Runes are letters of an alphabet that developed from extremely ancient illustrations, each of which once had a specific meaning. These gradually developed into an ancient form of writing, which can be traced back from markings that appeared on rocks as early as the neolithic period. Among the signs engraved on these early Runes were parts of the body, weapons, animals and variations on the square, circle and swastika.
Later on, these symbols became simplified into abstract hieroglyphics, wich were composed of lines that no longer resembled specific objects. In addition to being used to communicate ideas, Runic letter images were considered so powerful and magical that they were inscribed into tools, weapons, rocks, altars and personal items. In addition, from these earliest of days, these magical markings were inscribed into wooden pieces that were thrown down and "read" as an early form of fortune telling.
Many Runic characters bear a resemblance to Latin letters, although they have few curves due to the fact that their design is suitable for carving with a Knife.These different alphabets are referred to as "Futharks" a word which comes from the six letters of the Runic alphabet in the same way the word "alphabet" comes from the first to words of the Greek alpha and beta or the Hebrew aleph and bayt.The Elder Futhark is basically the Teutonic alphabet, while the Younger Futhark contains only sixteen Runes, as in the Scandinavian set.
The Runic alphabet is one of the oldest forms of writing. It is made up of straight lines that cross and break. Each letter, or Rune, has an intinsic meaning in addition to its use for writing. For example, the first Rune "Fehu" is an ctual word meaning cattle. What we now know as the Runic alphabet has developed from two different sources - literate an magical. Runes as we know them are formed from three main alphabets. The Teutonic, wich has twenty-four letters, the Anglo Saxon wich has thirty-two and the Scandinavian wich has sixteen, but it is the Teutonic alphabet that we tend to use for divination today.
There are many variations in the names given to individual Runes and there are also variations in the exact shape of certain Runes. The Elder Futhark is divided into three groups of "Aettir", and each Rune has an assigned place in the alphabet. There is a link between the picture, the letter and the sound each Rune represents. Runes are more properly glyphs (hieroglyphics) rather than simple alphabetic characters, bat at this distance in time we cannot be completely sure what the individiual glyphs are meant to show. As time passed, the shape of some of the Runes changed.
Most Sources use the Germanic names for the Runes, while the Anglo Saxon is often given in brackets. The difference in meaning under the two systems for the names takes information from the two languages, and this in turn adds to our unterstanding of the Runes because the Anglo Saxon names are much closer to modern English and thus more accessible to us. Knowing how English developed can help us to unterstand the Runes. For example, the "g" in Old English often becomes the letter "y" in modern English, "a" often becomes "o" and "ae" becomes "a". Using those rules we can look at the same names of the Anglo Saxon Runes and make more sense of them. For example, "Rad" becomes "road" - a highly suitable name for a Rune that is conected with travel.
Ancient Magic in the Runes
According to mythology, the Runic alphabet was discoverd be the god Odin while he hung head down for nine days and nights from Yggdrasil (the World Tree that supports the Univers), upon wich he had spied the Rune stones; he fell from the tree, crying and filled with knowledge. Each Runic character is connected with a deity from Scandinavinan mythology and so contains in it the sequence of meanings derived from the deity´s connections and relationships.
As well as changes in the names and symbols that developed over a period of time, there was also a change of attitude towards Runes. The Saxons renamed the Runes, breaking their link with the pagan gods but still permitting their use. In later years the Christian Church sought to eradicate the Runes, due to the fear that the Runes were much more than a mere alphabet and that they contained magic within their Symbols.
The word "Rune" is derived from the Old Norse and Old English "run" and the Gothic "runa", meaning a secret thing or a mystery. Their reputation for divinatory tools was enhanced when the Christian Church claimed they were used for casting magic spells and communicating with the devil. In recent years the popularity of Runes increased with the book of J.R.R Tolkien, who used a form of Runes as "dwarfish" writing.
Nowadays, the Runes are used as a method of divination similar to the Tarot or I Ching. As with the Tarot, different meanings can be ascribed to Runes that fall in the reverse position. Due to their symmetrical shape, not all Runes can be read in reversed positions, so some Rune readers prefer not to differentiate between upright and reversed Runes. Runes can be made form any material, although most readers to use wood or stone.