If you’ve ever watched a Vikings episode or two, you will have probably recognized the importance of runes within ancient religions and mysticism. But did you know that runes have never really gone away and are still used within many facets of the spirituality community?
Runes are ancient alphabetic symbols that were used by Germanic tribes for writing, divination, and magical purposes.
Rooted in Norse mythology, each rune has its own specific meaning and significance, often representing natural elements, concepts, or gods. From the Elder Futhark to the Younger Futhark and Anglo-Saxon variants, runes offer a complex system of symbolism that has captivated people for centuries.
In this article, we will cover all there is to learn about this ancient form of divination. Let’s work our way through the 24 runes’ meanings and teach you how to do a rune reading yourself!
Table of Contents
What Are Runes?
Runes have been used as a method of divination for centuries. However, they began as a Scandinavian runic alphabet, with each rune having its own name and symbolic meaning.
The oldest alphabet we can trace comes from the Elder Futhark runes, and it consists of 24 lettered runes, each one with its own symbolic meaning and purpose.
These ancient runes are associated with Scandinavian religion and magic, as well as skaldic poetry. The Scandinavians themselves believed that the runes had powerful energy and great mystical power.
Runes were typically engraved into pieces of wood or stone, making them very practical as they were easy to carry around and provide readings to passers-by. There have even been found historical items, such as amulets and jewelry, with runic alphabets engraved on them.
Today, runes are still used for divination purposes and can help you along with your life by providing answers to some of our deepest questions.
Rune Symbols & Meanings
The word ‘rune’ means whisper or secret, and runes are used within divination or oracle readings to help the question bearer find solace, answers, and solutions to the questions they bring to the runes.
Each of the 24 runes of the original Elder Futhark rune system has its own name and meaning. Because of this, they could be used in almost all spheres of life.
As with all psychic-based methods of divination, it’s in the belief that the power resides. If you believe in the power of runes, then they can protect you and help guide you on your life’s journey.
It is important to remember, however, that runes, amulets, talismans, and any magical items are not methods of fortune-telling, and they do not wield magical power that can make your dreams come true.
With that being said, let’s find out the deeper detail behind each of the 24 runes.
1. Fehu – “Cattle”
Fehu is a rune full of fulfillment, luck, and wealth. This could be a satisfied ambition, fulfillment within love, or even a desired salary increase.
As a sign of hope and abundance, this rune indicates the physical benefits you may be rewarded with after lots of hard work and determination.
Drawing an inverted Fehu during a rune reading can serve as an encouragement to dive deeply into what those profitable benefits within your life mean to you.
It’s also a call to be wary about maintaining your wealth and prosperity. Remain cautious, even in happier times, as reckless enjoyment could undo all you have worked for.
2. Uruz – “power”
The Uruz rune symbolizes physical, spiritual, and emotional strength, power, untamed potential, and fertility. This rune also signifies the overcoming of personal challenges within your life.
It may indicate that your life force has outgrown your current life path and that challenging changes are coming. Embrace your life rebirth and keep a vigilant eye open for concealed opportunities.
If the Uruz rune is inverted it may be hinting toward a weakness within yourself. You may also need to be wary of brutality and violent force against others. This could be from you personally or those around you.
3. Thurisaz – “thorn”
The Thurisaz rune symbolizes precautionary measures, caution, defense, and conflict. Pulling this rune during a reading can be a cautious warning that you need to put forms of protection in place for yourself because this rune can indicate an ambush from an enemy.
This could be within your family, friends, or even your work environment. However, it also symbolizes the intelligence used when you choose to be protective rather than hasty.
An inverted Thurisaz is a much more urgent warning. Symbolizing danger, evil, betrayal, and helplessness, Thurisaz is also connected to the giants of the Germanic people which may indicate an imbalance of power between different forces. Do not allow yourself to make decisions based solely on your emotions, be logical and calculated.
4. Ansuz – “estuary”
The Ansuz rune symbolizes communication, spiritual growth, and signs or prophecies from the universe or an ancestral god.
This rune indicates the arrival of advice in many different forms. It may be from the words of another, a sign from an upper being, or even through a situation that makes you think.
The importance here is that you pay attention. This advice will lead you to the right decisions, but it is also a call to work on your communication. Not only with others but also with your inner self.
If reversed, Ansuz indicates some form of deception. This could be deception from yourself or from those who freely give you their advice.
Do not be hasty when trying to decode messages and signs from the universe or gods. Your vision may cloud the true meaning of these signs.
It can also indicate you need to spend more time reconnecting with yourself, the world around you, and the universe that influences your path.
5. Raidho – “ride Or Wagon”
Symbolizing a physical or spiritual journey, reunions, travel, and change, the Raidho rune is always a good sign when pulled during a rune reading the right way up.
If you have an upcoming physical journey, this rune is an omen of good things. However, if your journey is spiritual, this rune may indicate the need for you to become adaptable and be able to visualize the correct move to make.
This rune can also reference the appearance of old friends from this life or even a past life.
If you have felt low or filled with despair, this pull wants you to know that joyous times are coming.
If Raidho is pulled during a rune reading in reverse, it indicates significant delays in your physical journey. Your plans may meet a series of bumps and challenges, however, these lead to brand-new opportunities.
Concerning your spiritual journey, this rune reversal indicates a need for you to push determinedly through any agitations or delusions you may experience.
6. Kenaz – “torch”
Kenaz is a rune that symbolizes inspiration, vitality, improvement, and opening. It represents the banishment of darkness and the illumination of creativity and energy.
Pulling this rune is a sign that you are in balance and harmony with the universe. You have been making positive progress with something that has been holding you back in the past.
The guidance of this rune can sometimes feel very intense, but keep your mind open to new possibilities that will help you progress even further.
If you pull a reversed Kenaz during a rune reading, it could be a sign that your intuition and harmony with the universe are muddied and dark.
It may also signify the ending of a friendship, job prospect, or even personal intentions. Now is the time to work on your physical and spiritual foundations before you make any life-changing decisions.
7. Gebo – “gift”
The Gebo rune is one of the few runes that cannot be reversed. It symbolizes unity, kindness, partnership, gifts, generosity, and self-sacrifice.
It can represent the connection between two people and the balance that is needed. You may need to reevaluate your contributions to this connected relationship.
Are you taking advantage and not giving as much as you desire to receive?
This connection is not always related to a romantic relationship, but can also point toward platonic friendships and even business relationships.
Be prepared that a certain level of self-sacrifice may be called upon to maintain a healthy balance. This rune could also indicate that you are due a gift, whether that is physically or emotionally.
8. Wunjo – “joy”
The Wunjo rune symbolizes joy, pleasure, success, comfort, harmony, and prosperity. This rune reminds us that those who think with a pessimistic mindset will only attract negative things, but those who fill their thoughts and actions with positivity will always invite positivity into their lives.
You are being called to shed yourself of ego and align yourself in harmony with the universe. Consciously remember to always be present and mindful in your everyday life. If you are familiar with the Law of Attraction, this rune’s meaning is also very similar.
It is a reminder that those who practice gratitude and acknowledge the good they experience daily will have good things bestowed upon their lives. If you have been plagued with negativity, pulling Wunjo during a rune reading is generally a little nudge to adjust your way of thinking.
If you have pulled an inverted Wunjo rune, you might be currently experiencing difficulties and negative challenges within your life that have altered your mentality.
It is a warning that right now is an unlucky time for you and that you mustn’t make any arrangements or start new projects or commitments right now.
9. Hagalaz – “hailstone”
Hagalaz is another rune that cannot be pulled in reverse. It is a powerful rune that symbolizes the wrath of nature, destruction, uncontrolled forces, and being tested.
Pulling Hagalaz is a warning of energies or forces that we cannot control. They can surface as illnesses, natural disasters, obstacles, and challenges.
You will not be able to influence the outcomes of these energies, so it’s important to stay open-minded and welcoming of new opportunities that land in your path during this time. However, you will need to exercise a lot of self-control by removing your own emotions from your intentions or goals.
Just remember, it may seem as though many doors are being shut in your face but this is to allow new, more prosperous doors to open in front of you. Each destruction will present a new opportunity for growth.
10. Nauthiz – “need”
Nauthiz symbolizes necessity, restriction, conflict, willpower, endurance, and self-reliance, but it also sometimes hints toward stagnation.
This rune suggests that there will be some setbacks in your near future, so now is an important time to take a step back and focus on being thoughtful, introspective, and reflective.
You need to keep an eye on your ego and temper. An indication that you have let it run wild may manifest as physical symptoms such as a heaviness or tightness in your chest. You need to learn to let this go and release the tension you have been building up in your mind and body, or you may find it hinders your progression.
Growth is never easy and always presents itself with many learning challenges. However, these obstacles are the very times that shape the person you will become.
As for whether Nauthiz has a reversed position, some believe it does, whereas others believe it is symmetrical and so it can’t be reversed. If you are on team reverse, pulling a reversed Nauthiz can indicate a need for you to become more restrained when it comes to overindulgence and your desire for more.
Focus on your spiritual growth and avoid attachments to material possessions.
11. Isa – “ice”
The Isa rune symbolizes clarity, stasis, challenges, rewards, and introspection. Its translation to ‘Ice’ or ‘Frozen water’ lends itself to a meaning of a possible delay or postponement to coming plans. Its association with winter is also a reminder that, just like the ever-changing seasons, challenges and obstacles will not remain forever.
Take this time to focus on improving your inner self with self-care habits like reading, meditation, and physical activity.
This isn’t to say you must abandon your goals, instead take a break from directing all your focus on them. Once the opportunity to further your dreams presents itself you will be ready and energized.
Isa is another rune that cannot be pulled in a reverse position.
12. Jera – “year”
Jera symbolizes natural cycles, harvest, completion, reaping, and rewards. This rune represents the movement of time in a seasonal year and is a reminder that our goals and intentions also take time. We must remember that, just like the seasons, our goals and dreams are ever-changing as we grow.
This rune can also be a sign that your hard work, perseverance, and diligence will soon be paid off.
Now is the time time to slow down, celebrate how far you have come, and practice gratitude for the life and gifts you experience every day. Jera may also signify a pregnancy or marriage.
13. Eihwaz – “yew”
Eihwaz symbolizes life & death, renewal, enlightenment, balance, and the world tree. But do not fear; the death that is represented within this mystical rune is not physical but rather a metaphor that hints toward changes within your life, habits, relationships, or job.
Welcome these changes without fear or uncertainty, as it is just a natural cycle that everyone goes through. We must remove the parts and circumstances in our lives that no longer support or benefit who we are today.
Eihwaz also symbolizes the yew tree, or world tree, which has a similar story as the mythical Phoenix creature. This represents spiritual exploration and even the possibility of adventure outside of our material world.
The Eihwaz rune cannot be reversed and is a symbol of exciting things to come as long as you are prepared to sacrifice the old for the new.
14. Perthro – “the Unknown”
Perthro symbolizes fate, chance, mystery, destiny, and secrets. It is a reminder that not all information has been revealed to you and that there are many mysteries in the universe that we do not, and may never, understand.
It is also a sign that someone has been keeping a secret from you. Now is a very good time to be vigilant of the signs the universe may deliver to you.
When reversed, Perthro is usually a sign that an unwanted secret is soon to be revealed or signifies a shedding of burdening secrets that are affecting your well-being.
However, it can also mean that the universe is telling you to take a break from divination. Refresh your mind and come back to the art later.
15. Algiz – “elk”
Algiz is a rune of protection and symbolizes defense, instinct, group effort, and guardianship. This rune has the power to influence cosmic forces in a more positive direction, in so doing preventing the forceful action of negative forces.
Algiz is there to calm your mind, showing you that you are currently safe from harm. However, this doesn’t mean you should stop looking. Keep vigilant and clear-headed.
If you pull a reversed Algiz during a rune reading, this is usually a sign that you have been too laid back. However, don’t allow yourself to become anxious, as this can muddy your vision. Take the time to slow down and practice self-care to boost your emotional, spiritual, and physical clarity.
16. Sowilo – “sun”
Symbolizing health, vitality, good energy, sunlight, and wholeness, Sowilo represents the power and healing of the sun’s energy. You are in a stage of your life where you are surrounded by luck and prosperity – as long as you remain open to it.
Use the energy of Sowilo to assist you as you work towards achieving your goals. However, this is not a time for you to behave cocky. Take a step back and rely on your intelligence, thought, and creativity. Be content that right now, the universe has your back.
17. Tiwaz – “the God”
The rune, Tiwaz, represents the God Tyr and symbolizes masculinity, justice, leadership, and logic. This strong symbology hints toward the sacrifice of your advantages to aid and lift up another. Tiwaz gives you the power and energy you need to face these challenges while also providing you with the strength to move forward without hesitation.
If Tiwaz is pulled in reverse during a rune reading, it usually indicates that you are experiencing a lack of motivation or even cowardice in some situations.
You may have felt overwhelmed by barriers and obstacles you have faced recently, and this could just be a sign that you are moving far too quickly. Perhaps you need to slow down and stop allowing your ego to rule your actions.
18. Berkana – “birch Goddess”
Symbolizing new beginnings, family, nurturing, birth, and loved ones, Berkana is a positive rune that is filled with strong female energy. If you have been trying to conceive, this rune may be a favorable sign that things will begin to go your way soon.
This is also the perfect time to focus on your dreams. The energies of the universe are aligned right now, and this provides a gateway for goals to manifest and bring forth a new beginning or opportunity.
A reversed Berkana symbolizes a lack of action or stagnation. This can relate to a goal or your relationships with others. Tempers and negative energies may begin to run high, and you can expect the possibility of family disagreements. Focus on trying your best to be positive and productive while not allowing yourself to fester in negativity and stress.
19. Ehwaz – “horse”
Movement, progress, teamwork, trust, and loyalty are all the symbols that the Ehwaz rune brings. It is a rune of friendship and close spiritual connection, reminding you of the need for the right people by your side if you are to accomplish a goal with ease.
A reversed Ehwaz indicates that you have been struggling to decide whether someone deserves your trust.
This is a sign that you might have been right to be suspicious and to withhold trust. However, it may also be trying to enlighten you. Have past events and experiences made it harder for you to trust? Now is the time to begin working on these self-made obstacles.
20. Mannaz – “mankind”
Mannaz is a rune of individuality, friendship, cooperation, help, humanity, and self-awareness. It represents everything that makes a person: the mind, the ability to reason, traditions, and customs.
This rune is a reminder that although everyone on this planet is different, there is also something that connects us all. Mannaz also encourages us to accept all things, whether they are good or bad. It is an encouragement to live life as unordinary as possible.
A reversed Mannaz is usually a sign that you have isolated yourself too far from others or that you don’t feel as though you fit into society. These feelings of disconnection are breeding feelings of depression and low energy. You need to take the time to recharge your innersole in whatever way feels positive to you.
21. Laguz – “water”
Symbolizing femininity, intuition, unconsciousness, flowing water, cleansing, and psychic ability, the Laguz rune reminds us how important it is for us to have a deep understanding of ourselves. This rune is a sign that you need to let loose and go with the flow a little more.
It is also a representation of the need for you to follow your instincts and feelings more readily. Your gut feeling holds more knowledge than you may believe.
A reversed Laguz rune indicates a lack of movement or flow. Have you inadvertently halted your own growth? Spend some time meditating on where you are and where you wish to be. Allow yourself to pursue creative endeavors, as these often free up any spatial or emotional blockage we experience.
22. Inguz – “seed”
Inguz is another non-reversible rune. It shows you that you are currently on the right path and that you need to keep on doing what you are doing!
It is a message of reward. Your hard work will soon pay off. You might face a change in your routine, but this isn’t a change you need to fear. It is also a reminder that you mustn’t forget about the people around you. Their support is one of the most valuable things you possess.
23. Othala – “separation”’
The Othala rune symbolizes ancestral spiritual power, family love, heritage, and storytelling. It is a symbol of our connectedness to our ancestors and heritage.
Othala is trying to tell you that now is an important time to reconnect with the family we have been distant from. You may very well need their emotional support soon.
A reversed Othala usually represents a rift within your family that needs to be resolved. However, you must do so in a positive and cautious way in order to not cause arguments and avoid negativity.
24. Dagaz – “transformation”
Dagaz is the last rune, and it is a symbol of light, transformation, clarity, and the triumph of good over evil. It is also another rune that cannot be reversed.
This rune guides you to strengthen your optimism in the face of challenges, as well as the power to process the effects they may have.
There may be opportunities for self-healing and happiness ahead of you, whether it be with a new love or with your partner.
How To Read Runes: Easy Guide
There are many different ways to do a rune reading, and if you are new to this world, it can feel very overwhelming in the beginning. But thankfully, there are books and guides available for beginners. Plus, you can always go to a specialist rune caster who can do a reading for you if you aren’t ready to do them yourself just yet!
If you do decide to dive into a rune reading by yourself, you must be prepared. Rune reading and divination take practice, so have fun with them in the beginning. Just be aware that runes are a powerful psychic tool and require respect and a careful spirit.
Many people store their runes in a pouch, which can be bought online or in any reputable spiritual store. It is important to store all of your runes together so they cannot be lost.
When you want to read the runes you have to put them on a rune cloth – a piece of white fabric that is made specifically for reading purposes. It is important to be in a quiet place and have a peaceful mind. Do not approach runes in a bad or irritated mood, as it may cause issues with your readings.
There are several methods that you can use to read runes. You can start by pulling just one rune and work with it. However, the most popular spreads are with 3 and 5 runes.
Another useful tool when reading runes is a rune journal that you can use to write down your spreads in order to analyze them later.
This spread is an ideal one for beginners. You randomly take 3 runes from your pouch and put them in front of you the way they were pulled.
Rune one should be on the right, the second in the middle, and the third one on the left.
Rune one represents an overall view of your current circumstance. Rune two represents a challenge you may face, and rune three represents the action that you could take. During all readings, it is important that you ask the runes a very specific question.
This spread is a bit more complex. You have to select five runes to place in front of you. The first rune goes in the middle. The second rune lies on the left side of the first rune, and the third rune lies to the north of the middle rune. The fourth rune lies underneath, and the last fifth rune is on the right.
Runes 1, 2, and 5 represent your past, present, and future. The fourth rune shows what elements of the problem have to be accepted and worked on, while the third rune indicates what can be done in terms of your problem.
The 9-spread rune reading method should only be done if you are very comfortable reading. This particular method of rune reading is where your rune reading journal will come in very handy. When doing this 9 spread, you must pull your 9 runes and hold them in your hands, close to your heart for a few minutes, as you focus on your intention, before you drop them on your rune cloth.
This type of rune reading involves dropping the runes instead of placing them like the other two methods.
The most influential ones would be those closer to the center and face-up. They represent your present circumstances. The runes in the center are the most important ones since they may contain advice concerning your current situation.
The outer runes contain messages of slightly lesser importance. Just as in life, some things need more attention than others, and the runes relay this as well.
Types Of Runes In Different Cultures
Runes have held a fascinating place in the history of writing systems, often cloaked in an aura of mystique and historical depth. These ancient scripts were not just alphabets but were also believed to possess magical properties. Here are a few more rune types that you should know about:
Elder Futhark Runes
The Elder Futhark, which we discussed earlier, is the oldest form of the runic alphabet, dating from the 2nd to 8th centuries. It consists of 24 characters and is considered the proto-alphabet from which other runic alphabets evolved.
These runes were primarily used to mark inscriptions on artifacts and monuments. They were also featured prominently in Norse mythology, where runes were considered sacred symbols granted by the gods.
Each rune, from “Fehu” representing cattle, to “Dagaz” signifying transformation, had a phonetic sound and specific meanings, often aligned with aspects of natural and social life.
Emerging around the 8th century and persisting through the Viking Age, the Younger Futhark had fewer runes—only 16. The reduction in the number of runes was likely an adaptation to changes in the Old Norse language.
These runes were mainly used in Scandinavia and are often the “north runes” referred to in historical texts. Runestones inscribed with Younger Futhark can still be found scattered across Northern Europe, and they often contain references to Norse mythology.
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc is an extension of the Elder Futhark and was used mainly in England and Frisia. The Futhorc consists of 26 to 33 characters, depending on the period and location.
It evolved to suit the Old English language and incorporated additional runes for sounds that did not exist in the original Elder Futhark. Runic inscriptions using Futhorc have been found on various artifacts, including weapons and jewelry.
Used predominantly in Scandinavia from the 12th to the 15th centuries, Medieval runes were adapted from the Younger Futhark to fit Latin orthography. By this time, Christianity had arrived in Scandinavia, and runic alphabets were used for mundane tasks such as record-keeping and marking property, lessening their mystical significance.
Apart from the dominant runes used by the Germanic peoples, there are other lesser-known runic alphabets. Gothic runes, for example, were used by the Goths and are believed to have been derived independently of the Elder Futhark. Turkic runes were used by Turkic tribes and are not related to the Germanic runic systems.
Are You Ready To Read The Runes?
In the rich tapestry of Norse mythology, runic inscriptions hold a special place, often believed to be gifts from Odin, the Norse god of wisdom and war. Germanic tribes, from Scandinavia to Anglo-Saxon England, utilized various forms of runic script to inscribe a variety of objects, ranging from rune stones to weapons.
The Elder Futhark evolved into several other systems, including the Younger Futhark, which was predominantly used in Viking runes, and the Anglo-Saxon runes, which were adapted to suit the Old English language.
In these systems, each rune symbol carries specific meanings; for example, many Norse runes represent different elements like fire, air, and ice. Medieval runes, which came later, were adapted to the Latin alphabet and were more utilitarian, marking a shift from the symbolic and mystical use of runes to more everyday purposes.
They are an extremely powerful form of divination. Although they are not a method of fortune-telling they provide you with guidance to help you through the more difficult questions and life circumstances.
Rune reading is an exciting path to explore. It’s not only a way of understanding yourself better but also a way of connecting with the power our ancient counterparts wielded.
Have you delved into the world of runes and their readings? How has it helped you to find the answers you so strongly desire?