Runes of the Younger Futhork

The Runes of the Younger Futhork

Stances in the mist

Stances in the mist

Rune Retreat campsite at dawn

The Site at dawn

a wood

Beech Wood

Rune Retreat campsite

Veiw from the barn onto the camping field

Rune set

A Rune Set

Runes and Trees Retreat

To be held on the 21st to 23rd of June 2019 at a venue near Holt in North Norfolk, UK

Trees provide fuel, food, medicine, shelter and materials for making all manner of useful things. Trees also turn barren land into fertile soil and manage the climate, both locally and over whole continents. Trees also live in complex and long lasting communities. Trees also teach us how to root ourselves deep into the ground and reach for the heavens as we too can draw energy from the earth and grow towards the sun. Trees teach us to slow down and be present while still reminding us that nothing is permanent.

Runes come out of a culture which depended upon trees for survival and prosperity. Two of the runes of the Younger Futhork, Bjork (Birch) and Yr (Yew) are named after trees. All the runes have a tree association which teaches us something about the rune and directs our attention to the value of the associated tree.

The Runes and Trees Retreat will focus on our relationship with trees and how to deepen our connection with these magnificent beings. This event will involve much more than just talking about runes and their tree associations. We will have three days to explore woodlands in North Norfolk where we can identify many different kinds of trees and see the places where they prefer to grow. We will have access to a private wood where we practice skills such as cutting, splitting and shaping different kinds of wood. You will make a rune set and learn how to use it. You will also have the opportunity to cut and shape a tein, a cudgel or a staff and we will spend some time learning how to use these tools for personal training exercises and for self-defence. We will also look at firelighting and how the wood from different trees provides the fuel for the different stages of fire lighting and different kinds of fire.

You will also learn how to use the runic stances as a basis for daily practice. We will work with the Karl stances which incorporate a chant to enhance breathing and focus the mind. We will do the stances amongst the trees so that you can get the sense of being grounded with the tree roots and reaching up to the sky as the trees do with their crowns of leafy branches. The Runes and Trees Retreat will include deepening your knowledge of the runes and their meanings and associations. You will work with the runic stances to embody the runes and express them through posture, movement and breath. The tree associations will become real for you as you learn to identify and appreciate the form and character of many different trees. You will discover how to take a part of a living tree and make it into a simple but useful artifact, a runeset, a tein and a staff or cudgel for walking or combat.

As human beings the trees are our oldest friends, companions, protectors and providers. Trees are so important to us that for over one thousand years the runic associations have been there to guide us into a deeper relationship with the denizens of the woods and forests. Too often we just pass by the trees without giving them much thought or consideration. The Runes and Trees retreat will deepen your relationship with the trees and cultivate an appreciation for these magnificent beings which will be with you for the rest of your life.

Please see the programme here.

Is the Runes and Trees Retreat right for you?

This event is open to anyone who is seriously interested in connecting more deeply with the natural world. However, please consider carefully the following before you decide to come. This is an event which requires full participation in the learning and activities so, you will need to be ready to:

  • Camp in a field for three nights, there won't really be room for caravans and motor campers, so tents only please. There is accommodation in the area but not nearby, so, if you are going to get the full benefit of the experience you will need to camp on site. However, the date is midsummer so it should be quite warm and probably even dry. If you don't have a tent, or it is not practical for you to bring one, then we do have a couple to lend out, please let me know ahead of time.
  • Participate in moderate physical activity. There will be walks in the woods to explore the surrounding landscape and see as many trees as possible. There will be gentle training with staff, cudgel and tein. This activity will cover individual practice and partner work, you should find that such training is good exercise and fun but it does require a bit of effort and concentration. You will also be expected to participate in learning and practicing the runic stances. If you can stand and lift your arms you should be able to do the stances but again, a bit of effort and concentration is needed.
  • Work with simple tools such as knife, small axe and saw in order to make the items described above. We will advise you on what to bring or there will be tools to borrow. Also the willingness to engage with firelighting. The intention is that you can go home with two or three items of your own and have the ability to make more useful things in the future.
  • Offer some assistance with administering the event would be much appreciated too. This will just mean a willingness to take a turn or two washing up, do some clearing up, or perhaps preparing some vegetables.
  • Get to know each other, support and encourage other participants of the event, have fun and give, share and gain as much as you can from the experience.
  • Prepare yourself for the event. This depends entirely on what you need. I have tried to make it as clear as possible what will be required of you in order to participate in the event but please consider the following: Please make sure you are reasonably fit, you will need to be able to walk a couple of miles, some of it uphill and over rough ground. The right footwear will help too. Some basic strength and flexibility in your body would be good to cultivate too if you are not already fairly fit. If you are not familiar with camping try out your tent and sleeping equipment in your garden or similar location before the event, if you can't sleep during the retreat you will get pretty miserable and won't be able to participate fully. If you have little or no experience of craft activities get someone to show you how to use and sharpen a knife and practice whittling some sticks, just to get used to using simple tools.
  • Prepare yourself for the event with some knowledge of the runes. If you are a member of Ice and Fire already you will have received the nine modules of the Foundation Programme. You may have followed the programme anyway. Either way please revisit the programme and be familiar with as much of it as you can. If you are new to this way of working with the runes then I am making the Foundation Programme available to you as soon as you book on the Rune Retreat, please see details of the Foundation Programme here. I will sign you up to receive the Foundation Programme as soon as I receive your deposit. If, having studied the first three or four modules you decide that this kind of training is not for you then please just let me know and I will give you an immediate refund. More likely, the Foundation Programme will build your anticipation of the event and help you feel prepared to get the most out of the event.
  • If you have not already checked it out, please see the programme here.

    Important Details


    The Runes and Trees Retreat will be led by Graham Butcher. Graham has been trained in and taught rune lore, runic stances and runic martial arts for over 25 years. Graham will be assisted by two of his long term students who are both fully versed in rune-lore and using the runes. Nigel Smith has a particular interest in bush craft and will teach the tree recognition as well as skills such as fire making. Lynne Griffin has studied Seid and is a skilled craftswoman with considerable experience of carving wood to make items such as spoons, which is not as easy as you might think. Venetia Crawley will be in charge of the catering. Venetia is also a Student Practitioner with the Feldenkrais Guild, so, Venetia will be teaching ATM (Awareness Through Movement) each morning on the retreat as an optional activity to start the day.


    The Runes and Trees Retreat will be held at a private location in North Norfolk, not far from the town of Holt, the exact location will be provided with joining instructions. If you need to travel by public transport please let me know and I will advise you how to get as close as possible and a lift can be arranged for the last part of the journey. Lift sharing may well be possible to arrange as well, let me know if you need a lift and I will see what I can do.

    Dates and Timing

    The retreat will take place on Friday the 23rd to Sunday the 25th of June 2019. We will start at 0900hrs on the Friday morning and conclude around 1600hrs on the Sunday. It would be a good idea to arrive on the Thursday afternoon or early evening to get set up. Please do not arrive before noon and there will be a light evening meal on the Thursday evening. If anyone needs to stay until Monday morning you are welcome to do so but please vacate the site by noon.

    Catering and Refreshments

    All meals from Thursday evening until Sunday lunch will be provided and refreshments at break times. Catering will not be vegetarian. If you have special dietary requirements then please let us know. However, we may just ask you to bring some of your own food as required since the catering staff is going to be very small. Feel free to bring alcoholic drinks for moderate consumption when activities are over in the evenings. There is a pub five minutes walk away at the other end of the village should you fancy a change of scenery.

    Cost and Booking

    If you are a member of Ice and Fire the cost is £100 inclusive of camping and meals. If you are not a member the cost is £150 and you will receive the Foundation Programme as soon as your deposit of £50 has been paid. Balance to be paid by the 31st of May 2019. Please make payment using Paypal form below, or, if you would prefer to pay by bank transfer, please contact Graham and ask for the account details.

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