The Origins of the Runes
The first systems of writing developed and used by the Germanic peoples were runic alphabets. The runes functioned as letters, but they were much more than just letters in the sense in which we today understand the term. Each rune was an ideographic or pictographic symbol of some cosmological principle or power, and to write a rune was to invoke and direct the force for which it stood. Indeed, in every Germanic language, the word “rune” (from Proto-Germanic *runo) means both “letter” and “secret” or “mystery,” and its original meaning, which likely predated the adoption of the runic alphabet, may have been simply “message.”
Each rune had a name that hinted at the philosophical and magical significance of its visual form and the sound for which it stands, which was almost always the first sound of the rune’s name. For example, the T-rune, called *Tiwaz in the Proto-Germanic language, is named after the god Tiwaz (known as Tyr in the Viking Age). Tiwaz was perceived to dwell within the daytime sky, and, accordingly, the visual form of the T-rune is an arrow pointed upward (which surely also hints at the god’s martial role). The T-rune was often carved as a standalone ideograph, apart from the writing of any particular word, as part of spells cast to ensure victory in battle
In the pre-Christian Germanic worldview, the spoken word possessed frightfully strong creative powers. Scandinavian scholar Catharina Raudvere suggests that the names of the runes, once spoken, have a magical influence over life. The impact of a sentence uttered aloud cannot be taken back, as if they have manifested into physical form. Words themselves therefore create reality. Words don’t merely reflect our perception of the world; rather, we perceive and experience the world in the particular ways that our words demand of us. Thinking without words is literally unthinkable, because all thought takes place in words, hence the inheren creative powers of words.
Each of the runes represents a phoneme – the smallest unit of sound in a language, such as “t,” “s,” “r,” etc. – and as such is a transposition of a phoneme into a visual form. The phonosemantic view of language is in agreement with the traditional northern European view, where “words create reality, not the other way around.” The runes, as transpositions of phonemes, bring the inherent creative powers of speech into a visual medium. We’ve already noted that the word “rune” means “letter” only secondarily, and that its primary meaning is “secret” or “mystery”; the mysterious animistic power carried by the phoneme itself.
With the runes, the phonosemantic perspective takes on an additional layer of significance. Not only is the relationship between the definition of a word and the phonemes that comprise it inherently meaningful; the relationship between a phoneme and its graphic representation is inherently meaningful as well.
Runes in History
The Nazis were fascinated by runes and their power and they are largely responsible for having fostered a great deal of confusion and misinformation about runes. As a result, the nature of runes in general has often been misunderstood and some, like the 'sowilo rune' (used as the now infamous symbol of the Nazi Schutzstaffel 'SS'), are now perceived as symbols of evil. But, there are many aspects to the runes and like all magical elements they can be invoked for either good or evil depending on the motivation of the user.
No one knows where the runes originated, but in a time where stone and not paper was the writing material of choice, the straight, simple lines of a runic alphabet were by far the easiest form to set down and record and so runic-style alphabets may have been in use in one form or another since prehistoric times. But, the runes are far more than a Stone Age alphabet.
The runes were used in many different forms and many different ways throughout most of Europe, although the version with which we tend to be most familiar is a system of 24 symbols, roughly equivalent to the letters of the alphabet. But, the traditional runes are far more than just letters. They represent mystical ideas and also serve as a connection to heritage and ancestry and they link us to the ancient past and the wisdom lost or discarded which is now hidden and waiting to be rediscovered.
Meanings and Interpretations of Each Rune Stone
FEHU - F: Cattle
Abundance through effort, inheritance of self and self value, material gain, earned income. Success, happiness and wealth.
Reversed: Abandonment of plans, loss, disappointment, frustration.
URUZ - U: Brute Strength
Strength, home love on all sides, health, changes, a forceful masculine archetype.
Reversed: Missed abilities, weak will power, lack of motivation
THURISAZ - TH: The seeing of the future
Opening the door or gate to see the future, luck reflection for action, protection. You will see the truth.
Reversed: Not willing to heed information given, having a stubborn mind-set
ANSUZ - A: references the ancestral god, Odin.
Message from within (listen to your 'little voice'), advice from others, chance encounter, careful thought so you will know what to do from this point in time
Reversed: Watch out for trickery, the dark side of yourself when others interfering with your plans, or there is failed communication
RAIDHO - R: Journey
You're about to embark on a journey - either in the physical world or a journey of your soul to heal something that needs healing.
Reversed: Unexpected, unpleasant journey, transit problems, upsetting plans, lost tickets, communication
KENAZ - K: Beacon or torch.
When you feel in the dark - this rune will bring an opening, to help you open to who you are and your highest possibilities. From the darkness - light will come.
Reversed: withdrawal, anxiety, closing, loss
GEBO - G: Gift of Harmonic Relationships
Unity with self and all others - especially with our higher selves, nature and all things around us. Cannot be reversed.
WUNJO - W or V: Bliss and Glory
You do not Need anybody. Peace, pleasure, self-worth, joy and serenity, happy results, harmony, prosperity
Reversed: Sorrow, dissatisfaction, disappointment, friction, delay, possession by higher forces
HAGALAZ - H: Destructive forces
This refers to the destructive forces of nature, and things that are out of our control. Cannot be reversed.
NAUTHIZ - N: The Negatives of Human Needs
Caution, hold, coming in touch with a side of you that you may not like, resistance, distress, delay, constraint or restraint. Reflect on how bad things can and appreciate what you have.
Reversed: Improper course of action, think twice before acting, don't make hasty judgments!!
ISA - I: Ice
Frozen in time, calm, non-action, everything on hold, letting go of ego and seeking your inner truths, you are blocked by your emotions. Cannot be reversed.
JERA - J or Y: The Cycle of One Year
Reaping of a reward when your world seems stagnant, harvest the seeds you have planted, gain, fruition, things happening in their own time and space when they are supposed to! Cannot be reversed.
EIHWAZ - EI: Yew Tree
Stability, doing the right things, patience, perseverance, endurance. Decided what is the right way to get the things accomplished in your life. Cannot be reversed.
PERTHRO - P: Initiation, Things Unexplained, Something Hidden
A hieratic or mystery rune pointing to that which is beyond our frail manipulative powers.
Perth is associated with the Phoenix, the mystical bird which consumes itself in the fire then rises from its own ashes. Its ways aresecret and hidden. Powerful forces of change are at work here. Yet what is achieved is not easily or readily shared. After all becoming whole - the means of it - is a profound secret. On the side of the Earthly or mundane, there may well be surprises, gains or rewards that you did not anticipate. On the side of human nature this Rune is symbolized by the flight of the eagle. Soaring flight, free from entanglement, lifting yourself above the endless ebb and flow of ordinary life to acquire broader vision - all this is indicated here.
Perth stands for the heart of Initiation - Nothing external matters here, except as it shows you in its inner reflection. ThisRune is concerned with the deepest stratum of our being, the bedrock on which our destiny is founded. For some Perth means experiencing some form of death - or transition. It is a letting go of everything, no exceptions, no exclusions. Nothing less than renewal of the Spirit is at stake.
Hidden information and truths, mysteries, esoteric, that which is unknown on a conscious level, it could come into the light and you would understand the 'higher meaning' of things.
Reversed: Events stalled, you need to clear out something - unpleasant surprise - the old way has to come to an end, do not focus on outcomes, nor bind yourself with memories of past achievements or you will orb yourself of the true present. When your inner being is shifting and reforming, on a deep level, patience, constancy, and perseverance are called for.
Do no repeat the old - let it go!
The initiation - the veils of the illusion are being lifted - let the old ways go!
Stay centered, see the humor and keep your faith firm.
Spirit guides - (How interesting as my guide is Zoroaster and I call him Z!) - protection, fortunate new influence, making the connection with spirit and working through your issues.
SOWILO - S: The Sun
The circle is completion - wholeness, the sun, the path to awareness and self knowledge. See you 'dark side' - that which makes you destructive to yourself and others. Seek change to heal and be complete with yourself. Cannot be reversed
TEIWAZ - T: Tyr, the sky god.
To be successful in competition, very motivated, finding the spiritual or transcendental self.
Reversed: Low energy and lack of enthusiasm
BERKANA - B: Birch-goddess
To be prepared, cautious in what you do. Also references your family and home.
Reversed: An unfortunate domestic situation - so use caution.
EHWAZ - E: The Sacred Horse
The balance of things in the universe, stability, move forward carefully focusing on the tools that will help you get there
Reversed: Sudden unexpected change that is not wanted
MANNAZ - M: The nature of Humanity
The self and its place in the collective conscience of humanity. We are all part of the collective unconscious - we are all One. Your attitude towards and their attitudes towards you. Take this time for personal reflection. Cannot be reversed.
LAGUZ - L: Water - Emotions
The moon, the flow of emotions and all things into the collective unconscious - all bodies of water - Aquarius - feminine energies - higher mind, spirituality, health and healing - a time of cleansing.
Reversed: Not listening to your inner voice, tackling something you know you should not do - or are not capable of doing.
INGWAZ - NG: Fertility
Fertility of the joining of human beings, usually for a new life - a pregnancy. Finish what you are doing, tie up lose ends and start something new. Cannot be reversed.
DAGAZ - D: Daylight or Dawn.
A new day begins and go to work. You become more insightful, breaking through your new ideas. Light is around you. Cannot be reversed.
OTHALA - O: Ancestral property - Inheritance
Freedom and independence through releasing ideas and things that keep you 'stuck'. You will feel 'free'. You will inherit from someone.
Reversed: Not letting go of outmoded ideas and concepts. You will feel 'stuck'.
BLANK RUNE: Sometimes called "Odin's Rune":
Anything is possible and can happen. The sum total of who you are, what you have done, and what you have become. Choose a direction and go for it. The blank Rune was added to the others in the 1980's. It shows that as humanity has grown - the possibilities are beyond what was conceived by the original Runes. Some people include the blank Rune in a reading - while others leave it out! I prefer to leave it in as the Universe has limitless possibilities!! If you get this Rune - and you believe in yourself - you can manifest anything.
Helpful Sites for Beginners
Rune Stone Meanings