Thursday, July 7, 2016

Runes: Definition, Uses and Resources

Q. Hello dove! I'm so overwhelmed by all this witchy stuff! Do you think if I start out using runes, that would be good? How would I use them? Where are some good places to look for rune resources? I'm so new, I have no idea!


A. Hi Anon!  I think runes are an excellent starting place if you like symbols, old languages and something maybe a little more simple than Tarot for divination.  I originally began working with runes for many of the same reasons and they heavily influence my practice today.  I’m happy to give you some more information on runes, including a quick resource list at the bottom.  Good luck!


Runes are symbols with specific meaning.  They are typically a part of a now-obsolete alphabet, though there are rune sets that have no alphabetical meaning or that were created in modernity.  In fact, you can even create your own runes if you’d like!  The word rune itself comes from the Old Norse word rún meaning mystery or hidden (a reference to the legend of runes) and generally refers to runic alphabets that existed for Germanic languages - more letters than hieroglyphs but not quite the Latin alphabet we use today.


Here’s a list of various types of runes I compiled with a quick search.  There are many, many more. I’m personally partial to Elder Futhark runes as they’re the most commonly used runic alphabet in witchcraft but you’re welcome to choose the rune set that works best for you - or make up your own!


Historically, runes were mostly used for inscriptions, often inscribed on large rocks, buildings, gravestone markers, art and craft signatures and even messages akin to graffiti (source).  They were also used for personal letters and to conduct business.

Magically, runes were used for prayers, curses, formulas for charms and protections and more.  The Norse used runes much like we often use sigils.  In fact, you can even combine various runes in an aesthetic way to make it look like a single rune called a bind rune.  This bind rune could represent a specific purpose (ie bringing good luck to your home) or it could be your personal bind rune for your name.

For an example of how I used runes to create a protection chain for my house, click here.


There’s no significant evidence that runes were ever historically used for any type of oracle or divination.  Some claim a book called Germania, written by Tacitus in the 1st century, is proof of runes used as oracle (source).  However, that book was written before runes were in use.  Another source, the Ynglinga saga by the king of Södermanland, describes chips thrown that said he wouldn’t live long.  However, he was likely describing was blótspánn, or a sacrificial chip often marked with blood and not a rune (source).

But just because they weren’t used for divination back then doesn’t mean we can’t now.  The Norse religion and beliefs were open to anyone who was interested and openly spread.  Though this modification of the use of ancient runes comes from modernity, it makes it no less valid.

For an article about how I created my runes and how I read them, click here.

Here are a few other ways of reading runes.


Runelore by Edred Thorsson
Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson
Runecaster’s Handbook by Edred Thorsson
The Book of Runes by Francis Melville
Runes by R.I. Page
Rudiments of Runelore by Stephen Pollington
The Rune Primer: A Down-to-Earth Guide to the Runes by Sweyn Plowright
Runes and Magic by Stephen Flowers

Websites Runes, Glyphs of Power & Spirit An Introduction to Runes
The Rune Site
Omniglot: Runic Alphabet
Norse Runes

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