Ancient Oracles: The History of
Runes – The Alphabet, Symbols and Rune Meanings
Casting runes as a way of predicting the future is relatively new,
considering they were originally an alphabet and used for writing by German tribes as far back as Roman times. The
original letters were in part borrowed from other rune alphabets, including early Roman, Greek, and Etruscan.
Rune symbols were developed out of the necessity to create an alphabet which consisted of straight lines for letters,
as most writing was done as carvings. An easy to carve alphabet was necessary and most rune masters either carved
them into wood or, later, stone. Often they were used to mark graves and burial sites; only one or two symbols were
needed to distinguish who was buried where.
As far as deciphering ancient rune symbols go, it is difficult as originally there were no rules as to how to write.
Some runes were written left to right, others right to left, or even up and down or reversed. It wasn’t until the
Dark Ages that the Latin alphabet brought the Roman style of writing from left to right. The 24 letter alphabet later
morphed into 32 with Anglo-Saxon runes. (Scandinavians had 16 letters or symbols, and are usually credited with bringing
rune stones to Europe).
During the early Christian era, church leaders were unable to read rune meanings, and ultimately demonized runes,
insisting that they were of the devil. This was fine with followers of the Druid religion, because as long as they
didn’t get caught, they could continue to write in their ”secret” language. It was at this time that it became
fashionable to cast runes in order to foretell the future, or give insight to problems.
This is done by taking rune stones and placing them all face side down, and then moving them (kind of like in the
board game of “Scrabble”) around while concentrating on a question or concern. The player then picks up
one rune and flips it over. The meaning is intended to give the insight, or answer to the question.
The rune alphabet
is also a popular way of writing for those who are interested in fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons, due to
their reemergence in popularity through the J. R.R. Tolkien series.