What Is Rune Casting? Origins and Techniques (2023)

In some modern Pagan traditions, divination is done by casting runes. Much like reading Tarot cards, rune casting isn't fortune-telling or predicting the future. Instead, it's a guidance tool that works with your subconscious to help solve problems by looking at potential outcomes.

Although their meanings are occasionally obscure—at least for modern readers—most people who cast runes find that the best way to incorporate them into divination is to ask specific questions based upon the current situation.

Key Takeaways: Rune Casting

  • Rune casting as divination was documented by the Roman historian Tacitus, and appears later in the Norse Eddas and Sagas.
  • Although you can purchase pre-made runes, many people opt to make their own.
  • Rune casting isn't fortune telling or predicting the future, but it does serve as a valuable guidance tool.
(Video) Runes Explained || History, Lore, & How To Use Them

What Is Rune Casting?

Rune casting is simply an oracular divination method in which runes are laid out, or cast, either in a specific pattern or randomly, as a form of guidance through problems or situations in which you need help making a decision.

Runes won't give exact answers, like what day you'll die or the name of the person you're going to marry. They don't offer advice, like whether you should quit your job or dump your cheating spouse. But what they can do is suggest different variables and possible outcomes based on the issue as it presently sits. In other words, runes will give you hints that will force you to use some critical thinking skills and basic intuition.

As with other forms of divination, such as Tarot, nothing is fixed or finalized. If you don't like what the rune casting is telling you, change what you're doing, and alter your prospective path.

History and Origins

What Is Rune Casting? Origins and Techniques (1)

(Video) Rune Divination Methods : Introduction

The runes are an ancient alphabet, referred to as the Futhark, which was found in Germanic and Scandinavian countries prior to the adoption of the Latin alphabet in the late Middle Ages. In Norse legend, the runic alphabet was discovered by Odin himself, and so the runes are more than just a collection of handy symbols one could carve on a stick. Instead, they are symbols of great universal forces, and of the gods themselves.

Dan McCoy, of Norse Mythology for Smart People, says that from the perspective of the Germanic people, the runes weren't merely some mundane alphabet. McCoy writes, "The runes were never 'invented,' but are instead eternal, pre-existent forces that Odin himself discovered by undergoing a tremendous ordeal."

The existence of rune-staves, or carved sticks, most likely developed from the symbols found on early Bronze and Iron Age rock carvings throughout the Scandinavian world. The Roman politician and historian Tacitus wrote in his Germania about the Germanic peoples using carved staves for divination. He says,

They cut off a branch from a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips these they mark with different signs and throw them at random onto a white cloth. Then the state's priest, if it is an official consultation, or the father of the family, in a private one, offers prayer to the gods and looking up towards heaven picks up three strips, one at a time, and, according to which sign they have previously been marked with, makes his interpretation.

By the fourth century C.E., the Futhark alphabet had become common around the Scandinavian world.

(Video) Rune Casting: The art of rune reading || THE RUNES #6

How to Cast Runes

To cast the runes, the first thing you'll need—obviously—is a set of runes to work with. You can purchase a set of pre-made runes commercially, but for many practitioners of Norse Paganism, there is a custom of risting, or making, your own runes. Tacitus wrote that the Runes were typically made from the wood of any nut bearing tree, but many practitioners use oak, hazel, pine, or cedar. You can carve, wood burn, or paint the symbols on your staves. Some people like to use stones—use acrylic paint with a clear coating on top of it to keep it from rubbing off with use. For many people who work closely with runes, the creation is part of the magical process, and shouldn't be done lightly or without preparation and knowledge.

In some magical traditions, the runes are cast, or tossed, out onto a white cloth, as in Tacitus' day, because not only does it provide an easy background to see the results, it also forms a magical boundary for the casting. Some people prefer to cast their runes directly onto the ground. The method you choose is entirely up to you. Keep your runes stored in a box or bag when they're not in use.

There is no one specific method of casting runes, but there are a few different layouts that have become popular with rune casters. Before beginning, you should place your hand in the bag and move the runes around so they are thoroughly mixed up prior to the actual casting.

As with other forms of divination, rune casting typically addresses a particular issue, and looks at the influences of the past and present. To do a three-rune cast, pull three runes, one at a time, out of the bag and place them side by side on the cloth in front of you. The first one represents a general overview of your issue, the middle one indicates challenges and obstacles, and the last one shows potential courses of action you can take.


Once you get a feel for how your runes work, try a nine-rune cast. Nine is a magical number in Norse mythology. For this cast, simply take nine runes out of your bag, all at once, close your eyes, and scatter them on the cloth to see how they land. When you open your eyes, take note of a couple of things: which runes are facing up, and which ones are turned over? Which ones are near the center of the cloth, and which ones are further away? Those that are face-down may represent issues that haven't come to pass yet, and the ones which are right side up are the matters you need to truly focus on. In addition, the ones at the center of the cloth are the most important matters at hand, while those closer to the edge are relevant, but less significant.

Interpreting Your Results

What Is Rune Casting? Origins and Techniques (2)

Each rune symbol has multiple meanings, so it's important not to get too hung up on the specifics. For instance, Ehwaz means "horse"... but it can also mean wheel or luck. What could Ehwaz mean for you? Does it mean you're getting a horse? Maybe... but it could also mean you're traveling somewhere, you're entering a bike competition, or it's time to buy a lottery ticket. Think about your specific situation, and how the rune could apply. Don't disregard your intuition, either. If you look at Ehwaz and don't see horses, wheels, or luck, but you are absolutely positive it means you're getting a promotion at work, you could very well be right.

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, runes are a sacred tool. McCoy reminds us,


While the body of surviving runic inscriptions and literary descriptions of their use definitely suggest that the runes were sometimes put to profane, silly, and/or ignorant purposes... theEddas and sagasmake it abundantly clear that the signs themselvesdo possess immanent magical attributesthat work in particular ways regardless of the intended uses to which they’re put by humans.


  • Flowers, Stephen E.Runes and Magic: Magical Formulaic Elements in the Older Runic Tradition. Lang, 1986.
  • McCoy, Daniel. “The Origins of the Runes.”Norse Mythology for Smart People, norse-mythology.org/runes/the-origins-of-the-runes/.
  • McCoy, Daniel. “Runic Philosophy and Magic.”Norse Mythology for Smart People, norse-mythology.org/runes/runic-philosophy-and-magic/.
  • O'Brien, Paul. “Origins of Runes.”Divination Foundation, 16 May 2017, divination.com/origins-of-runes/.
  • Paxson, Diana L.Taking up the Runes: a Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic. Weiser Books, 2005.
  • Pollington, Stephen.Rudiments of Runelore. Anglo-Saxon, 2008.
  • Runecasting - Runic Divination, www.sunnyway.com/runes/runecasting.html.


What is casting runes? ›

Rune casting is simply an oracular divination method in which runes are laid out, or cast, either in a specific pattern or randomly, as a form of guidance through problems or situations in which you need help making a decision.

What is the explanation of runes? ›

Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages (with some exceptions) before they adopted the Latin alphabet, and for specialised purposes thereafter.

Where did runes originate? ›

A likely theory is that the runic alphabet was developed by the Goths, a Germanic people, from the Etruscan alphabet of northern Italy and was perhaps also influenced by the Latin alphabet in the 1st or 2nd century bc.

What was the purpose of runestones? ›

Rune stones served three main functions: memorials for the dead, self-promotion, and religious belief. Memorial rune stones were created for individuals who died at home and abroad. When prominent people, usually men, died, a stone was erected by family members as a memorial piece.

How to do rune casting? ›

Rune casting or rune reading is more traditionally done by focusing on a specific question or issue as you or a rune reader reach into a bag of rune stones, pull out a small handful, and toss them onto a casting white cloth.

What is the secret of the runes? ›

Secret of the Runes is the tenth full-length musical album by Swedish symphonic metal band Therion. It's a concept album based on Norse mythology, where each song describes one of the nine worlds.

What are the different types of runes? ›

Let's talk about them and see which makes sense for you to use.
  • The Elder Futhark. The Elder Futhark are the oldest runes we know about, having been around between 150 and 800 CE or AD. ...
  • The Younger Futhark. ...
  • Anglo-Saxon Runes. ...
  • Marcomannic Runes. ...
  • Medieval Runes.
Aug 3, 2019

What is the most powerful rune? ›

The Sowulo rune is one of the most powerful symbols in the Nordic tradition. It represents strength, courage, and victory, and is often associated with the god Thor.

What is your birth rune? ›

Your birth rune is the caretaker of your destiny. Unlike your zodiac sign, birth runes are not meant to tell you your fate, or what month will bring you love or money. Rather, it is a specific set of energies that express themselves through your character and events in your life.

How many rune symbols are there? ›

The 24 runes are organized into three sets of eight runes called aettir (singular aett), meaning families. The first runes of each of the three aettir are Fehu, Hagalaz, and Tiwaz, also called the Mother Runes.

Why did people use runes? ›

They relied on these symbols not only for writing but also to tell fortunes, cast spells, and provide protection. Early Germanic tribes of northern Europe were first to develop runes, but the Scandinavians soon adopted the symbols for their own use.

What are some fun facts about runes? ›

Runes were often carved on precious objects - like an ivory box - or on stone monuments. Sometimes runes told the maker's name. The word RUNE means secret or mystery. Runes had a religious meaning and were used in religious ceremonies.

How many rune stones? ›

There are about 3,000 runestones in Scandinavia (out of a total of about 6,000 runic inscriptions). The runestones are unevenly distributed in Scandinavia: The majority is found in Sweden, estimated at between 1,700 and 2,500 (depending on definition).

How do you get good runes to work? ›

Step 1: After Activating the Great Rune, visit a Site of Grace. Step 2: Select the Great Runes option and equip your Great Rune of choice into your slot. Step 3: Use a Rune Arc. Slotting in a Great Rune alone won't give you any of the benefits of the Great Rune.

How do you read three runes? ›

The first rune should be on the right, the second rune in the middle and the third rune on the left-hand side – the order being as follows: rune 3, 2, 1. Rune #1: This rune represents the overview of your situation or query. Rune #2: The rune in the middle symbolizes any challenges you need to be aware of.

What are the six Great Runes? ›

List of all seven Great Runes
  • Godrick's Great Rune.
  • Great Rune of The Unborn.
  • Malenia's Great Rune.
  • Radahn's Great Rune.
  • Morgott's Great Rune.
  • Rykard's Great Rune.
  • Mohg's Great Rune.
Mar 5, 2022

What are the nine runes? ›

Below are all nine rune locations:
  • Creeper Woods.
  • Soggy Swamp.
  • Pumpkin Pastures.
  • Cacti Canyon.
  • Redstone Mines.
  • Fiery Forge.
  • Desert Temple.
  • Highblock Halls.
Jun 8, 2020

What do 3 Do runes make? ›

So for example, you can combine three El runes to create an Eld rune.

Who is the god of runes? ›

Odin was the great magician among the gods and was associated with runes. He was also the god of poets.

What language are runes? ›

What are Runes? Runes are letters from the runic alphabets used by Germanic peoples. These alphabets were written and read from 160 CE in Scandinavia in the Elder Futhark Script and the Younger Futhark, which is also known as the Viking Age that spanned from 790-1100 CE.

What is the rune of death? ›

The “death rune” is also known as a variation of the Algiz or “life rune.” Origin: This rune is the fifteenth letter of the Futhark runic alphabet, an ancient Germanic script mostly found in Scandinavia and the British Isles (in another version of the Futhark alphabet, it appears as the sixteenth rune).

What rune is for luck? ›

The Jera rune is one of the most popular runes, and it is often used to symbolize luck or good fortune. The name Jera comes from the Old Norse word for year, and it is associated with the harvest season.

What is the oldest rune? ›

The Elder Futhark (or Fuþark), also known as the Older Futhark, Old Futhark, or Germanic Futhark, is the oldest form of the runic alphabets.

What is the rarest Rune? ›

Zod runes remain valuable, however, as they are the rarest rune in the game, and the second rarest item in the game, behind Tyrael's Might.

What is the best rune? ›

To help you venture through The Lands Between, we've ranked every Great Rune, so you know exactly which buffs will serve you best.
  • 7/7 Rykard's Great Rune.
  • 6/7 Mohg's Great Rune.
  • 5/7 Great Rune Of The Unborn.
  • 4/7 Radahn's Great Rune.
  • 3/7 Morgott's Great Rune.
  • 2/7 Malenia's Great Rune.
  • 1/7 Godrick's Great Rune.
Apr 1, 2022

What are the best runes to get first? ›

Godrick's Great Rune

This is likely the first Great Rune you will obtain in Elden Ring. In order to use Godrick's Great Rune you will need to activate it by heading to the nearby Divine Tower. Godrick's Great Rune is activated in the Limgrave Divine Tower, which is connected to Stormveil Castle by a massive bridge.

What is the rune of life? ›

In this context, the Man rune (identical in shape to the Elder Futhark Algiz) came to be understood in the Germanic mysticism of the early 20th century as symbolizing "life" and called the "life rune" (German: Lebensrune).

What is the marriage rune? ›

The Wedded Union rune is a permanent rune exchanged by Shadowhunter couples when they get married. These runes are exchanged during the actual wedding ceremony in the place of rings. One is placed on the back of the hand, and the other over the heart, binding the pair in matrimony.

Which rune means power? ›

Uruz – “Power”

The Uruz rune symbolizes physical, spiritual, and emotional strength, power, untamed potential, and fertility.

Do runes hurt? ›

While runes do cause some uneasiness and a slight stinging pain, most runes do not actually cause harm against a Shadowhunter. When young Shadowhunters are set to begin their formal training, usually around the age of ten or twelve, they receive their first rune.

Can runes be removed? ›

You can remove Runes (and Gems and Jewels) from socketed gear by using the following Horadric Cube recipe. This is permanent and will destroy everything in ALL your sockets. Insert items into sockets carefully, and be sure keeping the armor is worth the cost of removing them. Destroys everything in sockets!

Can anyone learn runes? ›

Mastery of the runes can take many years, but it is not difficult for a beginner to learn the basics. (Much as young children can quickly learn their ABCs.) The first learning tool you'll need is a rune set of your own, to begin familiarizing yourself with this ancient system of knowledge.

Which rune gives the most? ›

Golden Rune [1] gives you 200 Runes, and Golden Rune [2] gives you 400 Runes. It goes all the way up to Golden Rune [13], and then you get Hero Runes. Hero Runes go up to level 5. Finally, you get the Lord's Rune which grants you 50,000 Runes per Lord's Rune consumed.

What runes mean balance? ›

7) GEBO represents a Gift. It symbolizes Balance, Exchange, Partnership, Generosity, Relationships.

What does the rune mean love? ›

The rune meaning "Agape" is often referred to as simply the "Love" rune.

Are runes permanent? ›

Runes are permanent upgrades which enable the player to travel to locations and Biomes which are not accessible otherwise.

Who taught ancient runes? ›

The Study of Ancient Runes

It was taught by Professor Bathsheda Babbling (according to an early draft by J.K. Rowling) and its most famous student – at least, to us – was the one and only Hermione Granger.

What color are runes? ›

Today, most runestones are painted with falu red, since the colour red makes it easy to discern the ornamentation, and it is appropriate since red paint was also used on runes during the Viking Age.

Why are they called runes? ›

The Vikings used letters called runes. They are imitations of the Latin letters used in most of Europe during the Viking era. The Latin letters are the ones we use today.

What does a green rune mean? ›

Uruz. Uruz is a rune of energy and power, one of the most powerful runes. It is the element of Earth, its color is green.

Do you need to activate runes? ›

There are several Great Runes to collect throughout the game, each offering a different bonus to your abilities after consuming a Rune Arc, but you have to activate most Great Rune before they're actually viable.

What culture is runes? ›

Runes developed in areas populated by Germanic tribes, probably inspired by the Latin alphabet of the Romans. The earliest runic inscriptions, dating from ca 150 AD, are particularly common in what is now Denmark, Northern Germany and Southern Sweden.

What happens if you activate all Great Runes? ›

When you make it all the way to the peak, you will notice a glowing sigil in the center of the area where you can successfully restore power to Godrick's Great Rune. The power of Godrick's Great Rune grants the player +5 on all attributes.

Do runes wear off? ›

Furthermore, while Great Runes remain equipped to a player after they die, their effects wear off and another Rune Arc will need to be used in order to activate it again.

Are runes hard to learn? ›

Mastery of the runes can take many years, but it is not difficult for a beginner to learn the basics. (Much as young children can quickly learn their ABCs.) The first learning tool you'll need is a rune set of your own, to begin familiarizing yourself with this ancient system of knowledge.

Which rune is the most powerful? ›

The Sowulo rune is one of the most powerful symbols in the Nordic tradition. It represents strength, courage, and victory, and is often associated with the god Thor.

Which rune is for good luck? ›

The Jera rune is one of the most popular runes, and it is often used to symbolize luck or good fortune. The name Jera comes from the Old Norse word for year, and it is associated with the harvest season.

What language still uses runes? ›

Runes are found carved into stones (called runestones) in many places in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden), and in the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Frisia. Runes have been used for writing poems and eulogies, and they are still sometimes used to write ciphers.

What are runes called? ›

The runic alphabet, or Futhark, gets its name from its first six sounds (f, u, th, a, r, k), much like the word 'alphabet' derives from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta.


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