Rungarda's Runelore

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A Word Of Caution

The first thing to know is, that nothing about runes which you read here or anywhere else is to be taken as nothing but personal opinion based, at worst, on pure fantasy, at best, on study and experience. The last person to use the runes with the ancient knowledge died more than three hundred years ago, taking with them all the traditional lore. There is no "holy writ", nothing substantial to turn to when in doubt, nothing, that is, but historical sources like the Norse Sagas or the Eddas, and the experience of modern rune workers.

During the last decades, a "runic renaissance" has taken place, giving rise to both charlatans and true Rune Masters. It is important to know which is which, especially when you find yourself confronted by a score of books in an esoteric book store. There are some books whose authors don't deserve the title of Rune Master. Be wary whenever you come across the so-called "blank rune", or whenever someone tries to establish a system which reminds you too strongly of Tarot. Runes are NOT Tarot; both systems evolved independently with different historical backgrounds.

Now that we have that out of the way: On the following pages, I propose to outline the runic system I started developing in the summer of '97, ever since I found the runes, or, more accurately, since the runes found me. You, who came across my site maybe out of curiosity, or maybe because you are a fellow rune worker (greetings to thee), may use my experience as guidance, or you may dismiss it offhand, building your own system and lore.

But whatever you decide, be assured that I have found my system sound. I have had results from divinations which were almost frightening in their accuracy. That does not mean that it is the only system which works. Be free to experiment. The Gods won't mind, provided you use their knowledge with respect.

Historical sources

In old times, runes - the word derives from Germanic "secret", compare Modern German "raunen", to speak in a low voice - were used for inscribing words of power or importance and for divination. They lent power to magic spells by making these spells permanent. An alphabet as well as a summary of the Germanic weltbild, runes are a system of divinatory symbols as well as the contents of a magician's toolbox; each rune not only represents a letter of the alphabet, but also a symbol with a complex meaning and a magical sigil with power by itself.

The alphabet is called the FUTHARK, named after its first six letters, just like the word "alphabet" is a contraction of the first two letters alpha and beta.

Working with runes, be it magically or for divination, requires a sound knowledge and understanding of each symbol as the old German and Norse peoples understood them. This, in turn, cannot be achieved without the mythological background and the awareness that runes are deeply involved with magic and the old gods. To use them lightly means, at least, to get bad results, at worst, to unleash uncontrolled energies and the wrath of the gods.

In Germanic mythology, the runes are a gift from Odin (his Nordic name), or Wotan (his Southern Germanic name), who gained his knowledge by sacrificing himself to himself, hanged and spearmarked for nine days, hanging from a branch of Yggdrasil, the World Yewtree, which holds in its roots and branches all the nine worlds which make up the Germanic Universe.

The elder Futhark, as the basic Germanic alphabet is called, is probably related to the Etruskean alphabet and was brought to the Germanic tribes via traderoutes, or, as other theories will have it, by Cimbric survivers of the battles against the Romans who made it back to their homeland.

The first historical record of the use of runes for divination is found in in Tacitus's "Germania", describing how the Germanii used runes to learn the outcome of an upcoming battle. There are also archaeological finds of runes inscribed on horns, hammers, weapons, runestones, gold brakteates (a kind of belt buckle), lending power to that object, magically linking the maker of the object to the object ("I, Erilar, made the horn") or declaring the object a gift from someone to someone. Then there are, or course, references to the runes in the Eddas, the surviving description of the old Germanic (Norse) religion, which give an almost complete overview of what the old Norse believed. (Again, caution is advised. The Eddas were written down after the advent of Christianity, and it is a foregone conclusion that they were distorted by the Christian viewpoint.)

Another indispensable aid for understanding the runes are the Rune Poems. They have been brought down to us from Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse and Old Icelandic sources. Although they may sound cryptic, they do give us the necessary starting points for "finding the runes within ourselves".

The 24 letters of the elder Futhark are divided into three aettir, or eights. The order of the letters is fixed, with the exception of the last two letters dagaz and othala, whose order may be reversed. I agree with Freya Aswynn in that dagaz, representing as it does a new beginning, should be placed after othala, which places it nicely at the end and, therefore, at the new beginning of the Futhark.

Runes have power - power to learn what the future holds, power to exercise magic for good or evil intent, power to keep away harm or to lend certain traits or abilities to the user. As with all magic, if used unwisely, the magic will fall back on its caller and is therefore everything but a parlor game.

The Runes

fehu uruz thurisaz ansuz raidho kenaz gebo wunjo
hagalaz nauthiz isa jera eihwaz perthro algiz sowilo
tiwaz berkana ehwaz mannaz laguz ingwaz othala dagaz

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Page updated on 2002-07-26