Runes and Their Meanings

I often find myself captivated when watching people cast runes or work with tarot cards. It is actually quite a fascinating art, and I find that runes help to calm down one’s mind and spirit, so for me I personally find it very relaxing to work with runes.

There are a lot of websites on the Internet that go into the full history of where runes came from, so I am not going to go into a lot of detail on the history or origins of runes. But the basic story goes that the God Odin, decided to hang upside down from the World Tree by his feet, in order to gain the knowledge and wisdom from this tree.

And during his time hanging from the tree he discovered runes and designed the rune alphabet and system. There are some variations on that story but it is the basic interpretation of it.

So not only were runes used for casting and divination, they were also used as part of an alphabet in old English or in Norse traditions.

There are different types of rune alphabets as I will mention soon below.


Each rune in the alphabet has a special meaning associated with it. When you draw a rune, you would look up the meaning of that rune in a book (or on the Internet), to see how to interpret it’s meaning.

Many runes have two meanings as well, depending on whether the rune was drawn – right side up, or upside down. Normally the upside-down interpretation of that rune is simply the converse, or opposite, of its usual meaning.

I personally recommend a good book based on your rune alphabet, that can provide detailed lists of meanings to help with interpretation of each rune. Just search for one on Amazon or Google, or check your local book shop.

Rune Alphabets


There are three main sets of rune alphabets that are more commonly used. The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc which has 29 runes used by Celtic traditions, Elder Futhark which consists of 24 runes and was used in Norse traditions, and the Younger Futhark which consists of 16 runes.

The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and Elder Futhark alphabets are the most commonly used in rune casting, and I myself prefer the Elder Futhark, as I have a strong interest in Norse mythology.

You can use any of the types of rune alphabets for rune casting, do some research on each to find which kind interests you the most. You’ll find that the meanings for different runes are similar across the different alphabets.

You can use any of them when doing rune casting, it’s personal preference, and one alphabet is not better than the other, nor is one better for rune casting that another.

===> Check out these lovely rune sets on my resource page.

How Runes Are Used

In addition to runic alphabets being used by older civilisations for communication and writing such as the Norse and Celts, runes can also be used to help divine the future, to analyse your current life circumstances, to help review your past and how it may influence your present and future, and to assist with everyday decision-making.

Using runes in this way allows you to connect with your higher self and with the powers within you and throughout the universe to help you make better decisions in life and to gain deeper insights into everyday situations.

Runes (as well as Tarot) are commonly ‘cast’ or laid out in particular types of layouts on a surface such as a table, a mirror or on the ground.

Although there is no specific way in which a rune should be used or laid out, there are a lot of common layouts that many practitioners use which can help you get started.

Let’s have a look at some of the most common layouts below.

Rune Casting / Rune Layouts

There are many different ways that rune layouts can be done, and I recommend getting a good book on runes to see the different kinds and to find which ones will work best for your aims.

These are some of the most common ways to lay out your runes to help provide you with certain types of insights or information.

3-rune layout (past, present and future) layout – this is most commonly laid out as three runes next to each other in a row. Out of your rune bag you randomly pull / draw 3 runes while focusing your intent on what you want to get an answer for, or what you need to get assistance with.

The first rune that you draw will go on the far left-hand side of the row and that will represent the past. The second rune that you draw will go in the middle and will represent the present. And the last rune that you draw will go on the far right of the row and represents the future.

3-rune layout
3-rune layout

Then by interpreting the meanings of each rune as they are in past, present and future, you can try to get an understanding of how to best deal with a question you may have asked or may have in your mind.

You can for example just ask a question such as what career choice should I make today? And this past, present and future layout is brilliant to help you to make better decisions based on the question. You could also use the 3-rune layout to help with decisions for tomorrow or next week, or to give you better insight into any given day.

A variation on the 3-rune layout is the 5-rune layout – it is similar to the 3-rune layout except that the five runes are placed in a cross formation. You still have the past, present and future runes in the middle row. But above the middle rune and also below the middle rune, you have two additional runes.

The rune below the present (middle) rune, indicates what aspect of the problem must be accepted and cannot be changed. Whereas the rune above the middle rune, is the result rune.

This rune indicates the final outcome, given the other factors in the rune cast.

5-rune layout
5-rune layout

7-rune layout – in this particular formation you will draw seven runes. The first six runes that are drawn will be laid out next to each other in a row and the seventh rune drawn goes below that row, on its own, below the row of the first 6 runes.

This rune cast gives a little bit more detail with more information on how to deal with your problem and what led you to your present dilemma in the first place.

It is a great layout which can provide insight into the previous three months and also into the next three months into the future.

So it gives you a longer perspective of six months in general.

7-rune layout
7-rune layout

1-rune draw – I really enjoy doing a 1-rune draw, when I just have a very basic question that I need an answer to, or I am in a certain dilemma which I require more insight for.

So, I will meditate on the question I have, requesting insight and assistance from the universe and from my higher self, and when I feel that I have powered up the rune bag with my intent, I will draw out a random rune to place down on a table, so that I can get some insight into my question or situation I am facing.

Sometimes I also like to draw two runes, and use them in combination to get better insight. But most oftentimes you will use one of the more popular rune layouts that I have described above, which would be either the 3-rune layout, the 5-rune layout or the 7-rune layout.

The great thing with casting runes, is that you can use the same types of layouts that are used for tarot cards as well, they are interchangeable in many ways.

Rune Stones or Rune Cards


There are a great many different types of rune stone sets that you can purchase, but it is also quite common to see people purchase rune card decks these days as well. The rune cards are very similar in their design and look to tarot decks, except obviously instead of having your usual tarot printing on the cards and tarot symbology, on each card is printed a letter of the alphabet of the type of runic alphabets you are using.

You are most welcome to use rune stones or rune cards depending on your own personal needs, the result will be the same.

Personally, I like using both. I find having a stone set is great for using outdoors where it is expected to be a bit dirty with sand if you are working without a cloth, and the cards I prefer to use indoors while sitting in bed, on the carpet or at my dining room table.

Other Uses of Runes

Apart from rune casting, and of course the use of runes as forms of writing in old times, I often see runes used in spells and rituals as well. Runes each have meanings that can help to further enhance or strengthen a spell that you may be working on or a ritual that you are celebrating.

What I normally like to do is place a rune or two on my altar during spell work that may somehow have a correspondence or association to whatever spell it is that I am working on.

For example, for a spell to do with healing, I may add a rune that represents healing on my altar. Some people also wear runes around their neck for protection, or to bring wealth, or to help make the decisions more decisive, to attract wealth and so on.

As you can see, runes have many possible uses, and definitely should be on your collection, even if you won’t necessarily use them for divination.

Are Runes and Tarot the Same Thing?

Nope but they are similar in terms of how they are used. Although both runes and tarot are used in divination, and to help you gain deeper insights into a particular problem or situation you are experiencing, their origins, meanings and symbology all differ, and of course they have different origins.

Runes are old alphabet letters that were used for written language, whereas tarot started initially as playing cards and were later used in divination and may have origins in ancient Egypt or the Kabbalah.

The types of layouts used in rune casting and tarot are quite similar, and the interpretations provided by each have some similarities, for example, a tarot card may symbolize good health and a rune may represent the same.

Of course, a tarot card in upside down formation, just like with a rune, will normally represent the converse of the normal meaning for that card.

Runes and Sigils

There is some confusion that runes and sigils are the same, but they are not. Runes represent old language phonetic alphabet systems, and each rune always represents the same meaning, and the meaning cannot be changed.

The way the meaning is interpreted can of course change depending on the context in which you are reading the rune.

A sigil on the other hand, is a symbol made from base intent, and can be made to have custom meaning that is special to yourself, or to a group of people using the same sigils.

Also, a sigil’s meaning can be altered, modified and changed by the creator of the sigil ay anytime. This is not possible for a rune.

A sigil’s shape and form can be made from anything, and often times the creator of the sigil may use a rune or other symbol as inspiration to create the base shape of the sigil and of course they will change it to suit their own ends.

A sigil that is made from runes is called a ‘rune-bind’.

===> Check out some awesome rune sets and other Wiccan / pagan accessories on my resource page.