Traditional Runestaves

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A Northern-Tradition means of making a lot of runes and loading them with the essence of the rune(s).

There are several formats to which a runestave is made. First you have the small round rune stave. Made from tree branches or dowels at an approximate size of 1/2-3/4 in. Cut in intervals of 1/4 in.

Second is the rectangular stave. Made from a small slip of wood that's shaven and trimmed to about 1/16 inch thick. Can also be made from wood veneer.

Third is the short runestave. It's made from short twigs or square strips of wood 2-3 in in length and 1/4 in wide. The rectangular and short runestaves are convenient for being carried in your pockets or purse.

The fourth method is the long stave. Considered to be the most traditional method; despite lack of evidence to verify that consideration. It's made from a tapering twig 5-6 inch in length; 1/4-1/2 in wide at the top where the rune is inscribed. This stave can be rough or smoothed, bark or no bark, but at the wide end it is smoothed at the surface for inscribing the rune.

Lastly is the card. Think of these like tarot cards. You have the rune symbol it self large in the center, the name of the rune small at the top (usually written in runes, of course) and the phonetic number of the rune small at the bottom. Simple enough. Just get a blank paper card and have at it.

To many the material used may have no importance, but for those who like to be traditional it holds much importance. The staves should be made from wood or bone, but some metals and crystals are accepted as traditional.

Let's talk wood. (Ha) The use of wood for the runes is, more-or-less, a reminder of Yggdrasil. What tree is used for the runestaves isn't much a matter, though some may feel it to matter - so it's a personal choice really. What really holds ground is the method to which the gathering of wood is acted. Whether you are just randomly pick a tree, determining which tree for each rune (if different trees for separate staves) or some divine enlightenment on the matter, there is a ritual to be done in the gathering of the wood; even the time of cutting and section of the tree wood is taken from is considered. Wood shoild be cut at dawn, noon, twilight, or midnight; determined by the rune's character. Each Aett has a significance in the bending of the tree branches. Those familiar with runes and the airts knows that each Aett represents a different aspect: inner, outer, and the transcending balance of in and out (dualism.) For runes of the first Aett, wood should be cut from the tree on the eastern portion (outer Aett.) The inner-inclined second Aett has wood cut from the western side. For the third Aett, wood is cut from the northern and/or southern portion of the tree.

Before cutting wood for the lots a hammer hallowing is done on the tree to include the entire tree in the process. You can do another hallowing instead, if you would like. When positioned and ready to cut the wood a chant is spoken. It is as follows:

"Hail to thee, might of (tree name*)!

I bid thee give this branch!

into it send thy speed,

To it bind the might of the rune (rune name**)!"

As you cut the wood hum or sing the rune name.** when you are finished removing the wood give thanks to the wight of the tree. In a way such as:

"Wight of the (tree name*), take my thanks.

Henceforth by thy might in this branch!

Deeply bound to the rune of (rune name**).

* If taking from more than one tree then both will be said for each tree wood is taken from. You could take from a single tree for which you need say the paragraphs quoted once.*

** At this part the runes are named. If you take wood for only one rune then only name that rune. However if you take for more than one - or in the case of using one tree for the whole set - then you will name and hum/sing the rune names individually. What you take for you name.**

Next the wood is cut to sized and smoothed. Edred describes this next part as "loading the lots." He says this can be done over 24 consecutive days for each rune individually, in groups by Aett, or all at once. Whichever is up to you. He describes the procedure as loading the non-specific runes with the essence of the rune inscribed on the piece. A hallowing is performed and also helps to ward unwanted things.

If making a dye for your runes, now is the time to make it. However, this is not a necessity. Next, Thorsson tells to stand before the harrow where the lots are placed (the harrow is an altar made of stone that's outdoors.) Stand in the elhaz-rune position the the arms stretched at a 45 degree angle. Call upon the names of the runes intended to load. Repeat the names again whilst tracing the the rune over each lot to be loaded. Stand back in the elhaz-rune position and call the names again.

Carve the rune into the lot whilst singing the rune name. As you are doing so visualize the runemight flowing from everywhere - willfully - into you, through your centre, into your arm, and through the tool used for carving the rune. The runemight being inlaid into each groove made by your risting tool. Now, you will redden the runestave. It's suggested to use a red stain or blood for the painting. A thin brush or pointed stave is used to inlay the dye into the grooves of the runestave. Sing in galdr the rune name as you paint the runestave and thinking of the meaning to mystery. When done it is good to meditate on all aspects of the runestave painted.

Old rune poems tell of formali is spoken over the runes; a way of setting the doom of the rune, speaking its orlog. It can either be the old rune formali or a specially made one of your own. Either one can also be used as a mnemonic for rune readings. The loading formali is as follows:

For binding the nigh of the rune to the lot draw/trace three rings around the taufr whilst singing:

"Runemight hold

the holy runes,

Right rede shall

They ever rown." (Rown means whisper)

Once all runestaves are loaded and places in a container you wish to store them in, sing the closing verse:

"Now the work

Has been wrought

With the might

Of mikle runes."


At the Well of Wyrd: A Handbook of Runic Divination by Edred Thorsson.

Added to on Dec 29, 2012
Last edited on Jul 28, 2018
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