There is evidence that runes historically served purposes of magic in addition to being a writing system. Rune Magic is a method of divination similar to the Tarot or the I Ching. Runic divination or runecasting, is not fortune telling. To divine, in the original sense of the word, is literally to discover higher insight, the workings of fate or the will of the Gods, as it applies to our lives.
Runecasting works deeply with the subconscious. The rune pouch with its runic symbols represents the entire universe. As one poses a question, one's entire conscious and unconscious mind is focused toward that question, so that the runelots selected are not truly random selections, but rather choices made by the subconscious.
Even back in Ancient times, there was a remarkable understanding of the human psyche. The Norse recognized cause and effect and the interconnectedness of all things. The word to describe this interconnectedness was wyrd. Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. It can be pictured as a web, like that of a spider. When the spider steps onto a thread (a path) the vibrations affect the entire web (the community) and that which is contained within the web, just as our actions affect our immediate world and those around us and the actions of others affect our lives.
There were seidr rituals for divination. When one does a runic reading, one usually addresses a particular issue, and examines the past, the present and the future, or rather what will be if one follows the path one appears to be on. An attempt to peer onto the Web of Wyrd. The future is always perceived as mutable and changeable. The runic reading is done as an evaluation process, not as fortunetelling. One has an opportunity to look at what has occurred in the past (regarding the issue being questioned), what is occurring right now and what direction one is headed.
I start with the little saying below after finding a suitable place to do the reading. You do not want to be disturbed. Try to sit facing North if possible, the direction of the Gods in Norse mythology. Place a small white cloth on the surface in front of you. White is the symbol of truth and purity. You'll work with the runes on this cloth. This cloth protects them from getting dirty and also forms the boundary for the casting. Any colored clean cloth, board or slab can be used.
For some, depending on the question, the time of day, moon phase or even the weather are other factors to note. Some people say that castings should only be done during the day, outside, with the sun shining. The weather can also affect our mood and the one thing that we want is to be in the best frame of mind. For others, candles, music, water, feathers or other items are involved. But overall, I say be comfortable and relaxed.
Carefully form a question in your mind. Take your time doing this, as it is very important that you do not change the question midway through the reading. Do not ask direct questions, such as those with yes or no answers. Instead ask leading questions, those starting with who, what, where, why, when, etc. Write the question down on paper if needed to help focus. The Rune Site, link below, has some pre-made black forms that can help. Once you have the question firmly fixed in your mind begin to gently mix the runes in their bag or container. Continue to mix the runes until you feel compelled to take up certain rune.
Continue to stir and select lots until you have the correct number of runes in front of you for the layout you will be using. Keep track of the order in which the runes were pulled, laying them in their proper position in the layout as you pull them. You can also use your paper to write the drawn rune down and use the paper to help examine the read.
There are many different layouts. Some just grab a handful and cast them on the cloth. The upside down ones are ignored and the right side up ones are read. There is also the Norn Cast, Nine Rune Layout, Odin's Spread and more. I use a Four Corner Layout.
If you are new to casting, a good way to start is the One Rune Cast. As you might imagine, this method is designed to provide a quick, concise answer to a specific question. It can also be used daily as a subject for meditation or as a general overview of the day before you go to bed. Think of a specific question. Pull a rune out of the pouch and look at it. The answer may be an obvious yes or no, or the rune might provide a more conditional response. If the rune you picked seems to make no sense at all as a response to your question, ask another question or try again later. This cast is also a good way to study and learn the runes.
Each rune means many different things. It is up to the runecaster to decide how these meanings apply to the question at hand. You may get even deeper interpretations through your own 'gut' reactions to the rune's definition. However, don't delude yourself in thinking that you have a completely different understanding of the cast than indicated by the traditional interpretations. Stick to the recognized interpretations, but learn to expand on their meanings through insight and meditation.
If you were using paper, it can be burned after a reading to close the session. It can also be saved in a journal for further study and review. Keeping a rune log is a great way to learn the feel of the runes and to develop the skill to rune read. I always close a reading by saying, this read is closed and thank the Divines.
Recently there has been a new found interest in New Age items and there have been a revival of using the runes for casting and divination. You can now buy a set of runes almost as easily as you can buy a deck of tarot cards. However, if you want your runes to be special to you there’s no better way than to make them yourself. Make your own runes and layouts based on what you know and feel. Have fun! Blessed Be!
All Father Odin, the Rune Master.
Lead me to true knowledge
Freya, Mistress of Beauty,
reveal to me the future paths.
Heimdall, Guardian to All,
escort me through the past.
Tyr, Master of Justice,
guide me to present glory.
So may it be.