Tag Archives: divination

memory triggers for learning the runes


Learning the names, meanings, and other association of the elder futhark runes can be a very daunting task. The ability to memorize things is definitely not one of my strong points. That’s probably why I procrastinated so long on learning the runes. And actually main motivator in doing so was to be able to give the omen at rituals without having to fumble with a “cheat sheet” of rune meanings. Casting the omen at ritual was one of those things I couldn’t really get out of; I’m the organizer of our small ADF Protogrove, and any ritual parts that no one wanted to take, I ended up doing. I didn’t have much faith that I would be able to memorize all the symbols, names and basic meanings, but I figured I’d better try. Turns out, I was much more successful than I thought I would be.

I started by associating the shape of each rune with it’s meaning. Here are some associations I used for initial memorization of a very basic meaning and other information for each rune:

fehu – means cattle and cattle equates to moveable wealth. Two lines jutting out from the vertical line remind me of cow horns. This rune looks like an F, and represents the letter F.

uruz – means auroch, a wild European ox that is now extinct. It represents primal power. I thought that the shape of this rune looked like what I imagined the profile of a ox’s body would look like; broad in the shoulders but tapering down at the hind quarters. It’s also an upside down U, and this rune represents the letter U.

thurisaz – means thorn or thurs (giant). It represents danger or a warning. It looks like a thorn and represents the sound “th”.

ansuz – means ás (a god), in particular; Odin. It represents communication, which is Odin’s domain. This rune almost looks like the letter A (if you were to extend some of the lines), and it represents the letter A. I think “A for answers”, to remember its meaning.

raido – means riding and this rune has to do with travel. It looks like an R, and represents the letter R. R for riding.

kenaz – means torch. It represents illumination and knowledge. Imagine a flashlight on the left of it, and it looks like a drawn image of light shining forth. It looks like the letter C, and represents C or K.

gebo – means gift. This rune has connotations of hospitality and relationship. The X reminds me of the criss-cross over the top of a round loaf of bread, or ribbons on a present. Gebo and gift both start with G, the letter this rune represents.

wunjo – means joy. It looks like a banner on a stick, something someone might wave in a joyous parade, or a balloon on the end of a string. The first part of it’s name reminds me of the word “win” (though it’s not pronounced like it). Both words start with W, and this rune represents that letter.

Thus ends the first aett (eight). I wanted to remember the sequence of the runes, so that I could recite them to myself as a memorization practice. So to remember this first aett, I thought;

“The futhark is a gift of joy.”

The first seven runes spell out the name given to the runes, “futhark”. Gift and joy are the meanings of the last two runes in the sequence.

hagalaz – means hail or hailstone. It is taken to mean a big change or crisis, much like the destruction of a hailstorm. It could be thought to resemble hail ricocheting between two walls. It’s often regarded as Hella’s rune. It looks like an H and represents the letter H.

nauthiz – means need. It looks like the way someone would rub two sticks together to make a need-fire, or the whittling sign an old granny would make with her fingers as she says “tsk tsk, naughty naughty”. This rune represents the letter N and has needful or negative connotations.

isa – means ice. It represents stasis, the way everything is still and immobilized in the winter when all is frozen. It looks like an icicle. It looks like the letter I and represents the letter I.

jera – means year (the J is pronounced like Y) and may represent a year’s work or harvest; an earned reward. It looks like two cupped hands coming together to do work. This rune represents the letters J and Y.

eihwaz – means yew, the world tree. It represents initiation and mysteries of life and death. It could be seen as a sparse tree, with one branch at the top, and one root at the bottom. This rune represents the sound “ei”, pronounced “eye”, so I think of Odin the one-eyed and his sacrifice on the world tree.

perthro – means dice cup. This has been interpreted to mean gambling or divination, which are things you might do with a dice cup. Casting lots have to do with fate (destiny) and mystery. The shape of this rune is like an overturned cup or pouch. The name has the sound “throw” in it, and you throw dice.

algiz – means elk sedge. It is a protective rune, shaped like the plant it’s named for. It’s shape also reminds me of a pitchfork or trident, which are protective implements. It represents the letter Z.

sowilo –  means sun. It represents energy and success. It looks like a sunray or the letter S.

So now we’ve come to the end of the second aett. The phrase I used to remember this rune sequence was:

“Hella needs an ice harvest. I was destined to protect the sun.”

The first sentence is made up of meanings and associations of the first four runes of this aett. In the second sentence, “I was” is one possible pronunciation of eihwaz. The rest of the sentence goes along with associations of the last three runes in the aett.

tiwaz – is named for the god Tyr, god of justice. It represents honor and fairness. This symbol points up toward the sky, and Tyr was a sky god. I also think of it as a ‘spear of justice’.

berkano – means birch goddess. It is a rune of blessing and fertility. It looks like a B, and represents the letter B. B for blessing. It also looks like a pregnant woman in profile.

ehwaz – means horse. It represents transportation, teamwork, trust and harmony. To remember the meaning of this one, I considered that it looks a bit like a horse, and the part that dips down in the middle could be a saddle. If this rune is turned on its side, it resembles an E, which is the letter it represents.

mannaz – means mankind. It is a rune of awareness and social order. This one looks like two stick figures embracing in a side hug. The letter is represents is M.

laguz – means water. People have associated this one with things already having to do with water in esoterica; emotions, dreams, mystery, the subconscious. The rune looks like an ocean wave or a ship’s sail. The name of the rune makes me think of the word lagoon. It kind of looks like an upside down L, and represents that letter.

ingwaz – means the god Ing (Frey), or seed. This rune contains the meanings and attributes of Lord Ing; fertility, agriculture, growth. There are two ways this rune is represented. One is an X stacked on another X, which looks like a plant springing up. The other is the shape the two Xs make in the middle- a diamond shape which could represent a seed. The sound this rune represents is “ng” as in Spring.

dagaz – means day. It is generally interpreted as awareness or awakening. It kind of looks like daybreak through a window or between two walls. The letter it represents is D.

othala – means home. It generally means an inheritance or belonging. Looking at the rune, you’ll notice two other runes in it: gebo (gift), and Ingwaz (Frey). So othala is a gift of Frey. The rune itself looks a bit like a house. The letter it represents is O.

So now we’ve come to the end of the last aett. This is what I used to remember the sequence:

“Tyr blesses horses and men, sail-ing all day to home.”

So those are the memory tricks I used to get started. Once I got those basic connections, I knew I would be able learn more and retain it. Soon I was able to practice retaining this knowledge by writing down the runes on a scrap of paper, in the right order, reciting their names and recalling their bare-bones meanings as I went along. Knowing this much encouraged me to continue studying the runes in depth. I hope some of these memory triggers help others get started as well.

memory triggers for learning the runes



Finding Community at Ozark Research Institute


For years, a couple of my Metaphysically-minded friends have been telling me about a place they like called the Ozark Research Institute. At first I wasn’t interested because it sounded like the same new age Christianity I sampled at Unity and I was always looking for something more Pagan and polytheistic. But recently I’ve been open to attending more social functions, and looking for more community to supplement my UU and Druid gatherings. ORI’s monthly potluck was brought to my attention in time for me to go, and so I finally went. I did see a lot of Unity members there, as well as members of Centers for Spiritual Living, both “New Thought” (read New Age) Christian denominations I have visited in the past. And yes, there were a lot of angel images everywhere. But…I also saw a lot of people I’ve known in the local Pagan community as well. There were a lot more people there than I thought there would be. Everyone was so friendly and seemed to know each other so well. I struck up easy conversations. The mood was homey and earthy and loving. It’s strange to say, but I felt like I had walked into some kind of haven; a community made just for me.

I stayed after the potluck for the workshop that followed; “Dowsing with your Angels”. This wasn’t just a talk. Pendulums were passed around for everyone to practice with, but beforehand everyone there was asked to introduce themselves. There were more people here than at the UU fellowship I had attended that morning, and yet the facilitators took the time for everyone to introduce themselves, taking as long as they liked- and the introductions were often quite lively! When someone didn’t say much about themselves, one of the facilitators would chime in and tell more about each person. I have never experienced such a community as this!

When the workshop began, I kind of expected everything to be framed in Christian terms, but the facilitator took the time to add phrases like “or whatever higher power you call to” when mentioning god, and “or spirit guide” when mentioning angels. (In any case, when I hear the word “angel”, I have started to do this thing where I mentally translate it to Dísir– ancestral protective female spirits.) The facilitator had a very down to earth and inclusive way about her and I immediately felt at home and a part of the group.

So we dowsed a lot. We dowsed to learn more about our angels or spirit guides. We broke down into smaller groups to discuss our findings and dowse for other things. Occasionally someone would ask a question or ask for everyone to dowse on a certain subject to see how many people got a “yes” and how many a “no”. I asked someone in my little group “what other divination methods do you use” and got some answers I had never thought of. The question went around the circle with very interesting answers in response. A couple of these people (who aren’t even Pagan, that I’m aware of) said that they receive messages from Nature Spirits! One older gentleman said he used to dowse for water so people could dig wells- and the dowsing rod he brought out when water witching was just for show. He didn’t even use it to find the water- he felt vibrations in his body when he walked over the best spot for digging a well and didn’t need the tool at all!

The facilitator shared with us lots of little tidbits of wisdom. One of these is that the state of your car and house reflects the state of your consciousness. Once she had her car stolen. When she got it back, she noticed that the energy of the car had changed- but in a way that was positive for her. She had needed the youthful daring energy at that time in her life. Another thing she shared with us is that your angels/spirit guides “don’t want to twiddle their thumbs in heaven”. The idea is that the spirits attached to us want to help us. It gives them purpose, and so we should feel free to commune with them and ask for help and guidance as much as we please.

I learned a lot; from the facilitator and the participants. It appears that this group is a meditation and healing circle with a bit of magic school thrown in! All-in all, a great place for community. I look forward to many happy returns and widening my circle of community.

metaphysical community

Divination for Kids


Before beginning divination lessons, you can be fostering your child’s intuition by paying heed to their “hunches” or “gut feelings” when they arise, and creating a safe environment for your child to express such feelings of knowing. There are also games you can use to build intuition, one of them being Zener ESP cards like the Royal Magic deck. You could also have your child start a dream journal.

The next step in the process could be learning about symbolism and interpreting dreams. It is relatively easy to find Pagan correspondence charts for interpreting symbols. You could help your child make her/his own divination correspondence chart with poster board, markers, and magazine pictures. Often symbol interpretation is an individual thing, especially when signs and visions are meant for one person. A person’s symbol associations may change throughout one’s lifetime. The initial thoughts and feelings that arise when making interpretations are usually the truest, so you can see why trusting your intuition is so important. But there is a greater importance for honing a child’s intuition than just for learning divination- a child who trusts her/his own thoughts and feelings have a greater sense of self worth, self love, and connectedness.

Nature Gazing
There is a category of divination that consists of mostly gazing at something and interpreting the symbols that arise. Scrying in a crystal ball or bowl of water are the best known of these. This can also be done with a natural body of water such as a pond. The same principle is used for fire gazing (with adult supervision only, of course), and cloud gazing. Cloud gazing is my favorite introduction to divination for children. You can even lie under a tree and look up at the patterns in the leaves and branches and find signs. Anything in nature can be used for “gazing” and some kind of meaning drawn from it. This kind of divination is open ended; the interpretation is comes to you completely from your intuition. Ever have that feeling that you want to zone-out and stare into space? Don’t reach for the TV remote, do some nature gazing divination instead, and teach your child to do the same.

Simple “Yes or No” Answers
Whereas scrying/gazing leads to very open ended results, there are a number of simple divination methods to use when a straight-forward answer is desired. One simple method that can be used in nature is “Water Rings”; ask a question and throw a pebble into a pond. An odd number of ripples means yes, an even number is no.

  • Serpent Stones make a good first divination tool, and all that is needed is three colored stones and a pouch to put it in.
  • A pendulum is a very good tool too start with and can be homemade with found objects.

More Advanced Methods
After mastering the simpler divination methods mentioned above, your child may want to move on to something more complex…

  • Runes: Kids Runes by Jordsvin is an excellent website for teaching kids the meanings of the runes, for later use in divination and magic. A first rune set can be made with salt dough or painted on rocks.
  • Tarot (& more): one of my daughters recieved the Wise Gal Tarot book when she was about ten, and really loved it. It serves as a beginners guide book to eight kinds of divination methods; tarot, palmistry, dowsing, tasseography, Chinese zodiac, pyromancy, bibliomancy, and ceromancy. It has a simple, yet colorful tear-out tarot card set in the back. Speaking of tarot, there are a number of decks made especially for kids. The Aeclectic Tarot website has reviews of tarot cards and decks suitable for use by children or young adults. It’s fine to play games with the cards to become familiar with their feel in one’s hands, learn the meanings, and use for spiritual growth in a playful way.  Tarot Games by Cait Johnson has a number of fun and meaningful ideas geared mainly toward goddess-centered tradition.

Divination for Kids - Ozark Pagan Mamma



I first learned of these in Aleric Albertson’s book “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer” in which he speculates wyrdstones (also known as “Goddess Runes”) to be a 20th century creation based on Wiccan philosophy, but deserving of mention as a very good method of divination by sortilege. Regardless of their origins, I too have found wyrdstones to be a wonderful form of divination, easy to read, and down to earth. These qualities also make them a great divination tool for kids who are ready for the next step beyond the pendulum and serpent stones. There are only fourteen stone meanings to memorize (a blank stone is added to represent the querent), and so may be easier to learn than traditional runes (they were for me, anyway). Also, the symbols used in wyrdstones more readily bring to mind the stone’s meaning. This is probably due to their modern origin.

To make your own set of wyrdstones:
Paint the symbols on pebbles or etch onto little mounds of salt dough, leaving one blank for the querent stone. Keep them handy in a drawstring pouch. As with any divination tool, hallow and bless them in your own way.

To use:
Wyrdstones are cast all at once; toss them out onto the ground or a table. Turn over any stones that are face down. Stones that fell the closest to the querent stone have the greatest influence on the querent. Look for patterns and shapes in the way the stones landed, each one influencing the other, and use your intuition to form a reading.

Below I have listed basic meanings of the wyrdstones, along with visual associations (some commonly known, and some just my memorizing ideas) that may help with learning the meanings. You’ll notice that some of the wyrdstones use traditional rune symbols, but may not have the same meanings. See Aleric Altertson’s fore mentioned book for further explanation of wyrdstones and for a thorough discussion of Anglo-Saxon runes.

Meanings of the stones:

wyrdstones part 1wyrdstones part2


serpent’s stone divination


The elegantly simple method of divination known as serpent’s stones (or awen stones) is probably not ancient, but is destined to be a classic. It is ideal as an early divination method to teach children, and as an easy method of augury for solitary or group ritual.

All that is needed are three stones and a pouch to keep them in. For the stones, select:

  • one white/light colored stone to represent all things positive and the answer “yes”
  • one red colored stone to represent yourself
  • and one black/dark colored stone to represent anything “crossing” you and the answer “no”.

To use serpent’s stones for divination, simply roll them around in your hand, with your question in mind, until it feels right to toss them out onto the ground or other surface. The stone landing closest to the red stone indicates your answer. If they are an equal distance from the red stone, then the answer is unclear or unknown, or you should try again later.

The most obvious value of the serpent’s stones is its usefulness in getting a yes or no answer. However, more detailed readings are possible through observing how the stones landed, how they interacted in the air, etc. Read Druid Divination: The Serpent’s Stone by Mark Bailey for a thorough explanation and use of the serpent’s stones, and some insights on Druidic divination methods. As with any divination tool, I recommend preparing divination tools for use by cleansing, hallowing, etc.

Three Stones
“Three stones are drawn into the light,
…one at a time as is their right
 Red for the question that burns in your mind
…setting the balance we all hope to find
 Light for the forces that help you along
…people and places that won’t do you wrong
Dark for the forces that hinder your path
…people and places inspire your wrath
Framing the question while feeling the stones
…asking for Awen from deep in your bones
Three stones are thrown into the light
…the answers gleaming in your Second Sight.”
–Mark Bailey


pendulum dowsing and divination


A pendulum can be made from a crystal, ring, pendant, key, or other object of suitable weight (at least three ounces)- attached to a chain or threaded on a string. My first exposure to pendulum use was at a family baby shower; the use of my aunt’s wedding ring to determine the sex of her unborn baby. (They didn’t have ultrasounds back then.) The ring was tied to a length of string and my cousin held it over my aunt’s belly. A back and forth swinging motion was supposed to indicate a boy, and a circular swinging motion was supposed to indicate a girl. I suspect this particular custom wasn’t just an Ozarks phenomena, but a wide-spread folk tradition. In general, the use of pendulums for dowsing and divination is very ancient.

The words dowsing and divination are often used interchangeably, but they do have different meanings. Dowsing is finding the unknown (something in the present or past), and divination is determining the future. Pendulums are more often used for dowsing than for divination.
(The term dowsing is most often used to refer to what we in the South call “water witching”; using a y-shaped stick to find underground water, to know where to dig a well. But water dowsing is not what I’m talking about here.)

preparing your pendulum:

Making your own pendulum from an object you especially resonate with can be as simple as tying the object to a string. I recommend a length of string or chain measured about nine inches. You may want to tie something to the other end of the string, like a split ring or bead, though you probably won’t often be holding the pendulum from this. After you’ve made your pendulum, cleanse it of previous energies and such (see my article “preparing divination tools for use“). I’ve found that most people believe that the answers you receive from a pendulum comes from your subconscious, since movements effecting it would be from your own body; tiny muscle spasms and other natural movements. However, there could be other factors at work; gods and spirits working through your subconscious, or as an invisible presence in the room, influencing movements of the pendulum in unseen ways. If you are concerned about where the answers come from, you could make a statement/prayer each time you are about to use the pendulum, to whom you are addressing for the answers (if not your own subconscious). You may even wish to do a short fire hallowing each time, to make sure no baneful spirits are influencing your readings.


In one approach you first determine which direction (left-right / up-down or clockwise / counterclockwise) will indicate “yes” and which “no” before proceeding to ask the pendulum specific questions. This is done by saying “Please show me what my yes response is.” while holding the chain or string of your pendulum, then doing the same for no.

The pendulum may also be used over a board or cloth with “yes” and “no” written on it and perhaps other words written in a circle, like “unknown”, “maybe”, “ask again later”, and perhaps even letters and numbers. You can have fun making something like this, with your own drawing skills or with magazine/clip-art collage, and decoupage onto a small board.
You could also draw a map of your home to use with your pendulum to help find a lost object (or walk around the house holding the pendulum and have it lead you to the lost object directly).

using the pendulum:

For best results, you should be in a state of relaxed alertness. Sit quietly for a few moments and ground and center (perhaps doing a Two Powers meditation).

Take your pendulum and hold the string or chain between your thumb and first finger, about three inches from the weight at the end. You can loop the string around your finger a couple of times if you want. Most folks rest their elbow on a table while dowsing. Let the pendulum swing about an inch above the table.

You may want to start by asking questions you know the answers to, to make sure its working for you. Phrase the question in a very specific, literal way, avoiding negative words. Some like to word their questions with this particular phrasing; “All things considered, is it optimal to ______.” or “is it accurate that ______”. You may not even have to state the question aloud, but only think of it clearly in your mind.

Pendulum dowsing and divination is an easy and enjoyable method and is an ideal first divination method to teach to kids.

pendulum dowsing

preparing divination tools for use


When starting work with a new divination tool, it’s a good idea to take the time to prepare it for use. Even if you’re not a polytheist, you’ll want to cleanse and protect your divination tool from negative influences or energies –and if you are a polytheist, it simply means you believe those negative influences are malevolent or disruptive spirits (“Outsiders” we call them in Druidism). These steps can be used to prepare magical or spiritual tools as well…

The first step in this process is to physically cleanse the tool. For an item that’s water-proof (like a pendulum or a set of divination stones or sticks), you can simply hold the item under running water. For other things (like tarot cards, or anything paper-based), you can bury the item in salt, or pass through juniper smoke or sage smoke. If you use crystals, you can place your tool under a quartz or citrine crystal for a period of time that feels right. Another option is to bathe the item in sunlight. Whatever process you decide on, you may want to repeat it every now and then; when you feel that your readings have been off, of if you’ve moved to a new residence, or if the item was lost or handled a lot by someone else, or not used in a long time.

The next step would be to hallow the item, that is, to imbue it with a special blessing that protects it. The way I do this, is to pass it over a fire and ask Thunor to hallow it, in much the same way as I would use the Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm to ward my home. For example, I would pass a pendulum tool over a candle flame three times while chanting: “Thunor hallow, Thunor hallow, Thunor hallow this pendulum.”

To bless a divination tool, have a short ceremony to pay respects to the entity, or entities, in your belief system who are in charge of divination. I would offer and libate to Woden and ask him to grant me wisdom and clear sight and to bless my divination tool with truth.

Many believe that wrapping a tarot deck in a white cloth while not being used gives it a barrier of protection from negative energies/spirits. You can use this method for other divination tools as well. Plain cotton “flour sack” white towels are great for this and can be found in the kitchen-wares section of dollar stores and department stores. Cut them down to a workable size and hem up the cut edges. You could leave the cloth big too, to double as a cloth on which to lay out your readings. Or you could just make the drawstring pouch you carry the tool in be made of white cloth.

making it your own
You’ll want to get really familiar with your divination tool and imbue it with your energy. If it’s not too bulky, wear it for a while, like in a drawstring pouch around your neck or waist. Sleep with it under your pillow. If its cards, shuffle them a lot. Handle and look at each card or item in the set everyday until you know it like the back of your hand.