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The Elder Futhark: Jera

The Elder Futhark: Jera

The twelfth rune in the Elder Futhark, and fourth rune of Heimdallr’s ætt, is Jera, which corresponds to the “y” sound in the word “year.” This is an interesting rune, and one that evokes the cycle of the year and harvests. It is the rune of planning, waiting, and seeing your plans comes to fruition. Like the oncoming harvest, a lot of what this rune tells you depends on your actions and plans. It is a positive rune in many cases, but it can be very frustrating because it advises waiting.

In Anglo-Saxon, Jera is spelled Ger or Ior, and in Old Norse it is Ar. Jera is the rune of good harvest. As with a harvest, there must be preparations to the fields, seeds planted, and crops tended. But Jera suggests that the harvest will be good, and you just have to be patient.

Like Isa, this rune requires waiting, but like the harvest, it promises good things in abundance. Our Northern ancestors were primarily farmers and understood that they had to wait to receive the bounty of their harvest. Harvest didn’t happen in a day or a week. It started after the last harvest with plans for the next season. Farmers had to save seeds from the current harvest to replant their vegetables and grain crops. They had to prepare their fields to lie fallow over the winter. And then, they had to wait until the ground thawed after a long winter so they could plow and plant their seeds. With each planting, the farmer hoped for a good crop without pests and diseases. But Jera is a rune of good harvest, which means droughts, hailstorms, and damaging weather, as well as pests and diseases, aren’t a factor for this harvest. It means there will be plenty and good times are ahead.

Divination with Jera

When you get this rune in a casting, it informs you that good things will happen, but you must wait. Because Jera is derived from the proto-Germanic word meaning “year” (jēr) and the Old Norse word for year is Ar, it suggests that your waiting for good news may take a long time, quite possibly a year or longer.  Jera tells you that all your preparation and plans will come to pass. That good times are ahead, and that you will reap a bountiful harvest. But it advises patience as well. Good things don’t happen all at once. It takes time and planning for you to succeed in whatever endeavor you are asking the runes about.

Should you get this rune in your castings, you’re going to enjoy good things coming your way, but you must be patient. If other runes around it are negative and it is drawn in the future spot, it means that all your trials and travails will end with something good heading your way. If it is in a past spot, it suggests that you are coming off a time of harvest and new situations may arise. A present spot may suggest you moving into harvest, or maybe a cycle that will bring you towards the good things. Above all, just be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

Some Final Thoughts on Jera

When Jera appears in a spread, you may find that the outcome you are waiting for depends on your preparation and work. Nothing is ever easy with the runes, just as nothing was ever easy for our ancestors. Jera is a signal in many ways to work towards your goal, and if you are willing to work hard, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your success. As always, the position where Jera appears as well as the runes around it will dictate how successful your endeavors are. Good luck!

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The Elder Futhark: Isa

The Elder Futhark: Isa

The eleventh, and third rune of Heimdallr’s ætt, is Isa, which corresponds to the “I” sound in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use). This is considered a negative rune, whenever it comes up. It does occasionally have positive sides, but I’ll talk about that later. It is the rune of ice, winter, standstill, and waiting. If you get this rune, you’re going to be frustrated, because it means that everything is at a standstill. Like an ice dam, something is being blocked until you or something else can remove it. It can also point to a river covered with ice: nothing seems to be moving, but there may be an underlying current beneath the ice.

In Anglo-Saxon, Isa is spelled Is, and in Old Norse it is Isa. Isa is the rune of standstill, winter, and waiting. Our Northern ancestors were no strangers to the long, harsh northern winters, and the prevailing ice that accompanied them.

Winter was a time of waiting. Sure, there were feasts, such as Yule, and winter activities such as skiing and ice skating. But our ancestors were waiting for spring, when the animals gave birth, and when the crops could be sowed.

Winter was a time when people had to live off their food harvested in the fall. It was often a time of scarcity and hunger, especially if the crops failed. Sometimes people hunted and fished to bring in food, but often the prevailing ice and snow prevented such activites. Game migrated when the snows got too deep, making it difficult to hunt. So, people waited–and hoped for–an early spring.

Divination with Isa

When you get this rune in a casting, it informs you that you must wait for an answer. The amount of time is indeterminate but finite, meaning that you could be waiting a long, long time. This is why Isa is considered a negative rune. Most of the time, we can deal with a “yes” or “no” when it comes to an answer. Isa tells us we must be patient and wait.

Isa is an interesting rune, though, because although it suggests everything is at a standstill, there is a finite amount of time before everything frees up again. It may suggest something is blocking your forward progression. You can break through that ice dam, but it may be a serious challenge ahead of you. Then again, Isa may be telling you that nothing appears to be happening, only something really is. Whatever is happening may be hidden from you. In this case, it’s important to pay attention to the underlying motion.

Should you get this rune in your castings, you are more likely to be frustrated in whatever answer you seek. It’s telling you either to wait, or that everything is at a standstill. Either way, you’re going to have a hard time achieving your goal. You may have something blocking you from your goal that you must overcome, or something else is going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. Or maybe you simply have to wait until something changes before you know the answer.

Some Final Thoughts on Isa

When Isa appears in a spread, you may find that your circumstance tells you to wait. That can be a real source of frustration. After all, you may find yourself at what appears to be an unyielding block to your goal. At this point, you need to decide whether to try to break through or wait it out. Sometimes the best thing to do is to wait. Like an ice dam, it may be holding back a torrent. Then again, that block may be insurmountable, and you may need to wait.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site. Thanks.

Did you know you can become my patron for as little as $5 a month? This entitles you to content not posted anywhere else. Plus you get to see posts like this three days before the public! Without patrons, I’d be having a very hard time keeping this blog going. Become a patron today!Become a Patron!

The Elder Futhark: Hagalaz

The Elder Futhark: Hagalaz

The ninth, and first rune of Heimdallr’s ætt, is Hagalaz, which corresponds to the “H” sound in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use).  This is a probably one of the most negative runes you can get, whenever it comes up. It does occasionally have positive sides, but I’ll talk about that later. It is the rune of disruption, hail, natural destructive forces, and uncontrolled chaos. Where Wunjo is an excellent rune to get, Hagalaz is the exact opposite. When I see Hagalaz in a reading, I take a deep breath and know that it’s going to get rough for a while.

Hagalaz‘s Meaning


In Anglo-Saxon Hagalaz is spelled Haegl, and in Old Norse it is Hagall.  Hagalaz is the rune of hail–a destructive and uncontrollable force in nature.  No doubt hail wreaked havoc on our ancestors, damaging crops and homes, and possibly causing injury if you were outside in it.

While today, we understand that hail comes as a results of convective forces in large thunderstorm cells. The water droplets freeze at high levels, fall, and then updrafts carry them upward with more moisture to freeze again, larger and heavier. The most powerful the updraft, the greater the number of times the hailstone is carried higher to gather more ice. Eventually, it gets heavy enough where even the updraft can’t carry it, and it falls to earth as hail.

Our ancestors knew none of this. Instead, they probably understood that dark, violent thunderclouds with lightning sometimes brought hail, though why or how was unknown. Instead, they knew it was unpleasant and destructive. It was an uncontrollable force of nature that would not be denied.

Divination with Hagalaz

When you get this rune in a casting, it informs you about destructive events, disruptions in your life or plans, and chaos. If your life is in turmoil and you get Hagalaz in the present position, or the matter being considered, chances are it’s just a reflection of your life or plans at the present moment. Maybe it’s something as simple as you being conflicted over something and it is disrupting your life, because of it. People who pull Hagalaz in the present or past position have been feeling like their lives have been spiraling out of control. If you get Hagalaz in the future position, it suggests your plans and life are going to be disrupted and you’re likely to feel like you have no stability in your life. In other words, hang on: you’re in for a lot of chaos and destruction in your life, physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.

Hagalaz doesn’t seem to have a positive side to it on first blush. Like all runes, the context of the disruption depends on its position and the runes surrounding it. The runes feed off of each other, creating a broader picture for the caster. Should you get this rune in your castings, you may think it is something huge that will disrupt your life. Well, maybe. The runes don’t differentiate between big and little. It’s up to you to determine whether you get pea-sized hail or whopper softball-sized hail when it comes to your disruption. For example, let’s say you get Hagalaz when you cast the runes about your upcoming wedding. Hagalaz may be saying something as simple weather will delay your travel plans. Or, it might say your fiancee will leave you hanging at the altar. See the difference? You just don’t know.

Some Final Thoughts on Hagalaz

When Hagalaz appears in a spread, you may have a sinking feeling. Don’t, even though you may have some rough times ahead, or glitches that show up in your plans. Hagalaz brings change as well as disruption, and change often is for the better.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

The Elder Futhark: Ansuz

The Elder Futhark: Ansuz

Alas! Family visits plus work has put me behind on writing about the runes. So, without further ado, I’m covering the next Elder Futhark rune. The next rune in the Elder Futhark is Ansuz, the fourth rune in Freyr’s ætt.

Ansuz‘s Meaning

Ansuz carried several different spellings in Anglo-Saxon. It could be written as Os, Aesc, or Ac. In Old Norse, it was Oss. I’ve seen several different meanings for it, but the closest meaning as I understand it is “message from the gods (Aesir).” Others have described it as “Signals,” “Mouth,” or “Communication.” It represents the “a” sound. This rune is tied to Odin as it often suggests the message comes directly from the All-Father. Naturally, this makes it a very important rune in your casting.

Divination with Ansuz

Ansuz is an important rune as it suggests where you’re getting your information. If you get Ansuz in a spread, pay close attention to where it shows up in your reading and what runes are around it. For example, if you do a three-rune casting where it deals with the matter under consideration, influencing factors/impediments, and future developments/outcomes and you get Ansuz in the second spot, the runes might be warning you that the gods’ messages might not be what you hoped for. But then again, if you get the rune with positive runes, it might suggest the message is favorable, but pay attention. Negative runes surrounding it may implicate that you need to pay closer attention to what the gods are telling you about your situation.
Like any rune, you need to consider this rune in the context of others. In most cases, it’s a benign and positive rune. Paired with negative runes like Hagalaz or Nauthiz, it can prove to be a trying rune at times. But again, it’s all in the context.

Some Final Thoughts on Ansuz

Ansuz is one of those runes which will tell you to pay close attention to what the gods are telling you. Sort of a wake-up call that may be telling you to spring into action or wait, depending on the other runes. Sometimes it’s an unwelcome rune because it tells you things you don’t want to hear. Pay attention to the message when you get Ansuz. The gods are listening and have given you a direction.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

The Elder Futhark: Thurisaz

The Elder Futhark: Thurisaz

The next rune in the Elder Futhark is Thurisaz, the third rune in Freyr’s ætt. Like many runes, this rune has both positive and negative meanings, depending on where it ends up in the cast. Let’s look at Thurisaz and see why it’s an important rune.

Thurisaz’s Meaning

If you take the name at face value, the first thing you probably will think of is the day, Thursday, since it is very similar in spelling. It’s meaning is “thorn,” “giant,” “danger,” or in some cases, I’ve seen the word “threshold” associated with it. Given that Thor is half giant, we can easily see how Thor, Thursday, and Thurisaz fit together. Since it is associated with giants and thorns, we can assume that if you pull Thurisaz out of your rune bag, you (or the person you’re casting for) may be in for a rough time. Thurisaz is the “th” sound. In Anglo-Saxon, the word is “thorn” and in Old Norse, the word is “thurs.”

Divination with Thurisaz


If you cast Thurisaz, chances are you’re in for something powerful and dangerous, just like the Jotun. But not all Jotun are evil, so don’t immediately think you’re doomed if you pull this rune. A lot depends on where it ends up and what other runes surround it.

Thurisaz means danger, thorn, and giants. It is the rune of extreme change, sometimes violently. It also means conflict, which can be a source of frustration or anguish. When it means “threshold,” it says you’re standing on the cusp of something, just like the threshold to your house. Your home is usually associated with safety; past the threshold is largely the unknown, or “here there be monsters.” It takes a fair amount of courage to step into the unknown when there’s giants lurking outside the safety of your home.

At this point, when you get this rune, look at the other runes. When Thurisaz is in the obstacle position or the current situation position, you can bet the future rune will influence it. If the future rune is a positive rune or a beneficial rune, you can bet Thurisaz is there to warn you that you are either standing on a threshold of something big that will try you, or you are in for a rough ride, but things will improve. If it ends up as a future rune, you might prepare for some type of conflict ahead. When the obstacle rune is a positive rune with Thurisaz in the future rune, chances are you’re striving towards something, only you’re not seeing the whole picture and don’t see the pitfalls. Thurisaz can serve as a warning.

Some Final Thoughts on Thurisaz

At this point, you’re probably concerned if you pull this rune. And rightly so. But it doesn’t have to be bad.  In fact, if you cast Thurisaz, it may be a warning from the Wyrd that if you continue down the path you’ve chosen, you won’t like it. The Wyrd is giving you information that will hopefully help you steer clear of the problems. And that is always helpful.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I get a small stipend which helps support The Rational Heathen. I would encourage you to support my site.  Thanks.

Runes as a Divination Tool

Runes as a Divination Tool

Our ancestors have used runes as divination tools for centuries. Whether fashioned from bone, wood, stone, or something else, people relied on runes as a written means of communication, powerful talismans, and a means of learning about the future.  I’ll explore why in this piece.

Obtaining Immortality

Runes — and writing, for that matter — is the human attempt at establishing immortality in a very mortal world. Look at the runic inscriptions we have from our ancestors: they talk about deeds, imbue power into weapons, mark the existence of a person, keep track of goods, or give us a magical formula of some sort.

Even today, humans want to leave their indelible mark on the world. Whether it’s a person who wants to be a published author, an actor appearing on the silver screen, a recording artist, an Internet blogger, or a tagger spray-painting graffiti on a boxcar, all these people are looking to achieve some sort of immortality. The Internet and movies are just another form of media that came from the written word.  Before writing all people had were their memories and oral traditions. Sure, the person learned the story from their parents and grandparents, but over time the stories morphed into something less recognizable by the original teller.  Like an ancient form of the kid’s game “telephone,” original details were lost and new information was added. Only when the stories were written down did we have a record of what the story was at the time it was written. That’s assuming, of course, that the scribe wrote it down word-for-word without embellishment, which generally didn’t happen.

The Magic of Writing

If you’ve been one of my long-time readers, you know I eschew the word “magic.” But in this case, I’ll forego that avoidance. Writing, itself, is magical. Think about it.  We can convey our thoughts, stories, feelings, and beliefs to people we have never met.  To people whom we will never meet. This power is something we take for granted now, but writing has really only been around for a little over 5000 years.  The world’s oldest writing is cuneiform written in 3200 BCE. Scribes developed and used cuneiform to record transactions in the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, which is in present-day Iraq.

Agrarian societies invented writing to keep track of goods, possessions, and taxes.  Writing is a by-product of commerce, which makes sense.  Even Scandinavian/Viking merchants used runes to keep track of their goods.  I would argue that until produce and trade developed, humans had little need of the written language. Sure, there were magic sigils and marks, but until people exchanged money, or at least goods and services, they didn’t have a pressing need for a written language.

How Does “Magic”Divination Work?

Warning!  Personal Unverified Gnosis Ahead!

I believe part of the runes’ sacredness comes from the “magic” of being able to learn from people long gone from the world. How magical it must feel to hear the voice of an ancestor from something written.  The ancestor most likely carved the runes into something more permanent like rock, bone, wood, or metal. This lasted far longer than his or her 40 to 50 years in this world.

Another magical part of the runes is the ability to tap into our subconscious selves.  That part of our mind pays more attention to the world around us. It’s where we often get our insights and hunches.  And it’s more likely what hears the gods when they speak to us. When we touch the runes, our subconscious knows what rune we touched.  The feel of the wood, bone, or stone, the rough cut of the rune, the shape of the rock: our subconscious mind knows what it is even if we can’t consciously identify it.  So, the runes help us find the answer within ourselves and our subconscious observations of the world around us.

(At this point, I can hear purists who believe in magic screaming that I’m full of shit.  Cool. You don’t like what I say?  Bitch somewhere else.  You got the warning above; deal with it.)

Whether you believe that Odin gave our ancestors the runes or not is immaterial.  The runes are here and they possess a quality that we can use to explore our mind and our collective unconscious.  It may serve as a way to understand what our conscious minds haven’t grasped.  And it may be a way to know what is happening in the future.

Block Heads and Block Universes

If you’ve read my piece about free will, I go into the block universe theory and why we may not have free will at all.  Briefly, the block universe theory in physics states that everything has already happened and it’s just our limited perception of time that keeps us thinking sequentially. The past, present, and future exist simultaneously.  Time doesn’t go forward, per se, we just experience it in our limited capacity as if a spotlight is being shown on that particular instant in our lives.

I wonder if people can and do access those other parts of space-time, just not consciously. As a Science Fiction and Fantasy writer, the thoughts are intriguing, certainly.  If we can access the past and future subconsciously, it makes sense that the runes help us do it.

Rune Meanings and Interpretations

My sister gave me a rune set and Ralph Blum’s Book of Runes when I was a teenager. I actually have a first edition somewhere, assuming it didn’t get lost in moving. Whether or not you think Blum’s book is a bunch of crap, you have to admit that it was and still is quite popular. I did some pretty successful runecasts with it, despite its faults.

Even so, I subscribe to the more traditional interpretations, though.  I also don’t believe in using merkstave as a reading, because merkstave was added to make the runes more tarot-like. Plus, there are plenty of negative sides to the runes already–we don’t need more.  I also don’t believe in using the blank rune, because the runes already have perth, which is the equivalent as such.

That being said, because the runes are our gateway into reading into the future with our subconscious mind, my guess is you can have whatever interpretation you fancy and still get the reading right. (I can hear the purists screaming now.)  The main thing is to stay consistent in interpretation, otherwise it’s unlikely you’re going to have a good reading.  I prefer using traditional meanings over others, if , for no other reason than to have consistency.

I would say go with whatever works for you.  If merkstaves and blank runes work, then do it.  If going the completely traditional route works, then do that. Hel, if you find Ralph Blum’s interpretations work, then use those.  Let me know what works for you in the comments.