Runes are a set of 24 symbols that were used for writing in North Europe, from the 2nd to the 10th centuries. The traditional Runic alphabet is called Elder Futhark. The word rune from the Old Norse “runar” means mystery, secret, whisper. Each rune has different meanings and properties.
According to Norse Mythology, the wisdom of the runes was delivered to the god Odin, after he was hung upside down from the cosmic tree Yggdrasil for 9 days, with a spear stuck in his side.
Initially, they were used for writing, but later, given their relationship with the gods and Scandinavian magic, began to be used as an amulet and method of divination.
What is the meaning of runes?
Runes are a form of writing that was used by the Germanic peoples, including the Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians, and Frisians. The word rune comes from the Germanic root run-, which means “secret” or “whisper.” Runes were usually carved on wood or stone, and were used for a variety of purposes, including magic, divination, and record-keeping.
The Runic alphabet Futhark
The traditional Runic alphabet Futhark takes its name from the first 6 Runes that compose it (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, Kenaz).
24 Runes are divided into 3 groups of 8 Runes, called Aettir (Aett singular). The Runes that make up each Aett were not chosen at random, but following a precise pattern that archetypically represents the evolutionary growth of the human being, in fact they are linked to each other. The younger futhark has only 16 runes.
The Three Runic Aettir
Aett of Freya
Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, Kenaz, Gebo and Wunjo
The Aett of Freya contains the most archaic symbols, related to the life of the first breeders and farmers: the first three runes (Fehu, Uruz and Thurisaz) deal with the themes of survival, the second three (Ansuz, Raido and Kenaz) are characterized by the search for the meaning of existence through the intellect and experience, the last two (Gebo and Wunjo) are addressed to the realization in the world and happiness.
Aett of Heimdall
Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Perth, Algiz and Sowilo
The Aett of Heimdall refers to the “Great Trials of Life,” necessary to forge character, and get in touch with the deeper meaning of existence: (Hagalaz) the relationship with death, (Hagalaz) with the pain of loss, (Nauthiz) with emptiness, (Isa) with the ability to be reborn from one’s own ashes, (Jera) to descend into the depths of the unconscious (Eihwaz) to penetrate through the central mysteries of love, (Perth) to contact the spiritual dimension (Algiz) and to be able to finally face in the fullness of choice (Sowelu) the last phase of the journey, the Aett of Tyr, which is then the last phase of life.
Aett of Tyr
Tiwaz, Berkana, Ehwaz, Mannaz, Laguz, Inguz, Othila and Dagaz
The Runes that are part of the last Aett, that of Tyr, represent the concrete realization of the knowledge acquired in the previous Aettir and the overcoming of individual positions to access the transpersonal dimension of the family, society and human community, then the management of power in harmony with cosmic laws, (Tyr) love, intimacy and balance in the couple relationship, (Berkana) collaboration with other human beings (Ehwaz), universal brotherhood (Mannaz), the responsibility to belong to civil society (Laguz), to contribute to the future of the planet through children, family, community and society (Inguz), to purify oneself, the planet and humanity from the negative influences of one’s genetic inheritance and previous lives (Othila or Othala) and to come to the understanding of God through enlightenment and fulfillment of the spirit (Dagaz).
Below, we have indicated the meaning of each RUNE in alphabetical order and the graphic sign that distinguishes it.
The traditional meaning of Algiz is protection, defense and illumination. The main meaning of this rune is protection and is one of the most benevolent runes that connects the survival instinct with the defense mechanisms.
A kind of self-protective force that is drawn from the spiritual source and forming a shield defends you from attacks and dangers from various levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It is the rune of discoveries that warns about imminent dangers in order to prevent misfortunes.
It is also a sign of great optimism and positivity helping us to receive inspiration for new creative ideas. Inverted indicates lack of protection and vulnerability to external circumstances.
Ansuz is the rune of communication and sound, especially in the language understood as intelligent communication and awareness. It signifies honesty, messages, meetings and success in an exam or test. Turned upside down it is an omen of bad advice, falsehood, deception, and therefore advises caution in dealing with others.
Feminine power, growth and security. This rune recalls the shape of the breast of a mother who has the power to nurture and take care of what must grow and manifest.
Berkana is sweet energy, maternal, which can indicate in addition to birth or marriage, even the beginning of an idea, a project or a new way of thinking to achieve a common goal.
So Berkana is considered to all intents and purposes the rune of beginnings. Turned upside down can mean a halt in growth, stagnation and disharmony within the family and the couple.
Day, completion. The rune Dagaz is the rune of awakening, the light of dawn after the darkness of night. It is compared to the butterfly that transforms out of the cocoon and free hovers in the sky and light.
It is an extremely favorable rune and, despite the obstacles, represents the strength and willingness to pursue projects and to conclude them successfully.
Horse, movement and progress. It is a rune that is associated with the bond between the horse, from which it derives its name, and its rider.
This alliance is what allows you to overcome obstacles by working in unison, which is why it recommends embarking on journeys or projects or collaborations with companions who share your way of thinking.
To summarize Eh represents physical, spiritual or legal ties between men. Reversed can foretell breakups of relationships and estrangement or falsehoods. In this case Ehwaz urges us not to change anything and wait for a more favorable time.
Tree of life, resistance. It is no coincidence that this rune represents the yew tree, long-lived and evergreen, and together with it is the confirmation of continuity and perseverance that can challenge all negative influences including death.
It represents the power that connects the mortality of the physical with the immortality of the spirit and helps us to feed the hope-giving continuity to the ideals to turn them into reality.
The Fehu rune has the symbol of a cow’s head with horns, an animal sacred to Hinduism and many other ancient religions. Literal meaning livestock abundance, translational meaning Success, work that bears fruit. Wealth.
In primitive cultures, cattle were used as currency. Livestock involved hard work and had to be fed and cared for, Fehu therefore indicates “sweated” wealth and not unexpected gain. It also means satisfaction, goals achieved, business and luck. Flipped indicates financial difficulties, passivity and boredom.
Gift, generosity. Gebo is one of the most favorable runes that can appear. It indicates receiving or giving a gift, generosity or hospitality offered and had. This rune foretells that the projects in progress will get positive results and especially referring to ties of couples a happy relationship without constraints on either side.
Hail, storm, breakage. This rune can be interpreted as a warning that operates in our subconscious to warn us that it is time to make a bitter but necessary change.
A change from a past history, unresolved problems and lessons never learned. Hagal teaches us that it’s time to face problems and recognize them so that we are not unprepared for sudden events and find the strength to continue on the path.
The continuity of life, development and progress. This rune can be compared to the DNA chain that contains all the information necessary for the creation of a new life. It heralds the completion of a favorable period and the beginning of another better.
It can also signify the realization of a project to which one had dedicated one’s whole life. In any case, the extraction of the Ing rune indicates the possibility of something favorable happening that could change our existence. It also represents the family union and descent
Ice, conservation, stagnation and isolation. This rune symbolizes the principle of static and preservation of things in their invariable state both for good and evil.
Like Hagal and Not also Is is not reversible and its meaning, therefore, remains unchanged however it occurs.
Extracted during divination, Is indicates that at the moment there is no possibility to change the order of things and any projects and works in progress will suffer delays.
It will therefore be better to “freeze” them until the arrival of a more favorable period.
Harvest, cyclical change, year. Jera is a favorable rune that heralds positive changes. It brings us gradually to maturity and the certainty of being able to reap the benefits of what was sown during a year of toil and hard work.
It is also a symbol of success in business and the harvest of fruits in the study. Jera warns, however, not to force events because there is a right time for everything.
Kenaz is a positive rune, that helps “healing” in all its aspects: from business difficulties to health problems. Rest, purification, transmutation.
The rune Kenaz offers us light in the dark giving us the opportunity to truly see what was previously hidden through transformation.
It opens up new possibilities and the strong impulse to express ourselves through art and creativity.
It means inspiration, revelation, discernment, and artistic talent. Turned upside down indicates loss of intuition and direction, end of a relationship whether of love or friendship or failure of a project just beginning.
Water, fluid force. This rune symbolizes the flowing water, carrier of regenerating life force. It is linked to changes in energy and growth through their experiences, has the task of helping us to understand the cyclical nature of things and give new impetus to the rebirth for the beginning of a new phase of life.
It can also help to strengthen the sensitivity, to harmonize with the “ups and downs” of life, and realize their potential.
Turned upside down indicates poor judgment, wrong intuitions, and situations for which you do not have the right requirements to deal with them positively.
Humanity, solidarity, intelligence, motivation. From the spiritual point of view, this rune represents the whole of humanity in the balance of the world around us and attests to the solidarity common to all men, regardless of age, race, sex or religion.
It indicates a balanced and correct mentality and embodies the power of the divine that pushes us in the direction of perfection.
Mannaz is a rune of the mind and controls verbal communication and intellectual abilities, although its true power is to unite reason with intuition thus creating a link between the conscious and unconscious. Inverted signify loneliness, pessimism and stubbornness, as well as a refusal to accept advice, opinions or points of view other than one’s own.
Necessity, need, resistance. This rune has as its first meaning the need, a need sought in the lack or shortage of something, then indicates limitations of all kinds even if not insurmountable.
It too is in fact the bearer of a warning that is to examine their projects and reflects very seriously on whether to continue or not, without, however, never give up hope.
It also gives us the strength to willingly accept suffering and sacrifice, making them, where possible, constructive in the hope of better times.
Also called Othala, means family possessions, heritage. This rune symbolizes the fence that delimits the property and innate qualities both spiritual and material. It is the power to obtain and predicts favorable answers to all questions concerning one’s possessions, family interests or social life.
Inverted can mean loss of property or exclusion from a community. It can also indicate disputes about inheritances or legacies, or a sudden request for repayment of a loan.
In any case Othila reversed indicates a problem that not even money or an inherited position can solve.
Secrets, cheerfulness. Perthro represents more than any other rune joy and exuberance even if placed in excess could indicate chatter and excessive “lightness”. It also reveals a hidden knowledge, an inner secret to be guarded and protected in order to later be born and progress.
It is not by chance that Perthro symbolizes the bag closed by a rope in which the runes are kept and from which they are extracted.
Turned upside down it indicates the warning not to participate in uncertain or unknown enterprises because the result would be a disaster and manifests the negative influence of others that could cause breakups of friendships or marriages.
Wheel, travel, path. This rune represents the movement and strength of a person in the decisions to be made. A journey to be undertaken in search of the values of each and consequently in search of self.
The return to the right path and to a correct order of things. Turned upside down it indicates impediments and delays in plans and projects already programmed, disturbances, sudden journeys full of inconveniences.
Sun, life force. The Sowilo rune symbolizes the imposing energy of the sun, source of light and life. It predicts a full success in any project to be undertaken, ensures good health and considerable vital energy to be channeled towards the result of their goals.
Beware, however, the hidden warning: sol, in fact, looks like a lightning bolt that can strike suddenly sweeping away everything in an instant and the ideology that in the past has used the power of this rune to dominate others has suffered the inevitable destruction and ruin.
Sowilo is not reversible but it can indicate in an unfavorable context that you have abused your energies or you have made improper use with the consequent loss of clarity in seeing the reality of things.
Thorn, protection. This rune impersonates the power of the hammer of the thunder god Thor that imposes respect. It represents the defense, the conscious action of the mind.
For the plant the thorn is a protection to keep away possible enemies. It also means luck and protection in business, regeneration. Turned upside down it indicates discouragement, passive resistance and uncertainty.
The spiritual warrior, courage. The Tiwaz rune has a very high power and represents strength, endurance and reliability.
It is a protective rune used anciently by ancient warriors to protect them in battle but also embodies the competitive spirit and the principle of hard work and overcome someone or something even at the cost of enormous sacrifices.
In fact Tiwaz is also the rune of the will, the willingness to give up something dear to restore balance and harmony. It is the strength that makes us continue despite the difficulties that must be motivated by noble ideals and not futile personal selfishness.
Tiwaz being a rune with masculine polarity in the context of a particular reading can indicate male sexuality, fertility and procreation. Turned upside down indicates the lack of positive qualities that expresses straight, namely surrender in the face of difficulties, lack of self-confidence and loss of enthusiasm.
The primitive force, resistance and energy that must flow in us without dominating us. It expresses the will to fight against all adversities and the ability to face anyone.
It can also mean iron health, courage, and self-confidence. Turned upside down it indicates hard feelings, poor health, lost opportunities and disappointments.
Joy, pride, good fortune. Wunjo represents the coming true of desires and the realization of projects. The pride and satisfaction of having accomplished a project and the joy for the work done.
She is able to harmonize and therefore bring peace on completely opposite points of view. It also favors the birth of new business relationships that can result in a positive economic situation.
Inverted indicates the opposite of joy: bad luck, sadness, impediment to projects and problems that could make your life chaotic and hectic, not allowing you to find inner peace.
White Rune or Odin’s Rune
It symbolizes all that is unpredictable and unknown to us. This rune symbolizes the All because, according to Norse mythology, Odin created the stars, planets, moons, mountains and oceans. Eventually, he created all the living things that inhabit the planet.
On the one hand, this rune stands for change, so whatever happens, you must accept it. On the other hand, the Odin rune is generally positive, so you should be happy about that change since it means progress in your life.
15 Facts about runes
- Runes were first used by Germanic and Nordic tribes as a form of writing and communication
- Each rune has a meaning and can be used for divination
- Runes can be used for magic and spells
- Runes can be used for healing
- Runes can be used for protection
- Runes can be used to connect with the spirit world
- Runes can be used to bring good luck
- Runes can be used to banish evil
- Runes can be used to increase psychic ability
- Runes can be used for manifestation
- Runes were first used over 1500 years ago
- There are 24 runes in the Elder Futhark, the most common form of the runic alphabet
- Runes were typically carved into wood or stone
- Runes were also used by the Vikings.
- Runes are still used today by some people for divination and magic.
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