I am sure you already heard about runes. From your history lessons to your favorite fantasy movie, and even on your smartphone as the Bluetooth symbol for Berkano, runes are everywhere. Forming the runic alphabet, they were of course a written language. But runes can be so much more than that! Did I awake your curiosity? If the answer is yes, follow me for a journey into history, divination, and magick!
What are runes
The word rune comes from "run", meaning secret, or mystery.
Runes are an old written language, each symbol having a specific name, carrying a concept and a message. The oldest one, the Old Futhark, is a set of 24 symbols. This set is named after the sound of the first six of them. More recent systems appeared later, but we'll focus on the old Futhark.
Runes were discovered on the Kylver stone, in Sweden, dating from the 5th century. Runes were most often engraved on wood and that's why today, we lack conserved resources. That also explains the angled style of runes (it's harder to create a curve on wood or stone than it is on paper).
According to the Edda, Odin is the one who brought us runes. By hanging himself on the Yggdrasil as an offering for himself, he pierced himself with his own lance for 9 days and 9 nights to obtain in return the knowledge and wisdom of the 9 worlds. Writing shaped as runes was part of this knowledge. Odin shared them with Mankind. Outside of Tacite's book (Tacite was a Roman historian in the first century), there is no solid proof that Runes were used as a divination tool. Most specialists say that if runes can be used for magickal operations, they were not created for this purpose initially.
In the '20s and '30s, runes were used as a seal or signature by certain architects and craftsmen. Sadly, Nazis used some Norse symbols, including some runes like Sowilo for example, desecrated them from their initial meaning, and gave them the worst reputation.
In the '60s, the interest in runes was reborn, with a focus on the old Futhark.
Runes, divided into Aetts, tell the story of Human life
Runes are divided into 3 Aetts (groups of 8 runes). Each Aett is ruled by a divinity and teaches us about a part and domain of human life.
- Freya, goddess of love, beauty, abundance seiðr (a specific form of magic used to know and influence the future), and many other things, rules the first one. This Aett represents the cycle of life.
- The second group, Heimdall's Aett, represents external forces influencing our lives. Who would be better than Heimdall, watchman of the Gods, to rule this Aett? These can be other humans, but also the forces of nature. It's about the restrictions, the restraints, we have to deal with, and how we free ourselves.
- The last Aett is rulled by Tyr. Tyr is not only a god of war but also of Justice, in the sense of righteousness. He's the one in charge of treaties. This Aett is about our inner forces, and how when used in the right way, they lead us to spiritual awakening and take our rightful place in our family and community.
Runes as a divinatory system
A set of runes is a powerful divination tool. To connect with your higher self and receive intuitive messages, runes can bring you valuable wisdom on your path.
Most of the time, divination practitioners began learning tarot. For this reason, you may be curious about how different, or similar, runes can be from your favorite deck.
- As tarot, runes can tell you information about the past, the present, and the future.
- Asking the same question, again and again, will not give the best results.
- If you want to, you can pick and place your runes as you would do for a tarot spread.
- As you see very fast, runes' messages can be brutal. Expect the message to be delivered in the most direct way. Use them if you can handle them. And if you need something softer on a specific day or subject, consider using another divinatory system.
- Don't expect to create a direct correspondence from tarot to runes. They are not the same system at all. You may find some similarities, helping you for your reading, and to connect with them, but runes are not a Norse tarot, they are their own system.
- You don't have to use them as you would use cards, you can throw your runes on a cloth to read them.
How to use runes for divination:
You can do spread with your runes like you would do with cards. Let's see some layout ideas. You can of course found many more of them, or create your own.
One rune spread: Outcome of your question
Two runes spread: Past and present / Outcome of your question
Three runes spread: Past / Present / Future
Throwing the runes:
This is my absolute favorite technic, the one, in my opinion, matching the unique spirit of runes, and carrying most powerfully their meaning. To do it, touch your runes in your hand or in the pouch you use to store them, take some, and cast them on a piece of fabric. You'll get information through the symbols of the upright runes, but also through their placement toward the center, and toward each other.
Complementing a tarot or oracle spread:
Runes can bring you extra information when you are doing any kind of divination, so feel free to cast some the next time you will use your tarot or oracle deck.
How to use runes for witchcraft:
Each rune conveys a message, which can be converted as a magickal purpose. Fehu could do wonders to bring you abundance, Othala would be an ally to stock energy in order to release it later, Tiwaz could help you win a trial (if you are right in this matter), and if you need to be more eloquent, Mannaz carries a precious power for this. Considering that runes can also be combined, the possibilities and ways are endless. Your imagination being the only limit, don't expect me to be exhaustive on this part. Here are just my favorites uses in my practice.
Runes can be combined to create a bindrune. Similar to sigils in some ways, bindrunes are a combination of runes, expressing a specific purpose. Most of the time, Isa will be in the middle, but you can totally create a bindrune without this one.
Prepare your candle by carving your runes with your athame or another tool, focusing on your intention while doing it. Once it's done, you can dress your candle with oils, plants... as you would usually do.
Draw or carve your runes or bindrunes in the material of your choice to create your own, powerful amulet.
Before massaging your skin with your favorite cream, why not draw a rune with it, transforming a mundane task into a ritual?
This one has a special place in my heart. In fact, that's how the French Witch Shop started! I used to sell runic paintings. As runes can tell your story, and how you want it to be, painting them is a way to strongly connect to their energy. They also make great offerings if you dedicated an altar to a Norse God or Goddess.
As this technic just came to me intuitively, I have no idea if you'll find some kind of manual about it. Runes having a essence, an energy, you can use them during energy healing
My Pinterest Runes'key ideas board
My printable Runes cards deck is ready to print and use right now. They are great to learn and memorize, but also to do your spreads tarot-style!
I wish you the best magickal morning, day, evening and night!