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.
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
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.
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.