The Runes – An Introduction
The runes are an ancient system of divination and writing tracing their roots from Pagan Norse belief. From a set of simple stave writing the Elder Fultark of twenty four runes developed, first as a secret language, then as a method of day to day communication. Over time this led to the creation of the Younger Fultark of sixteen runes with a complex phonetic system attached, as used in the Norse settlements if Iceland in their sagas. Further developments came through a form of hybridisation to the Frisian runes and the Anglo-Saxon Fultark, which took runes away as well as added to them to explain new concepts as they encounters them as well as an evolving cultural context.
While used an operative form of writing and communication in early Christianity, they faded into disuse over the middle ages accept for small pockets of rural Scandinavia. They began to be revived as a part of the 19th century revival of Europe's pagan past. The most controversial of this was an adaption of the runes into a new systems of Armenian runes, a series of sixteen runes that became lined with growing German nationalism. Made even more controversial in the 20th century by further Nazi co-opting of German nationalism, these gave using the runes especially the Aramenian system of runes, which is still associated by many with this period today.
We are now benefiting from a less ideologically led revival since the 1960's of the runes as a system of wisdom and divination, slowly becoming popular as a form of divination worldwide since then. This, in a way, this is a continuation of the work of teaching this system of working with, and understanding the world.
The Elder Fultark
The Elder Fultark, the oldest system of Twenty four runes grouped in Deity named aetts, is the oldest system of runes extant. It is the one that I use and feel comfortable with, and have used for many years. It is also the one that will be taught today. From here, if you wish to, you can explore the worlds of the other rune rows. The Elder Fultark, though, is the oldest. Said to be discovered in folklore as a sacred form of recording and understanding the world by the god Odin after hanging for nine days and nine nights on the world tree, he saw them on the bark of the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life. Through this ordeal he was revealed both the Elder Fultark and their meanings, the system we will be looking at and using today. Some sets include a twenty fifth Wyrd rune, left blank. However, this is not a traditional element and it is up to you if you wish to use it.
There are three Aetts, each named after a deity. The first Aett of eight is named after Freya, the goddess of love and fertility and expresses earthly concerns. The Second Aett of eight, named after the god Hagal or Hemidal (depending on sources) focuses change, cycles around us and the worldly forces of the material and ethreric world. Last but not least is Tyrs Aett, focusing on the universal laws and forces underpinning it all, both inside and outside us.
Below you will find a diagram of the Runes in order of their rune rows, read left to right, corresponding to how I see the runes in basic meanings below. If you are interested in further information I am looking at running Rune Workshops, both online and face to face if you are able to attend at the Central Coast of NSW, Australia. Contact me through E-letters to the Editor - If you are inquiring about courses your letter will not be published.
Fehu – The first rune of the Elder Fultark as well as the first Aett, this symbolises movable wealth. In ancient times this was sheep or cattle, but this could mean any form of portable wealth, up to and including digital bank accounts. On the level of energy it can also mean energy and abundance coming your way through practice or movable goods and exchange. Reversed, or Merkstave, this can mean blocked or delayed abundance, and wealth, or having to pay money out in the form of bills and fines.
Uruz – The Second rune of the Elder Fultark, this seems at times a nuanced one at times. The core meaning, however, comes from the strength of the primal ox. This meaning, stemming from both the symbolism of the primal cow and bovine mother goddess Audhuma as well as the wordily symbolism of the Aurochs, a now extinct breed of wild cattle. Both speak, in different realms, to the symbolism of universal strength and might, unatameable and belonging to nobody but there to help. Reversed, or Merkstave this is a warning against misusing this power in a selfish way.
Thuriaz – The Third rune of the Elder Fultark, this symbolises the power of defense and rising to challenges. What this rune shows us is not only the challenges of defending ourselves, or getting through a hard time, but that we have the resources. Connected to the natural symbolism of the thorn on plants such as blackcurrants and brambles. Reversed it shows challenges lie ahead, look around other runes to see what this means and how the resources come to defend it.
Anzus – This rune, with a symbolism of the Ash tree and a link to greater consciousness is considered a 'God rune', or a link to the form that higher creative consciousness is for you. In Norse tradition, it is liked to the World tree Ysgadril, which in legend is said to be an ash tree, bringing this symbolism to life. This also has Parallels to the Celtic tree of life as well as other tree of life legends across the globe. Upright it shows that the power of the universe in it's many facets of belief are with you, supporting you – As Above so Below, As within, so without. Reversed it calls for you to see what you need to call on divine support.
Raido – Raido, symbolised cycles, processes and travel. Be that a raid, music, travel or working with the cycles of life this is about understanding and working with these processes in our lives, be that etheric or physical. Upright it shows processes or actions that require processes in motion, looking at other runes in the spread to show what this all means. Reversed, it shows that you may be trying to swim against the proverbial tide and you may need to look at working with it for better results. Look for clues as to how and why in other areas of the reading.
Kenaz – There are two forms of this rune, the most common one (in the Elder Fultark) being the chevron form you see above. Denoting Illumination, inspiration and new ideas, this embodies the civilising ideas of fire. Upright this denotes the form of either Illumination, inspiration or new ideas, or look to them in some form for the awnser. Merkstave, or reversed, this shows that you might be missing an insight or new idea that might help you. Look for this for new understanding into your problems.
Gebo – Gebo, or gift, denotes a partnership, be that between divine and man, or between men. In more advanced forms, this would be written with cross strokes for the first, and with two interconnecting chevrons for the second. It is interesting to note that this symbol is still used as a signature for the Illiterate. This is one that is a very good one to get, as it denotes a partnership that is beneficial. If in a bad position or coming up wrong side down (hard to reversed) it indicates for the questioner to look at their partnerships and see how equal they are, or what can be done for them to work better.
Wunjo – A good indicator of joy and balance, it is a rune of the Norse goddess Gefin, or the bountiful giver. Also related to the wind vane on both Norse temples and later early stave churches it shows the harmony of balance – Neither too much nor too little. Upright, it shows harmony and balance is in your life, or coming to it, depending on position. Merkstave, it indicates that there is a lack of balance in your life, or the area in question, and you should look to see how you can work to restore it.
Haglaz -The rune of Ice and hail, and of winter in the form of hail to the point that it is named after this natural phenomenon. Representing change in the same way Hail splits transformation into three phases – What was before, The white landscape of the hailstorm, and what comes after, it works as a predictor of change. Be that change within or without this is a time of change, the old state, the change state and the new state. This is a state in cycles a state of being, a state on your life. Upright it shows a change for the better in your life – be patient and go with the flow. Reversed, it shows that you are resisting necessary change. Let go and go with the flow, this is a necessary change, be it not exactly feeling good at the moment.
Nadhuz – This can be an ominous ruin, meaning necessity, restrictions and want. The shape representing a bundle of firewood that is needed to kindle the need fire, this is not always bad. A rune of Wyrd, or fate, this represents the three norms, then Nordic goddesses of fate. But it is not always bad. Upright, depending on the runes around it can show the power to work with the game of life for our advantage, working with fate, or finding a way of breaking through our current necessities. Reversed, it can show we are acting against fate, to no avail. Try and fresh approach working with cycles and your wyrd rather than against it.
Isa – The rune of Ice, restriction and the depths of a frozen northern winter this was a time and place of rest, a break in cycles. The end of the old and the beginning of the new. There is, however, a lot of good to go with this, as this indicates that with the breaking of the ice and the thaw a new spring would come. Upright, this indicates a change in cycles and a new spring. Reversed, it indicates that this is winter, and wait for spring to come. This delays the breaking of the ice and changing of cycles, but not stopping it. Wait for spring to come, it will be here.
Jera – After winter comes spring. Spring brings the start of the growth of the Autumn Harvest, which this rune represents the climax of. This is what is represented here, and in this form a change towards completion. With two forms, the twin, interlocking Chevrons, and the diamond shape of the harvest garland, this show the stages of the harvest. In this case, it shows the harvest changing towards completion. Upright, it shows that things are changing towards your harvest. Reversed, not quite yet, the harvest is delayed. What do you need to do to change the delay?
Eihwaz – A rune of survival, regeneration and the Yew tree, this shows survival and regeneration. An evergreen, a tree that can bleed toxic sap and live and be regenerated by it's own daughter trees, this is a tree of survival. As such it represents resilience, survival and renewal. In other rune systems the tree is also associated with a weapon of war and defence – The bow. Upright it shows that this strength of resilience, survival and renewal is with you. Reversed it shows that Challenges are ahead and you need to find this within you.
Perdho – A complex rune of layered meaning, this can mean chance, fate, the game of life and the womb of mother earth. Fate and the game of life comes with the idea of the dice cup, a common form of gambling and shown to represent the game of life. We are not always dealt the best hand, sometimes it is how we play it. IN this way, it has similar meanings to Nadhuz. The womb of mother earth is a more modern interpretation, coming from the shape of the dice coming out of the cup – Like the dice come out of the cup. In this way, it is a rune of life. Upright, it gives us a sense that we can control our fate a little if we control our own fate by playing the hand we're dealt with to our best ability. Reversed, or Merkstave, it shows us we should take a look at how we are playing the game and re-evaluate life to work more effectively.
Elhaz – A rune of defence, representing the Elk and the Sedge plant, this has often also meant a divergence of paths and choice to make. Either way, you are looking at a challenge, be that defence or of making a choice. Look to the runes around, and the question to see which one fits your question best. Upright, this means a positive change and the ability to defend and make the right decisions, to take up the challenges ahead. Merkstave or reversed, it means tread carefully, and look at all the factors when making decisions, or taking actions. There is danger and hidden factors around which will need to be taken into an account in your decisions.
Souwlio -Souwlo, or Sig, is a rune of sunlight, and the greatest interpretation of light. As with the light rising after dawn, it can represent light, victory and new beginnings. Upright it shows new Illumination coming into your life, a new start, a new idea, and new beginning. It also shows favorable conditions for victory. Merkstave (Revered) It shows this delayed, but coming. Don't give up yet, victory is not here yet, but in sight.
Teiwaz – The rune of Tyr, the sky god, this means just rewards for effort. A rune of the law, justice and hard work and sacrifice being returned, the spirit of this rune is shown by the titular deity's sacrifice of his hand to help bind the Fenris wolf successfully, the third time. Apart from the alternative title for the said deity being the wolf's leavings showing very common elements between Norse and Australian humour, This shows the feel of this runes energy. Upright, it shows a feeling of reward for sacrifice and Justice coming if the cause is just. Unjust causes, or miscarriages of justice do not occur under this influence. If reversed it shows that this quality may not be forthcoming, results not as good as expected or delays and disappointments in legal cases.
Berkana – Also called Berkano, this is a regenerative rune of spring. Associated with Spring, regeneration and renewal, this is a rune of positive change. Associated with the goddess Frau Bertcht, a nature goddess, this shows abundance and renewal in your life. Upright this shows renewal, like a northern spring after winter coming through, into your life. Reversed, or Merkstave you should ask yourself, what is holding renewal back? And what can you do to change this?
Ehwaz – Carrying the symbolism of the partnership of horse and rider, the joy, the movement and the nobility, it also shows that in this partnership all is not equal. Associated with equine deities, this represents movement, partnership and travel, be that towards goals or physical travel. Upright, depending on the question and runes around it, it shows movement, and partnership towards a goal. Reversed, depending on the question or the runes around it, it shows a lack of partnership, teamwork and progress. Look at what is blocking your success and work through it to get results.
Mannaz – Representing the first man, Askr and Embala, the first woman, and humanity and the human mind, this is a rune of the intellect and knowledge. Good for gaining success in exams and other mental tasks, it is also a rune of the stable, functioning order of humanity as a whole. Upright it portends success in examinations, other mental tasks and tasks relating to the right, functioning order of society as whole, Merkstave, or reversed, it shows a lack of success and problems in these areas. For more information look at the question, the place in a reading and the runes around this rune to interpret what this may mean.
Languz – Where Isa represented changing points in cycles, Languz represents tides, be they physical or energetic. This is a rune of water, and of the leek, which was considerd a sacred plant by the Welsh. Like Raido, or Isa, this can represent movement, hindered movement and how well you are going with the flow. Depending on your question and reading this can represent the flows of physical life, or the energetic flows of energy around us. As with all of these ambiguities, look for the answers in the reading and question. As this represents tides, the best way of looking at this rune upright in a reading is a suggestion to go with the flow of energy, or life around you for best results, as scary as it sounds. Reversed this shows that you are going against the flow, or warning against it. Swimming against the tide is difficult and will not get you as good a result, if it gets you any positive result at all. Look to your awareness on how to realign.
Ingwaz – Also called Inguz, representing the fire and Hearth god Ing, the consort of Mother Earth, this can be a protective rune, often carved into houses to protect them in the alternative, introverted, diamond form. The Expansive form, the one above, indicates this inward power projecting outwards. It also represents the masculine principle of light and fire, and the effects of this upright can be drawn from this in the form of inexorable change towards completion inherent in masculine sexuality. A buildup to the resulting Orgasm. It cannot be reversed by it's very nature, being symmetrical, in a way showing the immutability of light.
Dagaz – The rune of daylight, Dagaz is a rune of breakthrough. Also called the dawn rune, this is a rune of success victory and breakthrough. In a form that does not really reverse, if upside down or wrong way around this merely means that success is delayed. There are two positioning for this rune, one the the end after Othala (Next) or before, as here. I have always personally had more of an affinity with the second one, and am thus using it here.
Othala – The last rune in this rune row, Othala, also called Othil or Othil in variation is a rune of wealth that cannot be bought and sold. At a time this was cattle and livestock, here this means ancestral land. In that way, in closing the circuit this means inherent wealth, be that talents, property or anscsestry and genetics. Upright this is favorable, reversed this can mean cursed inheritances such as genetic diseases, family violence patterns or family and group Karma. Look to the question and other runes in the reading for more information on what this means.