How to read runes 101: The purpose of this article is to help you know how to read your own rune stones. In answering your frequently asked questions I can suggest ways in which you can develop your own unique reading style. You will find here a flexible but structured approach to this tried and tested form of divination.
FAQ: How many runes are there?
The Elder Futhark runes comprise 24 stones. These are accepted as the oldest complete runic alphabet. Some modern sets include a blank rune making 25 stones.
FAQ: What does a blank rune stone mean?
The blank rune means fate. Receiving a blank rune stone in answer to your question in a reading means "left to fate"
I will assume that you only have a basic knowledge of how to read runes and a little about their traditional meanings. Two books which may prove useful in this regard, and can also help you know how to read runes are:
FAQ: What is the purpose of a rune reading?
I see the purpose of a rune reading to be threefold, namely:
Personally I feel that in order to be as effective as possible in knowing how to read runes you should have a sound understanding of human nature as well as a relationship with the visible and invisible worlds. I will look at this background work next.
Rune Wiki Background Work
Human Nature: Whilst we are all unique there are many repeating patterns in our behaviour. These patterns are mirrored back to us by our dreams and by the symbols in our daily life. People like Joseph Campbell point out the big picture showing us life’s universal themes and their origins. Campbell’s book “Hero with a Thousand Faces” is worth reading.
I also have a preference for the work of Carl Jung as applied by such remarkable people such as Robert Johnston, Marion Woodman and Louise Leonard. Correctly interpreted, the symbols in our lives lead us to our own unique goals, and an interpretation is only valid if it makes sense and resonates with the dreamer and therefore they have ‘ownership’ of the meaning.
The Visible and Invisible Worlds: Our understanding of the visible worlds comes through our life experience as informed by our understanding mythology and psychology as outlined above.
The invisible worlds are represented by the realms of subtle form and our connection with these is determined by our relationship with the energy which pervades the universes. For those of us who are not naturally gifted in this area the following points may be of interest.
It is worth perhaps pointing out that there will be people who maintain that their guides/intuition will reveal all the necessary information. No doubt this may appear to be true however it is worth considering the following points:
So armed with a set of runes, knowledge of the traditional rune meanings and an ongoing education into the workings of humanity and the universe we can now move on to develop our own understanding of the meaning of the runes as they speak to us uniquely and individually.
FAQ: What do the runes mean?
The basic meaning of the runes is given in the old rune poems which can be very cryptic or obscure. Most rune books will provide additional references and meanings. My approach assumes that the serious rune reader will work to develop their own individual relationship with the runes and through a combination of intuition and experience will derive additional meanings of their own. I maintain a constantly evolving table of all the meanings I associate with each rune. These meaning embrace all reversals because we all know that some of life’s experiences can be quite harsh or that we need to be warned about avoiding certain courses of action.
By way of a simple illustration let us look in this Rune Wiki at the rune Laguz.
Traditionally this rune is associated with water.
The Old English Rune Poem has this to say about Laguz:
This gives rise to the simple upright meanings of emotion, intuition, flow and, when reversed, can indicate anxiety, confusion and wrong direction.
When coupled with other runes such as Ehwaz, the rune for movement, then Laguz reversed implies a one-way journey. When the client asks “What does my partner see in me?’ Laguz in the runes drawn could prompt me to tell the client that her femininity, capacity for understanding and her humour are much valued and that her intuition may deliver some surprises.
In another reading Laguz gave a positive response to the question “How is my boyfriend?” In this case I had to say that he was facing problems because as an alcoholic he was in danger of drinking again.
When learning how to read runes be prepared to spend time reflecting on each rune and to test new meanings as they come to you. The final meaning of a rune depends upon where it appears in a reading and so I will address the issue of reading spreads or layouts.
FAQ: What are rune reading spreads?
The more you learn how to read runes the further you will move away from the traditional fixed position spread. I draw as many runes as I feel necessary to give me a complete picture, which varies according to what the client needs to know. Whilst the traditional spreads such as the Celtic Cross are a good place to start learning how to read runes you should be able to identify the areas which require more emphasis or clarification and expand the reading accordingly.
If we use the simple three rune Norn spread as an example, the three runes drawn refer to the past, the present and the future. Now a client may ask about the possibility of romance and the reader may draw three runes such as Othila reversed, Berkana upright and Fehu upright. These could be interpreted as follows:
This is a good start in learning how to read runes. This contains the implication that although the client is asking about romance the actual priority is financial security. So we can draw more runes to clarify Othila. We may draw Uruz reversed followed by Berkana reversed. Now Uruz could refer to an idle partner and Berkana could refer to a troubled early home life. It is at this point that the runes challenge the reader to connect the correct rune meaning to the corresponding aspect of the client’s life.
The rule I use is to keep on drawing the runes until I feel that the matter has reached either a satisfactory concluding rune such as Gebo (partnership) in relationship matters or that the runes just present a roller coaster ride with no resolution. Also I am not afraid to throw a new spread if I feel unhappy about the picture presented.
So in a reading I would carry on expanding on the sample Norn spread above with particular emphasis on exploring the relationship outcomes which could arise once the client’s principal unconscious need has been taken care of.
The end result depends very much on what a client needs to move forward. This can be a good understanding of the past; a clear hope for the future; a precise list of actions and outcomes; the reassurance that they are on the right track or any combination of these.
So to summarize how to read runes, the reader has to be adept at feeling the situation and casting the runes accordingly. It comes down to practice.
FAQ: How are runes used?
When using runes the reader should be aware of these issues:
In summarizing this tutorial on how to read runes.
Wiki - Rune Poems