Rune meanings have been handed down through the mists of time since their ancient beginnings in approximately the 1st Century AD.
The Norse runes are part of an ancient Pro-Germanic tradition and the runic alphabet consists of 24 rune symbols – with the addition of one notably blank rune to allow space for cosmic chance – typically engraved on stones, seashells or pieces of wood.
Throughout their early history, the runes were in a constant state of development – with the subtraction and addition of runes undertaking by those who used the runes for divination, protection and other forms of magic.
The runes best known and most widely used today are the Elder Futhark Runes, a version of the runic alphabet completed and taken into use in the 5th Century AD. A set of Younger Futhark Runes also exists, but they are not in widespread use today, perhaps because more uncertainty exists around the proper interpretation of the Younger Futhark runic inscriptions. It is speculated that they are at least partly inspired by the Latin alphabet as it spread through Northern Europe, but not enough is know about this to confirm or deny the connection.
Since their beginnings, the runes have been steeped in history, mythology and meaning. They were considered to be a gift from the gods – specifically from the king of the gods, Odin, the allfather, and for this reason, they were venerated and cast with extreme caution and respect for their metaphysical qualities and divine origin.
Today, the runes are used similarly to Tarot cards, Oracle cards and other divination tools – as a means of tapping into your own inner reservoir of intuition, wisdom and ability to pick up on certain subtle clues in the present that may enable you to foretell the future with some accuracy. A crucial difference, of course, is that the runes are much older than any Tarot or oracle deck of cards.
Would you like to learn more about the runes, their meanings, and how to cast and interpret them? Then keep reading.
What Are Runes/Norse Runes/Elder Futhark Runes?
The runes, the Norse runes, and the Elder Futhark runes are all one and the same. Many variations of runes exist, but the Elder Futhark stones comprise the standard runes and rune meanings used to day.
The runic alphabet typically consists of 24 runes, each inscribed with its own magical symbol, and one blank rune called Odin’s rune. The blank rune symbolises that which cannot or must not be known about the future, and when it comes up in rune readings it is the equivalent of drawing a blank. It means that there are certain cosmic curtains behind which you should not look – or maybe it is not yet the right time for looking. When the blank rune comes up, it is important to respect its message, rather than trying to circumvent it by drawing more runes in a desperate bid to wring out an answer.
The runic alphabet divides into three parts – or suits, for those of you who are familiar with Tarot terminology – each consisting of eight runes. These divisions are called Aetts, the Ancient Norse word for families. And so we have Freyr’s Aett, Heimdall’s Aett and Tyr’s Aett. Each of the three Aetts addresses a different stage of life.
The first set of runes: Freyr’s Aett
The first eight runes of the runic alphabet belong to Freyr’s Aett. According to Norse mythology, Freyr was the god of rain, sun, fertility and peace. Thes runes belonging to his Aett deal with the physical plane and with discovering and learning how to master all of the tangible and necessary aspects of life.
The runes belonging to Freyr’s Aett are associated with the formative years of childhood and youth, the stage of life where we are very much still finding our feet in the world and deciding who we are.
The second set of runes: Heimdall’s Aett
The following eight runes belong to Heimdall’s Aett. In Norse mythology, Heimdall was the watchman of the gods.
The runes belonging to Heimdall’s Aett deal with a developing sense of maturity and personal growth, as well as with themes of maturation, harvest, obstacles and fate.
The third set of runes: Tyr’s Aett
The final set of runes belong to Tyr’s Aett. Try was the Norse sky god, and was also responsible for ward and justice.
These eight runes deal with spiritual development as well as legacy, inheritance, community and intuition.
The origin story of the Runes
As befits their ancient nature and metaphysical properties, the runes have an origin story steeped in myth and magic.
It is said that it was Odin, the king of the Ancient Nordic gods, who discovered the runes. Note that he did not invent them – the runes were a revelation and a gift, not an invention.
To obtain the gift of cosmic wisdom, Odin hung himself upside down from the branches of the world tree, Yggdrasil, for a nine days and nine nights. The runes were his reward.
Each rune symbol has a unique energy and meaning
Each Elder Futhark Rune is inscribed with a particular and unique magical symbol. Because the runes are so old and shrouded in mystery, each rune is ascribed a variety of potential meanings, rather than one that is clear and static.
Nevertheless, each rune holds a core meaning, a core cosmic truth, which the individual intuitive rune reader is able to interpret and expand on according to the context of the rune reading.
The runes’ names are all based on the ancient Anglo Saxon rune poem, a poem written ostensibly for the purpose of transmitting the rune lore in a convenient and easyp-to-grasp manner.
Runes have been used for divination since their beginnings, and divination is still their primary use today.
A rune casting can be done in a number of ways, but most commonly, it involves the person having the reading drawing runes from the bag in which the rune stones are kept. The number of runes used for the reading can vary from just one or just a few to a handful.
An easy-to-approach rune reading if you are new to the runes consists of just three rune positions: Past, present and future. But just as the case is with the Tarot cards, you can assign the runes any pre-ordained positions you like.
Throughout their very long history, the runes have been used for much more than divination. The runes are inextricably linked to seidr, a type of magic practiced in Ancient Norse society by both male and female practitioners. Not much is known about the original practice of weird, but it is believed and speculated that it was a form of magic which concerned itself with both the foretelling and shaping of the future.
According to Norse mythology it was Odin, the king of the gods, who discovered the runes and imparted the knowledge of them to humanity. As well as being the wise all-father a the ruler of the gods, Odin was also the god of sorcery (as well as poetry and war).
The runes are still use for magic today, by practitioners all over the world. Rune magic encompasses everything from rune readings to spells and hexes. Runic inscriptions can also be used in sigil magic, and in the creation of potent amulets for protection, prosperity, love and more.
It is interesting to note that the modern-day sigil magic is based on inscribed symbols that are then charged with magical energy and intention, with the purpose of affecting or shaping the future. Although no clear connection has been established between sigil magic and rune magic, it is very likely that the former draws its inspiration from the latter, or at the very least that the two share some interesting similarities and purposes.