Runes are an ancient form of oracle used for ritual purposes by those seeking advice. Runes have a long history, dating back to ancient use by Germanic and Nordic tribes, and are still widely used today. Runes are an ancient writing system where letters were carved into wood, bone, metal or stones and often stored in a little drawstring pouch or box. With the root word referring to “speech”, “secret whisper” or “secret writing”, runes each have a meaning, as well as their own consciousness. Runes are considered a secret language—the letters in a set known as runic alphabets. Each rune is inscribed with a symbol or cryptic message and represents an alphabetic letter that is pronounced as a sound. Each rune also possesses a mystical or symbolic meaning.

The alphabetic script was used to communicate in symbolic form, to predict potential future events and to guard against undesirable events. The runes are also magical symbols and each runic character has its own name and symbolic meaning in riddles, messages, symbols, or magical incantation. Rune casting was used as a way for ancient people to foretell the future; as a form of protection; to cast spells; to cure illness; to bestow love. Runes were used during rituals to invoke powerful forces, long before they were used for writing.

Elder Futhark is thought to be the oldest version of the Runic alphabet. The Elder Futhark runes can be put together to spell words and pronounce words. There were two main types of runic alphabet: The elder Futhark and the younger Futhark. The elder Futhark has 24 characters or symbols. These were in use from approximately 100 to 800 AD at the beginning of the Viking Age. These runes were first used by Germanic tribes in Northern Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The younger Futhark consists of 16 characters or symbols. These were in use from approximately 800 AD to 1100 AD.

Elder Futhark/Norse runic alphabets are named after the first six runes F, U, TH, A, R, and K. The remaining include, (f u þ a r k) g w; h n i j ï p z s; t b e m l ŋ o d. While serving as letters, each of the runes also have their own names: Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido Kenaz, Gebo, Wunjo, Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perthro, Algiz, Sowilo, Tiwaz, Berkano, Ehwaz, Mannaz, Laguz, Ingwaz, Dagaz, Othala, with one blank 25 rune called Wyrd or the Odin Rune. Wyrd is an invitation to go deep within, to look within.

At the start of the Viking Age, these seafaring warriors–known collectively as Vikings or Norsemen or “Northmen”—had a multi-layered opportunity for interpretation. Runes were used in Viking religion and magic, carved into weapons and tools to imbue them with power and worn as amulets or talismans as a form of luck, faith, and protection. Runes were carved on parts of animal bones or pieces of wood for casting. The markings can be found on grave headstones and churches. Rune masters of ancient times used these often. The magic inscriptions held prayers and curses, formulas on charms. Runes are full of powerful and magical history and so were highly venerated and used with extreme caution.

Odin is one of the gods of the old Norse lore. It is said that Odin impaled his heart with his own spear and hung on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nights to perceive the meaning of the runes. After nine days of suffering, runes sprang from the Well of Urd at the roots of the world tree, the Yggdrasil. The Well of Urd was known as called Well of Destiny or the Well of Fate. The Yggdrasil tree is an ash tree that lives at the center of the Norse spiritual cosmos, growing out of the Well of Urd. As a reward for Odin's self sacrifice, he received wisdom he could pass to the people in the form of runes. Odin often visited the tree as a means of journeying between worlds. Odin would ride his horse, Sleipnir, a magical horse, with eight legs, teeth inscribed with runes. Nordic Legend has it that runes were given to humankind by Odin.

A White Witch’s Guide to Rune Casting

Anyone can have a rune reading. Runes are often stored in a little drawstring pouch or a small box. The simplest way to draw a rune is by pulling one out of the bag and reading it:

1. Find a quiet place in the forest.

2. Set your intention and pose your question.

3. Cast all the runes by gently tossing them.

4. Let the runes fall onto the earth.

5. Leave all the ones that land face-down.

6. Allow the runes to speak to you.

The creator of Alchemy Of A White Witch (an anthology of writings coming soon in Blog form!), Lori is a natural-born White Witch who incorporates Magic into every day life and has used it to tap into past-life experiences with the Norwegian, Old Norse Vikings with the knowing that it is part of her genetic makeup. She is reincarnated from the wisdom-keepers who were more than just folklore. You can find her tossing runes in the forest on her land outside of Nashville, TN. Connect with her on Instagram @AlchemyWhiteWitchMagic.