What are Runes?
The term ‘Rune’ means ‘Secret, Whisper or Mystery’. Runes are Norse in origin. The legend goes that Odin, the All Father, suspended himself upside down from the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, in order to gain enlightenment and revelation. After nine days and nights of this, it is said that he saw the runes suddenly appear at his feet. Runes are traditionally used for divination. The most common found rune set comes with 24 rune stones and is known as the Elder Futhark. You can also find rune sets with 25 stones, the 25th one being a blank stone known as the Wyrd stone, but this was a more recent addition. Each rune has a special meaning and a connection with a specific deity in the Nordic pantheon.
As with any other divination tool, it is important to find or make a rune set that really resonates with you. You can buy them as wood-burned tokens made from different kinds of wood, or even carved into gemstones. The rune stones pictured in this post are my first set of runes, which are carved into Golden Tiger Eye gemstones. I hope to soon get a second set carved into either Bloodstone or Labradorite.
There are two different kinds of rune stones in the Elder Futhark. There are the non-invertible runes and invertible runes. Non-invertible runes are runes that look the same no matter which way you hold them. Invertible runes are rune stones that look distinctly different when turned upside down. These runes have two different meanings, depending on if they are right side up or upside down. I will be covering all of the known meanings for each rune, to my knowledge.
How Do I Cast Runes?
Casting Runes can seem pretty intimidating, but its pretty easy once you get the hang of it. It is important to handle your rune stones with care and reverence. The best way to get well acquainted with your set of runes is to do a ‘daily draw’, that is, once a day draw a single rune from the bag, just like you would for a single card tarot draw. This will also help you to become more familiar with each individual rune’s meanings and interpretations. Some like to ask a specific questions, but because runes have a much more complex meaning than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the wording of a question can be important. Don’t ask questions like, ‘Will I have a good day?’ but instead word it to be something like, ‘Please give me insight into today’s events.’ You can, however, ask a yes or no question but instead of interpreting the runes, you receive the answer simply by determining whether or not the stone is in the upright position, which would mean a yes, or is inverted, which would be a no.
Multiple rune readings require a cloth to cast the runes down on. This can be any piece of fabric, but I’ve come to understand that solid colors are generally more preferred. Different people cast the stones differently, and it also depends on how many runes you want to draw. The most common way is to draw the desired number, usually between three and five, and place them face down on the cloth. Then, swirl them clockwise. Turn them over and read them one at a time. Another way to cast runes is to dump all the runes out of the bag onto your cloth and read the ones that appear face up.
My personal method for a three stone casting is to take three stones from the bag, being careful not to look at them, and shaking them up in my hands like dice. Then, I cast them in a clockwise swirl. If some didn’t land right side up, I turn them over. From left to right, they represent past, present and future.
What Does Each Rune Mean?
FEHU or FEOH (F)
Means ‘Cattle’. This is a rune traditionally connected to cattle and agriculture. It represents wealth, abundance, prosperity, love, and fulfillment. It asks us to identify what we value most. When FEHU is inverted, it represents frustration, difficulties and forewarns of the loss of something you love.
URUZ or UR (U)
Means ‘Aurochs’. This rune is traditionally connected to the wild oxen known as aurochs. It represents strength, health, stamina, grounding, and courage. It holds us responsible for our actions and warns us not to lose control of our more violent emotions. Inverted, URUZ can warn us of the loss of our strength and energy.
THURISAZ or THORN (TH)
Means ‘Giant’. This is the rune attributed to the Thunder God Thor. It is linked with upheavals, chaos, aggression, luck, counsel, and protection. The appearance of THURISAZ is a warning that life may not go according to plan. Inverted, THURISAZ’s serious nature and warnings are less dire and and are greatly reduced.
ANSUZ or AS (A)
Means ‘An Aesir Deity’. This rune is alternatively known as the ‘god rune’ and is linked to the protection that Odin gives to his followers. It represents wisdom, communication, respect, ancestors, advice, inspiration, and insight. It tells us that if we are in need of advice, we should go to someone we respect and admire. Inverted, it could mean difficulties in communicating with others, or the misunderstanding of information due to an age gap.
RAIDO or RAD (R)
Means ‘Journey on Horseback’.This is a rune of adventures and journeys, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. It represents movement, action, messages, new projects or ventures, as well as advances in career. It’s appearance is a sign that it is time to start something new, to move on, and to take a risk in order to live a fulfilled life. Inverted, RAIDO forewarns of plans not working out the way you expected, and journeys being disrupted or even cancelled.
KAUNAZ or KEN (K)
Means ‘Ulcer’. This is a rune of fire. it is connected to pine trees, which were an original source of kindling for the Norse. It represents enlightenment, energy, lust, positivity, knowledge, understanding, success and relationships. It refers to the warmth of a friendship, the passion of a fiery sexual relationship or the spark that draws you to another person. It also warns us not to let the fire burn out of control or go out due to neglect. Inverted, it can foretell the loss of a friendship or other relationship.
GEBO or GIFU (G)
Means ‘Gift’. This rune stone is one of the most positive runes there is. It represents gifts, generosity, partnerships, love, divine union and good fortune. It is linked to love in all forms, whether it be platonic, passionate, familial, sexual, romantic, queerplatonic, etc etc. GEBO could either be foretelling a new, loving relationship or it could warn us of a difficulty regarding an existing relationship. It tells us that we will receive a gift that will bring us happiness, and that we should use our own personal gifts to help benefit others. GEBO is non-invertible.
WUNJO or WYNN (W)
Means ‘Joy’. This is a run that represents happiness, contentment, harmony, joy, blessings, affection, desire and love in all forms. It foretells happiness and enjoyment, along with either the appearance of new relationships and friendships, or for us to enjoy and treasure the stable and happy relationships we already have. Inverted, it tells of wishes that have failed to manifest, or of a coming rough patch in a relationship.
HAGALAZ or HAGAL (H)
Means ‘Hail’. This rune is known for being challenging, as it describes situations that are out of our control. Traditionally, it is connected to hail and other natural disasters. It represents limits, delays, upheavals, risks, shadows, surrender, acceptance, and courage. HAGALAZ may be telling us that a storm is coming, and that we should face it with courage, put out head down and weather it rather than roll over and die. It reminds us to draw on our bravery and that this too shall pass, and that things will get better. It is a non-invertible rune.
NAUTHIZ or NYO (N)
Means ‘Need’. This rune is linked to crisis. It could foretell of the coming need for money, a new job, a new home, medical help or a new relationship. It represents patience, omens, obstacles, stress and necessity. This rune warns us that something rough is coming and that it must be faced head on, that you must be ready to think on your feet, be inventive, not blame others, or dissolve into a heap of stress. It is a non-invertible rune.
ISA or IS (I)
Means ‘Ice’. It is linked to being frozen or static. It represents being stuck in a rut, the inability to move forward, loss, separation, focus, cooling, stagnant emotions, resistance to change and reluctance. It can indicate a time where your plans seems impossible, but that you must remain patience and wait it out. It could also be describing a time of rest and recuperation after a hard time. It is a non-invertible rune.
Means ‘Year’. JERA is connected with the seasons and the cycles of nature. It is specifically linked to the winter solstice. It represents time, harvest, peace, commitment, rewards, wisdom, and gentle changes. JERA could be telling you to watch how you treat others as you will reap what you sow, or it could be letting you know that soon your hard work and efforts will be rewarded. JERA is a non-invertible rune.
EIHWAZ or EON (I)
Means ‘Yew’. This rune is connected to life, death and rebirth. It has ties to Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. It represents a quest or journey, perseverance, conflict, and success. It tells us that we face difficulties for a reason, that challenges aren’t easy lessons to be learned but that we should face them head on regardless, and that soon through death we will inherit or gain something new in life. It is a non-invertible rune.
PERTH or PEORTH (P)
This rune is linked directly with Wyrd, or fate, and it represents destiny, mystery, initiation, secrets and sexuality. It advises us to keep an open mind, but to also avoid rash decisions and actions, and to be prepared to analyze the situation. It is connected to creativity of all kinds, from art to child birth. Inverted, it warns us of fears that could be blown out of proportion.
ALGIZ or ELHAZ (Z)
This is the rune of protection. It is used to invoke the gods. It is associated with psychic abilities, meditation, protection, healing, self care, health, sensibility, friendship, aspiration, fortune and optimism. It tells us to take care of ourselves. It could also be foretelling the arrival of a new mentor or teacher. Inverted, it forewarns of being put in a position where you will be defensive or used.
SOWELU or SIGEL (S)
Means ‘Sun’. This is the rune of the Sun. It represents life, warmth, growth, victory, visions, honor, achievements, vitality, confidence, power and optimism. It encourages us to reach for the stars, pursue new dreams, and make better humans of ourselves. It encourages us to keep pressing on even when things seems tough, and to draw on our own strength of purpose. It is a non-invertible rune.
TEIWAZ or TYR (T)
Means ‘The God Tiwaz’. This rune is a rune of purpose and is connected to the god Tyr. It represents sacrifice, intrigue, courage, justice, struggles, battles, victory, determination, purpose, strength, perseverance, resourcefulness and competition. Inverted, it describes a loss of direction or a defeat.
BERKANA or BEORC (B)
Means ‘Birch’. This is a rune of fertility. It is associated with motherhood, nurturing, growth, care-taking, birth, creativity, protection, nature and gardening. Its appearance tells us that we need to care for things that have been recently brought into the world. Whether it be a child, a plant or an animal. When inverted it describes a stunt in growth.
EHWAZ or EH (E)
Means ‘Horse’. This rune is the rune of horses and travel. It represents journeys, emigration, vacation, movement, partnerships, progress, future, changes and truth. It describes working in harmony with others and positive relationships with animals and humans. Inverted, it forewarns of an inflexible attitude, indecisiveness and a betrayal of trust.
MANNAZ or MAN (M)
Means ‘Man’. This is a rune that is connected to mankind. It represents rationality, intelligence, modesty, thought, trust and sociability. It helps us to evaluate and work out difficult relationships, and encourages us to want to improve ourselves. When inverted, it refers to a closed and prejudiced mind.
LAGUZ or LAGU (L)
This is the rune of the element water. It is connected to unconscious thought, emotions, intuition, psychic abilities, dreams, purification and letting go of emotional baggage. It encourages us to take time to do some introspection and improve our psychic abilities. Inverted, it describes fear and lack of courage.
INGUZ or ING (Ng)
Means ‘The God Ingwaz’. This is a rune of fertility associated with the god Freyr or Frey. It is connected to the seed aspect of any creation, whether it be child or plant harvest. It is associated with potential, freedom and new beginnings. It encourages us to be thankful for what we have. It is a non-invertible rune.
OTHILA or ODAL or OTHALAN (O)
Means ‘Inheritance’. This is the rune of inheritance and home. It is associated with heritage, ancestry, and things passed down the generations. It is a good omen to draw this rune if you are considering moving houses or apartments, as it indicates that the move will be easy and the new home will be happy. Inverted, it refers to the act of clinging to the old ways and refusing any kind of change, specifically racism and greed.
DAGAZ or DAEG (D)
Means ‘Day’. This is the run of Day and the summer solstice. It is associated with ambition, break through, light, hope and happiness. It signifies beneficial and positive changes, enlightenment, transformation, light at the end of the tunnel, contentment, peace and the end of a difficult time. It is a non-invertible rune.