Rune stones 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.
In this article we’re going to discuss what rune stones are, where they originate from, as well as how they are used in mystical practices today. Read on to find out more.
What are Rune Stones?
Runes are an ancient form of oracle that were used by Germanic and Nordic tribes. Rune Stones have a long history, but are still used in today’s society by people who want to use runes meaning to seek advice.
First used as early as 150 A.D, 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. It’s also used in folk art around some Germanic and Scandinavian places.
Norse rune words can be found on old items 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 of 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 for 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 to this God.
What Are Rune Stones Used For?
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. Runes are meaningful for everybody whether used for divination, as decoration or for using runes meaning for guidance.
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 each rune’s meaning, one must study them to understand their history in order for the reading to be successful.
Various magical operations and charms can be made with 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.
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. Each rune’s meaning to the ancient people who used them are partially lost to time, but not completely.
We know what the symbols on rune stones 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.
Celtic Runes Meaning
While the majority of rune information is Norse, you occasionally see something about ancient Gaelic and Celtic rune stones. Runic writing is writing using older symbols, which isn’t specific to any one culture. When people are usually referring to runes, Norse ones are those they are speaking of, 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, 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 Rune Stones
According to some, your birth rune is the one that defines your life, your path, 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 how 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 seldom do we stay in the exact same cycle of our paths from birth to death. So there might not be a “Viking Birth Rune” or life rune meaning in that sense, instead they can act as focus runes for you.
Saying we have a birth rune based on our date of birth goes against the Wyrd and Orlog concepts. 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 fate. For example Wyrd, from the time we are born, 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 rune resonates best with this point in time. This is your current rune, and with time and events, that can change.
What are Rune Stones Made of?
Many prefer to make their own rune stones, and some insist one kind of material is better than the other for this. Pre-made sets formed from ceramic, clay, various kinds of wood, and various types of crystals like amethyst can be bought from shops.
For casting runes, think of which material is most meaningful for you, and what feels best in your hands. Also consider when you ask the runes for their help in rune casting or magic. Maybe stone runes suit you best, or maybe they don’t. Only you can decide.
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. Tarot provides a more in depth analysis, by exploring events, and specifics on the life path, while runes describe the journey you are on and the point you have reached.
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. Runes and their meanings have a rich history that predates Tarot, and generations of magicians dating back before Christianity have used these powerful symbols.
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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 rune 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 our Using Tools For Divination article.
How Do Runes Work?
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 and their meanings can also be combined. 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. 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 from a card reading, concepts are raised in a rune reading that are relevant to the querent’s life and what is happening for them. How to read runes for divination is different from just doing a card reading.
You pull them out of a bag, or cast them, and how to cast runes varies by rune caster. 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 stone 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, and the querent 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 and Their Meanings
There are 24 runes which make up The Elder Futhark. Many serious rune users spend years studying the runes, meanings, origins of their symbolism, and even learning Norse languages.
This gives them a better feel for the culture and traditions of the people these came from. 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.
Here is our overview of the 24 different rune stones:
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.
Strength like the ancient aurochs, powerful creatures who represent excellent health. Uruz represents higher powers, external from our own beings. If this rune appears in a casting, it may be an indication that victory and prosperity is in store.
As this rune is symbolic of supreme forces, it indicates that there will be little control on the behalf of the individual in this circumstance.
The thorn and 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 that you are the thorn and should use your skills to strike an advantage.
This rune is representative of potential adversaries. It suggests an individual may encounter unforeseen problems in their relationships with others, but assures that they have the resilience to avoid unnecessary escalations. Thurisaz reminds us to be the bigger person in tumultuous times.
The mouth. This can indicate things like using your words wisely, it can counsel being silent, or it can counsel speaking up when needed. All things related to communication can be indicated here.
Ansuz symbolizes divinity and the workings of the universe. Similar to Thurisaz, the suggestion of higher forces means that this particular rune is associated with steadfastness, quiet resilience and good luck. This an incredibly positive rune when paired with upcoming opportunities anticipated by the individual.
The journey, or the rider that you and the vehicle, goes through to 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.
This rune indicates the path or journey that will lead us to our goals. It suggests we need to tune into our focused energy and find determination in order to strive and achieve these goals. Simply put, Raido tells us to get our act together and grab the opportunities that are presented before us.
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 for others, it is a labor of love. The fire and ulcer can drive us to success, or it can destroy us.
Kenaz indicates that knowledge is power. Whether it be through learning or through the act of teaching, Kenaz encourages the obtaining of greater knowledge, for it produces wiser and more self-aware individuals.
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.
This rune is indicative of harmony and social connection. All issues concerning friends and lovers are associated with this rune, thus we are encouraged to question if we are treating those around us as well as we could be. The same goes for examining whether those around us are treating us as well as they could be.
The rune for joy, this can also indicate happy fellowship. Everybody wants to get this rune!
Wunjo symbolizes stability and equilibrium in times of turbulence. We are reminded to keep things in perspective and stay grounded when we are faced with adversity.
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, and better days will come.
Hagalaz means hail in ancient Germanic. The hailstone is symbolic of all things destructive and harmful, yet the hailstone also melts into tranquil waters. When applied to real-life situations, the Hagalaz rune suggests there is a lesson to be learned after times of commotion.
The need of fire, which was used for purification to ward off evil. This rune’s meaning indicates need in general, and doing what you have to meet these needs, sometimes while waiting for better times.
This rune highlights our needs and wants as individuals. It also highlights that our needs and wants can have a profound effect on our psyches, thus it is important for us to not get caught up in desiring more, but to spend more time appreciating that of what we are blessed to have.
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 counselling that you shouldn’t act at this time. It can also counsel not reacting to people or situations.
Meaning, ‘ice’, Isaz symbolizes being frozen and unable to progress in certain situations. However, this stagnancy is not to last forever, and in time the ice will thaw and progression will once again be attainable.
The year, or a full cycle. The concept of being patient while things happen at the speed they are is this rune’s meaning. Jera can also mean reaping what you sow from hard work, and looking forward to a good harvest.
Jera indicates that we must embrace the ebbs and flows of life’s uncertainties. Whatever question has been asked, when Jera appears in a casting, it implies that an individual must relax and let divinity take its course. What will be, will be.
The yew tree. Like the yew holds hard and fast to the earth, this rune indicates the strength of endurance and reliability.
Eihwaz is the rune of manifesting. When we put our minds to it, we can attract the things we truly desire in life, therefore, this rune encourages us to spend time focusing on what is good for us.
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.
This rune symbolizes chance and luck, both positive and negative. Despite the uncertainty, this rune suggests that risks need to be taken in a certain situation, as remaining stagnant will not produce the desired outcome.
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.
Algiz represents determination and self-control. It asks us to maintain composure during challenging times, as these times are not to last forever. By staying controlled and composed, we tackle issues in a far more constructive way, inciting positive changes into our lives.
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.
This rune, meaning ‘sun’, sheds light upon ambiguous or uncertain situations. It encourages us to think deeper and tap into our subconscious mind, unearthing clarity over situations that are difficult to prophesize outcomes for.
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.
When involved in legal dealings, Tiwaz would be most optimal to see in a casting, as it suggests triumph and overcoming. The rune indicates finding justice and coming to peace in times of intense disagreement.
The birch. Another rune of strength, this symbolizes growth, fertility, and new beginnings. This is good news for when you are wanting to begin new endeavors.
This rune means ‘birch’, and is suggestive of births and new starts. Whether it be a new partner, friendship, career or house move, Berkana is a highly positive rune to be met with when feeling stuck or unable to progress in a situation.
Sometimes spelled Iwaz. The Iwaz rune symbol is a 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.
Ehwaz asks us to respect the natural order that exists in this world. Similar to the Jera rune, Ehwaz iterates that some things in this world cannot be changed, as it is simply meant to be. Whilst we may not have much control in these situations, Ehwaz indicates that we can change our perspectives towards then, helping us find peace and acceptance.
Man, or humanity. It represents friends, enemies, strangers, family, and community in general.
This rune is indicative of all things community-oriented. When we see this rune, we are reminded to stay considerate of those around us and more regularly place ourselves in others’ shoes. We are gifted with wisdom and sensitivity when we adopt this mantra.
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.
Laguz symbolizes water and asks us to stay flexible and fluid in times of stress. Remaining fixed or rigid when significant changes are occurring only serves to make the situation more difficult to deal with, so taking lessons from the gentle fluidity of water is in order.
The God Ing, aka Freyr, or the God of the sowing of seeds, fertility, virility, sacred kingship, hearth, home, family, and the 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.
Inguz encourages us to dive into the deep end when we are stuck in our comfort zone. Reassuringly, this run is protective, so when seen in a cast grants us the safety net we crave when jumping head first into apprehensive times.
Dawn or a new day. This rune is about stepping out of yesterday and into the now. It can be of closing one door and opening another and moving forward into new endeavors.
Similar to Ying and Yang, this rune is representative of opposites, balance and equity. It suggests there may be uncertain times ahead, but there is always positivity to be found.
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. Odal can indicate stability and the benefits of tradition.
Odal is the rune of abundance. In this sense, abundance does not necessarily mean wealth and fortune, but rather richness in love, relationships and self-perspective. We must never grow complacent of the blessings we have in our lives, even when they can at times be hard to see.
25. Odin (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.
Odin, the only blank stone in the set, indicates a void. This void has not beginning, not no end and therefore is reminiscent of the vast universe that we occupy. Odin also implores us to take more time to introspect, working on ourselves and our characters from within. This is a rune of nervousness, but also of great courage.
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 claim your free first five minutes with Mysticsense today!
About the Author: Lady 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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