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The Elder Futhark: Raidho

The Elder Futhark: Raidho

The fifth rune of Freyr’s ætt is Raidho, which corresponds to “R” in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet we use). If you haven’t noticed the similarity between the other runes I’ve shown and our own alphabet, you probably will see it in Raidho and our letter R. Whether our runes were based on an older form of the Latin alphabet or whether they evolved from an older Indo-European alphabet is up for conjecture.  If you want to read about the origin of the runes, you can do that HERE.

Raidho‘s Meaning


In Anglo-Saxon Raidho is Rad and in Old Norse it is Reid.  Raidho is the rune of travel. It means a wheel, cart, chariot, or journey. Our ancestors considered travel very important because it required a fair amount of effort to go someplace. When you’re limited to walking, snowshoes, carts, travel using animals, or ships, you had a fair amount of effort involved, both physically and mentally. You left your safe confines of home to journey into less safe territory and unknown lands. Like any travel, it could be good or bad.

Divination with Raidho

When you get this rune in a casting, you’re looking at movement, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally. It can mean something like business and vacation travel when dealing with physical movement. It could mean an actual move or change in residence. Or it could mean changes in perspective when it comes to a situation, relationship, or point-of-view.

Raidho often means leaving something that you know for somewhere you aren’t necessarily familiar with. It can be scary, if you’re not ready for it, or it might be a welcome change you’ve been looking for. Regardless, Raidho means movement, and that means it can provide either good or bad, depending on the matter under consideration.

You may notice I caveat a lot of rune readings by saying the meaning depends a lot on the runes surrounding the rune in question. The runes feed off of each other, creating a broader picture for the caster. Raidho is no different in that regard. You may find that Raidho foretells of a job opportunity–or it could foretell of a layoff–depending on the runes surrounding it and the circumstance.

Some Final Thoughts on Raidho

Raidho is one of those runes I actually like. Not because I hate being in the spot I’m in, but more because it can provide opportunities I would normally miss if everything continued to stay the same. Sure, it can bring negative consequences, but the times I’ve seen Raidho in a cast, it usually indicates physical travel for me–and usually something I’ve been expecting. You may find Raidho to be like that, or maybe it speaks more to your mental or emotional state. Regardless, it is a rune of change, both good and bad.

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.

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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.

The Elder Futhark: Uruz

The Elder Futhark: Uruz

I’m running a bit behind on posting the next rune in the Elder Futhark, so let’s get into it. This week, I’m writing about Uruz, being the second in Freyr’s ætt. Uruz is an interest rune with both positives and negatives. So, let’s look at it.

Uruz’s Meaning

Uruz is the rune of the auroch or wild cattle. The auroch was the ancestor to our modern day domesticated cattle. It is now extinct, albeit fairly recently. The last auroch died in Poland in 1627 from natural causes. These suckers were huge — some being nearly 6 feet at the shoulder. Our ancestors were certainly familiar with them seeing as they existed two million years ago until 1627. A shame really that they went extinct due to disease, reduction in habitat, and unrestricted hunting. I could go into their history and the attempts at recreating them, but that’s not really the subject of this post.

Uruz is Ur or Yr in Anglo-Saxon and Ur in Old Norse. It is akin to the “U” sound in English. Because Uruz is the auroch, it is the symbol of wild, untamed power and untamed potential. It means strength, wildness, masculinity, freedom, courage, and even change, often in a sudden and unexpected way. It can mean male sexuality, although that’s usually reserved for Ingwaz.

Divination with Uruz

Uruz is an interesting rune to have in a cast because it is the symbol of vitality and strength. In many ways, it’s a positive rune to have, depending on where it is in the layout and what runes are surrounding it. If Uruz is in a place in the cast which is what obstacles you might face, then it can be an unwanted rune, because it may be saying that the forces against you achieving your goal are powerful and may be difficult, if not insurmountable, to overcome. But in many casts, it suggests a strong force helping you. But be careful, Uruz can bring about some pretty powerful changes that you might not foresee, and your life can become chaotic with such a rune at the helm.

Of course, reading Uruz in a casting depends on the other runes and its placement, as well as the skill of the interpreter. Usually I am quite glad to see Uruz in my casts, but you may have a different experience.

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: Fehu

The Elder Futhark: Fehu

As I’ve promised, I will go through each of the Elder Futhark, hopefully once a week. I may write about other runic alphabet variants, should there be enough interest in both the runes and my understanding/interpretation/insights in them. This week, I start with Fehu, being the first in Freyr’s ætt. The runes are traditionally split up into eights or ættir. Those ættir are Freyr’s (Or Freyja’s) ætt, Heimdall’s ætt, and Tyr’s ætt. So, let’s talk about Fehu.

Fehu’s Meaning

Fehu means “wealth,” “cattle.” In Anglo-Saxon the word is Feoh and in Old Norse it is Fe. It’s meaning is along the lines of acquired wealth, cattle, or livestock.  In the past, our ancestors considered cattle and livestock as wealth that was acquired and made, not inherited wealth from the family or clan. This was wealth one would earn due to one’s hard work. In the alphabet, it corresponds to our letter “F.”

Divination with Fehu

Since Fehu is associated with acquired wealth, it’s actually a nice rune to show up, especially if you are looking to earn more money. Of course, that depends on where it shows up in a casting, but it is usually a good rune to see. For example if the cast combines Fehu with Wunjo (joy), it can mean success in earning money, a new job that will bring about success, or a payoff in investments. However, when the cast combines Fehu with Hagalaz (disruption), it can mean destruction of acquired wealth or loss of a job, again, depending on where the runes sit in the casting. Or it may suggest that you will have a sudden disruption in your finances, either good or bad.  (A lot is finesse here when it comes to interpretations.)

Reading Fehu depends on what your life situation is as well as the runes around it. But when you see this rune, you can assume it is something having to do with your career or investments.

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.

Which Runic Alphabet Should You Choose for Casting?

Which Runic Alphabet Should You Choose for Casting?

With all this talk about runes here, at this point you’re probably thinking you’re ready to make or buy some runes and begin casting. Well, maybe. Which runic alphabet should you choose for casting, exactly? Elder Futhark? Younger Futhark? Anglo Saxon? Danish runes? Norwegian-Swedish runes? Something else?

Okay, maybe you have heard that there are different versions of the runes. But which one will you use to cast? Let’s talk about them and see which makes sense for you to use.

The Elder Futhark

The Elder Futhark are the oldest runes we know about, having been around between 150 and 800 CE or AD. These runes were first used by Germanic tribes in Northern Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Called the Elder Futhark because the first letters of the alphabet are F U TH A R and K. (There’s your answer for Trival Pursuit, Norse Style. You’re welcome.)

Not surprisingly, these are the runes we see the most of when it comes to rune sets. A lot has been written on divination with Elder Futhark runes. These are the runes I use to cast, mainly because they are the ones I was first introduced to.

The Younger Futhark

The Younger Futhark is actually two different types of runic alphabets. You can choose either the Danish runes or the Norwegian-Swedish runes. The Danish runes are called the Long Branch runes while the Norwegian-Swedish runes are called the Short-Twig or Rök runes. These runes came into being around the 8th century to about the 12th century, when the Latin alphabet took over.

Anglo-Saxon Runes

The Anglo-Saxon runes or Anglo-Frisian runes are collectively known as the Futhorc because those are the first letters of that runic alphabet. The earliest form of the Futhorc looked almost exactly like the Elder Futhark with three more runes in the 5th century. By the 7th century, most of the Anglo-Saxon runes had been replaced by the Latin alphabet, but it was still used occasionally up until the 12th century.

Marcomannic Runes

These runes appeared in a treaty called De Inventione Litterarum which attributes these runes to Marcomanni, hence the name. It’s a merger of Elder Futhark and Futhorc runes. The manuscript was drawn up in the southern part of the Carolingian Empire, around Bavaria. These runes are supposedly in use in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Medieval Runes

Although Scandinavia was now Christianized, people still used runes, blending them with the Latin alphabet. They were used between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Dalecarlian Runes

In some isolated areas in Sweden, particularly Dalarna, people used runes to transcribe Elfdalian from the 16th up until the 20th century. Also called Dal Runes, it’s unknown if the runes in Dalrunorthe 19th and 20th centuries were in common use or if they were learned from books and used in scholarly writings.

Which Runic Alphabet Should You Use?

With so many versions of the runes available, it may be difficult to decide on which one works for you. At this point, my advice is to look at the runes and decide which one actually calls to you the most. Maybe try making your own runes on index cards or Popsicle sticks and play around with them a bit to see if you want to make some more permanent runes with them.

Obviously, if you want to go with the Elder Futhark, you’re in good company and there is a lot written about that runic alphabet in terms of divination. But you can find information about the Younger Futhark, Futhorc, and other runes around. If this becomes particularly popular, I may just cover them after I cover the Elder Futhark.

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Understanding the Runes

Understanding the Runes

I’ve been meaning to write about rune castings and rune readings, as well as understanding the runes, but I’ve had no time. Or less than no time. Because of this, I’ve been sort of remiss in my duties as The Rational Heathen, as it provides good content. Nevertheless, I’m going to start off talking about the runes and try to get at least one rune covered every other post.  That’s my intent. I’ll see if I can really talk about the 24 runes and how they came about. Let’s begin.

The Story of Odin Hanging Himself on Yggdrasil

If you haven’t read the Havamal where Odin sacrifices himself to himself to gain the knowledge of the runes, here’s the translation:

137.
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.


138.
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.

Wow, pretty powerful stuff there. You might even notice the similarity to Christ’s crucifixion. I’ll touch on that another time, perhaps. TElder futharkhe story, if you haven’t gleaned it from the Havamal is that Odin hung himself on Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights to get the runes. He offered himself to himself as a sacrifice. When he finally saw the runes, he took them and brought them to the gods and us humans.  Pretty cool, right?

What Scholars Think

The Elder Futhark is the oldest version of our runes (there are other sets, and I will talk about them later) dating somewhere to the first or second century CE or AD. I’ve written about their origin here. It’s believed that the Germanic peoples based their runes on the Italian alphabets, most likely either the Northern Etruscan or Raetic alphabets. They may have been based Venetic Raetic Camunic Lepontic alphabetson the Latin alphabet, but given Raetic has several rune-like characters, it’s likely the Germanic peoples adopted the alphabet and then made it their own, sometime even before the Roman Empire was in full swing.  The similarities between our Latin alphabet and the runic one  is too hard to ignore, so despite the verses in the Havamal explaining how Odin won the runes, we think it was more an assimilation of an alphabet created by someone else. The Etruscans and the Raeticians may have gotten their alphabet from the Greeks and Phoenicians, so it’s all good. Basically we’re dealing with an ancient alphabet founded on an even more ancient alphabet, and so on.

Where’s the Magic in a Derived Alphabet? (Or Understanding the Runes)

At this point, you may be wondering how we could possibly get magic out of a derived alphabet. Understanding the runes requires understanding their origin and what they actual do. The runes are considered sacred not only because of the myth that they were given to us by Odin but also because of what they do. They convey our thoughts and words, allowing us to talk not just to others around us but also to generations to come long after we’re gone. They have a special power to convey ideas across time and space. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

So, what happens when you do a rune casting? I think it is something that connects with your subconscious and gives you advice when you cast them. I also get the feeling that the gods also give advice through the runes. I’ve seen it before, so even though it’s Unverified Personal Gnosis time, I truly believe this. I also know others have had a similar experience.

Casting Runes

You can cast runes anywhere, but it really helps if you have someplace quiet to do it.  You can cast it on anything, but I like using a special cloth–in this case, a bandana with wolves printed across it–to cast on. There are several different spreads to cast on, the most notably being the one rune, three rune, Teiwas shoat, nine rune, and the tarot cast. All work okay, but for simplicity sake, I use the three rune combined with one rune.  I’ll go through that later. The choice of rune casts are really up to you. Just make sure you understand the cast positions and what they mean. before doing the cast. For example: I can never remember what the positions mean in the Teiwas shoat, having not cast it enough. I gives me answers, but not necessarily clear answers because it’s muddled in my brain. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. (But you’d think a follower of Tyr would have better luck with it.) It’s better to go with something you know well, if you’re doing a formal cast. Just my opinion; your mileage may vary; not valid in all states; yada, yada, yada.

Stay Tuned Next Week: Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel…

I’ll start in on the runes and tell you both the common interpretations and my own insights. So, hang in there. (Heh! Pun intended, Odin!)

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How to Create Your Own Runes on a Budget

How to Create Your Own Runes on a Budget

One thing that makes Heathens…well, Heathens, is the use of runes and runecasting. If you’re crazy like me, you probably have several sets of runes that you cast from. However, if you’re new to Heathenry, can’t afford to buy those awesome runes made from semi-precious stones, or just want to create your own runes, I have some ideas for you. Many of these ideas won’t break the bank, and don’t require expensive tools or materials to produce. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Materials to Use

When you create your runes, you’re probably thinking you want them to last a while. And this is perfectly acceptable. Materials that will work for you include:


You can also choose paper, such as index cards or cardboard cutouts, although they won’t last as long as something made of stone, glass, wood, or leather. The positive side is that you can create your cards similar to Tarot cards and go that route. They are handy to carry around, while at the same time, you can illustrate them however you would like, even if it is only with the rune, itself. Popsicle sticks work awesomely as well, and you only have to mark the rune on the stick with a permanent marker.

Where to Get Your Materials to Create Your Own Runes

Obviously I’ve given some affiliate links here if you don’t want to scavenge your own materials. That being said, if you’re flat broke, or if you simply want to gather your own materials to create your own runes, you can do it easily.

Stones

Stones are…well, dirt cheap to free. Walk down any road, path, or in any forest, and I guarantee, you’ll find a rock somewhere. Probably rocks, plural. You can get picky and choosy if you want, or you can just take 24 of the best rocks you find in one outing.

Wood

If you have a hand saw, cut a branch off a dead tree that has the same width as the runes you want. Just don’t trespass, cut a live tree, or do something against the law. No, it is not cool to cut a branch off a tree in a local park. Don’t do it. Buy some cut wood online like the one I recommend.

Sticks

I’ve heard of people doing readings throwing sticks and bones. Basically, you have 24 sticks and you throw them down. You then read the pattern of the runes the sticks make. I’m thinking that sticks that are somewhere 3 to 5 inches long will probably work for this. The plus side is that you can get sticks nearly anywhere there are trees. Again, don’t be a wanker and cut branches from a live tree. There are usually plenty of sticks lying around trees.

Marking Your Runes

In most cases, you’re going to want to mark your runes on one side when you create your own runes. If you have material such as wood and you want to mark it permanently, you might consider using a wood burning pen. If you don’t have and can’t afford a wood burning pen, use a permanent marker and plan on varnishing or using clear coat on your runes. Stone requires paint or permanent markers and varnishing or using a clear coat on your artwork.

When it comes to sticks, if you want to keep them around for a while, clear coat or varnish will also preserve them.

So, what materials have you used? Let me know in the comments.

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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.

 

Where Did the Runes Come From?

Where Did the Runes Come From?

If you’re a Heathen, you probably know the story of how Odin hanged himself for nine days and nights on Yggdrasil and obtained the runes.  It’s a great story and one we love telling to explain the overall mystical qualities the runes possess. But, like anything, our stories don’t necessarily tell the whole story of how the runes came into being.  So, this piece looks at the runes and how they evolved.

The Havamal and Archetypes

The Havamal describes how Odin sought wisdom by hanging himself on Yggdrasil for nine days and nights.  He hanged with a spear stuck through him to earn the runes’ wisdom.  For those who follow Christianity, the image is oddly reminiscent of Jesus on the Cross.  Think about it: a god sacrifices himself to himself via crucifixion.  He is stabbed with a spear.  He dies and comes back to life, even before he created the world.

It just shows how the archetypes of ancient legends filter through to today’s most popular religion.  The idea of a crucified god isn’t new, nor is the concept of a god dying and being resurrected.  But that discussion is for another time.  We’re still talking about the runes, here.

Runes in the Havamal

137.
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.

138.
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.

139.
Nine mighty songs I learned from the great
son of Bale-thorn, Bestla’s sire;
I drank a measure of the wondrous Mead,
with the Soulstirrer’s drops I was showered.

140.
Ere long I bare fruit, and throve full well,
I grew and waxed in wisdom;
word following word, I found me words,
deed following deed, I wrought deeds.

141.
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.

142.
For gods graved Odin, for elves graved Daïn,
Dvalin the Dallier for dwarfs,
All-wise for Jötuns, and I, of myself,
graved some for the sons of men.

143.
Dost know how to write, dost know how to read,
dost know how to paint, dost know how to prove,
dost know how to ask, dost know how to offer,
dost know how to send, dost know how to spend?

144.
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.

Havamal, 137-144, translated by Olive Bray

Where Did the Runes Actually Come From?

If we look at the runic alphabet from archaeology, we can get a sense for where the runes came from.  Even so, it’s sort of a mystery how the runes came into being.  We know that the oldest runes, the Elder Futhark, were written as early as 150 AD or CE (Common Era).  But whence they came is as interesting as the story in the Havamal. Runes may have be derived from what are called the Old Italic Alphabets, which includes the Raetic and Venetic alphabets.  These alphabets may have come from a Proto-Indo-European language and made their appearance as far back as the 700 BC or BCE (Before Common Era). You can see the similarities in the Elder Futhark and the Raetic and Venetic alphabets, if you look closely.  Many of the same letters in the runic system are there.

We can assume that the runes and the modern alphabet came from a similar source. The Latin alphabet, the alphabet we use today, was derived from the Etruscan alphabet which had most of the same letters. These letters came over from the Greek language from a Greek colony in Italy, around 600 BCE.  There’s a possibility that this alphabet influenced the runic alphabet as well.

There’s also a hypothesis that the runes may have Germanic origins because of the Vimose Inscriptions. These inscriptions are some of the earliest Elder Futhark inscriptions, and they’re written in Proto-Norse. They were found on an island off of Denmark, making a case for West Germanic origins.

Scholars just don’t know the exact origins of the runes, but they can guess given the similarity of the alphabets.

Why the Runes are so Powerful

Our ancestors ascribed magical powers to the runes, and it’s not hard to guess why.  If you’ve never had a way to keep knowledge available for generations to come other than oral tradition (which had problems with changes over time, and lost information due to untimely deaths), it would seem like magic.  Think how magical it would be to have a way for your ancestors to speak to you.  Those who could write the runes must have appeared to be very powerful shamans to less learned folk.  And those who could read the runes were certainly powerful in knowledge.

As the Rational Heathen, I’m not really into the woo-woo stuff. And yet, I do and have done runecastings. I suspect that the runecastings work through your subconscious–that your mind knows what is going on and you’re in touch with it.  Your fingers pick out the runes that your subconscious knows well.  Perhaps a person who does a runecasting for someone else gets cues that only our subconscious can understand and comes up with a reading that makes sense.

Or, maybe not.

Whether you believe that Odin brought us the runes, or whether you think they evolved from another written language, I hope you enjoyed this post.  Let me know what you think and whether I should write more rune posts.