- The Rune Bones
- The Rune Spectrum
- The Rune Groups
- The Meanings of the Individual Runes
- The Runes and Divination
- The Runes and Gambling
- Birth Runes
Please note that all these Runes have been specifically designed and developed for the Tales of Einarinn and subsequent books and are copyright Juliet E McKenna. Their use in any form for commercial gain is expressly forbidden.
There are nine Rune Bones, also known as Rune Sticks or Fate Sticks to the Forest Folk and the Mountain Men. Each stick is triangular, a prism shape, with a rune on each face giving twenty-seven rune symbols in all. Only the symbols for the sun, the greater moon and the lesser moon on the Heavens Rune are symmetrical. All the others have a distinct top and bottom, so can land upright or reversed when the runes are thrown.
They are variously made out of wood, metal or bone, depending on the materials to hand. The Forest Folk almost invariably use wood, carving thin sticks about the length of a middle finger or sometimes a whole hand. In the mining areas of Gidesta and Northern Dalasor, base metals are used to cast more robust pieces for gambling. The Mountain Men of Northern Ensaimin traditionally use bone, making thicker pieces about the length of a finger joint. Bone runes are the most common form, used widely across Ensaimin, Caladhria, Lescar and Tormalin. In Tormalin, the traditional runic symbols may even be replaced with fanciful pictures painted by miniature artists on substantial prism of bone or ivory.
Four of the sticks and the twelve runes upon them are designated male, four more sticks and their twelve symbols are considered female. The ninth carries the three Heavens Runes which are neutral as a group, though individually, the Sun is considered male while the Greater Moon and Lesser Moon are both considered female. The bones or sticks are traditionally arranged in a runic spectrum, ranging from most strongly male to most strongly female. This pattern can be read as a hierarchy, though the power can reside at either the male or female ends of the scale, depending on circumstance.
Setting aside the three Heavens runes, the remaining symbols can be seen as six sets of four comprising the Elements, the Domains and the Animals, the Plants, the Instruments and the Winds. Thus the rune groups are held to cover the essentials of life. Within each group of four, there is a male pair, comprising strong and weak and a corresponding female pair. Stronger does not always outweigh weaker. As with the spectrum of rune sticks, the significance of a single rune in relation to the rest of its group varies, depending on perspective.
The Runes of Einarinn are not an alphabet. The symbols are pictograms, images to symbolise a word or concept. If they were ever used for writing, that knowledge is long since lost. Nowadays, the runes are mainly used for gambling and for a few traditional practises, such as the drawing of birth runes to make up an individual’s rune sigil. Such things are generally derided for as mere superstition by the more sophisticated Tormalin, Lescari and Caladhrians but still taken seriously among the Forest and Mountain races who continue to practise runic divination.
The Drum and the Earth sound when struck but without that blow, remain Calm.
This most strongly male stick speaks of leadership, of influence over a group,
and of events with a universal significance.
The winds of the Storm strike the hanging Chime whose sound is as sudden as the Lightning. The fate stick signifies strength but of the individual, rather than the group. It speaks of solitary courage, single-minded determination, unique inspiration.
The Wolf runs between the Pine trees on the slopes of the Mountain. This rune stick stands between the far point of the masculine principle and the neutrality of the Heavens Rune. It speaks of more personal care for others, of strength in unity and of playing one’s part in a group enterprise.
The Stag roams the Forest, taking shelter beneath the mighty Oak. Closest to the female side of the spectrum, the rune stick tells of security, a nurturing sensitivity and a lone defender.
The lights of the heavens stand neutral between male and female, seeing all.
Nothing is hidden from their gaze, by day or by night.
The Salmon’s life takes it from the Reed beds of the river to the vastness of the Sea
and back again. The female rune stick closest to the male principle, it speaks of wholeness, partnership and dedication to a cause or task.
The Eagle soars high above the plains that vanish into the distance, treeless home to the yellow broom. Equidistant between neutrality and the far point of the feminine principle, this stick speaks of the strength and clarity that comes from independence and a viewpoint free of constraints.
As the dry North Wind sweeps down from the mountains, the risk of Fire rises and the Horn stands ready to sound the alarm for all within hearing. This is a rune of passion, exuberance and liveliness, of celebration shared with the whole community.
The sound of the Harp evokes the ripples of the Wellspring, replenished by the South Wind that comes over the seas laden with rain. This rune stick is the most overtly female of the spectrum. It speaks of underlying strength, charm and subtle persuasion, of an event bringing personal joy.
The lights of the heavens stand alone as a triune group of runes symbolising all that is beyond human reach, all that lies in the realm of belief and mystery. The Sun is reckoned Male, the Greater Moon the stronger of the female pair, the Lesser Moon the weaker. While the male is stronger than either female, the two united can prevail.
The four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water make up the physical world and it is an affinity with one of these that gives a mage an inborn power first over that individual element and with training, over the others. A wizard works magic by combining and influencing them.
Earth and Air are the realm of the male, the traveller and the hunter of beasts and birds, with Earth the stronger of the pair, stolidly resisting the Air’s blows. Fire and Water are the female realm, hearth and refreshment, with Water the stronger, always able to quench the Fire.
The four habitable domains of the world are The Mountains, the Forest, the Plains and the Sea, each with their own race, according to ancient belief. The Mountains and the Forest are the male’s purview, where strength and boldness overcome the challenges of mining and hunting. The Mountains are the stronger, rising above the Forest’s trees.
The Plains and the Sea come within the female remit where the settled life of farmer and fisher relies on women’s manifold skills in making and maintaining a home as well as contributions such as weaving baskets or nets and preserving the harvests to carry the whole community through the year. The solid Plains are stronger than the chancy surface of the Sea.
All the human races share the world with the beasts of each domain. These are symbolised by the Wolf, male hunter of the uplands, predator pursuing the Stag, ruler of the lowland forests.
The Eagle soars high above the plains, hunting for her chicks, snatching the Salmon from the river as she returns to spawn.
Every domain has its particular plants, epitomised by the Oak of the lowlands, longer lived and stronger than his weaker though more swiftly growing upland brother, the Pine. Both trees supply men with wood for building and for weapons.
Women gather reeds at the waterside for a myriad uses, the beds renewed and extending with every passing year, ever fertile and nurturing. A more solitary plant without this strength in numbers, The Broom is not so strong, despite her many uses for the mother nursing, clothing and sheltering her family.
The world has much to be heard as well as seen, touched, tasted and smelled. Music delights the ear above all else. The hunter and forester make the Drum of wood and leather, a sound that carries beyond the ringing of the chime forged by the metalsmith. No matter how strong the arm that strikes it, a muffling hand can always still the sound.
The Harp is an instrument of beauty and grace, her complex chords lingering far beyond the resonant song of the Horn symbol of all pipes and flutes, echoes of the female voice.
Unseen forces are also at work in the world, most obviously Wind and weather. The Storm comes to ravage and destroy, worse than all the excesses of men, driving away the Calm, just as violence drives out the counsel of the wise man. The scourge of the cold, dry North Wind is as harsh as matriarchal discipline, leaving scores to be soothed by the warm, moisture laden South Wind, gentle as a loving mother.
These runes can also be read as symbols of Aetheric magic. In most instances, male Adepts show more skill in the Artifice that can dominate the physical realm. In this sphere, manipulation of the surrounding reality outranks the ability to keep oneself unaffected by such externals.
In most instances, it is women who prove most talented at working Artifce around another person’s wits. The ruthless overwhelming of a reluctant mind is easier and therefore a more powerful tool than the difficult insinuation of unsuspected hopes, fears and dreams.
The interpretation of runes varies from culture to culture and judgement is also required when assessing the various combinations.
The following are the most commonly held associations with each rune but there are many other subsidiary meanings.
A complex vision of the inter-relations between the runes underpins the world view of the ancient races and many of the symbols are associated with both ancient and modern religious beliefs right across the lands of Einarinn.
The Drum speaks of a decision, of reaching a break point with the past. As everyone hears the drum, this is a rune with significance for the wider community. Perhaps important news is coming or there is a need for some vital communication. Perhaps a secret is soon to be revealed. It can symbolise celebrations in general and weddings in particular. But the beat of the drum can signify warfare and thereby destruction. Beating can be a general symbol of violence and a warning for the individual against indiscipline. Reversed, the drum is silent and warns against refusal to make a decision, to choose that crucial break with the past.
In its positive aspect, the Calm suggests a time of stillness allowing for contemplation and discovering the truth. It is a rune for wisdom in general and of latent power as yet unrealised. Other positive associations for the individual include the benefits of study and temperance. It is a symbol of the self and of self knowledge but reversed can indicate withdrawal and self-centeredness, warning of the dangers of selfishness or obstinacy, of suppressing natural emotions. It can warn of the ultimate withdrawal, of death, the final stillness. As a guide to action, it can remind both of the benefits of taking time to plan ahead and of the dangers of prolonged delay. Among the Sheltya of the Mountains, this rune also signifies the power of Artifice, also known as Aetheric magic, to defend against physical injury, to keep the individual unaffected by external forces.
The Earth is a rune that indicates great events, perhaps change or upheaval, perhaps some major success. For the individual, it can symbolise status and wealth, indicating a leader or figurehead. Other associations include fertility and material possessions, often won by hard work such as tilling the ground or digging deep within it.
But upheaval can be a negative experience and reversed the rune can warn of material losses or a drop in status or rank. It can indicate events in the wider world beyond an individual’s control. It is also a reminder of everything that unites individuals, the common ground beneath our feet. It is also the symbol for the magical element of Earth.
The Chime can signify either a beginning or an end. It can indicate the start of some contest or it can symbolise a resolution reached, either as the result of compromise or some unexpected breakthrough. It speaks of unanticipated news. At the sound of the chime persists, it symbolises strength and continuity, something than cannot be denied or stopped once it has begun. It is also associated with creativity. Conversely, the sound of the chime cannot be concealed, even if desired, once it has been struck. What’s done is done. In its positive aspect, this is a happy sound. Reversed, the chime is muted and can indicate a death, a voice silenced forever.
The Storm is a rune of conflict and argument. For the wider community, it can warn of strife ahead, even of warfare. This might be necessary, with the benefits of conquest and of training people in martial skills to offset the risks but in its negative aspects, the Storm can suggest a pointless conflict, leading to disorder and even anarchy. For the individual, it symbolises the dangers of internal arguments or of obsessive behaviour bringing one into conflict with others. The storm’s energy can symbolise passion but lack of self-control in love can be a destructive force for all concerned and those around them. In the context of Aetheric magic, this rune symbolises the power of someone skilled in Artifice to materially affect and influence the physical world and things within it.
Lightning is the symbol of the magical element of Air. It signifies inspiration and ingenuity, of inspiration coming from within an individual,
an awakening. It offers optimism and the hope of a fresh start, of some new invention or enterprise. But lightning can be destructive and reversed, the rune can suggest a dangerous individual. With the reminder that the air sustains us all, it warns against thoughtlessness, of incautious action, often stemming from immaturity and impulse. Its transience can indicate a lack of commitment and unfulfilled promise. It can tell the individual to go with their first instincts and conversely, warn against making unsupported judgements.
The Wolf speaks of courage and also of loving care for family and friends,
of such beneficial ties. It is a sign of intelligence, often based on intuition and of foresight and courage. It also signifies aspiration and ambition. It can indicate a stranger is soon to arrive or success in the near future. Reversed, it is a symbol of hunger, perhaps of natural ills soon to befall someone, not as a result of malice but of simple misfortune. It speaks of individuals driven by baser instincts of greed and ferocity and of predatory lust. It can warn of trickery and deception, of someone wily and evasive.
The Pine is a symbol of growth and longevity and the promise of life through the dark and cold of winter. As a tree of the uplands, it speaks of perseverance, both physical and mental. It indicates incorruptibility; the tree bends with the storms of life but does not break.
As a medicinal plant, it can indicate a healer or some need for curative action. Reversed, the quick growth of the pine and the flammability of its wood and resin can symbolise a life wasted by folly or disaster. Similarly, bending with the wind can mean endless, futile compromise. As a symbol of winter, it can warn of famine and as a hanging tree, of death.
The Mountain signifies endurance and defiance, it is unshakeable and speaks of security both physical and material. It is a symbol of permanence, even eternity.
It can indicate a challenge in general, perhaps a risky venture which must nevertheless be attempted. A mountain can be a barrier, an obstacle to be overcome, before the hidden lands beyond can be seen. It can warn of frustrations to come. For the individual, it can suggest the need to reach a point where as much as possible can be clearly understood. That position of height can then become a place of departure. In its negative aspect, the defiance of the solitary peak can become stubbornness and resistance to change.
The Stag is a symbol of virility, of strength and speed and of regeneration. It speaks of brave actions and constant leadership through all the stages of life and the seasons of the year. It indicates clear vision, wisdom and alertness, all of which bring wealth and prosperity. Reversed, the negative associations are with running away, even headlong flight. This can stem from folly or groundless fears. The solitary nature of the stag can indicate selfishness and the violence of the rutting season can symbolise heedlessness as a result of ungoverned passion.
The Oak gives shelter and further indicates security through the wood it supplies for building. It is a medicinal plant and so the tree is a symbol of health and fitness. The height and size of the oak within the forest suggests strength, longevity and thereby associations with nobility. Conversely, the age-old oak is hollow at its centre and so can suggest illness or affliction, perhaps an empty promise. The weight of years
can be a heavy burden on the ancient tree. Unable to bend with storms, it can crack,
a powerful symbol of stubbornness and its consequences. Wood can be used for shields and clubs, thus the rune can warn of a need for weapons.
The Forest is a place to fall back to for sanctuary and resources.
It is a symbol of breadth, of something all encompassing. It offers protection and nourishment, a place of life and fruitfulness. It is a reminder of the power of the many against the few. But it is also a sign that things may not be as they seem and can suggest secrets hidden within the shelter of the Forest. It can be a dark and trackless place and the rune reversed can symbolise obscurity and things only half understood. Individuals must take care to follow the right path through the wildwood. The rune can warn of loss or even bereavement.
The Greater Moon is a symbol of promise and of perfection, as reflected in the faultless circle of the full. It is also a symbol of the cycle of life, of the seasons, the weather and the tides. The Greater Moon is a link between the three realms of existence, land, sea and sky. It represents the power of an oath and is a permanent reminder of the binding nature of such swearing. It promises good fortune for those wise enough to see with clarity and with the courage to act on their convictions. It speaks of honesty and integrity and thereby of successful relationships, within the wider community and more specifically within marriage.
The Sun speaks of the centre but also of the universal, of even-handedness among the whole community. By extension, there are associations with the responsibilities of power and rulers. For the individual, it can signify a balance point where the consequences of any action should be carefully considered. It symbolises revelation and thereby truth and knowledge. The sun is a source of energy and thereby creativity and achievement as well as the annual cycle of renewal. For the individual it can indicate passion and youth. Golden in colour, it can suggest wealth.
The Lesser Moon is a sign of mystery, of things unknown and unknowable, out of reach. These can be both positive and negative at one and the same time. The unknown future may hold hope or simple indifference. It is a symbol of chastity and of virginity, a state that can either be a protection for women or a bitter state of hopes unfulfilled. The closed circle can symbolise either a task completed or opportunity cut short when time has run out. That circle can offer protection for those within it and cold exclusion for anyone left outside. It speaks of that distant state of mind, which can be either serenity or madness.
The Salmon is a symbol of a year and more widely, of the whole cycle of life, from birth in its positive aspect to death in the negative. It is considered a lucky symbol, promising freedom and travel. It suggests fertility as well as a more general promise of natural bounty and sexual fulfilment within the wider context of a task satisfactorily completed. It is however a powerful reminder of mortality and also of the dangers of being a slave to one’s physical desires, of swimming with the tide rather than striking out alone and the perils of losing one’s individuality within the group.
The Reed signifies flexibility and adaptability in its positive aspect. Woven, the reed makes a rope, so signifies something binding and also faithfulness within marriage. It also has strong domestic associations, as it is used for baskets, matting and thatching houses. However the hollow reed is easily broken and as dry reed burns, so the negative aspects of the rune include vulnerability and weakness, a sign of hard work for little reward. As reed beds are neither water nor land, it can signify someone who is neither one thing nor another, indecisive. The whispering reeds can be a sign of rumour that should be heeded or of gossip that should be ignored.
The Sea speaks of life, wisdom and infinite potential.
As the individual can be cleansed by immersion in the sea, thus linking the rune with purification, so the ocean’s great natural force can scour the shore. The rune may warn of some need to sweep away a wider corruption or foreshadow some coming event that might prove overwhelming. The sea is also a symbol of unity, lapping on every shore as it links every island and continent. In its negative aspects, that limitlessness becomes formlessness, a warning against listlessness, or of circumstances that might leave someone helplessly adrift. It can hint at a lack of direction in an individual.
The Eagle symbolises strength of will and confidence leading to freedom. It counsels the individual to keep watch, to stay alert and may indicate an important omen ahead. It is a sign of power and ability, often promising some victory to come or a change in one’s life. It can indicate a search or some necessity for speed. Reversed, it can stand for pride and arrogance, for anger and warn of a fall yet to come. It is an emblem of the care parents should have for their children and warns against inconstancy and quarrels.
The Broom is a strongly domestic symbol, representing nurture in general and in particular, given its importance as a medicinal herb, looking after the old, the young and the sick. As a dye plant, the broom becomes a symbol of the need to take care over some task that might be spoiled. Used for sweeping, the broom can indicate the time has come for some clearing up or sorting out, some removal of detritus. This brings a promise of diligence rewarded. Given broom can be poisonous as well as medicinal, the negative aspects of the rune include bitterness and may warn of spite or deliberate, harmful malice.
The Plain signifies infinity, timelessness, endlessness,
and the continuity of life beyond death. It is a specific indicator of an individual’s home,
of their origins, their birthright and perhaps inheritance, either material or cultural.
It also symbolises the past that cannot be changed. Without barriers, the plain offers openness, where things cannot be concealed. Without shelter, the plain can also be a place of vulnerability where an individual might be at risk or thrown on their own resources. Its unchanging nature can indicate passivity, which might have either positive or negative connotations.
The Horn is a symbol of a message or a summons
and of the importance of communication in general. It suggests some important call
on an individual and often indicates a necessary journey. In its positive aspect, it is an indicator of success and the news it brings will be welcome. In its negative aspect, the horn can sound an alarm, either a vital warning or less helpfully, may indicate panic or a nasty shock in store for an individual. It may sound aloud to reveal something someone would rather keep hidden, warning against actions that might lead to having to keep shameful secrets.
The North Wind, also known as Ushal to the Ancient Races, is a chill harbinger of death rolling down from the mountains. It is a symbol of the pain and constraints of winter and more widely, of poverty and hunger in general and for the individual, a arbinger of some belligerence or anger. It can presage a bad harvest, more general misfortune or less catastrophically, may be a sign that something is missing. It signifies the inescapable nature of fate and the individual’s helplessness in the face of destiny. That destiny need not be entirely bad, depending on the other runes drawn in combination with the North Wind but its presence always indicates a warning. Among the Sheltya of the Mountains, the Ushal symbolises the power of Artifice to force itself upon an unwilling person’s wits, to work hostile Aetheric magic against them.
Fire is a sign of warmth, of comfort, of the hearth and home. Linked with so many crafts, it signifies practical skills and the confidence to use them.
It can indicate sudden attraction, mutual passion and even a romantic tryst. It may signify a test, from which the individual will emerge stronger or some trial or judgement. Its negative aspects highlight the destructive nature of fire, particularly the threat to a dwelling. It can warn against a lack of self control. It can also suggest material envy or sexual jealousy and warn of the dangers of letting such feelings run out of control. With the rune reversed, the cold hearth is a reproach, a warning of underachievement, a suggestion of resources squandered rather than carefully husbanded. It is also the sign for the magical element of fire.
The Harp has positive associations with craft and beauty, an indicator of the precious and valuable, also of study and perseverance. It can suggest friendly advice or a means to advancement at hand for the individual, perhaps someone with a romantic interest. For the wider community, it indicates harmony and unity. For all, it counsels sensitivity. Reversed, the associations are with cunning and subterfuge, trickery and sleight of hand. Harp strings can cut the fingers so for the individual it can warn of anguish, especially in love and for the group, the threat of discord and of peace disturbed. As the string is broken, so the Harp is silenced. It can warn of future vulnerability. The individual should carefully consider the consequences of intended action.
The South Wind, also known as Teshal to the Ancient Races, is the warm breath from the south bringing rain and fertility. It is a rune for luck and good fortune in general when upright. It might indicate unexpected guests or some cause for celebrations. For the individual, it can signify new passion or renewed energy for a task. As a seasonal wind, it reminds us that all things change and often for the better in time. It encourages looking to the future. Reversed, the fickleness of the wind is indicated; this is a rune for uncertainty. If the rains were to fail, then suffering would result. Winds sweep much away, so the rune can warn against loss. For the individual, it warns against fecklessness, against empty bragging. In the context of Aetheric magic, this rune symbolises the power of someone skilled in Artifice to work their will upon another undetected, through subtle influence on their wits.
In its positive aspect, the Wellspring can mean a desire fulfilled. It can also represent transition, even a link to the Otherworld. It can be indicative of purity and of sacrifice to gain something fervently desired. For an individual, it can suggest hidden depths or unrecognised qualities. Reversed, it can suggest hidden dangers and deceptions. It might indicate an individual is concealing something, perhaps a potentially dangerous longing. Negative associations such as flooding can suggest dissolution or in the individual, destructive restlessness, also dishonesty. It might also warn against stagnation. As a guide to action, it might indicate this is a time for reflection. It is also the symbol for the magical element of water.
The runes were originally used for divination by the ancient races of Forest, Mountain and Plain. One, three, six or nine sticks would be thrown in a search for answers to questions and guidance over decisions. The Forest and Mountain peoples still follow this practise. As the runes land either upright or reversed, their positive and negative aspects hidden wisdom to those with the skills to interpret them. The meanings of the symmetrical heaven runes take on positive or negative shadings, depending on the other runes revealed and the nature of the question posed or the answers sought.
The upright rune is read for a straightforward indication in the simplest cast of a single rune. The combination of the upright runes in a cast of three adds a little more complexity.
These simple divinations are generally interpreted by the individual seeking answers, using their personal set of runes. The more complex patterns are customarily assessed by a second party, someone whose insight into both the runes and the complexities of life is acknowledged by the wider community. The rune bones or sticks used will generally belong to that wise woman or man, kept purely for divination and never used for gambling.
In a layout of six sticks placed in two rows of three, the upright runes are read in the first line to indicate positive aspects to a course of action which someone is contemplating. The reversed runes in the second line are studied for warnings.
The most complex divination requires a triangular layout of all nine runes, drawn in succession by the individual seeking either general guidance at some challenging juncture in their life or answers to a particularly vital question.
One rune is laid alone, as the top of a triangle. Two more are laid end to end below it and then a row of three more below that pair. The final three runes are set at angles to this pattern, pointing outward from the corners of the triangle.
The rune on the underneath of the first rune is the first to be read and it is taken as the guide to all that follows. Every rune and combination will be interpreted in the light of that first hidden truth to be revealed.
The second row offers insights into the seeker. The upright runes speak of how that person sees their own character. The reverse runes indicate how others see that individual. Once again, the hidden runes will reveal some aspect of the seeker’s true self.
The three rune sticks on the lowest level speak of the seeker’s mother in the upright runes, and of their father in the reversed symbols, always in relation to the matter at hand. The hidden faces offer hidden insights as to ways in which the seeker’s family history has a bearing on the current question. Family influence and ties have always been central to life in the Forest, among the nomadic Folk, and in the Mountains, among the isolated valley communities.
The final three bones set at right angles reflect the seeker’s recent past in the reversed runes, their present situation in the upright symbols and their future in the hidden faces. The intricate combinations which result from this type of reading can prompt lengthy discussion.
Gambling with runes is a game for two players. The Heavens rune is thrown first to see whether male or female runes will win the game to be played, and also whether strength or subtlety will win out.
If the Heavens rune lands showing the Sun and the Greater Moon, then the strong male runes will dominate. If the Sun and Lesser Moon are shown, then the weak male runes will count more highly.
If the Heavens rune lands showing both Greater Moon and Lesser Moon, female runes will dominate the game. A second throw of the Heavens rune decides between strength and weakness. If that second throw lands showing both moons, the weaker female runes count more highly. If the second throw shows the Sun with either moon, then the strong female runes dominate.
Each player then takes three of the remaining rune bones, sight unseen, from a bag and casts them on a table. The upright runes are read. The player with the greater number of runes of the type determined by the Heavens rune at the outset wins the hand. In the event of a draw, another trio of bones are thrown.
A variation on this game sees each player take one rune and cast it, then a second, then a third, alternating their turns to draw from the rune bag.
Another variation allows each player the option of swapping one of their three cast runes for one of the two remaining unused, or of recasting one of their already thrown bones, on hopes of obtaining a more favourable result.
Wagers can be placed by the players or by onlookers, on the outcome of the hand at the outset, or during the game if either of the latter variants are being played.
In most of the lands that once made up the Old Tormalin Empire, the drawing of Birth Runes is the last survival of ancient runic practices. The process is generally regarded as a quaint superstition identifying a lucky symbol or symbols for anyone interested in such trivialities. Fashions for runes and birth sigils as motifs in jewellery and embroidery come and go periodically. The most common use for a birth sigil is in a personal seal ring, to identify personal correspondence.
Among the ancient races and also in Gidesta, Dalasor and Tormalin, a single rune stick is drawn and those three symbols used to create a triangular sigil read clockwise from the top. In Gidesta, as among the Forest Folk and Mountain Men, the child is encouraged to pick a rune bone from a spread thrown by the mother, on the first anniversary of the child’s birth. This is the only occasion when this precise anniversary is marked. Thereafter, an individual’s age is reckoned from the season of their birth rather than the actual day and every year gained is celebrated at the equinox or solstice festival associated with it.
Among the nomadic Dalasorians, the rune is drawn at the child’s first winter solstice, irrespective of age, by the male head of the extended family. Traditional Tormalin custom dictated the oldest living relative in direct line of ascent would draw the rune as soon after the birth as possible but in latter generations, it is most usually one or other parent, if done at all.
This system often results in a rune traditionally considered male being drawn for a girl and an ostensibly female rune being drawn for a boy. This is never considered to have any bearing on that baby’s likely sexuality but rather to be a guide to their dealings with that half of humanity, just as a male rune for a boy will be held to anticipate his dealings with other men, or a female rune be studied as a guide for the growing girl’s interactions with her own sex.
In Lescar, Caladhria and Ensaimin, three different sticks are drawn and thrown. Each parent draws one rune stick and the third is picked either by or on behalf of the child by a grandparent or often, in Lescar, by the priest of a shrine chosen by the parents for the rite. The positive (upright) runes thrown are taken for the sigil and the most favourable interpretations combined for the child.
In all cases the symbol for the heavenly body dominant at the actual time of birth is placed in the centre. In the very few cases where a child is born at night, at the dark of both moons, the centre is left blank. Such a birth is considered gravely ill-omened among the ancient races.
Livak’s birth runes are the Wellspring, the Harp and the Southern Sea Wind, Teshal. Her birth was witnessed by the Sun. Unusually, her father drew her rune stick at her birth, as her mother was not of Forest blood and it was always entirely likely he would not be present on her first birthday.
Ryshad’s birth runes are the Calm, the Drum and the Earth and he was born under the Lesser Moon. His grandmother drew the runes for him and his brothers and sister. It was from her that he picked up a casual habit of carrying his lucky rune bone and rolling it to make trivial decisions.
Sorgren’s fate stick carries the Chime, the Storm and the Lightning but his was one of those rare births at the dark of both moons. Rumour persists among the Mountain Men that such babies were exposed for three days and three nights in days of yore, so that the goddess Maewelin might decide if they should live or die.
Temar’s rune bone is the Salmon, the Reed and the Sea. He was born under the Greater Moon in the Old Empire, when such things were taken far more seriously. His grandsire drew this stick and long pondered its likely significance, especially after the Crusted Pox killed all Temar’s siblings, his father and uncles. This was certainly a factor in his consideration of Temar’s request to join Den Fellaemion’s expedition.
Sorgrad’s birth runes are the Fire, The Horn and the Northern Mountain Wind, the Ushal. He was born under the Sun. From the outset, this combination suggested considerable potential, whether for good or ill and also the conflicts that colour his life.
To help folk who’re not sure they’ve got the right picture of the runes in their imaginations after reading the descriptions in the books, I’ve taken a few photos of the cardboard set of runes I have here, for my own reference when I’m writing about them in the novels and short stories. I hope these help clarify matters.