To watch the coming of spring after a long, cold winter is to know the magic of Berkana. To watch a mother dog push a runt from the litter and refuse to feed it is to know the wisdom of Berkana. So often emphasis is placed only on the nurturing, protective, care-giving aspects of the Berkana rune. We must never forget that the balance to all of this is the mother’s wisdom which is also expressed in knowing when to kill, destroy, cull or push things away that are defective, weak, sickly, unable to thrive or inappropriate to nurture. This does not need to be considered as negative or the reversal or merkstave of Berkana but rather part of the whole. It’s not negative that some things in life need to be destroyed or allowed to die. Yes, the mother births, nourishes and protects but considering these things as the only expressions of feminine energy creates a dangerous imbalance. Don’t be misled and caught up in worrying about whether a rune is upright, reversed or inverted. The runes are multi-dimensional, part of the great Web which has no top or bottom, and when you stop looking at them as being flat and begin to experience them as crystal-like shapes you will come to understand that when they appear for you in a reading or a casting or even as a shape seen in nature, they carry all of their wisdom, all of the time. And none of it is good or bad. It just is. The law of life is that just as the mother births and nurtures, she also devours and destroys. She knows she must care for herself first in order to care for others. She knows that if she is fed poison she gives back poison in return. Where in your life do you care for others at your own expense? Even the most loving mother will have her milk dry up if she doesn’t take care of her own needs as a priority over those of her nursing baby. What in your life needs to be discarded, pushed away or left on its own? Who feeds off you when it's not appropriate? Where in your life are you still breastfeeding teenagers or suckling adults? These can be hard questions to think about. Answering them can help you align with the wisdom of Berkana.
As I’m writing this, the skies over most of Oregon, California and Washington are filled with the thick smoke of forest fires. It’s the summer of 2015. I am reminded of the Norwegian Rune Poem for Berkana. Birch has the greenest leaves of any shrub; Loki was fortunate in his deceit. At first it might seem a bit strange that Loki is mentioned in the poem. Loki is a trickster figure in Norse myth with prolific reproduction being one of his primary characteristics. He was born from the giantess Laufey after she was struck by the fiery arrows of the giant Farbauti. Laufey’s name means Tree Island. The Berkana rune carries a theme of rebirth and return of life to the woodlands and forests after the devastation of fire. And even though Loki’s actions are dangerous to the gods and to humans as well, they are nonetheless necessary for new growth to occur. Thank you Loki for the necessary but difficult devastation of fire.
I am warned the devouring mother discards as well as nurtures she who births also destroys when I poison you Berkana you feed me death in return beware this is the mystery life The Berkana poem is one of the 33 original rune poems created by Ingrid Kincaid, the Rune Woman. They were first published in her limited edition, completely hand made book(un) familiar.
What wisdom do the runes hold for you? Runes connect us to the ancestors. Runes show us the way back to the wisdom and beauty of the earth. Runes were part of the religious, cultural and social life of Northern European people prior to and during the overwhelm of Christianity. Schedule a reading with Ingrid, the Rune Woman.