Runes for Beginners by Alexandra Chauran

Runes for Beginners: Simple Divination and Interpretation
Alexandra Chauran
Llewellyn Publications, 2016

wp34 review runesforbeginners

Review by Rebecca Buchanan.

In this handy and easy-to-use introduction, those new to the runes are taught their basic meanings, useful alliterative tools, daily practices for increasing their knowledge of the runes, and casting patterns, among other techniques.

Chauran, a Wiccan high priestess and second-generation fortune teller, writes in a friendly and conversational style; almost like pulling up a chair around a table with friends, where we could all chat and laugh and cast runes together. She opens with a short history of the runes, explaining what they are, where they came from, and the various terms which will be used throughout the book. She then moves into a discussion of the runes themselves, listing them, and offering a very helpful alliterative technique for remembering their names and basic meanings (e.g., thurisaz links to thorn, Thor’s hammer, and thistle). This is followed by longer sections on how to divine with the runes (charts, castings, et cetera), things which people will want divined (love, money, career), and how to tap into the power of the runes (kennings or knowings, bindrunes, and so on).

I am still a novice when dealing with the runes; and I have the feeling that no one ever truly becomes an expert with them, considering their complexity. As such, I found some of the techniques recommended by Chauran to be either helpful or, at the very least, interesting. For example, while I can’t see myself trying runic yoga any time soon (not bendy enough), chanting the runes during meditation or making use of bindrunes is right up my alley.

My only complaint regards Chauran’s inclusion of the blank rune. As she notes, there is no historical precedent for a blank rune, and she leaves it up to the individual as to whether or not to include it in their practice. I think it would be a lot less confusing for beginners if the blank rune was excluded entirely from books on the subject; just a quick note that there was no such thing in the past, and move on.

Overall, I enjoyed Chauran’s Runes for Beginners. It was easy to understand, laid out well, and filled with useful techniques — some of which might serve as touchstones even for those who have been reading runes for many years.

Recommended for those new to the runes, especially when read in conjunction with other titles, such as Krasskova’s Runes: Theory and Practice and Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

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The Serpent and the Eagle – Chris Travers

The Serpent and the Eagle: An Introduction to the Elder Runic Tradition
Chris Travers
Self-published
186 pages

There are a number of introductory guides to the runes on the market. Some of them are well-researched and well-written; others are full of poor scholarship, which negates whatever writing style may have been applied. This, fortunately, is in the former category. Travers presents a good mix of scholarly research and practical application from personal experience.

For the beginner, the book offers an excellent basic guide to the elder futhark, including meanings and interpretations of each rune, and a basic “why” for each of the three groupings known as aetts. The material is firmly couched in the cultural context that the runes were created in. Travers has done many years of research not only into the runes themselves, but also Germanic cultures and even the greater, overarching Indo-European influence. There are many, many tangents that this book gives to the intrepid researcher. It’s not, however, a particularly dry read, and even novices should be able to make good sense of the material.

However, unlike some authors Travers doesn’t just focus on the divinatory/oracular uses of the runes. While divination is covered, so is the poetic magic of runes. An appendix covers further concepts, such as the creation of a niding-pole. One could wish for more of this not-divination material, especially because what he does describe is intriguing. However, it is a nice change from the usual “Here’s how to cast the runes, and here’s what they mean”.

My only real complaint is that the book really could have used a proofreader. There are numerous typos throughout the text, to the point where I found it distracting. While it doesn’t completely counteract the overall quality of the book otherwise, it does come across as a bit unprofessional (and is why I generally recommend that self-publishers hire an editor who’s well worth the cost).

That aside, this is one of the best self-published books I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and a text on runes that I would highly recommend to both those who want to make a thorough study of the topic, and those who simply would like to have a good, basic reference guide in their library.

Four and a half pawprints out of five.

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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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