Runes and Shamanism

There is some, lets say, ‘a variety of opinions’ to when the Runes came into practice, the oldest view is they are over 2,000 years old. The Runes themselves come from the Teutonic and Scandinavian spiritual traditions and the word ‘Rune’ itself means mystery. The Runes have been used in casting for divination, communication in the form of writing, used in protection and healing charms.

The Elder Futhark of 24 Runes, divided into their families or 'Aets'

The Elder Futhark of 24 Runes, divided into their families or ‘Aets’

Each Rune itself is a shamanic guide, for in the Poetic Edda their coming into being was indeed a shamanic experience for Odin as detailed below from the Havamal of the Edda.

(For the purpose of this blog the not all of stanzas have been used for more in depth view please see Havamal stanzas 137 to 163)

I know I hung on the windswept tree whose roots no one knows

For nine nights and nine days

No one brought me food

No one brought me drink


Spear pieced, sacrificed myself

Odin to my self

I searched the depths I spied the Runes

Raised them with song and fell once thence……….


…….I began to thrive, to grow wise

To grow greater, and enjoy

For me words led from words to new words

For me deeds lead from deeds to new deeds


Runes shall you know and rightly read staves

Very great staves, powerful staves

Drawn by the mighty one who speaks

Made by the Vanir (fertility gods), carved by the highest rulers

This excerpt tells of a shamanic death and birth, being suspended between the worlds, being sacrificed harmed by the spear, and the raven pecking out his eye in the quest for wisdom. The metaphor for Odin losing his eye is being able to see in this world and the Otherwords. The tree itself is Yggdrasil (Odin’s Steed), trees as mentioned in the ‘Theory’ page are Axis Mundis used to travel from this word to the Otherworlds in shamanic journeys.

The Vanir are indeed fertility gods such as Freyja, but they are also shamanic gods too in the form of Seidr in the Northern Traditions, so for the Vanir to have ‘made’ the Runes it would be obvious to think of the Runes to have shamanic qualities

The Runes themselves, the Elder Runes or Elder Futhark (Futhark coming from the first Runes, Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido and Kenaz) is the most commonly used and the one with the most research as there are a number of Futhark that have come into practice over time such as the Younger and Anglo Saxon Futharks to name a few

The Runes have associations with a particular god/dess, with an element, an animal, a tree, a herb and so on, and a core interpretation, for example

The Rune Ansuz

The Rune Ansuz


God – Odin

Element – Air

Animal – Raven

Tree – Yew/Ash

Herb – Fly Agaric (mushroom)

Core interpretation – Odin as god, mouth, speech, communication and consciousness of thought and mind

With each one of these attributes links into the unconsciousness of the Rune reader to portray the message, inspiration or action. Each Rune is individual, but is also part of the collective, with its own meaning being transmitted and influenced by other Runes it has been cast with, similar to a tarot reading.

Runes can be put together to create a ‘Bind Rune’; this is a magic spell or charm as are the Runes singularly in their own right. A common Bind Rune used as form of protection is ALU a combination of:

Ansuz – the god and communication

Laguz – the life force

Uruz – primal will strength and healing

And when linked and binded together each Rune influences the other to create a very powerful charm of protection and to enhance this they are sung as did Odin sing them, known as ‘Galdr’ the chanting of the Runes. In Seidr, songs were/are sung to carry the shaman to the Otherworld and carryout their work there.

The Runes Ansuz, Laguz and Uruz binded together  to create ALU Bind Rune

The Runes Ansuz, Laguz and Uruz binded together to create ALU Bind Rune

Please follow the link, which explains ALU in more detail

Singing in shamanism is a common practice across the world and is one of its core principles. And to follow another principle, one of ‘animism’ everything is alive and has consciousness, and this is so true with the Runes.

The Runes themselves are not static, they evolve with the ‘Runester’ and to work with them is a lifetime’s study and indeed rewarding.

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