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Rune Magic

Types of Rune Spells

Inscriptions
Today, many people take written language for granted and use runes as an alphabet without really understanding the magical importance of doing so. When you write a word in runes, it empowers that word. The Norse would often finish inscriptions with the statement, "So-and-so wrote this", or "So-and-so made me". This was a way of magically connecting the writer or carver of the runes with what they had just written. For example, there was a bone plate found in Derbyshire which bears an inscription that reads, "God will preserve the honour of Hadda because he wrote this". Thus, the very act of writing something in runes is a spell in itself, bringing the statement into concrete reality.

Rune Scripts
Another way of using the runes for magic is to write out rune rows, or rune scripts. These are type of shorthand spell, made up of a sequence of two or more runes. For example, if you wanted to create a rune row to help enhance your psychic abilities, you might incorporate laguz/water (relating to the subconscious and mysteries), perth/dice-cup (for divination and magic), ansuz/Odin (the God of the runes), and kenaz/torch (for inspiration).


Fig.1: Talisman for enhancing psychic ability

Bindrunes
A bindrune consists of two or more runes that have been superimposed or joined together in some way. Occasionally, runes like fehu, raiðo or wunjo would be joined at the base of their "stems", forming a wheel. Other times, runes would be joined side by side, or combined into a single rune. This latter method is the most popular today. Historically, bindrunes were used as "contractions" in an inscription, either to save space or to reduce the number of runes in the inscription to a more magically auspicious total. Today they are commonly used in rune magic by themselves to create a magical sigel that will encompass several runes at once. For example, if we were to transform the above runescript for psychic ability into a bindrune, we would end up with something like this:


Fig. 2: Bindrune for enhancing psychic ability

Additional runes will often appear when creating a bindrune, and these can contribute to or detract from the purpose. However, a rune is only truly present if you consciously include it by tracing its shape. If you can avoid including a conflicting rune by changing the configuration, then by all means do so, but you shouldn't worry about it too much.


Materials and Methods

Runic inscriptions, rune scripts and bindrunes can be used in many ways. They can be inscribed on a talisman - a permanent, physical manifestation of the magic of the runes that a person would wear or carry around with them. They may also be used for more immediate purposes, by carving them into a piece of wood and then burning it, by scratching them into a candle and lighting it, or in any number of other ways. Making runes for magical use is a little bit different from making a set for divination, but the process of marking, colouring and naming them is essentially the same.

Your choice of materials when making a talisman or spell is important, since this will be the medium which 'carries' your message and will add it's own peculiar energies to the process. A permanent talisman or inscription can be carved on anything you like, although (again) natural materials are best. Specific rune spells are traditionally sent by burning them, so your medium should be flammable if this is your intent. Paper or parchement is handy and will do in a pinch, but keep in mind that your average Norseman wouldn't have had access to such finery. Paper is also magically quite neutral, and while it won't detract from what you are trying to accomplish, it certainly won't add anything either.

Rune spells and talismans were traditionally cut or scratched into wood. Of the few wooden runic artifacts recovered from that time, many were made from yew, which has a long history of association with the runes and magic. There are many other woods which have their own magical associations. For more information on these, see the Sacred Woods page.

The process of creating a rune spell is a ritual in itself. The technique traditionally involved the following steps:

  1. Carving or cutting the runes into the wood, bone or stone
  2. Colouring ('reddening') the runes with either red ochre paint or the magician's own blood (this would connect the spell magically to the person doing it)
  3. Speaking or singing the names of the runes to empower them
  4. Sending the rune spell to its destination (if it is not a permenant talisman), often by burning
  5. Making an offering (a 'blot') of thanks to the Gods, usually of mead or ale
You can elaborate on this simple ritual as much as you like.

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The information on this site is adapted from
'Raido: The Runic Journey'
by Jennifer Smith, copyright 1994.

Jennifer Smith

Created: January 6, 1996
Last Updated: Monday, December 16, 2002