Runo – Finno-Ugric “loan” word meaning nature magical poem and nature magical poet.
In 2007 I had a voice lesson from Twin Citie’s singer, song writer, and spiritual leader
Ruth MacKenzie whose interpretation of runos from the Kalevala made a huge impact on Nordic root music in Minnesota. It was exciting to share my work with Ruth and trade a copy of my new rune book for a portion of my lesson.
Ms MacKenzie was the first asked me a key question: “What do the runes and runos have to do with one another?” It sent me on a new path of study and here are some of the answers I found:
1. Runes and Runos come from the same Sanskrit root: Ru. Ru means secret conversation and whispered mystery. Rudra is the howler god, the red thunder god of early Indo-European mythology. He manifests as the hammer wielder Ukko in Finnish tradition, Tor in Scandinavia, Perkunas in the Baltic and Donnar in Germany. In the last millennium BC, Baltic and Finnic tribes had much culture and word sharing. Interestingly, Sanskrit shares more cognates with Icelandic than any other Ido-European language.
2. Runes and Runos are nature magical and word magical. Through poetic expression, users of runes and runos can connect with Nature energies and entities and are themselves called runos (poet magician). The most famous Runo in Finnish tradition is Väinämöinen in the famous collection of Runos (as poems), the Kalevala. Many male and female characters use magical poetry in this volume. Healers are those who know the names and lineages of all things.
In Germanic/Scandinavian tradition, the most famous poet magician is Odin who hung on the world tree in order to learn 18 runes and stole the mead of poetry from the giants. The poetic Edda (Grandmother Poems) of Iceland depict female poet magicians and healers – the Lay of Sigfrida and Groagaldur are two.
3. The poetic structure of a Runo is assonant, alliterative and contains parallels (successive lines repeat information). They have a Trochaic meter with the stresses on the 1-3-5-7 of an 8 syllable line.
4. Musically Runos have a repetitive 8 note melody that is trance inducing. There is a syllable for every note.
To honor this connection I recorded the Votic bridal ritual whisking and sauna song
Morsja Vhitalmine (Völva Songs EP, 2008).
In 2012, my friend, stav student, and Finnish American poet Lynette Reini-Grandell asked if I would like to add staff rhythm and chant to some of her poems about her Finnish Immigrant heritage. We created a show called Ancestor Memory and a few other wonderful shows! Performance Duo
In 2013 I became a kummitäti (godmother) to a sweet little girl in Finland so I increased my Finnish repertoire for 2014 when I went to visit her!
Lynette and I sang Finnish charms, Norwegian folk songs, and original poems and songs at Nisswastämmen, the Landmark Center, and at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater.
We created two theatrical productions about the Bear spirit in traditional culture and our own personal relationship to Bear spirit at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater – Waking the Bear and Waking the Bear 2.
My favorite work with Lynette is an interpretation of her poem dedicated to Olli Kiukkonen (Approaching the Gate, 2014), the Finnish Immigrant lynched in Duluth, MN in 1918 because he did not enlist. It warns of the price of Nationalism, of mob mentality, and of the evils of blaming. We devised a chant and worked with Carol Sersland on a movement/dance.
In 2017 the Finnish community in Minnesota, celebrating 100 years of Finnish Independence, taught several folk dance classes. I sincerely enjoy feeling the Finnish spirit in my body through the song and dance traditions! Each time I visit Finland I feel my spirit mellow and my heart broaden. I participate in the runic rhythm of my godchild and her family. I absorb the runes of the Nature there. It is painful when I leave.