The Runes are a method of reading the conditions or elements in our lives. Somewhat like using a mirror, through the Runes we see the reflection of ourselves and those around us, in a way we cannot see with our eyes. They help us to use our intuition in evaluating the probable future.
The original Runes were either river stones or wood chips. They were either carved by hand or symbols were often painted on and incorporated into buildings. The teachings of the Runes and their true power was born of the Earth mother and came through the tree of life. Runes have been rediscovered as a symbolic system and have gained immense popularity as a means of divination. They are, however, much more than a curious alternative to Tarot cards for telling fortunes. They provide a key to understanding the lives and beliefs of the ancient people who created them, and have much to teach us about a way of life that was more intimately connected to the natural world, and to the realm of spirit, than our own.
There are many ways to read Runes and many meanings out there you can explore. This is just MY way of seeing them and the way that *I* am comfortable with them. We will be looking at other ways as well. But for now I want to start with it as easy as possible!
You can buy Runes or you can make them yourself. The best way to make them is to use natural materials such as, wood chips, stones, fired clay, semi-precious gems. Wood Chips can be carved in or painted Stones, Fired Clay and Gems can be etched or painted. It is best to make them as close to the same size as possible. I carry mine in a green velvet pouch with a draw string as green is the color of Mother Earth. The pouch will be a good place to store the Runes and will also be where you "shuffle" them and draw them out for your layout for a reading.
The Runes, like the Tarot and the I Ching, belong to the great systems of divination. Though we use them for fortune telling, they also open the way to an ancient spiritual tradition. For a long time the Runes were all but forgotten, mentioned only in fantasy novels and horror stories. In recent years, however, many people have found them a particularly valuable method of divination. One reason for this is that anyone can draw them. This means that you can make your own set. Doing so creates a personal bond between you and your Runes.
The Runes from an ancient Germanic alphabet, once used for normal writing. At the same time, the signs have always carried magical and divinatory meanings. The word "Rune" derives from the Old Norse "run" which means "secret". The Vikings engraved Runes on the hilts of their swords and built them in the walls of their houses as a protective device to ward off evil. The shamans and healers of Scandinavia used them to heal the sick, to protect burial mounds and to cast spells. Supposedly they used Runes to fly through the air and to call up dead spirits. They also used them for divination. Wandering rune-masters and rune-mistresses would pass through towns and villages wearing animal skins and blue cloaks (blue was sacred to the god Odin).
The Saga of Erik the Red describes a professional rune-mistress. She wears a cloak set with stones, a hood lined with cat fur, and catskin mittens and shoes. She also carries a staff set with a knob at one end (similar to a magician's wand). Traditionally the runes belong to the one-eyed god Odin ("od" means "wind" and "spirit"). Lord of death and rebirth, Odin rode an eith-legged horse and received messages from two ravens. A wolf walked with him on his journey's through the world. To get the Runes Odin hung on the world tree, "Yggdrasil", for nine days and nights (link to both the Hanged Man and the Hermit in the Tarot). He also sacrificed his eye to Mimir, guardian of the well of wisdom. To cover his empty eye socket Odin wore a soft-brimmed hat, almost the same hat that is worn by the Magician in some older Tarot decks. Many people invoke Odin's aid before casting and reading the Runes. To do so, picture him in your mind and then mentally ask for guidance.
The Runes consist of twenty-four letters together with one blank Rune called "Wyrd" or "Fate". If you prefer to use "spreads", as with the Tarot, mix the Runes in their
pouch, then draw out the correct number, laying them down in their proper
positions. Most of the Tarot layouts will work just as well with
the Runes. One special one is the Cross of Thor which uses five Runes
in the following positions:
2 5 4
Here 1 represents the general situation, 2 obstacles, 3 helpful influences, 4 the immediate outcome, and 5 the long-term results.