top of page
  • Writer's pictureby Essence Diaries

Saying Hi to the Runes!

Short history:

Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter. The Scandinavian variants are also known as futhark or fuþark (derived from their first six letters of the alphabet: F, U, Þ, A, R, and K); the Anglo-Saxon variant is futhorc or fuþorc (due to sound-changes undergone in Old English by the names of those six letters).

Runology is the study of the runic alphabets, runic inscriptions, runestones, and their history. Runology forms a specialized branch of Germanic linguistics.

The earliest runic inscriptions date from around 150 AD. The characters were generally replaced by the Latin alphabet as the cultures that had used runes underwent Christianization, by approximately 700 AD in central Europe and 1100 AD in northern Europe. However, the use of runes persisted for specialized purposes in northern Europe. Until the early 20th century, runes were used in rural Sweden for decorative purposes in Dalarna and on Runic calendars.

The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around 150–800 AD), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400–1100 AD), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100 AD). The Younger Futhark is divided further into the long-branch runes (also called Danish, although they were also used in Norway, Sweden, and Frisia); short-branch or Rök runes (also called Swedish-Norwegian, although they were also used in Denmark); and the stavlösa or Hälsinge runes (staveless runes). The Younger Futhark developed further into the Medieval runes (1100–1500 AD), and the Dalecarlian runes (c. 1500–1800 AD).

Historically, the runic alphabet is a derivation of the Old Italic scripts of antiquity, with the addition of some innovations. Which variant of the Old Italic branch in particular gave rise to the runes is uncertain. Suggestions include Raetic, Venetic, Etruscan, or Old Latin as candidates. At the time, all of these scripts had the same angular letter shapes suited for epigraphy, which would become characteristic of the runes.

The process of transmission of the script is unknown. The oldest inscriptions are found in Denmark and northern Germany. A "West Germanic hypothesis" suggests transmission via Elbe Germanic groups, while a "Gothic hypothesis" presumes transmission via East Germanic expansion.

Magical or divinatory use:

The earliest runic inscriptions found on artefacts give the name of either the craftsman or the proprietor, or sometimes, remain a linguistic mystery. Due to this, it is possible that the early runes were not used so much as a simple writing system, but rather as magical signs to be used for charms. Although some say the runes were used for divination, there is no direct evidence to suggest they were ever used in this way. The name rune itself, taken to mean "secret, something hidden", seems to indicate that knowledge of the runes was originally considered esoteric, or restricted to an elite.

Charm words, such as auja, laþu, laukaʀ, and most commonly, alu appear on a number of Migration period Elder Futhark inscriptions as well as variants and abbreviations of them. Much speculation and study has been produced on the potential meaning of these inscriptions. Rhyming groups appear on some early bracteates that also may be magical in purpose, such as salusalu and luwatuwa. Further, an inscription on the Gummarp Runestone (500–700 AD) gives a cryptic inscription describing the use of three runic letters followed by the Elder Futhark f-rune written three times in succession.

Nevertheless, it has proven difficult to find unambiguous traces of runic "oracles": although Norse literature is full of references to runes, it nowhere contains specific instructions on divination. There are at least three sources on divination with rather vague descriptions that may, or may not, refer to runes: Tacitus's 1st-century Germania, Snorri Sturluson's 13th-century Ynglinga saga, and Rimbert's 9th-century Vita Ansgari.

The first source, Tacitus's Germania, describes "signs" chosen in groups of three and cut from "a nut-bearing tree", although the runes do not seem to have been in use at the time of Tacitus' writings. A second source is the Ynglinga saga, where Granmar, the king of Södermanland, goes to Uppsala for the blót. There, the "chips" fell in a way that said that he would not live long (Féll honum þá svo spánn sem hann mundi eigi lengi lifa). These "chips", however, are easily explainable as a blótspánn (sacrificial chip), which was "marked, possibly with sacrificial blood, shaken, and thrown down like dice, and their positive or negative significance then decided."[27][page needed]

The third source is Rimbert's Vita Ansgari, where there are three accounts of what some believe to be the use of runes for divination, but Rimbert calls it "drawing lots". One of these accounts is the description of how a renegade Swedish king, Anund Uppsale, first brings a Danish fleet to Birka, but then changes his mind and asks the Danes to "draw lots". According to the story, this "drawing of lots" was quite informative, telling them that attacking Birka would bring bad luck and that they should attack a Slavic town instead. The tool in the "drawing of lots", however, is easily explainable as a hlautlein (lot-twig), which according to Foote and Wilson[28] would be used in the same manner as a blótspánn.

The lack of extensive knowledge on historical use of the runes has not stopped modern authors from extrapolating entire systems of divination from what few specifics exist, usually loosely based on the reconstructed names of the runes and additional outside influence.

A recent study of runic magic suggests that runes were used to create magical objects such as amulets, but not in a way that would indicate that runic writing was any more inherently magical, than were other writing systems such as Latin or Greek. (source Wikipedia).

Personal approach:

I discovered the Runes in 2000, from a small book written by Arnaud d'Apremont. and was immediately fascinated by the FUTHARK, the ancient alphabet of Northern Europe. For more than a decade I felt really connected with these amazing symbols and started to learn more about the topic. So I've read books from Nigel Pennick, Edred Thorsson, Freya Ashween, Margareta Vianu and many others. The forms and structure of the Runes contain many mysteries. In the very beginning I had an intellectual approach of the Futhark, learning the meaning of each rune by heart, trying to decipher the meaning of each form. Then I carved the Runes on 24 stones, making the ancient alphabet more accessible to my interpretations. After 15 years of research, I started to practice a kind of runic Qi Qong, using the ond of a rune to dynamize my body and my mind. Before I'd tried runic yoga, but found it more consistent to create a move from the stance. Now I can assure you fellow warriors that the Runes describe flows of energy, linked to the Northern concept of the Multiverse, from human being to planets. Odin reminds us that he found the mysteries of the North by losing an eye, which also symbolizes a sacrifice to get an access to the secret knowledge.

In a pure shamanic practice the runes can also be considered as signs. The first step is to decipher the meaning of the rune in his global meaning (form, concept attached, part of the body symbolized).

As there are so many websites or books giving the meanings of the runes. I found it much more fun to describe the following pictures, taken in a forest of the French Alps, not far from an old Celtic oppidum … strange isn’t it.


(carved on a tree): the gift, importance of exchanges and communication, linked to the air element. Searching or finding a partner sharing the same path/faith.


inspiration, linked to the water element. Using positive emotions to create or to give birth to a project (or a child). The rune was on the ground, so indicated a real and concrete project.


the rune of the man, linked to the creativity of the intellect and the 3rd eye, Ajna chakra and the indigo color. Time to follow our deep intuition to create, to trust in our own ability to feel on different channels.


the rune of the ancestors. Can symbolize a research on the ancestors genetics or paying attention in astrology to the sign of Virgo or the earth signs in general. To me it's the link with the lower chakras (roots and navel). Answering the question, where do I come from?


the rune of action (symbolizing the planet Mars in astrology), linked to the fire element used to make a sword (iron).This symbol invites us to answer the question: are my actions focused on reason or shall I act more with my instinct/feelings. The rune turned to the left side indicated a more intuitive path than a strong rational one.


the rune of order but also of a journey. Raidho (symbolizing the chariot in Marseilles Tarot and also linked to the fire element) invites us to an inner journey to the center of ourselves. This is somehow purely shamanic. The discovery of new territories both outside and inside us. The rune was on a trunk on the right side and I deciphered it as a potential trip to a foreign country. By the way it was my plan, so we can call this a validation!

"Saying Hi to the Runes" invites us to decipher the hidden symbols engraved in our collective unconscious, the memory of our ancestors. Like Odin, the shaman of the North, every time you unleash your perceptions, the silent knowledge is coming to you. Please have no hesitation to study, then to practice. Do not stay stuck in your intellect and have the pleasure to explore the magic of a forest, of a river, of a mountain and sometimes of a city.

May the runes and the Futhark inspire your second attention.

26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page