The Elder Futhark is one of the most common alphabets used in rune casting, a divination method that is also beginner-friendly. Although it can take years to master the art of reading runes, you can start your journey with simple layouts and even create your own rune set with very cheap and easy to find materials.
But first things first… Let’s understand what are runes and where the mysterious Elder Futhark alphabet comes from!
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What are runes?
Runes are a series of characters that were used as a writing system. There are some sources that speak vaguely about their use in magic and divination (such as a small paragraph in Germania by Tacitus or in Ynglinga Saga by Snorri Sturluson), although we don’t have definitive evidence about this. But we have one clue in the word “rune” itself: it has the Germanic root run- that means “secret” or “whisper”.
The most well-known runic alphabets belonged to different Germanic and Nordic tribes. These famous alphabets are the Elder Futhark (used between 150 AD and 800 AD), the Anglo-Saxon Futhork (used between 400 AD and 1100 AD) and the Younger Futhark (used between 800 AD and 1100 AD), but there are hundreds of variations, which ended up disappearing after the Christianization of Northern Europe.
What is Rune Casting?
Rune casting, also known as Rune divination, is a form of oracle and a powerful tool for introspection. Unlike most people think, this method isn’t used to predict the future or to give you an exact answer to a problem. Casting the runes is a way to access your subconscious mind and unravel what’s in it.
It is important to understand the concept of fate for Norsemen and women. Instead of seeing the future as something fixed and immutable, which puts us in the role of a victim, they saw it as a result of one’s actions. What we do today will have consequences (good or bad) for us and for others, everything is interconnected.
Because of this, the runes won’t give you a clear answer, but instead, they will help you reflect on your past and present actions and guide you through a possible outcome, should you continue acting in the same way.
The Elder Futhark Runes Meanings
The Elder Futhark alphabet consists of 24 characters, organised into 3 different aetts of 8 runes each. Each rune represents a sound and also has a complex meaning associated with it.
Rune Meanings Chart
This simple chart contains the translation of each rune and a very brief explanation of its meaning, so you can learn how to read runes for divination:
|ᚠ||Fehu||F||Cattle, material wealth, fulfilment|
|ᚢ||Uruz||U||Wild ox, primordial energy, strength|
|ᚦ||Thurisaz||TH||Giants, Mjölnir, reactive force, danger|
|ᚨ||Ansuz||A||Mouth, Odin, communication, knowledge|
|ᚱ||Raido||R||Wagon, travel, taking action|
|ᚲ||Kenaz||C/K||Torch, new ideas, illumination|
|ᚷ||Gebo||G||Gift, exchange, generosity|
|ᚹ||Wunjo||W||Joy, harmony, hope|
|ᚺ||Hagalaz||H||Hail, uncontrollable events, destruction before rebirth|
|ᚾ||Nauthiz||N||Patience, crossing the abyss, hardship|
|ᛁ||Isa||I||Ice, stillness, self-control|
|ᛃ||Jera||J/Y||Years, harvest, life’s cycles|
|ᛇ||Eihwaz||Ï||Yew tree, death, major transformation|
|ᛈ||Pertho||P||Mystery, occult knowledge, coincidence|
|ᛉ||Algiz||Z||Elk, defence, support|
|ᛋ||Sowilo||S||Sun, energy, success|
|ᛏ||Tiwaz||T||The God Tyr, justice after personal sacrifice|
|ᛒ||Berkana||B||Birth, fertility, new beginnings|
|ᛖ||Ehwaz||E||Horse, cooperation, steady progress|
|ᛗ||Manaz||M||Humankind, community, common experience|
|ᛚ||Laguz||L||Lake, fluidity, intuitive knowledge|
|ᛜ||Inguz||NG||The God Yngvi, seed, creation|
|ᛟ||Othala||O||Homeland, heritage, household|
|ᛞ||Dagaz||D||Daylight, awakening, breakthrough|
The Controversial Blank Rune
Yep, you read it right… There is a debate among rune casters about whether to use the blank rune or not. To sum it up for you, some of the reasons not to include it in your rune set are:
- There isn’t any historical evidence that this rune was part of the original Elder Futhark alphabet.
- There is a rune that already signifies the “unknown”: Pertho.
So… should you use the blank rune? In the end, it’s all your decision! Most rune sets available for sale include it, so if you aren’t a fan of it, simply put it away.
If you decide to include the blank rune and it appears in a session, it means that there’s something wrong with your reading and it’s best to take a break or re-think your question. It may be a sign that there isn’t a clear answer to your question too, so you should accept the unknown, as scary as it might be.
How to Cast the Runes: Simple Layouts for Beginners
Let’s be honest: there can be as many layouts as there are rune casters! Some like the simplest of all and grab just one rune, others use 9 or more, creating incredibly complex grids…
Once you get familiar with the elder futhark runes and their meanings, you will end up reading them in an intuitive way and not necessarily following a specific layout. But if you are a beginner, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible, in order not to get overwhelmed!
Here are some easy layouts that you can start practising right now:
One Rune Layout
It can’t get any easier than this!
The one rune reading is my favourite to do at the beginning of each day. Simply, do a morning meditation, as long or short as you need (I find that 15 minutes works the best for me!) and grab the pouch where you store your runes.
Think about an open-ended question (simple yes or no questions don’t work as well, in general), it can be anything about your day or a particular issue you have. If you can’t think of any ideas, go with something general like “what are the energies for today?” or “in what area should I focus on today?”
Shuffle the runes while you think of your question and stop whenever you feel ready. Grab one rune and meditate about its meaning (be careful and try not to move it around, as you’d want to see if the rune comes up reversed or not).
This method is perfect for beginners as it will help you to memorize all of the Elder futhark rune meanings and names!
Three Rune Layout
Just as we did with the one rune layout, start by meditating to clear your mind. Grab the pouch with your rune set and shuffle them until you feel ready.
Then select three runes and place them one next to the other. Starting from the left:
- The first rune represents the past actions that caused the present situation.
- The second rune represents the things that are affecting the situation in the present.
- The third rune is the possible outcome or a course of action.
Books on Runes
Understanding and reading the runes can be a task of a lifetime, but there are many books about the Elder Futhark runes that are easy to understand and will help you tremendously to initiate yourself in this wonderful divination method.
These are my top 3 books on runes for beginners:
Get your Rune Casting Basics
When someone starts a new path, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with the small details. The truth about rune casting is that you don’t need to buy the most expensive tools (in fact, you can DIY everything on this list yourself!), the only true essential is to get your hands on a rune set and… that’s pretty much it!
Elder Futhark Rune Sets
Elder Futhark Rune Sets with Book
A very practical option if you are a beginner witch on a budget! Get the elder futhark set with a mini-book that will help you understand and learn the basics:
Rune Casting Cloths
A casting cloth isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s a nice-to-have addition if you decide to continue your rune casting journey. Traditionally, they were made with a white cloth, so it can be a very simple DIY for an afternoon at home!
But if you aren’t one of the crafty type of people, here are some ideas:
Rune Casting Boards
Support an independent artist with these beautifully handmade rune casting boards by Voron Wood. Made in Russia, tracked worldwide shipping available: