Rune meanings and how to use rune stones for divination
What Are Runes?
Rune stones are an ancient proto-Germanic tradition dating back to potentially the 1st century AD. They consist of a runic alphabet of 24 letters, usually made out of wood or stone that were used as a method of writing, fortune-telling, bindrunes and sigils. The first completion of the total alphabet was the Elder Futhark runes in the 5th century AD, that are most often used still today, and then the Younger Futhark stones were adapted by the Vikings and other Nordic tribes and continued until Medieval times. They are said to be based off of Old Latin inscriptions. Runes stones are full of powerful and magical history, and so were highly venerated and used with extreme caution. In the Norse cultures and across other Northern Europeans, it was sometimes believed that they held strong divinatory powers and as such were taken very seriously.
The origin of word “rune” stems from the Germanic word for “mystery” or “secret”, and similar findings are present in Old Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Old English, sometimes also meaning “miracle”. In Lithuanian it can me “to speak”, and in Finnish it can also mean “poem”.
These days, runes are used as a method of connecting to one’s higher self, inner guidance and tapping into intuition as a method of foretelling what the future may hold and offering advice (similar to Tarot Cards). Read on for our guide to what are the rune meanings and how to use them for yourself!
Rune Symbols and Meanings
The runic alphabet traditionally holds 24 letters, sometimes sets come with a blank stone called Odin’s Rune that is meant to symbolise that which is not meant to be known yet. Odin is the Norse God who sacrificed an eye to see everything that happens in the world, as such, if you got this rune it implied that it wasn’t time for certain information to be divulged to us mere mortals yet and we should simply trust in the divine timing of life.
The Elder Futhark runic alphabet is split up into 3 equal parts of eight runes each: Freyr’s Aett, Heimdall’s Aett, and Tyr’s Aett (“aett” meaning family). These three parts tell the story of life’s cycles. The first set of runes is representative of finding our footing in the material plane and the accumulation of worldly possessions. As such, it holds runes symbolising things like cattle (the main indicator of wealth in those times), communication, and vigour. The next set of runes tells of our increasing maturity and growth, it holds runes such as obstacles, fate, and harvest/abundance. The final set of runes portrays our developing spirituality and legacy. It includes runes such as birth, community, intuition, and inheritance.
Being such an ancient language, and a practice shrouded in mystery, in times before many people were literate, there are sometimes a wide variety of potential meanings attributed to the runes. In general, some of the symbols and their meanings are as follows:
In Norse mythology, Freyr was the ruler of peace, fertility, rain, and sunshine and the son of the sea God Njörd.
1. Fehu ᚠ - “Cattle/Wealth”
The first of the Elder Futhark, Fehu indicates prosperity and material wealth, either won or earned income. It can represent good luck, abundance and financial success in the near future. It can also relate to social success. Not everyone chooses to read a rune as reversed (“merkstave”) if it comes up that way, but if doing so resonates with you- its reversed meaning may indicate the loss of personal possessions or income, a dip in self-esteem or some other kind of material struggles.
KEYWORDS: Abundance, luck, hope, prosperity, wealth, fortune
2. Uruz ᚢ - “Ox”
The second, Uruz, is representative of the wild bull. This is a stone of strength, endurance, hard work, perseverance, motivation, and determination. It can indicate a time of great energy, speed and health. It also shows increasing power and masculinity. Reversed, it may indicate a loss of health, endurance, a blockage, dominance of others over you or misdirected force.
KEYWORDS: Strength, endurance, health, courage, vigour, vitality, force, perseverance
3. Thurisaz ᚦ - “Mallet/Giant/Thorn”
This represents Thor’s hammer or a giant. As such, it indicates a powerful direction of energy and force, for either destruction or defence, so may also indicate conflict. This could be cathartic, cleansing and purgative. Reversed, it could mean defencelessness, compulsion, spite or betrayal.
KEYWORDS: Defence, challenge, danger, protection, attack, strength
4. Ansuz ᚫ - “Message”
Ansuz is the rune of communication. It’s representative of the ancestral God Odin’s wisdom and so indicates a divine message or insight arriving. It can also mean good advice, wisdom, truth, inspiration and enthusiasm. Reversed it could point to a miscommunication, deceit, misunderstandings and manipulation.
KEYWORDS: Revelation, signs, visions, insight, message, knowledge, communication
5. Raidho ᚱ - “Journey”
Raidho is indicative of a journey and represents a wheel. This could be both physical travel, as in a holiday or house move, or a spiritual voyage in the expansion of your horizons. It can also indicate things being put into perspective, evolution and the cycle of life. Reversed it can means blocked path or resistance to embarking upon your voyage.
KEYWORDS: Progress, movement, evolution, perspective, journey, travel
6. Kenaz ᚲ - “Torch”
Kenaz is the flame or torch. As such, it represents the beacon of truth and finding your true north guided by your own shining light. It can indicate that that which was previously unknown may come to light, secrets may be spilled, and you are on the right path of finding your true calling in life. It also means knowledge, creativity, inspiration, regeneration and energy. Reversed it can indicate that you lack vision, are stuck in a creative rut, false hope, or instability.
KEYWORDS: Enlightenment, knowledge, comprehension, insight, illumination, calling, purpose, idea
7. Gebo ᚷ - “Gift”
Gebo is the rune of gifts. It’s a positive symbol that indicates you are in the possession of many gifts and talents or that someone will bestow upon you bountiful blessings. It also relates to generosity, balance, and positive relationships. It has no inverted meaning.
KEYWORDS: Generosity, partnership, gifts, talents, charity, service, assistance, luck, fortun
8. Wunjo ᚹ - “Joy”
Wunjo is representative of the clan’s flag and victory. It represents triumph and joy, security, safety, celebration and belonging. It can also indicate harmony, prosperity and spiritual rewards. Reversed it can point to sorrow, alienation or loss.
KEYWORDS: Pleasure, joy, feast, celebration, comfort, belonging, community, success, festivities
In Norse mythology, Heimdall was the watchman of the Gods.
9. Hagalaz ᚺ - “Hail”
Hagalaz represents hail. This natural form of disaster which strikes out of the blue and has the power to destroy much needed crops, is similarly indicative of sudden and cataclismic change. Similar to The Tower card in the tarot, Hagalaz represents an unavoidable change that is out of our hands, but how destructive it ends up being is dependant on whether we are capable of weathering its storm with grace. As they say, some storms come to clear our path. The lesson of Hagalaz is to learn from our hardships and grow through our mistakes. It has no inverted meaning.
KEYWORDS: Destruction, natural wrath, uncontrolled forces, testing, change, external input
10. Nauthiz ᚾ - “Needs”
Nauthiz is indicative of our needs. What do you need to feel emotionally stable and fulfilled? Are you taking enough time for yourself to balance work, play and rest? Assessing what are our needs and where we may currently be lacking can help us take better care of our future selves, we can’t pour form an empty cup after all. It can also indicate delays, restriction, and lack. This is a time to practice patience.
KEYWORDS: Need, restriction, disagreements, resistance, survival, necessity, lacking
11. Isa ᛁ - “Ice”
Isa represents ice. It’s symbolic of the Hangman card in the Tarot. It highlights the need to pause, wait, although there may be a feeling of being stuck in ice, sometimes a break is what’s needed to put things into perspective. Waiting until we have gathered all the information, all sides of the story, properly done our research, or simply allowed the Universe to unfold. It can also indicate frustration or psychological blocks. Isa has no inverted meaning.
KEYWORDS: Suspension, delay, stillness, frustration, blocks, pause, waiting
12. Jera ᛃ - “Harvest”
Jera is representative of the harvest. It indicates that we can now reap what we’ve sown and enjoy our plentiful abundance. If you don’t feel like you have many blessings, it can show that either a breakthrough is on the way, or it’s time to take stock and express gratitude for what you do have (you’ll be surprised by how much you can always list in a gratitude journal)! It also represents the life cycle and cyclic nature of Mother Earth. It cannot be reversed.
KEYWORDS: Year, conclusion, harvest, life cycle, endings and beginnings, abundance, learnings, growth
13. Eihwaz ᛇ - “Yew”
In Norse mythology, the ash tree (sometimes said to be translated from the old word for yew- needle ash), Yggradisil, is representative of The Tree Of Life. As such, it relates to the cycle of life, similar to the Death Tarot card (signifying the dying of an old way of being or period of life). It can also represent divine protection, wisdom, enlightenment, and a sense of purpose, symbolising the connection between all the worlds.
KEYWORDS: Connection, inspiration, endurance, sacred knowledge, protection, life cycle’s, divinity
14. Perthro ᛈ - “Destiny”
This is the gambler’s rune and as such represents the cup of dice, or fortune. It indicates that influences in life may be down to chance, and so can go either well or not. The lesson here is to learn to take the hand you’ve been dealt and make lemonade out of lemons. In Tarot, this is would be similar to the Wheel of Fortune card. It can also represent hidden meanings, secrets, and change, symbolising the womb. Reversed it can indicate loss of faith.
KEYWORDS: Fate, mysteries, occult, feminine fertility, chance, fortune, mysticism, unknown
15. Algiz ᛉ - “Elk”
Algiz is the elk, and so represents defence and protection. If you get this one, it means that you have the internal power to manifest your dreams and that your spirit guides are protecting you along your path. It is said to act as a shield to guard you against evil. It can also represent an awakening and strong intuition. Reversed it means there could act as a warning or represent and sense of helplessness.
KEYWORDS: Protection, guardian, awakening, courage, defence, instincts
16. Sowilo ᛋ - “Sun”
Sowilo is the happy symbol of the sun. It represents a time of joy, abundance, luck, and good fortune. It’s a cause for celebration and can indicate a success of your goals, optimal health and an elemental power. It has no inverted meaning. In Tarot, its card is, likewise, The Sun.
KEYWORDS: Success, vitality, inspiration, justice, success, joy, happiness, abundance
Tyr, the Norse Sky God, was representative of war and justice.
17. Tiwaz ᛏ - “Victory”
Tiwaz is representative of the warrior’s arrowhead of the God Tyr. It shows that you are capable of spearheading your way through all your troubles and possess great leadership skills, authority and rationality. It can indicate victory and knowing of your true strengths with a willingness to self-sacrifice. Reversed it can indicate blocked creative energies, imbalance, and lack of passion.
KEYWORDS: Leadership, rationality, victory, honour, bravery, courage, strength, perseverance, endurance
18. Berkana ᛒ - “Birch'“
Berkana is the rune of birth. It represents the Birch Goddess and so indicates fertility and creation, not just of an actual birth (its traditional meaning), but also of projects, partnerships and rebirth. It indicates mental and physical growth, and a regenerative power and liberation of spirit. Reversed it can point to anxiety or rigid control.
KEYWORDS: Fertility, growth, renewal, new beginnings, birth, creation, new projects, creativity
19. Ehwaz ᛖ - “Horse'“
Ehwaz is the horse. This represents man’s trusty aid, our only form of transport in times past. It indicates a moving forward and change for the better with gradual but steady progress. It can also show teamwork, trust and loyalty. Reversed it can show restlessness, mistrust or disharmony.
KEYWORDS: Progress, movement, harmony, trust, loyalty, friendship, assistance, duality, animal instincts
20. Mannaz ᛗ - “Man”
Mannaz is representative of humankind and humanity. It encompasses yourself and identity, and relationship towards others. It is social order and cooperation, our sense of morals and values. Reversed it can indicate self-delusion, manipulation and isolation.
KEYWORDS: Humanity, collective, mortality, community, relationships, morals, values
21. Laguz ᛚ - “Lake”
Laguz represents the element of water and so is tied to our emotions, dreams and intuition. It indicates a healing power of renewal, heightened imagination and psychic abilities. It can also relate to mysteries, secrets, the unknown and the underworld. Reversed it can point to fear, misjudgement, and disconnect from spirit.
KEYWORDS: Water, intuition, imagination, healing, dreams, mysteries, insight, instinct, knowing
22. Ingwaz ᛝ - “Fertility”
Ingwaz is the rune of fertility, representing the Earth God Ing. It points to fertility, virility, wellbeing, ancestry, family, and loose ends being tied up, as well as lineage. It has no reversed meaning.
KEYWORDS: Fertility, virility, inner growth, virtue, peace, harmony
23. Othala ᛟ - “Heritage”
Othala is the rune of inheritance. It tells of our lasting legacy, spiritual heritage, values becoming aligned to what is truly important, communal prosperity and fundamental values that we have inherited from those before us. Reversed it can indicate and unwanted inherited issues and prejudice.
KEYWORDS: Legacy, inheritance, spiritual growth, abundance, values, contribution
24. Dagaz ᛞ - “Dawn”
Dagaz represents dawn. It shows the coming of age and the ending of a cycle. New beginnings are approaching and new breakthroughs, awareness and awakenings are possible. It represents the transformative power of change and that it is a good time to embark upon a fresh enterprise. A final, positive symbol of hope, certainty and security, it has no reversed meaning. This would be the completion of the cycle with the World card in the Tarot.
KEYWORDS: Day, awakening, consciousness, clarity, hope, balance, growth, new cycles
25. Odin’s Rune (optional)
As mentioned, some sets come with an optional blank rune indicating the Norse God of Creation’s secrets to be withheld. It reflects that we are not supposed to have all the answers and that that’s OK. As such, its meanings are unknown, secrets, hidden, mystery, ambiguous, unknowable, the answer will reveal itself in time.
How To Cast Runes and do a rune Reading
Using runes is a great way to tap into our intuition, access our inner voice and perform divination. There are many different types of rune layout, starting with a simple 1-rune pull for a yes/no type answer or feel for the day, and three runes casting similar to Tarot spreads (such as past, present future; or situation, action, outcome).
Traditionally, runes were cast in multiples of 3, or at the very least odd numbers. There are a few 5-rune layouts that are most commonly used, a couple of 7 and 9-rune layouts that are also often used, and a 24-rune layout that is usually done at the beginning of a year (whether that be your new birth year, winter solstice or actual New Year’s Day), to forecast what the year ahead holds. However, similar to Tarot spreads, there exists a vast multitude of layout options that you can try out!
There are two main ways to cast runes. Traditionally it is said that the runes were thrown (“cast”) onto a special piece of fabric while looking up to the heavens, you then read only the runes that landed upright.
The second way to read runes is to hold the pouch in your non-dominant hand and think about the question you want answered (if any) as you pull out runes with your dominant hand, placing them in the shape of whichever layout you’ve chosen to do. This is the way I like to do it.
Where to get rune stones from? A popular way is to make your own either by inscribing them into wood or drawing them on stones, or you can also buy pre-made sets for ease. These can, again, be in wood, stone, or crystals (which is what I use). Choosing crystal rune stones infuses them with an extra layer of magical vibes.
Rune layout ideas:
The 5-Rune Layout
Laid out in a cross. The rune on the bottom represents basic influences that impact the question. The rune on the far left indicates problems that may influence the question. The rune on the top shows positives that may influence the question. The rune on the far right shows the immediate answer to the questions. The rune in the middle shows the future influences to the question.
The 7-Rune Layout (Runic V)
Laid out in a V. The rune on the top left shows past influences related to the question. The rune at the second from the top left shows the present influences related to the question. The third rune form the top left shows future actions related to the question. The rune at the centre bottom shows the action to be taken for the best outcome. The rune to the right of the centre bottom shows your feelings and emotions related to the question. The rune second from the top right shows any possible problems related to the question. And the rune at the top right shows the future outcome related to the question.
The 24-Rune Layout (Runic Year)
Laid out in a 3x8 grid. The first row starting from right to left is as follows:
First rune: How you will achieve money and prosperity this year
Second: How you will achieve physical health and inner strength
Third: How you will achieve defence or destruction
Fourth: How you will achieve wisdom or inspiration
Fifth: Direction of your life path
Sixth: Future wisdom learnt
Seventh: Skills to be achieved and gifts granted
Eighth: How you will achieve peace and happiness
The second row from right to left:
First rune: Future changes to your life
Second: What you need to achieve your goals
Third: Obstacles that may hinder you
Fourth: Successes and achievements
Fifth: Challenges and choices you must make
Sixth: Inner skills that will manifest
Seventh: Important life situations
Eighth: Your guiding energy
The third row from right to left:
First rune: Your legal/business affairs
Second: How you will achieve growth
Third: Friendships and relationships in the year
Fourth: Your social status
Fifth: Your emotional status
Sixth: Sexual or romantic situations
Seventh: How you will achieve balance
Eighth: Gain of assets in the year
So that’s the different rune meanings and how to use them for divination!