Runes. Just saying the word makes my geeky heart fill with curiosity. If anyone knows anything about runes, it’s that they can usually be found in works of historical and magical fiction. They’ve been mentioned in Harry Potter, read by Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon, interpreted in BBC’s Merlin, and how could anyone forget The Lord of the Rings? Needless to say, my interest was piqued when I came across a lovely little new addition to our local library titled Runes, Plain and Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need by Kim Farnell.
Farnell begins with a chapter called The Origin of the Runes and this chapter isn’t nearly as in-depth as I would have liked it to be. There’s history and culture, sure, all detailing who used runes, when and why, with examples even, but I was hoping for a more extensive background. I believe the origins to be the most important part. One can’t truly master something if they don’t understand its history. After having read the introduction, I had more questions coming out than I did going in. Nevertheless, the book started smoothly with a number of fascinating facts. It then lead into the more fun and enriching part of the book: making one’s own runes and learning how to read them.
This is the part where I dug out and opened up my old textbook on Old English and compared and contrasted language, spellings and words. Comparing Farnell’s research on Tyr’s Aett, such as Dagaz meaning “day,” to Old English’s “dæg” meaning the same, made me feel really nerdy in a good way. My inner geek was thrumming. This part of Farnell’s work was so detailed. She wrote a comprehensive summary about each rune, including their origin and positive, negative and reversed interpretations,
Farnell’s chapter Reading Runes is beyond intriguing and thorough. This is the part where Farnell delves deeper into the divination aspect of runes. It’s certainly an art that one must study and master. It’s not something one can learn in a day. It’s rather like a tarot reading. One has to understand their runes and meanings, the placement of the runes, how to read the runes in their placement, etc.
Farnell wasn’t necessarily wrong when she said that her book is the only one you’ll ever need, but it’s the only book you’ll ever need on how to read runes divinely. This isn’t the only book you’ll ever need on the history of runes. I originally checked it out in order to aid me in my own writing, and it has helped me get a firmer grasp on the art. I’ll admit I didn’t read the back cover before checking out Farnell’s book, but Runes, Plain and Simple has helped me to understand the magical uses of runes.
By Emery Lai
Reference Library Assistant at May Memorial Library