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Reading the Runes – Upright and Reversed

There are nine Runes that do not have a reversed position.  That’s because the symbol looks the same either way.  The other sixteen Runes can be read either upright or reversed.

Ehwaz, the Rune of movement looks like this:  in the upright position and like this: in the reversed position. The reversed reading brings awareness to aspects of a situation that might impede movement, or to the fact that movement itself might be inappropriate at the present time.

Drawing a Rune in reversed position is not a reason to overreact with concern but instead should be considered an indication that particular care and attention are required for one’s conduct to be correct.  A reversed reading often signals an opportunity to challenge some aspect of one’s behavior, some area in life which has proven difficult to face.

Drawn upright or reversed, I choose to read both interpretations.  I feel that by reading both interpretations an individual is put in touch with all aspects of the situation, including that which may not have been expressed.

Occasionally, the reading of the Rune may seem as though it doesn’t come close to applying to one’s issue.  Should that happen, I have learned to consider the possibility that the Runes are addressing a more significant or more timely issue; something one is avoiding or something is consciously unaware of.  Experts in the reading of the Runes call this “runic override.”  This override seems to be an automatic fail-safe measure.  If there are two issues and one can’t decide which to address, I have been taught that the Runes – our own inner knowing, will select the issue of most immediate concern.

When I first began working with the Runes, I wanted to check them for accuracy.  What I did, was consulted either the I Ching or Tarot regarding the same issue.  Consistently, the feedback from the I Ching and Tarot were congruent with the content of the reading from the Runes.  I found that sometimes even the symbolic content to be complementary or at the very least commonly inspirational.

I am often asked by those I assist with a reading from the Runes if I would lend them out.  I know of some who feel totally comfortable doing so.  To me, it is a very personal matter.  They see the Runes as a simple means of communication.  When I am in doubt I of course draw a Rune from my bag.  As mentioned earlier, upright tells me “yes” and reversed tells me “no.”


The Poem of the Runes


Meditating on the Runes

The main source of information on the Runes is the Anglo-Saxon poem which was translated by the monks from Old English into Latin. It would appear that this translation was not completely unbiased and that many Christian-style references found their way into the translation. However, the core essence of the message is still quite clear. The poem included in this blog was translated by Thomas Howard.

To understand the runes, all one needs to do is look at each rune in turn and read the correct verse of the poem. Then, meditate on the symbol and words. In time the meaning will come to you. This may sound too simplistic to you, but understanding the symbols and words is a process of meditation which requires deep concentration, considerable effort and consistent practice.

Included with the translated poem is the symbol along any associated translation of the symbols’ name and meaning.

Feoh ~ Fehu ~ Cattle

Wealth is a comfort to everyone,

Yet each must give freely,

If he will glory in Heaven.

Ur ~ Uruz ~ Auroch ~The Wild OxUr ~ Uruz ~Auroch

The wild ox is fierce,

With horns above,

A bold fighter who steps the moor,

A mighty creature.

Th ~ Thurisaz ~ Thorn

Thorn is very sharp to everyone,

Bad to take hold of;

Severe to those who rest among them.

Ansur ~ Ansuz ~ Mouth

Mouth is the origin or speech,

The support of wisdom;

And for everyone a blessing.

Rad ~ Raidho ~ Raido ~ Cartwheel

Riding in the hall is very pleasant,

It is more strenuous.

Sitting on a strong horse covering

The mile paths.

Ken ~ Kenaz ~Torch

Torch to all living is pale and bright.

It burns brightest

Where noble folk rest.

Geofu ~ Gebo ~ Gift

Gift is for everyone;

Glory and exaltation, and for the needy;

A help and sustenance.

Wynn ~ Wunjo ~ Joy

Joy is needed not

By those that hath

Little want and sorrow

And hath increase and bliss.

Hagall ~ Hagalaz ~ Hail

Hail is the whitest of grains,

It sweeps from the sky,

Is whirled by the wind,

and turns to water.

Nied ~ Naudhiz ~ Nauthiz ~ Necessity

Need is narrow in the breast,

But can often be a help,

If attended to early.

Is ~ Isa ~ Ice

Ice is cold and slippery,

It glistens like glass,

Is as bright as gems,

The field wrought with frost,

is fair to the sight.

Jara ~ Jera ~ Harvest

Year of fruitfulness,

Is the hope of everyone,

When the Gods allow the earth,

To give her bright increase

to rich and poor.

Yr ~ Eihwaz ~ Yew

Yew is outwardly

A smooth tree,

Hard and fast in the earth,

The Shepherd of fire,

twisted beneath with roots,

a pleasure on the land.

Peorth ~ Pertho ~ Perth

Chess is ever play and laughter

To the proud,

Where the warriors sit

In the beer hall,

Cheerful together.

Eolh ~ Algiz ~ Protection

Sedge grows in the fen,

Flourishing in water,

Burning the blood

Of anyone who touches it.

Sigel ~ Sowilo ~ Sowhelu~ Sun

Sun to the seafarer,

Is always confidence of nobles,

It is ever-moving

And in the darkness

Of night never rests.

Tir ~ Tiwaz ~ Creator

Tir is a token

Which has a confidence

Of nobles,

It is ever-moving

And in the darkness

of night never rests.

Beorch ~ Berana ~ Birch

Birch is fruitless

But bears twigs without increase,

It is beautiful in its branches,

Is laden with leaves,

Heavy in the air.

Eoh ~ Ehwasz ~ Horse

Horse is the joy of nobles,

Where heroes wealthy on

Their horses exchange words,

To be restless is a comfort.


Mann ~ Manaz ~ Man

Folk in their happiness

And dear to their kindred,

Yet all must depart

From each other,

Because the gods commit

The body to the earth.

Lagu ~ Laguz ~ Water

Water to the landfolk,

Seems tedious,

If they venture forth in an unsteady boat,

The sea waves will foam,

And the seahorse heeds

Not the bridle.

Ing ~ Ingwaz ~ Fertility

Ing was first seen among

The eastern Danes,

Departing over the waves,

His wagon ran behind,

Thus the warriors named him.

Daeg ~ Dagaz ~ Day

Day is the gods’ messenger,

The light of the gods,

Is happiness and consolidation

To rich and poor.

Othel ~ Othala ~ Othello ~ Home

Home is beloved of everyone,

If they can enjoy their

Rights and labor

And prosper in peace.

A Bag, A Field and the Beginning of Rune Play

There is something special about reaching one’s hand into a bag of Runes; hearing the “click” of the stones against one another, feeling the hot/cold sensations and the way the Rune that is supposed to be chosen makes its way into the hand.  The bag in which I keep my Runes is from one of several trips to Negril, Jamaica.  It is colorful, with a good drawstring, and lined with linen.  Like many Greek, Roman or Christian games played during ancient times, the Runes should have a field on which they are played.  My “field” is a small example of a Navajo rug that I obtained while driving north from Sedona to the Grand Canyon.   The field is said to represent the world that is always in process of becoming and that which is taking leave.  Each time I unfold my field and ready myself to consult the Runes, I feel a sense of sacredness surround me.

One of the simplest ways to consult the Runes is by drawing a single Rune for a general idea of a whole situation.  By drawing a single Rune, one can focus more clearly on the issue and provide a fresh viewpoint.  It is said that by drawing a single Rune one’s intuition is invoked.

I have found drawing a single Rune to be particularly helpful under demanding situations or when matters require immediate action, or when I simply don’t have as much information as I feel I need to make a decision.  Years ago, as a business owner, I was faced with an offer from a competitor to purchase my business.  My business partner and I, along with our vice president retreated to my office and brought out my bag of Runes.  I knew we were on the right path and that some of us were going to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona as we had dreamt, by the drawing of Dagaz, the Rune of breakthrough and transformation.

When one is concerned about someone who is far away, concentrate the mind on that individual and draw a Rune.  It is said that this practice opens a doorway in the mind to the “non-ordinary.”  It is possible for one to know things from a distance, and that one’s inner vision goes as far as the mind can see.

Drawing a single Rune is also an appropriate way to honor certain milestones, such as birthdays, holidays such as the New Year, anniversaries, births, a death or special occasion.

A Very Basic Introduction to the Runes


Wealth is a comfort to everyone,

Yet each must give freely,

If he will glory in Heaven.

– Poem of Fehu

I’ve blogged about how I use the ancient Viking Runes; as a decision making tool to guide me toward the “course of right action” for the day or specific to a certain event, for insight into my destiny, and even for insight regarding past lives. The Runes were prevalent some two thousand years ago and are more relative to us today. Like the images of the Tarot deck and the hexagrams of the I Ching, Runes are profound keys to personal empowerment, self-development and spiritual awareness.

Runes are an ancient form of writing that was used widely for thousands of years across northern Europe. A great deal of mystery still surrounds their origins and use. According to Viking tradition, the word “rune” means a whispered secret.

Did you know that the days of the week are named after Norse gods and goddesses? Tuesday stands for Tiw’s day, Wednesday is so called after the great god Odin, Thursday is named after the powerful god Thor, and Friday takes its name from the goddess Freya.

It is from the Norse culture that the runes come, and it was in the old Teutonic world of northern Europe that the runes were venerated. They were the very soul of life for the ancient Teutonic people, and encapsulated their entire mystical and mythological beliefs.

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. Divination systems, like the Runes, are based upon sets of meaningful signs, omens that we “randomly” choose and interpret for their personal message to us. You are probably wondering, “How could this possibly work?” The traditional Norse answer would be that in the Web of Wyrd (fate, destiny), all things and events resonate in a profound and luminous way and that the Runes faithfully record the signature of the energy movements underlying our own unique fate path at the moment of consultation. The scientific rationalism of the West generally does not admit that events that are not causally related can have an underlying connection, but the idea is no longer disreputable, even in scientific terms, because the concept of randomness has been subject to scrutiny in modern times. From my college Psychology 101 I learned that in the 1950’s, Carl Jung introduced the concept of “synchronicity”, which he defined as “meaningful coincidence” and some quantum theorists have supported his conviction that “chance” events not physically or causally linked may nonetheless spring from a deeper ordering principle.

During ancient times, divination was of course attributed to the activity of gods and spirits. Whether we regard such entities as real or metaphorical, it is vitally important to know that in northern Europe the highest of all gods, Odin (Germanic translation Woden or Wotan and giving his name to Wednesday), was himself the discoverer and lord of the Runes. Odin in fact provides the model for master of the runic system. In Norse myth Odin goes on a quest for what is really a code for the process of looking within and attaining therein knowledge of all the worlds. The Runes are the physical tokens of his hard-won wisdom, offered to those “to whom they may avail.”

The Runes are said to embody the wisdom of Odin through the connections between the sign and the meaning associated with that sign, which come from three ancient “Rune poems.” In Norse myth, Odin was the god and patron of the oral tradition, so the wisdom of the Runes and the accumulated folk ways they represent can be seen as flowing from him and various guises of the Goddess, from whose springs of knowledge Odin drew. For example, the image of the first rune, Fehu, is cattle. The corresponding associations are assets, wealth and gain. In ancient Norse culture, you were worth only as much as your head of cattle. In a Rune reading, each rune is interpreted as an omen of personal significance – thus Fehu signifies material luck and gain and it is titled “Abundance” in most guide books of Rune translation. The appearance of Fehu during a Rune reading in the present or near future evokes at least a cheer of some sort. But fehu’s association with wealth, good fortune and greed evoke far deeper mythical and legendary themes in traditional rune lore, which I’ll be sharing in an upcoming blog.

For now, I leave you with hopefully a new understanding of how the Runes can teach us self-mastery. They are a guide to action, a remedy for misfortune, and a tool for promoting empowerment, fulfillment, prosperity and peace. This is at least the spirit in which the Runes function for me, today.

My Daily Tarot Card – The Judgment Card

The Judgement card suggests that the alter ego is The Compassionate One, whose superpower lies in revelation of life and worldly events. Reflect a sense of gratitude for life and those involved by showing humility, forgiveness and charity. By doing so, feel a strong redemption for past events — a great liberating feeling. I have punished myself enough and am free at last. Clearing the conscience through forgiving myself and others can bring an overwhelming sense of peace and joy. jusgment1