Many of the people coming into Norse Paganism, myself included, often explored other beliefs and cultural practices. These practices include shamanism, druidism, Celtic Paganism, Wicca, other various forms of witchcraft, and more. We all have our own paths that led us to be Norse Pagan, and still, other paths may lead us away.
One element that crosses some of those paths is divination. From Tarot Cards, palmistry, runes, trances, and visions, divination is a part of pagan practice. Though the different practices have their own nuances, the general idea is the same. reading signs in some way or the other to discern past, present, and future occurrences. For those used to other divination practices, run reading may seem similar to tarot. Runes, though are simpler in meaning and simpler in message.
About the Runes
While there are different sets of runes out there I will focus on the Elder Futhark. I will go into the full account and my understanding of it in a later post, but the runes were a gift of understanding a knowledge passed to us from Odin. His nine-day sacrifice, as mentioned in the Havamal, at the great tree Yggdrasil gave him, not just the ability to see the runes, but the knowledge and understanding to teach them to us. Until this time, they were only known to the Norns, three maidens who created the fates of all living beings. The way they shaped the fates was by carving the runes into the trunk of Yggdrasil. It is the power of these runes that Odin sacrificed himself for.
The power in the runes lies 2 fold. On one side is the metaphysical aspect of the runes that they hold the magic of the Norns and the ability to glimpse fates outside of our understanding. The other side is the wisdom and knowledge associated with a culture that has a system of writing. Both of these interpretations are extremely powerful, and both are equally valid. These runes are used for simple writing, creating bind runes (a form of magic), and divination.
When divining runes, you basically tap into your intuition and the energies all around us to divine simple answers. Traditionally, 1 or 3 runes are cast depending on the question you seek. One rune basically gives a yes or no answer with maybe a little extra advice thrown in. In a three rune reading they are typically laid out in a “Past – Present – Future” message or a “What’s happening – What to do – Possible Outcome” message. There are people who lay out many more runes in patterns similar to the way tarot is used. In my understanding, this creates more questions than answers. and the simplistic message of the runes can become more confusing than it needs to be.
While I am no expert on any of this, I do consider myself an ongoing student of these sorts of things and am always revising my understanding. Check out this page detailing the Runes, what they look like, their literal meanings, and the abstract meanings.