21 December 2007

Dear Solstice Drummers,

If you attended my Winter Solstice Drumming/Ceremony at Wisdom Ways, thank you! I promised you a few musings on the Reindeer Runes, and here they are below.

By the way, if you purchased a script of the show, the runes in the script are in an inncorrect order. My aplologies about that. The runes in your program, and below, are in correct alignment. If you would like to purchase a script that contains the text from this year's show as well as last year's "Blessing," please send me an email at jaime@drummingthesoulawake.com. There's alot more in the script than actually made it into the show, thankfully - or you would have been there for four hours.

When I began working on this solstice event, I considered using the classic Scandinavian/Celtic runes. Hundreds of books have been written interpreting these runes in wildly different ways. While the runes are a powerful meditation tool, they come from a time and culture far removed from our own. Moderns have to do some impressive interpretive gymnastics to make these ancient runes wholly relevant today. There is nothing at all wrong with interpretive gymnastics. Anyone trying to forge or maintain a connection to a religious text written long ago needs to learn some serious bending, splitting and balancing.

How these runes came to me
Well all of this made me realize that what was really needed for my solstice event was a smaller set of runes created specifically for our purposes together. I asked the reindeer about this and the reindeer gave me eight rune sayings. As I worked with them, they began to fall into a melody. Barbara McAfee helped make the words to the runes fit better to be sung, and that is the song she sang during our solstice show.

After the reindeer helped me make these rune sayings it helped me make the visual runes to go with them. My 8 year old son and I went out to a little place by Minnehaha Creek near where we live, to a clearing with these tall elm trees who we call the nine sisters. Near that place grows two immense willows. Lukas gathered up two handfuls of the slender leaves from the willows, and after doing some singing and praying, we went through each of the rune sayings and cast willow leaves onto my prayer rug to ask for the designs for each rune. We looked at the way the leaves fell, and we tried to see the design for the rune. We went at dusk—the time when it is not quite day and not quite night, the “between place” so important to all myth. And the full moon was rising in the east as the sun set in the west. So that is where these runes came from.

Yes, you can do this in the middle of the city. People walking by with their schnauzers or jogging with their I-Pod, traffic cruising by. You can commune with the sprits right there.

My musings on the runes
I’ve only lived with these runes for a few weeks, so don’t expect that I will have great deep wisdom about them. And y interpretations do not matter as much as your own. Below I’m just sort of shooting from the mythic hip. If you meditate and muse on them you may see much more in them than I see now.

I see in these runes powers of the creator – given to us now, at this darkest time of the year when we need this life force energy the most. These powers exist in the outer cosmos as well as inside each of us. Any time you select a rune of any kind – even if that rune is a bible verse, or a poem or an omen hunt among tree branches, or tea leaves, or Tarot cards or whatever, the assumption is that rune that falls into your hand is the one the Divine wants you to see and muse upon, and perhaps act upon. It is up to you to decide how seriously you want to take this message from beyond. The way the runes are worded they imply someone is taking an action. Perhaps this is the action the Spirit is taking in the world, and just wants you to behold. And maybe it’s the actions the Creator wants to take in you, if you allow it, if you say yes. Perhaps it the action the Spirit wants you to take in this world.

Click on the rune picture to enlarge and see the visual runes...

Moves the dark wind through the sky bones.

I see the sky bones as the bare limbs of trees—like the bones of hands reaching up. The sky bones are also the supporting structure of the sky—the structure of creation. The sky bones are also the bones in you that are not physical bones, but your spiritual structure. The dark wind is one type of wind or breath that the creator blows through all sky bones. Maybe this breath brings a different kind of life to us than the breath God gives in the book of Genesis. Maybe this is a night wind that calms the heat, or takes away what needs to be taken away from us. Maybe it is a wind of death and winter which we see at work at the winter solstice, but which is also part of the breath of life, the part that brings on rest so that sprit may come again and new life will once again emerge from the sky bones. Maybe the dark wind is dreams. Maybe it is the element air in one of its forms.

Flows the a silence from the unknown

The original text here was “flows the silence from the unknowns (plural).” We changed it to “unknown” for better singing. The plural implies a pantheon of spirits or gods which flow through the world doing things, in this case delivering silence. The singular implies a unified Spirit, perhaps who dresses up in myriad costumes as it flows through the world. Either way, silence is a rare and powerful presence in our world. My daily world is really never silent, and my kids will grow up in a world that attacks their silence even more. A lack of silence creates anxiety and neurosis, there is no doubt in my mind about that. So silence is a critical gift of the spirit. As anyone who does silent meditation can attest, there is enormous power in entering into silence for us. It is such a simple sounding act, yet so radical and difficult for one who lives in TV/billboard/IPod land as we do. Of course silence is also reminiscent of death - a power also close to us at this time of year. And the word “flow” connects this with the element water, which, when it flows is never silent, but when we sit by a running stream it takes into a state of silence. Curious.

Flickers fire in the cold hearth

I see this as the actual element fire which cooks food and warms the house, and makes us feel good to be near. But it is also a gift of internal fire that can warm what needs to be warmed inside us, and it is imagination, Spirit, and it is also the fire of justice-making in the world. Maybe there is a part of your hearth that has grown cold, and this rune helps rekindle the proper fire there so food for the world may be cooked and served. Maybe this is an affirmation of home, our center, and that we must remember not to let to let anything, no matter how alluring, put our central fire out. Maybe it is a reminder to stay centered and grounded. Maybe this is the Celtic Goddess Bridget, who is connected with the element fire, and with healing, poetry and metal working. Maybe it is the sun coming back at the winter solstice to warm the earth.

Drums the thunder under earth
Originally this line was “Drums the thunder under old earth.” We cut out the world “old” to be sung more gracefully. The drum opens the religious imagination, and it connects us to the element earth. It opens visions and calls power animals to us. It is inherently an instrument of community because one can only drum alone for so long before the need to combine with the rhythms of others takes over. The drum is subversive to the powers that want to control us or hem us in, because the drum calls wildness into us, and it calls change into old earth. The drum cracks the layers of mud and concrete slathered onto us by the world and it calls us out to dance, renewed, and be authentically ourselves in this mysterious world. This drum is also the reindeer’s beating heart at the center of creation, as I related in the show. It is the pulse of the earth, the deep rhythm of the cosmos, perhaps the Schumann Resonating Frequency, more ancient than “old earth”—more ancient than all of our religions and all language and all thought. Perhaps it is the Logos of the Greeks, which was absorbed into Christianity, perhaps comparable to Wyrd in the Scandinavian tradition- the fundamental weave of creation.

Breathes light into the star room

I see this as an image out of the book of Genesis - the creation of the universe – the immense se “star room.” So perhaps this rune refers to an immense elemental power of air. But the star room is also the womb where human life is born, and the place of any new life that begins in the dark. Perhaps it is the imagination that is also a cauldron or star room of new life, because everything we do begins in the imagination. So maybe this is a fertility rune in one way or another. The star-room is also ceremonial space, or prayer space. So perhaps this rune is asking you to become fertile in your prayer life, that that fertility will result in new life.

Weaves the ice on winter’s tree loom
Weaving is an immensely mythic act – bringing together what is separate into a form that is useable and that transcends the nature of its parts. Maybe this rune affirms that winter is not the “bad” to the good of summer but one of the many ways the earth is woven, or one of the many ways the Great Weaver is at work – or at play – all around us. There is an affirmation of pain or suffering in this rune—that suffering is part of the weave of the whole, as winter is part of the weave of the whole year. We may not see the whole of what is being woven, but maybe this rune encourages us to try. There is in this rune maybe an affirmation that we are not in a world of caprice and luck, but a world that is artfully woven season by season, strand by strand, and so too are we individually, or as James Hillman says that we are “soul making” at each moment. Maybe we look at a stripe of horrible color in the weave and say “how could the creator let this horrible color happen?” but as we see more and more of the weave, perhaps that color becomes something else in the larger context. Perhaps this rune asks us to ask ourselves what world we are weaving. What pattern are we laying down with our actions each day? What is our Wyrd?

Calls the song back from the deep dark

I can’t help but see this as healing rune, a rune of what the shamans call “soul retrieval” - the act of calling, or singing, our soul back from exile. Many indigenous cultures encourage people to find their “power song” – that song that is given to us by the spirit world, and, when sung, brings a bit of that power into this world, and is also a prayer of praise that we carry with us through our daily lives. To have a power song or spirit song is to access a personal connection to the deep - a connection beyond words, a connection to the other world. That song allows us to carry that connection with us in this world and call on it simply by singing. Perhaps this is the rune of the Nordic Joik (pronounced “yoik”) the wordless praise song sung by so many indigenous people.

Flies the arrow to the heart

The spirits help us hunt. If we are respectful in many ways, the spirits will lead us to the food we need. Spirit helps guide the arrow to the heart
. This visceral image is wonderfully challenging and physical, for we live in this world, and we live by consuming other forms of life. We live in a trade-off of course - we use other forms of live to live each day, and we promise that one day we will die and become the food so that the next generation may live off of us. On an inner level, if we are respectful and trusting, Spirit will help us target what we are truly after, what we truly need. But there is a warning in this rune, as perhaps there is in all runes: when we identify as spiritual beings, we may be presenting a target to Spirit to come and strike us with power. If that happens, our lives may change, and we may see that change as a kind of death. Eons of spiritual love poetry romanticize this, but when it happens it is hardly ever truly fun.

So that is what the 8 runes given to me by the reindeer are. They are gifts to you from the reindeer goddess, gifts to remind you that the universe is not closed, that change is possible, indeed radical change is possible. And that you are loved by the cosmos.

Please feel free to leave your comments below in the comments section!



  1. Who do you love?!
    What's his name?
    Gotta read his book!
    Do you have an extra copy to lend?
    thank you for including me in your community service/celebration! I am honored!
    Love and Blessings! fanona

  2. Jaime is in love with Walter Brueggemann.

    come Holy Spirit! We need you.

    I really enjoyed celebrating the solstice with you. I had my own theme for myself "Let in All the Happy" and it integrated nicely.

    I think my rune was spot on. I have spent time with Sami and Inuit people and your interpretations expanded my respect and knowledge. Thank you!

    Happy Solstice,