To divination and casting of lots they pay attention beyond any other people. Their method of casting lots is a simple one: they cut a branch from a fruit-bearing tree and divide it into small pieces which they mark with certain distinctive signs (notae) and scatter at random onto a white cloth. Then, the priest of the community, if the lots are consulted publicly, or the father of the family, if it is done privately, after invoking the gods and with eyes raised to heaven, picks up three pieces, one at a time, and interprets them according to the signs previously marked upon them.
The Runes by this time were already developing a consistency on the European Continent. They were carried from place to place on the ancient trade routes, many warriors had them as part of their packs as they carried their weapons to the wars of the dark age. It is believed that by the time of Tacitus’ quote that the Runes were more than just squiggles on a stick. They were a recognized written language understood by those who had been educated in it.
Through the centuries the Futhark (the name for the runic alphabet…this is based on the first six runes) has evolved. The Anglo-Saxon alphabets expanded on the Runes and had as many as 33 letters in Britain. However, it is the ancient Futhark, the elder stones, that are used for divinatory purposes. These were more common among the Germanic tribes. The twenty-four runes are broken down into three groups of eight and are named for gods from the Norse Pantheon. The first eight futhark are attributed to Freyr, the second eight to Hagal, and the third eight to Tyr.
Somewhere through the history of time, probably much later, the final Rune was added. This Rune is called the Blank Rune. Many represent this rune as being indicative of the emptiness or that the Runes are declining to answer. The Blank Rune is called “Odin’s Rune” and is emblematic of the endless possibilities of the Universe.
As stated in our modality page on Runes, what are called “Rune Stones” today are actually a misnomer. Rune Stones truly do exist. There are standing stones which still contain their markings across the paths of the northern explorers. Rune stones were larger stones (some weighing multiple tons, some twenty pounds) which were inscribed with runes to mark boundaries, commemorate that “on this battlefield Sven of the long axe went berserk and killed twenty of the enemy – Hail Sven, sword arm of Lungar,” or to put the magic of the runes to work to bind a contract or treaty.
Today Runes are used by many for simple self-introspection, to look ahead, or just as a way to learn how to read an ancient language! Many of the sagas of the ancient tribes exist today, but only in their original languages. Many scholars and history buffs are learning to read the runes to enable them to peer into the depths of history. There are those, however, who take the time to truly go within and learn the information about themselves and the world around them, reconnect with the energies and can become true practitioners of runemal. Dr. Nikki is just such a person as she has been using the Runes for nearly twenty years.
In this section we’ll break the Runes down for you, not only into their individual meanings, but also the representations included in being part of Freyr’s, Hagal’s, and Tyr’s Eight. Please click on the links to learn about the various Runes.