Tag Archives: divination

Nine Worlds Rune Reading

Rune Chart

This is the rune layout that I prefer to use when I do extended castings.  This is a layout that comes from the Sunnyway website, which is one of the best resources on runes – it is the nine worlds cast, named as such for fairly obvious reasons.

The way you read this chart is as follows:

The outer realms – Niflheim, Vanahim, Muspelheim, and Jotunheim – represent the objective universe and, in a reading, are indicative of how the universe affects the querent.

The inner realms – Asgard, Ljosalfheim, Helheim, and Svartalfheim – represent the psychological influences and subjective forces in play. These are further paired – Asgard and Helheim represent transpersonal forces while Ljosalfheim and Svartalfheim represent personal forces.

The center realm – Midgard – represents the center and the way people come together to manifest themselves. It also ties everything else in the reading together.

Each of the nine realms represents a particular more in-depth element, which is as follows (note, Midgard is listed above):

Outer Realms

Niflheim – That which resists the querent; passive/restrictive influences; the deepest part of the subconscious mind

Vanaheim – Growth; erotic relationships; forces of continuity and structure

Muspelheim – Active influences from outside, vital energies

Jotunheim – That which confuses the querent; what may be left to chance; forces pressing for change

Inner Realms

Asgard – Higher influences; relationships with the gods; the higher self

Ljosalfheim – Mental influences; family; paths to help realize the influences from Asgard

Helheim – Hidden, suppressed forces; instinctual desires

Svartalfheim – Creative emotional influences; things to reflect on

This layout is also known as the Worldstead Layout – I prefer to call it the Nine Realms layout – and it is an incredibly in-depth way to read the runes.

This is the kind of reading that can take days/weeks to properly interpret, so it is not a layout I would suggest using for simple everyday casts. This is for general but very in-depth readings into your own life and into the lives of those closest to you (on their request, of course). I would not recommend it for an afternoon of public divinatory readings – it’s too complex for that.

In any case, please feel free to print the chart and this guide for your own use. There is a great deal of power in doing a reading that incorporates all nine realms, and it is a good way to get familiar with the nine worlds and the way the runes manifest themselves in each world.

 

Devotional Primer

Some of the questions I have heard lately have centered around devotion. In particular, I have heard questions about how to offer devotion to the gods in everyday life.  

I usually focus more on the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of my practice, so I could easily go into a long discussion about why libations and offerings are the mainstays of polytheistic religions because of the way they allow us to maintain reciprocal relationships with the gods.

Rather than do that (though I certainly can if there is interest in that), I’m going to provide a brief sketch of how to get started and then list a few different activities people can undertake as devotional acts.

Getting Started

  • Choose tradition/religion to study.
  • Study that tradition/religion for a year before dedicating yourself to that path.
  • Set up an altar to the god/s that calls to you
    • Note: Figure out whether the god/s that call to you are actually interested in working with you. If they aren’t, don’t force yourself on them. Just like how we aren’t compatible with all people, we aren’t compatible with all gods. If a god comes to you that makes you uncomfortable, you can ask them to back off and leave you alone. You are not required to work with every spirit/deity that shows up. Same goes for the gods – they aren’t required to work with every human who takes an interest in them.

Altar Essentials

  • Altar cloth – this can be as simple as a bandana or as complex as a tapestry.
  • Image of the deity – there are tons of options for this one
    • Printed picture from a Google search (if money is tight!)
    • Carved statue of the god (check Etsy)
    • A hand-drawn rendition of the god (either self-done or commissioned)
    • Etc.
  • Offering dishes– there are also tons of options for this one
    • Any extra small cups/bowls that you happen to have sitting around
    • Buy a small cup/bowl from a thrift store or Etsy if you can afford it
    • Etc.

As you get more familiar with the god/s that you’re working with, you’ll start feeling pulled towards certain items that the deities want on their altars. Whether or not you can afford it – well, if you can’t, ask them to help you get it for them. If a god wants something badly enough, they will make it happen.

Daily Practice Options

  • Prayer
    • You can find tons of pre-written prayers for most deities on the internet. It is okay to copy a few down and use them. Generally, you kneel (or stand, if your ability makes kneeling too painful)before your altar and offer the prayer to the god by reading it out loud. You can also write your own prayers.
  • Libation
    • Generally, libations are alcoholic. It might take some research to figure out what the god/s that you’re working with like to drink. It might take trial/error. To do a simple libation, you simply pour the drink into the offering bowl, invite the deity to partake, and then drink afterward and offer a brief word of thanks or hail the god. What you do with the drink afterward is tradition-dependent, but it is fairly standard to simply take it outside and pour it on the ground. If you have absolutely no other option, pouring the remaining liquid down the sink drain is okay – but this is if you live in an area that makes pouring the libation on the ground unrealistic and/or if your physical ability prevents this kind of moving around.
    • If you cannot afford alcohol, water is always an acceptable libation. After all, water is life. I have never heard of a deity that would reject water, and I have never experienced the rejection of such a libation.
  • Divination
    • Do a daily rune or tarot reading related to your relationship with the god/s in question.

Long-term Devotional Acts

  • Continuously reading all the information you can on your religion/tradition and the gods you honor
  • Creating art for the gods
  • Dedicating a particular event or community service to the gods
  • Taking an oath in the service of the gods
  • Becoming a devotee, godspouse, or clergy

I hope this has given those who needed it a basic outline that will allow them to move forward with their devotional practice.

Polytheistic Theology: Avenue of Avenues

When we think of theology, we typically think of monotheistic theology, especially the structures found within Abrahamic faiths. But theology itself is not inherently monotheistic – in fact, theology is simply the study of deity. Because most polytheistic faiths are inherently pluralistic, it is safe to say that it is impossible to identify a single theology that unifies polytheistic belief. That’s part of what makes polytheistic faiths so beautiful.

It’s easy to prove how impossible it is to identify a single theology for polytheistic faiths. Take Hinduism, for example, and examine the way many sects of Hinduism base their faith around the idea of a unified plurality – there are multiple deities, but those deities are all aspects of the greater whole. Then take another polytheistic faith, like Asatru, that bases faith around the concept of multiple distinct deities, all separate and completely unique from one another. While there are certainly connections between polytheistic faiths like Hinduism and Asatru, the way that deity is approached is distinct between them.

Because of that distinction, a singular approach to theology – the study of deity – is impossible. However, I do think that it is possible, within each polytheistic faith, to approach deity through multiple strands of exploration. That is what I propose is the best way to approach the study of deity through polytheistic faiths, and I am proposing a framework for a polytheist to use in their own study of deity within their own religions, rather than proposing that deity can be understood the same way through all polytheistic faiths.

Note: When I say deity, I mean the essence of deity or what makes a god a god (what makes gods gods).

I believe the following components can be explored through all polytheistic faiths:

  • Cosmogony
  • Cosmology
  • Theogony
  • Sacred Calendars, Rites, and Practices
  • Eschatology
  • Axiology
  • Pneumatology
  • Psychology
  • Semiotics & Symbology
  • Sexology
  • Sophology
  • Occultology

Cosmogony is the study of the creation of the universe (or multiverse). Studying how the cosmos originated in accordance with a particular polytheistic tradition through myths and legends allows us to begin to develop a framework with which to approach deity through our respective faiths.

Cosmology is the study of the universe (or multiverse). Different faiths propose different models of the world. For example, in many shamanistic traditions, there are three worlds while in the Norse view, there are nine worlds. Understanding the cosmos is a necessary foundation before exploring what deity actually is can really get underway.

Theogony refers to the lineage of the gods. Every pantheon has a unique structure and hierarchy (though it can be argued that some pantheons aren’t hierarchal). It seems self-evident that the pursuit of theology requires the understanding of theogony.

Sacred Calendars, Rites, and Practices. This particular component is really three-in-one, but every polytheistic faith has a calendar of sacred rites and practices. Since most (if not all) polytheistic faiths are orthopraxic (focused on right practice), this is the most direct route of exploring theology – again, when I say theology here, I mean the pursuit of the understanding of deity.

Eschatology is the study of death, judgment, and final destination. In essence, it is the study of the afterlife. Every faith has an idea of what happens to a person after they pass from this world. Not all polytheistic faiths believe in a final judgment, but some do. This is an area where the greatest discrepancies between faiths exist, and it may also be an area where the greatest insights into the nature of deity can be found.

Axiology is the study of values and ethics. In other words, the study of morality. At first glance, it may not be obvious what this has to do with theology. However, the myths and legends of each tradition shape the morality of the people who follow those traditions. Understanding the ethics held by a particular culture can enhance the pursuit of theology.

Pneumatology is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena. Beliefs about mythical creatures like dragons, sirens, mermaids, brownies, kelpies, the Fae, ghosts, landvaettir, etc. This is where understanding the cosmology of a polytheistic faith comes into play as well, as some traditions have worlds set aside specifically for certain types of entities.

Psychology is the study of the soul, and it is the closest term I could find to describe what I actually mean. When I say psychology here, I don’t mean the traditional Western version of the study of the human psyche. I wish there were a better term (so if someone has an idea for one, I’m all for suggestions). What I mean is the study of the constructs of the soul-the parts of the soul. Many polytheistic traditions propose that the soul is not a singularity but a plurality, constructed of a myriad of parts that are meant for particular purposes. Understanding the way in which the soul is viewed is vital in the pursuit of theology, as the soul is the expression of the most inherent divinity a living being has in its possession.

Semiotics & Symbology is the study of signs, symbols, and their interpretations and uses. This includes things like the study of divination and omens. While some symbols are fairly universal – like the serpent that represents wisdom – others are not as clear-cut. Understanding the way that a particular tradition utilizes semiotics & symbology helps create a clearer path towards the understanding of deity.

Sexology is the study of sex. Each religion approaches sex in different ways, and in many traditions, the act of sex is one the most powerful ways to experience divinity. There aren’t many polytheistic faiths that view sex in a negative light, and I say that simply because there may be a few that do – I do not proclaim to be an expert on all the polytheistic faiths that exist, and I do not wish to potentially exclude even one.

Sophology is the study of wisdom. Defining wisdom is a very difficult thing to do, as it is a very abstract concept. Generally speaking, it is the ability to take acquired knowledge and put it to good use. In many polytheistic traditions, the study of wisdom is equated with the study of the myths and the cultures with which the traditions started. But because wisdom relies on application, it assumes that a person will take the myths and cultural learning they have developed and will incorporate it into their own practices. Applying the knowledge gained of deity through the myths is, perhaps, one of the most direct ways to approach theology, although it is by no means the only way.

Occultology is the study of the occult, meaning mystery or secret. It is generally associated with magic, and there are several polytheistic traditions that incorporate magic into their practice. There are many different types of magic, but the one that deals most directly with deity is Theurgy, which is magic done with the aid of deity.

Many of these components, on their own, require extensive research, and many of them weave in and out of one another. These are the strands that I see throughout every polytheistic faith – though each faith has its own unique set of these strands.

I’ve read multiple books on polytheistic theology, and every time, I see the same problem arise – there is no unified set of principles that underlie every polytheistic tradition. Some polytheistic traditions venerate ancestors, others don’t. Some believe in pluralistic deities, others in unified plurality.

So this is my attempt to address that issue – rather than looking for underlying principles that exist in all polytheistic traditions, I decided to look for the categories of principles that weave through all polytheistic traditions. Sometimes, to simplify, you have to complicate, and looking at categories instead of principles isn’t an obvious thing to do. The stark truth is that we still live in a predominantly monotheistic culture, and we all often fall into the trap of trying to collapse things down into smaller parts.

As polytheists, we need to work on expanding outward, breaking things into larger pieces rather than collapsing things down into smaller ones. So what I have done here is propose a framework, an avenue of avenues of exploration for those who are interested in the pursuit of theology from a polytheistic perspective.

Magic

In Heathenry, there’s only two forms of “accepted” magical practice – Rune magic (Galdr) and trance magic (Seidr).

Trance magic sounds like it should encompass multiple types of trancing, but seidr refers to a specific type of trance that requires a staff and usually people around to protect the body of the person who trances. It’s almost always done by women, which is why practicing it causes certain Gods to be called “unmanly.”

I honestly don’t know too much about Seidr – it’s hard to find good sources on the subject. But that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

Magic is varied, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to practice it. And, as a Heathen, there are hundreds of people who will tell me that my magic isn’t Heathen in nature, that I’m stepping outside the bounds of my faith. I’m not just saying that – I’ve had it happen.

According to some Heathens, elemental magic has no place within this faith. Yet I can feel the power in the earth, in the wind, in water, and in fire, and those powers are all different from each other – yet all interconnected. Perhaps it’s because I came to Heathenry 10 years after I came to Paganism – I had ten years to develop my magic without worrying about whether or not I “fit” within any group. After all, during the first ten years I was Pagan, I was eclectic.

I could lie and say that it doesn’t bother me that other people in my faith will never accept the way I practice as valid – I have been told by many people over the years that I’m not allowed to call myself Asatru or Heathen, but that I have to use the label of Norse Pagan. But you know what?

The people who have said those things to me aren’t part of my kindred – to find the right kindred for me, I would have to create it. There’s a reason Odin is the patron God of both outcasts and rulers. It is possible to have the disposition for both.

I learned a long time ago, in my mundane life, that if I wanted to fit into a group, I had to create the group myself. I end up leading organizations because it’s the only niche where I fit. Every time I try to follow someone else’s lead, just my presence leads to friction and problems. Yet none of that friction occurs when I take charge.

It’s a weird contradiction in my nature. A contradiction, by the way, which is literally written in the stars. My birth chart shows the conflict clearly, and it’s a difficult way to live. Because to get close to people, I have to take charge of situations. And I don’t always want to. Most of the time, I feel like it would be better for someone else to lead, for someone else to take the reigns, and I try my best to do what everyone else seems to do so naturally – I suck at ducking my head and not making waves.

So, of course, that spills over into my faith. I don’t need to take charge in a faith where the path is individually determined. But because of the conflict within my person, I can’t belong to a kindred. At least, not if I don’t create one. I’m not confident enough about my path to create my own kindred – it somehow feels like too big of a dream, too big of a goal, and it makes me feel like I’m being arrogant to even want to try.

A large part of that, however, is that so many Heathens over the years have ridiculed the way I walk my own path. I don’t adhere to strict reconstructionist values, and I venture outside the two “acceptable” forms of magic on a consistent basis.

I use multiple divination tools – the runes, astrology, numerology, and I’ve even messed around a little with the I Ching (which I haven’t learned, but seems pretty coool).

I’m a natural born empath, which is really the same thing as a shaman, but I’m not supposed to use that label either. Ironic, isn’t it, how the labels we would apply to ourselves are the labels others insist we can’t use?

The reason I work with Freyja when it comes to magic is because the strength of my empathic gift is one only She can help me with. I have days when a single word in a commercial can trigger an overwhelming response – is it really any wonder I hate watching the news?

I don’t talk a lot about my emotions here or anywhere else because they run too deep. That’s the price I pay for the gift I was born with. That’s why I cultivate as much patience as I can. I can get irritated over stupid things just like anyone else, but I can count on one hand the few times I’ve allowed myself to get truly angry. Imagine having to control your emotions that tightly – 28 years, and less than five times of true anger. And that anger,when roused, is always in defense of another. The first time was in defense of my sister, and the others in defense of friends.

I also don’t talk much about my empathy because (really, is there anything I do the “right” way?”) is different than how other empaths experience the gift. Yes, I can get emotional. But a lot of empaths, especially those who are natural born and don’t understand their gift or how to control it, end up being victims because they feel like they can’t say no to people who have a problem. Because an empath’s primary need is to help heal other people’s souls. That’s what empathy really is – soul healing.

And, personality wise, I’m aggressive. I don’t take shit from people, and I never have. I don’t shy away from hurting people’s feelings, so I am as honest as I can be, even if it hurts them, and, in turn, hurts me.

There are many disadvantages to being empathic – always being aware of other people’s emotions can be draining, especially because there are moments when another person’s awareness can bleed into mine. That’s why so many empaths typically have trouble figuring out their emotions – they don’t know how to separate their emotions from the emotions of the people around them. That’s dangerous, and it can drive a person crazy. There is no such thing as a safe gift.

Of course, there are advantages to the gift as well. I can always tell if someone’s lying to me. I can tell if someone’s anxious or angry. I can diffuse potentially violent situations by soothing emotions (which should never be done except if a life is in danger; manipulating the emotions of others is unethical). I can also see through the masks people wear. And, when I need to, I can read people down to their souls.

When that happens, it’s either a request or a compulsion. I don’t try to do soul readings on everyone I meet – they are exhausting. But sometimes they happen because their soul hits mine and needs the reading – even if the conscious mind doesn’t realize it yet. I’ve freaked people out with that – no one likes having the deepest part of themselves exposed. And when I see someone’s soul, what I see is the original wound – the first fracture that occurred due to an intense emotional trauma of some sort. Not everyone has these wounds, but many people do. Far more people have an original soul wound than those who don’t.

Ironically, with as steeped as I am in magic, I distrust a great deal of other practitioners. Not because I don’t believe in magic – I obviously wouldn’t practice it if I didn’t believe in it. No, the reason I distrust a lot of other practitioners is because so few of them are as strong as they think they are. Even with things as simple as divination.

I’ll use divination as an example, as it is probably the most accessible form of magic that there is. Everyone, to some degree, can perform some type of divination. I’ve had multiple people do readings for me, and I’ve opened myself up completely to those readings (I always start with the assumption that the practitioner is skilled in their art). In the myriad readings I’ve had done for me, only two have ever been accurate.

I feel, sometimes, that magic is a lonely art. But it isn’t always. I’ve only had a couple occasions to practice magic in group settings. The first time was disappointing, but the second time was amazing, and it was fairly recent. Perhaps it was because I took charge of it, but the synergy between me and the two people I was working with was insane, and neither of them had a background similar to mine in terms of magic. Perhaps it was because we were all so different that the energy flowed better – maybe that’s how my magic works in groups. I don’t know – like I said, I’ve only had a chance to do magic in a group twice in my life.

I guess, if I had to put it in perspective… and I’ll still use divination as the example here, as, like I said, it’s the most easily accessed type. Most people who do readings for others need time to recuperate after doing a single reading. That time varies, but it’s usually around ten to fifteen minutes. Because of my constant connection to the people around me (due to the empathic gift), I can do back-to-back readings for half a dozen people before I need to rest, and, even then, I don’t need to rest for more than a couple minutes before I can do another round of the back-to-back readings.

I have, in essence, what amounts to too much magic within me, and it terrifies me more than anything, despite knowing that there are others who would envy me for the gift. It isn’t something I would recommend envying – yes, the Gods communicate with me more frequently than others, but that also means I am more beholden to Them than others. I have to deal with not only my problems here, in this world, but also help with problems in the other worlds. There is a ton of responsibility that comes with bearing this type of gift, and it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by it sometimes.

I sometimes try to do guided meditations, but they always go wrong. I always get tripped into world-walking, even when that’s not my intent. There was one that I did awhile ago concerning the elements. It was supposed to show you which elements you had an affinity for.

The first part of the meditation was to picture myself on beside a lake with a bonfire and to approach the bonfire and feel the warmth in an attempt to discover how well fire suited me. To be fair, I already knew my affinities before I started this meditation, but I wanted to see how things played out.

That part went fine, then I had to go into the lake and see how wide it was – that was supposed to tell me how deep my magical reserves ran, as well as how much affinity I had for water. Before I even hit the water, the shore I was on turned into a  beach and the lake became an ocean. While I have an affinity for water, the fact that the lake turned into an ocean told me that my magical reserves are far greater than even I realized, and the truth of that terrified me (and honestly, still does).

Then I was supposed to go into the woods, but by this time Loki had made his appearance and was being very distracting in the way only Loki can be (which, while always fun, made it rather difficult to focus on the meditation). Which meant that as soon as I was in the woods, I was world-walking. Into a forest in Svartalfheim, which, trust me, is not a place anyone wants to go. Before I went into the woods, by the way, Loki gave me a sword to use, so that was pretty awesome. Still, the woods in Svartalfheim are terrifying. Without my magic, I wouldn’t have survived – I have absolutely no doubt in that. I can’t talk about what I was called there to do, as I swore an oath, but suffice it to say I was called there to help someone.

I suppose what I’m trying to say in this post, which seems to have wandered in multiple directions, is that magic is dangerous, and it shouldn’t be played with. Even Loki, who has an incredibly playful personality, treats magic with respect.

Yet, I see many people who think magic is little more than a game. People don’t realize how much weight every word uttered in prayer has or how much a spell wrongly spoken can cost. There are those out there who have told me that I take magic too seriously, that it’s not as dangerous as I suggest, and those words, to me, are a mark of someone who doesn’t have much power. Because those of us who do have strong magical reserves are aware of how powerful the forces are that we’re manipulating, and it’s impossible to be too careful when using magic.