Rune readings history
Runes, once used as a form of written communication between Germanic peoples, are more commonly known today for their use in divination and runic magic. In this article we will explore the rich history of runic language, as well as their more mysterious and modern day uses.
Long before the widespread adoption of the Latin alphabet, many Germanic languages were written using runes. Like many early languages, there are many different runic alphabets, representing the large variety of linguistic dialects of the time.
The earliest known runic carvings date to 150 CE. Of the three most commonly known runic alphabets, the Elder Futhark is the oldest. Its use dates from 150-800 CE and its name is actually derived from the first six letters of its alphabet (F, U, Th, A, R, K). Following in chronological order of use, are the remaining two runic alphabets which are the subject of study and use today.
Those two alphabets are the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, which was used from 400-1100 CE, and the Younger Futhark, used from 800-1100 CE. Younger Futhark was the base for several additional runic alphabets, including the one most commonly used in the medieval era. It is these three alphabets which we will focus on, for the purpose of this piece. Runic alphabets are thought to have been derived from Old Italic, though which Old Italic system in particular is unclear.
Early examples of runic inscription include markings made on large stones, called rune stones, as well as inscriptions on shields, spears, etc. They were used both in a practical manner, as well as for decorative purposes. Runic inscriptions can be found on gravestones, prayers and even letters of business and love. As the Germanic languages evolved, runic alphabets were adapted.
This resulted in some runes being changed, renamed or dropped entirely, along with new runes being added to accommodate changes in spoken language. The angular shape of the characters of the runic alphabet is usually attributed to the tools available for inscription at the time.
Because they were generally inscribed into wood, metal and rock, it was important to carve with the grain of the material that was being carved into, and so curved shapes were difficult to manage, given these circumstances. The reading direction of runes was fluid, to say the least.
One could determine which direction to read the words, based on how the runes faced. Much like today’s alphabet, if a line of characters appeared upside down, you simply flipped the stone (or whatever surface they were inscribed on) in order to read them.
Runic inscriptions were often written back and forth. For example, the first line would be read left to right, then the second line would appear upside down and would traverse from right to left, until the piece was flipped over and then they would appear right side up and could be read left to right.
Lines would often alternate back and forth and occasionally even wrap around or change directions entirely. The Rök stone, discovered in the wall of a 12th century Swedish church (though it is believed that the carving dates to the 9th century), contains runic inscriptions running left to right, right to left, up to down and down to up! This method of directional inscription is in part practical – trying to get as much carved into a space as possible without needing to start over, and also thought to be part encryption – obscuring the text for reasons that are believed to be ritualistic.
Runic alphabets are a subject of much interest and their ancient nature creates a certain level of mystery about them. In fact, the term rune comes from run-, the Germanic root meeting “whisper” or “secret”. With a name that is itself rooted in mystery, it’s hard to deny the magical allure of runic language.
Norse mythology features several references to the divine origins of runic language. It was believed that the creator of the runes was Odin himself, as is described in the Norse poem, Hávamál. It is thought that the Nordic people used runes as a form of divination, particularly in the form of individually carved rune stones. This practice is still used today and is a popular method of gaining psychic or spiritual guidance.
How it`s works
Rune stones are usually created using the Elder Futhark alphabet, which consists of 24 characters in total. These characters are carved individually into wood, smooth pieces of glass or stone and are usually stored in a special bag or box. A rune reading can be done a few different ways. Below are some of the more popular methods for reading rune stones.
- Single Stone¬¬- This method is often used as the simplest method for answering one specific question. Sit with your bag of rune stones and concentrate on the question at hand. While doing so, draw a rune stone from your bag and use this stone to be interpreted for your answer.
- Casting- This method involves gently spilling (or casting) your runes stones onto a surface that has been prepared with a cloth or other soft material, while you are concentrating on the matter for which you seek guidance. You need not read all of the runes, but select the ones that stand out to you at first glance.
- Sensing- This method, for the more experienced reader, is best used by those who are very in tune with their stones. Begin by laying your rune stones out in a neat grid. Next, slowly draw your non-dominant hand over the rune stones while concentrating on your question. When passing over the runes, you should sense the one that contains your answer. Once you locate it, you may interpret its meaning.
- Drawing Three- This method is preferred for a general reading, since it provides a broader range of advice, rather than answering one specific question. Maintaining a neutral state of mind, draw three stones from your bag or box and place them in a row. Reading left to right, they address a past situation, a present situation and a future situation.
Meanings and interpretations of the specific characters will often come printed, with the set of rune stones that you purchase.
Much like the tarot, they have different meanings depending on the direction they face when cast or selected. Additionally, rune stones based on the Elder Futhark alphabet usually contain a blank rune stone. This stone is often called Odin’s Rune and is usually considered to be the most desirable to select, as its meaning is often interpreted as being one of encouragement, representing the unlimited Universe and your own boundless nature.
Runic divination is an enchanting practice, steeped in history, and for many, it is a remarkably helpful tool in spiritual guidance and problem solving. Whether your interest in runes is historical or magical, there is no denying their captivating allure.