Tag Archives: Pagan Parenting

memory triggers for learning the runes

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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

 

 

Solstice Sun Shirt

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All you need to make this festive sunny attire is a sun-colored shirt (perhaps one you’ve tie-dyed in light sunny colors), contact paper, scissors, an iron, a piece of cardboard the width of your shirt, and fabric crayons.

Prewash the t-shirt and iron out any wrinkles, if necessary. Insert the cardboard inside the shirt to give you a hard surface to work on. See my tutorial for making tissue paper sun faces, and use that method to cut out a design with the contact paper, keeping the design simple.

Next comes the tricky part– peel off the back of the contact paper and lay your resulting sticky stencil on the front of the shirt. Use your fabric crayons to color in the features of the sun face and other details, and along the edges, fading as you go out from your design. For best results, use colors that contrast the colors of your shirt, so the design will show up. When finished coloring, peel off the stencil. Follow the directions that came with your fabric crayons for setting your design permanently into the fabric.

Solstice Sun Shirt

For more Summer Solstice fun, see Kids’ Activities for Midsummer / Summer Solstice.

greenman doll

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This greenman doll is bendable! Your kids will love hanging one from a tree branch or from an Ôstara basket. Here’s how I made it:

greenman doll template

Print out the template above. (If you copy and paste onto a word document, it should fill up half the page in landscape mode. If it doesn’t, shrink or expand to get the right size.) This doll is actually sewn before it is cut out, so you’ll need to trace the pattern onto the wrong side of your fabric. I used an iron-on transfer pencil and traced over the outline, then ironed it onto back of the fabric. With the right sides of two pieces of fabric facing each other and pinned in place on the corners, sew (a very fine stitch) on the lines all the way around. Now cut closely around the outside of the lines you’ve sewn. To turn the doll right side out, cut a small slit in the middle of the doll’s chest. Use a skewer get the skinny parts all the way pushed out. (Sorry I don’t have pictures for these first few steps… this doll has actually been in my basket of unfinished projects for years- from when I still had a working sewing machine.)

becoming a greenman

When you’ve got it all turned out, take a couple of chenille stems and twist one in the middle to the size of the doll’s head, and twist the ends down to form loops for the hands. Tape sharp ends down. The other chenille stem is for the legs. Bend it in half and twist loops at the ends for the feet. Tape sharp ends down. Insert chenille stems into the doll casing through the slit cut in the chest. When they are in place, fill the doll with stuffing, putting in little bits at a time and pushing into place with a skewer. When the stuffing is even all over, sew the slit in the chest closed by hand.

greenman doll comes to life

Glue a silk leaf onto the doll’s chest wound. (Re-purpose the leaves from old silk flower arrangements found at a thrift store.) I hot glued three onto this one’s chest at different angles. For the face, I folded a leaf in half and cut leaf and horn shapes around the edges. I’ve made some before using several very small leaves arranged around the face. Paint on or draw on features with a marker and you’re done!

greenman doll - Ozark Pagan Mamma

KIDS’ ACTIVITIES FOR IMBOLC

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EXPLANATION & INFORMATION

STORIES

  • “The Cailleach of the Snows” from the book “Celtic Memories” by Caitlin Matthews (for ages 8 and up).

CRAFTS

  • Make candles with beeswax sheets.
  • Make candle holders with salt dough.

ACTIVITIES

  • Look for early signs of Spring. What is the first flower to make its way through the thawing soil? What kinds of birds and other wildlife do you see? This is a good time to start a nature journal.
  • Do a Spring cleaning of your room, as well as helping the grown-ups clean the rest of the house.
  • With a grown-up’s help, make juniper room spray with a few drops of juniper oil (or a sprig of juniper) in a small spray bottle of distilled water. Use this as a spiritual cleanse on Pagan holidays.
  • Decorate a nature table with an Imbolc nature scene; put down a white cloth for snow, some green cloth for the greening land, a doll dressed like the goddess Brigit, and some of her animals (swan, cow, sheep, hibernating animals…).
  • Help grown-ups with preparing special Imbolc foods.

Kids' Activities for Imbolc

The 12th Night of Yule

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The twelfth night of Yule is sacred to all of the Gods and Goddesses especially the Æsir & Dísir. It’s time to gather together and have a feast of pork or ham, and break out the mead or make wassail.

It’s a time of beginnings and endings. The kids read “The Creation of the World” from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths and receive marzipan pigs for luck in the new year.

Frey Odin and Thor

For those who are so inclined, it is a time for making oaths, swearing with one’s hand over a boar’s head, ceremonial hammer, or oath ring. This tradition is far from mandatory, and I mostly steer clear of making oaths myself. It is better to make no oaths, rather than ones you may not be able to keep. I find it better to simply reflect on the past year and think of what I might do in the next, and keep my own counsel.

Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes.
-Hávamál

This is the last night of burning candles on you Yule log. If you are lucky enough to have a traditional large Yule log in a wood burning fireplace, save a coal or small portion of this year’s log to light next year’s Yule log. If using candle, you can have a similar tradition of saving a short length of candle from this year to light the next.

We have a good feast, praise all the gods, and ring in the new year at midnight. The chiming of the bells clears away any negative and stagnant energies, making way for the new.

Oath Night

The 11th Night of Yule

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The eleventh night of Yule is sacred to all the Goddesses and and the Valkyrie.

Favorite Valkyrie/goddess crafts are gathered or made to adorn the altar. If you’re not in the mood for crafts, bird ornaments and angel figurines can be used to represent the goddesses and Valkyrie, with beautiful results.

Earth Mother

Our soundtrack for the night is Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen for it’s elegance and timelessness. For our ritual meal I like to include Himmel und Erde (heaven and earth), a German dish consisting of apples (from the heavens) and potatoes (from the earth).

Our simple dinner blót includes a Valkyrie invocation and a litany of goddess hails, along with praises of their blessings.

11th Night of Yule

The 10th Night of Yule

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The tenth night of Yule is sacred to Sunna and the Ancestors. By now, if you have done rituals for every night, you have celebrated fully indeed! If so, you could give yourself a break and just do a low-key “no-ritual” plan that follows the basic theme of the night, with altar decorating and a special meal. If however, you are up for a more elaborate ritual, check out the Sunna Ritual for Yule over on the Northern Tradition Paganism website.

“The sun, the sister
of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast
over heaven’s rim;
No knowledge she had
where her home should be,
The moon knew not
what might was his,
The stars knew not
where their stations were.”
– The Poetic Edda, Völuspá.

Making paper sun crafts or sun plaque and sun candles are a pleasant way to entertain the kids on this evening. Also, get out the salt dough skulls or Ancestor yarn dolls made at Samhain to place upon the altar.

Sunna and the Ancestors

One of my favorite Yule songs, which is very appropriate for tonight’s theme, is Sun Queen by Silver on the Tree. The song Morning Glory, by the same artist is beautiful and follows the sun goddess theme as well. Might as well listen to the entire Celtic-themed Morning Glory album; there are certainly enough commonalities between the Celtic and Norse. Many of the songs have a lovely repetitive mantra quality.

And let us not forget the Ancestors! Raise a glass to them, offer them remembrances and prayers, sweets of the season, and put a few bright candles or holiday lights on the family Ancestor altar.

May Sunna light our path, and the Ancestors watch over us in the year ahead.

10th night of Yule