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Customer Discussions > Runes forum

How do you study Runes?

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Showing 1-25 of 29 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 10, 2009 8:56:04 AM PST
I am interested to know how people come to grasp the Runes. Is it through reading books? Meditating on the old Rune Poems? Something else?

What books do people recommend?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 28, 2009 1:55:54 PM PDT
I've been using Ralph Blum's Runes forever - Mostly in challenging times, when I can't figure out what's going on or which path to choose. Just think about your question or situation (not a yes or no question), while you reach in the bag, and your hand will magically pull out the rune that will guide you to an insight or an answer. Once you pull the Rune out, look to see if the symbol is facing the correct way or the reversed way, and read the answer in the book. There are many different ways to use them. They are more of an oracle for me than a study, and have always shown me clarity in times of adversity.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2009 12:07:54 AM PDT
diakritikos says:
If you are seriously interested, get this short academic introduction:
Runes (Reading the Past, Vol 4) (Paperback)
Runes (Reading the Past)
It's easy to read, brief, information, and from a respected scholar. It is new age nonsense free (which I wish I could say about reply #2 above).

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2009 12:34:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2009 12:36:51 PM PDT
The best approach would probably be to read the Rune Poems...not study them, just absorb them. Then read someone reliable like Edred Thorsson or Kveldulf Gundarsson...even Diana Paxson, although the quality of her work varies wildly from right on target to fairly silly.
Whatever you do, DO NOT waste your time on any of Ralph Blum's ridiculous pablum that has nothing whatsoever to do with the history or philosophy of runes.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2009 5:41:15 PM PDT
Basically, I read whatever rune books I could get my hands on, as well as Norse mythology, viking history, the Eddas, etc...anything having to do with runes or the culture surrounding them.

I also meditated on the runes themselves, and looked for pictures that had the shapes of runes in nature.

Eventually, I came to my own understanding of them...I think that it is most important to establish your own personal relationship with the runes, than worry about the people who argue over obscure meanings or how to use the runes.

I created a guide for just such a question:

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2009 5:52:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 30, 2009 6:26:45 PM PDT
I will admit that I once used Ralph Blum as a stepping stone from an extremely strict Christian mentality (runes are the Devil's tools, etc.), but the more I studied the runes, the more ridiculous I think it was for someone to warp the Futhark that way.

However, Blum just did what I wrote about in my other post: he made his own relationship with them.

I still like his card deck for the illustrations though.

I agree with you that Thorsson would be a much better choice for a first rune read.

I kind of wish Chris would discuss his book...

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2009 12:35:27 PM PDT
Blum was also responsible for introducing me to the runes, I admit. But I don't entirely agree that he has "made his own relationship" with them; he has certainly made a relationship with something, but that something is far enough removed from the runes as to have no relationship with them whatsoever. If it's really runes that you want to learn, go to a reliable source.

Posted on Apr 30, 2009 12:13:27 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 30, 2009 12:15:12 AM PDT
diakritikos says:
What you really need to do is get a firm foundation regarding the runic alphabet. You need to know what it is. Examine the various forms (Anglo-Saxon, Younger, Elder, and various other folk forms), the three (or potentially four) surviving rune poems (our source for their names), get a grasp on Runology (the academic study of the runic alphabet), and altogether just take a hard look at how they were utilized by the actual Germanic peoples. Once you've got your footing, you can use that education to navigate what people have theorized on and formulated (or outright invented..) and make up your own mind.

Ignore Blum altogether. It's worthless and obsolete in the face of modern heathenry; we've moved beyond this crap. Take Thorsson/Flowers with a grain of salt, if at all. His academic work as Flowers is of interest, but his work as Thorsson is almost always dubious.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 30, 2009 8:22:37 AM PDT
The observation regarding Thorsson/Flowers is a fair one, but I wouldn't go quite as far as to say his work as Thorsson is "almost always dubious." He at least starts out on firm foundations, unlike many, even if he occasionally strays pretty far from them. But he's certainly a much better example than Blum and his ilk of someone who has "made his own relationship" with the runes.
It is absolutely essential, of course, to have a firm grasp of the runes from a historic and academic standpoint (and of the mythology as a whole) before being influenced by anyone else's interpretation.

Posted on Apr 30, 2009 6:16:07 PM PDT
Is anyone familiar with the rune work by Thorr and Audrey Sheil?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 30, 2009 6:25:17 PM PDT
I regret saying "made his own relationship." I don't want to defend Blum because I'm personally sick of people twisting heathen concepts into something to fit their (Christian) ideals.

I was just trying to point out that, as you study the runes, you will rely less and less on someone else's definitions...and people coming from different paths will have different stepping stones.

It would be great if people taking an interest in the runes had the sense to do some research first.

In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2009 7:23:45 AM PDT
Making one's own relationship with the runes is an entirely valid, even essential, concept. No need to regret the comment; I doubt it was taken by anyone (certainly not by me) as a defense of Blum's muddled blatherings. The point is that given a limited amount of historical information, and a limited amount of mythological information, we need to start out on as firm a foundation as possible while realizing that the available scholarly studies just aren't enough to take us all the way. We need to allow some amount of intuition, based on a thorough grounding in what's known of the traditions, to guide us.

In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2009 4:13:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 1, 2009 4:15:16 PM PDT
If only my posts were as eloquent as yours!

P.S. I have never heard the rune names spoken out loud...does anyone know of any website where I can play a recording or something?

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2009 3:43:19 PM PDT
Your posts seem perfectly clear and concise to me.

I'm not aware of a website with audio of the rune names, but you might take a glance at Diana Paxson's book "Taking Up the Runes," which gives a phonetic pronunciation guide. (Just keep in mind, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that her material is not always reliable; the book, while I found much of it worthwhile, contains some glaring factual errors, as well as a fair amount of simple foolishness.)

Posted on May 18, 2009 6:43:24 PM PDT
Since there has been a request to discuss my book (, I will provide a brief overview:

My book is an attempt to provide a look at the runes which is transparent in analysis. In other words, any specific statement I make is subject to discussion and debate, and backed by my reasoning. This was an attempt to get away from the sense in most Rune books today that one has to meditate on what others have written rather than find the Runes in the myths, legends, etc. Of course, my knowledge has improved since I wrote the book and a second edition will be issued at some point.

Anyway, my view is that one can study the Runes through a combination of:
1) Study of source materials (historical writings, Eddic poems, etc)
2) Comparative studies
3) Careful review of poetics/formuleics. (My book is quite light on this side as it is a far more advanced area of study).

The book was my Master-Project in the Rune Gild (filling a role similar to a PhD dissertation). It takes operant Runic study in a somewhat new direction, and while it was written for new students of the tradition, it may be of interest to those who have done a fair bit of study as well.

Posted on Jun 1, 2009 9:09:25 PM PDT
BTH says:
I agree with many of the above posts. Ignore Blum entirely! Check out "The Rune Workbook", it is by a member of the Rune Gild, but less intimidating than some of Thorrsson/Flowers work is to a beginner. Start there and work your way up, it has a good overview and pronunciation guide. Then make flashcards and carry them with you everywhere, practice writing in runic every day. I would say, once you have the names, meanings and pronunciation down, then go to the more esoteric working. Check out Stephen Pollingtons' "Rudiments of Runelore" also.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 1, 2009 9:22:35 PM PDT
LOL. You just recommended the two books that I am reading now. Every now and then, I bring them out to reread, and do the exercises...always evolving.

Posted on Jun 3, 2009 9:38:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2009 9:39:03 AM PDT
I have not read Leon's book. I expect to get to that sometime this year. I would, however, expect it to be good. Pollington's book is good.

I also think that it is useful to read R.I. Page's "Reading the Past: Runes" just because it provides a great deal of context that one doesn't get from restricting the reading to esoteric works.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2009 4:16:00 AM PDT
Dear Ursula,
I am coming from a strict Christian mentality/upbringing. I have taken on the Mystic idea of accepting good from where ever I can find it. So my first question is are runes good? What power causes them to work. Does the energy give you a good feeling?

I just bought the Rune workbook, and felt concerned when I ran across Onin screaming while taking up the runes from (hel)? Anyway he was looking down from the Wryd tree which he stabbed himself to? All that mythology seems a little far out for me. Any insight?

I am interested more in the psycological benifits of runes, using them as a way to better understand myself and my life, not in telling the future. I am not overly concerned about all the arguments on the subject. Is there a way to use runes to add to my existing beliefs?

I am searching to find a holy language, with deep symbolic meaning, and which is connected with power: validating the divine connection between the tool and the individual. I have only found runes, angelic script in the Book of Angels, heard of Adamic, and using variations of God's name as an act of power. ex. In the name of Jesus Christ...,or the Shikism Nam, etc. I fully believe that the most powerful Law or Force controls all forms of mediums: cards, runes, sticks, channel writing, direct revelation, visions, prophesy, seer stones, sacred objects, etc. to bring us knowledge and insight.

I also know there are energy sources similar to Gravity or Natural Laws we have not descovered yet. (such as hard evidence why crystals help heal pain) These are all governed by a supreem being which fallows universal laws. Now difinitively: I speak to God and recieve revelations and visions from time to time. I feel this should be the norm, but even my younger sister has a hard time hearing direct guidance. So I am sure you would agree that a physical tool would be benifical.

So how can runes help me in my quest for all truth? Is there a guide with all possible sets of runes and thier meanings, a few ways to cast and read them without all the magick/ reconstructualist mumbo jumbo? I mean how can anyone honestly think they can reconstruct a lost religion, whouldn't thier time be better spent inventing there own?
(Sorry for my skeptic view on the above subject.)

Having read your guide I am sure you have a well of information more then my new and somewhat limited understanding on the subject of the I-ching, tarot cards, runes, etc. then I am.

Is it not possible to use those tools by any power you choose?

I live in a region where I am going against the grain, and the culture doesn't understand my openness. I am quite alone in my larger understanding, however it is still less then your extensive experiance.

How did you transition, I have joined an interfaith club and I hope to find other searchers of truth who understand the need to transend religious creed and accept good from all belief systems. Is not that wisdom?
Thank you so much for reading this,
Greg J.

Posted on Oct 26, 2009 1:10:55 PM PDT
Hi Gregory:

First, a disclaimer in my answer. I was raised as a Quaker (which is a sort of non-Nicene sect of Christianity) and now consider myself a heathen. However, my approach to many questions is fundamentally historical and backwards-looking. I think thus I can answer your questions somewhat tentatively.

First, you ask: "I am coming from a strict Christian mentality/upbringing. I have taken on the Mystic idea of accepting good from where ever I can find it. So my first question is are runes good? What power causes them to work. Does the energy give you a good feeling?"

There isn't a simple answer to that question. The Runes themselves just are. They are not "good" or "evil" but we supply that component. What does give me a "good" feeling is the personal growth I have gained through working with the system as a whole (and that include Norse mythology). I am a stronger and better person as a result. But I wouldn't say that the Runes are good or evil any more than a power saw is.

What principle makes them work? The internal and external worlds are not wholely separate. Mythic element, such as the Runes, can help bridge that gap.

Similarly when we look at the historical and archaeological record, we see the tradition survived intact for centuries following the conversion. Many memorial stones following the conversion include phrases like "May God have mercy on him" or other Christian references. So I am not sure that the Runes themselves are entirely incompatible with Christianity. Also, there are a wide range of uses in the historical record. They range from inflicting harm on people (for example, exile or more often sterility or impotence) to healing, helping with childbirth, etc. in charms which were originally pagan charms invoking The Mothers but later were Christianized to invoke Mary instead.

"I am searching to find a holy language, with deep symbolic meaning, and which is connected with power: validating the divine connection between the tool and the individual"

What you seek is called "Mythology." Every religion has it. I would recommend reading "Myth and Reality" by Mircae Eliade for more on this fascinating topic and how mythology functions in this way.

"So how can runes help me in my quest for all truth? Is there a guide with all possible sets of runes and thier meanings, a few ways to cast and read them without all the magick/ reconstructualist mumbo jumbo?"

Honestly, re-reading your post a couple times, I think you would be better off looking elsewhere. The Runes are a part of a specific cultural complex. If you are looking for something more unifying, I think you would probably find Hermeticism and related traditions closer to what you are looking for.

"I mean how can anyone honestly think they can reconstruct a lost religion, whouldn't thier time be better spent inventing there own?"

So think the Wiccans ;-). Honestly I think this makes a clear error in the idea that we should be trying to reconstruct a lost religion exactly in its original form. A better approach would be the approach taken by Reconstructionist Judaism, which is to recognize that the past is not the present, and to recognize that some things must adapt. However, this can only be done properly by studying as much as we can of the older approaches. The only traditions which are stagnant are those which are dead. The value of this approach is that we can discuss and anchor that change in accordance with our studies, and have common grounds for discussing differences. What we end up with is a modern manifestation of the same cultural complex that created the older religion.

"Is it not possible to use those tools by any power you choose?"

Given the post-conversion Runic finds and records mentioned, I think it is clear that the Runes can. However, they are still tied to a cultural complex. Religion can be one tie to that cultural complex. Going and spending a few years in rural Norway and gathering folklore might be another.

As for the bit of Odhinn finding the Runes in Hel, you are probably confusing the Norse Hel with the Christan concept of Hell. Hel was not a place of punishment but a place the ordinary dead went after life. The implication here is that Odhinn finds the Runes while he is in a state of being dead. This idea of death and resurrection or death and rebirth is a common initiatory theme across many cultures (and such initiatory practices may be the origin of the Christian resurrection story).

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2009 9:39:41 PM PDT
I think people who use the runes to "foretell the future" are misguided. The runes are a way of tapping into your own subconscious, not unlike items used for prayer in other religions and traditions.

As for Oden screaming, his ordeal is not unlike many other shamanic journeys/rituals where you fast

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2009 9:40:50 PM PDT
I wish more authors would take part in discussions the way you do.

Posted on Oct 26, 2009 10:09:36 PM PDT
Thanks :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2009 12:15:51 AM PDT
Hey All!

Thank you so much for the fantastic, informative post. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you took the time to comprehensively address my questions. I plan on looking into and researching the books you mentioned. It is nice to hear from people who have walked the road I am walking.

I myself am an author, and half way through writing my first novel. I am getting planning to earn my PH d and become a teacher. Currently I am 23 years old and consuming any non-fiction that isn't nailed to the ground. Learning to research and write Non-fiction is my next big project, and feel most excited learning things about anything non-traditional. I enjoy immensely researching esoteric practices, hidden knowledge, indigenous and eastern religions, and all belief systems.
I guess my LDS upbringing is non-traditional, which I consider to be a good thing. The founder of our religion, Joseph Smith, definitely stirred things up with his (revealed) doctrine. In one of our articles of faith it states: "We believe in the privilege of worshiping almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how where or what they may." He also said there is good in all religions, and that knowledge should have no bounds; that any book can be studied and discerned by the Holy Ghost. That is why he was told he did not need to translate the Apocrypha. I just bring it up because in our religion we believe in visions, revelation, prophesy, healing by the laying on of hands, the gift of tongues, casting out devils, teaching using the influence of the holy ghost, eternal marriage, miracles, seeing God in this life, personal translation, personal Resurrection and possible Godhood and seer-ship.

Articles of power are mentioned like the Liahona, (an object that had two spindles directing Lehi and his family where to travel, which had writing which appeared on the ball of curious workmanship from time to time) and the Urim and Thumam (an object which was two seer stones attached by glasses to the breastplate of Laban, through which the Prophet peered through to translate The Book of Mormon). So I'm sure you can also see the parallels between my beliefs and Pagan/Heathen concepts.

The only other open minded Christian denomination I have heard of is Christian Science. I have come to realize however that there is lots of truth outside of Christianity. Hay House Audio is inspiring and open minded. Are the New-Age Movement people trying to take a more open minded on God?
I have heard that they feel their way through writing books without covering their bases.
I am an extremely innovative thinker, although I can deeply discuss things on various logical stances, including "devil's advocate".

But deep down I just want to know truth, to know God, and to know all religion's take on deity, or supreme power, etc. I need these to challenge my current beliefs by taking a different angle on worship and life. This will help me compare and contemplate my positions, and I believe at the end of the day I will either find or create the best fit for me or my current belief system will stand up to scrutiny. I can understand how all this logic could be grounds for someone to just feel their way through life and religion. I do not want to be deceived if there is such a thing as a completely true belief system. It seems though, that every one has something to add. It saddens me that so many want you to "take the plunge", all or nothing thinking.

Where do you draw the line in rune literature between non-fiction and fictional adaptations, and exaggerations? Is there a way to boil it down to the facts minus the "fat"? I consider when I pick up the Book of Mormon and feel the warm power course into me after reading a few paragraphs to be evidence of spiritual power. I am not sure if that evidence can be accounted for religious validity. I think it would be an error to think that because of a spiritual experience my religion suddenly has God/s' endorsement.

I am seeking for books that I feel such power while reading them. I want it to be a good power, like the healing power or energy of crystals. I feel if something better is out there I need to study everything good. Obviously evil subjects give you a horrible feeling and I believe should only be analyzed with great care and not experimented with. I however feel I have my hands full understanding good, a general overview on things to steer clear of would be helpful if it came from a reliable source on my same wavelength, so generally I don't have time or energy to waste on evil books.
Perhaps someone here has heard some of my speculations resonate within you and can be such reliable source?

It is fascinating to hear you speak of the Runes as a tool. What tie to that cultural complex might I use with the runes other then religion, and gathering folklore? Is there one suited to my purpose? How do the runes compare to the Celtic Ogam alphabet?

What can I be considered if I am not bound down by a religious creed, or voice of authority? Can I find others like me, or am I bound to walk a lonely road?

What shall I be called by, is Mystic a proper name for my all exclusive/ selective approach to religion?

I take a traditional view on marriage so the Unitarian Universalism couldn't be an option, but perhaps that differs from denomination to denomination.
I know that people can disagree on a particular belief and still remain close friends. Foolish children angrily throw mud instead of making mud pies, or creating fortresses and cities to play in together. Similarly, hate and Anti-Religion conversation is just wasted energy.

So what can I consider from all your belief system findings?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2009 9:04:58 AM PDT
Hi Gregory:

It may surprise you to know that I spent much of my childhood in Richfield, UT. I always felt the Quaker community was enriched by our interactions with the Mormon community. Also Quakers and Mormons are probably the only two Christian denominations I can think of that place a great deal of emphasis on continuing revelation (though the context and structures surrounding this concept is very different in the two groups).

As far as other open-minded Christian groups, the Quakers come to mind. The basic framework of Quaker belief can be summed up as:

"There is a divine light of God, spoken of in Luke and John, in the heart of every human being, so that the Voice of Christ is not limited to those who profess to believe one thing or another." Beyond that, Quakers tend to study the Bible (but not always), but don't have any formal criteria for what Quakers believe (Quakerism is more of a methodology and a set of practices than a set of beliefs). Quakers generally agree that faith should be a matter of experience rather than creed.

On to the cultural context question. In my view, systems of magic don't exist in a vacuum. Rather they are manifestations of wider cultural patterns. I don't think things can be readily divorced from those contexts. The only system which really tries to do this universally is Hermeticism. Hermeticism however, is very closely tied to a couple of major streams of thought including Neoplatonism, and in so doing there is a tendency to look for unity of religion as a way of approaching what Plato called "The Good." There have been "allegations" (in scare quotes because I personally think, if true, these are good things) that early Mormonism was influenced by Hermetic schools of thought, such as existed among certain groups of Freemasons. Even if untrue, however, Hermeticism offers someone like you a benefit of having joint roots with Christianity in a number of important areas. Remember that it was Plato who first spoke of a triune Godhead (of which Plato mentioned The Shining Father and Mars, the Son as two components, and his followers ascribed The World Soul of Timaeus to the third place).

Most Hermetic groups tend to focus on Greek and Hebrew traditions, and this tends to make it difficult to use Norse material in there except via the Interpretatio Romana (Odin as Mercury, Tyr as Mars, etc). However these mappings are not entirely perfect and so it is easy to get mislead. Similarly what Albert Pike called the Norse Trinity (Odin, Thorr, Freyr) is somewhat problematic because despite the common roots between this structure and the Christian tradition, the structure is also somewhat different. Also, the traditions regarding spiritual growth are fundamentally different. Hermeticism tends to see growth as a linear process towards God. The Hermetic tree is inverted, so we start out at the top and are trying to climb our way back to Paradise as it were.

The Runic tradition, on the other hand, tends to see the human being as like a Tree and hence growith occurs in two directions: Downward towards the dwelling place of our ancestors and towards those formative forces which continue to to create the world and upwards towards the shining sky where the gods live. As I say, "Grow like a tree and be not afraid of shadows: Seek the darkness and then the light!"

This is not to say that no synthesis is possible. Just that the Hermetic synthesis doesn't quite work as applied to Norse myth. One approach might be similar to what Roberto Assaglioli documents in "Psychosynthesis" (and in particular his references to the use of Dante's "Divine Comedy" in psychotherapy work).

However, I have to wonder if synthesis is really the right goal. If we look at cultures like languages, perhaps it is better to become bilingual rather than trying to create a new language by bringing in elements from other languages? Perhaps instead of a new system, you can achieve perception of greater depth by understanding two or more other systems. For example, I have been known to cross traditions and perform Hermetic rituals with friends of mine. When doing this, the influence of my Runic work is evident to a careful observer, but that doesn't make my work any less Hermetic.
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