Runes are the letters from the Runic Alphabets that were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. They have continued to be used for special purposes including the art of Rune divination. The word 'Rune' stems from a Proto-Germanic form reconstructed as rūnō, which can be translated as 'secret, mystery, secret conversation. Similar findings are present in Old Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Old English, sometimes also meaning “miracle”. In addition to representing a sound value, runes can be used to represent the concepts after which they are named. The Scandinavian variants are known as futhark or fuþark (derived from their first six letters of the alphabet: F, U, Þ, A, R, and K). The Anglo-Saxon variant is futhorc or fuþorc (due to sound-changes undergone in Old English by the names of those six letters).
Runology is the scholastic study of the runic alphabets and the earliest known runic inscriptions date from around A.D. 150. The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (ca. A.D. 150–800), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400–1100), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100).
Rune Stones are an ancient tradition of divination possibly dating back to the 1st century A.D. In Norse cultures runes have a powerful and magical history. It was believed they held strong divinatory powers and so were highly prized, taken very seriously and handled with extreme caution.
Today runes are used as a way of connecting to one’s higher self, finding inner guidance and tapping into one's intuition as a method of foretelling what the future may hold, similar to working with Tarot Cards.
Rune Symbols & Meanings
A Set of Runes traditionally holds 24 letters, sometimes sets come with a blank stone called Odin’s Rune that symbolizes what is not meant to be known yet. Odin is the Norse God who legend says sacrificed his eye to see everything that happens in the world. If you get this rune it implies that it is not time for certain information to be revealed and to trust in the divine timing of life.
The Anglo-Saxon Runes
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (sometimes written "fuþorc") is an extended alphabet consisting of 29, and later 33 characters.
The Elder Futhark Runes
The Elder Futhark is the most widely used runic alphabet and consists of 24 runes that are often arranged in three groups of eight. The earliest known sequential listing of the full set of 24 runes dates to approximately AD 400 and is a practice shrouded in mystery as most people were illiterate at this time in history. Consequently there is a wide variety of potential meanings attributed to the runes.
Each group of 8 runes is referred to as an Ætt - the Old Norse word meaning 'clan or family'. They are Freyr’s Aett, Heimdall’s Aett, and Tyr’s Aett.
These three parts tell the story of life’s cycles.
The Freyr’s Aett - Freyr was the ruler of peace, fertility, rain, and sunshine and the son of the sea God Njörd. This group of runes is representative of finding our footing in the material plane and the accumulation of worldly possessions. It contains runes symbolizing things like cattle, which was a main indicator of wealth during this period, communication and vigor.
The Heimdall’s Aett - Heimdall was the watchman of the Gods. This group of runes tells of our increasing maturity and growth. It contains runes that represent obstacles, fate, and harvest and abundance.
The Tyr’s Aett - Tyr was the Norse Sky God and represented war and justice. This group of runes portrays our developing spirituality and legacy. It includes runes representing birth, community, intuition, and inheritance.
Casting & Reading Runes
Using runes for divination is a wonderful way to access your inner voice and develop your intuitive abilities. The visual simplicity of the letters makes them suitable for the very young and they are a useful tool for encouraging early interest in divination practices. A simple 1-rune pull for a Yes/No type answer allows the user to focus on their abilities without feeling overwhelmed by complicated rules. When you are comfortable you can move on to a 3-rune cast which is similar to a Tarot card spread. The three runes may represent past/present/future or situation/action/outcome.
As you study in more depth you will find that each rune has a large variety of aspects and meanings according to the way they are used. Traditionally they were cast using three or more stones and in odd numbers: 5-rune, 7-rune, 9-rune etc... However, as with Tarot card spreads, there are vast number of layout options for you to try, including a 24-rune layout for special occasions like the beginning of a yearly cycle, which could be the winter/summer solstice, new birth year, new job, move to a new location or New Year's Day itself.
There are two main methods of using the runes. You can literally throw them, "cast", onto a cloth surface which might be your alter cloth or a specially selected cloth for divination work. You can also draw them directly from the pouch, using your non-dominant hand to hold the bag while your dominant hand makes the selection. You must be thinking about the question/questions you want answered while you place down the runes in the layout of your choice.
There are many excellent books on the subject of rune divination from practical beginner guides to more in depth volumes. Visit the store to see our current selection.
at The Cottage Witch...
We stock 25 piece rune sets in a variety of natural crystals.
Each set will be infused with different properties and energies according to the crystal chosen.
We include a brief description to aid in your selection.
The letters are carved into the runes and highlighted with gold. Rune bag included.
Contact us for currently available selection!