Perhaps you don’t think of the Vikings as a particularly literate bunch but you’d be wrong. In fact they had their own alphabet called the Futhark which was made up of runes. These were used for different purposes.
Obviously, runes were used to exchange information between the few folks who could read but they were also used as a form of divination in which case they were carved on wood or stone.
Each rune had its own meaning and these would be read in relation to each other - something like tarot cards. Runes were also used in spells both positively and negatively.
Here is a deeper and incredibly intriguing insight into the Runes...
Fans of Tolkien or other fantasy writers will have come across the notion of ‘Runes’ before, but how many of them realise Runes are not fictional but an ancient alphabet - or to be more accurate alphabets.
Runes Ancient Alphabet
The three best-known Runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around 150 to 800 AD), the Anglo Saxon Futhorc (400 to 1100 AD), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100).
The earliest Runic inscriptions date from around AD 150 and give the name of either the craftsman or the owner of the object, or, have no obvious meaning at all. This suggests that the early Runes were not just a simple writing system, but signs used for charms.
Runes and Fortune Telling
Although some say the Runes were used for divination or fortune telling, there is little direct evidence to suggest they were ever used in this way. The name Rune means ‘secret, something hidden’, and seems to suggest that knowledge of the Runes was originally restricted in some way, this can be seen in the 6th century Bjorketorp Runestone which has the following curse;
“I, master of the Runes(?) conceal here Runes of power. Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who breaks this (monument). I prophesy destruction”.
The same curse and use of the word ‘Rune’ is also found on the Stentoften Runestone. Charm words, such as auja, laþu, laukaR and most commonly, alu appear on a number of Elder Futhark inscriptions.
Much speculation has come from the potential meaning of these inscriptions. Rhyming groups appear on some bracteates that may also be magic in purpose, such as salusalu and luwatuwa. Although Norse literature has many references to Runes, it does not give specific instructions on divination.
Runes and signs
Still, there are at least three sources on divination with descriptions that may refer to runes including Tacitus’s Germania and Rimbert’s Vita Ansgari. The first source, Tacitus's Germania, which describes "signs" chosen in groups of three and cut from "a nut-bearing tree," although the runes do not seem to have been in use at the time of Tacitus' writings.
Kabala and Runes
The lack of knowledge on how the runes were used has not stopped modern authors from extrapolating systems of divination from the texts. In the 17th Century Johannes Bureus was inspired by visions to develop a Kabala based Runic system using the Futhark which he called the Adulruna. The Armanen runes were "revealed" to Guido von List in 1902 and became influential in Germanic mysticism both before and after World War II.
More recently, Stephen Flowers and Adolf Schleipfer amongst others also built on List's system. For some reason several modern esoteric systems using Runes were published from the 1980s onward. The first book on Runic divination was written by Ralph Blum in 1982 and led to the development of sets of Runes which were cut into clay, stone tiles, crystals, glass, or polished stones. These were then either selected from a closed bag or thrown down at random for reading.
Blum also used an ahistorical "blank Rune" in his sets. Blank Runes are most commonly used to replace any Runes that are lost and are not to be included in a reading.
Runes and the I Ching
The sources for Blum's divinatory interpretations drew on books describing the ancient Chinese, I Ching.
Later authors such as Freya Aswynn, also came up with some unlikely mixtures of Runes and other forms of divination, in her case - tarot cards.
In 1990 Kveldulf Gundarsson, described Runic magic as ‘an active principle as opposed to passive interpretations based on Runic divination’. He argued that each Rune has a certain sound, chanting this sound is supposed to enhance the Rune’s potency.
It seems then, that there is no historically verifiable way to read the Runes, but as is so often the case with esoteric tools, it is not so much the method which brings results as the will and/or the intuitive skills of the user.
Furthermore, most students of the Runes will tell you nothing makes Runes as effective as putting your own energy in to them, so perhaps you might like to research them further and even make a set for yourself!
Call my Live Psychic Readers now and discover the power of the runes for yourself...