I love bebopping around at 5 Below because I always find some treasure to take home. This light up badminton set is a steal for 5 bucks! Usually, it’s a toy or book for my son, but every now and then they have a trinket that really catches my eye. Recently, that gem was The Wisdom of the Runes: Uncover the Answers Within. Oh boy… a book AND card set… why yes, I think I WILL add this to my growing hoard. I can also review it for you!
The Wisdom of the Runes Book and Card Set is published by Hinkler Books, an Australian Publishing company that specializes in activity books for children and adults. The book is attributed to the author Shauna Reid, but the Hinkler website attributes it to themselves, “By Hinkler PTY LTD”. Why does this matter? Because when it comes to metaphysical and divination information, I like to know if the author is 1. REAL and 2. Knows what they’re talking about. This is particularly important when it comes to the runes because there are a lot of bigots and racists that are actively trying to corrupt the runes as symbols of their hate. Not on my watch, assholes. Odin is the Allfather, not the Some-Father. Do your author research!
Shauna Reid is definitely a living breathing author, but her website does not list The Wisdom of the Runes book and card set under BOOKS. Huh… maybe she doesn’t want to be associated with woo woo stuff? Her other books are about dieting and health and fitness. Runes and tarot often get lumped into “Lifestyle” categories, but it seemed weird to not see it listed. I popped over to her instagram to see if I could find some mention of it there since The Wisdom of the Runes only came out in 2022. Nothing. So I messaged her directly a week ago to see if she actually wrote it but she never responded. So either she wrote it and wants nothing to do with it, or it’s attributed to her and she had nothing to do with it… or another reason that I can’t think of, but based on what I can find about her, she doesn’t seem to study the runes either. Not publicly, anyway.
I dove in with all my close reading skills, marking up the book and scrutinizing what was accurate and inaccurate, based on history, mythology, and linguistics. It was surprising to find the brief sections on the history of the runes pretty accurate. But on page 14 I found, “While there’s no direct historical documentation of runes used in divination, the appearance of runes on artefacts [sic] like talismans, weapons and jewellery [sic] points to their use in spiritual practices.” But the very next sentence states, “Runes were used for divination, for protection, for good luck, as a blessing or for cursing, as well as a means of communicating with the dead.” Get your story straight, book. Also, citing some sources for your claims would be nice. A claim without evidence is just an opinion.
Here’s a source! The Roman historian Tacitus in his Germania. I lifted this from a blog post I was reading (and you should also read if you’re a big nerd) about the God Hoenir:
- “They attach the highest importance to the taking of auspices [Latin ausipicia] and casting lots. Their usual procedure with the lot is simple. They cut off a branch from a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips. These they mark with different signs and throw them at random onto a white cloth. Then the state’s priest, if it is an official consultation, or the father of the family, in a private one, offers prayer to the gods and looking up towards heaven they pick up three strips, one at a time, and, according to which sign they have previously been marked with, makes his interpretation. If the lots forbid an understanding, there is no deliberation that day about the matter in question. If they allow it, further confirmation is required by taking the auspices [Latin auspiciorum]. The widespread practice of seeking an answer from the call or flight of birds is, to be sure, known here too, but it is a specialty of this people to test horses as well for omens and warnings…” (Birley 1999: 42).
Let’s get Back to reviewing Wisdom of the Runes book. The book spends a lot of time talking about connecting with your runes, making a journal, creating sacred space and tapping into your intuition, and that’s nice and all, but it spends ZERO time including the actual source material for the rune meanings. There aren’t that many! The runes are mentioned in the Prose and Poetic Eddas, but not in detail. There are three short poems- The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, The Icelandic Rune Poem, and The Norwegian Rune Poem from which people derive the rune meanings. None of them appear in this book.
This is a glaring problem to me because the rest of the book discusses the meaning of the runes, but only goes with the meanings from the Anglo-Saxon Rune poem and doesn’t do a good job of it.
The Norwegian and Icelandic poems are probably discarded because they only cover the 16 letters of the younger futhark. Oh yeah, I should mention that the runes are first and foremost an alphabet, and “futhark” is like saying “abcdef”. That’s a linguistic discussion for another blog post, but it bears mentioning. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem is the only one that has meanings for all 24 letters of the Elder Futhark, but by discarding the other two, you are throwing out other meanings/interpretations. You’re hamstringing your understanding from the get go!
The Wisdom of the Runes book and card set leans into the fluffy modern interpretations of the runes, which I suppose is fine if you like being inaccurate. The runes as a divinatory tool, at least the way we use it today, and the meanings in rune books are pretty modern inventions. I would implore you to do some actual research to build up your divinatory language, rather than trust any one book. You should also check out the mythology of the Poetic and Prose Eddas because three of the runes are Gods. If you don’t know who Tyr is, it might be harder to interpret the Tyr rune. I’m just saying…
Oh, I suppose I should touch on the cards that are included in The Wisdom of the Runes book set. They are colorful! I like the design on the back. The pictures on the cards attempt to depict the concept or theme of the rune in a modern way. Some are okay, others are confusing.
The Wisdom of the Runes book includes a write up of what it thinks the runes mean next to the card picture. Inexplicably, they also include “reversed meanings” which I still struggle with. Not because I don’t “get it” but because that seems to come from tarot practice. The runes are letters. I’m not sure reversed meanings have a place here- and I’m a tarot reader who considers reversals. Additionally, some of the runes aren’t reversible because of their shape. For example, Gebo is an “X”- it’s not reversible. Why would 15 have a reversed meaning and 9 not? Think about it.
They include “the 25th/blank rune” wyrd, which isn’t a thing, and I don’t have time to get into in this review, but just know that it’s garbage. Feel free to include it in your practice if you want to, but I will judge you a little since it’s not a thing. You do you, though.
Would I use these cards? No. The runes were carved, so I prefer natural rune sets like wood, stones, and bones. I think the pictures get in the way too. I think a set of cards could be made that are more accurate/less fluffy though- so hit me up if you’re an artist. I’d be happy to collab. Hit me up!
The book does have some good information. Tiny nuggets of gold can be found. I definitely think it was worth 5 dollars, and was fun for me to critique. Is this a good start for your runic studies? I don’t think so. I think the runic poems are your best start, and the Poetic and Prose Eddas. You know, source material. Also- Check out Jackson Crawford and everything he’s ever written and all of his youtube videos if you really want to deep dive into runes, mythology, etc. from an unbiased, linguistic, and historic perspective. He doesn’t believe in magic or divination or any of this stuff, but I still admire him. Thanks for reading!