Ancient Norse and Teutonic alphabet sigils, ascribed various magical, mystical, and divinatory properties. Various alphabets have been handed down through the centuries; individual runes have represented letters, deities, qualities, events, and forces of nature. Runic inscriptions surviving from the pagan period always have a religious significance. The term "rune" comes from the Indo-European root ru, which means "mystery" or "secret."

Runic symbols have been discovered in rock carvings dating back to the prehistoric Neolithic and Bronze Ages (c. 8000 BC - 2000 BC), carved by tribes that settled in Northern Italy. Rock carvings from the second Bronze Age, c. 1300 BC, are common throughout Sweden. By AD 100 runes were in widespread use in Nordic and Germanic lands. According to myth they were created by Odin (also Woden), god of wisdom, war and death. Odin sacraficed himself by hanging, pierced by a spear, upon Yggradsil, the World Tree, for nine days and nights, in order to gain secret wisdom. In Havamal 138, a mythological poem of the Viking Age (AD 700 - 1050), Odin took up the runes, lifted them screaming, and fell back again.

Runic symbols from Nordic and Germanic lands

The magical powers attributed to runes were believed to be released in the etching of names, phrases, memorial inscriptions, and spells upon bone, metal, wood and stone. Grave markers were inscribed with runes that described the deeds of the dead, and warded off grave robbers. Diviners used runes in the casting of lots. Runes were carved on swords to make them more powerful in battle, and to cause more pain and death to the enemy. Magicians etched them on magical tools, sometimes sprinkling them with blood to make the magic more potent. Runes were etched as amulets on wands, jewelry, personal belongings, chalices, and other items of protection against illness, the evil eye, and sorcery, and to guarantee safety and effect healing. They were also used in weather rites and fertility, birth, and death rites. Lappish tjetajat, or wizards, shouted and sang runes. Runes were also used to seal contracts, and in the writing of poetry.

The Viking invaders spread runes throughout Europe, Russia, and Britain; rune usage was at its hight during the Dark Ages. In Britain the runic alphabet was called futhorc, because the first letters were F, U, TH, O, R, and K. The earliest version of the futhorc alphabet had twenty-four letters divided into three groups of eight. The groups were names after Norse deities: Freya, Hagal, and Tiu. Runes coexisted for centuries with Christian symbols such as the cross.

Runes are a method of divination similar to the Tarot or the I Ching. The difference is that Runes are a set of 25 stones instead of 78 cards or a set of sticks with patterns. As with the Tarot, most of the Runes may be rightside up, or up side down, the meaning differing with the case. There are also some Runes that can not appear up side down. In practice, the Runes may be made of any material; ceramic, stones, sticks, or drawn on cards.

The unique order of the futhark and their traditional division into three "aetts" (a word meaning "families" or "groups") may be of some significance in decyphering the complex interrelationships between the runes. The meaning of the "aetts" pattern is still a mystery. As with most oracles of divination - Runes mean different things if held "straight up" and mean the opposite if held in the "reverse."

The First Aett
1. fehu: cattle
Phonetic equivalent: f

DIVINATORY MEANINGS:prosperity, money, wealth, concern with physical and financial needs, goals, promotion, self-esteem, centredness, karma.
MAGICAL USES:for money, business, promotion, finding a job, achieving a goal, starting new enterprises.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Freyr, Brisingamen, Gullveig, Dwarfs, Sigurd & the Otter's Gold.

14. perthro: dice-cup?
Phonetic equivalent: p

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: rebirth, mystery, magic, divination, fertility, sexuality, new beginning, prophecy.
MAGICAL USES: fertility, easing childbirth, to aid in divination and magic, enhancing psychic abilities.

2. uruz: aurochs
Phonetic equivalent: u

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: passion, vitality, instinct, wildness, sexuality, fertility, the unconscious, primitive mind, irrationality, shamanic experience, rite of passage.
MAGICAL USES: to strengthen the will, increase sexual potency and energy; for hunting.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Ullr, Loki, Odin (as shaman). 
15. algiz: protection
Phonetic equivalent: x, z

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: protection, assistance, defence, warning, support, a mentor, an ethical dilemma.
MAGICAL USES: for protection, hunting.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Heimdall, Gjallerhorn.
3. Thurisaz: giant
Phonetic equivalent: th (as in 'thing')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: hardship, painful event, discipline, knowledge, introspection, focus.
MAGICAL USES: aid in study and meditation, self-discipline, clearing out a bad situation.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: the Frost Giants, Loki. 
16. sowulo: sun
Phonetic equivalent: s

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: success, positive energy, increase, power, activity, fertility, health.
MAGICAL USES: energy, strength, success, healing, fertility.
4. ansuz: Odin
Phonetic equivalent: a (as in 'fall')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: authority figure, leader, mind & body balance, justice, shaman, clairvoyant.
MAGICAL USES: for wise decisions, success, leadership; to help in divination and magic.
The Third Aett
17. teiwaz: Tyr
Phonetic equivalent: t

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: duty, discipline, responsibility, self-sacrifice, conflict, strength, a wound, physicality, the warrior path.
MAGICAL USES: protection, victory, strength, strengthening the will, healing a wound.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Tyr and the Fenris Wolf, Odin's ordeals.
5. raidho: journey
Phonetic equivalent: r

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: journey, pilgrimage, change, destiny, quest, progress, life lessons.
MAGICAL USES: protection for travellers, to ease or bring about change, to reconnect.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: the Norns, Sigurd's journey. 
18. berkana: birch
Phonetic equivalent: b

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: fertility, health, new beginnings, growth, conception, plenty, clearance.
MAGICAL USES: healing (especially infections), achieving conception, making a fresh start.
6. kenaz: torch
Phonetic equivalent: c (as in 'candle')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: wisdom, insight, solution to a problem, creativity, inspiration, enlightenment.
MAGICAL USES: for creative inspiration, aid in study, fertility, dispelling anxiety and fear.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Mimir, the Dwarfs, Muspellheim.
19. ehwaz: horse
Phonetic equivalent: e (as in 'egg')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: transportation, motion, assistance, energy, power, communication, will, recklessness.
MAGICAL USES: power, aiding in communication, transportation; to 'send' a spell.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Sleipnir, Freya's feathered cloak.
7. gebo: gift
Phonetic equivalent: g (as in 'girl')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: gift, offering, relationship, love, marriage, partnership, generosity, unexpected good fortune.
MAGICAL USES: to find or strengthen a relationship, for fertility, to mark a gift or offering, to bring luck.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Sigurd & Brunhild; Aesir & Vanir treaty. 
20. mannaz: man, humankind
Phonetic equivalent: m

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: significator, self, family, community, relationships, social concerns.
MAGICAL USES: to represent a specific person or group of people; to establish social relationships.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Ask and Embla, Midgard.
8. wunjo: glory
Phonetic equivalent: w

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: success, recognition of achievements, reward, joy, bliss, achievement of goals, contentment.
MAGICAL USES: for success in any endeavor, to motivate, to complete a task.
21. laguz: water
Phonetic equivalent: l

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: emotions, fears, unconscious mind, things hidden, revelation, intuition, counselling.
MAGICAL USES: enhancing psychic abilities, confronting fears, stabilizing mental or emotional disorders, uncovering hidden things.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Njord, Midgard Serpent.
The Second Aett
9. hagalaz: hail
Phonetic equivalent: h

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: sudden loss, ordeal, destruction, disaster, clearance, testing, karmic lesson, drastic change.
MAGICAL USES: removing unwanted influences, breaking destructive patterns.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Ragnarok, Loki, Frost Giants.
22. ingwaz: Ing
Phonetic equivalent: ng

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: work, productivity, bounty, groundedness, balance, connection with the land.
MAGICAL USES: fertility, farming, growth, general health, balance.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Freyr / Ing, Nerthus, Thor, the Vanir.
10. nauthiz: need, necessity
Phonetic equivalent: n

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: poverty, hardship, responsibility, discontent, obstacle, frustration.
MAGICAL USES: to represent a need to be filled
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Freyr & Gurd, the Otter's Gold.
23. dagaz: day
Phonetic equivalent: d (pronounced as 'th', as in 'this')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: happiness, success, activity, a fulfilling lifestyle, satisfaction.
MAGICAL USES: to bring a positive outcome.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Sunna, Baldr, Nerthus, Yggdrasil.
11. isa: ice
Phonetic equivalent: i (as in 'inch')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: inactivity, blockage, stagnation, potential, patience, reflection, withdrawl, rest.
MAGICAL USES: to stop a process; to represent primal form.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Auðumla, Nifelheim. 
24. othala: property
Phonetic equivalent: o

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: home, inheritance.
MAGICAL USES: aquiring property, family bond.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: the world of Yggdrasil (World Tree) which connects to the nine worlds in Norse cosmology.
12. jera: year, harvest
Phonetic equivalent: y (but may be used in place of 'j')

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: change, cycle turning, reward, motion, productivity, inevitable development.
MAGICAL USES: to bring change; for fertility and growth.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: Sif, Thor, Freyr, Granni.
25. blank rune: Sometimes called (Odin's Rune)
Anything is possible and can happen! The sum total of who you are, what you have done, and what you have become. Choose a direction and go for it!!
The blank rune (or 'Odin's Rune', or 'Wyrd') was invented by Ralph Blum, author of 'The Book of Runes'. Blum explains in the introduction to his book that he started out using a rune set someone gave him, not knowing the first thing about them, and sort of made things up as he went along from there. The blank rune was one of those things.
There is absolutely no evidence that a 25th 'blank' rune ever existed historically.
13. eihwaz: yew
Phonetic equivalent: ei

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: change, initiation, confrontation of fears, turning point, death, transformation.
MAGICAL USES: to bring about profound change, to ease a life transition.

Runic divination, runecasting, is not fortune telling. Runecasting works deeply with the subconscious. The rune pouch with its runic symbols represents the entire universe. As one poses a question, one's entire conscious and unconscious mind is focused toward that question, so that the runelots selected are not truly random selections, but rather choices made by the subconscious. A runecaster does not see the future. He/she examines cause and effect and points out a likely outcome.

Most people eventually end up devising their own method of reading, but here are a few to get you started in the meantime:

Simple casting (Odins Rune)

Place the Runes into a cloth pouch, and shake them up. Reach into the pouch and draw out a single Rune. Make sure when the Rune is pulled out, and you turn it over that you do not accidentally do not invert the Rune. This Rune will reveal the crux of your present situation, or the basic answer to your question.

Casting the Norns

The Norns are the Norse goddesses of fate. Urdh was the goddess of the past, or what has been. Verdhandi is the goddess of the present, what is. Skuld is the goddess of the future, or what shall be. Fate or wyrd was a very important factor in the psychology of the ancients.

A Norns cast is very simple, consisting of three runes, drawn one at a time from the rune pouch and laid in a row. If face down, flip them over as if turning the pages of a book. The first rune represents the past of the situation in question. The second indicates the present, the path that the querier is currently on. The third suggests the future, a likely outcome if one continues on the present path.

Nine-runes cast

"This method will give a detailed overview of a person's situation, providing insight into where they are in terms of their spiritual path, and clarifying the options and possible outcomes available to them. Nine is a magical number in Norse mythology. Pick nine runes at random from the pouch. Hold them between your hands for a moment, and focus on your question (if you have one). Then scatter the runes on the table, floor, or cloth if you have one. Read the runes which land face up first. These will relate to the current situation and the circumstances which led to it. How the runes are read is largely subjective, but in general, runes lying in the center are the most immediately relevant, while those lying around the edges are less important, or represent more general influences.

"Runes that are close together or even touching often compliment each other, or may even represent a single thing, while runes which fall on opposite sides of the pattern frequently represent opposing influences. Occasionally, a rune will land completely off the cloth or fall off the table. Some people consider such runes to be particularly significant, while others ignore them completely.

"Once you have looked at the runes which landed face up (and remembered which ones they are), turn over the rest of the runes without moving them from their positions. These represent outside or future influences, and will point to possible outcomes. It is up to you to decide what the various positions and patterns in a reading mean, but once you have come up with a few general rules, try to stick with them. As I have said before, consistency is very important. However, rune readings by their nature are very fluid, subjective things. Try not to impose too much order on your readings by inventing set meanings for every triangle, square and tetrahedron. Runes are like people - you never know how they will get along together until you introduce them. Look at the patterns and relationships that appear in each reading and see what interpretations make sense to you." from Runic Journey by Jennifer Smith Runic Journey by Jennifer Smith.

Three Rune Spread

Place the Runes into a cloth pouch. Draw out three Runes and place them in a horizontal line in front of you. Reading from the left to the right, the positions represent; 1) You now, 2) the Challenge ahead of you, and 3) the Best Outcome. Read the Runes and interpret them relative to their position.

Runic Cross

Place the Runes into a cloth pouch. Now draw out 6 Runes and place them in the following order. Place the first Rune in the center of your work area. This represents you now. The second Rune goes to the right of the first Rune. This represents your past. The third Rune goes to the right of the first Rune. This Rune represents the future. The forth Rune goes below the first Rune. This Rune reveals the foundation of the situation. The fifth Rune is placed above the first Rune. This Rune is the challenge ahead of you. The sixth Rune goes above the fifth Rune. This rune represents the best outcome.

Three Life Spread

This spread is useful for exploring past incarnations. There are five runes involved in this spread. Place the Runes into a cloth pouch, and remove five of them, placing them in the following order. The first Rune goes on the right side of you work area. This Rune is your birth and childhood of this life. The second Rune goes to the left of the first. This Rune represents your present. The third Rune goes to the left of the second. This Rune is your future in this life. The forth Rune goes below the second Rune. This Rune reveals your past incarnation. The fifth Rune goes above the second Rune. This Rune is your future incarnation. Interpret the Runes relative to their position and also relate them to what must be gained in each incarnation.

To get your cast, pick the Rune set you would like to use below and then click "Select a Cast."

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