I was recently asked to share how I work with runes. I want to start with saying I am not an expert and only starting this journey purposefully in 2016 despite being aware of and learning about runes off and on over the years. Beginning Rune Magick is a process that I still feel like I’m a novice at so I am only sharing how I work with them and welcome you to consider the resources below for more advanced information.
I did a short video on my practices but soon realized I left out some information and have shared it below.
The dictionary defines runes in 2 ways. They are letters of an ancient Germanic alphabet and a mark of mysterious, magickal significance – pieces of stone, bone, or wood marked and used for divinatory purposes.
Odin, fierce Norse God that seeks all power and knowledge, sacrificed Himself to Himself on the World Tree. During those nine days and nights that He hung He delved into madness and stretched through the fabric of creation, tore it open, and, with a great cry, brought the runes into the world. These are His sacred gifts.
Runes are Germanic/Norse in origin. They were brought with the vikings and earlier travelers to surrounding areas and some cultures adopted them like the Anglo-Saxons. While currently many media and online depictions of the runes claim they are Celtic, this isn’t true. They might be adopted by the Celtic traditions considering the Viking settlements in those areas but if you are looking for a mystery tradition in the form of divination or writing, I recommend trying Ogham instead.
Runes are sometimes used as a magickal alphabet for spells, Books of Shadows, and the like. This is not how I personally use them but if you decide to go that route it might be a good idea to look at the proto-German and Icelandic languages and see how they pronounce and use them grammatically for a better idea of how to work with these letters.
Your First Rune Set
I want to start by encouraging you to not worry about your first rune set being the perfect or best set. You have a lot of options and the best thing to do is just get started.
Creating your rune set is a great option. You can do this in a number of ways. Paint the runes on glass, stone, wood, or even cardboard or paper depending on how you plan to use them. If you have the skills, woodburning/pyrography, carving, or etching the runes is also an option.
My first runes were drawn on paper and pulled like tarot cards. A friend traded me a bag of beautiful snow quartz runes in 2016 in an act of gift exchange – Gebo. These are the runes I work with today.
Beginning Rune Magick – Creating a Connection
When someone begins working with the runes, its usually very similar to beginning work with tarot cards. They memo.rize key words, pull a rune a day, sleep with the runes under their pillow or nearby, etc. I have met people that have a great relationship with the runes that started this way, however, it did not work with me. I struggled with this method despite tarot cards coming so easy to me.
I took a class with Galina Krasskova regarding divination. The course was all about the sacredness of divinatory practices and the rituals around it. During discussion, runes came up and I mentioned always wanting to work with them but struggling. The following information is based on the advice Galina gave me and the practice I still use today for connecting and maintaining that connection with the runes.
The runes aren’t just letters. They are spirits. To connect with and work with runes, you must treat them with the respect you treat honored spirits you want to create a relationship with. To do this:
- Gather your runes into a bag.
Ask them which one would like to work with you today
Pull a rune – whichever comes first or whichever feels right depending on how connected you are to your intuition.
Place the rune on a working altar – a space that has been cleansed and set aside for this work, which can be small.
Give the rune spirit and offering and invite it to work with you. Be respectful.
Galdr the rune or chant its name(s)
Meditate with the rune, asking it to show you its nature or personality.
From here it is up to you. You might read about that rune, draw it, sleep with it under your pillow, etc. This all depends on what works best for you as we all connect with spirits in ways that are unique to us. If you do not have experience with connecting with spirits, try out different methods to find out what will work for you and the runes.
Journal, journal, journal. Write down any sensations, feelings, images, omens, signs, dreams, etc that come up during your rune work. This is where you will ken the meaning of that rune.
Repeat this work – its not enough to do it once for each rune. The runes, like people, have many facets and might show you a different one each time you work with them.
Other Ways to Connect with and Honor Rune Spirits
Create a home for your runes – sew, crochet, or decorate a bag or box for your runes. Make them a beautiful and safe space to rest and transport them.
Rune cloth – create or obtain a cloth to lay your runes on during connection or divination. It should be something nice as this is part of the rune’s work and home. At the very least is should be clean and cleansed.
Fight the use of Runes for unclean purposes – Runes are NOT symbols of Neo-Nazi hate. Speak out against this purpose. Odin did not hang on the world tree and sacrifice Himself for people to use His knowledge for bullshit purposes!
Beginner Rune Magick – Using the Runes
To divine with the runes, approach the situation as you might with any divination practice.
Cleanse and consecrate self and space. Ask your ancestors, guardian spirits, and what Gods you intend to work with to be present. It would be good to invite Odin to be present as well, as the Rune Father.
To read the runes I use 2 methods. You can draw the runes at random from the bag and lay them out in a certain way like you might pull tarot cards and put them into a spread. Alternatively you can throw the runes and read them like you might when throwing the bones or a collection oracle.
For the first, I recommend sticking to a 1, 2, or 3 rune “spread” of sorts. 1 rune can be pulled as an answer to a question or a daily draw. 2 can be part of an either or question or which path should I choose. 3 can represent mind, body, spirit readings or situation, action, outcome.
Throwing the runes can take more practice and knowledge of the runes as it involves more of them if not all of them. Some readers use special cloths decorated with symbols for this type of divination and read the runes based on where they fall on that cloth. Others throw them on a plain cloth and read them based on where they fall in relation to each other, the reader, (if they’re reading for someone else) the querent, or where they fall in relation to the 4 directions (North, south, east, west).
When throwing them, it is noted which ones fall facing up to be read. Some readers ignore those that fall face down while others read those as well as if they were reversals like in tarot.
Whichever method you choose, remember to show respect and thanks to the runes, Odin, the Gods, spirits, and ancestors during the reading and when done.
Beginner Rune Magick Resources
Runes: Theory and Practice by Galina Krasskova
Galina also has several writings on Odin that I recommend at least to get an ide aof the God that brought us the runes:
He is Frenzy and The Whisperings of Woden
Taking up the Runes by Diana Paxson is probably the most highly regarded and recommended book on the runes within my Heathen circles.
She also wrote a book on the God of the runes – Odin: Ecstasy, Runes, & Norse Magic as well as a book on ancient divinatory practices – The Way of the Oracle.
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