Most of us know of runes, most of us also likely use them for divination. In the Runic Book of Days author S. Kelley Harrell provides an excellent guidebook utilizing the Norse Elder Futhark runes — one of the oldest runic alphabets — as a way to follow the wheel of the year with active divine guidance as well as the more typical prophecy.

The book is divided into two main parts: Engaging the Runes and Living the Runes. Engaging the Runes opens with a brief yet knowledgeable overview of the history and origin of the Runes with equal time on their more academic beginnings as an alphabet and their mythological story through Odin and the Nine Worlds. She then goes on to offer a variety of ways to use the runes, from tools to ways of reading, and galdr methods with a conclusion about the aetts. Moving on to the individual runes, Harrell notes that direct translation is necessarily rudimentary and indirect translation depends on cultural and timing issues. The detailed interpretations of each rune are insightful and incorporate mundane aspects as well as looking at it through the lens of the Norse cosmology. The final chapter in that section deals with an explanation of the runic calendar: it's origin, celebrations, devotionals, and affirmations.

Living the Runes is the annual cycle of runic work with each rune assigned to a two week period (12 months split between 24 runes) each with a devotion and affirmation that showcases the wisdom this ancient means of meditation can still engender. Readers can start the annual cycle anywhere although Harrell begins at the end of June. For example, the rune Hagalaz (October 28 through November 12)'s theme is facing fear, finding faith. that chapter offers an initiation (what the author calls ritual and magickal work) instead of a devotional and an affirmation: Between darkness and light / Is the wisdom of balance / The embrace of peaceful unknown.

I appreciated Harrell's reassurance that knowing the history of the runes wasn't required to enact the annual cycle of devotional and exploration as well as her promise (in the Introduction), "I'm not interested in preaching a method on how to use the runes. I'm also not going to present my perspective as if it's the gospel according to Freya." The Runic Book of Days is drawn from scholarly sources and modern shamanic practices, as well as over two decades of personal experience in working with the runes all of which gives the reader a strong sense of comfort about the practices described. Harrell might be better known for her previous work in shamanism, but I predict the Runic Book of Days will soon become known as her master work.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: S. Kelley Harrell
Destiny Books, 2018
208 pages

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