We have a guest post today, folks! The amazing Freckles, of the blog Freckles the Happy Heathen, has written a wonderful post on runes as part of my Divination series. You can find her at her blog, you can like her on Facebook, and you can follow her on twitter.
The word ‘rune’ is defined as “any of the characters of certain ancient alphabets, as of a script used for writing the Germanic languages.” Runes, for some are a form of divination. For others they’re a form of ancient language. Others see them as symbols that have deeper meanings to our past and our ancestors.
So where did runes start and how did they become a form of divination? In the Eddas, ancient books of the Norse/ Scandinavian people about their Gods, it was recorded and translated that Odin hung from Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights in order to obtain the knowledge of the runes.
In the poetic Eddas it tells us that Odin found 18 runes. This is where a lot of confusion starts to stem from. If you take any modern rune kit and dump it out, you’ll find that there are 24 or 25 runes. The Younger Futhark is comprised of 16 runes. The Elder Futhark is comprised of 24 or 25 runes which were the original alphabet used . In all honesty it doesn’t matter which set you use. The Younger Futhark is a simpler version of the Elder Futhark, but it unlike the Elder, the Younger was used for much longer and stuck around until Latin eventually replaced it. This is a long standing debate – Younger or Older. Whatever you feel comfortable with is all that matters.
Because the runes traveled and changed so much, one rune may have many different meanings. In the books ‘The Rune Primer’ by Sewyn Plowright and ‘The Rudiments of Runelore’ by Stephen Pollington give the three different rune poems, also known as kennings. Commonly you will find Old English, Old Icelandic, and Old Norwegian kennings. The two books mentioned above both offer all three kennings for each rune.
The kennings are where the modern symbolism of the runes came from. What was written in the rune poems have been translated into what the runes mean. For example if you draw the rune Fehu (see picture below) you’ll find that Fehu is always associated with money. Why is it associated with money? All three kennings for Fehu have something to do with money. Not with wealth, but with physical money.
So we have the basic understanding of where runes come from and why they’re interpreted the way they are. Now how do you read them? Runes are not like tarot, nor should they ever be treated as such. Runes shouldn’t be read in reverse or upside down. Why do I believe this? If you take the letter ‘A’ and flip it on its head does it make a different sound? No, it doesn’t. Same thing applies with Runes.**
There are multitudes of ways to read runes. Some do a basic three pull – past, present, future. Some do a full out spread (my favorite method) by allowing the runes to fall from a bag or their hands and letting them show what needs to shown. Some people draw the runes out one by one and read whatever order they come out of. There are a couple of other ways that people read runes, but I won’t go there.
At the end of a reading I will always, always, always pay homage to Odin. Whether it’s a quick prayer or an offering of beer and a bit of bread, I will always offer something back. It is vital to understand that the Gods gifted us with the runes and we owe them for that. Always say thank you!
**It takes a life time to master any form of divination and rune magic is no exception. There are many people who have different opinions, their own interpretations of the Eddas and other various pieces of Scandinavian works, and would consider what I wrote to be incorrect. What I have written is based off my own opinion with guidance from some good friends who know a bit more on the subject and a couple of great books.
Further Reading & Resources
The Rune Primer: A Down-to-Earth Guide to the Runes by Sweyn Plowright
Rudiments of Runelore by Stephen Pollington
Runes and Magic by Stephen Flowers