The Road to Runes

April, 2018

The Road to Runes: First Steps

I received, for Yule, a gorgeous handmade set of runes from my father. He made them himself, out of hazel; wood from the tree of wisdom, in Celtic mythology. Of course, runes aren’t a part of the Irish Celtic mythology I’m so fond of, and as such I don’t know a great deal about them other than the very basics. I thought it might be fun if we learn together, so here we go.

My new runes are Elder Futhark, a Germanic alphabet of 24 runes named after the first six runes listed, which are Fehu (F), Uruz (U), Thurisaz (Th), Ansuz (A), Raidho (R) and Kenaz (K).

Although runes are heavily associated with Norse culture, they have actually appeared throughout Europe and across the British Isles, found in inscriptions ranging from curses to gravestones to plain, old-fashioned graffiti. The Elder Futhark is thought to be the oldest of the runic alphabets, and possibly the ancestor of later runes. Each rune has a name, a sound and is associated with something specific. For example, the straight-line rune is called isa, it sounds like ‘I’ and means ‘ice’. Runes were obviously used for writing, but these days are generally used as a divination tool. This suits the very word ‘rune’, which means ‘mystery’ or ‘secret’.

Like all forms of divination, meaning will differ from person to person. Fehu literally means cattle, and also wealth. This makes sense to me, as from a Celtic mythological perspective, which is where much of my study lies, cattle were wealth, and status, so the two terms could almost have been interchangeable. However, to another individual, wealth may mean something completely different e.g. money, jewels, job security, happiness, a big family; wealth is a very subjective term. This is why we have to be open minded in divination, as it’s easy to simplify, or apply meaning where we want to see it, rather than where it truly lies.

Anyway, rather than starting at the beginning and giving a detailed explanation of what each rune means, I would rather try them out and see what they have to say to me, even as a layman practitioner. I learn best by doing, so let’s see what the runes have to say today!

This is a three rune lay out. You start by meditating on your question, or of course, you could be focused on someone else’s query, if you were to do a divination for another. The first rune I pull should relate to my current situation. The second rune should focus on the challenging aspects of this; any obstacle that I might encounter. The final rune should indicate a solution or alternative path.

With permission from a friend who knows I am starting out on this divination journey, I focus on a query for them, which is relationship based. I won’t go into details, for obvious reasons! So, let’s see what runes we get.



The first rune is Algiz, which makes a ‘z’ sound and means ‘Elk’. The rune is associated with courage, protection and warding off danger. It may indicate the person is in a situation where they wish to do something outside their comfort zone, and are working up the courage to do so. The rune appeared in an Old English poem which told us that the ‘Elk Sedge’ was a plant who would wound all who tried to take a grip on her. Maybe this is an indication that the holder of the elk rune is not open to relationships at this time, or should perhaps open themselves up to the possibility of getting close to someone, if that’s what they truly want. Also, this could mean that the holder of the rune is very protective of themselves, due to having been hurt in the past.



The second rune I pull out of my rune bag is Ingwaz, which sounds like ‘ng’. The rune is associated with the god Ing who may also be Frey although there is some debate about this. Ing is associated with seed and fertility, and can literally relate to pregnancy when the rune appears in matters of relationships. However, the conception of things is not merely literal, and can also mean that something new is about to be created; a new situation is about to come to light, which may drastically change what is happening now. Ingwaz can mean that great inspiration is coming, or a fantastic opportunity. It is also associated with good health and motivation, so could indicate that life generally is opening up more doors. This may not sound like a challenge, to say this is supposed to be the challenge rune, but if the rune holder is stuck in a rut at the moment, to suddenly have so many options before them may be overwhelming. However, this is a positive rune, and any stress and pressure caused by these new situations will ultimately lead to something good. This rune is known to repel negative influences in your life, and provide protection.



The final rune is Jera, a ‘Y’ sound (J in Germanic languages) which means ‘year’ or ‘harvest’. I’m immediately excited to see a harvest rune pop up straight after a seed rune, as this seems to indicate that whatever seeds are sown in the challenging phase of the rune holder’s situation will come happily to fruition. This rune is all about the results from earlier efforts, and how good things don’t happen overnight, but are the result of hard work and determination over a period of time. Success will come, but it may take longer than you think. Jera indicates that even if you don’t see it now, your desires are coming to you naturally and harmoniously with the world around you, and it’s important that you keep working towards what you really want, and being honest with yourself about what your goals are. It also indicates that you have the power to change things you don’t like in your own life, and to not be afraid to do this.


To summarize this for a shorter reading, I could say that Algiz suggest the rune holder is in a difficult place emotionally, Ingwaz is telling them that many, perhaps conflicting opportunities are on the horizon, and that Jera is saying that if they figure out what they really want, or which of these opportunities is the best for them and work towards that, there is nothing stopping that goal coming to fruition. All in all, this seems like a really positive reading; I hope my friend thinks so! I’m excited to learn more about the runes, and next time, we might do a slightly different cast, to look at the different ways the runes can be used in divination.

*All images copyright Mabh Savage 2018.


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

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