The Futhark Runes
(and why I selected the ones I did)

Ansuz Nauthiz Hagalaz Raido
Ansuz Nauthiz Hagalaz Raido
Berkana Laguz Fehu Perth Gebo
Berkana Laguz Fehu Perth Gebo
The runic interpretive writings come from The Book of Runes by Ralph Blum (click here for a book critique, and this site and this one also have some excellent runic interpretations). The font used are the beautiful dwarf runes created by Daniel S. Smith. The artwork on the runes is courtesy of Scott A. H. Ruggels.


Religion has always been a two-edged sword to me. I so desperately wished to believe -- and yet, the cold hollowness of the organized religions around me always left me wondering if they cared more for the elegance of their church building, or the state of the souls within it. Only over the past few years or so have I slowly noticed the small, personal gifts offered to me... the gift of an individual's freely shared revelations, or a truly inspiring professor, or the understanding that a lack of conviction on the part of the messenger does not invalidate the message.


Signals; Messenger Rune; the God Loki

This is the first of the thirteen Runes that make up the Cycle of Self-Transformation -- Runes that focus directly upon the mechanism of self-change. The keynote here is receiving: messages, signals, gifts. Even a timely warning may be seen as a gift. When the Messenger Rune brings sacred knowledge, one is truly blessed.

The message may be that of a new life unfolding. New lives begin with new connections, surprising linkages that direct us into new pathways. Take pains to be especially aware and conscious during meetings, visits, chance encounters, particularly with persons wiser than yourself. A new sense of family solidarity invests Ansuz.

Loki is the arch-thief, the ancient trickster dating back to the Indo-European conception of the gods. He is the heyeohkah of North American Indian folklore and myth, "a mocking shadow of the creator god," as well as a culture hero who, like Prometheus, is a bringer of benefits to humankind. Through association with the Norse god Loki, Mercury overshadows this Rune. In mythology a strange, androgynous figure, keeper of the keys to knowledge, Mercury carried messages between the gods and between gods and humanity.

This Rune symbolizes the urge to integrate unconscious motive with conscious recognition. Drawing it tells you: connection with the Divine is at hand. For Ansuz is a signal to explore the depths, the foundations of life, and to experience the inexhaustible wellspring of the Divine in your nature. You are reminded that you must draw first from the well to nourish and give to yourself. Then there will be more than enough to nourish others.
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This rune choice is, I feel, self-evident. To me, personal morality is a constant (and not always successful) struggle in self-control, and a life-long search for inner growth. Without personal ethics, one is incomplete.


Constraint; Necessity; Pain

Upright or Reversed, this is a difficult Rune. The necessity of dealing with severe constraint is its lesson. Its positive aspects represent the limitations we directly cause ourselves; its negative side attracts limitations from people around us. Both are equally difficult to handle. The role of Nauthiz is to identify our "shadow" areas, places where growth was stunted, resulting in weaknesses we project negatively onto others. Try not to take this world personally, this Rune is saying: Work with the shadow, examine what inside you magnetizes misfortune into your life. When at last you can look upon Nauthiz with a smile, you will recognize the troubles, denials, and setbacks of life as your guides, teachers, and developers.

The need for restraint is unquestionable here. Drawing this Rune puts you on notice that there will be holdups, reasons to reconsider your plans carefully. Only remember: Your dissatisfactions are not unreasonable, because there is work to be done on your self. So take it on with good will and show perseverance.

This is a time to pay off old debts, to restore, if not harmony, at least balance. So mend, restore, redress: When fishermen can't go to sea they repair nets. Let the constraints of the time serve you in righting your relationship to your Self. Be mindful that rectification comes before progress. And once again, consider the uses of adversity.
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A society grows through the strength and variety of its inner subcultures. As the (sometimes troublesome) new movements are absorbed into the mainstream, they initiate new concepts, new habits, and new paradigms. Sometimes they are initially reviled by the mainstream, as with the peace movement in the 60's, or the hip-hop scene and the gay movement are today. Regardless of how we personally may feel about any particular group, it is the popular movements within a society that initiate change and growth, and prevent the stagnation of lack of diversity.


Disruptive Natural Forces; Elemental Power; Hail

Change, freedom, invention, and liberation are all attributes of this Rune. Drawing it indicates a pressing need within the psyche to break free from constricting identification with material reality and to experience the world of archetypal mind.

The Rune of elemental disruption, of events totally beyond your control, Hagalaz has only an upright position, and yet it always operates through reversal. When you draw this Rune, expect disruption of your plans, for it is the great "Awakener," although the form the awakening takes may vary. Perhaps you will experience a gradual feeling of coming to your senses, as though you were emerging from a long sleep. Then again, the onset of power may be such as to rip away the fabric of what you previously knew as your reality, your security, your understanding of yourself, your work, your relationships, or beliefs.

Be aware, however, that what operates here is not ultimately an outside force, not a situation of you-at-the-mercy-of-externals. Your own nature is creating what's happening, and you are not without power in this situation. The inner strength you have funded until now in your life is your support and guide at a time when everything you've taken for granted is being challenged.

Receiving this Rune puts you on notice: You may sustain loss or damage -- a tree falls on your home, a relationship fails, plans go wrong, a source of supply dries up. But do not be dismayed; you are forewarned and, therefore, encouraged to understand and accept what occurs as necessary for your growth.

There is nothing trivial about this Rune: The more severe the disruption in your life, the more significant and timely the requirements for your growth. Another of the Cycle Runes, the term "radical discontinuity" best describes the action of Hagalaz at its most forceful. The universe and your own soul are demanding that you do, indeed, grow.
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I struggled for which rune to use here -- and ended up metaphorically and runically defining what a theory was. Was it Dagaz, symbolizing a breakthrough or a transformation? Not quite... the transformation has yet to occur while one theorizes. Perhaps Othila, a separation or retreat to which one could intellectually retire? No -- separation from the field of study is not always wise when seeking understanding. Maybe an opening, the casting of new and clarifying light on a subject, as Kano suggests? Hm... closer, but no. A theory should survive past the 'opening up' of the subject. None satisfied me completely... until I read Raido. For me, a theory is an attempt and a journey to understanding, a form of communication with the subject of the theorizing, and ultimately a union of comprehension between teacher and theorist.


A Journey; Communication; Union, Reunion

This Rune is concerned with communication, with the attunement of something that has two sides, two elements, and with the ultimate reunion that comes as the end of the journey, when what is above and what is below are united and of one mind. The journey is the soul's journey. Moreover, the approach of that which is above and that which is below is realized from inmost sentiment rather than through the force of circumstances. A simple prayer for the soul's journey is:

I will to will Thy will.

Such a prayer of intention is proper on almost any occasion, and is particularly suitable as a preamble to healing. Raido is another of the Runes in the Cycle of Self-Transformation.

Inner worth mounts here, and at such a time we must remember that we are not intended to rely entirely upon our own power, but rather to ask what constitutes right action. Ask through prayer, through addressing your own knowing, your body knowing, the Witness Self, the Teacher Within. Once you are clear, you can neutralize your refusal to let right action flow through you. Not intent on movement, be content to wait; while you wait, keep on removing resistance. As the obstructions give way, all remorse arising from "trying to make it happen" disappears.

As always, the journey is toward self-healing, self-change, and union. You are concerned here with nothing less than unobstructed, perfect union. But the union of Heaven and Earth cannot be forced. Keep within your limits. Regulate any excesses in your life. Material advantages must not weigh heavily on this journey of the self toward the Self.

Trust your own Process -- that is the essence of this Rune. Keep on cutting away illusions. Stand apart even from like-minded others; the notion of strength in numbers does not apply at this time, for this part of the journey cannot be shared. Innermost feeling, spontaneously expressed, is what is called for now. Raido urges you to undertake your journey, your quest -- and if you have already begun, to continue.
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I have previously commented on popular movements. To me, a subculture is a popular movement that has successfully withstood mainstream pressure to conform, and merits another look. What new concepts does a subculture present us with? In what way does it force us to rethink our beliefs; how does it alter the dominant paradigm? What have we missed that its members can clearly see?


Growth; Rebirth; A Birch Tree

The Rune of life process, another of the Cycle Runes, Berkana denotes that form of fertility which promotes growth both symbolically and actually. The growth may occur in affairs of the world, family matters, one's relationship to one's Self, or to the Divine. This is a "leading to" Rune, in that it leads to blossoming and ripening.

What is called for here is going into things deeply, with care and awareness. Berkana is concerned with the power of influencing development and with the flow of beings into their new forms. Its action is gentle and penetrating and pervasive.

First disperse resistance, then accomplish the work. For this to happen, your will must be clear and controlled. In regard to the issue, your motives must be correct. Any dark corners should be cleansed; this must be carried out diligently and sometimes with expert help. Modesty, patience, fairness, and generosity are called for here. Do you possess these virtues? Once resistance is dispersed and rectification carried out and seen to hold firm, then, through steadfastness and right attitude, the blossoming can occur.
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This section was for me where I put papers that were difficult to categorize and yet still a creation of import to me. Each of them taught me something valuable about myself, or about living well -- but not always what the instructor wished me to learn.


Flow; Water; That Which Conducts

Unseen powers are active here, creative and fertile powers of Nature. The attributes of this Rune are water, fluidity, the ebb and flow of tides and emotions, of careers and relationships. Laguz fulfills our need to immerse ourselves in the experience of living without having to evaluate or understand. It speaks to the desire for comfort and the satisfaction of emotional needs, to the lunar side of our nature. For while the sun strives for differentiation, the moon draws us toward unity and merging.

This Rune often signals a time for cleansing: for revaluing, reorganizing, realigning. A Rune of deep knowing, Laguz may call you to study spiritual matters in readiness for self-transformation. Success now lies in contacting your intuitive knowing, in attuning to your own rhythms. A Rune of the self relating rightly to the Self, Laguz signifies what alchemists called the conjunctio, or sacred marriage. In fairy tales, it is the end where the hero and heroine live happily ever after.
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For me there is no place so rewarding, so nourishing for the mind, or so full of the teachings of history... as a good library. ;-)


Possessions; Nourishment; Cattle

Fehu is a Rune of fulfillment: ambition satisfied, rewards received, love fulfilled. It also promises nourishment, from the most worldly to the sacred and Divine. For if the ancient principle "As above so below" is true, then we are also here to nourish God.

This Rune calls for a deep probing of the meaning of profit and gain in your life. Look with care to know whether it is wealth and possessions you require for your well-being, or rather self-rule and the growth of a will.

Another concern of Fehu is with conserving what has already been gained. It urges vigilance and continual mindfulness, especially in times of good fortune, for it is then that we are likely to collapse ourselves into our success on the one hand, or to behave recklessly on the other. Enjoy your good fortune and remember to share it; the mark of a well-nourished self is the ability to nourish others.
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I love to play role-playing games. A recent study I read mentioned that experiences of the imagination had as much to teach us as occurrences experienced through the body. If that is the case, I am a wealthy soul indeed -- I have been priviledged to live many inner lives, and return to this daily world enriched and strengthened by what I learned within the mind's eye.


Initiation; Something Hidden; A Secret Matter

A hieratic or mystery Rune pointing to that which is beyond our frail manipulative powers. This Rune is on the side of Heaven, the Unknowable, and has associations with the phoenix, that mystical bird that consumes itself in the fire and then rises from its own ashes. Its ways are secret and hidden.

Deep inner transformational forces are at work here. Yet what is achieved is not easily or readily shared. An integrity is involved that may be masked, disguised, or secret. After all, becoming whole, the means of it, is a profound secret.

On the side of the earthly or mundane, there may well be surprises; unexpected gains are not unlikely. On the side of human nature, this Rune is symbolized by the flight of the eagle. Soaring flight, free from entanglement, lifting yourself above the endless ebb and flow of ordinary life to acquire broader vision -- all this is indicated here. This is the Rune of questing.

Another of the Cycle Runes, Perth signifies an intense aspect of initiation. Nothing external matters here, except as it shows you its inner reflection. This Rune is concerned with the deepest stratum of being, with the bedrock on which your destiny is founded. For some, Perth means experiencing a psychic death. If need be, let go of everything, no exceptions, no exclusions. Nothing less than renewal of the Spirit is at stake.
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This rune also seemed self-evident to me -- without the partnership of others both my life and my web-site would be the poorer. It is my hope that I also have contributed beneficially to the lives of others.


Partnership; A Gift

Drawing this Rune is an indication that union, uniting, or partnership in some form is at hand. But you are put on notice not to collapse yourself into that union. For true partnership can only be achieved by separate and whole beings who retain their separateness even in unity and uniting. Remember to let the winds of Heaven dance between you.

This counsel applies at all levels: in love relationships, in business affairs, in partnering of every kind. It is particularly appropriate when entering into partnership with what some call your Higher Self, while others speak of the interplay between the conscious and the unconscious in each of us. But most of all it is the case when seeking union with the Divine: God always enters into equal partnerships.
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Last Updated: Wed, January 26, 2000