A Beginner’s Guide to Nordic Runes

Norse runes are an ancient writing system used by the Germanic peoples, including the Vikings, during the early Middle Ages. They are not only a form of writing but also a system of divination and magic. There are several runic alphabets, but the most commonly known is the Elder Futhark, that originated in the early Germanic societies of Northern Europe. They were used primarily for writing inscriptions on various objects, such as gravestones, weapons, and personal belongings. The word “rune” itself means “secret” or “mystery,” suggesting that these symbols held mystical significance even in their early use.

The Elder Futhark consists of 24 characters, each representing a specific sound in the Germanic languages of the time. As mentioned, runes were not just a writing system; they were deeply intertwined with the culture and spirituality of the Nordic realm.

The use of runes for divination and magic is often referred to as “runecasting” or “rune reading.” This practice involves interpreting the meaning of the runes drawn or cast in a specific order or pattern. Here’s a closer look at how runes were used in divination and magic:

Divination: Runes were consulted to seek guidance, answer questions, or gain insight into the past, present, or future. Traditionally, people would often carve their questions or concerns onto wooden sticks or stones and then draw runes to receive answers. Interpretation was done based on the meanings of the individual runes and their positions within the casting.

Protection and Magic: Runes were believed to possess inherent magical properties, and they were used for protection, healing, and empowerment. They could be inscribed on amulets, weapons, or personal items to ward off evil, enhance one’s abilities, or bring good fortune.

Elder Futhark Runes and Their Meanings

Fehu (ᚠ)

Symbolises wealth, cattle, and material possessions.

It represents abundance, financial gain, and prosperity. In a broader sense, it can also signify personal or spiritual wealth. Inscribe Fehu onto your workings when doing money magic.

Uruz (ᚢ)

Represents strength, vitality, and the wild ox.

Uruz embodies primal power, endurance, and the ability to overcome challenges. It’s a rune of personal growth and transformation. Inscribe Uruz onto your workings when doing transformational or healing spells.

Thurisaz (ᚦ)

This rune is associated with protection, defense, and the thorn.

It can also represent chaos, conflict, or the need to defend oneself against external threats. Thurisaz is a symbol of inner strength and resilience. Inscribe Thurisaz onto your workings when doing protection or chaos magic.

Ansuz (ᚨ)

Signifies communication, divine inspiration, and the mouth.

Ansuz represents the power of words, wisdom, and the ability to convey ideas effectively. It’s often seen as a connection to higher knowledge. Inscribe Ansuz onto your workings when seeking to enhance your psychic abilities.

Raido (ᚱ)

Represents journeys, travel, and riding.

Raido symbolises both physical and spiritual journeys, progress, and the path of life. It can indicate travel, both literal and metaphorical. Inscribe Raido onto your workings when performing personal growth spells (or etch it into something to carry while travelling for a smooth journey).

Kenaz (ᚲ)

Symbolises knowledge, enlightenment, and the torch.

Kenaz represents inner wisdom, creativity, and the spark of inspiration. It’s a rune associated with learning and illumination. Use Kenaz when invoking wisdom.

Gebo (ᚷ)

Signifies gifts, partnerships, and exchange.

Gebo represents balance, harmony, and the giving and receiving of gifts and energy. It can symbolise partnerships, both personal and business-related. Inscribe Gebo onto your workings when doing sex magick or love spells. It’s also a great ally when working with your seventh house in astrology.

Wunjo (ᚹ)

Represents joy, happiness, and harmony.

Wunjo is associated with emotional well-being, contentment, and the fulfillment of desires. It signifies a state of bliss and inner peace. Inscribe Wunjo onto your workings when attracting good vibes and happiness.

Hagalaz (ᚺ)

Symbolises disruption, hail, and crisis.

Hagalaz represents unexpected challenges, upheaval, and the need to adapt to changing circumstances. It’s a rune of cleansing and transformation. Use Hagalaz to embrace inevitable change and transformation.

Nauthiz (ᚾ)

Signifies need, constraint, and resistance.

Nauthiz represents limitations, hardship, and the lessons that come from adversity. It can indicate the need to confront obstacles and make necessary changes. Inscribe Nauthiz onto your workings when you need some self-control – it can help when you’re trying to drop a bad habit.

Isa (ᛁ)

Represents ice, stillness, and reflection.

Isa symbolises a period of stagnation or a need to pause and reflect. It can also indicate a temporary blockage or obstacle in one’s path. Inscribe Isa onto your workings when seeking clarity.

Jera (ᛇ)

Signifies harvest, reward, and cycles.

Jera represents the cycles of nature, the passage of time, and the culmination of efforts. It’s a rune of patience and the reaping of rewards. Inscribe Jera onto your workings when you want to predict the future, or work with the natural cycles of life.

Eihwaz (ᛅ)

Symbolises the yew tree, transformation, and endurance.

Eihwaz represents personal growth, change, and the ability to adapt and endure in challenging situations. It’s a rune of resilience. Use Eihwaz when you’re crafting a resilience spell.

Perthro (ᛈ)

Represents initiation, hidden things, and fate.

Perthro symbolises a mystery or secret that may lead to a significant change or initiation. It can also signify the hand of fate guiding one’s path. Inscribe Perthro onto your workings when doing consecrations or when you’re doing some new moon magic.

Algiz (ᛉ)

Signifies protection, spiritual connection, and the elk.

Algiz represents protection from harm, spiritual guidance, and the higher self. It can indicate a guardian or a sense of being watched over. Inscribe Algiz onto your workings when doing protection magic.

Sowilo (ᛊ)

Symbolises the sun, success, and wholeness.

Sowilo represents personal power, achievement, and the light of enlightenment. It’s a rune of positivity and success. Inscribe Sowilo onto your workings when doing success spells.

Tiwaz (ᛏ)

Represents victory, justice, and honor.

Tiwaz symbolises courage, honor, and victory in battle. It can also signify the pursuit of justice and righteous actions. You can use Tiwaz when you’re putting some magic behind legal matters.

Berkana (ᛒ)

Signifies growth, fertility, and new beginnings.

Berkana represents the birch tree, renewal, and the potential for growth and expansion. It’s associated with fertility and the birth of new ideas. Inscribe Berkana onto your workings when doing fertility spells.

Ehwaz (ᛖ)

Symbolises partnership, teamwork, and movement.

Ehwaz represents collaboration, trust, and the power of working together toward a common goal. It can also indicate a physical or metaphorical journey. Inscribe Ehwaz onto your workings when doing coven or group work.

Mannaz (ᛗ)

Signifies humanity, self, and community.

Mannaz represents the individual self, self-awareness, and the interconnectedness of humanity. It’s associated with social relationships and cooperation. Use Mannaz when seeking harmony for your community.

Laguz (ᛚ)

Represents water, intuition, and emotions.

Laguz symbolises the flow of emotions, intuition, and the subconscious mind. It’s associated with healing, renewal, and the mysteries of the deep. Inscribe Lagaz onto your workings when working with your intuition or doing emotional spellwork.

Ingwaz (ᛜ)

Signifies fertility, internal growth, and the god Ing.

Ingwaz represents inner growth, potential, and the seed of new beginnings. It’s associated with the god Ing, a symbol of fertility. Inscribe Ingwaz onto your workings when focusing on personal development.

Dagaz (ᛞ)

Symbolises day, breakthrough, and enlightenment.

Dagaz represents a new dawn, breakthroughs, and personal enlightenment. It signifies clarity, transformation, and a fresh start. Inscribe Dagaz onto your workings when seeking enlightenment.

Othala (ᛟ)

Represents ancestral property, inheritance, and heritage.

Othala symbolises ancestral roots, inheritance, and the connection to one’s heritage. It can indicate a sense of belonging and stability. Inscribe Othala onto your workings when doing house magic or connecting with ancestors.

Today, the use of Norse runes for divination, magic, and spiritual practices has been revived and adapted by modern practitioners of Norse Paganism, witches, and other neopagan movements. If you’re interested in working with runes, it’s essential to approach them with respect for their historical and cultural significance. Learning about the runic lore and the broader context of Norse mythology and spirituality can deepen your understanding and connection to these ancient symbols.

Jade is a shadow worker and lunar witch, an experienced witchcraft facilitator, and hosts the 8-week High Priestess course: Dedicant.