Runes – Rune – Runa

About runes, among the Germanic tribes and Celts, and in modern times

What are runes?

Mysterious symbols with power

Anyone who has ever experienced a rune oracle knows that they are dealing with great powers and that these mysterious symbols emanate a certain power that cannot be fully explained by common sense.

Runes are both

  • Letters
    • Symbols that correspond to a letter of our alphabet (e.g. the rune “Isa” stands for I)
  • Hieroglyphics
    • Signs, similar to hieroglyphs, describing a word or an object (let’s stay with the rune Isa, which also stands for the ice)
  • Magic symbols / own gods
    • Magic symbols which – in a certain context – have a meaning, tell a story

Runes are powerful connections to the spiritual world. Runes can be used to summon powers (or runes are powers) that can be used alongside the elements and other beings with spirit and or soul (but possibly without body) to support spiritual work.

Runes are gods. Yes, they are. Runes are powerful magic symbols that you use wisely for your work.
Runes are used when you can’t get any further with the “normal” auxiliary spirits. Runes should not be consumed “on the side” for everyday matters, rune spirits are called to higher things.

Among the Germanic tribes, it was considered dangerous, even life-threatening, to use the runes – secret magic symbols with a direct connection to the gods – without knowledge. Improper use could result in illness and death, which is why years of training are required.

The Old Norse rune masters, called erilaR, and Germanic Alrunas did not cast trivial spells with their runes, but rather

  • deliberately place themselves in non-ordinary states of consciousness

to use these magical symbols

  • Summon gods, spirits and demons,
  • cast protection and damage spells
  • and to actually change reality.

They sang about the runes with galsters (songs), animated the runes with blood (or ochre). You don’t do that for mundane things …

Where do runes come from?

The roots of runic art lie in magic and shamanic work. Runes come from the shamanic cult of our ancestors, the Germanic tribes and Celts, and they are probably much older, as our ancestors also adopted runes. See, for example, rune-like signs in the cave paintings in France.

Shamans drum and dance, make music and meditate, isolate themselves and fast, hyperventilate and hallucinate, paint cave walls and create small works of art, use healing herbs and burn sacred resins, sing hymns and scream like savages, cast spells and tell stories of the gods, brew magic potions and eat fly agaric, paint themselves with blood and adorn themselves with feathers, go mad and transform themselves into animals, are inspired and enthusiastic, decorate glowing coals and kill themselves for mockery, carve spirit daggers and use magic wands, oracle from bones and prophesy from entrails.
Why shouldn’t you also carve secret magic symbols into consecrated wood, stone, bone or metal?”

(Quote from: Thomas Höffgen: Weißt du zu ritzen, p27)

Our ancestors, the Germanic tribes and Celts, carved runes – in skin, wood, … – in order to perform magic.

The word “rune” probably has an ancient Indo-European root; in Old Norse, run means “secret”. Runes were carved into beech sticks (approx. 5-10 cm long) by the Celts, for example (this is where the word letter comes from).

There are a few rune stones from the 1st century AD, some more between. 5th yr. and 13th yr. Runes were also popular with the Vikings, who carried these symbols into other cultures.

Our ancestors believed that the highest of the gods himself – Odin/Wodan – found the runes.

None other than the father of the gods himself formulated the runes after hanging upside down on the world tree Yggdrasil for nine nights as part of a shamanic initiation ritual.

Odin then asked his rune disciples:

Do you know how to carve (the runes)? Do you know how to guess (interpret)?
Do you know how to dye (with blood or ochre)? Do you know how to ask (the gods)?
Do you know how to ask (for advice and help)? Do you know how to sacrifice (what do you want to give)?
Do you know how to send (murmur, speak)? Do you know how to slaughter (what belongs away)?

He thus lists the ritual acts that a shaman performs in his work …

According to ancient tradition, Odin’s eight-legged shaman’s horse Sleipnir even has runes on his teeth (Sigdrifomal 15). Odin is able to summon trolls and raise the dead with the help of runes (Havamal 158). He can tell fortunes and prophesy from the skull of the rune-knowing giant Mimir.

The old Futhark – 24 runes

Old Futhark
Old futhark

Concrete application of runes

Runes were used by the Germanic tribes,

  • For healing and blessing
  • To cast death or damage spells
  • For the invocation of gods and
  • when summoning demons


We know – also scientifically proven – that the Germanic tribes carved their runes for magical purposes. Magical scoring has been proven a thousand times over.

On the skin, in amulets, or at the entrance to a house to prevent bad people or harmful demons from entering.

They were written on the rudder blade of Viking ships to save them from sinking.

Runes were written on gravestones to banish revenants.

You carve them into your hand to be able to distinguish friend from foe when shaking hands

They were cut into the skin of the ankle to help a pregnant woman give birth.


Among the Germanic tribes and Celts, runes were engraved on an amulet and worn around the neck to offer the wearer magical protection.


Carved runes are animated,

  • due to smoke
  • through singing
  • by breathing in (“murmuring”)
  • and by the red color of blood or ocher

Those who mastered the art of runes in Germanic times were considered wise and powerful and were literally called “wizards”. Magic literally means “to color red” in the old language


Nowadays, runes are often used for oracles. Similar to what is done with tarot cards.

This may never have been the case in Germanic times. There were oracles, that is proven. Whether this was done with runes, however, is unclear or cannot be scientifically proven.

But it still works – and it works very well and highly effectively.

Podcast – Brief overview of runes

Would you prefer to listen to a short version of this text? Here in the video podcast with Roland Media and me

Youtube Player

Runes work in the yew forest

Would you like to know more about what we do with runes in the yew forest? -> Click


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