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.
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."
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.
"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 .
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.
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.
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