Runes and Trees Retreat

Midsummer, 21st to 23rd of June 2019 in North Norfolk, UK

Hawthorn Trees

Trees of Life

The story of Iduna and the Golden Apples

Iduna and the Golden Apples

One of my favourite stories in the Norse Mythology is the tale of Iduna and the Golden Apples. Iduna cared for the orchard where the golden fruit of eternal youth grew on trees found nowhere else. Only Iduna could pick and distribute the apples which kept the Aesir and their Vanir guests in the prime of life and filled with vitality. One day the giant Thiassi persuaded the trickster Loki to bring Iduna to a place where the giant could abduct her. In the absence of the guardian of the apple orchard the denizens of Aesgard (the home of the Aesir) began to grow old and grey and age started to weight them down. Eventually Odin discovered Iduna's fate and it became clear to the Aesir that Loki was responsible. This time it was Aesgard which persuaded the trickster to rescue Iduna and bring her home. Loki succeeded in his mission and Thiassi was killed when he tried to prevent the rescue. Once returned to Aesgard Iduna lost no time picking and distributing the golden apples. The Aesir and Vanir were soon restored to their prime and their youthful strength and vigour soon returned.

Yggdrasil, the World Tree

world tree
The World Tree
The story of Iduna's apple orchard is not the only story in the Norse mytholgy where trees play a critical part in the narrative. A central motif in these stories is the Yggdrasil, or world tree, a giant ash with roots or branches reaching into all of the seven worlds. The tree is cared for by the Norns or Wyrd sisters who nurture the tree and do their best to keep it healthy, even as the trunk rots and various creatures gnaw at the roots and graze on the branches.

Odin's Ordeal

It is also believed that it is from a branch of the great ash tree that Odin himself hanged for nine days and nights. Wounded by a spear, without food or drink. Only ending his torment when he had received his vision of the runes and made them his own.

How the Rowan Saved Thor

Thor and the Rowan Tree

One day Thor accepted the invitation of a duplicitous giant who wanted to kill the god of thunder. Thor found a small river in his way and decided to wade across since the water appeared shallow and the current gentle. A little way upstream the giant's evil daughter decided to drown Thor by creating a flood in a most unpleasant way. It was only thanks to a Rowan tree growing beside the river with its branches overhanging the water that Thor was able to hang on and pull himself to safety. Thus the humble Rowan tree saved Thor from being swept away and drowned by the current. Ever since the Rowan has been sacred to Thor and is planted especially to show that a particular place is under the protection of the thunder god.

My Tree Trunk Bridge

As a child I grew up in a house which backed onto a small park. We had a gate at the bottom of our garden which was a doorway to a child's wonderland. All I had to do was cross a patch of grass and I could be among the trees which grew either side of a stream which wondered its way through our part of North London. This was a favorite playground for local children but we had to walk quite a long way to reach the nearest bridge to the other side.

This situation changed when, right behind our house, the stream washed away the soil from under the roots of a large tree. Eventually there was a huge crash and the trunk fell straight across the water way and we had an instant bridge. My friends and I would run back and forth on the trunk until one day I fell off half way across and I had to come home soaked in muddy water. Soon after the council chopped off our fallen tree and left the stump pointing out over the water like a truncated cannon. I could see the rings and I knew that these represented the age of the tree although I never managed to count them.

Learning to Make Things with Wood

Woodcraft Tools

When I was older my father and grandfather showed me how to make things in wood. Later still I realised that I could earn money making and repairing things and using wood has always been one of my trades. In the scouts I learned how to recognise the right kind of wood for making a fire and other uses. I learned how to use and axe, saw and knife to cut and split wood to make a camp fire, build a shelter or simple camp furniture.

When I discovered Stav I found that each rune had a tree associated with it. Each associated tree has a valuable purpose and by learning to recognise each tree and knowing what it is useful for equips us for self-reliance. I also discovered how to make reading runes from a tree branch and how to make training weapons such as staff, axe, cudgel and tein from ash, oak and hazel.

A Special Place to Train

Stances Among the Trees

When I first moved to Oxford from East Yorkshire I was living in one small room and had nowhere to train. However there as a small wood just up the road with a grove of trees within it. It was just the right space to perform the stances and practice cuts with my wooden axe. I would go there alone each morning, train with only the trees as witnesses then I would try to give something back to the woodland by collecting and disposing of rubbish that other people would leave there.

Why Trees Matter

As we get more and more separated from the natural world our economy and all the activities which keep us busy become less and less sustainable. The really essential things that keep this planet habitable for living creatures are:

  • Sunlight, suitably screened by the atmosphere.
  • Air, with sufficient oxygen for us to live and clean enough not to poison us when we breath it into our lungs.
  • Water, in the circulating oceans and delivered in rain through the water cycle.
  • The earth, sufficiently fertile to grow the food we need to avoid starvation.
  • wood

    Trees take these four elements and make the world habitable for the animal kingdom, which includes us. We will consider some of the extraordinary ways that trees serve all life on the planet Earth. I would also strongly recommend that you read the remarkable book 'The Hidden Life of Trees' by Peter Wohlleben.

    Trees also provide us with fuel, building materials, food, medicines and raw materials for all kinds of processes and manufacturing. Many things that used to be made from wood are now made from plastics and that is not working out to well for the planet.

    On the retreat you will have the chance to work with wood and gain some idea of the amazing things we can do with the products of trees.

    It has become apparent that trees create social groups when they live in woodlands. A complex web of life devlops involving countless different organisms which work together to sustain life. This too is something we will investigate on the retreat.

    For too long mankind has been taking trees for granted or even just destroying them on a whim. It is time to start recognising that without trees there will be no sustainable life on earth. This retreat will be the start of healing your relationship with the trees and then encouraging others to do the same.

    Your Invitation

    Sunset Over the Field
    (photo by C. Carswell)

    Come to the Runes and Trees Retreat where you will discover the runes and what they can teach you about self–reliance. You will be learning in a small and select community of like minded people. This will be your chance to get back to the reality of nature for a few days. Take this opportunity to remind yourself who you really are and what you are actually capable of.

    Please visit the Information Page to find out more about the venue, accomdodation and the team.

    What Will You do at the Runes and Trees Retreat?

    This event will enable you to:

  • Enjoy three days of fresh air, activity and exercise away from the distractions of modern life.
  • Be part of a small community of like minded people.
  • Learn and practice the Karl Galdre version of the Runic stances.
  • Learn to recognise the trees associated with the runes and discover where they like to live and why.
  • Use the basic tools, axe, knife and saw which have served mankind for thousands of years.
  • Light a fire by selecting the right kind of woods for tinder, kindling and fuel and then laying, lighting and maintaining your fire.
  • Make some simple items such as a cudgel/walking stick, tein and runes to take home with you. You will also have the chance to make a leather bag for your runes too.
  • Discover more about the Norse Mythology, especially the stories relating to trees, with storytelling around the campfire.
  • Explore how to use runes for counseling and for self-discovery. Are you working with the Orlog (destiny) and fulfilling your potential in life? Or are you struggling against your fate? Which tends to make life rather hard work.
  • wood
    Making Fire
    (photo by C. Carswell)

    How Will the Retreat be Organised?

    It will be best if you can arrive and get set up on the evening of Thursday the 20th. There will be a light meal available and you will have a chance to meet or renew acquaintance with the other participants.

    From the morning of the Friday each day will begin at 0800hrs with an activity session. Venetia Crawley will lead a Feldenkrais session for those who it appeals to. Graham Butcher will lead a short martial training session with exercises and training with the cudgel. Breakfast will be at 0845hrs

    The full day activity will start at 0930hrs with the Karl Galdre stances followed by sessions of teaching and practical work. You can see the provisional programme here.

    Closing Stances will be at 1700hrs and there will be a couple of hours until supper and 1900hrs to relax, catch up with your own camp admin, be sociable or finish off activities you started during the day. After supper there will be story telling around the fire or some other appropriate location. (Perhaps hear the story of Iduna's apples in an actual orchard.)

    There will be time later for socialising and perhaps a visit to the nearby pub, so long as you are good to go in the morning.

    Please see the Information Page for more details on camping, refreshments and catering.

    Testimonials from previous events.

    Make your own runes

    We have not held exactly the same event before but here are some comments from the previous camp we held at the same place.

    Thanks for organising a brilliant camp, Graham - it was the perfect venue, the days were well structured, and I think we have all come away feeling well catered for and welcome, whether newcomer or experienced student. As always, it was also very nice to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and talk the evenings away. Darren

    I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was very meet you all. Andy

    Best camp ever. John

    Thank you for the best camp. What a wonderful location, thanks Venetia for sharing it and for your fantastic cooking ! Graham the programme was great, it was really good to do crafts with Nigel & kettlebell with Alex as well of course as training with you, Hugh and Ivar. It was good to see you all and to meet new folk too. See you next time ! Clare

    The general concensus is that this was the best Stav camp ever – a sentiment I completely agree with. Louise

    Avoid Disappointment and Secure Your Place Today

    There are a maximum of twelve places on the retreat and, as of the 8th of May eleven are taken. The cost is £150 or £100 if you are a member of Ice and Fire Stav.

    Please use the Paypal button below or email Graham if you would like to arrange a bank transfer.

    What Happens Next?

    As soon as you have booked your place you will be signed up to the online Foundation Programme. By following the programme you will be able to arrive at the Rune Retreat with a basic knowledge of the runes, the stances and the key concepts of Stav.

    To get access to the Foundation Programme you either need to be a member of Ice and Fire or the cost is £120. Details of the Foundation Programme can be found here.

    You will also receive joining instructions with details of the venue, travel information and a kit list. I will also include suggestions for how you can make sure that you are fit enough to fully participate in the event.

    If you don't have all the kit you need, or it is impractical for you to bring everything with you, then let us know and we will lend you what you need.

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