According to the "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Divination" the word
"rune" means "whisper" or "secret". Indeed runes are thought by some
to be a way of interacting with both the spirit and the living world.
The system of divination by runes can be attributed to two tribes who
came together and produced a combination of symbols and old signs
which were found on a variety of paintings, ritual and domestic items
in the North from as early as Paleolithic times. However there are
other myths surrounding the origins of the runes including the
Volsungr, a Northern ancestral tribe who crossed into Europe before
the Ice Age.
There is also a myth relating to Odin a God of wisdom, divination and
the Horde of the Dead". After hanging down on the "World Tree for
nine days", he realised or "saw" at the end of his "shamanistic journey":
"How the magical and systematic power of signs - and of the mind -
could be put together. He took up the runes"
As well as their use as an alphabet; it was their use as a divining
tool and their supposed power to call up deities' influence over
fertility, crops, tides, love, healing and curses, which led to people
as late as 1700 being burned at the stake for using them.
Today the use of the runes seems to be enjoying a modern day revival
with collections becoming more widely available and instruction sheets
on how to use them.
As the runes spread throughout Europe by the Anglo Saxons, the runic
alphabet which was quite varied in number depending upon geographical
location, finally became settled into a basic alphabet of 24 Runes
called the FuThark.
The word FUThARK originates from the sounds of the six letters. The
24 Runic signs are arranged into three families comprising 8 runes
each. These individual families are called Aett (singular) or Aettir
(plural) Each family or Aett is ruled over by its own particular
spirit or Norse God. Respectively these entities are:
Freya & Frey - Goddess and God of fertility and increase
Heindall - The watcher and the keeper of the Rainbow Bridge to the Heavens
Tyr - War leader and spirit of the just
The sequence of signs in each Aett has meaning as does each rune
within it. Each individual rune is thought to be a "symbolic
storehouse" and a "magical talisman" having its own unique set of
meanings connecting a variety of things including: feelings,
experiences, spirits, objects, creatures and archetypal processes.
Almost like the makeup of an inner reality their movements in any
given situation are said to be indicative of how "Wynd" or fate is
operating in an individual's affairs. The meanings of the runes are
however quite fluid. Although old texts do give sets of associations
for the signs there is still quite an amount that is left up to the
interpretation and intuition of the individual using them.