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Runes come from an ancient Germanic alphabet. They have been used from about 100 BCE to 1600 CE in the northern European and Scandinavian countries. Some runes have been found in the US, supporting the hypothesis that Vikings came to the US long before Christopher Columbus ever arrived here.
Runes can be used for divination, as a form of written language and as a magical tool. The idea behind using runes for divination is to cast them and then have the knowledge to read what they have to say.
Rune casting is not the same as telling the future. Runes instead help us understand the path we are on and give us a likely outcome to the path we’re on. You can always, in rune casting, change the path one is on so as to ostensibly change the future. While runes were once used for language and writing, they were also used as means of divination since they were invented. Every rune has a specific meaning and each one has a story about a Norse god attached to it. There is a mythical story about how the runes came to be and how they were eventually taught to man.
The History of Runes
Some runes came directly from Germanic tribes while other runes were stolen from other cultures, such as the Etruscans, the Greeks and the Romans. They are all made from straight lines because they needed to be easily cut into rock or stone. There are inscriptions on stones that have runes on them as early as the third century AD. They were probably in use for centuries before that, however.
The oldest Germanic alphabet consists of 24 runes. Eventually some runes were added or removed, leading to an alphabet that contained only 16 runes. By the time Great Britain was invaded by various populations, it had expanded to thirty-three symbols. There are currently three Aettir in the runic alphabet. An Aettir consists of a cluster of eight runes.
The Benefit of Rune Readings
In order to be able to read runes effectively, you need to have a bit of knowledge of European mythology, history and basic culture of the old Europeans and Scandinavians. Divination uses the knowledge of these histories and folklore in order to find out the path a person is on.
Rune casting is based on the principles of the subconscious and is unrelated to fortune telling. There is a rune pouch with runic symbols on them and questions are posed of the person who does the rune casting. The runes that come up are directly related to the question posed and to the subconscious of the person posing the questions.
In a sense, the casting of runes is more a matter of ancient psychology. It is related to the connectedness of the human psyche to the way the runes fall. It relies on a different concept of “fate” than that which we know now. For example, fate in rune work means to create a destiny for yourself.
Usually a rune reading is not random but is directed at a particular question or issue. One can look at the past, present and future in a rune reading. The future is not the future as we think of it but is the end result of following a specific path. The future is therefore changeable and in our control if we choose to believe what the runes are telling us. A rune reading is more of an evaluation than a way to foretell the future. The “future” becomes the most likely path one will be on if the current path is left unchanged. Rune casting is not a magical thing but rather a psychological thing.
The Meaning of Runes
Runes are more than just age-old symbols of a forgotten Germanic alphabet. In addition to their use as part of a writing system, runes doubled as a revered method of divination that is still capturing the fascination of people centuries later.
The simplicity of the runic characters made them easy to carve into wood, bone and rock; yet, those with the ability to navigate the complexities of a reading were considered sources of a powerful, unique knowledge.
The First Aett
The first aett, also known as Freya’s Aett, refers to aspects of fertility, nurturing, awakening consciousness and knowledge. It is the first level in a life experience, revolving around elements of the human world and the relationships within it. The first aett contains the runes Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, Gebo and Wunjo.
Fehu in the upright position is the sign for cattle and is an indicator of wealth. Matters revolving around the material goods or financial prosperity are influential now. Good habits are rewarded soon; subjects having to do with economic stability are at an upswing.
Fehu reversed signifies the need to practice restraint or be more responsible with issues pertaining to money or material goods. There is a need to stay grounded and exercise sound judgment. An influence of “easy come, easy go” is present.
- fall from grace
Uruz in the upright position is the sign for oxen and is an indicator of raw power. There is an influence of strength, virility or masculine sexuality in the situation at hand. There may be confrontation or a need to protect assets; weakness will be overthrown, physically, mentally or emotionally.
Uruz reversed signifies weakness and flaws exposed, Pyrrhic victories or the overuse of brute strength; aggression being used in the wrong place for the wrong reason. The result is staggering, unexpected loss and debilitation.
- sexual desire
- a need for restraint
- wasted effort
Thurisaz is also known as “the thorn”. In the upright position, it communicates a situation of great physical, mental or emotional stress that creates purpose or results in a strengthening of character. There is an influence of growth through discipline.
Thurisaz reversed indicates there is an avoidance of that which is perceived as difficult or painful; evading responsibility or the failure to do the right thing. There is an influence of insecurity, childish attitudes and irresponsibility. What is not faced now will greatly hinder life later on.
- lessons learned
- avoiding accountability
Ansuz upright is the rune of Norse mythology’s supreme god, Odin. It represents authority, guidance, wisdom and experience. A person or situation receives help from someone with the right clout. Alternately, Ansuz conveys an influence of the arts and all that comes from inspiration. There is fulfillment of creative ideas, endeavors or solutions.
Ansuz reversed signifies the unwillingness to accept help. An offer of assistance is perceived as intrusion or manipulation. Personal feelings may be obstructing rationality. Alternately, there is a lack in creativity or openness to new ideas.
- missed opportunities
- creative blocks
Raidho upright is the sign for journey and speaks to travel or experiences shaping the path of life for the better. Situations move beyond the control of anyone due to natural forces. It is for a reason and the situation must be allowed to play out. Important change can come, leading to good things.
Raidho reversed signifies immobilization or an unwillingness to accept change. Rigidity leads to isolation and loneliness. An attitude or belief hinders progress; delays in travel or advancement, literally or figuratively.
- life experiences
- lack of progress
- travel delays
Kenaz upright represents the element of fire and is depicted as the torch or flame, indicating the influence of realization. Difficult situations give birth to profound clarity. New ideas, knowledge or creativity comes from a source of divine inspiration. There are solutions and enlightenment; purpose is realized.
Kenaz reversed signifies a dimming of life’s essence or creative energies. A difficult experience is being endured, hope and aspirations are fading. Attention to a path or objective is being inadvertently misdirected because of feelings of powerlessness, grief or fear.
- creative inspiration
- an unclear path
- lack of creativity
Gebo refers to gifts, trade or the practice of heartfelt generosity.
There is an influence of giving and receiving in the situation at hand.
The result is positive and creates or helps to maintain a natural equilibrium.
Two becomes one and the unification results in a stronger or better component.
- unions (or, mergers)
- positive contributions
- romantic partnerships
Gebo cannot be inverted. However, Gebo always brings with it the caution that there must be a willingness to fully participate in the cycle of giving and receiving in order to avoid:
- unwise romantic partnerships
Wunjo upright is the symbol for joy and denotes the influence of a difficult situation conquered, giving way to well-earned jubilation. There is recognition for a determined effort; or, favorable aspects come into alignment, resulting in the fulfillment of an admirable goal.
Wunjo reversed signifies a succession of troublesome setbacks in achieving an objective; it may be the wrong goal or a goal set for the wrong reasons. It is time to reexamine or adjust the primary motive or intent. Expectations may be unrealistic.
- a job well done
- material profits
- wasted efforts
- misguided intentions
The Second Aett
The second aett, or Heimdall’s Aett, denotes aspects of living in physical reality, personal growth and ongoing spiritual evolution. It is the second level of life experience, broadening into interactions with the natural forces of the environment. The runes Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perthro, Elhaz and Sowilo make up the second aett.
Hagalaz upright is symbolized as hail and is indicative of aspects relating to destruction for the purpose of rebirth. There is a need to extinguish an unreasonable expectation, attitude or issues of the past in order to move into the next stage of a life journey. A fear of pain and loss has stymied progress to the next phase of life; or, disappointing (but minor) setbacks are experienced that lead to surprisingly positive opportunities.
- examining priorities
- destructive patterns
Hagalaz cannot be inverted but does provide the message that challenges, like hail, are only temporarily disruptive before they melt away.
Nauthiz upright denotes aspects of need, lack or desire. There is a span between that which is wanted, needed or desired and the ability to obtain it. Impediments are hindering personal fulfillment; a shortage of skills or physical, mental, emotional or financial resources to carry through. Goals, abilities or perceptions need retooling.
Nauthiz reversed signifies that the challenge is a character-building opportunity. The habit of taking the path of least resistance must be broken. A material want or need springing from emotional lack.
- misguided wants
- hidden dangers
- a need to learn appreciation
Isa represents the element of ice. There is an influence of stasis or inertia in a situation.
However, natural forces are at work preparing all the cooperative components for the next cycle or phase of life. It is a time of introspection; patience is necessary.
All things come in their own time. Take time to appreciate the quiet.
The Meaning of Isa:
- unseen processes
- going with the flow
Isa cannot be inverted; however, it can carry the warning to beware of a situation turning stagnant, emotions being masked or becoming detached in relationships. An expected change may not yield the anticipated advantages.
Jera represents the aspects of the harvest. The time to reap the long-term benefits of solid, steady efforts is at hand; or, the advantage of wisdom gained from a lifetime of experience will turn the tide.
The yield will be plentiful. Alternatively, a long, drawn-out situation will soon result in a positive outcome.
The Meaning of Jera:
- material gain
Jera cannot be inverted; however, it can carry the subtle warning to remember that life is balance. Times of excess can easily give way to times of shortage. Do not use a turn of good luck or a sudden windfall as an excuse to become idle.
Eihwaz is the symbol for the yew tree, representing endurance or immortality. A definitive or intense life change approaches; fears, doubts and insecurities must be confronted and allayed. Accept that change is a way of life. Be resilient, maintain focus and be willing to adapt regardless of the force or aftershocks that accompany this transformation.
The Meaning of Eihwaz:
- challenging trials
- inner strength
Eihwaz cannot be inverted; however, Eihwaz can warn against resisting change or practicing an attitude or habit of disregard. Small issues can snowball, resulting in bigger hassles down the road. There may be a need to maintain good health.
Pertrho upright is represented by a dice cup and indicates aspects relating to chance, luck and fate. A situation requiring a “roll of the dice” or taking a chance on something or someone appears favorable. Not all outcomes can be foreseen. Some things must be left to fate. Expect positive gains.
Perthro reversed signifies unsuccessful wagers, literally or figuratively. Now is not the time to throw caution to the wind or invest in risky ventures. There is betrayal or hidden information. Extreme caution is warranted.
- a speculative venture
- good luck
- a need for discretion
- unseen disadvantages
Algiz upright expresses the aspects of protection or guarding against a person, thing or circumstance that poses a threat. In addition to a good defense, solid plan for preemptive action helps when dealing with a hazard or conflict. Assistance may come from an outside source. This can sometimes be in reference to health or money issues.
Algiz reversed is referred to as “Ihwar” and signifies shields and weapons lowered. Vigilance is needed. Positions are unguarded, leaving vulnerabilities in the defense. There is a potential for loss or infirmity.
- preventive measures
Algiz reversed (Ihwar):
- underestimating risk
- poor planning
Sowilo is the sign of the sun and represents positive energy, warmth and inspiration. There is alignment with success. Goals are accomplished with enthusiasm, paving the way for greater triumphs down the road.
It is a time of good health, healthy mindsets and encouraged hearts. This can also be a reference to an individual with an energetic, uplifting personality. An extremely fortunate rune.
- good fortune
- positive outcomes
- successful foundations
Sowilo cannot be inverted; however, it does come with the wise counsel to remember that success comes and goes like the cycle of the sun. It will be necessary to keep moving to reach the next zenith.
The Third Aett
The third aett, known as Tyr’s Aett, signifies transformation through social, personal and cultural experiences. It is the third and last level of life experience and its underlying theme is that of conclusions or fate. The runes Tiwaz, Berkano, Ehwo, Mannaz, Laguz, Ingwaz, Dagaz and Othala are found in the third aett.
Tiwaz in the upright position communicates aspects related to the great Norse warrior, Tyr. Matters revolving around difficult struggles or battles will result in success. Leadership must be used fittingly; a difficult or personal loss occurs for the greater good. There is an influence of heroism and valiant deeds.
Tiwaz reversed indicates exposed positions; a situation that requires precision— haste or too much aggression will bring failure. Beware of blindness or treachery; there is a price for conquering every conflict.
- sensible leadership
- the greater good
- lack of planning
Berkana upright is the symbol for the birch tree and denotes the aspects of feminine influences such as nurturing, fertility, birth and the mother-child relationship. A situation is ripe for birthing new and successful ventures. Expansion into higher levels of clarity is gained; healing, compassion inspiration and creativity abound.
Berkana reversed signifies selfishness inhibiting the natural process of life; hostility or conflict within a family or other interpersonal relationships. Creativity and/or kindness have come to a standstill. The avoidance of something that can actually be good.
- new experiences
- deep bonds
- blocked energy
- impeding progress
Ehwaz upright is represented by two horses not only to express the aspects of travel but the influence of collaborative life experiences and careful progress within a situation. Despite a destination not being reached yet, good and steady progress is being made thanks to a good partnership based on trust.
Ehwaz reversed signifies an obstructed path and slowed development; the unwillingness or inability to cooperate. Attempts to go further will prove pointless for the time being. Travel plans are delayed by uncooperative forces.
- joint efforts
- mutual trust
- exchange of ideas
- lack of teamwork
- power struggles
- lost time
Mannaz upright is the symbol for mankind, expressing the concept of unity and the fundamental goals present in all people. There is a circumstance revolving around the social aspects of one’s place in the community or family; a perspective has been broadened, resulting in greater awareness.
Mannaz reversed signifies feelings of being excluded or not fitting in with family, in social circles or the world in general; a lack of acceptance based on mistrust from both sides of the equation. A thorough self-inventory and good communication is needed to regain balance.
- shared bonds
- disregard for others
Laguz upright is represented by the element of water and emanates the characteristics of fluidity, healing and that which is lingering just beneath the surface. A difficult situation will require “going with the flow” in order for it to reach its logical end. Struggling against the current is unwise. Conscious or unconscious truths are about to surface.
Laguz reversed signifies willfully fighting the natural progression of a situation, resulting in wasted time and energy. Purposely ignoring the reality of one’s circumstances; participating or being complicit in an unhealthy dynamic.
- confronting fears
- moving forward
- refusing accountability
Ingwaz is represented by the Earth and relates to the Norse god of agriculture, also known as Freyr.
Aspects of productivity, fertility, nature, health or humanity are influencing a situation. There may be a need to pay more attention or cultivate a relationship in one or more of these areas.
Life becomes more balanced when one’s role in the natural order of things is fully understood.
- circle of life
- communing with nature
Ingwaz cannot be inverted; however, Ingwaz provides a heads-up that the conscious or subconscious desire to be more in tune with natural forces is mutual.
Dagaz refers to the aspects of day, or the rising and setting of the sun. It distinctly symbolizes evolution and the cycles of all that is experienced in life as well as their duality. A period of uncertainty is over.
Balance has been realized on the inner and outer plane of existence, bringing with it a period ripe with contentment, clarity, grand opportunities and positive outcomes. A new day, consciousness or phase of life lies ahead.
- equilibrium achieved
Dagaz cannot be inverted; however, Dagaz advises that, while coming into the light is a good thing, integrity is required to not be blinded by it.
Othala upright refers to land and its related aspects of property, inheritances, home and legacies. It denotes that which has been left by previous generations and what will be left for upcoming generations. It is a reference of leaving behind or receiving a heritage or actual physical property.
Othala reversed signifies a refusal or denial of heritage or conflict within a family. There is hardship in financial matters or the loss of an inheritance, property or birthright that took many years to establish.
- past and present
- ancestral forebears
- inherited assets
- rejecting the past
- broken bonds
- financial destitution