I've always been horrible at shopping for souvenirs. I want something representative, but not exploitative. I believe in the power of words, which is why I never wear clogging with slogans on them.
Going through the streets of Reykjavik, it's much the same situation. Dozens of stores selling keychains and "I <3 RVK" T-shirts and snowglobes. Mittens are practical, but that's why I already have mittens. And so it goes...fortunately, I'm a sucker for animism. A deck of tarot cards from Chapters? Pfft. But a deck of tarot cards found behind a pile of old silk handkerchiefs? All of a sudden, I'm intrigued.
And so, I found a bag of Icelandic runes, bound in sheep leather and made of volcanic rock, and I was sold. The other nice thing is that it doesn't even matter if the runes are rubber-stamped or etched in gold: the whole point of runes was that the simple act of making them was the source of their power. Draw it in the dirt, carve it in a tree, publish it on a blog... it doesn't matter. If you can read it, it's authentic. So like I said, this was a perfect gift for someone like me.
The shopkeeper gave me an interpretation guide, and we shook hands as I left. Upon return to my hotel room, I drew a rune out of the bag for the first time, curious to see what it said about my future. The rune looked like an "M", and it was the rune for Ehwaz, the Horse. The guide spoke of journeys and restlessness, travel and change. That made sense. But the inverse spoke of running away from pain.
...and that, my friends, is a near-exact quote from one of my favorite Weakerthans songs, called "Without Mythologies". In fact, it's the last one I heard before I left Canada for Iceland. Other lyrics from the song include "never uncover the meaning behind our rich words", and "run away without contending with myths wrongly interpreted."
That's... that's a pretty significant coincidence, I think. But now it's left me with a conundrum: What do you do when you get a message from God, and he tells you to be an atheist? I'm not sure, but I'll be treating those runes carefully in the future. They've got the power of Winnipeg inside them.