Within the Pagan and Heathen community there is the ever-present question of ‘what do you call yourself’. Most people within the community have that thing that they call themselves, a version or two with greater or lesser degrees of specificity for particular contexts and then are also probably aware of what at least one other person thinks they should be called. There is no denying that it is a complicated issue, one that people fuss over far too much and too often. There is also no denying that it is important to know who and what you are. This is an area in which I have quite recently had to forgo the use of a particular noun or adjective and simply describe ‘what I call myself’ in place of actually calling myself something. Cumbersome though it was it did afford me the opportunity to consider something that I don’t know would otherwise have considered and that is that the runes stand apart much in the same way Tarot cards do. Heathens and Pagans often and regularly use them as a part of their practice but in truth they don’t belong to any particular practice automatically. In some respects the runes could be seen as being a practice in and of themselves.
For various reasons I have tried to avoid really calling myself anything because, apart from anything else, my praxis is not developed enough for me to really know what noun or adjective applies. A factor in this is that my praxis currently revolves almost exclusively around the Elder Futhark Runes and nothing other than the runes are required. There are certain deities associated with particular runes, but those deities aren’t necessary to study and practice with the runes. There are rituals and such that can be performed with the runes, but the exact ritual style is unimportant – so much so that Taking Up the Runes actually say words to effect of ‘start the ritual in the way that will make people comfortable’ and gives the example of casting a circle and calling the quarters for Pagans and the hammer rite for Heathens. The opening of the ritual, in one respect, is unimportant because it is simply a way of getting things going.
Seeing the runes as standing apart from any particular practice and indeed being almost a practice in and of themselves is a provocative thought for me. I do feel that often the runes are treated more like Tarot cards or crystals, incorporated into a person’s praxis without really seeing all that the runes are. I myself do not practice divination yet one of the most common, but a large margin, practices that runes are used for is divination. Yet there are so many things that can be done with the runes: bindrunes, runewards, runespells, Needfire, divination and more. Though the runes as a whole are not going to be for everyone, I do feel that there is often too great a sentiment that the runes are ‘just something you learn’ for a lot of people. However I have strong concerns that a lot of those who learn runes or say they are learning the runes don’t really see the scope of the runes beyond being another tool for divination. There is a fine but strict line between using runes for divination and practicing the runes.