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era (pronounced YEH-rah) originally represented the sound of English y (or German j) in runic writing. The name means "year", and carries a connotation of harvest and the completion of a cycle of seasons. In the Nordic languages, its name was ár, translated as "plenty":

boon to men
and good summer
and thriving crops.

(Icelandic Rune Poem)

Plenty is a boon to men;
I say that Frothi was generous.

(Norwegian Rune Poem)

The later, Christianized Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem carries on this theme with the expected substitution of deities:

Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven,
suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits
for rich and poor alike.

The shape of the rune itself even suggests the cycle of seasons. In the agrarian economies of early northern Europe, everything depended on the harvest. It was a time when the struggles and labors of winter, planting, and summer were finally rewarded with a harvest of grain and vegetables that would provide the staple foods for the rest of the year.

Not surprisingly, we find a strong sense of gratitude associated with this rune. Despite all the effort that is put into the raising of crops, many things can go wrong, and the final harvest (when it was bountiful) must often have seemed like a divine gift rather than an inevitable product of human labor.

It's hard not to think of the verses from Ecclesiastes (or their rendition into the popular 60's folk song):

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

We have, unfortunately, somewhat lost touch with this understanding of the cyclic nature of life, having replaced it with a linear, "bigger and better forever" notion of progress. The autumn harvest depends on winter fallow, the spring planting, and the summer tending - each phase of the cycle makes its contribution to the whole. During some phases of time, we are giving, putting our energy and effort into a project, a relationship, or an education. At other time, we receive the rewards of these efforts, and need to remember to approach the season of reward with a sense of gratitude and an understanding of its place in the cycle.

When this rune appears in your divination work, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I planting, tending, harvesting, or resting?
  • How do I show gratitude for what I am receiving?
  • What is coming to fruition?
  • Do I welcome the cycles of change, or resist them?
  • How do I share the blessings I receive?

In spiritual work, jera can lend itself to a contemplation of the cycles of time, much like the Wheel of Fortune card in the tarot. It can help us appreciate the unity behind change, the deep patterns of growth and decay that play out over and over again with the passage of time. You can also use this rune to explore your personal relationship with abundance and gratitude.

The rune jera can be used magically to bring a cycle to a fruitful closure, to bring about abundance, bounty, and the gifts of nature and spirit. Remember that the harvest is also a time of ending, when the life force in the grain is released, to be returned to the Earth after winter has passed. Jera creates reward, but it also creates change.

Rune Lore is a regular feature of Starweaver's Gems from Earth and Sky

Copyright © 2008 Tom Waters