Home / Divination Arts / Runes, their symbols and meanings

Runes, their symbols and meanings

Runes (Celtic 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 manuscripts.

Older than the New Testament, the Runes have lain fallow for more than 400 years. The Runes were last in current use in Iceland during the Middle Ages. The wisdom of the Rune Masters died with them. Little remains but the standing Rune stones, the sagas, the far-flung fragments of runic lore, and the 24 Runes themselves.

The influence of the Runes on their time is incontestable. When the high chieftains and wise counselors of Anglo-Saxon England met in conclave, they called their secret deliberations “Ruenes”. When Bisop Wulfila made his translation of the Bible into fourth century Gothic, he rendered St. Mark’s “the mystery of the kingdom of God” using “runa” for “mystery.

Eight centuries earlier, when Greek historian Herodotus traveled around the Black Sea, he encountered descendants of Scythian tribesmen who crawled under blankets, smoked themselves into a stupor, and cast marked sticks in the air and “read” them when they fell. These sticks were used as Rune sticks.

There is no firm agreeement among scholars as to where and when runic writing first made its appearance in Western Europe. Before Germanic peoples possessed any form of script, they used pictorial symbols that they scratched onto rocks.

Especially common in Sweden, these prehistoric rock carvings, are dated back to 1300BC and were probably linked to Indo- European fertility and sun cults.

The practice of divination (sortilege) was cultivated among Northern Italic as well as Germanic peoples, one using letters the other symbols. Numerous runic standing stones can be seen in the British Isles, in Germany and throughout Scandinavia.

From the beginning Runes took on a ritualistic meaning, serving for the casting of lots, for divination, and to evoke higher powers that could influence the lives and fortunes of the people. The craft of “runemal” touched every aspect of life, from the most sacred to the most practical. There were Runes and spells to influence the weather, the tides, crops, love, healing, fertility, cursing and removing curses, birth and death.

Runes were carved on amulets, drinking cups, battle spears, over the lintels of dwellings and onto the prows of Viking ships.

The Rune castors of the Teutons and Vikings wore startling garb that made them easily recognizable. Honored, welcomed and feared these shamans were familiar figures in tribal circles. There is evidence that a fair number of runic practitioners were women. Runic symbols have been carved into pieces of hardwood, incised on metal or cut into leather that was then stained with pigment.

The most common Runes were smooth flat stones or pebbles with symbols or glyths painted on one side. The practicioner would keep them in a pouch, shake them and scatter the pebbles on the ground. Those falling with glyphs upward were then interpreted.

Bt 100 AD the Runes were already becoming widely known on the European Continent. They were carried from place to place by traders, adventurers, and warriors, and eventually by Anglo-Saxon missionaries.

For this dispersion to occur a common alphabet was required, the alphabet that became known as “futhark” after after its first 6 letters.

Although later Anglo-Saxon alphabets expanded to include as many as 33 letters in Britian, the traditional Germanic futhark is comprised of 24 Runes. These were divided into 3 families of 8 Runes each, 3 and 8 being numbers credited with special potency. The 3 groups, known as “aettir” were named for the Norse Gods “Freyr” “Hagal” and “Tyr.


As with most oracles of divination – Runes mean different things if held ‘straight up’ and mean the opposite if held in the ‘reverse’.

FEHU – F: Cattle

Abundance through effort, inheritance of self and self value, material gain, earned income. Success, happiness and wealth.

Reversed: Abandonment of plans, loss, disappointment, frustration.

URUZ – U: Brute Strength

Strength, home love on all sides, health, changes, a forceful masculine archetype.

Reversed: Missed abilities, weak will power, lack of motivation

THURISAZ – TH: The seeing of the future

Open the door or gate to seeing the future – luck reflection for action, protection. You will see the truth.

Reversed: Not willing to heed information given, having a stubborn mind-set

ANSUZ – A: references the ancestral god, Odin.

Message from within (listen to your ‘little vioce’), advice from others, chance encounter, careful thought so you will know what to do from this point in time

Reversed: Watch out for trickery, the dark side of yourself when others interferring with your plans, or there is failed communication

RAIDHO – R: Journey

You’re about to embark on a journey – either in the physical world or a journey of your soul to heal something that needs healing.

Reversed: Unexpected, unpleasant journey, transit problems, upsetting plans, lost tickets, communication

KENAZ – K: Beacon or torch.

When you feel in the dark – this rune will bring an opening, to help you open to who you are and your highest possibilities. From the drakness – light will come.

Reversed: withdrawl, anxiety, closing, loss

GEBO – G: Gift of Harmonic Relationships

Unity with self and all others – especially with our higher selves, nature and all things aroud us. Cannot be reversed.

WUNJO – W or V: Bliss and Glory

You do not Need anybody. Peace, pleasure, self-worth, joy and serenity, happy results, harmony, prosperity

Reversed: Sorrow, disatisfaction, disappointment, friction, delay, possession by higher forces

HAGALAZ – H: Destructive forces

This refers to the destructive forces of nature, and things that are out of our control.

NAUTHIZ – N: The Negatives of Human Needs

Caution, hold, coming in touch with a side of you that you may not like, resistence, distress, delay, constraint or restraint. Reflect on how bad things can and apprecite what you have.

Reversed: Improper course of action, think twice before acting, don’t make hasty judgments!!

ISA – I: Ice

Frozen in time, calm, non-action, everything on hold, letting go of ego and seeking your inner truths, you are blocked by your emotions. Cannot be reversed.

JERA – J or Y: The Cycle of One Year

Reaping of a reward when your world seems stagnant, harvest the seeds you have planted, gain, fruition, things happening in their own time and space when they are supposed to! Cannot be reversed.

EIHWAZ – EI: Yew Tree

Stability, doing the right things, patience, perservance, endurance. Decided what is the right way to get the things accomplished in your lofe. Cannot be reversed.

PERTHRO – P: Initiation, Things Unexplained, Something Hidden

A hieratic or mystery rune pointing to that which is beyond our frail manipulative powers.

Perth is assocaited with the Phoenix, the mystical bird which consumes itself in the fire then rises from its own ashes. Its ways are secret and hidden. Powerful forces of change are at work here. Yet what is achieved is not easily or readily shared. After all becoming whole – the means of it – is a profound secret.

On the side of the Earthly or mundane, there may well be surprises, gains or rewards that you did not anticipate.

On the side of human nature this Rune is symboloized by the flight of the eagle. Soaring flight, free from entanglement, lifting yourself above the endless ebb and flow of ordinary life to acquire broader vision – all this is indicated here.

Perth stands for the heart of Initiation – Nothing external matters here, except as it shows you in its inner reflection. This Rune is concerned with the deepest stratum of our being, the bedrock on which our destiny is founded.

For some Perth means experiencing some form of death – or transition. It is a letting go of everything, no exceptions, no exclusions. Nothing less than renewal of the Spirit is at stake.

Hidden information and truths, mysteries, esoteric, that which is unknown on a conscious level, it could come into the light and you would understand the ‘higher meaning’ of things.

Reversed: Events stalled, you need to clear out something – unpleasant surprise – the old way has to come to an end, do not focus on outcomes, nor bind yourself with memories of past achievements or you will orb yourself of the true present. When your inner being is shifting and reforming, on a deep level, patience, constancy, and perserverence are called for.

Do no repeat the old – let it go!

The initiation – the veils of the illusion are being lifted – let the old ways go!

Stay centered, see the humor and keep your faith firm.


Spirit guides – (How interesting as my guide is Zoroaster and I call him Z!) – protection, fortunate new influence, making the connection with spirit and working through your issues.

SOWILO – S: The Sun

The circle is completion – wholeness, the sun, the path to awareness and self knowledge. See you ‘dark side’ – that which makes you destructive to yourself and others. Seek change to heal and be complete with yourself. Cannot be reversed

TEIWAZ – T: Tyr, the sky god.

To be successful in competition, very motivated, finding the spiritual or transcendental self.

Reversed: Low energy and lack of enthusiasm

BERKANA – B: Birch-goddess

To be prepared, cautious in what you do. Also references your family and home.

Reversed: An unfortuante domestic situation – so use caution.

EHWAZ – E: The Sacred Horse

The balance of things in the uinverse, stability, move forward carefully focusing on the tools that will help you get there

Reversed: Sudden unexpected change that is not wanted

MANNAZ – M: The nature of Humanity

The self and its place in the collective conscience of humanity. We are all part of the collective unconscious – we are all One. Your attitude towards and their attitudes towards you. Take this time for persoanl relection. Cannot be reversed.

LAGUZ – L: Water – Emotions

The moon, the flow of emotions and all things into the collective unconscious – all bodies of water – Aquarius – feminine energies – higher mind, spirituality, health and healing – a time of cleansing.

Reversed: Not listening to your inner voice, tackling something you know you should not do – or are not capable of doing.

INGWAZ – NG: Fertility

Fertility of the joining of human beings, usually for a new life – a pregnancy. Finish what you are doing, tie up lose ends and start something new. Cannot be reversed.

DAGAZ – D: Daylight or Dawn.

A new day begins and go to work. You become more insightful, breaking through your new ideas. Light is around you. Cannot be reversed.

OTHALA – O: Ancestral property – Inheritance

Freedom and independence through releasing ideas and things that keep you ‘stuck’.

You will feel ‘free’. You will inherit from someone.

Reversed: Not letting go of outmoded ideas and and concepts. You will feel ‘stuck’.

BLANK RUNE: Sometimes called “Odin’s Rune”:

Anything is possible and can happen! The sum total of who you are, what you have done, and what you have become. Choose a direction and go for it!!

The blank Rune was added to the others in the 1980’s. It shows that as humanity has grown – the possiblities are beyond what was conceived by the original Runes. Some people include the blank Rune in a reading – while others leave it out! I prefer to leave it in as the Universe has limitless possibilities!! If you get this Rune – and you believe in yourself – you can manifest anything!!

(Via: lost-civilizations.net)