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Some years back a friend and I drove out to see the famous runestone in Kensington, Minnesota.
Purportedly discovered by a farmer clearing a field in 1898, the runestone's inscription records the supposed visit of 14th century “vikings” to what is now Minnesota. Experts have mostly written it off as a hoax.
I think that the experts are probably right. My initial impression when I saw the runestone was that it doesn't look like a runestone; it looks like a page from a book. Historic runic inscriptions tend to be serpentine, curvilinear, not neatly arranged on the page in lines of equal length.
But I still think that the Kensington Runestone is genuine.
Let me explain.
We can be virtually certain that the Hwicce, the Anglo-Saxon tribe said (by some) to have given its name and lore to historic witchcraft, knew and used the runes.
They, of course, would have named them in the Mercian dialect of Old English, the language that they spoke every day. It is worth asking what those names might have become had the runes remained in continuous use into our day.
Certainly they would have modernized along with the rest of the language; many of the Anglo-Saxon rune-names have remained part of the living language and are entirely recognizable today. We would expect the names to have retained a certain amount of archaic vocabulary, and also to reflect a certain degree of semantic and phonetic “drift” as well: i.e. to include words whose meanings have changed over the centuries, and whose pronunciations no longer reflect those of Old English.
Since some of my family come from the old Hwiccan tribal territories, I figure I have as much right to the runes as anybody. My entirely personal decision to base this version on the Elder, rather than the Anglo-Saxon, furthorc may offend some rune purists. Oh, well. In my experience (I wrestle with it myself), purism is usually its own punishment.
I had mentioned in my last blog post that would be pulling one rune a week to learn more about them. My first rune was Perthro, Peorth. A rune of mystery and change. Which was the perfect rune to begin with, I was starting out learning and studying the mysteries of these runes. It was a beginning for me, a beginning full of mystery.
I’ve been spending a lot of alone time lately since my work has decided to send me to training an hour and a half away from home. I’m staying there through the week to save on the travel time and gas money. Lacking the responsibility of housework and kids, I felt myself starting to bounce off the walls a bit. The small apartment that I am staying in doesn’t have a TV, nor a radio. Sure, I can listen to Pandora on my phone, as well as search YouTube for songs and videos. Then there is my laptop. I can stream and search using the wifi that is connected to my work’s system. But, I needed to be careful as they review sites that people go on. That limits my searching and researching ability.
And so it is Yule. Unlike Christmas (and even unlike the Winter Solstice itself), Yule is not a single day, and its arrival is not determined by a single calendar date. It is a dark tide of energy that arises, generally on or around the Solstice, and Yule proper lasts for twelve nights, ending in Twelfth Night (which usually falls on or around Christmas Eve).
Its coming is not always predictable; one can plan for Yule and then feel the tide of energy arrive a day early, or a day late. In this modern era, most people are so harried by the commercialism of the Christmas season that they barely even notice when the tide comes in, if they notice at all. I own an online shop and my day job is in customer service, so I certainly am not immune to the hectic atmosphere that prevails. In the midst of the flurry of shopping and making, it can be difficult to feel the moment when the land whispers to you: “It is now.”
Our ancestors (in the Germanic countries) referred to Yule as Rauhnacht, the “rough nights” or “raw nights.” The Yuletide energy is not a gentle one; it is harsh, glaring, strident, echoing the energies of the Wild Hunt that rules this season. It actually meshes pretty well with the frantic shopping and feelings of desperation and often despair that surround Christmas. It can manifest in irritation and snappishness (tempers have been short in my household all week long), or in a surge of energy that one does not know how to channel. Many people respond to it by feeling the need to retreat from the world, to nest with books or movies—which is actually a wise choice. Traditionally, Yule was a time for gathering a home with families and friends—not just to celebrate the return of the sun, but because it was considered a dangerous time. The roads, the wildness, all of the in-between places were particularly dangerous; there was too much chance of encountering the Hunt, or even being taken by it. Only witches, seidhr folk, sorcerers, and other societal vagrants would choose to be out and about on these nights.
They speak to me at times, the ones behind the veil. I can hear them and sense them, but I cannot always see them. Other times I can see them, but cannot hear what they are saying. Its frustrating to have this happen, so see things that you cannot explain to people around you. It's even harder to know that there is something that they are trying to tell me but I cannot make sense of it.
At one time it was easier, before kids, before the business of life. Now the tide is changing and life is slowing a bit - at least for me in some ways - and they are coming back, talking....