runes you have 24 runes. My experience so far with experimenting with runes is that it feels less more like they function better on the bigger picture, while the tarot can be used on both the bigger picture and go a bit more into the details. If you only read tarot with the Major Arcana you would probably get a similar result.

I also don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense to do big spreads with runes. When you do the big spreads in tarot, you generally include the Minor Arcana, which make a lot of difference.

So when doing a rune spread, I would probably do something similar to a three card spread in tarot. For example: 1) What influences to let go of 2) What can I expect the situation to look like if I successfully let go of these influences and 3) What new opportunities should I be looking out for. Note that when I use this spread I tend to switch around the positions depending on what phase the moon is in with the first rune or card representing the current moon phase (in the example waning, new moon and waxing moon).

If you are only planning on doing these smaller, more general “big picture” spreads, I find that the runes can be a good tool. If you are looking to do divination professionally, and give readings to customers, I also think that adding rune reading to your repertoire would make you stand out a little bit more in the vast competition. There is definitely something exotic and intriguing about the runes that a lot of people are attracted to.

 

                           Magic

I cannot really say that tarot or runes work better than the other for magic. There are nearly infinite possibilties of how you could use them in your magical practice, and probably, it is more important how they are being used rather than what is being used.

If you are interested in tarot magic I can recommend Donald Tyson’s “Portable Magic”. It also goes under the title Tarot Magic –  Ceremonial Magic: Using Golden Dawn Correspondances. There are a lot of interesting ideas in there.

Personally I find tarot a bit inconvenient if you are going to create talismans etc. As it may mean you need to remove cards from the deck and purchase new decks everytime you want to create a new talisman. It can be quite costly.

If you know the runes you can just carve them into something or paint them. I find that to be a great advantage.  In my opinion it’s a lot more flexible and a fun, creative way to work. You can create powerful rune sigils that just look awesome, inspiring and feel magical in themselves. So for me, this isn’t even a close race. Maybe it is just me, but it makes me feel much more involved in what I am doing and everything that brings a little bit of extra enthusiasm into the magical work is usually a good thing.

 

                      Conclusion

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. If you have the time and patience for it learn both. If you are willing to put in the extra effort the runes can really be worth it, especially if feel drawn to norse mythology, vikings and paganism. If I had to pick one of the two, it would be the runes because I consider them to be more flexible, but I do find tarot better for divination.

Edit: This has been in my drafts for a while, but I just never published it.

 

-The Night Spirit

Runes

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secrets of the Runes

I think it is hard for me to avoid the mystery of the runes in the part of the world where I reside. So I decided to research a bit on the runes and learn how to use them for divination. It’s a bit cooler to be reading runes when you meet up with the local vikings, right? And for me with my heritage, it is simply something I see as must be done. So, I have decided to use the Elder Futhark runes, which is quite standard if you use runes for divination.

There are some fundamental things that I find important when it comes to reading runes for divination that I think would be useful for beginners to know. The ancient art of rune reading is unfortunately not something that history has preserved for us in an unbroken line. What we have today is an attempt at reconstruction and anyone claiming anything else would not be speaking the truth.

Having that said, I don’t find that very problematic. If you look at modern tarot practice there are as many ways to read tarot as there are readers. There is no reason to believe that it would have been any different for rune readers back in the days. As tarot readers interpret the cards differently, rune readers probably also interpreted the runes differently. It is an art, and to be good at it, you have to make it your own (and practice a lot).

I don’t subscribe to any idea that there is a clear and definite meaning for the runes. When working with tarot we are working with archetypes and it is the same when working with the runes. The keywords for tmodern rune reading come from the rune poems: the Icelandic, the Norwegian and the Anglo-Saxon rune poems. And this is also where it is appropriate to point out that the rune poems aren’t actually based on the Elder Futhark. There are 24 runes in the Elder Futhark and the rune poems describe 16 runes in the Icelandic and Norwegian versions and 26 in the Anglo-Saxon version. The Anglo-Saxon version also shows influences from Christianity. So this means that the rune poems are based on the Younger Futhark and all that we have left  for the Elder Futhark is an attempt at reconstruction. There may have been an older rune poem for Elder Futhark, but if so, it never survived.

There are various sites out there on the divinatory meaning of the runes, and I think it is important to realize that many have added their own personal interpretations. That is not to say that it is a bad thing, but it is important to know so that you don’t get stuck with what each rune means. It is the very same thing that make a lot of people struggle with tarot cards. Runes are arguably more difficult though, as there are no images to support your reading. My suggestion is to first start with memorizing the names of the runes and just a couple of keywords for each rune. Start with a notebook where you note down all the runes and the keywords and later on you can add your own if you find that it makes sense to you.

The reason I am writing this is that there has been a lot of false information over the years. Particularly during the 80s with New Age movement and pagan revival. Books and systems were being made without being completely honest about the motivation behind them and the origin of the material.

I think it is much better to be open about that it is a constructed system (tarot is also a constructed system), but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. In fact it means that magic is very much alive today. Perhaps it is meant to be something that is living and evolving and only then can you unlock the true potential and secrets of the runes. I will leave it at that and write another post about the nice set of runes that I got for myself. And perhaps later will I share some spreads that I find useful that I have created myself.

Thus spake the Night Spirit

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A Living World – part 1

Once upon a time in my younger days I had to struggle myself through a book called “The Making of the Modern Mind” by John Herman Randall, JR. Or at least parts of it. I was nineteen years old at the time, and I was studying history of ideas. It’s an old book first published in 1926 and then edited and released again in 1940. It’s an excellent book, but perhaps not the easiest to read for a 19 year old with English as a second language. What I learned from reading it was how the worldview gradually changed to a mechanistic worldview where the world was treated like a dead object. It was during this period in the history of mankind that science as we know it today emerged. This led to a lot of technological breakthroughs and eventually the industrialization of the world. “God is dead” Nietzsche claimed. And many thought that eventually religion and spirituality would vanish. Today, we know that is not the case.

There is a thriving magic community alive today, and there are probably more books on the subject of spirtituality published now than ever before. In the magic scene old texts have been rediscovered and been put back together again by scholars then they are published so that they become available to anyone. People, read, discuss, argue and try to practice themselves.

When doing so, people are reading and reconnecting with a very different worldview than what is predominant today. They are discovering that there once was a very different world where it was not treated as a dead thing. In a historical perspective, modernity, which is roughly the past 500 years, is only a very brief moment in time. Science has given us many technological breakthroughs and greatly improved the standard of living for most people in the world, but the need for spirituality seems to be unchanged through all of it. Many people seem to think that spirituality and/or religion is contradictory to science, I personally, don’t think it is. Science is basically just a method of proving theories wrong (note that it is about falsifying and not confirming anything) based on experience. What science doesn’t offer is spirituality or a more complete understanding of the world. It is fragmented and often in disagreement with itself (which it has to be, or else science could not evolve further). There are some people who seem to think that science offers an explanation for everything and are even willing to use inadequate scientific models to construct their reality. I would refer to that as “Scientism”. Ironically though, that is exactly what science should avoid, so “Scientism” isn’t really a proper scientific view of the world.

What most people tend to get mixed up in the debate of religion/spirituality vs science are the criterias for what will be accepted as truth. A spiritual or religious understanding of the world is usually more fluid and less precise than what a scientific understanding of the world is. Therefore it doesn’t fit into the scientific model (and it never will). The problem though is that the scientific criterias are too strict. Religions and spiritual experiences are not something that can be shared and observed by multiple people at the same time and written down in a journal with precise language, which would be a requirement for it to ever be described properly in scientific terms. As I said, science is just a method and that method is not directly connected to our own human sensory experiences. We may have sensory experiences that would be very difficult to put down in scientific terms (or even in proper language). Dreams we have may be a good example where our senses can be distorted and when we wake up and remember the dream we rationalize it and try to make out what really happened in the dream, even though the experience itself felt hazy and distant. Only after we have processed it, it becomes a tangible memory.

So why am I bringing all of this up? Primarily, because it helps sort out my own thoughts on the subject and I find it very interesting. What I think will happen long term though is that the “collective consciousness” if we can call it that is going to change. It will no longer be purely scientific or religious/spiritual, but it will merge together and exist side by side (today it is more like you have to choose between one or the other). 500 years are nothing when you look at how long this world has existed. In a historical perspective paradigms are often thesis and antithesis to eachother and eventually they merge together in a synthesis (check out the Phenomology of Spirit). This is also what I think eventually will happen with science and religion/spirituality. And by that I don’t mean that they necessarily will merge into the same thing, but rather that there will be a way that they can co-exist and people have learned that they offer different criterias for truth and that it is actually possible to shift between them.

Having that said there is no denying that there are religious and spiritual groups out there who blatantly ignore science and what it stands for. This post is absolutely not for defending these people. I am of the opinion that any kind of spirituality that doesn’t take science into consideration, doesn’t have the right to exist.

I also realize that what I have written this far is merely the introduction to the topic. I think it is necessary though to explain the background before I start exploring what I think is a living and dynamic spiritual world. I will have to continue this later…

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

 

Fullmoon