The Ways of Runecasting - Reading The Runes

The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic: How to Interpret Runes, Rune Lore, and the Art of Runecasting - Edred Thorsson 2018

The Ways of Runecasting
Reading The Runes

The almost two-thousand-year-old description provided by Tacitus gives us a good idea of at least one method of runecasting; however, there are many more based on traditional customs and on cosmological principles which have been used effectively by runecasters. In this chapter we will explore some of the most effective methods, ones that are also most deeply rooted in traditional concepts.

Runecasting, like any precise system of divination—I-Ching, Tarot, astrology—is based on the apparently random superimposition of “meaningful elements” over “meaningful fields.” From the combinations and interrelationships of those combinations, the full interpretation is read. In runelore, the runestaves provide the elements of meaning, while the fields of meaning are provided by a number of key cosmological configurations. One of the weaknesses of previous books on runic divination is the general lack of traditional fields of meaning, for in order to know these it is necessary to have in-depth understanding of Germanic cosmology.

Each of the methods presented below may be suited to different kinds of inquiries or explorations as suggested. It is probably best to master one kind of casting first, however, before moving on to wider experimentation. Before setting out to do actual runecastings, you may wish to engage in some reading exercises that will begin to make the runes become more and more “your own.”

Reading Exercise I

Lay out your runelots in the regular futhark order, arranged in the traditional aett pattern as in figure 19.1. Now, begin to make connections between neighboring runes. Go down the first ætt F through W, down the second aett, H through S, etc., and try to make a progression out of them. Then reverse this and begin with the third aett, O through T, then with the second aett, S through H, etc., again making meaningful interconnections between and among the runes.

Next, do a similar exercise with the vertical runes across the three aettir FHT, UNB, etc., going from top to bottom, and then reversing this from bottom to top. These exercises, which should be done in several different sittings, will strengthen your skills at reading runic contexts. They will also teach you about the living realities of the runic system in a way no book or other person could. This is direct runic learning. You also should begin to realize that the runes find their true meaning in that stead where the outer world runes come face-to-face with the inner runes of yourself. This process also begins to awaken your inner rune-life. Be sure to write down your results at each sitting.


Figure 19.1. Elder Futhark in aett arrangement.

Reading Exercise II

The next step in truly “making the runes your own” involves the personal expansion of the meanings of the individual runestaves. Take one runestave a day and meditate on it. Think deeply about it. Contemplate the relevant rune poem stanzas. Make your own interconnections and come to your own understandings of every rune. As in Exercise I, write down your results. Your finished notes will amount to your own personal and personalized versions of the Runic Tables in chapter 16. These should not be considered set in stone—allow them to grow as you get to know “your runes” better. Remember, these are your personal realizations and may not be valid for others. The Runic Tables were generated in a similar way over a period of some ten years of work informed by the esoteric runic tradition (both ancient and modern).

On Aspects

One matter crucial to rune reading is determining what aspect of a rune is to be interpreted. Should a lot be read as a bright-stave or as a murk-stave? That the negative aspects of the runes, called myrkstafir in Old Norse, were used in magic is beyond question. It also can be safely assumed that such interpretations were responsible for various negative terms presented in chapter 6. Some of the “positive” manifestations of the runes can be said to often have detrimental or dangerous consequences, especially the TH-, H-, N-, I-, and Z-runes. There is no shortage of dark aspects in the rune row. Remember, the runes are your inner advisors, and they must be able to warn you—before it becomes too late to overcome the force of Wyrd.

Aspects are determined in essentially two ways: (1) by the position a runelot falls in a casting (e.g., faceup or facedown; inside or outside a certain field), and (2) by the angle at which one runelot is juxtaposed to another. This latter method deserves a few introductory remarks. It will be noted that for the most part the runestaves are constructed with acute or obtuse angle combinations, and there are very few right angles in the shapes. Obtuse angles are known to have a dynamizing effect on the mind, while right angles generally have the opposite effect. (This was a matter of occult study in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century German orders, and is upheld by at least one working Order in America today.) In any event, it is clear that in the runic tradition obtuse or acute angles promote active, positive interaction between and among runes. Right angles create static, negative interaction—or they can block the flow of runic force altogether. They actually cross it.

Determination of Aspects

In casting, if a rune lands faceup it is to be read as a bright-stave; if it lands facedown it may either be disregarded in the reading or read as a murk-stave. The decision on how these lots are to be interpreted must be made before every casting. Also, each runer is encouraged to be consistent in this regard. The usual practice is to disregard them, however. In some casting, runes that fall outside the fields of meaning or off the white cloth also may be read as murk-staves. Again, you must determine how these are to be read beforehand.

When using angular aspects in castings, the runer must measure (at least approximately) the angle at which any two lots in question are juxtaposed. This is done by mentally drawing lines from the two lots through the center point of the cloth, and then determining the angle at which they are juxtaposed. An example of this can be found in figure 19.2. If the result is between 5° and 45°, or between 135° and 360° they are read as bright-staves; if they fall between 45° and 135° they are read as murk-staves. Exact measurements are unnecessary.


Figure 19.2. Sample angles for casting aspects.

Probably the easiest way to see these relationships is by imagining a circle over the cloth that is divided into quarters and bisected by a third line that you will use to orient the rune in question to the others. Runes falling in the same quarter or in the quarter directly opposite are brightly aspected, while those in the quadrants on either side tend to be murky.


Figure 19.3. Aett aspectarian.

The closer a lot is to the bright angle the more positively it is to be read. Only those close to a 90° relationship should be read as “blockages.” Juxtapositions approaching 180° also have a dark aspect, but one which will lead eventually to a positive outcome. In castings these aspects only refine what is already apparent in the reading of the rune and its field. (See Sample Reading 3 on page 211.)

Aspects of this kind are much more useful and easier to determine when using a rune layout method. To determine the relationship among runes in a layout, the runer can refer to figure 19.3, which essentially works on the same principles as the determination of aspects in casting. Let us take the example of fehu (F). Runes belonging to the same triad (e.g., F-H-T), or to triads on either side, or to the triads on the same axes as those adjacent to the “home triad” of fehu are to be read as bright-staves. Those in the opposite triad are read as murk-staves, but with a positive ultimate outcome. Those runes in triads at a 90° angle, those that cross the axis of the triad in question, are read as murk-staves, usually of a blocking variety. (See Sample Reading 1 on page 212 and Sample Reading 4 on page 221 for clarification of how this works in practice.)

It also should be noted that there is a certain question of “aspect” with regard to the relationship of a given stave to the stead in which it falls or is laid. In the sample readings found below, practical indications of just how this might work are given for various methods. To a great extent intuition must guide the runer in these matters.

The determination of aspect is one of the finer points of the runecaster's skill and craft, and it is one that must be learned through personal experience because the runes will interact differently with different people. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is not a simple matter of reading reversed staves as “bad.”

The Methods

These methods of runecasting are based on “models of meaning” used by the ancient Germanic peoples. It is strongly recommended that you seek to master one of these methods before you begin to work on the others. After a while, you can also begin to experiment with innovative casting or laying techniques. But the traditional modes themselves have something to teach about the “runic mind-set.” Those who are experienced in other divinatory traditions with “fields of meaning,” such as the Tarot or astrology, may wish to experiment with using runes in those contexts. However, they must realize that only part of the runic essence can come through in this manner.

The two classes of operation are casting and laying. The first method discussed here is really a combination of these two types. Castings, because the caster momentarily loses control of the lots, are most effective in reading things in the other world; layings, because the runer is always in control of the lots, are most effective in reading inner states. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. In a given casting you may have interest in a certain area of life, yet no lots will fall in that field (which may tell you something as well). On the other hand, with layouts, you will lay lots in steads that may or may not be of equal relevance to your situation—and it takes some skill to intuit which groups of lots are more significant than others.

I. The Nornic Runecast

This method is directly based on the account given by Tacitus in the Germania. The three-fold matrix he mentions is applied to the only obvious three-fold matrix of meaning for Germanic divination: the Urdhr-Verdhandi-Skuld formula.

The runer, following the ritual outline given in chapter 18, randomly casts the lots onto the white cloth, and with his or her eyes closed or diverted upward, blindly picks three lots which he or she lays out in order 1-2-3. To help the runer visualize their relationships, the lots should be laid out in the fashion illustrated in figure 19.4.


Figure 19 .4. Configuration of lots in the Nornic method.

Position (1) is the stead of Urdhr (Wyrd), which indicates what is really at the root of the question or problem. It tells what has come about in the past that has conditioned the lot in position (2)—the stead of Verdhandi—which is concerned with the present situation. It tells what is in the process of happening in the present. Both of these are synthesized into the third position—the stead of Skuld—which indicates what should come about in the future given the conditions of the first two positions.

In reading these runes, the vitki may wish to use the aspectarian to determine the quality of their relationships. Inverted or reversed lots may be taken into account; however, this is not necessary.

Reading the Nornic Runecast

Object of Inquiry: Situation surrounding the winning of a new job.

Reading: The layout is shown in figure 19.5. Kenaz in the Urdhr stead indicates that craft and creativity developed in the past are putting the person in a good position. The groundwork has been laid in a creative fashion. Dagaz in Verdhandi shows that the present situation is, however, in a state of flux. Things are now dynamic and malleable. The third stave, uruz in Skuld, is very hopeful; it indicates that the situation should be formed in accordance with the will of the job seeker. The final stave in this stead also advises “tenacity.” The person should persevere with willpower to achieve the right outcome. Kenaz is well aspected to dagaz, which is in turn well aspected to uru—all of which indicate that the staves are working together smoothly. The kenaz is opposed to uruz, but because of the otherwise dynamic aspects it seems rather clear that this opposition will be one of a vivifying rather than stultifying kind.


Figure 19.5. Sample Nornic runecast.

As a matter of fact, the person for whom the reading was done did get the job in question—certainly based on past performance, but also with a little help from magical agencies, and only with the utmost of perseverance.

• • •

The Nornic Runecast may be significantly expanded into the valknutr (knot of the slain). This is a sign of the god Odin's ability to bind and unbind fetters of all kinds—including those of “fate.” It often is made up of three interlocking triangles (see figure 19.6). To expand the basic nornic reading into the valknutr, the runecaster picks three groups of three lots and lays them in interlocking triangles as shown in figure 19.7. The first triangle is an expanded analysis of the Urdhr stead, the second of Verdhandi, and the third of Skuld. This can give a more complete picture of what lies at the root of the question, what is happening in the present situation, and what the outcome is likely to be.


Figure 19.6. The Valknútr.


Figure 19.7. The Valknútr layout.

2. Casting Upon the Airts Method

One of the most well-established arrangements of space into meaningful fields known in the Germanic world is the division of the sky and the plane of the earth into “eighths,” in Old Norse aettir, or in Scots dialect English “airts.” In Old Norse these divisions are given the names indicated in figure 19.8. Although these names are of Norwegian origin, their inner sense of a fourfold division, expanded by cross-quarter points, fits with a continuing and timeless Germanic pattern. The names indicate that things to the east were more “close in,” or earthly, and that things to the west were more “outer,” or “far out,” and that the main polarity is between north and south. It is no coincidence that the runes also are divided into “eighths.”


Figure 19.8. The Norse aettir of the heavens.

In runecasting this pattern is combined with the other most obvious division of “space,” that of the nine worlds of Yggdrasill, to form the design used to divide the casting cloth into fields of meaning illustrated in figure 19.9. (The actual cloth should not have the names of the worlds on it.) In reality, this figure represents the “collapsing” of multidimensional space into a two-dimensional model—as do many sacred symbols of all kinds. The fields are names for the nine worlds of Yggdrasill and derive their meanings from these concepts as shown in table 19.1 on page 216.

Those lots falling within the inner circles made up of Midhgardhr-Asgardhr-Hel-Ljóssálfheimr-Svartálfheimr (which in the three-dimensional model make up the vertical column) give a reading of the subjective or psychological state of, or influences on, the person. Those of Ljóssálfheimr and Svartálfheimr are more “personal,” while those of Asgardhr and Hel are more “transpersonal.” The lots coming down in the outer fields of Niflheimr-Muspellsheimr-Vanaheimr-Jötunheimr (which together with Midhgardhr form the horizontal plane in the Yggdrasill model) clarify the state of the objective universe and how it affects the person in question. Note carefully the special synthesizing function of Midhgardhr—the center—where all potentialities are (or can be) manifested.

The runecaster may wish to decorate the cloth with the configuration of lines shown in figure 19.9. Or, you simply may visualize these fields if you are able. Such hidden keys are usually the basis of forms of divination that might seem random at first glance. If the cloth is decorated, it should be embroidered with dark blue or black thread.

Following ritual procedures outlined in chapter 18, the runer blindly casts the lots upon the cloth and then reads them (perhaps sitting on the theal's stool) as they lie on the cloth in their steads of meaning. According to personal custom, lots which land facedown may be read as murk-staves or they may be removed from the cloth and set aside. “Inverted” runes cannot be read as such in operations of this kind. Those that fall off the cloth altogether should be disregarded. (Note, however, what these lots are—they may be significant by their absence!)


Figure 19.9. Casting cloth is divided into steads of meaning, and we can see the attribution of the nine worlds to the casting cloth.

Once the final configuration has been established, a complex picture may appear. This kind of casting is sometimes so complex that it cannot be fully interpreted at one sitting (especially by beginning runecasters). Therefore, be sure to draw out a record of the casting. You may simply make notes such as “:Image: in Asgardhr,” etc. Often the direction a lot is facing—it may seem to be “pointing to” another lot—gives subtle clues which reveal nuances in the lot's interpretation. For this reason a sketched record is preferred. The true significance of the casting may not be realized until sometime later when you are contemplating the working record.


Table 19.1: Interpretations of the world-steads.

The pattern resulting from a casting upon the airts can be read in several ways. You may start from what is now manifesting itself in Midhgardhr and work out to the more remotely influential realms, e.g., from Midhgardhr to Ljóssálfheimr and Svartálfheimr, and from this pairing to Asgardhr and Hel, and from there to the outermost realms of Vanaheimr and Jötunheimr, and Niflheimr and Muspellsheimr. Or, you might reverse this process working from Niflheimr and Muspellsheimr back to Midhgardhr. Ultimately, no linear progression is really inherent in this pattern—it is rather an ultra-dimensional model. Therefore, intuition may be each runer's best guide.

Sample Casting Upon the Airts

Object of inquiry: The progress over the coming year of an organization that is dedicated to the discovery and re-discovery of a potent form of magic.

Reading: The layout is shown in figure 19.10. General lack of staves in Vanaheimr indicates no organic tensions are present, while the lack of staves in Niflheimr indicates that there is really no outside pressure or resistance on this group (which is largely secret). The staves in Muspellsheimr, a murky hagalaz and a thurisaz, both indicate that there are active agents, probably within the consciousness of the various members of the organization, which have been retarding the activization of the organization's programs. These tendencies are, however, very weakly aspected and do not form a strong bundle. Therefore, it would seem that their influence is rather negligible.


Figure 19.10. Sample airt casting. Note that square around stave indicates that the lot fell stave side down.

A strong bundle is present in Jötunheimr. This indicates that the organization is in dynamic flux, and in many ways is searching for crystallized goals (sowilo). The crossing of nauthiz and wunjo in Jötunheimr suggests that some crisis of an interpersonal nature will lead to positive change. A second crossing between a murky dagaz and kenaz in Jötunheimr might indicate some confusion in technical matters. However, the favorable juxtaposition of raidho counteracts this and leads to a rational, ordered direction into the formative realm of Svartálfheimr. Thus the technical matters will be correctly ordered and put to positive use. The murky eihwaz in Jötunheimr is isolated, and therefore seems of little importance. However, it is negatively aspected with the murky fehu and jera in Ljóssálfheimr, which shows a continuing problem in bringing inspiration to solid fruition.

The bundle in Svartálfheimr would indicate that there will, however, be a great deal of upswelling inspiration which will find formative outlet. The general bundle of so many staves that are indicative of form, shape, and order (uruz, tiwaz, raidho) and divine connection and inspiration (elhaz and ansuz) in this one field of formative realization would seem to override other indications to the contrary. But, the other indications are reinforced by the presence of the murky B-rune in the midst of this bundle. This clearly indicates that although the formative force and inspiration are powerfully present, they are resisted. This is a warning to be vigilant. Each member of the organization must strive and seek in order for the promise of the A- and Z-runes to bear fruit.

In Ljóssálfheimr there is a loose complex of the E- and NG-runes, which indicates that intellectual development within the organization will be most effective if based on individual inner reflections and/or developed in pairs of persons working on special projects.

Ultimately, it is in the realm of Midgardhr that the outcome of this magical year is made clear. There are essentially two bundles here. Mannaz parallel to isa indicates a certain solidification of the archetypal social organization within the body in question. This is reinforced by the presence of the othala in the other bundle, which is closely linked with influences flowing from the dark depths of the hidden realm of Hel (i.e., influences from the past). This influence will be largely unplanned and spontaneous, as indicated by the P-rune, and it will be a truly transformative one, as indicated by the L-rune. Note that both of these lead out of Hel into Midhgardhr and from a bundle with the O-rune and with a murky G-rune. This G-rune, like the B-rune in the bundle found in Svartálfheimr, contains a hidden warning. In this case the warning is to be on the lookout for detrimental influences within the group that could easily arise due to this influx from suprarational realms.

To summarize, it may be said that this organization will be the subject of technical innovation by its members—innovation based on inner reflection and work done between pairs of members. This innovation will be of a highly inspired nature and it will lead to concrete organizational manifestation. However, all this will not come easily. In every instance there is a “thorn”—some active resistance which will require that all involved be of wakeful wills and hardened hearts.

3. Laying in the Futhark Method

The fixed runic order itself provides us with another traditional way of determining fields of meaning. The runestaves linearly arranged in their three-tiered aett configuration (as presented in figure 19.1) give the steads of interpretation shown in table 19.2.


Figure 19.11. Layout order of the Futhark method.


Table 19.2: Interpretations of the stave-steads.

The runer may cast the runes onto the cloth, and then take all twenty-four up one by one and lay them in the aett arrangement. Or, you may blindly draw them out of the lot box or bag and then lay them out one through twenty-four in the aett arrangement and in the order shown in figure 19.11 on page 218. Thus the futhark unfolds from its core and becomes fully manifest in the aett configuration. The result will be a complete reading in that all steads will be covered. Aspects may be determined by one of the usual methods outlined on pages 209—211.

Records of these casts are easy to make with notations such as :Image: in :Image:, : Image : in : Image:, : Image : in : Image:, etc. As always, the stead determines the area of life or existence in question, while the lot determines the quality being manifested in that area at the time of the casting or laying. This type of layout is useful for getting a complete reading of your present situation in life. It gives a holistic, synthetic picture, with no real emphasis on outcomes.

Sample Reading of Laying in the Futhark

Object of inquiry: General life reading to determine future directions.

Reading: The layout is shown in figure 19.12. Fehu in the first stead indicates financial affairs are in a state of prosperity. Othala in the second stead shows health and vital energies are under control and contained with no positive or negative factors indicated. Laguz in the third stead suggests a possible opposition by unconscious forces, while kenaz in the fourth stead demonstrates a certain inspiration from the creative fire (art). Perthro in the fifth stead indicates that travels undertaken will be of an inner kind—along the roads of time and space. The sixth stead occupied by isa bodes a shutdown of creativity by icy substance, or an inward turning of creativity to the ego level. Berkano in the seventh stead indicates a liberation of energies will occur. Tiwaz in the eighth stead points to relationships governed by reason and self-sacrifice (which will ultimately be a source of happiness). Thurisaz in the ninth stead points in the direction of a crisis of opposition by hostile reactive forces, while elhaz in the tenth stead indicates resistance from archetypal forces within. Ehwaz in the eleventh stead betrays an inner constraint. Mannaz in the twelfth stead indicates rewards in social stature in essential connections with the gods. (This seems to suggest that the crisis portrayed in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh steads will be overcome.) Jera in the thirteenth stead reveals a regular cyclical action in control of hidden influences, while the dagaz in the fourteenth stead shows that joy will be found in the experience of subjectivity. Hagalaz in the fifteenth stead indicates that attention must be given to the basics, to the seed concepts. (This also seems to relate to the crisis referred to in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh steads.) Nauthiz in the sixteenth stead may mean that the subject is being guided by crisis situations (probably through early recognition of the crisis of nine, ten, and eleven). Uruz in the seventeenth stead indicates that the cognitive state and ideals are dominated by bullish willpower. Raidho in the eighteenth stead shows regularity, rhythm, and motion at work, resulting in growth and beauty. Ingwaz in the nineteenth stead suggests that the subject should work alone, gestating within the self. Gebo in the twentieth stead indicates a willingness to give and take. Eihwaz in the twenty-first stead signifies a “vertical” emotional balance, i.e., emotions dominated by intellect with the likelihood of this tendency increasing. Ansuz in the twenty-second stead counsels the subject to meditate on Odin, or the personal divinity within. Wunjo in the twenty-third stead points to an unexpected synchronicity in the social field, while sowilo in the twenty-fourth stead demonstrates that the subject's current goals are in the social field itself.


Figure 19.12. Sample of the Futhark layout method.

The overall counsel of this reading to the subject is that in matters of basic security all is well. The principal opposition is within. This can be overcome by establishing firmer, more regular links with the personal divinity. If the subject develops inner connections he will be rewarded with outer successes.

4. The Seven Realms Laying

The ancient Norse often talked of seven realms of sentient beings from which information could be gained—if one but knew the “language” of that realm. This tradition is only imperfectly transmitted in the “Alvísmál” of the Poetic Edda, where seven realms are mentioned but only six are ever used in any one stanza. These stanzas were composed to reveal the secret poetic languages used in the realms of the Aesir, Vanir, elves, dwarves, etins, as well as among the dead, and among people in Midhgardhr. As Hollander notes in his introduction to the “Alvísmál,” the poem represents a late and confused state of affairs. But it reflects an ancient cosmological order which only needs a slight adjustment provided by the Yggdrasill key to make it intelligible. Only seven of the nine worlds of Yggdrasill spawn sentient beings—Muspellsheimr and Niflheimr are devoid of consciousness as raw forces of “nature.” The runes are one mode of communication between and among these sentient realms.

Note that the principle behind the layout pattern is that which underlies the cosmogonic process in Germanic lore: the continuing synthesis of polar opposites leading to transformation. This is superimposed upon the nornic process to give a picture of the layers of action or forces at work through time. Following your ritual procedure, draw twenty-one runes from the box or bag and lay them out in the order indicated in figure 19.13. These lots are then to be interpreted according to the key shown in figure 19.13.

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Figure 19. 13. Layout and key to the seven realms method.

This layout pattern is most useful for complete self-analyses, and in many ways represents a more “controlled” version of the method of casting upon the airts.

This kind of reading will be improved as you become more knowledgeable about the realms. Also refer to the discussion of these realms under the Casting Upon the Airts Method in chapter 6 as well as in chapter 18. Each lot stead is read quite simply as a bringing together of the nornic process with the realms of sentient beings. At each level the row is synthesized in the Midhgardhr stead, so that lot steads seven, fourteen, and twenty-one are the ultimate keys to the reading. The three lots excluded from the reading also may be significant by their absence.

Sample Reading in the Seven Realms Method

Object of Inquiry: Analysis of the ultimate effect of disruptive personality within an esoteric organization.

Reading: The layout is shown in figure 19.14. Ehwaz and fehu in the outer levels (Asgardhr and Hel) of Urdhr indicate that sexual energy and erotic relationships are at the ultimate root of the question. There is a general freezing of vital forces shown by isa in Vanaheimr. An intense level of emotional crisis and conflict is evidenced by nauthiz in Jötunheimr. This is, perhaps, the result of a general lack of vitality coupled with an uncontrolled influx of sexual energies. The ability of all parties to think clearly is in a state of stasis (or perhaps gestation) indicated by the ingwaz in Ljóssálfheimr. This also could mean that certain plans are waiting to be hatched. However, the Aesiric powers also seem to have had a hand in shaping things, as intimated by ansuz in Svartálfheimr. The basis of the present situation is rather ambivalent; there seems to be a “velocity toward manifestation.”


Figure 19.14. Sample layout in the seven realms method.

The present unsettled elements are in archetypal flux, as shown by the presence of perthro in the Asgardhr of Verdhandi. This can bode well if higher counsel is heeded in a state of spiritual detachment—do not act further. In the root of things, as shown by the gebo in Hel, honor and credit of those in this state will be preserved. Vitality is strongly disciplined and held in protected reserve, indicated by berkano in Vanaheimr. The social aspect of othala is in great confusion due to its position in Jötunheimr. The present state of crisis shown by othala's presence in Jötunheimr is rooted in naudhiz in the Urdhr level. Fortunately, rational control (raidho) is reinforced in the intellectual realm of Ljóssálfheimr. The presence of kenaz in Svartálfheimr may also indicate that craft is being wielded in the creative realm. Dagaz in the Midhgardhr of Verdhandi remains ambiguous, as its light may be dimmed by the poor aspect of raidho to dagaz.

The pairing of manna and wunjo in the archetypal realms of Skuld seems ideal. This appears to indicate that ultimately there will be an outcome based upon divine principles in a joyous atmosphere. Elhaz in Vanaheimr shows a certain upward sweep of vitality, while uruz in Jötunheimr suggests that the chaos will be reformed. Cognitive plans will reach their right goals, demonstrated by the presence of sowilo in Ljóssálfheimr, and there will be creativity according to law. Uruz and laguz in Jötunheimr and Svartálfheimr respectively seem to indicate a certain reformation of order out of the chaos and crisis that was rooted in nauthiz in the Jötunheimr of Urdhr.

The final outcome is exemplary. Jera indicates that right rewards will be gained for beneficial past actions (or non-action). The aspect of the whole of the Skuld realm could not be more hopeful. Ultimately, this disruptive influence will have nothing but a strengthening effect on the social circle—but there may be more rough seas ahead as Verdhandi transits to Skuld.

Alternate Ways of Drawing Lots

In all the methods outlined above the runer is limited to reading each rune only once in every laying of the lots. However, this may not produce the most accurate reading since it is quite possible that a rune could be manifest in more than one stead.

Following are two more ways of generating lots. When using the first method you draw a lot from your bag or box and, depending on which layout pattern you are working with, trace that rune on paper or in the ground in a specially prepared section of loose earth. Put the lot back in the bag or box again and shake it, saying aloud or silently, “Urdhr-Verdhandi-Skuld.” Then draw another lot from the box and note it in its proper stead. Continue until you have completed the pattern. Theoretically, you could end up with a reading that contains only one rune!


Figure 19.15. The aett staves.

The second method involves the use of an archaic form of Germanic “dice.” In order to use this technique, the runer must construct eight staves that are broad and flat enough that they can only land with one faceup when cast upon a flat surface. Two of these staves, the aett-staves, will be marked (for example with a six-spoked wheel) on one side, one will be blank on the reverse, and the other will be marked with two signs on the reverse as shown in figure 19.15. Casting these staves naturally will result in a number 1, 2, or 3. These will give the aett-count of a particular rune.


Figure 19.16. The lot staves.

A second set of six staves, the lot staves, is to be prepared with another kind of marking (for example a dot or circle). Four of these have only one mark on one side; one of them has two marks on one side. The reverse of the other five staves are blank. The sixth stave has two marks on one side and one on the reverse. (See figure 19.16.)

Any casting of these lots will result in a number between one and eight. These determine the particular lot or rune within the already determined aett. This system works on the same binary code as the “secret runes” (see chapter 7).

First you cast the aett-staves and get a number from one to three, then the lot staves, to get a number between one and eight. The resulting combination, e.g., 3:6 identifies as particular runestave in the Futhark order—in this case laguz, the sixth rune in the third aett.

As each runestave is generated in this manner, note it in its proper stead so you can interpret it according to the kind of reading being done. The same runestave can occur several times in the same reading. Runes that would have been “constrained” to appear in the full “Futhark Layout” may be significantly absent in this type of reading. These methods allow for the element of free play that usually is absent in layout methods.

Yes/No Answers

Probably the most instinctive use of divinatory technique is that of trying to get a “yes” or a “no” answer to a question, e.g., the “he loves me he loves me not” game with the petals of a flower. The runestaves can provide such answers—and something more besides.

In the customary ritual framework, cast the runes upon the cloth with the airt/Yggdrasill pattern. The only significant pattern for this reading is the outer circle (enclosing the vertical fields of Asgardhr-Hel-Svartálfheimr-Ljóssálfheimr-Midhgardhr). Disregard the lots that fall outside the outer circle. Only those totally within the “circle of advisors” are to be read. If the majority of these are faceup, the answer is “yes”; if the majority are facedown, the answer is “no.” The ratio of “yes”-staves to “no”-staves gives you some idea of how “close the call is.” An equal number of yeses and nos is, of course, no decision. (But this is the reading—do not try to ask the same question again until the next day.)

This kind of reading also gives you some indications of the “why” of the answer. Reversed lots may tell you the aspects that need to be reversed, if possible, to get an affirmative outcome.

The ritual element in this kind of reading is very important. Because it is a “hit-or-miss” kind of operation, the runer must evoke a strong sense of being “in sync” with the runes before such a casting can be used seriously.