Runes For Transformation – Kaedrich Olsen

Runes for Transformation: Using Ancient Symbols to Change Your Life
Kaedrich Olsen
Weiser Books, 2008
230 pages

When I first became interested in paganism back in the mid-1990s, the very first divination set I worked with was the elder futhark of runes. I had a photocopy of a few pages with rune meanings out of a book that I suspect may have been from Ralph Blum’s questionable writings. While runes have never been a central focus in my practice and I no longer utilize them, I do have somewhat of a nostalgic soft spot for them. I am quite pleased with this brand-new text–it takes an entirely innovative approach to the runes, not only as a historical alphabet/divination system couched in venerable traditions, but also as a living, evolving set of energies and symbols that the modern practitioner will find relevant regardless of current cultural context.

Olsen presents us with a solid overview of the history and origin of the Norse runes. However, before he even gets into that, he throws a chapter on the nature of reality at the reader, asking us to challenge our perceptions and assumptions, particular with regards to magical thinking. This sets a stage for an introduction to the runes not only as symbols with correspondences, but as tools for shaping and understanding subjective reality.

While Olsen has done his research, drawing extensively on primary texts, he strongly supports the use of Unverified Personal Gnosis as a key to one’s individual relationship to the runes and their meanings. This is a much more organized and introspective process than mixing up runes and the I Ching, for example. While UPG is crucial, it is still set within the context of historical meaning, and the two are meant to complement each other, even if their information doesn’t entirely agree. In short, Olsen allows the historical material on the runes to serve as a solid foundation on which the practitioner may then build hir own extensive personal research–a healthy balance.

The runes are also not treated as only tools for divination. One of the most valuable dimensions of this book is the potential for a Western system of internal change. Olsen blends techniques from NLP and other psychological systems, as well as other areas of modern science, with runic magic and spirituality to create a wonderfully workable system. The runes are promoted as tools for understanding interconnection between the self and the world, and various elements thereof; as energies that may be utilized in improving the self in deep, fundamental capacities; and making connections with deities, among other capacities. The depth with which Olsen explores these possibilities is commendable, and I say this not only as an experienced psychonaut, but also a counselor-in-training.

Practitioners who are critical of UPG may find this book to be too UPG-heavy for their tastes. This all comes down to a matter of subjective preferences. Olsen does an excellent job of presenting his material, and beyond a certain point it’s not really possible to change peoples’ minds. The solid research may mollify some by-the-book folks; however, I can also see this book coming under fire from exceptionally conservative individuals.

Overall, this book is a winner. Whether you are Asatru, or a psychonaut in need of a system for internal exploration, or merely someone who appreciates the magic and aesthetics of the elder futhark, this text is an excellent choice.

Five pawprints out of five.

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  1. The Seeker said,

    November 16, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Runes are pretty fascinating. I have worked with a set called The Healing Runes. I use them mostly for a starting point of meditation, as in where I’m “at” in the moment. They are remarkably right on, most of the time. Here is a post I did on my experience.

  2. kelley said,

    November 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    This book sounds really interesting. Thanks for posting your review!

  3. November 21, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Excellent content and style…keep up the good work!

  4. MOK said,

    March 21, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Being a Leader for federal Management and having known people of renown title in the study of the mind. I believe Kaedrich’s book one of the most helpful books ever published. He provides a meaning of hope and a clear understanding of how to use tools such as the ruins in your daily life to further the hopes and dreams that are good for people to have. In many ways I know of his thoughts and intentions and found that life and universal understanding a fundamental value that everyone should seek and have the oportunity to drive them to success in all values of life. As only one of his many friends I found an insight into the years spent and well represented in the book. I found soul and character that I have only seen in novels of Voltair. I do hope Kaedrich will write again and the next be even a more impressive novel. I would rank Kaedrichs book “Runes for Transformation,” a very helpful and inspirational book for generations.

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