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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Runes For Beginners – Lisa Chamberlain

A while ago I started a project to learn more about the runes. In this process I decided to buy the book Runes For Beginners – A Guide to Reading Runes in Divination, Rune Magic and the Meanings of the Elder Futhark Runes. In this post I will give you my honest opinion about this book.

When I first picked up the book I had no idea about who Lisa Chamberlain is. After some research I found out that she runs the website Wicca Living.  She has written several books on various topics related to Wicca where many of them seem to be on a beginner level, like the book I am reviewing here. She has also written a book on tarot for beginners, which I am not familiar with.

                       About the book

I think it makes a good starting point to say that Runes For Beginners is not written only for people who are attracted to Wicca. In this book she is trying to go for a little broader audience and argues for that it can be used both by neopaganists and reconstructionists alike. I find her approach to be reasonable and she is being very honest and clear about the history of the runes, which is why I think that this approach is working for a broader audience. I don’t consider myself a Wiccan, and while I am not a reconstructionist either, I felt that this book had a lot of good information in it. The reason for why I chose this book was that I wanted something that was written fairly recently (2018) on the topic so that it was up to date with a list for further reading if I would be interested in that.

The book is logical and well-structured and presents the information in a good order. It starts telling the reader a little about what the runes are, their history and what the myths say about them. Then the second part goes more into detail of Rune Magic and Divination and the last section is simply the meaning of the Elder Futhark runes.

A lot of the information I had already found on the internet, but the internet can be a messy place, and the author does a good job with compiling the most important information in one place.

I also find it interesting that it brings up both Rune Magic and Divination. When I first got the book, I bought it for the latter, however I don’t think the Rune Magic should be ignored as it was rather interesting. I found that it had a lot of similarities to Sigil Magick. I had not really considered Rune Magic as an option before, but maybe I will give it a go in my own work at some point. Naturally though, it cannot go too much into detail of how you perform your rituals, as that would depend on your tradition and what path you follow.

The divination part gives us some best practices and list of spreads that can used. There are many suggestions here and it is just a matter of finding out which ones will be working for you.

All the runes are presented with clear pictures, a guide to pronounce them, what it translates into and with keywords. In addition there are both primary themes and additional meanings for each rune which goes  a little bit more into depth of the runes. It offers both normal and reversed meanings.

I don’t really have much negative to say about this book. I am happy with it and think it serves well as an introduction to runes, but there was something that caught my attention when reading through the rune meanings  “A related interpretation of Raidho is ‘reunion’ – specifically, the return of old friends in your life or even the arrival of new people with whom you made a soul agreement before incarnating into this life.”

I don’t think all readers of the book would necessarily agree with that there is such a thing as a soul agreement before incarnating into this life. There is nothing wrong with having that opinion, but I just think it looks like the author at this point added a bit of her own opinion and took that part a little bit for granted that the readers would share it. As it aims a little bit broader, I think some of the readers might take notice of that. It’s not a big thing though, and it was even found under “additional meanings”.

                      Conclusion

I think this is an affordable, well researched and good approach to runes. The book was everything I expected, and even a little bit extra. You don’t get into any complex material in this book, but if you want to dig deeper, it also offers a list for further reading. For most people though, this book should be more than sufficient to get started with runes either you want to learn divination, rune magic or both.

Runes for Beginners

Runes for Beginners (2018) Lisa Chamberlain – Published by Chamberlain Publications

 

 

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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