What Are Runes?
are an alphabetic script used by the peoples of Northern Europe from
the first century c.e. until well into the Middle Ages. In addition to
their use as a written alphabet, the runes also served as a system of
symbols used for magic and divination. Runes fell into disuse as the
Roman alphabets became the preferred script of most of Europe, but
their forms and meanings were preserved in inscriptions and
primary characteristic which distinguishes a runic alphabet from other
alphabets is that each letter, or rune, has a meaning. For example,
whereas "ay", "bee", and "cee" are meaningless sounds denoting the
first three letters in our alphabet, the names of the first three
runes, "fehu", "uruz", and "þurisaz" are actual words in the Germanic
language, meaning "cattle", "aurochs", and "giant", respectively. Runes
also have magical and religious significance as well, thus transforming
the simple process of writing into a magical act. They are also used
for divinatory readings and to create magical spells.
runes have been rediscovered as a symbolic system and have gained
immense popularity as a means of divination. They are, however, much
more than a curious alternative to Tarot cards for telling fortunes.
They provide a key to understanding the lives and beliefs of the
ancient people who created them, and have much to teach us about a way
of life that was perhaps more inimately connected to the natural world,
and to the realm of spirit, than our own.