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The Book of Runes

The following was written 7-12, in the garden of my Chiang Rai guest house.

3:45PM Ralph Blum’s The Book of Runes I found faded and worn, buried deep in a used book store in Chiang Mai. It is “a handbook for the use of an ancient Oracle: the Viking Runes”. It tells of their meaning and ways of their use. They are not so much a form of divination, of future telling or fairy-tale magic, but a challenge to look into yourself. By using the runes in search of an answer, you find your own interpretation and project what you already know, but perhaps do not wish to express, onto the stones. Their symbols, sounds, and arrangements seem almost arbitrary. Still, I must question it.

In The Spell of the Sensuous (which I will have to comment more on later), David Abram spends a great deal of ink on the impact of writing, particularly phonetic, with our experience of the world. He proposes that systems such as ours, where the sounds and the symbols themselves bear little to no resemblance to anything of the sensuous world, serves to cut us off from the that world — he assaults (with the alphabet, of course) this the same way Daniel Quinn assaults agriculture. Seeing the runes through these animist eyes, one wonder why they’re to be used as an oracle. Question their validity. Their symbols have no reference to the natural world, nor do their sounds. This unlike, for instance, the Hebrew aleph-beth, the first letter of which meant ox and looked like an ox. Indeed, Odin happened upon the runes one day while torturing his own body — attempting to transcend the sensuous, and thus the whole of the natural world. From my limited understanding of the runes and their origins, I must be skeptic of their use, even if it is unimportant. I would prefer a more natural gateway within.

Still, a good read. Recommended for those who are interested in a Western version of the I Ching or Tarot cards.