- Name and briefly describe one method of divination or seership technique common to three paleo-pagan Indo-European cultures. (minimum 100 words each)
Augury is a method of divination that relies on one interpreting signs that one sees with birds.
The Roman form of Augury was said to start with Attus Navius around 600 BCE. The story goes that he lost a pig and said that he would sacrifice his best bunch of grapes if he would get his pig back. Well, the next day he got his pig back. To find the best bunch of grapes, he divided his vineyard in quarters, and the birds all flocked to one quarter. He divided that quarter into quarters, and the birds flocked to one quarter. He did this until he found the largest bunch of grapes, which he sacrificed. News of his abilities spread, and eventually the king called on him to prove his worth. Attus divined that what the king was thinking would happen, and the king said that it was Attus splitting a whetstone with a razor, which he did (Malden 19).
Augury was mostly used for asking if something should be done. Augury was commonly done for marriages, election of new officials (inaugurations), and building new temples. As for the techniques, it was desirable to be on a hilltop where you could see all around well. It also was common to have flute players (tibicines) present who were said to possibly keep ill omens away, or possibly were used to attract the birds. The augur would then divide the sky into quarters on a north/south and east/west grid, face south, and then read the signs of the birds coming through. In general the birds he was most interested in physically were the eagles, vultures, and similar. Other birds that flew through were also interpreted though. They were also concerned with the calls of certain birds such as owls, crows, and ravens. Each bird had its own meaning, and it was interpreted differently based on what point in the sky from whence came. Generally omens from the front and left (south and east) were favorable and unfavorable if from the back or right (north or west) (Temple of Religio Romana).
The Greek form of Augury is also commonly known as Ornithomancy (Ornithomancy). This practice can be found throughout the history of the Greeks. In a similar fashion to the Romans, there were specific birds that the augur paid special attention to, namely the raven, crow, heron, wren, woodpecker, dove, hoopoe, kingfisher, and all birds of the hawk, eagle, or vulture types. These were the birds that were important in mythology, or the birds that were common to their lands (Halliday 270).
Unlike the Romans though, the Greeks did not have such a highly developed and ritualized method of augury. Instead of dividing the sky into quarters the Greeks instead took heed of simply whether the bird came from the right or the left (Halliday 270). The meaning of the direction the bird came from also was in general the opposite of the Romans, but the meanings of the birds were similar (Temple of Religio Romana).
A historical example of this comes from around 115 CE and narrated by Appian, a Greek historian, likely with an Arab guide.
He was fleeing to a certain river where a boat was waiting to take him to Pelusium. A crow was heard and the guide said, "We have lost our way" ; it croaked a second time, and signified that they were far out of their reckoning ; a third croak restored the good spirits of the Arab, for it indicated that the mistake was to their advantage. And so indeed it proved, for they hit unexpectedly on another river in which they found a trireme which took Appian safely to Pelusium, and he learned afterwards that the boat which he had intended to reach had been captured by the enemy (Halliday 271).
There is precious little preserved that talks about any kind of augury in the Germanic cultures. Augury is somewhat expanded in definition where they are looking at any natural occurrence instead of just birds. Tacitus mentions this in Germania when he talks about “Auguries and Methods of Divination”. In that section he mentions that they knew how to interpret the flights of birds, but that they used other things more often (Germania).
The use of consulting birds does appear in the lore though. An example of this is actually by accident and appears in the Volsungs Saga. Here, Sigurd has slain the dragon Fafnir and was burnt by a drop of blood from its heart. When he puts his hand to his mouth to ease the pain, he ingests the blood. This blood gave him the power to understand the speech of birds. Shortly after this event, Sigurd walks into a clearing where there were four birds speaking, and he learns of Regin trying to kill him, and instead kills Regin (Colum 228-231).
- Within the context of a single paleo-pagan Indo-European culture, discuss three different forms of divination or seership, and give an example of each. (minimum 100 words each)
The Germanic cultures had various forms of divination and seership.
Runes were the alphabet of the Germanic peoples. These were used throughout the Germanic world for writing, magic, and divination. Etymology helps us in discovering what was used for divination or rune casting. The lots were likely carved pieces of wood, dyed red with dyes or blood. Snorri Struluson interpreted the term hlaut-teinar, or lot-twig, as blood-twigs. The terms runo and stabaz eventually came to be used interchangeably to refer to divinatory tools. Runes were most likely carved onto wooden sticks, or lots, and cast onto a white cloth and interpreted, the casting method mentioned by Tacitus in Germania. Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul also mentions a similar technique of drawing lots three times (Thorsson 4).
Dreams were another way of seership in the Germanic world. Dreams and their interpretations are common throughout all cultures. Not everyone who dreams is talented in interpreting them though. Dreams also tend to be prophetic when mentioned in the mythology.
An example of this prophetic type of dream comes from the Volsunga Saga. Gudrun has a dream of Sigurd, the great Germanic hero (sometimes referred to as Sigmund), who appears in the shape of a falcon. Gudrun dreamt that she would marry Sigurd. She also dreamt her family and Brynhild, a Valkyrie, would kill Sigurd. By the end of the saga, this all passed as she had dreamt (Volsunga Saga).
Seidhr is an oracular divination form where a seer that goes into a trance state and gets answers to questions. Normally a woman is the seer, and she usually divines from a seat that is high above the rest around her. There is a modern practice of seidhr where it is common for the Seer to travel in a trance down to Hel to get the answers. The best detailed account of this is in Eiriks Saga where the seer is asked about the famine the people of Greenland are going through and sees it ending soon. She also prophesies about the future of those that were in attendance, and also answers the questions of those that asked (Davidson, Myths and Symbols 160).
- Discuss both the role of seers within at least one Indo-European culture and the relationship of seers to other members of the society, including in that discussion how seers or visionaries would have supported themselves or how they would have been supported by their people. (minimum two paragraphs)
Seidhr was one of the best documented forms of seership in the Germanic cultures. We can see in the Prose Edda of Sturluson that Freyja taught seidhr to the Gods, and that Odin was an authority, even though it was considered an unmanly skill (Davidson, Myths and Symbols 162). The technique itself was documented best in Eiriks Saga. The volva, or seer, wore a costume of animal skins, ate a sacrificial meal, and then sat upon a platform high above the audience, the high seat, on a cushion of hen’s feathers. A song was sung, and she went into a trance state and was able to learn what was wanted to be known (Davidson, Gods and Myths 118).
The volva traveled around the countryside visiting settlements. As the above saga mentioned, when there was seidhr done, feasting was part of the ceremony. It is also thought that the volva was the representative of Freyja. There is also another side to the seidhr; it can be used as an act of magic, and there are stories of the volva causing a channel to fill with fish. There are also stories of the magic being harmful, and people dying. As a result, the volva was a very respected (and sometimes feared because of the magic) member of society (Davidson, Gods and Myths 120).
- Identify and describe one method of divination to which you find yourself attracted, and discuss its relationship to paleo-pagan divination. (minimum 300 words)
Since I am one who is pulled in by the Nordic deities, runes are the primary form of divination to which I am attracted to. Runes are mentioned as means of divination by Tacitus and Caesar who refer to drawing lots. From these authors are the best details about how the runes were used for divination - by casting lots. Runes were cast onto a white cloth and then interpreted where they fell. This interpretation is thought to have involved the physical way they fell, and their relationships to each other on the cloth (Thorsson 5).
Runes also play a role in the myths and sagas of the Norse. The Havamal is the most recognizable place in the Norse myth that we see the runes. In verses 138 to 164 Odin tells the story of how he gained the knowledge of the runes by sacrificing himself to himself. He then goes on to tell how to make runes and the various things that he learned to do with the runes while he hung those nine days on the tree (Larington 34).
While the Havamal is more concerned with the magical aspect of the runes, the rune poems provide the meanings of the runes from the period in which they were used. These poems do vary from culture to culture and survive from the Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Icelandic peoples. However, the meanings of the runes that are in all of the cultures are similar, if not the same. These poems are by far the best resource we have for the divinatory meanings of the runes (Plowright 20).
Runes are also mentioned in throughout the sagas. They were mostly used for magic, such as when Egil used them in Eigl’s Saga to determine if a drink was poisoned, (Green XLIV) or to heal someone who was being kept ill by poorly written runes. (Green LXXV).
Overall, the ability of runes to be used for multiple purposes, primarily divination and magic, are why I have ultimately been drawn to learn the runes.
- Briefly describe the symbology of your chosen method of divination, and include a method of application for that system. (minimum 100 words overall description plus at least one sentence or line per symbol)
The runes are the alphabet of the Germanic people where each rune stands for a letter or sound. Each rune is also a representation of a word from the Germanic languages and is best exemplified in the Rune Poems (Plowright 20). The runes also changed over time and as a result we now have various Futharks, named so because the first six runes spell Futhark. The most popular ones are the Elder Futhark of 24 runes as young as 200 CE (Plowright 10), the Younger Futhark of 16 runes from the 700’s CE and used by the Vikings (Plowright 12), and the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc of 33 runes from sometime between 600 and 700 CE and used by the Anglo-Saxons (Plowright 14).
The 24 runes in the Elder Futhark that can be divided into three groups of eight called Aetts or families. The meanings I will use here are all from The Runic Primer (Plowright 49-61), followed by how I have seen them in my use.
Fehu. Money. Fehu literally can be translated as “cattle,” and if we look at the culture at the time that runes were used, cattle were equal to wealth. Overall, I have seen this rune as meaning anything to deal with wealth.
Uruz. Wild Ox. Aurochs, Slag, Drizzle. Uruz is an ox. Oxen are very strong and as a result, that is what this rune has meant to me: strength.
Thurisaz. Thurse, Giant, Thorn. When I see Thurisaz, I see it mostly as a thorn. Thorns are used by plants for defense. Thorns also can be a big pain to the person that gets stuck by them. Usually, I see Thurisaz mostly as a negative, “thorn in the side” way, usually physically painful.
Ansuz. A god, Mouth, Odin. Ansuz also has the interpretation of word, sometimes as words from God, as the meaning mouth might imply. To me, Ansuz usually is meaning some kind of communications.
Raido. Riding, Carriage. Raido is a chariot. To me this indicates some kind of physical travel.
Kenaz. Torch, Sore. Kenaz is fire, it is the torch. I see it as the spark of inspiration.
Gebo. Gift. Gebo is a gift and partnership. This is, to me, the runic interpretation of *ghosti, the guest/host relationship. While it may be a gift you are receiving, you eventually have to give something back, a true partnership type relationship.
Wunjo. Pleasure, Joy. Wunjo first comes out to me as a tongue stuck out in joy, such as with the smile :-P. This rune means pure, unadulterated joy and happiness to me.
Hagalaz. Hail. Hagalaz is hail. Hail is a destructive force that ruins crops, and as a result can be a deadly event in an agricultural society. This rune means sever change to come. It also has a hidden meaning though. When all that hail melts, it does nourish the earth, so it is also a rune of beginnings, since when something ends, something else beings.
Nauthiz. Need, Necessity. Nauthiz is a rune of constraint. It points to us doing things because we must, even if we do not want to do them.
Isa. Ice. Isa is ice. While ice can be beautiful, it can also be destructive and bleak. Normally though, I see Isa as meaning stability and a stable foundation. Ice, when covering a lake for example, can be a very strong and stable base.
Jera. Year, Harvest. Jera is the year, and the harvest that comes at the end of the summer. To me, it means cycles. The year is a cycle; the harvest is the end of a cycle of life. I also sometimes see it as literally a year, depending on what other runes appear around it.
Eihwaz. Yew tree. Eihwaz is a yew tree. While yew is often connected to battles and death, to me, this rune comes across as Yggdrasill, the world tree (Ash) at the center of everything. This tells me to look at the big picture for the answer to the query.
Perthro. Board game, musical tune. Perthro is commonly referred to as the dice cup, and means chance. I have seen it more recently as the cornucopia. While the cornucopia is a horn of plenty, that plenty depends on the harvest, and as a result, it is really a horn of chance. I thank Nora Ford for putting that idea into my head, and it just stuck.
Algiz, Elhaz. Elk-sedge. Blade grass. Algiz is often referred to as the Elk. The Elk have great racks of antler on their heads which work very well for protecting themselves. I see this rune as protection.
Sowilo. The Sun. Sowilo is the Sun, which is feminine in the Norse traditions. To me, this is a good omen, as sun and warmth were not a common event in the far north. It also means to me wholeness and progress towards a goal you have, as a form of the cycle I mentioned with Jera.
Tiwaz. The god Tiw (Tyr) the one-handed. Tiwaz is justice. Tyr, when he broke his oath to Fenris, did fulfill his end of the bargain and lost his hand. To me this rune means doing the right thing, no matter the cost - true justice.
Berkana or Berkano. Birch. Berkana is the birch tree. The birch tree is the first tree that grows in a field and as a result means new beginnings. I also see the symbol itself, a “B”, like a woman’s breasts, so it is also a form of fertility, depending on how it lays in a reading.
Ehwaz. Horse. Ehwaz is the horse. This to me means some kind of spiritual or non-physical journey.
Mannaz. Man, Human. Mannaz is man. To me, this is referring to ones self.
Laguz. Sea, Lake. Laguz is referring to water. To me, I normally see this as flowing water instead of the still water of a sea or lake. As a result, I see this as either water itself, or as going with the flow of things, depending on how it lays in the reading.
Ingwaz. Hero, Ingvi Frey. Ingwaz is normally referred to as Ing’s rune. Ing is Freyr. As a result, this rune is one of fertility. I see it when drawn as a diamond as the seed rune, which can be fertility or the start of things.
Dagaz. Day. Dagaz means day. This can be interpreted as literally a day or 24 hours. I have also seen it as growth, as the sun grows during the first half of the day.
Othala. Inheritance, homestead. Othala is the idea of the household. To me this is referring to the tradition and objects that are handed down through the family.
- Describe the results of three divinations performed by you. These divinations may be text assisted. (minimum 100 words each)
I decided to do a ritual to reconnect with the Valkyries as gatekeepers and I also decided to kill a keg so I could keg the bock in the sink downstairs.
I went through the ritual as normal, calling the Valkyries as the gatekeepers, and Odin and Loki for deities. When calling Odin, I asked him to play nice with us at Between the Worlds (BTW) as he was going to be the Deity of the Occasion at the ADF ritual there. I gave an offering asking for relationship help and direction, and then I poured a very big piacular offering - the end of the keg. Each sacrifice except for those of the Earth Mother and Land (both got grains), was beer, a full horn from the keg.
I asked for my omen.
Are my offerings accepted? Gebo: partnership and gift.
What does Odin give me? Ansuz jumped out of the bag: god, word
What does Loki give me? Mannaz: man, self
I thanked all involved, closed the gates, and went in for the night.
I read this omen as a good one. Gebo told me that we had the whole *ghosti relationship going well.
Odin was telling me that he would be communicating with me about BTW. As it turned out, he did, and the words I used when calling him at the ADF ritual at BTW just flowed out of my mouth without me even thinking or knowing what I was saying until it happened.
I interpreted Loki giving me Mannaz as him giving me help with the relationship question, and literally giving me “man”. Well, I found out by the end of BTW that is exactly what he did. He sent a man to me that I knew if I got involved with was going to cause some kind of drama, and I fully intended to not get involved with him. I did not stay away, and the drama I expected did happen.
In the end, I interpreted the omens right and will now always be wary and cautious if Loki ever gives me “man” ever again.
Question asked: "What will be the outcome if Jenni Hunt runs for Bardic Guild Chief?" I then pulled out whatever runes wanted to come out and cast them on the bare table.
When I cast, face up were Perthro (chance) and Ingwaz (Freyr's rune, which I see it as a seed rune - fertility), and these were near each other. An upside-down rune next to them was Jera (year, cycles). Off to the right and slightly higher and hidden was Elhaz (Elk, protection). Also off to the right but lower was Othala (home and inheritance), also face up. And the final rune that was furthest down and directly below the cluster of 3 was Wunjo (joy and happiness), and that was also hidden.
Overall, what I got out of this is that there is a good chance for the Bardic Guild to be very fruitful under Jenni’s leadership. The chance is probably all to do with the election and if the Guild is ready. If she were to become Chief, then there would be great things planted and going in the next year. Off to the side, and maybe hidden to her, she does have support (the elk). We also have off the side the sense that this is her home, but it is being disconnected from her, as that was really an outlying rune. I thought that if she were to run for chief she would be bringing this feeling back into her. Finally, even though it may be some work for her, in the end she would be happy and joyful with what happens.
I then performed a one-rune pull asking what the overall feeling of this casting should be, and Ingwaz came out again. This told me that Jenni’s running for Bardic Guild Chief would be a very fertile thing for her and the guild if she ran.
The ultimate outcome of this is that Jenni did win the Bardic Guild election and is currently working on making changes for the betterment of the guild.
A friend wanted me to ask the question “Is her husband not getting job offers because of some outside force?” I drew three runes: Fehu (money), Raido (physical journey) and Jera (year, cycles, harvest). I interpreted this as it was not due to outside forces that he was not finding jobs, but instead something internal, and that with Raido showing up, it may be that he was just not looking in the right physical area.
I then followed up and asked “Is it due to himself?” I drew three runes again: Fehu (money), Raido (physical journey), and Mannaz (man, self). I interpreted this as it was his fault. He was not looking in the right spot, and I interpreted Mannaz as confirmation that it was he who was doing something. Since Fehu and Raido came out twice, I interpreted that as he was probably looking both in the wrong physical location, but he was also probably looking for a salary that he was just not going to get.
Not long after this reading, I talked to her husband and found out that he had asked the deities that both he and his wife (who is going through major health problems at the moment) be healthy before he went back to work, so, it was he and his request that had partially caused him to not find work. Since then he has asked the deities to find work, no matter her health. The last update I have received from them is that he has found work. The job though pays much less than he was making, and it was at a job he quit many years ago. This confirms to me that the location and salary interpretations were correct.
- Discuss your view of the purpose of divination. (minimum 100 words)
There can be an unlimited number of purposes, but these three are the ones I commonly use.
The one that first comes to mind is the use in our rituals when pulling the omens. Here we are asking the Kindred if our sacrifices have been received well, and what they are giving us in return.
A second purpose of divination that I commonly use is asking whether or not something should be done. Generally I ask the question of “what will the outcome of X” be and then pull or cast runes to see. This tends to give a slightly more useful answer than asking a yes/no question, and much better suited to runes than asking yes/no, in my opinion.
A third purpose of divination is to divine the future. Normally I do not do this for myself but if I am working a psychic fair, that is what I usually get asked to do.
- Discuss the relative importance and effect of divination within your personal spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
In my own spiritual practice, divination plays a role, but not a truly large role. The biggest use of divination for me is the omen in ritual to determine if I have given enough and to find out what I am being given in return. Now and again I do rituals for specific purposes, and in those cases I am divining if what I did worked and what will happen.
Outside of that, I rarely use divination. If I do, it is usually when I am presented with tough decisions and I want to know what I should be doing. I also will use divination if I get the urge to do so; basically when the Gods saying to me, “Take an omen,” but that is rare.
- Discuss your view and understanding of the function of the Seer. (minimum 100 words)
In my own experience, the role of the seer really does vary depending on which group the seer is with. The most common way I have run into seers has been those doing “fortune telling” or some kind of divining of the future. This is probably the major function of the Seer in most of the Neopagan community. I think that this is a necessary function of the seer for a few reasons. First, it is an easy way for the seer to raise money, either for himself or the organization of which he is a member. It also fulfills a need of the general public in wanting to know what the future holds or what will happen if it does “X.”
I think the second major function of the seer is to divine messages from the Gods. I have seen this done in the general Neopagan community through spirit circles or séances. We do this in ADF through our taking of the omen during ritual.
Both - telling the future and answering questions or passing on messages from the otherworlds and deities - fulfill the need for us as humans to know the unknowable. All we can ask is that the seers are ethical and tells us what they actually see.
- Discuss the importance and value of divination as it relates to ADF. (minimum 100 words)
Divination in ADF really does not play a big role outside of the ritual omen. The value of it with regards to the omen is immense, though, because it is one of our ways of getting messages from the Kindred. The omen normally tells us if our sacrifices were accepted and what we are receiving in return.
I have found it rare to be talking about divination outside of that context. The last time I can remember was when Ian Corrigan introduced his ADF deck, and even that was slanted more toward omen-taking than any other form of divination. Using divination for answering specific questions, or guiding us for the future just appears to be lacking, and it may be something that we want to encourage more in ADF.
Something else that I think we need to work on in ADF is some kind of oracular work. There are examples of oracular work throughout the Indo-European cultures, such as the oracles at Delphi and the volva of the Norse. Hopefully some day we can get together some kind of oracular workings in ADF.
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