Home Psychics and Divination A Beginner’s Guide to Runes

A Beginner’s Guide to Runes

by Dr. Thomas Robertson
Published: Last Updated on 1,153 views

Even though you may be fascinated by tarot cards, trying to remember the direct and inverse meaning of 78 different cards can be a complicated task. During that process, it will also take a good bit of work to develop your intuition and insight to a point where you can release yourself from cold reading. By contrast, if you work with runes, you will only need to work with a system of 24 symbols in their direct and reverse meanings. If you are looking for a divinatory tool that can also be used as a complete magical system, runes can offer endless options and opportunities.

Where do Runes Come From?

While Runes were used in Germany and many areas of Europe, they originated with the Vikings and Norse people. Historically speaking, runes had different meanings depending on the region where they were used. For example, some runes were combined to record everything from names and myths to magical information. If you decide to study runes as the basis of a complete language system, you find it complex and challenging. That said, as scholars obtain more materials to work with, the translations become more accurate and understandable.

Meaning of Runes

When you need answers as quickly as possible, you may not have time to think about the numerological significance, perform complex calculations, or enter a trance state. These are just a few reasons many people turn to Runes for fast, accurate information about future events. When it comes to casting spells and using powerful symbols, the simplicity and austerity of the runes also offer far more advantages than other tools. At the same time, working with a smaller set of key symbols gives you a chance to learn faster as well as convey that information to a deeper mental level so that it can be easily incorporated into your magical life.

Before you can work with Runes for divination and spell work, you will need to know what each rune means as well as its cultural significance. If you do not live in a Nordic culture, you may need to spend some additional time adapting the archetypes and meanings to suit your environment. While there are many books and interpretations that can help you achieve this goal, you may still need to add your own meanings. In particular, Runes are very useful when combined with personalized dream interpretation as well as detailed studies of your own impressions about the symbolism of things and people in the world around you.

Each rune is meant to characterize a force of nature, a power of humanity, or a deity. For example, some runes describe fertility in terms of the power of cattle, while others are dedicated to the harvest, ice, and various Earth elements. When runes are drawn for divinatory purposes, forces that are seen as positive are interpreted as auspicious concerning the question. If the rune happens to be drawn in its reverse orientation, the meaning tends to be negative. Some runes look the same, no matter whether they are drawn upright or reversed. During the interpretation process, there is no changing the positive or negative connotation.

The Runes of the First Aett and their Meaning

The first aett is called Freyr or Freya and is generally associated with the story of creation, production, and social harmony. Freya is the goddess of love, pleasure, nurture, and fertility, and Frey is the god of prosperity, male sexuality, marriage, fertility, and sacred kingship. Consequently, the runes within the aett lean towards more comfortable achievements and are concerned with love, happiness, and enjoyment. Not only do they serve as a reflection, but they also offer clarity to an immediate situation.

Fehu Rune

Upright

Wealth, abundance, success, power, prosperity, reward, increase.

Reversed

Bankruptcy, volatility, loss, ruin, fall from grace.
Full Rune Meaning

Fehu

Uruz Rune

Upright

Domination, will, instinct, sexual desire, athleticism.

Reversed

Wasted effort, need for restraint, forfeiture, sorrow, illness/injury.
Full Rune Meaning

Uruz

Thurisaz Rune

Upright

Discipline, suffering, reward, sacrifice, lessons learned.

Reversed

Avoiding accountability, ineffectiveness, resistance, immaturity, selfishness.
Full Rune Meaning

Thurisaz

Ansuz Rune

Upright

Aid, growth, solutions, success, creativity, inspiration, communication.

Reversed

Irrationality, ego, disregard, missed opportunities, creative blocks.
Full Rune Meaning

Ansuz

Raidho Rune

Upright

Excursions, improvement, life experiences, purpose, transformations.

Reversed

Postponements, opposition, lack of progress, stagnation, travel delays.
Full Rune Meaning

Raidho

Kenaz Rune

Upright

Illumination, understanding, wisdom, resolutions, creative inspiration.

Reversed

Confusion, despair, an unclear path, drifting, lack of creativity.
Full Rune Meaning

Kenaz

Gebo Rune

Upright

Unions (or, mergers), positive contributions, philanthropy, balance, romantic partnerships.

Reversed

Imbalance, bitterness, stinginess, overgiving, unwise romances.
Full Rune Meaning

Gebo

Wunjo Rune

Upright

Elation, achievement, a job well done, determination, material profits.

Reversed

Strife, delays, wasted efforts, misguided intentions, loss.
Full Rune Meaning

Wunjo

The Runes of the Second Aett and their Meaning

The second aett, called Heimdall, carries connotations of struggle, death, and rebirth. Heimdall, known as the warden of the Norse gods, was said to hold the keys to the heavens. He is the god of light and the guardian of the gods and the Rainbow Bridge and Bifrost. Heimdall’s aett is concerned with matters of achievement, power, and success and is referred to as the “Great Trials of Life”. It symbolizes the evolution of consciousness from the elemental and ordinary to maturity and advanced and more complex thought patterns. When runes from Heimdall’s aett are drawn, you have to work harder to attain success, and you should watch and listen carefully to the innermost symbolic messages that surface to help you.

Hagalaz Rune

Upright

Calamity, rejuvenation, examining priorities, destructive patterns, change.

Reversed

The Rune Hagalaz cannot be inverted.
Full Rune Meaning

Hagalaz

Nauthiz Rune

Upright

Deficiency, poverty, hardship, discomfort, yearning.

Reversed

Ungratefulness, accountability, hidden dangers, misguided wants, a need to learn appreciation.
Full Rune Meaning

Nauthiz

Isa Rune

Upright

Dormancy, stillness, unseen processes, mindfulness, going with the flow.

Reversed

The Rune Isa cannot be inverted or reversed.
Full Rune Meaning

Isa

Jera Rune

Upright

Productivity, reward, maturity, development, material gain.

Reversed

The Jera Rune cannot be inverted or reversed.
Full Rune Meaning

Jera

Eihwaz Rune

Upright

Adaptation, challenging trials, growth, inner strength, steadfastness.

Reversed

The Eihwaz Rune cannot be inverted.
Full Rune Meaning

Eihwaz

Perthro Rune

Upright

A speculative venture, good luck, blessings, increase, reward.

Reversed

Misfortune, a need for discretion, unseen disadvantages, fraud, loss.
Full Rune Meaning

Perthro

Algiz Rune

Upright

Jeopardy, preventive measures, safety, sanctuary, support.

Reversed (Ihwar)

Exposure, underestimating risk, disregard, damage, poor planning.
Full Rune Meaning

Algiz

Sowilo Rune

Upright

Good fortune, positive outcomes, enrichment, successful foundations, happiness.

Reversed

The Sowilo Rune cannot be inverted or reversed.
Full Rune Meaning

Sowilo

The Runes of the Third Aett and their Meaning

The third aett is named after the Nordic god, Tyr. It defines the sovereign order of the runes and binds them all together in one reading. The runes in the third aett present difficulties and their overcoming, as well as cosmic justice, spiritual achievement, understanding, and intellect. Runes in Tyr’s aett may indicate that you need to take action. Tyr is the god of war, victory, courage, and glory. The runes symbolize doing, achieving, and building solid foundations and cover all of the concerns of a protector, including fairness, decision-making, moral redemption, and matters of authority.

Tiwaz Rune

Upright

Selflessness, sensible leadership, victory, sacrifice, sovereign order, the greater good.

Reversed

Shortfalls, inexperience, loss, disloyalty, lack of planning.
Full Rune Meaning

Tiwaz

Berkana Rune

Upright

Femininity, benevolence, new experiences, deep bonds, fruitfulness.

Reversed

Ego, blocked energy, impeding progress, circumvention, discord.
Full Rune Meaning

Berkana

Ehwaz Rune

Upright

Forward-motion, joint efforts, mutual trust, exchange of ideas.

Reversed

Hindrance, lost time, lack of teamwork, power struggles, inactivity.
Full Rune Meaning

Ehwaz

Mannaz Rune

Upright

Humankind, shared bonds, self-identity, purpose, consciousness.

Reversed

Rejection, isolation, misunderstandings, disregard for others, narcissism.
Full Rune Meaning

Mannaz

Laguz Rune

Upright

Mutability, volatility, confronting fears, moving forward, cleansing.

Reversed

Egoism, avoidance, refusing accountability, self-sabotage, corruption.
Full Rune Meaning

Laguz

Ingwaz Rune

Upright

Home, circle of life, wellbeing, communing with nature.

Reversed

Ingwaz cannot be inverted; however, it shows the desire to be more in tune with natural forces.
Full Rune Meaning

Ingwaz

Dagaz Rune

Upright

Fluctuations, breakthrough, realizations, equilibrium achieved, satisfaction, newness.

Reversed

Dagaz cannot be inverted or reversed.
Full Rune Meaning

Dagaz

Othala Rune

Upright

Possessions, tradition, ancestors, past and present, inherited assets.

Reversed

Disavowal, rejecting the past, broken bonds, loss, financial destitution.
Full Rune Meaning

Othala

The History of Runes

Before adopting the modern Latin alphabet (the “ABCs”), ancient Germanic and Scandinavian civilizations used runes as a form of written communication. Inscriptions have been found on stones from as early as AD 150. It is generally accepted that runic letters are derived from Old Italic (Etruscan) letters. Some theorize that this is because the Germanic people served as mercenaries for Rome and adapted the letters used by their employers to their own spoken language.

As Christianity spread throughout Northern Europe, runes were largely replaced by the Latin alphabet. However, even up to the 20th century, runes were used for traditional and decorative purposes. Over time, the alphabet transformed and evolved. Elder Futhark is the oldest alphabet, used from the 2nd to the 8th century. Anglo-Frisian runes (also known as Anglo-Saxon runes) were used from the 5th to the 11th century. Marcomannic runes were used in the 8th and 9th centuries. Younger Futhark was used from the 9th to the 11th century. Medieval runes were used from the 12th to the 15th century, and Dalecarlian runes were used in rural Sweden from the 16th up to the 20th century.

Runes appear today in fantasy literature and video games. J.R.R. Tolkien used Anglo-Saxon runes on a map in The Hobbit and used them to develop his own runic alphabet, “Cirth,” which he often references in later novels. Runes also have a special significance to Wiccans, neo-pagans, and those who study divination and the occult because of their connection to Norse mythology and magic.

How Runes can be Used

Rune Magic

Individuals drawn to runes soon realize that they have an enormous capacity to store energy as well as direct it. This, in turn, has led many people to naturally begin using them for talismans, spell work, and consecrations. If you are interested in using runes for magical purposes, you are sure to find many books on this subject. Depending on people’s interests in your local area, you may also be able to find, psychics and spellcasters that routinely use runes for a wide range of purposes.

Rune Readings and Castings

When it comes to magical practices, you may go through a phase where you are concerned about following exact instructions so that you can produce consistent results. At the same time, when you try to learn how to cast runes, you will find that each person has their own unique method. Whether you decide to draw runes from an old hat or a pouch, your system will eventually become as unique as you are. Therefore, as you become more proficient in casting runes and reading them, you should not be afraid to make changes that will help you follow your insights and receive accurate answers.

Have you ever been in a situation where everyone around you was comfortable with using a particular tool, yet you felt uncomfortable? If so, then you can readily understand why you might feel a particular preference for runes while others do not. Today, people that are not drawn to tarot or complex tools used in other magical systems may find a complete answer in the form of runes. Why avoid working with runes when they offer so much, from spell casting to divination and a complete set of magical workings?

Runes and Charms and Curses

It is thought that the earliest examples of runic writing were charms or curses. Therefore, the 24 letters of the Elder Futhark alphabet hold special meaning. Some claim that they can be used to predict the future through prophecy. A recent study published by two professors (of linguistics and history) in Melbourne, Australia, has shown that runes had been used to create small magical objects, known as amulets. These amulets could be carried (usually in the form of a necklace or small stone) to protect one from evil or to bring good fortune.

Using Runes to Invoke Protection

Runes would often be used to invoke protection and good favor from Nordic gods. The origin of runes is attributed to the gods in a famous Eddic poem titled “Havamal.” The author of this poem claims that Odin created the runes through an ancient act of self-sacrifice. Odin is best known for being the father of Thor and is associated with war and battle and wisdom, magic, poetry, and prophecy.

Runic Calendars and the Mysteries surrounding Runes

Though the origins and uses of the Elder Futhark alphabet still remain largely a mystery, most discovered runes (of the later alphabets) have been found as inscriptions on large, angular slabs of rock known as runestones. These stones were often erected as memorials to important men.

Runic calendars have also been in use for many centuries. They are either written on parchment or carved into wood or bone. The calendar is “perpetual” and is based on a 19-year-long cycle of the moon. Specific Younger Futhark runes mark weekdays, and additional symbols indicate special feast days and pagan holidays.

Rune reading is a popular form of fortune-telling and is similar in some ways to tarot reading. The 24 runes of Elder Futhark are inscribed on small stones, crystals, or tiles and are drawn at random or dumped on a mat from a cloth bag for interpretation. The mysteries surrounding runes and their potential magical influence make them an interesting area of study for many scholars and for those interested in the ancient power of divination.

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