When I was drawn to do shamanic workshops in Germany in 2001, the Rune Field took the opportunity to introduce itself to me. I eventually realized that my visionary experiences were responses to my father’s and godfather’s prayers for healing. In my Pueblo godfather’s view, my father’s cancer could only be healed by addressing his ancestral trauma and learning how to engage its creative forces to sustain all life. When the very landscape of my father’s people corroborated my understanding of creative powers of the Runes and demonstrated the mutability of what we humans like to consider fixed physical world, I realized that I had to share my experiences.
I passed by the Externsteine, a sacred site in Northern Germany, one rainy October day. My guide insisted that we had time to take a quick look around. She showed me a rune inscription and asked if I could read it. I read the Runes more as pictographs than letters so the meaning of the Rune inscription seemed clear to me.
- First column Be silent / Within the rain / Is the spark
- Second column Of the melody / of the rhythm / Of your prayers
- Third column Out of infinite possibilities / Your inmost needs / Manifest into form
- Fourth column Release / Your inspiration / Like thunder
- Fifth column The birth / Of your prayers / In the heavens
- Sixth column Takes root / On earth / Where your destiny is fulfilled
There are very few written records from the point of view of the illiterate Saxons as their emphasis was on personal experience. So my first explanation for the rune rock inscription was that it probably dates to the time after Charlemagne when it became clear that the Catholic Church would suppress all knowledge of the old ways. It could have been carved in the 700’s so that knowledge of how the site had been used would not be entirely lost. And I became very attached to my explanation of the date and meaning. It seemed to me that as long as the site was in active use, there would have been no reason to write anything down.
Then I returned to the Rune Stone in 2012, nearly a decade after my first visit. I had been asked to give a workshop but no one had advised me that several of the runes were different from the runes of the 2003 inscription. This was disturbing because while the stones have survived erosion and were spared by glaciers during the Ice ages, they are a brittle and friable stone with a dark patina.
Above is a photo of a recently carved rune on a rock in a fire circle on the other side of the lake from the main stones at the Externsteine.. My interest in the carving is the rough edges and light color of the lines and the chipping away of the original patina of the rock face, as that is what one would expect to see on any recent man-made changes in the rune inscription on the Rune Stone. But this image also introduced me to the uproar over the Nazi use of the Externsteine both past and present.
To my distress, the edges of the runes that changed between 2003 and 2012 are indistinguishable from the originals and the surface of the entire rock has an even patina of age from the base of the rock to the top. It seems unlikely that it would be possible for someone to repeatedly replicate the patina and aging of the original lines so exactly on newly carved lines of the inscription. It is even more unlikely that older lines could be erased without a trace.And while the inscription is on the steep face of the stones, it faces the visitors center and the main path through the site. It is also only a few feet from the path on top of the Externsteine in a public park visited by thousands of people each year.
As a New Mexican, I had been only vaguely aware that there was very little agreement on when the runes were carved and even less on what they said. An effort to interpret the inscription as the Christian Lord’s Prayer was laughed off by scholars, as it appeared to be pre-Christian, or nearly two thousand years old. The argument against the pre-Christian dating is simply that there is no official record of the inscription before 1992.
Because I was not aware of any photographs from 1992, and because it had not occurred me that the rock inscriptions were changing, I had not pursued the 1992 inscription. I don’ t know of any existing photos but when I saw a sketch of it, my stomach sank. The rune inscription from 1992 is different from the photos I have of the Rune Inscription in 2003, which are different from the 2012 photo. I began to understand why the scholars do not agree on the age of the inscription, never mind its meaning.
The Rune Inscription changes and I don’t know of a mundane explanation for these changes. There are indigenous prophecies that say in this time of earth changes, the stones themselves will begin to speak to human beings once again. I don’ t know that any of the indegenous elders I have encountered thought that meant there would be a gigantic northern European etch-a-sketch, chatting away. I certainly had no intention of being part of the conversation.
To my chagrin, I realized it is too late. People know about the stone, the changes, and my reading of the runes. Standing at a nexus point where the mundane and mythological meet is bad enough when it is a private event. Finding myself the focal point of a global, contentious, and demanding audience at the same time is unexpected and daunting. If my story resonates with any one else, that is great, and I can certainly understand if it doesn’t.
You can find more on my journey with the Rune Field in my series of books Rune Stances and Creation Stories.