Ralph H. Blum's rune tiles
|Rune Memory Helpers
I created these textual mnemonics (memory helpers) to help me remember what oracular meanings are assigned to the runes, characters said to be an adaptation of an extinct North Italic alphabet or even Latin. These are the meanings I feel comfortable with as a starting point, as each rune has multiple interpretations and there are opposing meanings for reverse runes (in an upside-down position) that are not discussed here.
The legendary origin of the rune alphabet comes from a belated Eddic poem tale of the chief Norse god Odin who, sacrificially bloodied by his own blade, hung himself from the wind-battered great tree Yggdrasil for nine days. From that trying time without food or water, he swept up the runes to his bosom from the deep. Initiates recreate Odin's discovery of the mysteries each and every time by their own studies.
Commonly recognized runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (24 runes), Younger Futhark (16 runes), and Old English futhorcs. The sharp angular design of the runes comes from their being carved into wood with a knife. There are few horizontal lines, which would have followed the grain of the wood. Longer-lasting records of runes are found on clay vessels, stone slabs (e.g., memorials, tombstones, pillow-stones beneath the heads of the deceased, Christian cross fragments, jewelry (bracteates of thin metal, amulet rings), gold and silver coins, bone pieces, and spears and swords.
The three-rune spread is one of the most popular spreads used for modern divination. This spread can be read either from right to left or left to right, depending on the reader's preference. The following tiles are to be read from left to right.
To answer a YES-NO question, one guidance tile or three tiles together can be read as positive or negative.
As for the pronunciations of the Germanic rune names, they can only be approximated, partly because some sounds are not
normally produced in English. Runic vowels are pronounced by modern readers the same as Spanish and Japanese vowels:
/a/ as in "father," /e/ as in "get," /i/ as in "ski," /o/ as in "for," /u/ as in "Sue." Long vowels are marked with a macron over them;
they are not like English long vowels (diphthongs), but are the individual vowel held slightly longer, the additional length
indicated in the phonetic transcriptions by a colon (:).
Consonant pronunciations to keep in mind are:
• "d" represents a voiced /th/ as in "these," e.g., the "d" in "dagaz" (day) alphabetically is a "d," but phonetically it is a voiced /th/.
• Otherwise, "th" is pronounced like an unvoiced /th/ as in "cloth."
• "j" is pronounced like "y" in "yellow."
• Choose a Rune Spread, ifate.com. Fun interactive site with free online rune readings.
• "Runic Alphabet (Futhark)," Omniglot: Writing systems and languages of the world
The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: The Viking Runes with Stones. 10th anniversary ed. Commentary by Ralph H. Blum. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. Blum adapted the historical runes and helped to popularize their use for divination. However, the fingernails-on-chalkboard sound of the ceramic rune tiles rubbing against each other (the tiles come with the book) can get on your nerves. Blum uses Germanic rune names.
A Practical Guide to the Runes: Their Uses in Divination and Magick by Lisa Peschel. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1989. 13th printing, 2006. A basic book that keeps things simple and is easy to understand. Peschel uses Old English rune names.
Runes: An Introduction by Ralph W.V. Elliott. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. Orig. pub. Manchester University Press in Oxford, UK, 1959. Written by a scholarly runologist, who like many of the kind (there are exceptions) are fairly dismissive of the strong associations made between runes and magic, preferring to focus on their mundane uses for writing and recording, including cryptography (coding secret messages). On present-day occult runic texts, Elliott opines, "Such books are the by-products of recent and contemporary fantasy fiction, for in this genre runic mythology is alive and thriving. (p. 98)" Elliott's book is listed as a reference for the historical development of runes; toward the back are 26 pages of photographs of rune-inscribed artifacts.
Runes and Magic: Magical Formulaic Elements in the Older Runic Tradition by Stephen E. Flowers. American University Studies, Series I: Germanic Languages and Literature, vol. 53. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1986. Best appreciated after reading the publications of other scholarly runologists which are reviewed and discussed in this study. Flowers acknowledges, "One of the principal deficiencies in the study of runes and magic has historically been the routine neglect of magic in ethnological and religious historical terms and the possibility of linking it with runological study. In this regard, a singular shortcoming has been the lack of a comprehensive […] definition of the concept 'magic' and the contextual placement of that idea within the runic tradition." (p. 1)
Taking Up the Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic by Diana L. Paxson. Newburyport, MA: Weiser Books, 2005. This is an in-depth book for the layperson. Some people may recognize Paxson as a collaborative author associated with Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon fantasy series.
Based on THE ELDER FUTHARK and the 5th-century Kylver grave chamber stone (see above) from Gotland, Sweden. Proto-Germanic names are favored here.
(*"Futhark" is made up of the first six letters of its alphabet, the same way "alphabet" is from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, "alpha" and "beta.")
FEHU (fe-hu) = name & pronun.
earned property (cattle) = meaning
money does grow on trees = mnemonic
wealth, prosperity = connotation and divination
auroch (extinct ancestor
of domestic cattle)
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
unharnessed potential, strength
Thor (Norse god of thunder)
Thor's hammer Mjōllnir
god, mouth, Odin (Norse god
of wisdom & magic,
assoc. Roman god Mercurius)
sunlight breaking through clouds
ride (in a cart or wagon)
KĒNAZ (ke:n-az), torch
Kauna- (kau-na), sore, swelling, ulcer
start of something
religious offering, gift
"X" to sign a contract
hail, shower of arrows
hailstones falling from cloud
arm blocking someone's path
fruitful year, good harvest
farmworkers bent over in the field
evergreen common yew tree
(tree species Taxus baccata)
power; slow, patient growth
mouth of goblet
European elk (moose)
shield, protection against evil
(assoc. with ancient swastika)
"S" stands for sun.
Tyr (Norse god of battle & justice,
who lost his hand to the wolf Fenrir.)
The only way to go is up.
victory in competition
silver birch tree
with shimmering leaves
(tree species Betula pendula)
large-breasted pregnant woman
female fertility, birth
(Horse pictographs were also
used with runes; assoc. Odin.)
two persons talking
LAGUZ (la-guz), water
Laukaz (lau-kaz), leek,
an herbal vegetable assoc. with
healing and increase (growth)
intuition, imagination, fluidity
god-hero Ing, or titular ref.*
to Freyr (Norse god of fertility)
(*Eddic poem Lokasenna)
cracks in the earth
butterfly has emerged from chrysalis
or Ōthala- (o:-tha-la)
keyhole to family chest
inheritance, possessions, what is
received from family and friends
|A modern addition for divination|
void, wheel of fortune
|"None should write runes
Who can't read what he carves:
A mystery mistaken
Can bring men to misery."
—Warning from Egil's Saga,
trans. H. Pálsson and Paul Edwards.
|"I cut runes of help,
I cut runes of protection,
once against the elves,
twice against the trolls,
thrice against the ogres."
—Charm found on a rúnakefli
(wooden stick or piece with runes)
in the Bergen collection of
(Elliott, p. 93)
|"I chant against
the spirit (of the dead),
against the walking (-dead),
against the riding ones,
against the sitting ones,
against the ones falling down,
against the traveling ones,
(and) against the flying ones.
All shall decay and die away."
—Formula found on Högstena
bronze amulet against evildoers
(trans. Svärdström; Flowers, p. 287)
|"Read your instruments well, and be the good captain who steers one's ship safely to its port and is welcomed home with cold ale and hot stew."|