Sunday, April 18, 2010


Today we keep our distance from death.  We buy our meat in cleanly wrapped packages in antiseptic supermarkets planted a safe distance from our slaughterhouses. Our ill draw their last breaths in hospices or hospitals: their corpses are then embalmed and painted before being put on display in special "funeral homes" where we exclaim "it's as if he were only sleeping!"

We do our best to scrub away the scent of decay, to rid ourselves of any reminders of our mortality. But despite all our efforts, death remains inevitable. No matter how much we try to cover up the rot, it keeps eating us away. We can order our lives all we like, but sooner or later everything falls back into entropy.

Ear, the Grave-Rune, reminds us of our mortality. It is the doom which comes to us all, the darkness which falls at the end of each day. Ear is not the cyclical transience of Jera: this is not the winter which will soon give way to spring but the end which is past all appeal. The snow may melt above the graves and new flowers may bloom around the monuments, but the corpses remain exactly where they were lain.

Ear often functions in a reading much as the Death card functions in Tarot. It marks something which passes and which will not return. That ex-lover is not coming back: that layoff is really a termination: that missed opportunity is gone forever.  It is time now to take stock in what remains and move on. There is no debating with Ear, only accepting your losses. The grave does not give up that which it has claimed.

Ear can also point to areas of corruption and decay. That which Ear points to is a weak spot, a place where the decadence has set in. It is a sign of that which has passed its prime, an outmoded idea which is holding you back from advancement. Ear shows that which is rotten and gives you a chance to cast it out before the mold spreads throughout your stores. Trying to keep that which has been marked by Ear is like refusing to amputate a gangrenous appendage. You may lose something or you may lose everything but there will be loss.

This is not a fast-moving rune: it is lingering decline rather than sudden death. Ear gives you a chance to put your affairs in order and prepare the legacy you wish to pass on to those who remain. It is in no hurry, but neither will it be put off. Ear is a memento mori, a reminder that you are mortal. Every hour you spend above the ground brings you closer to the time when you will be placed beneath it. Here and now is your hour of triumph and tragedy: in the end there is only what was, not what might have been.

Ear can also be used as a powerful attack-rune: it can give opponents a kind of spiritual leprosy, rotting them away from the inside - and from the outside as well. But the Grave-Rune can also be used to heal. Like maggots eating dead tissue from a wound, it can strip away that which is no longer necessary and free us from the past. Unsurprisingly, it is also a powerful rune for Necromantic work: Ear can help us to contact the souls of those it has reduced to their deeds and their bones.

By now you may be thinking that Ear is a thoroughly nasty and unpleasant rune. But while it encompasses a number of hard truths, it is by no means malevolent. Like all the other runes, it is what it is. Decay breaks down that which has outlived its usefulness.  It returns us to the elements from whence we came and allows them to be recast in new and different molds. And while our joys will one day crumble to dust, so too will our sorrows.  It is the great stasis which allows for change, the end without which there can be no beginning.