Alright... getting on with the theme of Rune Magick, now we look at the Gothic or "Elder" Futhark, the system of runes most commonly used in North America and some parts of Europe by runecasters. Sometimes this system is also called the Common Germanic Futhark, though there is a slight difference between the two in the ordering of a couple of the runes.
Let it be said here, that the "Elder" almost certainly had uses far beyond mere divination - however, aside from mysterious runestones, little context survives of their usage... today in the United States, it's often the only runic system most practitioners know of, and all sorts of people from part-time psychics and wiccans to hard-core Asatruar use the "Elder" runes for divination and occasionally bindrunes and inscription spells. Most of the divination methods are of modern invention, and it's impossible to know for sure how the early pre-Viking Norse peoples used the Elder Futhark in castings. Tacitus provides a few clues to the rune-casting practices of their southern kinfolk in Germania, but his description of the practice is typically vague, in classic dismissive xenophobic Roman style.
The meanings of these runes are difficult to glean. Unlike the Younger Futhark and the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, there is no original rune poem surviving for the Elder Futhark. Their meanings and even their pronunciations have had to be reconstructed based on later sources and what is known of the Gothic language. However, since many of the same runes are present in the Anglo-Saxon system, the Anglo-Saxon rune poem provides some clues as to their meanings.
What follows is a condensed breakdown of the literal meanings of each rune followed by the generally accepted esoteric meanings used in Runic divination and magickal work. The reverse (upside-down) and merkstave (left-horizontal) positions are symbolic of potential negative tendencies of that rune. Typically runes rotated right-horizontal can be viewed positively (as in an upright rune), with caution - except when a rune is in some way symmetrical, and thus identical in upright and reversed position (in which case all horizontal forms may be considered "murk").
The Elder Futhark, rightly or wrongly, has been divided in modern times into three "Aetts" or sets of Eight, for a total of 24 runes. The infamous 25th "blank rune" sometimes added to the Elder Futhark is a new-age commercial invention with no basis in any rune tradition.
Freyr's Aett (or Yggdrasil's Root of Arising)
Domestic cattle, wealth.) Possessions
won or earned, earned income, luck. Abundance, financial strength in
the present or near future. Sign of hope and plenty, success and
happiness. Financial success. Energy, foresight, fertility,
Reversed or Merkstave: Loss of personal property, esteem, or
something that you put in effort to keep. It indicates some sort of
failure. Greed, burnout, atrophy, discord. Cowardice, stupidity, poverty, slavery, bondage.
Aurochs, a wild ox.) Physical
strength and speed, untamed potential. The primitive and untainted original state of things. A time of great energy and
health. Strength and longevity in old age. Freedom, raw energy, perseverance, tenacity,
understanding, ancient wisdom. Sexual desire, potency. The shaping of power and
pattern, formulation of the self.
Reversed or Merkstave: Weakness, obsession, misdirected force,
domination by others. Sickness, inconsistency, instability, ignorance. Impulsiveness,
brutality, rashness, callousness, rage.
Thorn, the god Thor, or a Giant.) Reactive
force, directed force of destruction and defense, conflict.
Instinctual will, vital eroticism, regenerative catalyst. A tendency
toward change. Purging, cleansing fire. Male sexuality, penetrative energy, fertilization. (Thor, the Thunder god, is both a god of fertility and protector of man against the Giants.)
Reversed or Merkstave: Danger, defenselessness, compulsion, betrayal,
dullness. Evil, malice, hatred, torment, violence, spite, lies. A bad man or
The Asa, ancestral god, i.e. Odin.) A
revealing message or insight, communication. Signals, inspiration,
enthusiasm, speech, true vision, power of words and naming.
Blessings, the taking of advice. Good health, harmony, truth, wisdom.
Ansuz Reversed or Merkstave: Misunderstanding, delusion, manipulation
by others, boredom. Vanity and grandiloquence. (Odin is a mighty, but cunning god. He always has his own agenda, and may send disaster upon those who prove unworthy of his gifts and guidance.)
Raidho: (R: The Ride, wagon, wheel or chariot.) Travel,
both in physical terms and those of lifestyle direction. A journey, relocation, evolution, change of place or setting. Seeing a
larger perspective, Right Action, Ritual, worldly wisdom. Seeing the right move to make and
deciding upon it. Personal rhythm, world rhythm, dance of life.
Raidho Reversed or Merkstave: Crisis, rigidity, stasis, injustice,
irrationality. Disruption, dislocation, demotion, delusion, possibly
Beacon or torch.) Vision,
revelation, knowledge, creativity, inspiration, intuitive knowledge, cunning, technical ability.
Vital fire of life, harnessed power, fire of transformation and
regeneration. Power to create your own reality, the power of light.
Open to new strength, energy, and power now. Passion, sexual love.
Kenaz Reversed or Merkstave: Disease, breakup, instability, lack of
creativity. Nakedness, exposure, loss of illusion and false hope.
both in the sense of sacrifice and of generosity, indicating balance.
All matters in relation to exchanges, including contracts, personal
relationships and partnerships.
Gebo Merkstave (Gebo cannot be
reversed, but may lie in perpendicular opposition): Greed, loneliness, dependence,
over-sacrifice, unrequited giving. Obligation, toll, privation, bribery.
or V: Joy.) Joy,
comfort, pleasure. Fellowship, harmony, prosperity. Ecstasy, glory,
spiritual reward, but also the possibility of going "over the
top". If restrained, the meaning is general success and
recognition of worth.
Wunjo Reversed or Merkstave: Stultification, boredom, sorrow, strife, alienation. Delirium, intoxication, possession by
higher forces, impractical enthusiasm. Raging frenzy, berserker.
Heimdall's Aett (or Yggdrasil's Root of Being)
of nature, destructive, uncontrolled forces, especially the weather,
or within the unconscious - but also the ability to withstand them and regrow. Tempering, testing, trial. Controlled
crisis, leading to completion, inner harmony.
(Hagalaz cannot be reversed, but may lie in opposition): Natural
disaster, catastrophe. Stagnation, loss of power. Pain, loss,
suffering, hardship, sickness, crisis.
restriction. Resistance leading to strength, innovation, need-fire
(self-reliance). Distress, confusion, conflict, and the power of will
to overcome them. Acceptance of shortcomings, and determination to find a better solution to them. A time to
exercise patience. Recognition of one's fate. Major self-initiated
change. Face your fears.
Naudhiz Merkstave (Naudhiz cannot be reversed, but may lie in opposition): Constraint of
freedom, distress, toil, drudgery, laxity. Necessity, extremity,
want, deprivation, starvation, need, poverty, emotional hunger.
challenge or frustration. Psychological blocks to thought or
activity, including grievances. Standstill, truce with the ego, or a time to turn inward
and wait for what is to come, or to seek clarity. This rune
reinforces runes around it.
Isa Merkstave (Isa cannot be reversed,
but may lie in opposition): Ego-mania, dullness, blindness,
dissipation. Treachery, illusion, deceit, betrayal, guile, stealth,
or Y: A year, a good harvest.) The
results of earlier efforts are realized. A time of peace and
happiness, fruitful season. It can break through stagnancy. Hopes and
expectations of peace and prosperity. The promise of success earned.
Life cycle, cyclical pattern of the universe. Everything changes, in
its own time.
Jera Merkstave (Jera cannot be reversed, but may lie in
opposition): Sudden setback, reversals. A major change, repetition,
bad timing, poverty, conflict.
Yew tree.) Strength,
reliability, dependability, trustworthiness. Enlightenment,
endurance. Life and death. Defense and offense, barbed protection against evil magick. Strongly rooted and beautiful, with a sense of purpose. Indicates that you have
set your sights on a reasonable target and can achieve your goals precisely. An
effective person who can be relied upon as an ally, and is to be dreaded by enemies.
Eihwaz Merkstave (Eihwaz cannot be reversed, but may lie in opposition): Confusion, destruction, dissatisfaction, weakness.
Lot cup, pear tree, vagina.) Uncertain
meaning, a secret matter, a mystery, hidden things and occult
abilities. Initiation, knowledge of one's destiny, knowledge of
future matters, determining the future or your path. Pertaining to
things feminine, feminine mysteries including female fertility, and
vagina. Trysts without obligations. Good lot, fellowship and joy. Evolutionary change.
Reversed or Merkstave: Addiction, stagnation, loneliness, malaise.
or -R: Elk, protection.) Protection,
a shield. The protective urge to shelter oneself or others. Defense,
warding off of evil, shield, guardian. Connection with the gods,
awakening, higher life. It can be used to channel energies
appropriately. Follow your instincts. Keep hold of success or
maintain a position won or earned.
Algiz Reversed: or Merkstave:
Hidden danger, consumption by divine forces, loss of divine link.
Taboo, warning, turning away, that which repels.
The sun.) Success,
goals achieved, honor. The life-force, health. A time when power will
be available to you for positive changes in your life, victory,
health, and success. Contact between the higher self and the
unconscious. Wholeness, power, elemental force, sword of flame,
Sowilo Merkstave (Sowilo cannot be reversed, but may
lie in opposition): False goals, bad counsel, false success,
gullibility, loss of goals. Destruction, retribution, justice,
casting down of vanity. Wrath of god.
Tyr's Aett (or Yggdrasil's Root of Passing Away towards new Arising)
Tyr, the sky god.) Honor,
justice, leadership and authority. Analysis, rationality. Knowing
where one's true strengths lie. Willingness to self-sacrifice.
Victory and success in any competition or in legal matters.
Reversed or Merkstave: One's energy and creative flow are blocked.
Mental paralysis, over-analysis, over-sacrifice, injustice,
imbalance. Strife, war, conflict, failure in competition. Dwindling
passion, difficulties in communication, and possibly separation.
Berchta, the birch-goddess.) Birth,
general fertility, both mental and physical and personal growth,
liberation. Regenerative power and light of spring, renewal, promise
of new beginnings, new growth. Arousal of desire. Pleasure that leads to parenthood (a closed-off counterpart of Perthro). A new birth or the likelihood of one. The prospering of an enterprise or venture.
Berkana Reversed or Merkstave: Family problems and or domestic troubles.
Anxiety about someone close to you. Carelessness, abandon, loss of
control. Blurring of consciousness, deceit, sterility, stagnation.
Horse, two horses.) Transportation and partnership. Movement
and change for the better. Gradual development and steady progress
are indicated. Harmony, teamwork, trust, loyalty. An ideal marriage
or long-term partnership. Confirmation beyond doubt of the meanings of any positive runes drawn alongside it.
Ehwaz Reversed or Merkstave: This is not really a negative
rune. A change is perhaps craved. Lack of adequate partner. Feeling restless or confined in a
situation. A seed of potential for reckless haste, disharmony, mistrust, betrayal.
Man, mankind.) The
Self; the individual or mankind. Your attitude toward others
and their attitudes towards you. Friends and enemies, social order.
Intelligence, forethought, create, skill, ability. Divine structure,
intelligence, awareness. Expect to receive some sort of short-term aid or
Mannaz Reversed or Merkstave: Depression, mortality,
blindness, self-delusion. Cunning, slyness, manipulation, craftiness,
calculation. Expect no help now.
Water, a lake, or a leek.) Flow,
water, sea, fertile source, healing power of renewal. Life
energy and organic growth. Imagination and psychic matters. Dreams, mysteries, the unknown/hidden, the deep, the
underworld. Success in travel or acquisition, but with the
possibility of loss as the price of a life lesson.
Laguz Reversed or Merkstave: An indication of confusion in your life. You may be making poor judgments. Lack of creativity, being in a
rut. Fear, avoidance, withering away, wasted energy. Madness, obsession, sickness, despair.
Ing, the god of fertility, usually understood to be Freyr.) Male
fertility, gestation, internal growth. Common virtues, common sense,
simple strengths, family love, caring, human warmth, the home. Rest
stage, a time of relief, of no anxiety. A time when all loose strings
are tied and you are free to move in a new direction. Be shining in your confidence.
Ingwaz Merkstave (Ingwaz cannot be reversed, but may lie in
opposition - check the grain of the wood!): Impotence, movement without change. Production, toil,
labor, work, often seemingly with no result in sight. Mental burnout.
Day or dawn.) Breakthrough,
awakening, awareness. Daylight clarity as opposed to nighttime
uncertainty. A time to embark upon an enterprise. The power
of change directed by your will, transformation. Hope/happiness. Security and certainty. Growth and release. Balance point, where opposites meet; time when one phase ends, and another begins.
Dagaz Merkstave (Dagaz cannot be
reversed, but may lie in opposition): A completion, ending, limit,
coming full circle - but without fulfilling results. Blindness, hopelessness, no new dawn for you.
Ancestral property.) Inherited
property or possessions, a house, a home. What is truly important to
one. Group order, noble authority, group prosperity. Land of birth, spiritual
heritage, experience and fundamental values. Aid in spiritual and
physical journeys. Source of safety, increase and abundance.
Reversed or Merkstave: Lack of customary order, anarchy,
slavery, poverty, homelessness. Bad karma, betrayal of hospitality, feuds, clannishness,
provincialism. What a man is bound to.