Well I'm writing this article as a brief yet comprehensive guide to the runes. I'll start by talking about the history and origination of the runes. Then discuss their application. Finally, this article will provide a brief overview of the Futhark. This article will focus on the Elder Futhark, there are variations but the Elder Futhark is the earliest form, and all others branch from this system.
To begin the Elder Futhark originated an estimated 1900 years ago, around 150ad and stayed in use until around the 8th century. Later variations of the Futhark were then developed and used. The Elder Futhark provided two roles in northern Germanic societies; One being a written language, and two being a form of divination, with various other magick applications as well. This article will focus more primarily on the later.
In terms of development as an alphabet most scholars agree that the runes are based on Old Italic alphabets. These share many of the symbols. In such the runic alphabet is a Proto-European language, or Aryan language. There are also a few variations of the actual origin, but the similarities of Old Italic script and Elder Futhark are hard to deny, especially when you consider the usage of Germanic people in mercenary armies of the Imperial Roman Empire of the time period.
The runes also have a mythological appearance as well, which is what stems the majority of mysticism related to the topic. In mythology, Odin hung himself from his spear upon the great tree Yggdrasil. While he hung for nine days and nine nights, Odin "took up" the runes. He later taught these runes to the Aesir, including Heimdallr. Heimdallr in a later poem walks the earth known as Rigr, teaching people and creating classes among them. He lies with women and has many children, one of which he teaches the runes to and later who in turn teaches Heimdallr of some secrets. This son is then given the title of Rigr, and assumes Heimdallrs role for the continuation of the poem; in such the runes also have a mythological appearance in northern Germanic society. This is a trait carried among many Aryan languages and is seen throughout cultures utilizing Indo-European linguistics.
One major question concerning the runes is how to apply them as a form of magick. Well the shape of the runes are said to mimic the natural forms and extensions of energy within the universe. The runes also mimic the human form at times. They are a representation of nature, and of man; in a sense they are a representation of natural life energies. So with this in mind I want to discuss the various uses of runes over the centuries. Well the obvious usage was as a written language. One of the most common types of uses for runes was inscription, various objects were written on to embed within them the power of the runes. Another use of the runes was to raise a Runestones; these were most common in the Viking era. Runestones, like tombstones today, were used to commemorate a fallen comrade, often brightly colored these stones were scripted with the runes. Another application of the runes was through divination, this was known as casting. Casting of the runes is probably the most commonly known application of them today. In this article, I will be covering one method of casting. However, I will say that there are and have been a great deal of variations. Just as each person's energies are unique, so too are the magicks they implore. Another way to look at this is that in the two thousand years that the runes have been used for magickal applications many people have interpreted their use differently.
Before I talk about how to actually cast runes, I want to take a moment and explore the concepts of behind them. In Norse tradition there is a substance known as Wyrd. Now the Wyrd is similar to fate in a manner, however the key difference is that the Wyrd is not final. The concept of the Wyrd is that when a person takes any action, that action has a universal effect. That effect changes the course of the future. So the Wyrd encompasses the past, present, and the ever changing possibilities of the future. Now the runes are intimately tied to this Wyrd. So when you cast the runes for divination, and you interpret a rune as representation of the future, remember this is the course your on now, but it can also be altered.
I am now going to describe the most simplistic form of casting runes for the purpose of divination that I am aware of. Note: that this method was not developed by me personally, but was taught to me. For this casting you will need three objects, a white cloth, a small bag, and the 24 Elder Futhark runes. Simply lay the white cloth out before you and take a moment to prepare yourself. I personally like to meditate for a moment and do some breathing exercises. When you are ready, place the runes into the bag and hold it with both hands in front of you. Focus your intent of what it is that you would like to understand from this reading. Reach into the bad and touch the runes until you find one that has a good "feeling" to you. I say "feeling" as this is really your own intuition and subconscious choosing the rune for you. Place it on the white cloth before you. Do this two more times and make a row of three on the cloth. The first rune represents the past, the next the present and the final the possible outcome if this course remains unchanged. There are also more complex layouts or methods of casting you can use, but as I said earlier this is the most simplistic method I know of.
As for the actual Elder Futhark, the interpretation of runes can be quite extensive; it is my personal suggestion that if this topic is of interest to you, that you should do offsite research and read books, runes are one of the most highly covered topics in mysticism and you won't have a problem finding information. I won't be able to show the actual runes on this site, so I suggest you search for them online. I will be able to provide the name of the runes, their aett, and a basic meaning to each. Note: Runes when reversed often have adverse meanings, so that should be accounted for when interpreting them.
Freya's Aett consists of:
Fehu : Cattle: Vital Energy, Circulation of Wealth, Talents, also Destructive
Uruz : Aurochs: Untamed Energy, Masculine Power, Healing, Savage/Destruction
Thurisaz : Thorn/Giant: Raw Power, Balance, Defense, Destruction/Chaos
Ansuz : God: Speech, Insight, Higher Self, number 8
Raidho : Wagon/Riding: Communication, Travel, Personal Journey, Law and Justice
Kenaz : Torch: Creativity, Control, Initiation, Comprehension
Gebo : Gift: Equal Exchange, Friendship, Hospitality
Wunjo : Joy: Emotional Healing, Perseverance, Friendship
Heimdallr's Aett consists of:
Hagalaz : Hail: Destruction, Renewal through Destruction (think phoenix)
Nauthiz : Need: (refers to a fire, one that is needed to stay alive) Hardship, Stress, Poverty
Isa : Ice: Stability, Permanence, Stagnation, Deceit
Jera : Year/Harvest: Natural Growth, Long-term Plans, Fruition, Patience
Eihwaz : Yew: Yggdrasil, Magic, Balance, Death/Birth Cycle, Union of Opposites
Pertho : Cup: (this one is confusing; it refers to the well of wyrd) Chance, Possibility, Birth, Undetermined Outcome
Algiz : Elk: Cleansing, Protection, Defense, Sacredness
Sowilo : Sun: Light, Triumph, Healing, Magic, Resurrection, Honor
Tyr's Aett consists of:
Tiwaz : Tyr: Glory, Sacrifice for Benefit, Loyalty, Guidance, Faith
Berkano : Birch Tree: Concealment, Rebirth, Female Fertility, Potential
Ehwaz : Horse: Trust, Emotional Bonds, Journey (spiritual path)
Mannaz : Man: Divine Heritage, Mortality, Divine self
Laguz : Lake: Unconsciousness, Possibility of outcome (wyrd), Purifying
Ingwaz : Ing: Male virility, Peace, material enjoyment
Dagaz : Day: Enlightenment, Revelation, Banishing, Protection
Othala : Family lands: Boundaries and stability, kin, inheritance, wealth