This month, I wanted to interview someone who could give us a taste of the study of runes. Runes are an ancient form of divination, but are not as well known as other more common forms of divination, such as tarot and astrology.
Kari Tauring has been teaching and living the runes for several decades. She is an important resource in our holistic community — not only for her knowledge of runes, but also for her work with Volva Stav, a unique form of spiritual training that incorporates the indigenous teachings of the Norse traditions.
Welcome, Kari! I love how you mention in your book, The Runes – A Human Journey, that you can find rune patterns in nature, on sidewalks, etc. Are there any tips you can give us for how to learn to do this?
Kari Tauring: Take the ice rune, for instance. You can’t get to know it only by thinking about it or by recognizing its shape, the vertical line. You have to walk on it, walk over ice. Everyone from Minnesota understands this! When you walk on ice, you walk slowly. You secure your footing. It may be unconscious, but it’s physically necessary. You probably breathe differently while crossing ice. If you notice these things, you will understand that your spine is the ice rune itself. That is the process of reading the runes in nature. This is a “Volva Stav” way of living in the runes.
Of course, the most important thing in recognizing the runes in nature or anywhere else is to memorize their shapes, names and meanings. Treat each rune like a new friend. Memorize how it looks. Memorize its name and one interesting fact about it. The more you recognize it, the more you will meet with it in your daily life. I recommend picking one rune a day to “attend” to. That way you can monitor the frequency of seeing that rune or being confronted with the concepts it represents. When you see it, greet it by name and ask it what’s up. That’s how you develop a relationship with runes.
There are different name spellings, pronunciations and variations on meaning for the runes in Icelandic, Norwegian, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon. Any time you are dealing with a culturally specific system, language is an issue. Be fearless and don’t judge yourself when trying out the language — be playful and honoring.
When I began to study runes in the late 1980s, I made a big chart of the runes to hang on my wall. Each morning and evening, I stretched in front of the chart, playing with the sounds and rhythms of their names in the different languages and on the stretching breath. I began using runes in musical composition, choosing from their names based on the meter of my poetic expression. By the time I wrote the rune book in 2007, I was slipping in and out of different pronunciations for different purposes.
When I asked my editor which pronunciations I should use he said, “Just use the ones you say.” As a result, the choices in my book are an organic mixture of the languages. I will be making an update for my book as iPhone application this year, adding mp3s of my chanting each rune with its various names and rhythms. This will really help others, I think.
At one point, you mentioned that you live according to the Earth-based 13 Moon calendar. How does this lifestyle differ from what we experience in the Roman 12 month calendar system?
KT: The first thing it did for me was align my body’s cycles with the cycles of the moon, creating hyper awareness of my body rhythms. First was the obvious but startling synchronization of menses to the moon. I began to mark daily and weekly biorhythms. I soon could track my body rhythms on the seasonal cycle. This hyper awareness made it hard to ignore the signals my body was sending of its cyclical needs.
It seems our society is based on this disconnect. Sitting at a desk for extended periods of time, for example, became intolerable. Waking to an alarm rather than on a natural sleep cycle was difficult. Our calendar/clock system made meeting cyclical food and water needs difficult, as well.
While living according to the moon cycles, fitting into the seven-day week, 9-5 productivity schedule that the rest of your society operates on can be difficult. I needed more flexible work and community relationships. It can be isolating.
Your recent book is called Volva Stav Manual, named after the ceremonial wise woman of the Old Norse tradition. Can you please explain what the Volva Stav program is? How does one begin to study such a system?
KT: Volva is the title for a staff-carrying woman in Norse Tradition. “Carrying the staff” means that this woman is dedicated to aligning her own spine with the trunk of the world tree. Aligning our many bodies with the many dimensional worlds of the cosmic tree creates a Seidr State, a state of transcendence and awareness. The volva follows the 13 moons and seasonal cycle as she aligns her bodies.
Volvas are Vandrekonas (wandering women) traveling both physically in the world and inter-dimensionally through the nine worlds of the tree. The use of the staff to ground and center as well as propel her through the worlds is called Gandreid (wand riding). If she is a Spakona (prophet), she works with the Norns (ancient female beings) using sound vibration to read individual Oorlog (something like karma) and the portion of the Web of Wyrd it is connected to (energetic grid work of Earth and community relationships). She can then see the potential geometry of the path a person or community is on, reading past, present and potential.
If she is a Gamledokter (ancient healer) she will rely on her perceptions to shift or correct the strands of energy with the help of her spirit guides, the client’s ancestor spirits and possibly the spirits of the house or land. She may employ herbs and relationships in the natural world (Teinseid) to create remedies for illness. She will use Galdr (rune song) to create vibrational pathways for healing energy. If the client needs soul retrieval, the volva may gandreid to retrieve the broken pieces.
Volva Stav is a complete system for training to do these things. It is my own personal method developed over two decades of training in music, runes, martial arts, journey, dream work and the healing arts. I initially wrote it to go along with my four-hour intensive course, but it is also helpful on its own.
I think someone with a master level of proficiency in other spiritual arts such as tai chi, energy work or yoga would be able to adapt to the exercises of Volva Stav. But the visualizations and culturally specific alignments are going to take some study. Start reading Norse mythology from as many sources as you can find. The language and terminology will take some doing, but don’t let that stop you. Be fearless in allowing the words to come out of your mouth. It’s better to honor a person by trying to say their name than just nod silently at them as they pass you by.
How can we incorporate the Volva Stav into our modern lives? How do you integrate it?
KT: The first step is to slow down. To be volva is to be in Verthandi or present moment. Ultimately, it is the conscious awareness of breath, rhythm, and alignment in the present moment that allows the Volva to attain the Seidr State. There is no set future if we remain at peace in the present moment.
In Verthandi, we can make decisions intentionally rather than out of habit or impulse. We have time to evaluate the past, learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and understand their blessings for us before we strike out on our path. In Norse Tradition, we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, but we must know what they are and heal them. This is so key right now for humanity. We need to get present, forget our extremes and impulses, and heal dysfunctional behavior. Only in this way can we create a stable and functional future for the next generation.
For more information on Kari Tauring, visit karitauring.com, call 612.454.5068 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2011 Amy Putkonen. All Rights Reserved.