The word ‘rune' can be traced back to the old Nordic and Anglo Saxon
‘run', early Icelandic ‘runar' and old German ‘runa'. These in turn are
derived from the Indi-European root word ‘ru' which means ‘mystery' or
‘secret'. The Anglo Saxon slang word ‘rown, roon or round in the ear'
was widely used to refer to the whispering of a secret and appears to
be a derivative of the word ‘rune'. It is possible that the runes were
originally a secret or semi secret alphabet used by tribal shaman for
In mythology, the creation of the runes is attributed to the Norse god
Odin. Odin's name is reportedly derived from the Norse word Od meaning wind or spirit. Odin is said to have the power to raise the dead,divine for the future and shapeshifters.
There is speculation that there may be a link between Odin and the Celtic Genii Cucullati (hooded spirits), a pagan horse cult - horse whisperers, who could tame wild horses by whispering magical incantations into their ears. The Genii Cucullati were known to use runes for magical purposes.
It is said that Odin gained his runic knowledge by a supreme act of self sacrifice. He hung for nine days and nine nights impaled upside down from the Yggdrasil tree (The World Tree). This act parallels the physical extremes that Shaman have been known to go through as part of a shamanic initiation. The practice of subjecting ones body to extremes of deprevation and suffering is well known to promote visions. The suspension from the tree also parallels the hanged man in the tarot.
Caring for your runes
All runes should be cleansed regularly to ensure they are spiritually pure. This can be done using a smudge stick, natural running water such as a stream or the light from the full moon. It is also possible to bury them in the Earth to cleanse them - if you opt for this method make sure you remember exactly where you buried them! When you cleanse
any divination tool you always need to focus your intent on the cleansing process, remember that this is you undertaking a ritual act by asking the spirits to remove any accumulated negative energy from your runes.
Once you have cleansed your runes the next step is to empower them. Out of all the various forms of divination, the runes are the most connected to mother nature. The easiest way to empower your runes is by using sunlight.
A far nicer empowerment ritual is one that incorporates the four elements because it truely balances the stones. This ritual can be used 'as is' or can be adapted as you deem necessary, this is YOUR ritual so allow yourself to be guided by your own feelings. To perform this ritual you will need a candle, some sea salt, water drawn from a natural source such as a spring and an insence stick.
Earth: Place the runes on a square of black cloth and sprinkle them with sea salt. This empowers them with the earth element.
Air: Pass each rune, one at a time through the smoke of burning inscence. This empowers the runes with the air element.
Fire: Pass each rune through the candle flame, empowering the runes with the element of fire.
Water: Sprinkle fresh spring water (not tap water) over each rune, empowering them with the water element.
Having imbued the runes with your own unique energy they should be stored in a rune bag, which is usually a drawstring bag big enough to allow runes to be selected by hand from in during the course of a casting.
Divination using the Runes
Runes are normally placed on a casting cloth as they are drawn from the rune bag.
As with the Tarot a significator may be selected when consulting the runes, the difference is that in the rune system the rune you choose as your significator is usually the one that corresponds with the initial letter of your name.
In keeping with the elemental ritual of empowerment I thought it would be nice to look at an elemental reading. The Nordic tradition views the four elements as the building blocks of the universe. By aligning the elements with the cardinal points of the compass each rune becomes imbued with the qualities of the element on which it is drawn.
North: Earth. This element has a grounding effect and represents the physical lesson
West: Water. This is an upward and buoyant sign and represents your emotional lessons.
South: Fire. This represents your spiritual lesson and your unfolding destiny.
East: Air. Air draws in knowledge and respresents the place where you should seek wisdom.
Another popular spread is the Cross of Thor arrangement.
In this method four Runes are selected by the querent and are placed on the casting cloth as indicated to form an equal armed elemental cross. A fifth Rune is then chosen and placed in the centre of the cross.
The runes are read as follows
The first Rune represents the general nature of the influences surrounding the enquiry.
The second Rune represents any obstacles in relation to the problem
The third Rune represents forces working in favour of the querent.
The fourth rune represents the short term or immediate consequences.
The fifth rune in the centre predicts the long-term outcome of the reading.
A more complex arrangement that predicts generalised events over the course of a year is the runic wheel, which is similar to an astrological wheel in that the wheel is divided up into twelve equal segments, representing the twelve months of the year.
In this arrangement, thirteen runes are selected on at a time from the bag and placed face down in a circle on a casting cloth, starting at the 9 O'clock position (representing January). The final rune is placed in the centre of the circle and represents the overall influence for the year.
Similar to astrology, runes which are next to each other or directly opposite each other can be examined together as a relationship often exists between these.
Each of the twelve positions on the wheel not only represents a month it can also represent the archetypal energy of the houses of the zodiac. Those who have an interest in astrology might find it interesting to incorporate these archetypes into the reading. (This is by no means an integral part of the reading, it is more of an advanced method.)
First: The self, energy, beginnings
Second: Material possessions, security, money.
Third: Relatives, communication, short visits
Fourth: Home life, immediate environment, domestic matters
Fifth: Creativity, sports, gambling
Sixth: Relationships, social contacts
Seventh: Partnerships, marriage
Eighth: Religion, legacies, law and order
Ninth: Travel, philosophy, education
Tenth: Career, status, family based decisions
Eleventh: Personal interests, hobbies, distant friendships
Twelfth: Secrets, escapism, dreams and illusions.
When it comes to divination of any kind always use the spread that works best for you, if you wish to create your own spread then do so, just be clear in your own mind what each position represents when you create the spread. If you work with your own spread over a period of time you will soon realise if any minor adjustments need to be made.
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