Lesson 5) Runic Spreads
The class arrives to see Professor Cattercorn standing off to the side of her desk with her back to the students. They don’t initially know what she is doing, but those in the seats closest can distinctly hear what sounds like fingerprints and disrespect for property. As the bell tolls to initiate the start of the lesson, she jumps and turns. She quickly places a cloth and gem on the table before addressing the gathered students.
Ah, students, hello! I apologize. Time got away from me, it seems. Today we will be covering our last topic on runes: spreads. As we discuss these spreads, you will likely notice many similarities between this lesson and Lesson Eight of last term. The tarot and runecasting share many similarities, and, as I mentioned in your extra credit assignment last week, people of all different cultures often have the same questions about life and the future, which contributes to similar divinatory practices across disciplines. There are certainly many differences and spreads specific to the Norse practice that I will be sure to highlight, however!
For the sake of understanding the spreads, I have taken the liberty of putting up a few posters on the walls. I will be pointing to them for reference when we discuss each spread. We will start with the simplest and move on in complexity each time, ending with the most difficult. Please know that this is not an exhaustive list of spreads, and many of these spreads have multiple names.
One Rune Pull
Let us start with a simple, but by no means unimportant, spread called the One Rune Pull. You will notice there is no poster in this room for that spread, and this is because all the information you need about how to perform the reading is in the name. Simply frame the question in your mind, and concentrate on pulling a rune that answers the question. You will have to interpret the rune as it relates to the question. If at first you don’t succeed and the answer you receive does not seem to be related to the question you asked, put the rune back and attempt to recenter yourself before drawing again, or perhaps leave the runes to sit until a later time. However, remember, sometimes the questions we are asking, are not really what we subconsciously desire to know. Consider the fact that you are not truly aware of the question you are asking.
Another use of the One Rune Pull is in the answering of yes or no questions. Should this be your goal, simply draw one rune as before. If the rune is standard or upright, the answer is yes. If the rune is merkstave, the answer is no. If you happen to pull one of the runes that is indistinguishable and has no merkstave form, simply return the rune to your bag or box and draw another. If you receive another rune for which merkstave is impossible, it may be that the question you are asking is not as simple as a yes or no answer.
The Three Norns
Also known as the Past, Present, Future, or the Three Rune Pull, this spread operates similar to the corresponding tarot spread. This spread is named after a trifecta of goddesses of fate, also called the Norns or, in Old Norse, nornir. These goddesses ruled the destinies not only of humans, but also of the gods. When consulting the runes with this spread, hold your question in your mind and focus on allowing your inner eye to work through you as you draw the runes.
Select three runes, placing them from left to right in front of you. The first rune is ruled over by the goddess (or Norn) of the past, Urd. This rune gives you insight into past actions, feelings, and facts that surround your question. The second rune, in the middle, represents the realm of the Norn, Skuld, who rules over what will be. This rune tells you the outcome you will experience if everything stays on its current path. Finally, the third rune signifies the realm of the Norn, Verdandi, or that which is now happening. This rune tells you the present situation and all those things that are currently influencing the outcome.
Five Rune Spread
In this spread, which is slightly reminiscent of the Celtic Cross Spread for the tarot, you must focus on your question while drawing five runes. Start at the bottom of the cross (the part closest to you), then continue to place the runes in a clockwise circle. Finally, put the fifth rune in the middle.
The first rune indicates the present situation and the basic influences causing said situation. The second rune indicates obstacles or challenges standing in your way. The third rune stands for any help, whether from yourself or others, that will be provided to you. This will help you reach your goal or find the conclusion you were looking for. The fourth rune can represent either concerns you have about the situation, and can potentially indicate feelings that are holding you back that you need to be wary of. Lastly, as you might have guessed, the fifth rune is the expected result should you stay on this path.
The Midgard Serpent
Here the difficulty increases slightly. Though don’t be alarmed simply because there are more runes! This does not make this spread beyond your reach. To give a little background, the Midgard Serpent, also called Jörmungandr, lives in the oceans of Midgard (the world of men) and is so large that it can encircle the whole word and bite its own tail. When it awakes and uncurls itself, this is one of the signs that indicates that Ragnarok, or the end of times, has begun.
This spread is not a circular one, though don’t be frightened; the end of the world is not near! Instead, as you can see, it plays on the sinuous form of the serpent. As before, form a question in your mind and direct your focus to the runes as you draw them, letting your Inner Eye and magical ability fill you. First, draw the runes one by one from your bag or box and place them from left to right. Do not worry overmuch if your proportions are not entirely identical -- that is, if one and two are higher than they are displayed here, or seven ends up much lower than depicted in the poster. Their relative positions to each other are just meant to help guide your eye through the reading and represent a part of your journey.
Rune one illustrates your long-past feelings surrounding this situation. Rune two serves as a continuation of rune one, and shows the struggles that you have encountered in the past because of those feelings. This rune is in an upward position relative to runes one and three because it symbolizes challenges that have been overcome while reminding you that the pattern could continue if not careful. Rune three indicates your current feelings on the question or situation.
Rune four is where we stop dealing with the past and start looking to the future. It represents the beginning of the journey towards the end result. Read this rune carefully to see what challenges lie ahead and be wary to see any connections between rune two and rune four. At the top point of the Midgard Serpent is rune five. This rune symbolizes your feelings when you know you have a chance of obtaining our goal. If the eventual outcome of the Midgard Serpent reading is surprising to you, you will most likely find the answer and reason why here. This is the deciding point. Rune six’s position is slightly misleading to tie into the fact that situation seems to have resolved itself, but more work is necessary. This rune represents the steps you will still need to take and actions that still need to be made, despite the fact that everything seems to be “all downhill from here.” Lastly, we have rune seven. This is the head of the serpent, and represents the answer to our question, the fulfillment of our goal, or the resolution of our situation. However, just like Jörmungandr itself, if you are not careful, it may be possible for the desired outcome to pass you by, so pay close attention to what the outcome is in relation to the other runes.
For example, if the fifth rune is Algiz which indicates protection, and the last rune is Sowilo, indicating victory, do not allow yourself to become complacent. If you get complacent and do not protect the progress you have made, your eventual outcome will not remain the same!
Also called Yggdrasil, or the tree of life (as it means when translated to English), this is by far the most complicated spread I have shown you between both the tarot and runecasting. While it may be slightly out of your reach at the moment, I would like to show you a “teaser” of sorts regarding what awaits you if you continue your studies to reach a more advanced level.
As before, it will benefit us to know some sort of background of Norse history, culture, and beliefs to understand more of what this rune layout can tell us. Yggdrasil was known as the tree of life due to the fact that it held all nine worlds in its branches, roots, and other extremities. Yes, nine worlds. The Norse considered this world that we see around us to be just one of many. In fact, this world, specifically, would have been called Midgard, the land of men. The others, in alphabetical order include Asgard, Hel(heim), Jotunheim, Ljosalfheim (also called Alfheim), Muspelheim, Niflheim, Svartalfheim, and Vanaheim. As one last note, if you are curious to learn more about the various worlds in general, or how they might impact your readings, you might be able to persuade Professor Morgan to let you sit in on a Fifth Year Mythology lecture… but if not, there is an excellent resource in the library.
First, before casting your runes, for this spread you will need a casting cloth. This is not a tool needed for most readings, and you will be able to excel as a seer without it, unless you want to do highly specific readings like this one. The cloth will be divided into nine parts, or sections, each one representing one of the worlds contained within Yggdrasil (though in other spreads, they can represent other things as well).
For this spread, you do not need to ask a question. Instead, simply let your Inner Eye fill you and cast the runes onto the cloth. This spread is meant for deep soul searching. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, based on the level of difficulty you wish to interject into the reading. Many die-hard fans of this spread prefer the absolutely random method of emptying the entire bag onto the cloth, and letting them fall where they may. However, some choose to draw runes one by one and place them on the cloth instead, some stopping when there is one rune in each area, and others only stopping when all the runes have been used. Regardless of which method you choose, you may not be able to finish an entire reading all in one sitting, due to the level of complexity. Because of this, many choose to map out or sketch the reading as it originally was so it can be revisited and your interpretation can pick up where it left off.
As you might have guessed, each portion of the cloth (and each world) holds a specific meaning. All runes which fall into that portion, or are placed there, are interpreted through that lens. It does not matter where you start your interpretation, though some people have personal preferences that develop over time. To start, Asgard indicates your highest self, and can give insight into your divinatory abilities or Inner Eye, as well as positive influences coming from the past. Next, Hel represents hidden desires and instincts, as well as negative influences coming from past experiences. The area of Jotunheim indicates things that are confusing you at the moment as well as forces that are acting as agents of change. Next, Ljosalfheim shows us issues to do with our family and mental influences. Muspelheim depicts sources of outside influence as well as people, activities, and situations that revitalize you. The area taken up by Niflheim is concerned with resistive forces and things that obstruct you. It can also represent the subconscious mind. Things to do with money and creative influences belong to Svartalfheim. Finally, Vanaheim deals with balancing forces, love, partnerships, and generally persons of the opposite sex.
With all of these moving pieces, you can see why this spread can be a bit of a doozy! I can assure you that the reward of self-knowledge is well worth the effort, even if you only get through part of it, though the rewards are exponentially greater if you are able to complete a reading and see the whole picture.
Rune Wrap Up
Sadly, that is all the time this year we have for the art of runecasting. As we progress through the years, you will find this to be a common theme. It would be impossible to help you achieve mastery in all of these divinatory approaches, while still giving you exposure to a wide enough variety of methods. My main goal is to help you find your niche, your passion, and your greatest strength instead of forcing you to study five years of clairvoyance specifically because it is my favorite! Because of this, the goal of this course and our studies of varying length are designed to give you enough knowledge to start you off on your journey if you find one of these practices interests you above all others. With that in mind, if you ever want more information on a particular topic, please do not hesitate to come to me and ask, or even just for a chat! My PAs are more than happy to as well, though their experience is naturally not as broad as mine.
After your midterm at the end of this class, we will leave Earth and begin our studies of the celestial realm! Yes, astrology. I hope you are looking forward to next week as much as I am. For the remainder of the year, we may be having a few extra sessions at night to aid our studies of these bodies, when applicable. You’re welcome for the excuse to be out of bed after hours, but don’t abuse the privilege! Until then, I will leave you to your midterm. Part one is on general theory, while the second part requires you to put it all together and do a full reading.