About Rune Reading
What are runes?
Today, many of us think of runes as being somewhat similar to tarot cards: They are excellent tools for personal divination and achieving spiritual insight. But the history of runes stretches far deeper into antiquity.
Runes were an ancient writing system shared by Celtic, Scandinavian and Germanic peoples of Northern Europe. Closely associated with magic rituals and religious belief, rune stones and runic inscriptions date back to the first century A.D. Many scholars believe the runic alphabet and runic writing originated much earlier, but it wasn't until the practice of etching runic writings into stone that permanent records were created.
Want to know how to interpret runes? Click here for iFate's complete guide to rune meanings.
Runic inscriptions can be found throughout northern Europe. Many of these record historical events. Others have a distinctly religious or spiritual overtone, while others include rune poems and fables about Norse gods and colorful folklore. While Anglo Saxon and Scandinavian runes are the most common, there are other schools of runic writing which include Hungarian and other Eastern European runes.
There are two primary "ages" of the runic alphabet which are divided into the old ways (the "elder Futhark runes") and a later system of runic writing (the "younger Futhark runes", which was a commonly used early Germanic alphabet used by Nordic tribes and Germanic tribes.
When Christianity reached ancient Europe, runic script was gradually replaced with the latin alphabet. Even after being replaced, runes persisted for purposes of mysticism, magic, divination and religious ritual. One interesting aspect of runes which still puzzles historians are the obvious similarities between many Norse rune letters and letters in the Greek alphabet and Roman alphabet. These similarities seem to suggest that there was significant exchange of cultural ideas between the Northern European tribes and Mediterranean civilizations. Other historians believe that ancient runes have Etruscan origins which predate classical Rome.
Norse mythology tells us that the runes have a more divine origin. According to Norse lore, rune symbols come from Odin himself.
Today, runes are almost exclusively used for magic and as a divination tool. (So much so that they are simply referred to as "magick runes" by many). While it's not necessary to understand ancient European history, Viking mythology, or Germanic neopaganism to appreciate runes -- having an understanding and respect for the history and related folklore of ancient runes will add a wonderful dimension and appreciation to your rune readings.
While many rune readers simply "want an answer" -- diving deep into esoteric runology will make those answers much, much better.
What is rune reading?
Rune reading or rune casting is a system of divination which can be used to gain spiritual insight into our life and the world around us. Runic divination has its roots in various ancient religious beliefs from northern Europe, including Norse mythology, Germanic mysticism and Celtic religious traditions.
Rune readings use individual runes stones, which consist of small stones, etched with each of the 24 runes of the Elder Futhark (also called the Anglo Saxon Futhorc). In most cases runes are created from stone, but there is also a long tradition of stone runes, bone runes and wooden runes. Which type of runes you use is up to you. While runes made from wood and stone are the most popular, there are also many modern styles available including plastic, glass and metal runes.
Each rune stone / rune symbol has its own magical significance or esoteric meaning. The basic methodology of a rune reading is to create a rune spread or a rune cast, and to interpret the runes.
By casting the runes, and interpreting which runes were selected -- and where they were positioned -- a rune reader can gain spiritual insight into events and their outcomes.
How to read runes
Some schools of rune casting believe that the rune stones should be shuffled or shaken, and cast at random in front of the rune reader.
Other systems of rune casting involve creating specific rune layout (similar to tarot spreads) and interpreting the meaning of the runes in specific positions within the spread. Each rune position has a different meaning, and so the meaning of each rune will be different depending on where it appears in the rune cast.
One of the earliest written examples of how Rune-magic works comes from the Roman writer, Tacitus, who described the following practice in ancient, first-century Germania:
"The village elder offers prayers to the gods and looking up towards the heavens, picks up three runes one by one, and by reading the markings on each rune, the elder offers insight or interpretation."
Things haven't changed much in 2000 years!
By unlocking the ancient wisdom of the runes, readers can gain insight into situations and understand their potential outcomes.
Selection and interpretation:
As with many systems of magic and divination, rune magic places a high value both on the individual's 'selection process' and on the philosophical and mystical interpretation of the symbology. Typically, selection follows a brief period of introspection, meditation or careful consideration of the question or topic at hand.
Consider the reading as a whole:
Interpreting the rune reading, as with tarot readings, can seem easy at first but takes many years to master. There are subtleties in rune reading that come not just from understanding the meaning of each individual rune, but from the position of that symbol relative to it's adjacent symbols. For example: Is the symbol for wealth surrounded by other symbols of happiness? Or by symbols for destruction? Is there an overall balance to the reading? Is the reading clear and consistent? Or is there conflict within the stones?
What is the blank rune?
Many contemporary adherents of rune reading use something called a "blank rune". The blank rune has questionable historical legitimacy, and was popularly introduced by the author Ralph Blum in his best-selling book "The Book of Runes". The basic premise of the blank rune is that it is the "Unknowable" -- or that which we are not meant to understand at this time.
Many users appreciate Blum's addition to runic lore, but other more traditional rune readers will simply remove the blank rune from the stack. iFate web-based rune readings give users the option of including (or not including) the blank rune.
iFate online rune readings are designed to be easy for beginners, but advanced rune readers will look far beyond the simplicity of position and meaning and look at the casting as a whole. This additional complexity rises with more advanced readings. For this reason, it is recommended that beginning students of runes try the shorter, simpler readings first.