Among the various practices and tool of Heathenry, the one that stands out as most identifying are the runes. There are five historical sets relative to Germanic peoples (a sixth, including the Celtic Ogham), but only three are used with any regularity among modern Heathens: the Elder Fuþark (Proto-Germanic, 200-800 CE), the Younger Fuþark (Old Norse, 800-1200 CE,) and the Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc (Old English, 500-1100 CE).
It should be noted that, though divination practices emerged with the runes in the 20th Century, primarily they are a written alphabet. At their most basic, they are only letters. The meanings that we have for various divinatory purposes are largely expanded from their names (reconstructed) and rune poems composed in the 8th or 9th Centuries. We will explore those further down.
”Veit ek, at ek hékk, vindga meiði á…" (Hung I was on the windswept tree; Nine full nights I hung…)
In our mythology, it is told that Óðinn hung from the branches of Yggdrasil, pierced by Gungnir, his spear, for nine days and nights. On the ninth night, he fell screaming from the World Tree, and gathered up the runes; magical charms for a wide range of purposes and uses. It is commonly believed that these are the Elder Fuþark, but this is not so. The Elder Fuþark emerged in the 3rd Century, and was an adaptation of Roman letters. In the Hávamál, Óðinn actually brags on the runes that he knows. However, names for them are never given, nor are we told how to carve and paint them. They are the runes of Óðinn, and he alone.
In contrast, the Fuþark that we have and use are our runes. They are Man's Runes, the runes of Miðgarð, to match and meet the runes of Jötnar, Álfar, the Æsir and Vanir, and the Dead. Man's Runes are as follows:
The Elder Fuþark (Proto-Germanic 200-800 CE)
These runes have no poem to accompany them. Their meanings are known only through reconstruction of their names. They are adapted from Latin letters, and were used as magical charms, practical font, and graffiti.
ᚠ - Fehu: Livestock, wealth. Represents F. Its name means "wealth", cognate to English "fee" with the original meaning of "sheep" or "cattle" (Dutch "Vee", German "Vieh", Latin "pecum", Sanskrit "pashuu").
ᚢ - Ūruz (possibly Ūrą): Aurochs (or water). Represents a long U-sound. The Icelandic word for "rain" and the Old English for "aurochs" are traced to the Proto-Germanic words *ūruz and *ūrą, possibly deriving from the same root word. The Norwegian meaning of "dross" may be a technical term from the Iron Age derived from the word for water. In Finnish folklore, iron is compared to milk.
ᚦ - Þurisaz: Giant. Representing the thorn (ᚦ) or a soft TH-sound (as in teeTH). The rune is absent from the earliest Vimose inscriptions, but it is found in the Thorsberg chape inscription, dated to ca. AD 200. Refers to the giants of Norse mythology.
ᚨ - Ansuz: One of the Æsir. Represents the A-sound. The name is based on Proto-Germanic ansuz, denoting a deity belonging to the principal pantheon in Germanic paganism.
ᚱ - Raiðō: Ride, journey. The R-rune. This name is attested for the same rune in all three rune poems, Old Norwegian (Ræið) Icelandic (Reið), and Anglo-Saxon (Rad). The shape of the rune may be directly derived from the Latin R.
ᚲ - Kauna: Torch, fire. The K-rune.
ᚷ - Geƀō: Gift. Represents the G-sound. Only appears in the Elder Fuþark and English Fuþorc. It is described in Runic divination as a representation of the gift-receiving balance in relationships, due to its old meaning of “gift”.
ᚹ - Wunjō: Joy. Representing the W-sound.
ᚺ/ᚻ - Hag(a)laz: Hail, precipitation. The Elder Futhark letter has two variants, single-barred ᚺ and double-barred ᚻ. The double-barred variant is found in continental inscriptions while Scandinavian inscriptions have exclusively the single-barred variant. The Anglo-Frisian Fuþorc in early inscriptions has the Scandinavian single-barred variant. From the 7th century, it is replaced by the continental double-barred variant, the first known instances being found on a Harlingen solidus (ca 575–625), and in the Christogram on St. Cuthbert's coffin.
ᚾ - Naudiz: Need, hardship. The N-rune, meaning “need” or “distress”. In the Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc it is continued as nyd (ᚾ), in the Younger Fuþark as Nauðr (ᚾ).
ᛁ - Isaz: Ice. The I-rune.
ᛃ - Jēra: Year, good year, harvest. Representing a soft J-sound, similar to Y in modern American English.
ᛇ - Ēwaz/Ēhaz: Yew-tree. Representing the æ-sound. . While it is commonly associated with the ash tree, there are some theories that Yggdrasil is a cosmic yew tree. Through this, Ēwaz would represent the Worlds Tree.
ᛈ - Perþō: Unclear meaning, but most likely pear tree. Represents the P-sound. This rune also is in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem and Fuþorc as “peorð", with an enigmatic meaning. It is possibly related to the Gothic word “pairþra”, meaning “pear tree”. The rune poem allows for speculation that peorð refers to the wooden material of a woodwind instrument or game.
ᛉ - Algiz: Elk. Represents the Z-sound. Though often taken as a rune of protection, stemming from Ralph Blum’s personal interpretation (which has no linguistic basis), Algiz stands for elk. An animal that is noted in the Old English poem as having the capacity to wound severely. Through this, perhaps, the rune is used to invoke terror and harm, as best seen in the repeated Algiz pattern in the Ægishjálmur.
ᛋ/ᛊ - Sōwilō: Sun. Representing the S-sound. Sōwilō stands for the Sun, noted in all the rune poems as being the shine of the divine, holding the power to break through the clouds and ice, and bring fortune to those at sea.
ᛏ - Tēwaz: The god Týr. Represents the T-sound. This rune is one of very few runes directly related to any one specific of the Æsir.
ᛒ - Berkanan: Birch. Represents the B-sound. Birch trees have spiritual significance in many cultures. In Celtic culture, they symbolize growth, renewal, stability and adaptability. In Russian culture it represents grace and strength. It is also associated with marriage and love. Through this, Frigg may be invoked for the purpose of affection or even healing. The Swedish city of Umeå uses silver birch trees to form fire-walls, after the trees defended against a fire in 1888. Berkanan may thus also be used as a rune of protection.
ᛖ - Ehwaz: Horse. Represents the E-sound. Whereas Raiðō represents the journey, or the action of riding, Ehwaz represents the vehicle itself.
ᛗ - Mannaz: Mankind, humanity. Represents the M-sound.
ᛚ - Laguz: Lake, contained water. Represents the L-sound. As contrasted by a river or the ocean, a lake is “tamed” water akin to a torch or candle. Laguz sustains life, provides food, and sustains the local environment.
ᛜ - Ingwaz: The god Yngvi. Represents the NG-sound, and is another of few runes to represent one of the Æsir. The god Yngvi is best known as Freyr, twin brother to Freyja, a god of fertility, wealth, male prowess, and the harvest.
ᛞ - Dagaz: Day. Represents the D-sound. Dagaz can be seen as both a rune of the daytime, or a measurement of short time (in contrast to long time of Jēra: sooner, rather than later).
ᛟ - Ōþalan: Heritage. Represents the O-sound. Often used to represent the god Óðinn, this rune actually has nothing to do with him at all. Ōþalan rather stands for our ancestry and cultural heritage; that and those which came before us and to whom we owe much of what we are.
The Younger Fuþark (Old Norse 800-1200 CE)
Developed from the Elder Fuþark, associated more with the Danish area than Swedish and Norwegian areas. There are two variations, “Long Branch” and “Short Twig”, indicating a more detailed, longer rune compared to shorter ones. It is hypothesized that Short Twig runes were simplified to allow for easier daily writing on wood, whereas Long Branch was used for carved rune stones.
These runes are best known from their accompanying poems, though these were written during Christian eras. The first line of each poem describes the rune itself (and from this, we get it’s meaning). The second line is used to memorize the poem verse, as the last words of both lines rhyme (in Old Norse). As such, the second line is often unimportant to the rune itself, and I will be using an edited version for Hagal.
ᚠ - Fé: Wealth. (F) “Fé vældr frænda róge; føðesk ulfr í skóge.” (Wealth is a source of discord amongst kin; the wolf lives in the forest.)
ᚢ - Úr: Drøss, rain. (U/Ú/V) “Úr er af illu jarne; opt løypr ræinn á hjarne.” (Dross comes from bad iron; the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.)
ᚦ - Þurs: Giant. (TH/Þ/Ð) “Þurs vældr kvinna kvillu, kátr værðr fár af illu.” (Thurs causes anguish to women, misfortune makes few men cheerful.)
ᚬ - Óss: Estuary. (O/Ó/Ø) “Óss er flæstra færða för; en skalpr er sværða.” (River mouth is way of most journeys; but the sheath is the one of swords)
ᚱ - Reið: Ride, journey. (R) “Ræið kveða rossom væsta; Reginn sló sværðet bæzta.” (Riding is said to be the worst thing for horses; Reginn forged the finest sword.)
ᚴ - Kaun: Ulcer. (K/G) “Kaun er barna bǫlvan; bǫl gørver nán fǫlvan.” (Ulcer is fatal to children; death makes a corpse pale.)
ᚼ - Hagall: Hail, precipitation. (H) “Hagall er kaldastr korna; Herjan skóp hæimenn forna.” (Hail is the coldest of grain; Herjan created the world of old.)
ᚾ - Nauðr: Need, hardship. (.N.) “Nauðr gerer næppa koste; nøktan kælr í froste.” (Need gives scant choice; a naked man is chilled by the frost.)
ᛁ - Isa: Ice. (I/Í/J/E/É) “Ís kǫllum brú bræiða; blindan þarf at læiða.” (Ice is called the broad bridge; the blind man must be led.)
ᛅ - Ár: Year, good year, harvest. (Á/A/Æ/Ö) “Ár er gumna góðe; get ek at örr var Fróðe” (Plenty is a boon to men; I say that Frodi was generous)
ᛋ - Sol: Sun. (S/X) “Sól er landa ljóme; lúti ek helgum dóme.” (Sun is the light of the world; I bow to the divine decree.)
ᛏ - Týr: The god Týr. (T/D/Z) “Týr er æinendr ása; opt værðr smiðr blása.” (Tyr is a one-handed god; often has the smith to blow.)
ᛒ - Bjarkan: Birch. (B/P) “Bjarkan er laufgrønstr líma; Loki bar flærða tíma.” (Birch has the greenest leaves of any shrub; Loki was fortunate in his deceit.)
ᛘ - Maðr: Mankind, humanity. (M) “Maðr er moldar auki; mikil er græip á hauki.” (Man is an augmentation of the dust; great is the claw of the hawk.)
ᛚ - Lögr: Water, waterfall. (L) “Lögr er, fællr ór fjalle foss; en gull ero nosser.” (A waterfall is a River which falls from a mountain-side; but ornaments are of gold.)
ᛦ - Yr: Yew tree. (Y/Ý) Ýr also only has a poem in Old Icelandic and Old English, lacking a poem in Old Norwegian. “Ýr er vetrgrænstr víða; vant er, er brennr, at svíða” (Yew is the bent bow, and brittle iron, and giant of the arrow.)
The Younger Fuþark (Short Twig)
These runes retain the same meaning as above. So for these, I will list the Icelandic Poems for each.
ᚠ- Fé: Wealth. (F) “Fé er frænda róg ok flæðar viti ok grafseiðs gata.” (Wealth is a source of discord amongst kin and fire of the sea and path of the serpent.)
ᚢ - Úr: Drøss, rain. (U/Ú/V) “Úr er skýja grátr ok skára þverrir ok hirðis hatr.” (Rain is lamentation of the clouds and ruin of the hay-harvest and abomination of the shepherd.)
ᚦ - Þurs: Giant. (TH/Þ/Ð) “Þurs er kvenna kvöl ok kletta búi ok varðrúnar verr.” (Thurs is torture of women and cliff-dweller and husband of a giantess.)
ᚭ - Óss: One of the Æsir. (O/Ó/Ø) The Icelandic rune poem for Óss specifies Óðinn, though Óss means any of the Æsir. This, perhaps, is what caused Ansuz to be associated primarily with the god. “Óss er algingautr, ok ásgarðs jöfurr, ok valhallar vísi.” (Óss is aged Gautr, and prince of Asgard, and lord of Valhalla.)
ᚱ - Reið: Ride, journey. (R) “Reið er sitjandi sæla ok snúðig ferð ok jórs erfiði.” (Riding is of sitting a blessing and swift journey and horses toiling)
ᚴ - Kaun: Ulcer. (K/G) “Kaun er barna böl ok bardaga för ok holdfúa hús..” (Ulcer is fatal to children and painful spot and abode of mortification.)
ᚽ - Hagal: Hail, precipitation. (H) “Hagall er kaldakorn ok krapadrífa ok snáka sótt.” (Hail is cold grain and shower of sleet and sickness of serpents.)
ᚿ - Nauðr: Need, hardship. (.N.) “Nauð er Þýjar þrá ok þungr kostr ok vássamlig verk..” (Need is grief of the bond-maid and state of oppression and toilsome work.)
ᛁ - Isa: Ice. (I/Í/J/E/É) “Íss er árbörkr ok unnar þak ok feigra manna fár.” (Ice is bark of rivers and roof of the wave and destruction of the doomed.)
ᛆ - Ár: Year, good year, harvest. (Á/A/Æ/Ö) “Ár er gumna góði ok gott sumar algróinn akr.” (Plenty is a boon to men and good summer and thriving crops)
ᛌ - Sol: Sun. (S/X) “Sól er skýja skjöldr ok skínandi röðull ok ísa aldrtregi.” (Sun is the shield of the clouds and shining ray and destroyer of ice.)
ᛐ - Týr: The god Týr. (T/D/Z) “Týr er einhendr áss ok ulfs leifar ok hofa hilmir.” (Tyr is the god with one hand and leavings of the wolf and prince of temples)
ᛓ - Bjarkan: Birch. (B/P) “Bjarkan er laufgat lim ok lítit tré ok ungsamligr viðr.” (Birch is a leafy twig and little tree and fresh young shrub.)
ᛙ - Maðr: Mankind, humanity. (M) “Maðr er manns gaman ok moldar auki ok skipa skreytir.” (Mankind is the delight of man and augmentation of the earth and adorner of ships.)
ᛚ - Lögr: Water, waterfall. (L) ”Lögr er vellanda vatn ok viðr ketill ok glömmungr grund.” (Water is eddying stream and broad geysir and land of the fish.)
ᛧ - Yr: Yew tree. (Y/Ý) “Ýr er vetrgrænstr víða; vant er, er brennr, at svíða” (Yew is the bent bow, and brittle iron, and giant of the arrow.)
The Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc (Anglo-Saxon 500-1100 CE)
Developed from the Elder Fuþark by the Frisians and Saxons going westward along the coast of the Netherlands towards England. Firstly, ansuz (ᚨ) was split into three letters: āc (ᚪ), æsc (ᚫ), and ōs (ᚩ). In England, the alphabet expanded further, where it was gradually replaced under Christian influence by Latin from around the 7th Century until runic writing had largely disappeared by the 11th Century. Two letters survived into the Old English alphabet: þorn (th) and ƿynn (w). The poems for these runes often have much Christianization.
ᚠ - Feoh: Wealth (f) “Feoh byþ frofur fira gehƿylcum; sceal ðeah manna gehƿylc miclun hyt dælan gif he ƿile for drihtne domes hleotan.” (Wealth is a comfort to all; yet must everyone bestow it freely, if they wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.)
ᚢ - Úr: Aurochs (u) “Ur byþ anmod ond oferhyrned, felafrecne deor, feohteþ mid hornum mære morstapa; þæt is modig wuht.” (The aurochs is proud and has great horns; it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns; a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.)
ᚦ - Þorn: Thorn (þ/th) “Þorn byþ ðearle scearp; ðegna gehwylcum anfeng ys yfyl, ungemetum reþe manna gehwelcum, ðe him mid resteð” (The thorn is exceedingly sharp, an evil thing for any knight to touch, uncommonly severe on all who sit among them)
ᚩ - Ōs: mouth (o) “Os byþ ordfruma ælere spræce, wisdomes wraþu ond witena frofur and eorla gehwam eadnys ond tohiht.” (The mouth is the source of all language, a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men, a blessing and a joy to every knight.)
ᚱ - Rād: Ride, journey (r) “Rad byþ on recyde rinca gehwylcum sefte ond swiþhwæt, ðamðe sitteþ on ufan meare mægenheardum ofer milpaþas.” (Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads on the back of a stout horse.)
ᚳ - Cēn: Torch (k/hard c) “Cen byþ cwicera gehwam, cuþ on fyre blac ond beorhtlic, byrneþ oftust ðær hi æþelingas inne restaþ.” (The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame; it always burns where princes sit within.)
ᚷ - Gyfu: Gift (g) “Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys, wraþu and wyrþscype and wræcna gehwam ar and ætwist, ðe byþ oþra leas.” (Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one's dignity; it furnishes help and subsistence to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.)
ᚹ - Wynn: Mirth. (w) While the earliest Old English texts represent this phoneme with the digraph ⟨uu⟩, scribes soon borrowed the rune wynn ᚹ for this purpose. It remained a standard letter throughout the Anglo-Saxon era, eventually falling out of use (perhaps under the influence of French orthography) during the Middle English period, circa 1300. It was replaced with ⟨uu⟩ once again, from which the modern ⟨w⟩ developed. “Wenne bruceþ, ðe can weana lyt sares and sorge and him sylfa hæfþ blæd and blysse and eac byrga geniht.” (Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety, and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.)
ᚻ - Hægl: Hail (h) “Hægl byþ hwitust corna; hwyrft hit of heofones lyfte, wealcaþ hit windes scura; weorþeþ hit to wætere syððan.” (Hail is the whitest of grain; it is whirled from the vault of heaven and is tossed about by gusts of wind and then it melts into water.)
ᚾ - Nȳd: Need, hardship (.n.) “Nyd byþ nearu on breostan; weorþeþ hi þeah oft niþa bearnum to helpe and to hæle gehwæþre, gif hi his hlystaþ æror.” (Hardship is oppressive to the heart; yet often it proves a source of help and salvation to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.)
ᛁ - Īs: Ice (i) “Is byþ ofereald, ungemetum slidor, glisnaþ glæshluttur gimmum gelicust, flor forste geworuht, fæger ansyne.” (Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery; it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems; it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.)
ᛄ - Gēr: Year, harvest (j) “Ger byþ gumena hiht, ðonne God læteþ, halig heofones cyning, hrusan syllan beorhte bleda beornum ond ðearfum.” (Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven, suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits for rich and poor alike.)
ᛇ - Ēoh: Yew tree (eo) “Eoh byþ utan unsmeþe treow, heard hrusan fæst, hyrde fyres, wyrtrumun underwreþyd, wyn on eþle.” (The yew is a tree with rough bark, hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots, a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.)
ᛈ - Peorð: Pear tree (p) “Peorð byþ symble plega and hlehter wlancum on middum, ðar wigan sittaþ on beorsele bliþe ætsomne.” (Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great, where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.)
ᛉ - Eolh: Unknown, possibly elk (x) “Eolh-secg eard hæfþ oftust on fenne wexeð on wature, wundaþ grimme, blode breneð beorna gehwylcne ðe him ænigne onfeng gedeþ.” (The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh; it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound, covering with blood every warrior who touches it.)
ᛋ - Sigel: Sun (s) “Sigel semannum symble biþ on hihte, ðonne hi hine feriaþ ofer fisces beþ, oþ hi brimhengest bringeþ to lande.” (The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers when they journey away over the fishes' bath, until the courser of the deep bears them to land.)
ᛏ - Tīr: Glory (t) “Tir biþ tacna sum, healdeð trywa wel wiþ æþelingas; a biþ on færylde ofer nihta genipu, næfre swiceþ.” (Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes; it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails)
ᛒ - Beorc: Birch or Poplar (b) “Beorc byþ bleda leas, bereþ efne swa ðeah tanas butan tudder, biþ on telgum wlitig, heah on helme hrysted fægere, geloden leafum, lyfte getenge.” (The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers, for it is generated from its leaves. Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.)
ᛖ - E(o)h: Horse (e) “Eh byþ for eorlum æþelinga wyn, hors hofum wlanc, ðær him hæleþ ymbe welege on wicgum wrixlaþ spræce and biþ unstyllum æfre frofur.” (The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors. A steed in the pride of its hoofs, when rich men on horseback bandy words about it; and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.)
ᛗ - Mann: Man, humanity (m) “Mann byþ on myrgþe his magan leof: sceal þeah anra gehwylc oðrum swican, forðum drihten wyle dome sine þæt earme flæsc eorþan betæcan.” (The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen; yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow, since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.)
ᛚ - Lagu: Ocean, sea (l) “Lagu byþ leodum langsum geþuht, gif hi sculun neþan on nacan tealtum and hi sæyþa swyþe bregaþ and se brimhengest bridles ne gymeð.” (The ocean seems interminable to men, if they venture on the rolling bark and the waves of the sea terrify them and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.)
ᛝ - Ing: Yngvi (ng) “Ing wæs ærest mid East-Denum gesewen secgun, oþ he siððan est ofer wæg gewat; wæn æfter ran; ðus Heardingas ðone hæle nemdun.” (Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes, till, followed by his chariot, he departed eastwards over the waves. So the Heardingas named the hero.)
ᛟ - Ēþel: Estate (œ, oe, ōe) “Eþel byþ oferleof æghwylcum men, gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.” (An estate is very dear to every man, if he can enjoy there in his house whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.)
ᛞ - Dæg: Day (d) “Dæg byþ drihtnes sond, deore mannum, mære metodes leoht, myrgþ and tohiht eadgum and earmum, eallum brice.” (Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord; it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor, and of service to all.)
ᚪ - Āc: Oak (a) “Ac byþ on eorþan elda bearnum flæsces fodor, fereþ gelome ofer ganotes bæþ; garsecg fandaþ hwæþer ac hæbbe æþele treowe.” (The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men. Often it traverses the gannet's bath, and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith in honourable fashion.)
ᚫ - Æsc: Ash tree (æ) “Æsc biþ oferheah, eldum dyre stiþ on staþule, stede rihte hylt, ðeah him feohtan on firas monige.” (The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men. With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance, though attacked by many a man.)
ᚣ - Ȳr: Bow (.y.) “Yr byþ æþelinga and eorla gehwæs wyn and wyrþmynd, byþ on wicge fæger, fæstlic on færelde, fyrdgeatewa sum.” (Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight; it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.)
ᛡ - Īor: Eel (io/ia) “Iar byþ eafix and ðeah a bruceþ fodres on foldan, hafaþ fægerne eard wætre beworpen, ðær he wynnum leofaþ.” (Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land; it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.)
ᛠ - Ēar: Grave, death (ea, æa) “Ear byþ egle eorla gehwylcun, ðonne fæstlice flæsc onginneþ, hraw colian, hrusan ceosan blac to gebeddan; bleda gedreosaþ, wynna gewitaþ, wera geswicaþ.” (The grave is horrible to every knight, when the corpse quickly begins to cool and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth. Prosperity declines, happiness passes away and covenants are broken.)
The following have no poem:
ᛢ - Cweorð: (kw) A variation of peorð
ᛣ - Calc: Chalice (k)
ᛤ - Cealc: Chalk (kk)
ᛥ - Stan: Stone (st)
ᚸ - Gār: Spear (g)
The Medieval Fuþork (1200-1700 CE)
Developed from the Younger Fuþark in Scandinavia. Dots were added to letters to add or remove voice, giving one letter for each phoneme in Old Norse. Under Christianity, the Medieval runes were officially replaced by the Latin alphabet in the 13th Century. But runes remained in popular use until the 15th Century. After this, the history and magical use of runes became mostly an academic interest of Icelandic scholars.
These runes are purely alphabetical, have no associated rune poems (except for shared runes like Fé and Úr), and aside from shared runes, have no divinatory or name meaning purposes.
ᚠ Fé (F)
ᚢ Úr (U)
ᚦ Thurs (Þ/TH)
ᚱ Reið (R)
ᚴ Kaun (K)
ᚿ Nauðr (N)
ᛁ Isa (I)
ᛅ Ár (Æ)
ᛆ Ár (A)
ᛋ Sol (S)
ᛐ Týr (T)
ᛒ Bjarken (B)
ᛘ/ᛙ Maðr (M)
ᛚ Lögr (L)
ᛦ/ᛨ Ýr (end R - as in yngwaR)
ᚼ Hagall (H)
Historically, the closest thing that we have to suggest that the Norse peoples used runes or markings for divination is a segment by Tacitus in the year 98 CE:
"They attach the highest importance to the taking of auspices and casting lots. Their usual procedure with the lot is simple. They cut off a branch from a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips these they mark with different signs and throw them at random onto a white cloth. Then the state's priest, if it is an official consultation, or the father of the family, in a private one, offers prayer to the gods and looking up towards heaven picks up three strips, one at a time, and, according to which sign they have previously been marked with, makes his interpretation." ~Germania 10
Unfortunately, no more detail is given, and the exact meaning of "different signs" is unclear. It is likely that methods of divination were far different to what we do in the Modern Era, though our practices are based off these.
Modern divination through runes was built off books published in the late 20th Century by authors such as Stephen Flowers (Edred Thorsson), Diana Paxson, and Freya Aswynn.
Note: Ralph Blum introduced a very non-historical addition, the infamous "blank rune", meant to represent mystery and the god Óðinn in his Book of Runes (1983). I do not recognize this "rune" (non-rune), especially as the meanings assigned to it are already covered by other runes in the Elder Fuþark.
Most practitioners of runic divination seem to use the Elder Fuþark. Many meanings have been given to each rune, esoterically expanding upon the meanings given through their names. For example, while Fé (ᚠ) means "Wealth", those following Flower's example have also added possessions, luck, energy, foresight, fertility, creation and somehow motherhood. Un-stave (when the rune is upside-down) it's taken to not only mean poverty (the rational un-wealth state), but also failure, greed, atrophy, cowardice, stupidity, dullness, and bondage. Meanings that have no linguistic tie to Fé, cannot be found from the rune poems, and indeed have no relation to the concept of material and financial wealth represented by Fé.
The meanings that I take from runes, and the meanings that I teach, are in comparison much simpler. Books can - and have - been filled by the esoteric meanings behind the runes, explored to excruciating and over-detailed extrapolation. What I teach can fill this blog, and is all that is needed.
It is first important to note, and ever bear in mind, that runic divination does not tell the future. The answers you get do not spell for you what will happen, as our fate lies (in this regard) in our own hands. Do you see Fé In the future? You must still work; money will not be given to you freely. What we read in the runes (depending on the spread, generally a three-rune layout) is, to quote the Lady Galadriel, "Things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass." The runes show us what might come to be, not anything definite.
There are many books that give a few rune layouts. These can be as simple as Past/Present/Future, and as complex as falling in specific "houses" represented by the Nine Worlds with reliance on psychology and astrology. I prefer (and use) layouts that use three, five, and seven runes. The most complex and revealing is an expansion that I crafted, based off a Five Rune layout. I call it the Yggdrasil, and it utilizes nine runes.
Three Rune Layout
In a three-rune layout, one will get the quickest (but unfortunately the most vague) answer to what is most present on their mind. Three runes are chosen (best without looking beforehand; let Fate guide your hand), and laid out in a row.
The middle rune (1) represents the present. This is what is relevant to your current situation.
The left rune (2) represents the past. This is what has caused your Present to be as it is. These two situations (1 & 2) cannot be changed, and are.
The right rune (3) represents the future, what may be. This is a potential outcome, but given the vague nature of this layout many things may change this outcome.
Five Rune Layout
A five-rune layout will give a more detailed reading than a three-rune. Runes 1, 2, and 5 take the same meaning as 1, 2, and 3 in a three-rune layout.
The top rune (3) represents aid. This is what assistance (either from kin or gods) one may receive. An un-staved rune may indicate a lack of assistance or a delay in aid.
The bottom rune (4) represents circumstances relevant to the present that are also firm, and cannot be altered or changed.
Seven Rune Layout
A seven-rune layout gets even more detailed. It operates quite differently than a five-rune layout, similar to a three-rune layout. The runes are read in pairs, with each pair taken together to give meaning.
Runes 1 & 2 represent the problem that one is seeking to address.
Runes 3 & 4 represent the past, and what has led to the problem.
Runes 5 & 6 represent advice that is given - from one's ancestors or the gods - to address the problem.
Rune 7 represents the potential result, if advice is heeded.
The nine-rune Yggdrasil Layout that I developed is an expansion on the Five-Rune layout, taking the process of the Seven-Rune layout.
Rune 1 represents the present and the problem.
Runes 2 & 3 represent the past, and what has led to the problem.
Runes 4 & 5 represent aid or hindrances that are given for the problem.
Runes 6 & 7 represent firm factors to the problem that cannot be changed.
Runes 8 & 9 represent the future, and potential results.
While the Elder Fuþark is the most common among rune casters, any of the Fuþark (with meaning, not counting the Medieval Fuþark) can be used. There is really nothing that even stipulates segregating rune types, and one could potentially use all four variations in a single reading.
For easier reference, the rune meanings (including un-stave, though some un-staves are positive) are as follows:
ᚠ - Fehu: Livestock, wealth. (un-stave: poverty)
ᚢ - Ūruz (possibly Ūrą): Aurochs (or water), taken to mean power. (un-stave: weakness, drought)
ᚦ - Þurisaz: Giant, chaos. (un-stave: peace)
ᚨ - Ansuz: One of the Æsir. (un-stave: godlessness)
ᚱ - Raiðō: Ride, journey. (un-stave: stagnation)
ᚲ - Kauna: Torch, fire, knowledge. (un-stave: ignorance)
ᚷ - Geƀō: Gift. (un-stave: loss)
ᚹ - Wunjō: Joy. (un-stave: sorrow)
ᚺ/ᚻ - Hag(a)laz: Hail, precipitation. (un-stave: drought)
ᚾ - Naudiz: Need, hardship. (un-stave: contentedness, success)
ᛁ - Isaz: Ice, stagnation. (un-stave: growth)
ᛃ - Jēra: Year, good year, harvest. (un-stave: poor year, barrenness)
ᛇ - Ēwaz/Ēhaz: Yew-tree, strength. (un-stave: weakness)
ᛈ - Perþō: Amusement (un-stave: boredom)
ᛉ - Algiz: Elk, protection. (un-stave: vulnerability)
ᛋ/ᛊ - Sōwilō: Sun, fair weather. (un-stave: Moon, foul weather)
ᛏ - Tēwaz: The god Týr, justice. (un-stave: injustice)
ᛒ - Berkanan: Birch, healing, immunity. (un-stave: disease, vulnerability to infection)
ᛖ - Ehwaz: Horse, vehicle. (un-stave: stationary)
ᛗ - Mannaz: Mankind, humanity. (un-stave: inhumanity)
ᛚ - Laguz: Lake, contained water. (un-stave: land)
ᛜ - Ingwaz: The god Yngvi, fertility. (un-stave: infertility)
ᛞ - Dagaz: Day. (un-stave: night)
ᛟ - Ōþalan: Heritage. (un-stave: homelessness)
ᚠ - Fé: Wealth. (un-stave: poverty)
ᚢ - Úr: Drøss, rain (un-stave: drought)
ᚦ - Þurs: Giant, chaos. (un-stave: peace)
ᚬ - Óss: Estuary. (un-stave: landlocked)
ᚱ - Reið: Ride, journey. (un-stave: stagnation)
ᚴ - Kaun: Ulcer. (un-stave: health)
ᚼ - Hagall: Hail, precipitation. (un-stave: drought
ᚾ - Nauðr: Need, hardship. (un-stave: contentedness, success)
ᛁ - Isa: Ice, stagnation. (un-stave: growth)
ᛅ - Ár: Year, good year, harvest. (un-stave: poor year, barrenness)
ᛋ - Sol: Sun, fair weather. (un-stave: Moon, foul weather)
ᛏ - Týr: The god Týr, justice. (un-stave: injustice)
ᛒ - Bjarkan: Birch, healing, immunity. (un-stave: disease, vulnerability to infection)
ᛘ - Maðr: Mankind, humanity. (un-stave: inhumanity)
ᛚ - Lögr: Water, waterfall. (un-stave: land)
ᛦ - Yr: Yew-tree, strength. (un-stave: weakness)
ᚠ - Feoh: Wealth (un-stave: poverty)
ᚢ - Úr: Power (un-stave: weakness)
ᚦ - Þorn: Harm (un-stave: heal)
ᚩ - Ōs: Wisdom (un-stave: ignorance)
ᚱ - Rād: Ride, journey (un-stave: stagnation)
ᚳ - Cēn: Torch (un-stave: darkness)
ᚷ - Gyfu: Gift (un-stave: loss)
ᚹ - Wynn: Mirth. (un-stave: sorrow)
ᚻ - Hægl: Hail (un-stave: still skies)
ᚾ - Nȳd: Need, hardship (un-stave: contentedness, success)
ᛁ - Īs: Ice Ice, stagnation. (un-stave: growth)
ᛄ - Gēr: Year, harvest (un-stave: barren crops)
ᛇ - Ēoh: Yew tree, strength (un-stave: weakness)
ᛈ - Peorð: Amusement (un-stave: boredom)
ᛉ - Eolh: Harm (un-stave: comfort)
ᛋ - Sigel: Sun, fair weather. (un-stave: Moon, foul weather)
ᛏ - Tīr: Glory (un-stave: shame)
ᛒ - Beorc: Birch or Poplar, healing, immunity. (un-stave: disease, vulnerability to infection)
ᛖ - E(o)h: Horse, vehicle. (un-stave: stationary)
ᛗ - Mann: Man, humanity (un-stave: inhumanity)
ᛚ - Lagu: Ocean, sea (un-stave: land)
ᛝ - Ing: Yngvi, fertility (un-stave: infertility)
ᛟ - Ēþel: Estate (un-stave: wilds)
ᛞ - Dæg: Day (un-stave: night)
ᚪ - Āc: Oak, strength (un-stave: weakness)
ᚫ - Æsc: Ash tree, strength (un-stave: weakness)
ᚣ - Ȳr: Bow (un-stave: sword)
ᛡ - Īor: Eel (un-stave: snake)
ᛠ - Ēar: Grave, death (un-stave: life)
ᛢ - Cweorð: Amusement (un-stave: boredom)
ᛣ - Calc: Chalice (un-stave: plate)
ᛤ - Cealc: Chalk (un-stave: firmness)
ᛥ - Stan: Stone (un-stave: soil)
ᚸ - Gār: Spear (un-stave: shield)
Good casting, good reading, and good fortune to you!