Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
February 24,   2011
God of the Runes


God of the Runes:

The Divine Shaper of Life


Frank Joseph



Rune Quest

Exploring Methods of Divination*

(An Excerpt from Chapter 1)

A rune is literally a mystery containing the secrets of the inner structure of existence. Every character that we call a rune is a storehouse of knowledge and meaning.

Nigel Pennick, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes


     In 1993, I was painting a cat. Actually, it was the plaster cast of an Egyptian statue representing Bastet, the cat goddess of pleasure. Painting casts of ancient artifacts was my hobby at the time, but this latest project was something special. It was intended as a gift of appreciation to a valued friend. Nancy Mostad, the acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, a Saint Paul, Minnesota, company, had been instrumental in the publication of my first book, Sacred Sites: A Guide to Sacred Centers and Mysterious Places in the United States, the previous year

     Aware of her devotion to both the goddess in particular and cats in general, I wanted to surprise her with the two-foot-tall Bastet statue. I spent some three weeks painstakingly completing the multicolored necklace, earring, stand, and other features. At last, I carefully installed its glass eyes, which gave the figure a startlingly lifelike appearance. Bastet was carefully loaded in the front seat of my car, and we drove from my home near Chicago to Lakeville, a Saint Paul suburb, where Nancy and I planned to have dinner with a mutual friend. Before the table was set, I placed in front of her the tall object, veiled by a cloth. Nancy had an active sense of the mysterious, and I enjoyed conducting minor melodramatic exercises such as this one. After completing some overblown narration about "the living deities of ancient Egypt," I whisked off the concealing cloth to reveal the proud, bejeweled, sacred white cat goddess in all her painted, plaster glory.

     Nancy was dumbstruck, perhaps for the first time in the life of this otherwise formidable young woman. I beamed with pride, sure that she had been profoundly moved by the wholly unexpected expression of gratitude for her efforts on my behalf. That, however, was only partly the cause of her speechless amazement. Her only response was to hand me a small, cloth bag. It was tied and covered with abstract patterns that were vaguely reminiscent of traditional folkish designs from northern Europe. I undid the knotted string. Inside the bag was a collection of pebbles, individually different, yet generally similar in size, and all apparently water-worn. Each one was emblazoned with a Norse rune, skillfully painted blood red.

     Unbeknownst to me, for the previous three years, whenever Nancy visited (in her case, "made a pilgrimage to" would be closer to the truth) a sacred site on what she referred to as the North Shore -- somewhere along the Minnesota coast of Lake Superior -- she carefully selected a particular kind of rock that she needed to make her rune stones. After she collected the proper number, she hand-painted all twenty-four, then sewed a bag for them. She had only recently completed her project, and she chose my Lakeville visit as an opportunity to present it. Unaware of our separate labors, we had worked simultaneously to create sacred objects for one another, and independently decided to give them to each other at the same time. Our meaningful coincidence added a mystical dimension to the exchange of statue and runes that substantially enhanced their personal significance. Also, Mardal-Freya, the Norse goddess of love and divine keeper of the sacred mysteries, is symbolized by a pair of white cats (see the front cover of this book). I could not have hoped for a more magical introduction to the occult practices of the Vikings, their ancestors, and their descendants.

    Some years before this most appropriate encounter, I was developing a growing fascination for divination and its kindred phenomenon: synchronicity. This latter twist of the paranormal was also the title of a book by Carl Gustav Jung, the man who coined the term. He wrote at length about an ancient Chinese prognosticating system, the I Ching, or Book of Changes, which was founded on the belief that humanity and the cosmos share the same life energies and are more closely interrelated than external appearances suggested. An individual human being and blade of grass are linked in an all-encompassing matrix that is more experienced than seen. The identical motions of an infant spiraling out of its mother's womb or a galaxy spiraling and swirling around a black hole in outer space respond to the common rhythms of nature. Determining the patterns of one must reveal those of another.

    To trace the outlines of that subtle link that connects the visible and invisible nexus between the microcosm of humankind and the macrocosm of the universe, the I Ching is composed of sixty-four symbolic hexagrams. Each hexagram comprises two three-line pa kua, or trigrams. The eight basic trigrams, each with its own name and meaning, are stacked one above the other in various combinations to form the sixty-four hexagrams. Line by line, the individual hexagrams are built up from the bottom by successively casting lots. Solid and broken lines signify the cosmic male and female principles, respectively. The interaction of this yin-yang duality, as the fundamental creative power, explains all coming changes that the individual diviner casts by lot.

    The I Ching is very old -- it is said to have been discovered by the legendary emperor Fu Hsi in the twenty-fourth century BC, when he noticed the hexagram pattern on the shell of a tortoise emerging from the Yellow River after a destructive flood. The earliest archaeological evidence of the I Ching were oracle bones from the Shang dynasty, circa 1500 BC. Three hundred years later, the I Ching's first known practitioner, Wen Wang, is believed to have invented the prognosticating hexagrams. Any divination method able to operate in continuous use for the past three or four millennia has certainly stood the test of time for millions of modern-day practitioners.

     Though obviously part of a sophisticated system, the I Ching was nevertheless based on superstition, I had always assumed. I was all the more surprised, then, when I read of Jung's high regard for classic Chinese divination. The most important pioneer of modern psychology in the twentieth century used his long-term investigation of Fu Hsi's hexagrams as the basis for Synchronicity, because, the Swiss scholar insisted, they worked. He reported that in randomly throwing the coins (originally, dry yarrow stalks), they often fell into logical patterns that corresponded to current circumstances or psychological conditions, and they accurately foretold coming events in the life of an individual diviner. Jung's emphasis, of course, was on a subconscious relationship between coincidental arrangements of inanimate objects (the I Ching coins) and their perceived meaning to the person casting the hexagrams. Such is the stuff of synchronicity.


*This excerpt reprinted by permission of the publisher. Copyright C 2010 Frank Church All Rights Reserved

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