Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet.

Or maybe the runes (Proto-Norse: ᚱᚢᚾᛟ (runo), Old Norse: rún)  were not used as just a simple writing system, but as magical signs, charms and for divination. Their history is not entirely clear.

The word “rune” is taken to mean something secret, hidden or whispered and suggests that the runes may have originally been considered esoteric, or restricted to an elite group.

When rune stones are used for divination – a way to predict one’s future – it is often in a set of 24 stones with the ancient alphabetic symbols.

Runes may be one of the oldest pagan methods used for divination.They were used across northern Europe, the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Iceland from about 100 B.C.E. There are some Some runic inscriptions that have been also found in America which some people say supports the theory that Vikings were the first Europeans to discover America.

For me, runes, like tarot cards and other divination methods, rely on the reader’s intuition and self-knowledge or knowledge of the subject.

Guidebooks to using the runes give simple meanings for each symbol and alphabetic/phonetic values. Each symbol is also supposed to have spiritual or divine properties. Most have connections to nature forces and each rune has a story related to a Norse God.

When people use the runes, they seek advice. You state your current condition and then ask your specific question. Like almost every other divination tools, the reading can sometimes be obscure. There are answers, but the details rely on further intuition for interpreting the runes.

I was taught to draw three runes from the pouch while thinking of or saying aloud your question or in what area you seek advice.  Your hand should sense which stones to draw from the pouch, one by one.  Similar to a three-card tarot spread, the first rune addresses a past situation that influences your question. The second rune is an answer to a present situation, and the last one will answer to a future situation.

I don’t think this is “fortunetelling” or seeing into the future. A reading is the time to analyze your present, your path and likely outcomes. To believe you can see the future means you believe the future is a fixed phenomenon. I don’t believe that. I believe it changes with all of our actions. No matter what the runes say, the path can be changed.

As an example, the Rune of Fertility and Growth is named Berkanan and it looks like the letter B. It is associated with the birch tree, which is a tree that grows rapidly. The color for this rune is dark green. Its element is Earth from which the tree grows.

Berkanan refers to many things depending on the context of the question:  renewal, regeneration, purification, healing, recovery, the family and the home, the enjoyment of sexual relations, fertility, and birth.

If you were asking advice about pursuing a new job path, Berkanan can mean “birth” in a literal or symbolic way, such as the successful start of any new idea or enterprise. If it was the first rune, it would mean one that occurred in the past that impacts the current situation. It would make sense as the second stone, since it is your current situation, but then it would not really bring any insight to the current situation.

The rune can be revealed in reverse and then it would be interpreted as a lack of growth, a reduction in stature, a decline, perhaps a loss in business and not a good time for new ventures.

On those occasions when I have consulted the runes, I have never thought I was communicating with a spirit, a god or God.  I think I was given some suggestions about ways to view some situation that was unclear to me through the lenses of my past, present and possible future.

I know that some religious people are opposed to forms of divination. I understand that. But the runes are to me closer to a session with a therapist than a religious experience.

 

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Right off, I am a big fan of the Seinfeld TV show.  I have heard  many times the description of it as “a show about nothing.” The show’s original premise was that it was a show about  how Jerry Seinfeld, a standup comic, uses the everyday things in his life as material for his comedy. It opens with a bit of standup and for some episodes that bit ties into the episode.

Most episodes have at least three intertwining plots. For example, in episode 51, “The Contest,” George confesses that “My mother caught me.” They never say  “masturbating” in the episode, but its clear.  George says he’ll never do “that” again. The gang is skeptical and Jerry, Kramer and George make a $100 bet to see who can abstain the longest. Elaine wants in on the contest, but has to put in $150, because the guys claim that it easier for women to abstain.

We switch to Kramer’s infatuation with a woman in the apartment across the street who walks around in her apartment naked with the curtains open. He watches her, goes back to his place and returns to slap down his $100. “I’m out. I’m out of the contest.”

Switch to George visiting his mother because she was hospitalized after catching George in the act with her Glamour magazine earlier. His new attraction is watching the shadowy silhouettes of his mom’s attractive roommate getting a sponge bath from an attractive nurse.

Switch to Elaine at her gym when she finds out that John F. Kennedy, Jr. also uses the gym. She plots to meet up with him.

Jerry is frustrated because the woman he’s dating won’t have sex with him since she wants to remain a virgin.

All of them are unable to sleep – except for Kramer.

Elaine arranges to meet Kennedy outside Jerry’s apartment later. The thought of them hooking up is more than she can handle and she is the second person out of the contest.

Jerry’s virgin is finally ready for sex, but Jerry makes the mistake of mentioning the contest and she leaves in disgust. Elaine arrives believing Kennedy stood her up, but George tells her that Kennedy did come, but missed her and went with the virgin. They then see Kramer with the naked woman across the street.

So, who won the contest? Jerry or George?  Not revealed here. In the fifth-season episode “The Puffy Shirt”, George mentions that he “won a contest” in a conversation about masturbation, but in the series finale, he confesses that he cheated.

That’s a lot of nothing.

In Seinfeld‘s 43rd episode, things get meta. Jerry and George pitch a sitcom to television executives and George says (mostly because they have no real ideas to pitch) that it will be a show where “nothing happens.” It gets picked up and the show that they develop is what we know as Seinfeld, with a George, Elaine, Kramer and Jerry as himself.

A book about the series, Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, has a lot to say about that nothing concept. People often point to the episode “The Chinese Restaurant” in season two.  The episode is about Jerry, Elaine and George (no Kramer) waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant. That’s it. Yes, George tries to use the pay phone (pre-mobile phones) and Jerry can’t place a woman that he is sure he has met before, but really they just wait and talk.

The episode is set in real time, without scene-breaks. NBC execs were not thrilled with it because it had no real storyline. C-creator/writer Larry David threatened to quit if the network forced major changes to the script. NBC gave in to production, but postponed broadcast to the near end of the season.

But if you really want to take a deep dive on Seinfeld nothingness, the video above by Evan Puschak (Nerdwriter) connects the show and its nothingness to 19th-century novelist Gustave Flaubert.

Apparently, in an 1852 letter, Flaubert wrote about his his ambition to write “a book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be held together by the internal strength of its style.”  It may not have achieved all of that, but the novel was Madame Bovary.

If you really want to view Seinfeld as a show about nothing more literally, watch the video below which is an edit of moments from the series when nothing happens. Turn off the sound for a Zen of Seinfeld experience.

 

Tomorrow, will be the New Moon when the portion of the moon we see from Earth is 0% illuminated by sunshine and so completely engulfed in the moon’s own shadow.

The moon has a day side and a night side, just as Earth does. Due to the angle between the sun, Earth and moon, we see different portions of its day side and night side as the moon phases progress. When it is waxing, we see more of its day side at night until it turns full.

The part of the moon that isn’t in sunlight is often called the “dark side of the moon.” There is a famous record album with that name. But because of the moon’s motion around Earth, the “night side of the moon” that we see from Earth constantly changes. That means there is a permanent far side of the moon, but there is no permanent dark side of the moon.

If you were to spend time in one place on the Moon, you would experience night for about two weeks, followed by about two weeks of daylight.

After billions of years of Earth’s strong gravitational pull, the Moon has actually slowed down so that it takes as long to rotate as it does to orbit once around Earth. It is “tidally locked” with Earth.

But “tidally locked” and the “far side of the moon” do not sound right for a song lyric, and Pink Floyd do say in that album’s final track, “Eclipse

And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon

There is no dark side in the moon really
Matter of fact it’s all dark

A Stop at Willoughby” is an episode from the first season of  the television series The Twilight Zone.  I watched that show with my parents as a kid, and I usually watched while hiding behind a pillow on our couch. Many episodes scared me. I remember “A Stop at Willoughby” and I’m sure I watched it a few more times in reruns.

In the episode, a businessman who is having a lousy time at work and at home, falls asleep on his train ride home. He wakes to find the train empty and stopped at a town called Willoughby – but it’s July 1888. It looks like a wonderfully peaceful place, but he is jerked awake and back into the present. He asks the conductor if he has ever heard of Willoughby, but the conductor says there is no such town on their route.

After another lousy work day, he falls asleep again on the train and finds himself in Willoughby again. This time, he gets off the train and is welcomed warmly by the people there.

The scene suddenly shifts back to the present and a train engineer is standing over the businessman’s body. The conductor tells him that the businessman shouted something about Willoughby and jumped off the train and was killed instantly.

The ending shocked me. His escape was suicide. To add a further shock to the ending, as his  body is loaded into a hearse, we see that the name of the funeral home is Willoughby & Son.

That episode was the first thing I thought of when I saw a story online about “haunted Willoughby, Ohio.” This town has a number of stories that would work as scripts for The Twilight Zone. For example, Willoughby Coal is supposed to have menacing apparitions that appear in its darkened windows. But the best known story is the one I came across online that centers on Willoughby Cemetery, where the Girl in Blue’s spirit supposedly stays unsatisfied near her grave.

Her story begins December 23, 1933. A young woman with auburn-hair and hazel-eyes gets off the Greyhound bus by herself in Willoughby. No one knew who she was or why she was there. She took a room at a local  boarding house, and the next morning she asked the owner about local church services and then went out into the town.

She was dressed entirely in blue. She walked through town, unknown, but saying hello to those she met and being welcomed by those she passed.

At the train station, according to witnesses, as a train rushed through the station she sprinted to the tracks and the train sent her body hurtling onto the gravel siding. Although she had no blood or visible wounds, she was dead of a fractured skull.

There was no identification in her purse, but she had a train ticket to Corry, Pennsylvania. “The Girl in Blue” became a local mystery. Had she committed suicide or was she trying to catch that train? Why had she made a stop in Willoughby?

People in town made donations for a headstone and flowers and this unknown person from somewhere else had 3,000 local residents attend her funeral service.

Her headstone reads “In Memory of the Girl in Blue, Killed by Train, December 24, 1933, Unknown but not Forgotten.”

For 60 years, she was a mystery. Then, the week before Christmas Eve in 1993, an article in the News Herald about the 60th anniversary of her death was seen by a real estate broker near Corry, Pennsylvania. He remembered the sale of a family farm and that one of the documents that finalized the sale of the farm was a signed affidavit filed by a son in 1985 that stated that his sister Josephine had died in Willoughby, Ohio on December 24, 1933.

The real estate brokers investigating had given The Girl in Blue a name. She was the daughter of Jacob and Catherine Klimczak, Polish immigrants who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1901. Her name was Josephine, but to her five sisters and three brothers, she was known as Sophie. In Willoughby, a second gravestone was added with both of her names.

Her gravesite is said to have strange orbs hovering nearby, and recordings of a disembodied female voice have been made at her grave; and the figure of a woman has been seen standing next to the headstone, dressed in blue.

Why did she make her own stop in Willoughby?  Did she commit suicide to escape her life? Is there some connection between The Girl in Blue and The Twilight Zone?

The Twilight Zone‘s creator, frequent writer and host narrated each episode and always told us that:

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”

 

Taurid Fireball and Aurora 11.03.15 0129hrs PST

Taurid Fireball and Aurora via Flickr

I’ll try this weekend in Paradelle to see the North Taurid meteors. They are not the best known of meteor showers, but they are long-lasting showers. They have a sister shower, the South Taurids, and between the two they run from late October into November.

Tonight is the nominal peak of the North Taurids and it should be strongest in the hours around midnight local time.

But this neighborhood is not optimal for viewing – too much light pollution from cities, and tonight the waning crescent moon in the sky from midnight on won’t help.

But as with many celestial events – Full Moons at noon, distant planets, distant stars, the Milky Way – even if I can’t see it, I find comfort in knowing where to look and that it is out there.

The North Taurid meteors’ radiant point (origin) is in the constellation Taurus the Bull. It is near the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, in Taurus.  But you don’t need a star chart to see the meteors as they appear all over the sky. The Taurids are known for having some very bright fireballs. A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus as seen in the morning or evening sky. That’s quite bright and very visible.

Taurus rises over the northeast horizon around 7 to 8 p.m. at mid-northern latitudes and a few hours later for the Southern Hemisphere.  Give them a look.

 

Today is Armistice Day Armistice Day which marks the armistice signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 between the Allies of World War I and Germany to end World War I – the “war to end all wars.” It is also known as Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.

But 1918 was also the year of another kind of worldwide war against the Spanish influenza pandemic. There is no special day to mark this and I doubt that many Americans today know about it or think about it. You may have gone last month for your flu shot, but never thought about the fact that October 1918 was the deadliest month in United States history. 195,000 Americans died in that one month as a result of influenza.

Influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC, 1918

By the time the pandemic had run its course, an estimated 500,000 Americans had died of the flu. It is hard to grasp that number. It is more deaths than the American combat fatalities in all the wars of the 20th century combined. And worldwide, the flu may have claimed as many as 100 million lives.

My mother was born in December of that year and it was feared that she or her mother might get the flu. The start of that flu season was in March with the first recorded case being a mess cook in Fort Riley, Kansas. There are still several hypotheses about how and where the flu pandemic began and no conclusive answer.

Though it became known as the “Spanish flu,” it did not originate in Spain. Spain seemed at the time to be particularly hard hit by the virus. I say “seemed” because the Spanish media covered it extensively, but the United States, the UK, France, and Germany deliberately underplayed the virus’ effect in hopes of keeping up wartime morale. Many Americans thought, as with many military wars, that it was something happening far from our shores.

Recent studies of the incomplete medical records from the time seem to show that this viral infection itself was not more aggressive than any previous influenza. Oddly, it seemed to affect healthy people more than would have been expected. Rather, factors such as malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals and poor hygiene promoted bacterial superinfection which killed most of the victims after a prolonged period.

There was what was called a “second wave” that year of the same virus. We know it was the same strain because those who had survived a first infection had immunity in a second exposure. But after the lethal second wave struck in late 1918, new cases mysteriously dropped abruptly.

In Philadelphia, 4,597 people died in the week ending October 16, but by Armistice day influenza had almost disappeared from the city. No one is certain why. Did doctors get better at preventing and treating the pneumonia that developed after the victims had contracted the virus? Did the virus mutate extremely rapidly to a less lethal strain?

Could it happen again? That is the stuff of movies, like Outbreak, Contagion and World War Z, all of which make reference to the 1918 pandemic. Certainly our medical knowledge and treatments are much better today. Research done in 2007 reported that monkeys infected with the recreated flu strain has the same symptoms of the 1918 pandemic. They died from what is called a cytokine storm, which is when there is an overreaction of the immune system. That may explain why is may explain why the 1918 flu had a surprising powerful effect on younger, healthier people. A person with a stronger immune system would ironically have a potentially stronger overreaction than a less healthy person.

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Hello Not all labyrinths are traps Happy to be inside but already missing summer outdoors.  The plant feels the same way. There’s something in the first cold nights when autumn teases winter that seem to require a fire. Still drinking morning tea in the afternoon.  #teaetiquette Though an island be small, some still call it home.

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