Hi and hello, Witches, Witchlings, and Witchlets! In today’s Magickal Tool Care Series post we’re talking about Runes – what they are, where they come from, how to use and care for them, and more! Without further ado, let us begin.
a modern book-form to represent Old English run, rune “secret, mystery, dark mysterious statement, (secret) council,” also “a runic letter” (runstæf), from Proto-Germanic *runo (source also of Old Norse run “a secret, magic sign, runic character,” Old High German runa “a secret conversation, whisper,” Gothic runa), from PIE *ru-no-, source of technical terms of magic in Germanic and Celtic (source also of Gaelic run “a secret, mystery, craft, deceit, purpose, intention, desire,” Welsh rhin “a secret, charm, virtue”). Also see Runnymede.
The word entered Middle English as roun and by normal evolution would have become Modern English *rown, but it died out mid-15c. when the use of runes did. The modern usage is from late 17c., from German philologists who had reintroduced the word in their writings from a Scandinavian source (such as Danish rune, from Old Norse run).
The presumption often is that the magical sense was the original one in the word and the use of runes as letters was secondary to ancient Germanic peoples, but this is questioned by some linguists. The runic alphabet itself is believed to have developed by 2c. C.E. from contact with Greek writing, with the letters modified to be more easily cut into wood or stone. Related: Runed; runecraft.SOURCE
WHAT ARE RUNES?
Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialised purposes thereafter. In addition to representing a sound value (a phoneme), runes can be used to represent the concepts after which they are named (ideographs).SOURCE
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Runes have been found in places that hold root in Germanic-speaking countries like Iceland, Scandinavia, parts of England and Central Europe, Constantinople and anywhere the Vikings journeyed.
WHEN WAS THE RUNIC ALPHABET USED?
AD 150 is the earliest date that runic inscriptions have been recorded. With time, the Latin alphabet replaced these characters as those who utilized runes were subjected to the Christian Reformation. In Central Europe, this happened around AD 700 and in northern Europe, AD 1100.
USING RUNES FOR DIVINATION
Interestingly enough, using runes for divination is NOT an ancient practice used by the Vikings. There is no evidence to support this commonly-held belief. The closest thing we do have are a few Icelandic magickal texts that use runic symbology. Other than that, the utilization of runes for divination didn’t come about until the 17th century.
While runes may not have been used by the Vikings, this doesn’t mean this system of divination isn’t a viable one. I know plenty of witches – including myself – who cast runes and consult the messages found from the Divine.
WHAT DO RUNES LOOK LIKE?
Runic characters are typically made up of vertical lines with “twigs” or “branches” drawn out horizontally or diagonally upwards, downwards, curved, or across from them. These characters are individually placed on various materials such as sliced wood, bone, crystal, or stone.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF RUNIC ALPHABETS
There are three runic alphabets – the Elder Futhark, the Younger Futhark, and the Medieval (Latinized) Futhark. The Elder Futhark is appropriately named as it is believed to be the oldest version, eventually evolving into the Younger Futhark – AKA ‘normal runes’. The Younger Futhark was Latinized around 1200 due to the Christian conversion of the majority of Scandinavia and only used occasionally – mainly for decoration – until 1850.
For divinatory purposes, the Elder Futhark runic alphabet is used. It consists of 24 characters as follows:
- FEHU “Feh-hoo”
- URUZ “Ooor-rooz”
- THURISAZ “Thoor-eee-saz”
- ANSUZ “Awn-zooz”
- RAIDHO “rye-d-ho”
- KENNAZ “keh-nawz”
- GEBO “geh-boh”
- WUNJO “woon-yo”
- HAGALAZ “hawg-ah-laz”
- NAUTHIZ “now-theez”
- ISA “eee-sah”
- JERA “yair-ah”
- EIHWAZ “ay-waz”
- PERTHRO “pear-throw”
- ALGIZ “al-geez”
- SOWILO “so-wee-lo”
- TIWAZ “tee-waz”
- BERKANA “bear-kano”
- EHWAZ “ay-waz”
- MANNAZ “mawn-awz”
- LAGUZ “lah-gooz”
- INGUZ “lah-gooz”
- OTHALA “oh-tha-la”
- DAGAZ “dah-gaz”
HOW TO CHOOSE RUNES FOR YOUR PRACTICE
As I always say-
“Tools are very intimate to the practitioner. What works for one mystic may not work for another.”
Shopping for any kind of magickal tool to use in your practice should really be done in-person. I know that that is not always an option for some people. As such, being able to hold an object, feel its weight, see if there’s a connection there, visualize yourself using it, etc. will facilitate the selection process.
One way to know that a set of runes is meant for you is if you touch one or the whole set and feel a small vibration or change in temperature. While rune shopping, if a set looks right, feels right, and seems right, then it’s right.
WHAT IF I CAN’T SHOP IN-PERSON?
Virtual shopping is still a viable option for those who can’t peruse in-person. With plenty of mystical shops available online, you have options to compare runic sets and read reviews from other customers before making a purchase. The sites should have plenty of pictures with detailed descriptions featuring dimensions and measurements to give you an idea of how big or small each rune is.
You could also choose to DIY one for your practice. Anything that can be inscribed can become a rune. This can be as simple as procuring blank Scrabble tiles and using a permanent marker to draw each character. Alternatively, if you find a fallen branch you’re drawn to, you could cut slices and use a wood burning tool to mark them. This can benefit your practice as you’ll already have a connection with the runes through the process of creation.
DIFFERENT RUNIC SETS
Rune sets can be made from sliced wood, bone, crystals, gemstones, terra cotta, resin, ceramic, glass or antlers. As with any material, there are magickal correspondences that can be taken into consideration. For example:
- Antler runes make for wonderful divination when the reader identifies with Stag energies
- Bone runes hold animal energies and pair well with animal witches
- Wood runes can be made from magickal branches like Ash, Elder, or Oak
- Runes made from amethyst help to tap into intuition
- Hematite runes offer protective properties when cast
- Practitioners who call on the element of Earth do well with clay runes
WHAT IF I DON’T IDENTIFY WITH ANY ONE PATH?
Runes – like all other magickal tools – perform their best when we honor them. Regardless if you claim a tradition or follow a path, when using a tool in the pursuit of magick it comes down to your intention. Which rune set you choose is not nearly as important as your care and respect for them. Even the most basic set can offer powerful results when cast by a sincere seer.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR RUNES
What your runes are made of directly determines how you physically clean them. I recommend using a soft clean cloth to run over all facets of the stone, crystal, metal, or wood. Involving any type of salt or water can potentially damage it, so it’s best to play it safe.
As for spiritually cleansing, many runes are made of crystals and stones and will naturally absorb other energies around them. Without cleansing, they will hold on to said energies and in turn can result in inaccurate readings.
The following cleansing suggestions are safe for all types of materials:
- SMOKE CLEANSE
Light a smoke wand or incense and pass over your runes, slowly and with purpose. Imagine all energies being wiped clean, leaving you with a thoroughly cleansed tool. Pass your the smoke over your runes at least three times.
- CRYSTAL CLEANSE
A crystal that has the ability to self-cleanse can also be used on other stones. The following crystals can be used to cleanse your runes:
- Clear Quartz
To cleanse your runes, store them with a self-cleansing stone in a soft bag or lined container for at least 24 hours.
- MOONLIGHT BATH
The moon’s light is safe for all materials. Simply place your runes on a windowsill that receives moonlight during its fullest phase. A full moon allows the material to release lingering energies, resulting in a cleansed tool for you to cast.
Resonating with the energies of both the Sun and the Earth, rice has been used for metaphysical cleansing for centuries. It is said that this grain has the ability to balance Heaven’s energies with Earth’s energies. It’s because of this that rice can ground, cleanse, and harmonize energies while absorbing all imbalances and in turn, resetting crystals and stones to their base frequencies.
To cleanse your runes using this method, fill a glass bowl big enough to accommodate your tool with your choice of rice. Some say to only use brown rice as it hasn’t undergone any type of processing, but in the end you should listen to your intuition when making the choice. Bury your tool in the rice and allow it to sit for at least 24 hours. Once that time has passed, uncover your runes and run a clean, dry cloth over all surfaces.
What you do with the rice after the cleansing is up to you. Some say to dispose of it, while others will eat the rice. You can make rice water and bathe in it or use it to water your plants. Ultimately, it comes down to what you feel comfortable doing.
To perform a cleansing using visualization, hold your runes between your palms and visualize a bright white light that encompasses them. Imagine the light piercing the runes and washing them over with cleansing energy that wipes away all stored resonations and frequencies.
CHARGING YOUR RUNES
Once your runes have been cleaned and cleansed, they are ready to be charged. Charging is when a practitioner fills an object with a specific kind of energy. Also known as enchanting or programming, you can charge both objects and spaces with your chosen intention. In this case, it’s like filling your runes with purpose.
Just as there are different ways to cleanse, there are different ways to charge. How you charge your runes is up to you. You can use techniques like vocal charging or meditation. The most important facet of charging is your intent – you want to concentrate it into your tools. Pay attention to your intuition as it will let you know when charging is finished.
A NOTE ON CHARGING
Over time, objects that we imbue with specific intentions eventually lose energy. But how do you know WHEN to charge after the initial act?
- Any time you cleanse an object or tool it needs to be charged
- When energies feel “off”
- When you wish to reprogram an object or space with a different energy/intent/purpose
- When a tool begins to feel stagnant or stale or stops responding to your energy
HOW TO STORE YOUR RUNES
Demarcating out a sacred spot on your altar is a wonderful way to honor your runes. Personally, I have a tray that I keep my runes on alongside the buffalo horn I use when casting them. You may also wish to keep them close to you while you sleep and during the day, too. This will build a strong tether to your energy and the energy of your runes.
Alternatively, storing your runes in a pouch made of velvet or silk is another excellent way to store and protect your runes. You can place the bag on your altar or keep it on you. In the end, it is always up to you as it is YOUR practice!
As always, I hope that this post has taught you a thing or two about the care of runes. Do you already work with runes? Is there anything you did or do differently with your tool? Let me know in the comments. Bright Blessings and Happy Crafting!