Remembering the runes

Once upon a time, I used runes often—even daily—for divination. The faux velvet bag of my most-frequently used set grew threadbare from use. Yet over the years, they gradually slipped into the back of my mind and literally into the back of my apartment. Inspired by this week’s suggestion at Pagan Blog Prompts (on runes, of course), I went to retrieve mine and found the poor things hidden under a box on a shelf in my closet.

Oops. [winces]

Blum runes

My history with runes began in as about a mundane way as can be imagined: seeing Ralph Blum’s The Book of Runes in the New Age section at the bookstore and finally buying it out of curiosity. For those of you who have not encountered The Book of Runes, it’s a boxed set which includes Blum’s book, a mass-produced set of ceramic (?) Elder Futhark runes and a blank rune (Blum’s invention?), and a drawstring bag to keep them in. Since I’ve never been satisfied having just one book on any topic that I’m interested in, it wasn’t long before I started acquiring other books on runes. The experience was, ah, enlightening. It’s been far too long since I’ve read Blum’s book to offer any specific comments on it. Suffice it to say that he put his own modern spin on what turned out to be an ancient system not only of divination, but of writing and magic as well. (Who knew?) But the runes that came with the set were usable enough. I ditched the book, kept the runes, and went off to practice runic divination. I even occasionally branched out and used the runes for magic, for instance, embroidering Laguz and Ansuz as a bindrune on a bag for my most-used deck of Tarot cards.

glass runes

I don’t know when exactly I got distracted from using the runes. Coming from a Tarot background, I have always found them easier to use. After all, as many people have pointed out, Tarot cards give you pictures to work with. Runes just give you, well, runes.  Since I use Tarot cards and runes for the same sorts of questions, I suspect I ended up grabbing a Tarot deck more and more often, and eventually my rune sets drifted out of sight altogether. Returning to them at this late date, I see that even long-term memorization can fail. At this point, if I wanted to a runic divination, I’d have to have a book close at hand to remind me what the meanings are, whereas if I began to forget Tarot meanings, the pictures would give me visual cues and I might be able to piece meanings together from the number and suit keywords.

quartz runes

Like Tarot cards, it can be difficult to resist all the pretty rune sets out there, although at least as a mercy to my budget, there aren’t nearly as many of them to tempt me. Sure, I still have my original Blum set. It’s a workhorse set; not lovely, but functional. I also have a beautiful set made of blue-green glass and a set carved into quartz. This last set isn’t as easy to work with, since the quartz pieces are more spherical than flat. The classic, of course, would be to get a set of wooden runes although in theory these should be something I can make for myself. As you may have guessed, however, living in a moderately-sized apartment with no good workspace, I don’t keep a saw on hand to cut branches into appropriately-sized runestaves. I assure you I won’t be burning runes into wood any time soon either.

As with many writing projects, this post did not come racing out of my fingertips into the computer. I came up with a few blocks of writing and rearranged them in all sorts of unsatisfactory ways. And then, as I said at the beginning, I thought I’d just go look at my rune sets and remind myself what they look like. As I write this, they’re sitting on the table next to my computer. And the words are (sort of) flowing. Hmm…

4 thoughts on “Remembering the runes

  1. I’m glad the PBP got you to reconnect with a ‘lost friend’. I totally understand how you can forget the meaning of the Runes – while I did not work with them as long as you, nor was I away from them as long, I still need to dig out my notes and the books I have when I want to understand what I am seeing…


    1. A week or so later, and I must admit I haven’t done much to actively reconnect with them in the interim. However, I haven’t relegated them to the closet again—they’re out on a table where I can find them with a moment’s notice—and I even managed a journal entry about one (1 down, 23 to go? Eek.).


  2. Why did the thought of making one’s own set of runes never occur to me until your fun post? you mentioned you’d not be “burning runes into wood” any time soon.That reminded me of a guy I watched at Como Park a week or so ago, on a sunny morning, on one of this winter’s unusually temperate days. He was outdoors near the path around the lake, standing at an easel with a flat sawn piece of wood (with the bark still around the edges) and I went to see what he was doing. He was woodburning, using just the sun and a magnifying glass. It was so amazing. He said he has about 100 different magnifying glasses for this purpose. The lens of the one he used at the time was small and very bowl shaped, to condense the sun’s energy more–He would hold it up between the sun and the wood and instantly there’d be this brightest of white light and a trail of smoke coming off the wood and he would just “draw” with it.

    His hobby is to do custom jobs for people, inexpensively it seemed to me. A set of runes could make a neat project, do them on a big thin flat board and then cut them apart after? Or better, it’d be fun to get one of those special magnifying lenses and make one’s own in the great out of doors and using solar energy. (“Craig Reed Custom Solar Engraving” on facebook, and 7th Heaven < ???)

    anyway, it was fun to be reminded of runes which, although I was less into, only having the Blum set, takes me back to the cool time of first discovering divination tools, the Blum set being the first one for me.


    1. The way I’ve heard people make wooden runes is to take a tree branch or dowel of a good diameter (maybe about an inch) and saw it into “coins” the way you’d slice a carrot for cooking. Then you put the rune itself onto each coin: burn it, carve it, paint it, whatever. I can see the rationale for making your own rune set, but I just can’t come up with enough passion to do it, even if it has to be way easier than drawing your own Tarot deck. 😉 But I appreciate the efforts of all those people who do make rune sets, drawstring bags, and all those other lovely objects that let me enjoy divination that much more.


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