Divinatory Methods

In contemporary runic practice, the Runes are very frequently used for divination aka fortune telling or readings. I say contemporary practice, because there is no solid evidence of divination with the Runes. However, there is quite a bit of lore that indicates that runes were probably used for that purpose, mostly from mythic sources. The sagas indicate runes being used, usually for magic, and sometimes that magic would be divinatory in purpose, but the runes were incidental to the magic, and not the main focus.

The most often quoted example of “runic divination” actually comes from a Roman historian, named Tacitus. In his history of Germania, he makes note of their method of performing lots. However, his language does not explicitly indicate the Runes only that symbols were carved in piece of wood from the branch of a fruit bearing tree, and from those symbols, answers were given from the gods. This method does work very well with the Runes however, and I often use an adapted version for readings with the Runes.

Other methods are derived from tarot, where a specific layout is used, often named after a mythic figure or symbol, or associated with cosmological forces and patterns. The simplest of these is the One Rune or the Odhinn’s Rune, where a single rune is selected and that answers the question or gives insight to the issue being asked about. This method works well for either “simple” yes, no or maybe answers. The yes answer would be an upright figure selected, a no would be an upside down figure selected, while a maybe would be any of the “non-invertible runes” with the maybe being explained more depending upon the meaning of the rune.

Another common version of a layout is the 3 Runes or the Norns Spread, named after the etin women who gather around the well of Urd (Wyrd in Anglo-Saxon), watering Yggdrasil with the well water, and patching it with white clay, who are also the mistress of Fate, or Wyrd. Their names are Urd, Verthandi and Skuld (or Wyrd, Metod and Skuld in Anglo-Saxon). When it is called the Norn’s spread, it is specifically used for looking at the past, present and future, while other values can be used for the three runes. These values are often connected in some way, such as Body, Mind and Soul, or Seed, Plant, and Fruit.
The final method of divination is based upon working magic with the runes that make information known to you. There are numerous ways to do this, from focusing on certain runes to bring you into contact with knowledgeable entities, or beings that possess the information you seek, such as contacting Gods or spirits, to summoning up the dead to ask them questions which they would have had the answer to. You could also work to travel metaphysically, popular known as astral projection, but in northern tradition it has the name hamfaring, referring to the part of the being known as the hamr (shape) which can travel from the body, which can then go seek the information that you desire.

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