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What are Runestones and How to Use Runes

By Saoirse
June 14, 2021
What are Runestones and How to Use Runes
What are Runestones and How to Use Runes


TL;DRRunes have been used for centuries in the form of Nordic rune stones as well as Celtic runes, with runes and their meanings varying by user. First used as a simple alphabet, the runes have also been used as a rune oracle for divination, and runes and magic have combined to serve many who believe in their power. Not simply “Viking Magic Runes”, the rich history of use of the runes is one you may be unaware of and one you will love learning about.


All About Runes

First known to be recorded as early as 150 A.D, and the runes were letters of an alphabet Germanic people used for writing before they replaced their writing with Latin. Runic writing is still used in decorative and ritual writing and in religious observation by both Heathen, or revivalists of the Pre-Christian Pagan Germanic faiths, and in folk art around some Germanic and Scandinavian places. Norse rune words can be found on old things that were as simple as shopping lists, and on monuments with Viking rune symbols. Not all Norse runes were used ritualistically although some rune stone symbols were and are magical runes. Runes fortune telling is just one of many uses of runes, and runes of protection are also quite common.

In Norse Mythology, runes were espied by the Father of their gods, Odin, after he had undergone a nine night long ritual , where he hanged himself from Yggdrasil , also Known as The World Tree, and seeing them, he reached down and got them. Known as the god for the battlefield and the slain, he is the god who sacrificed one eye to become more wise, and he is the god of all magic. Odin is credited by some as giving the runes to humanity, and it is said that rune casting for divination is impossible for anybody who does not have a relationship with him. To some, runes users define themselves as devotees of this god, and they are more than just “fortune telling runes”.

What Are Runes Used For?

used runes

Today, it is rare to find a shopping list written with runes, and most who use runes themselves do so for the purpose of using a magic rune alphabet. Each rune stands for something, and whether used as magic rune symbols in spellwork, in a rune drawing for divination, or just as decoration, all runes are very sacred, and meaningful for everybody who uses them. They are basically used for:

1. Divination or to get messages from Odin
Some consider the runes a vehicle for hearing advice from Odin, and others use these for divination as insight runes. To read the runes, one must study them to understand both their history for the runes reading meaning to be successful. The runes divinations meanings for use in how to read Norse runes can be found farther down this article.

2. Magic
Various magical operations and charms can be made with the runes. They can be written on things for blessing, or to create a result. They can be worn to instill their attributes into the wearer, and they are meditated upon to achieve their powers as well. The same meanings as Norse runestone divination is instilled in magic runes and their meaning.

3.Decoration and Scared Writing
All rune symbols have been found on historic monuments, some of which tell stories from lore, and others as grave or place markings. Rune stones and their meanings to the ancient people who used them are partially lost to time, but not completely. We know what the symbols on runestones meanings are, and while they won’t mean exactly the same thing to today’s people as they did to the people of the past, ancient runes and their meanings are still relevant to us today. While we may not be the ancient Norse, or know how in the way they did how to read rune stones, using runes and symbols from their time can serve us well today.

Celtic Runes Symbols and Meanings

celtic runes

While a majority of rune info is Norse, you occasionally see something about ancient Gaelic runes, and Celtic rune stones. Runic writing is just writing using older symbols, and not specific to any one culture. Yet when people are usually referring to runes, Norse ones are those they are speaking of, most especially when speaking of using runes for divination. When referring to Celtic Runes, people mean Ogham, which is a tree oracle, not specifically “Celtic runes” and meanings are ascribed to each symbol. Ogham is a set of staves, not stones, like runes, and each stave has the name of a tree carved into it using a set of lines to form the symbols. The Celtic “runes symbols” ogham staves lettering and Norse runes lettering look nothing alike and the only similarity these share is that they are both used in divination.

Destiny Runes and Birth Runestones

birth runestones

According to some, your birth rune is the one that defines your life, your path, and one that is your rune for life. Some ascribe birth runes by birthdate, each one going along with certain dates, but devoted users of what can be called Norse “birth runes” don’t even call them that. They pay attention to what magical runes and their meanings apply to their current lives. A life, or birth rune can change depending on what is going on in your life, and seldomly do we stay in the exact same cycle of our paths from birth to death. So there is really no “Viking Birth Rune” or life rune meaning in that sense, but they can act as focus runes for you.

To say we have a birth rune based on the date of birth is misunderstanding of two concepts, those of Wyrd and Orlog. Many who know how to use rune stones believe destiny can be altered by us on a decision-by-decision basis, although much is decided by three celestial sisters known as the Norns or Wyrd Sisters. They weave the web of our lives, or fates, aka Wyrd, from the time we are born, and thus, at times, all we control is our reactions to events and our environment, but the result of those decisions are also woven into our fate. These decisions form our orlog. This decision-making ability that can alter our futures is very powerful. So in this belief system, destiny is partially in our hands no matter what the Wyrd Sisters decree.

So, when asking “What is my rune?” look at where you are in your life, and which of the runes resonates best at this point in time. This is your current rune, and with time and events, that can change.

What are Runes Made of?

Many prefer to make their own runes, and some insist one kind of material is better than the other for this. Some say the best of materials, stones for runes, can be made out of whatever you want them to be, however. Pre-made sets formed from ceramic, clay, various kinds of wood, and various types of crystals like amethyst can be had from shops. For casting runes, think of which material is most meaningful for you, and what feels best in your hands, and spiritually for when you ask the runes for their help in runecasting or magic . Maybe stone runes suit you best, and maybe they don’t. Only you can decide.

Runes and Tarot

runes and tarot

Some use their runes the same way they would tarot cards. There are even rune tarot cards available, and when used in this way tarot and runes CAN be interchangeable, but that’s not quite what runes are. Tarot more in depth explores events, and specifics on lifepath, while runes more describe the journey you are on and the point on that journey you have reached. Before assuming tarot and runes explore life the same way, are the same with advice giving, and that rune cards are just another kind of tarot card, study in depth for a while, and sit in meditation with your runes to get messages from them. Tarot runes are just another type of tarot card, and can absolutely be an effective divination tool, but it’s not exactly the same as runes themselves although each rune card meanings can match what their corresponding rune means.

As a reader, you decide how you use your tools whether they be oracle runes, ogham, pendulums, some form of cards, or just reading omens in nature. Rune symbols and meanings have a rich history that predates Tarot, and generations of magicians dating back before Christianity have used these powerful symbols. Using ancient Norse runes, even for a simple reading includes you in a rich and sacred tradition. Even those reconstructing these Norse traditions do so using a broken line, and much of the ancient magic runes meanings are lost to us. Far from being dangerous, these are to be used with respect, even if used causally. The runes speak to users, and are considered to have a life of their own, predating modern practice, and it is said they only speak to who they choose, and with the voice of Odin.

For more about divination, read here:

Using Tools For Divination

How Do Runes Work?

work runes

Some would say these are a living tradition that work all on their own, and you just have to be open to them communicating with you. They can be used in magical workings. For example, protection runes for home can be Algiz, which actually stands for protection. An image of this can be carved or painted onto something placed in the doorway, or buried in the yard. It can be drawn in the soil at the four corners of the home during a storm, and it can also be worn by members of the household.

Runes can be combined to compound their meanings. Say you are single but would like to settle down to start a family, and you want to work rune magic symbols to do a fertility rune and love runes combination. You can use Ingwaz, the Norse fertility rune and Berkano for birth, combined with Wunjo for joy to assure a happy romance, and then Mannaz for humanity. Write, carve, or paint these on something together, and place it under your pillow at night while being open to this new beginning of love and family for yourself.

Not necessarily used just for love charms, runes for love can also be carried as rune love symbols. Buy or make an Ingwaz keychain , and watch your Norse love rune manifest. Just know that a love rune meaning is not one of “putting energy out” to the universe, expecting an instant result dropped into your hands with no efforts on your part.

It is believed the runes hold their own power and we don’t need to activate them to make them do anything. We just need to believe in them, and align ourselves in attitude with them. When our attitude and focus changes, our behavior changes, and it helps create results. While we may channel the powers of runes and their meanings, we use their energy to change ourselves, which changes our reality. Magic!

What is a Rune Reading?

Different than a card reading, concepts are raised in a rune reading that are relevant to the querant’s life and what is happening for them. How to read runes for divination is different than just doing a card reading. You pull them out of a bag, or cast them, and how to cast runes varies by runecaster. Some scatter them, reading those that fall face up only, the ones being closest to the reader being either most important , or things that will come to pass sooner than the ones farthest away. Rune spreads where runes are laid in a specific spot to answer specific questions are also utilized, and some do a three rune spread asking about past, present, and future. Unlike cards, rune stones readings do not call for reversed and uprights, but each rune is read for its specific meaning.

For a reading, a rune can stand alone, as long as the reader is intuitive, knows the ascribed meanings and rich history of the runes, and the querant has openly shared the fullness of their inquiry. Blocking energy from your rune reader to see how hard they fight you to pull the energy for the information will make you walk away with no answers. One thing about runes, they know the answers, so ask openly, and they will share their knowledge.

Runes Meaning Chart

runes chart

How many runes are there in the Norse system? There are 24 runes which make up what is called The Elder Futhark. While many serious rune users spend years studying the runes, meanings, origins of their symbolism, and even learning Norse languages to give them a better feel for the culture and traditions of the people these came from, all of that cannot be covered in one time or place. Multiple guides should be consulted when learning, and study and use of runes should be ongoing if this is a system you would like to include in your personal practice. A beginning overview of their meanings are:

1. Fehu
Cattle, or Wealth and Possessions. In the past cattle represented things we owned that had value. Today it may be income or investments. This can be telling you to guard your wealth, build it wisely, or be mindful of how to earn it.

2. Uruz
Strength like the ancient aurochs, powerful creatures who represent excellent health.

3. Thurisaz
The thorn and the Thor’s hammer are represented here. The Hammer of Thor protected the abode of the gods from all dangers, and allusion to this is powerful and comforting. However, if the thorn is taken as the meaning, it can indicate difficulties and sacrifice although it can also mean YOU are the thorn and should use your skills to strike to your advantage.

4. Ansuz
The mouth. This can indicate things like using your words wisely, it can counsel being silent, or it can counsel speaking up when it is needed. All things related to communication can be indicated here.

5. Raido
The Journey- or the rider- you, and the vehicle through which you make that journey. This can represent forward movement towards a goal, transportation in general, or even a spiritual journey. It can be a change of mind, a lifestyle change, or personally evolving.

6. Kenaz
The torch. In old Norwegian, the word for this is ulcer, and while the torch can indicate burning passion and creativity, the ulcer indicates pain. Sometimes, this is pain in the creative process, and others, it a labor of love. The fire and ulcer can drive us to success, or it can destroy us.

7. Gebo
A gift for a gift is denoted here. Like the lines cross one another equally, energy exchange is called for. This may be indicating a mutually beneficial partnership of some form.

8. Wunjo
The rune for joy, this can also indicate happy fellowship. Everybody wants to get this rune!

9. Hagalaz
The hagalaz rune stone symbolizes hail. Hagalaz is like a storm and while it can create destruction, it will also pass. The hail will melt. Better days will come.

10. Nauthiz
The need fire which was used for purification to ward off evil. The rune is indicating need in general, and doing what you must to meet these needs, sometimes while you are waiting for better times.

11. Isa
Ice or standstill. When you pull this, know that things will seem stuck and forward motion will seem impossible. Like hail melts, so will ice. This can represent obstacles in your way or it can be counseling that you not act at this time. It can also counsel not reacting to people or situations.

12. Jera
The year, or a full cycle. The concept of being patient while things happen at the speed they are supposed to can be the meaning. Jera can also mean reaping what you sow from hard work, and looking forward to a good harvest.

13. Eihwaz
The yew tree. Like the yew holds hard and fast to the earth, this rune indicates the strength of endurance and reliability.

14. Perthro
The dice cup- This refers to the unknown- like shaking the dice in a cup, you never know what you are going to roll. You may be subject to fate, and this may be telling you to take a chance and see what happens. This also pays tribute to the Wyrd Sisters who create fate, and is a very feminine rune.

15. Algiz
Protection, and the image is said to either refer to the elk, or the World Tree. This is all about protection of yourself, physically and or spiritually, and all you hold dear. To protect, sometimes, we have to fight, and strike out at those who would seek to harm us.

16. Sowelu
The sowelu rune symbol is the sun. It is one of the most powerful strength runes, as the sun is one of the most powerful creative forces. It brings life, energy, warmth, and growth.

17. Tiwaz
The god Tyr is the Norse god of Justice and law and order. This rune is about law and order and justice, but also of bravery and personal honor.

18. Berkano
The birch. Another rune for strength, this symbolizes growth, fertility, and new beginnings. This is good news for when you are wanting to begin new endeavors.

19. Ehwaz
Sometimes spelled Iwaz. The Iwaz rune symbol is horse, and symbolizes movement and the ways you use to get to where you want to go. It represents forward progress and sometimes the status such things bring to our lives.

20. Mannaz
Man, or humanity. It represents friends, enemies, strangers, family, and community in general.

21. Laguz
Water. It represents all bodies of water from quiet ponds to the ocean, and can represent voyages. Ancient seafarers could attest to the untamable power of large bodies of water, and while water can take you places, there are times it is uncontrollable. Sometimes, all you can do is hold on to your boat, or path to keep from being dragged under.

22. Inqwaz
The god Ing, aka Freyr, or the god of the sowing of seeds, fertility , virility, sacred kingship, hearth and home, family, and earth. This is a rune that can be used in fertility and love workings, and in all magic to work towards growth or development in any area of your life.

23. Dagaz
Dawn or a New Day- A rune of stepping out of yesterday and into the now. It can be of closing one door and opening another and moving forward into new endeavors.

24. Othila
The heritage rune, it symbolizes ancestral homeland. It can be inherited wealth, or things you learned from family. It can be things you inherited from yourself and your life deeds as well, but typically relates to what we get from kin and clan. It can indicate stability and the benefits of tradition.

25. The Blank Rune
This is a newer addition some prefer to keep with their runes. It represents , more than Perthro, the unknown, and that you have gone as far in the questioning as you can go. It also represents Odin, and waiting for his counsel.

Runes can be a very powerful part of your personal practice for magic and divination if you cultivate a relationship with them, studying over time, and being open to the blessings they bring.

While we don’t offer a totally free rune cast, you can get your rune stone reading and free first five minutes with Mysticsense today!

What are Runestones and How to Use RunesAbout the Author: Saoirse has studied magic and lore for most of her life, but started walking her own Magical Path after being spiritually reborn in the desert. Today she shares her gifts as a Psychic and Content Writer for Mysticsense and she writes for Pagan Pages emag.

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