Runelore


Rune lore represents an important part of the oldest tradition of wisdom-magic known to the Germanic world. The ancient Goths, Scandinavians, Germans, and English knew the power of the runes and they were bound together by a mighty guild of runemasters, who taught their craft throughout all the tribes of Nothern Europe. It would seem wise for the descendents of these forebears to turn to the runic power to regain the depths of their wisdom. If we are to believe their lore, these ancestors never died but rather were reborn, generation after generation, always keeping their secrets with them- until now, they are us. 
The runes and the runic system, as an eternal expression of world laws, may be constantly put to new uses without in any way violating their timeless and archaic characteristics. In ancient times every free man was his own priest, so it should be today.The History of the Runes The runic system may have developed as early as 200 BCE. The magic-religious practices of the ancient Germanic priesthood were aided by the use of many runic or pre-runic signs. We can still see evidence of this etched into stone all over Scandinavia.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of runic talismans were crafted in wood, which over the course of time rotted. It is important to remember that the runes were born from a magical, not language, tradition and this magical association has never left them.
Runic inscriptions have been found all over western Europe, on stone monuments and on such objects as metal spearpoints and amulets; the greatest concentrations are in England and Scandinavia. The runic alphabet, called futhark after the sounds of the initial letters, originally had 24 characters. In English versions the number was eventually increased to 33, whereas in Scandinavia it was reduced to 16 and later expanded to 26. 
It is believed that runes are derived from a northern Etruscan alphabet used among Italic tribes in the eastern Alps,and that they were developed in the 2d or 3d century ad by a Germanic people living in the region of modern Bohemia. The earliest surviving inscription is from the mid-3d century. Runes were in wide use from the 4th to the 12th century. A form of runes was used in Scandinavia throughout the Middle Ages as an alternative to the Latin alphabet used by the clergy, and runes survived in occasional use in rural Sweden at least until the 17th century. 
Runes were also used to augment the Latin alphabet for certain sounds, notably the thorn (P, th ) used in Anglo-Saxon England and modern Iceland.
Norse Myths tell how Odin hung upside down from the Great World Tree, Yggdrasil, with his own spear in his side for nine days and night, in order to gain the wisdom and magic of the Runes. After this ordeal he died. Using his supernatural powers he came to life again and used what he  had learnedfor the good of gods and mortals. Odin brought  the Runes from the Land of the Dead. Odin taught them to the Norse and they carved them in stone to provide magic protection.

Runes were used for magic in several ways. They were used in magic formulas, sometimes hidden within the writings. They were combined to form 'bindrunes'. These are two to several runes combined in a pattern that contain the magic of the runes used. They then were focused on what was needed, such as protection in battle. There were curses, like the 'nidstang' which means curse-pole. It was a pole in which runes were carved giving curses and insults. The top would have a horse's head penetrated on it. These were thought to anger the landwights ( landvættir or 'spirits' ) around the person's home drive off whoever had the misfortune of provoking such anger.

   Runes were written on all types of material in the past. They were typically found on many items, including talismans/jewelry, boxes, stone markers, and other personal objects. We do know from various sagas that runes were used through methods such as being carved or chanted. We also know that runes could be used to harm as well as heal. The chanting of rune sounds was called Galdr. Those who were known for their skills with the runes were widely respected and (at times) feared.

Some rune sets include a blank, often refered to as the Odin stone or Wyrd stone. This blank is supposed to symbolize the unknown, that which cannot be known or that which cannot be controlled.

Let's think about this one for a moment. There were sounds to accompany the letters of the runes. People chanted those sounds. What kind of sound would a blank make? There is no historical evidence to suggest that a blank rune was ever used. The first mention of a blank rune was in the 1982 book by Ralph Blum.
So, before you email me and ask, that is why I do not include a blank rune on this page.
 
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©1998-2009 WiccanOne
Some material taken from "Futhark-A Handbook of Rune Magic"~ Edred Thorsson, 1988- or-
" Rune Magic" ~Donald Tyson, 1988

Reading the Runes

Mannaz : M 

 
Human, mankind  The Old English Rune Poem says: (Mann) is, in his mirth, dear to his kinsman; although each shall depart from the other. It is a rune of the human existence, of which life and death are both part. It is the rune of mortality. It also represents interdependence and support, as well as duty and responsibility. No individual is independent of others, each is part of a larger pattern. We are individuals, but in a society.. for all there are roles which, whether we realize it or not, all effect.
Gebo : G 

 
Exchanged gifts  Gebo represents hospitality, generosity and giving. It is the joining of giver and the one who receives. As Thorsson points out in "Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic" it also has the meaning of a gift from the Deities, particularly through union. He relates the gift to the wisdom received by the hero from the valkyrja. 
Ansuz : A 

 
Windblown cloak of Odhinn, giver inspired speech (Ond)  This is the rune of inspired speech and incantation as a creative expression. It is linked with the ancestors, the magic of speech which passes along knowledge with the breath of life, the passing of knowledge through the spoken word, as differentiated from the written. It is the rune of the poet, the saga, the seer, those of inspired speech. It thus represents the ecstasy of inspiration, the "swan song" chanting out one's life as he or she prepares to meet death, the first cry of a newborn baby. It is whistling in the dark to banish fear. It encompasses the power of suggestion and sublimation. 
Othala : O 
 
Ancestral property  Othala is the rune of the sacred enclosure, the homeland, the village, the homestead. It is the family group, its customs, lands and language as well as the duties and responsibilities that go along with maintaining family ties. Its the concept of ones ancestry, not only of the immediate and extend family, but also that of long bloodlines.. the root of one's birth. It can be used to invoke a solid and peaceful family or group life, and to continual growth and prosperity. It is the "inherited" wealth that comes from one's ancestors, the customs as well as property or physical attributes. It represents the wise management of family assets or one's family or kin. 
Uruz : U
 

 
Primal force, strength.  Audhumla, the great cow (primal force) which was formed from the dripping rime produced from the meeting of the fires of Muspilheim and the yeast laden ice of Neiflheim. She was the "shaping force" that licked the ice into the form of the primal giant Ymir, and was the source of sustenance for him.  The auroch is the wild ox, large and fierce. It is protective when in defense of its territory or young. Though controllable, the Ox is undomesticable and can be dangerous. Uruz is associated with the primal creative force, primitive, earliest or original. 
Perthro : P 

 
Dice cup or Lot cup  Perthro is one of the mysteries of the runes. As a container with the lots of life, Perthro represents the opportunities of chance which can not be controlled. However the pieces fall, the player must move boldly taking what is cast and make up for in skill and wisdom any lack in luck itself. It contains the mystery of the Nornic runes. It is the rune of the vitki, the one who seeks the mysteries of the cosmos through the understanding of synchronicity. It is the rune of the warrior who constantly tests himself against chance and luck, even to that of Fate. 
Nauthiz : N
 

 
Need  Naudhiz is another of the cosmic forces which is recognized as being a "shaping" power which form the fates of the world and mankind. It is associated with the Nornir who are the "shapers." In the rune poems it represents the layered concept of necessity providing the friction that leads to transformation. It represents the fire bow which engenders the "need-fire." It is the cause of the spark that leads to the fire. The friction that begets the raging flames.
Ingwaz : Ng 

 
The god Ing / Freyer  Ingwaz is associated with Nerthus as well as Ing, and thus also Freyer. It is primarily a rune of fertility and growth. The circuit of the wagon that was associated with their respective worship, represented the "king's circuit", the walking of the bounds, or the circuit of the sacred wagon which insured fertility to the land. It is a rune of ritual embodying action on behalf of the earth and mankind. Just as the greening of the earth follows the northerly progression of the sun, and retreats in it's wake, the rune is one of movement as well as action and reaction.  It is a rune of invocation and action, as well as responsibility. It is a rune of warmth and inner fire. It can be used to stimulate the growth of slumbering abilities into full growth. It is the container of energies to be relased to promote growth. Ing is closely related to Jera, as well that of the respective runes for male and female fertility. The seed from which things will grow and be transformed.
Eiwaz : EI / I 

 
Yew tree  Eiwaz represents the spinning World Tree, Yggdrasil. It is the axis about which all else revolves and spins out of. It contains the mystery of life and death. It is a life giving force which has its roots in the Underworld, and death. The yew is a powerful stave of protection and banishing, not only because of its association with the forces of life and death, but because of its association with the bow made of yew wood. The yew bow was an extremely powerful weapon, thus associating itself with the power of active defense, and death. The spinning Yggdrasil, from which all else revolves, is also thus the sustainer of thing. In it is the both creation and destruction.. the process of Birth, Evolution, and Entropy.
Elhaz or Algiz: E 

 
Protection, the antlers of the Elk, the splayed hand thrust forward  The Old English name, "elk-sedge" is a kenning for sword, and thus may represent a two-edged blade. It can be seen as the godhi or gydhja ( priest or priestess) in the attitude of addressing or invoking the gods. Thorsson gives the esoteric interpretation of the name as the protective foces, valkyrijur. It can represent the splayed hand, the horns of the elk, a swan in flight, the branches or a tree, a divergence or convergence of paths or forces. It is a sign used to promote victory and protection. The Gothic word "alhs" or sanctuary is also closely related. If you look at the rune, and were to enclose it with a circle, you would also have the commonly displayed "peace" symbol. In this instance, the peace is found within the containing circle, protected. 
Fehu : F 

 
Property, wealth (cattle, gold, material gain)  The basic meaning is wealth in the sense of material gain, whether via money or possessions. In their time, cattle was a measuring of one's wealth. Fee, or payment, comes from this root of this stave. It may also be interpreted as an increase of fellowship and friendship, a wealth of another kind.
Wanjo: W
 

 
Happiness and joy, glory. The battle well-fought and won. A wand. Prosperity and good fellowship. Peacefulness.  There is a term in Anglo-Saxon, "wuldortanas", which is "glory twigs." which many experts associate with the rune. 
Jera : J / Y 

 
The (good) year, harvest  It is the completion of a cycle, a season, or a year, representing the dynamic rotation and changes of the cycles. It is the fruitful completion of a cycle, or the eternal contrast of opposites which provide a whole. It is invoked for a good season (or harvest) and is associated with fertility. The name is similar to "Ari" which is another OldNorse word for eagle, a solar symbol. In either case it is the energy which brings to fruition our efforts. 
Kenaz : K 

 
Torch, the of bearing illumination  It is the flame of transformation and regeneration. It is associated with kin and the sacred fires of sexual generation as well as the "kith and kin" who gather around the hearth. It is the flame of the forge, the volcano and deep earth energies. It is the controlled flame of the artist and craftsman. It "breaks out" in unexpected ways, and holds the power to create and/or destroy. It is a primal force of creation, in the myths it is fire and ice that produce the life force. 
Tiwaz : T 

 
The god Tyr -- A spear point, or arrow. A guiding star.  The T-rune is primarily one of justice since Tyr is the Norse god who presided at the "thing", (the Germanic general judiciary assembly). Judgment was not always arrived at by discussion, judgment by arms was a common concept to the Norse/Germanic cultures. It is associated with the idea that "justice will prevail." The Old English Rune Poem, says Tir is a star, it keeps its faith well. It is always on its course over the mists of night. It is represents the guiding principles which are steadfast and can be relied on to judge one's position. 

Berkano : B 


 
Birch, the birch goddess, birch twigs  The B-rune is related to the Great Mother, the Earth Goddess. It is the mother of manifestation and of birth and rebirth. The birch tree was often planted before a home to protect it in Scandinavian countries, and the custom continued to be observed in America where settlers built new homes. It is used in "birthing" new ideas, bringing them to life. The birch is frequently the wood from which many a wand was also carved, thus the striking of an object or magickally charged item with the wand is thought to be the releasing action of energies applied before. It can represent or bring about a rebirth in spirit, as well as the renewal of spring after a period of winter.  It is representative of the Feminine energies at work. Nurturing, frequently subtle, and thus thought to be the counterpart to the energies found in Tiwaz.

Ehwaz : E
 

 
Horse, or ehwo: the "two" horses  Ehwaz is associated with "twin" gods or heroes, the divine twins, or two horses. The Saxon conquers of Britain were Hengist and Horsa (stallion and horse). It is the harmonious relationship between two forces. With its close connection to the horse it is also a symbol of fertility, and partnerships. These partnerships thus act as one, although from two or more distinctly different parts.  The Ehwaz was connected closely to the concept of a man's fetch, the spiritual "horse" that carries one on the journey between worlds. It is the rune of Sleipnir, Odhinn's eight legged horse which bore him on journeys across both Asgard and Midgard. Also, it was upon Sleipnir that Hermod rode to the netherworld to Hella's domain to request that Balder be returned to the living gods. It facilitates "soul travel" or the shaman's journey. As such it can be used to obtained hidden knowledge or knowledge from a distance. The term "nightmare" is closely related, the spiritual horse we ride during the night as we sleep.  It can represent a journey in consciousness, a swifter travel then that of Raido, and one that is protected or guided. Either deeper within or in the Astral. Although the fetch is in many ways symbolized by the horse, the fetch may be of man, woman, or any spirit form. Any sprit guide you work with closely may be one's fetch.

Laguz : L 

 
A body of water (or laukaz: leek)  The sea and other bodies of water, like the earth, were considered a source of wealth and fertility and an expression of the unconscious and undiscovered mysteries of life and death. The Aegir, the gods and goddesses of the sea, both gave and took life and offered fertility and wealth. They were the brewers and the Norse looked at the foaming vat of beer and related it to froth of the ocean. Mead brewed during the full moon was often given as a gift to newly-weds .. thus the term Honey-Moon.  It represents ebb and flow, and dark currents. Those currents may be soft and trickling, or sweeping and forceful. It can carve through rock and yet be moved by one's hand. Laguz can be the water in a well, bubbling up from secret depths, or dark and still, reflecting and yet revealing nothing beneath the surface. It seeks its own level, taking the path of least resistance at times, at other times sinking into the earth to rise in a distant place. The ship burials, and stone "boat" graves reveal the association of water with the journey of death, a rite of passage. 
Hagalaz : H
 

 
Hagalaz hail, egg (?)  The Anglo-Saxon rune poem refers to "hail" as being "grain" which falls and turns into water after being tossed about by wind. The layered nature of a hailstone was recognized, as well as the potential for destruction and the transformative qualities. The concepts that surround Hagalaz recognize that the destructive potential for hail out of season is balanced by the potential for transformation that will bring new fertility and growth as it thaws. 
Raido : R
 

 
A cosmic chariot, solar chariot. A chariot of a god or goddess; The Ecstatic journey  Rhythm and movement are important to the concept of Raido. The sound and dance of the ecstatic traveler who is carried on a circular journey. The spiral journey of the sun on it's annual course from North to South and back, as in the journey of Nerthus and Freyr's processions. It is the wheeling of stars around the cosmic axis. It can be thought of as the chariot of Thor or Freyja or any other cosmic "transportation." As the chariot is primal forces controlled by conscious thought. 
Thurisaz : Th 

 
Thor, the enemy of unfriendly forces; The thorn on brambles.  Thurisaz is a force of defense and destruction. "Bramble" or thorny bushes were used to "fence" and protect boundaries. One form of Norse/Germanic execution was to throw criminals "into thorns", pikes which were stuck into the earth. 
Dagaz : D
 

 
Day or Twilight (the border of the new day)  Dagaz refers to the a day, a period of darkness and light, since the Norse counted their days from evening to evening, with the mid-point being dawn and the rising of the sun. It is the rune of awakening, and metaphorically, of rebirth. It represents a time that cannot be defined, a place between places that are yet still interdependent of the other.  It is a rune of paradox, the balancing of opposites and movement, not as contradictions and opposition, but as counterbalances and compliments. It represents light, paradox. It is the rune of "clear vision" and "enlightenment." It represents time and space, and the weaving movement of the loom of life. One can also liken this rune to that of the symbol of Yin-Yang. In this we also see the theory of Dynamic energies, as well as that of the living counterpart. 

Isa : I     Ice 

 
It is the primal ice, the icy stream (or glacier) that flows from Niflheimr. Is an "elemental" rune. It's form can be seen in nearly all of the other runes. It is associated with the rime-giants, the hrimthursar, and the wisdom of age. Ice can be considered "static" as many do, however, ice whether one is speaking of the rune or of actual ice is a mysterious substance. Isa can bring things to a halt, or place something in suspension. But the mysterious flow of the glacier is also inherent in Isa, as it is related to the primal stream. Ice can also be an expansive force, or one that crushes anything caught in its grasp. 

 

 

Sowilo : S / Z    Sol / Sun 

 
The S-rune is that of the sun, part of the solar wheel. Both the words "sol" and "sunna" for the sun in Old Norse are feminine in nature as were the cosmic forces represented by the sun. It is the counter-force to Isa, or the cosmic ice. The S-rune is often connected to the lightning bolt, or a flash of inspiration or ecstasy. It strengthens the spiritual and psychic powers and abilities, increasing spiritual might. It provides "enlightenment" and success through individual will.  It is a rune of education and understanding, as well as one that transforms ice to water, a transformative force. It can represent high achievements, honor and obtained goals. It is power radiating, from the source and lighting all it touches. It can be healing as well as a cleansing energy or light. Also, this can be the persistence of an influence or energy to which things may flourish, or be steadily weathered away.