Rune Study Group


After lots and lots of conversation and deliberation, here begins the Rune Study Group thread...Produced by Umbrae, Kiama and Malachite....Hope this is useful!


What are the Runes?

The Runes are a series of 24 characters or symbols used in divination and writing by the Norse and Germanic peoples prior to Christian conversion, and to a lesser degree afterwards.
The 24 characters are arranged in a series, called a futhark, based on the phonetic value of the first six of these. This is the same principle by which the Greek Alphabet was named after its first two characters.
As a form of writing, it appears to have developed from a mixture of the Orkhun (old Turkic) and Etruscan (North-Italic) forms of writing, although the sounds represented, and some of the symbols are almost certainly of native origin.
During its development, the exact arrangements varied, from the 16-rune Younger Futhark, to the 29-Rune Anglo-Saxon futhork. However, this study group focusses on the use of the Runes in Divination, so we'll stick with the Elder Futhark, of 24 characters.


Where do the Runes come from?
According to the Oral tradition of the Norse peoples, the Runes were first discovered by Odhinn. Many people know the story of how the God hung upon the world-tree Yggdrassil. This is the episode of Norse mythology where the Runes were discovered.

I trow I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.

None refreshed me ever with food or drink,
I peered right down in the deep;
crying aloud I lifted the Runes
then back I fell from thence.

Hidden Runes shalt thou seek and interpreted signs,
many symbols of might and power,
by the great Singer painted, by the high Powers fashioned,
graved by the Utterer of gods.
Better ask for too little than offer too much,
like the gift should be the boon;
better not to send than to overspend.

Thus Odin graved ere the world began;
Then he rose from the deep, and came again.
extracts from the Hávamál

The most important element of this story is that of sacrifice. As in many traditions, the notion of 'what you put in, you get out', is enshrined in the Runes. If you are not prepared to sacrifice something, be it time, money or anything else, physical or spiritual, then you are locking something out of you're future path. I guess its a matter of closing the door behind you before you head off down the next corridor.
"Like all things worth knowing, the mysteries are stubbon secrets. Often they will wrap themselves in a riddle, but they will always tell more by their riddle than if they had spoken with a clear tongue"
E. Thorsson, Runelore

The sacrificial journey of Odhinn is similar to that of Shamen in Scandinavian culture. Entering a strange realm of imagination and energy, and seeing what there is to be seen, before returning, bringing forth new concepts and tools. As far as Runic initiation goes, this is probably more extreme than might be necessary or expected, but then, Odhinn is a God.

Who Used the Runes?
The earliest written account of Rune use in divination is that of Tacitus in his text Germania, in the first Century CE. This describes the use of signs carved into twigs, and cast. However, it is likely that the practice was already old, perhaps by centuries, since this account merely marks the first time that a literary culture observed it taking place.

However, for writing, the use of the runes is dated as far back as the 800's BCE, from early carved stones in Sweden.
The link, therefore, between the Runes as Mysteries, and as a form of Writing, is very strong.
In the same way as the I Ching are represented by poems, the Runes were passed as oral knowledge, through various Rune-Poems.
One aspect of Odhinn, sometimes a separate deity, is Bragi, the god of Poets and Poetry, and this shows the deep reverence that the germanic peoples had for their language as a spiritual tool, and a tool for art and wisdom.


Thanks Malachite, Umbrae & Kiama - I don't know enough to contribute (yet!) but I'll definately be reading every lesson!

Just one question - what is the Hávamál?



*question from an illitterate*

Malachite, Kiama, Umbrae... WOW!!!
So I can begun to worry about Rune sets too!!!
Fortunately Kiama doesn't seem to collect Rune sets as well...

Will you be posting on the Runes singularly too?
I just don't know how I could contribute... but I would love to read your posts and learn.


HEY!!! You reminded me I have to post something...


Runes as an Oracle

I appreciate the Runes as an Oracle more so than as a device for seeing into the future (insert Tarot here).

I am sure that the runes (thanks Umbrae) can be successfully used as a divination tool, but I tend to lean on them more so as a guide. I also intend to use them to assist in my Tarot readings. Now this may sound a little contradictory to my previous comment, but I mean to use them in this way by offering a further explanation to a specific card or as a "result" tool in a Tarot reading.

For me whilst the cards are open to interpretation, the runes do have a specific meaning for each one. I suppose at this point it might be useful to know whose meanings of these are actually correct. I have studied 2 books on Runes (Ralph Blum & Lisa Peschel) and I am aware that there are many others. I suppose I was concerned that I might get information overload by reading too many author's meanings on Runes and therefore become some what confused.

I hope in this study group we can discuss amongst each other the meanings and purpose of each rune and then explore the "magickal" uses as well. I am already using runes in a lot of my spells and they seem to work quite nicely.

I look forward to participating and contributing where ever I can.

Blessed be.....


The runes can be read with interpretation, it all depends on the question, and the other runes drawn...its no more fixed than tarot, but i think that impression comes from the lack of imagery...
When I talked about 'divination', I was using the term to divide 'metaphysical use' from 'literary use'...There isn't really that much difference between looking into the future, and looking into the present...

We will be going through the runes individually, so don't worry about that...I was just setting the scene up :)

Mermaid:...oops!...The Hávamál is an old Norse religious 'text'. It comprises verses of advice by Odhinn, ten 'spell songs', and the story of how he found the runes...I'll post a web link when I find a page for it!..;)


Good idea Malachite, Umbrae and Kiama. :D

I'll be following the Rune Study Group... I have a couple of related books but very little experience using them... I may be able to contribute now and then...


thanks malachite et others for starting this one.
i made myself a simple set of runes, wooden ones where i put the glyphs on.



Ah! Kaz! Wonderful you should mention that: We are doing a 'lesson' on different ways of making your own Rune sets after this one. That way, people can learn with their own Rune set.