A rune reading begins by arranging or tossing the rune letters in a spread while thinking of a question or a situation where guidance is necessary. The runes are also used as talismans for their properties of protection, meditation and energy. The rune letters and symbols are then interpreted based on their individual meanings. This is a complex process because there are many layers of meaning. Each rune letter is etched on a small piece of wood or stone and drawn using straight lines. It is believed that runes have mysterious powers and that they were used to cast spells at one time. Traditionally, there are 24 runes in a set, called the Elder Futhark. There is a debate about whether or not there is a 25th rune, which is blank and symbolizes the unknowable or Divine. Conflicting views exist on the birth of runes. One theory is that in the fourth century B.C., German mercenaries went into Northern Italy. The magical symbols used by their shamans traveled with them. By the second century B.C., the rune knowledge was passed from Italy back to Germany by the Cimbri tribe. By the eighth century, they reached their height as a magical system using the German Futhark, coined from the first six letters of the German runes (futhark is a word for an ancient Germanic tribal alphabet). A variation called the Younger Futhark with only 16 runes was founded at the end of the eighth century. In 1639 Iceland, runes were banned. Anyone possessing a rune was burned alive. That date is the official death of the runes as magic, even though the rest of the world had abandoned their use earlier.
Learn about other forms of readings in the Reading Room.