Rune Books and Curriculum

The Curriculum of Rune Magick

I highly encourage you to build your library starting from these sources. A lot of good stuff is out of print, but these books have stood the test of time and/or popularity. All links go to Amazon, where you’ll find more reviews, similar books and pricing information. Enjoy!

Featured on Huffington Post’s Books, The Book of Rune Secrets is taking the ‘net by storm, truly “a timeless well of wisdom & inspiration.” Its author has spoken to hundreds of active rune masters, and thousands of newcomers over the years, as well built a popular blog and community purely surrounding the topic of the runes. This is the one book that you will read again and again as you delve deeper into the meaning of the runes.

This handy little pocket book is aimed at complete beginners, and in that respect does its job quite well. There is basic information on divination, the rune meanings and magick. If you outgrow it quickly, that’s may only be a testament to how effective a learning aid Peschel’s book is.

Freya Aswynn is worth her weight in gold. Though many of her works are out of print, fortunately the soul of her work can still be located in Northern Mysteries and Magick. If you can get her other ones used, you’ll be all the richer for it.

Paxson is very devoted to the runes and her bestselling book, Taking Up The Runes, is a thick, extensive survey of the popular literature on the subject. She frequently references many of the authors on this curriculum, and her book is organized as to contrast the rune meanings with one another. She spends a lot of time in the second half on the topic of spells, rituals, divination and magic. This book is definitely one to own.

These three books are probably the harshest of the historical, filled with ‘hard facts’ and the scorn of scholars. Beware, ye ‘fluffy new agers’ of the reality sandwich in store for you here. But don’t be intimidated. No one truly interested in the runes can pass up an opportunity to see what evidence the archaeologists and historians have to work with. To be fair, I think these bunch are hard on the spiritual and magickal-minded folk. After all, there is evidence that the runes were used for divination (Germania by Tacitus), and why not? However, no perspective on the runes is complete without at least adding the Rune Primer and Runes (Reading the Past) to your library.

Another historical book, Runic Amulets and Magic Objects is hardcover, and fully illustrated, a beautiful vision and a fascinating read. This may put a dent in your wallet, but it is just about one of the most highly recommended books on the artifacts that the runes show up on over the millennia.

Edred Thorsson’s work has been so successful that many swear his is the only valid perspective , period. Naturally this is not the case, however, he does know what he’s talking about. To engage in ‘serious’ conversation about the runes today, familiarity with Thorsson’s work is virtually a requirement. The Nine Doors of Midgard was the handbook for his organization, the Rune-Gild, and Futhark doesn’t pull any punches as it delves unapologetically into esoteric lore.

Edred Thorsson is Stephen E. Flowers’ pen name when writing about magick, but this work is a translation of Guido von List’s infamous book, which is often cited as having inspired the Nazi’s to warp the runes to their own purposes. Regardless, it is important to know what is influenced to this very day by the contents of this book — but beware! It’s influence is corrupting. Not for the feint of heart.

Some people detest Ralph Blum due to his popularity in bookstores, his little plastic rune sets, and his absolute inaccuracy when it comes to rune meanings. However, this is also the book that many people started with. Taking a look at The Book of Runes, 25th Anniversary Edition, I qualify this as a good investment, because it will help you understand the creativity and imagination we are all allowed to exercise when it comes to interpreting the runes, and at very least, help you understand where most new students of the runes are coming from.

Other great treasures:

Am I missing something? Do you have a short review you’d like to make of something else? If it can be ordered ‘new’ on Amazon, and you want me to add it to this list, just contact me at runesecrets [@] with the information and if I agree, we’ll get it added ASAP!

The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem: Remixed

A young woman named Claire Smith, of the Spider Tribe, has had the creativity and courage (and audacity? ;) to adapt the old Anglo-Saxon rune poem to something decidedly new, but true to form to the spirit and meaning of the old Anglo-Saxon rune poem. With her permission, I’m re-posting it on Rune Secrets to share with you this inspiring creative undertaking.

You can visit Claire and see some of her other poetry on her Spider Tribe website.

Wealth is a comfort to all men
But greater is the good of riches shared,
The barrow’s treasure is a dragon’s den
Of teetering gems ~ hoarder, be prepared
For the wolves that track the scent of gold,
Give to the living, for death lies cold.

The up~horned aurochs is fierce and proud,
Great girded warrior of the moor
With eyes of fire and spirit loud,
Savage and feared as a god of war
But the man who is brave, or the man who is wise
Might show the mettle for the beast’s demise.

The thorn is sharp to human flesh,
Push against it ~it will win the duel,
One thorn can hide a wicked mesh
Of thorns, demon company is cruel.
Best be vigilant or be easily caught
On the barbs of evil deed or thought.

The mouth gives shape and sound to words,
Is the comfort of councilors and Wisdom’s pillar,
On the palate of the ageless sky, the birds
Are blessed and confident; Woden is Healer,
Prophet and Sage and as Shaman he gave
More than his eye to cut the whisper on the stave.

The saddle is soft and the way is clear
In the journey of a hearth~dream, but the dreaming fire
Is no preparation for the hardships that will appear
On the mile~paths cruel with rock and mire.
The wise traveler and his horse are bold
When the ashes of dreams have long lain cold.

Torch is known to the living by its light
And heat of flame when the nobles are within,
When men of common purpose talk into the night,
When they are gathered together, kith and kin.
Its beacon is sure and true and courage
Is like oxygen, empowering its quiet rage.

Generosity is for men glory and exaltation,
A word of kindness can mean more than gold,
However small the gift, express appreciation ~
The grudging man pines, but he who is kind and bold
Seldom has cares, even the man who is broken
Can give or receive the simplest token.

Joyful is he who knows no sorrow,
Has little want and bears no pain,
Who thanks the day and does not fear tomorrow.
Sadness will come, but do not seek to attain
Its touch of grey ~ Wyrd has enough bliss
And woe for all ~ bittersweet, the parting kiss.

Hail is the whitest of grains, fleet
As the messenger with urgent news, cold mortar
Through the vaults of heaven, a sleet
Of arrows that sweetly melts to water
Having felled the golden legions of the field.
And so, in times of plenty, make good your yield.

Need is an aching in the breast, but then
Just as the medicine with the bitter taste
Can soothe, need is comfort to the sons of men.
Hardship, like guilt, is better faced ~
Be strong and certain of brighter days
And the gods will hold you in their gaze.

Ice is over~cold, a skater’s dream,
A walker’s nightmare, a floor of frost
Cold glass and gems, the faraway gleam
Of all we desire that is easily lost.
Crystals and opals and diamonds all,
Cruel and worthless when we fall.

Year is the hope and joy of men, She
Who is Earth and of the earth, who bears
The fruits of earth and flesh for all humanity,
Rich and poor alike, is all beauty when she wears
The green and blossoms as her gown, the sky
In her hair ~ and so shall be when we all die.

Yew is outwardly an unsmooth tree
Hard and fast in the earth, the shepherd
Of fire, roots earth~locked, tangled as mystery.
Its branches sky~reaching are, as the web of Wyrd,
Questing for the seven worlds, seen and unseen ~
Irminsul, a joy on the land and evergreen.

Hearth is to the proud the place of laughter,
Song and recreation, where the warriors in the mead hall
Sit now blithe and companionable after
The giants of flesh and mind and heart, all
Have been slain for the day; when battles are chessmen
And challenges are riddles, all is pleasure then.

Elksedge, waxing in the water of the marsh,
Has a hilt to suit the warrior’s grasp
But it meets the flesh with substance harsh ~
Hilt becomes blade, a living rasp
That sears the flesh and burns the blood.
Be strong, to clutch at straws will yield no good.

Sun, bright sail of the tranquil sky,
Is ever a joy to the farers of the sea,
When dreams are fish shoals and hopes fly high
With the sea birds and confidence and opportunity
Rise with the halyards, until the steed of brine and foam,
Courser of the deep, brings them gladly home.

Tiw is a guiding star, the warrior’s friend,
Ever moving over night’s mist and darkness.
First of the gods, ever burning to defend
The fields of men and the shining fortress,
Stronghold of the gods that we call heaven,
Keeping faith with princes and trust with all men.

Birch bears no fruit, yet brings forth shoots
Until its crown is splendid, laden with leaves,
Heavy in the air ~ and so it is that its fruits
Are those of healing and enchantment, such spells it weaves
Out of green and time as the creative fire communes
With the mind of man, is the flesh of wands and runes.

Horse, proud in its hooves, at the helm
Of warriors is a joy to princes and royal
In its mane, be it on the mile~paths of its realm
Granting a hero speed, or standing loyal
Where the rich men barter words and impress
With deeds. And is ever a comfort to the restless.

The man of laughter is dear to his friends,
Yet every kinsman will betray his fellow:
The time must come to all when laughter ends
And Sculd, by Her decree, lays flesh below
The living green and the solemn oaths of man
Are brought to nothing. Enjoy the laughter, while you can.

Water to men seems endless, when the rocking bark
Is fragile on the quake of sea, when the horse
Of the deep, thundering vast and dark
Defies the bridle. But still they plot a course
For new horizons, the reward of distant lands,
Seizing opportunity with trembling hands.

Ing was first among the East Danes
Seen by men, until he departed over the deep,
His wagon behind him and they with war in their veins
Named the hero. Rouse him from his winter sleep
When you burn the holly ~ he survives the snow
As the seed of life, with his corn~sheaf pillow.

Homeland, dear to man, won by the blood
And courage of the men of old, is the hearthlight
Of all that is safe and right and good,
The legacy for which we fought and still must fight.
It swells the blood with pride and sings
In the hearts of common men and kings.

Day, beloved of men, is the herald
Of Woden and the glorious skein of thread
Spun by Metod. Such comfort in that gold ~
Lightening the mind, the heart, the tread
Of rich and poor alike, of service to all
Is reason and understanding, fair and rational.

Oak is food for flesh, joy to the lips
Of man in the meat that grew sweet and succulent
Feasting on acorns. And oak is the faith of ships,
The trusted timber, stable on the torrent
Of the gannet’s bath and so we must ensure
That the acorns of our lifetime, as oaks endure.

Ash, much prized by man, is high
Steadfast and firm, swift when it grows,
Stout when it stands, straight when it streaks the sky
As a singing spear or a sleet of arrows.
Ash is ambush, attack, the power to advance
And yet is stockade, defence and vigilance.

The ax~hammer is a joy and an honour
To prince and warrior alike. It is bold
On the journey, intrinsic to the brave armour
Of war and fair on the horse, a sight to behold
As it hangs from the saddle, hellbent on battlefields,
The clang of war~gear and the walls of shields.

Ior is a river~fish and yet it feeds
Always on the land and lives a life
Of quiet joy, working hard to meet its own needs,
Building a home that is free from strife,
Encompassed by water. His is time well spent,
Is peace of mind and home~and~dry contentment.

Grave is the terror of all, even from birth
When life first warms the flesh, it is the only certainty
That flesh will cool and choose the pale earth
As its last companion. But thus shall we find equality
In that end ~ and a spur~ for the dead are dumb to speak
When the rich lie poor and the strong lie weak.

Rune Courses and Titles: A Caution

I’ve received a number of emails asking about the Courses in runes offered by Ragnar at the Denali Institute, and by Edred Thorsson. The question usually asks about the rune courses, and the titles gained through their completion. It is an important question, because it differentiates two divergent beliefs in how the runes should be used.

Continue reading Rune Courses and Titles: A Caution

Murk Staves: Is There a ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ Way Up?

Most welcome guest contributor to the site, Mahryan, addresses some frequent issues that newcomers to the runes have, in particular the idea of reversed runes, positive and negative interpretations, which are often called murk staves.

Some of us cast our runes, tipping out the whole set and letting them fall as they may. Others pull runes from our bag, usually one at a time. Either way, the runes do not always come out upright and face up. Some rune commentators see any reversal of a rune as negative, often describing it as ‘murk-stave’ (dark or at least gloomy) as opposed to ‘bright’ when in the upright position.

Others pay little or no attention to upright or reversed positions, reasoning that each rune always contains positive and negative energy anyway – the situation and our actions will determine how runic energy plays out. I agree with this.

Nevertheless, I do find the position of a rune helpful in developing my overall understanding. The importance of runic order and relationship within the Futhark is not disputed – the more we understand of the runes the more we recognize the intricacies of this. Given this, it seems to me that rune position – any aspect of position – in a reading must also have value. The following are some of my thoughts on this.

Some rune signs do not reverse or invert, but every rune when cast or drawn may come out face up or face down. There are very few in-depth discussions of face-up reversals and far less even consider what meaning, if any, may be attached to face-down positions.

I do not see any kind of positioning as simply a matter of ‘positive’ (upright) versus ‘negative’ (reversed/inverted) positions. Rather, the energies of each rune have many manifestations from the simple and mundane to the very depths of spiritual and cosmic understandings.

I pull (draw) rather than cast runes, and have thus always placed them face up, but preserving any reversed positions. It does occur to me, though, that when casting runes the fact some land face down might be of importance in understanding the manifestation of runic energy in that reading. I have only one source that deals with this. It is an out of print treasure I found second-hand called Using the Runes by D. Jason Cooper. For each rune he provides interpretation suggestions for face up, face down, both upright and reversed (as applicable). Regardless of the position runes are in my readings, I have found Cooper’s shades of meaning tremendously helpful in focussing and developing my understanding of how runic energies and relations may manifest in a situation.

I am going to use a recent experience with Tiwaz as an example. I was facing the work-related task of attempting to turn negative and adversarial criticism into an opportunity for an appreciative and respectful exchange of ideas. Instead of everyone feeling disappointed, wronged and under attack, the goal was to identify a course of action for mutual benefit.

An Example

When I am to undertake important tasks (especially sensitive ones), it is my practice to ask what runic energy I need to call upon/ bring with me. I was nonplussed on this occasion when I drew Tiwaz in the reversed position! What did this mean? As a simple reversal – not to be the spiritual warrior? To not go in fighting for what was fair and just?

Sources that do discuss reversals generally focus on the meaning in divinations. Tiwaz reversed is commonly assigned attributes of deception, waning energy, lack of courage, giving up. I have never found these satisfactory and it seemed clear to me that it would be unhelpful for me to bring along this kind of negative energy. I turned to Cooper’s little book. For Tiwaz face up but reversed he suggests:

Duel, struggle. You are going to have to fight for your honour and good name. Others will demand that you prove yourself, you cannot demand their respect without it.

Now this was a much better fit to the situation! Cooper’s other comments on different aspects of Tiwaz were helpful too, reminding me that Tyr sacrificed his hand to achieve a necessary outcome – a form of deception was involved in order to get to the greater good – it was a matter of tactics. As I considered the situation and my prospective role I began to understand that who had the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ of it was not the point to be made. The worth of our project had to be proven. The need was for tactics that moved our opponents into allies.

My scheduled meeting was successful. I have gained a much better understanding of Tiwaz in the reversed position and, that I think I will be able to apply to reversals in general. The key point I wished to illustrate is that a reversed rune is not necessarily what is often referred to as a ‘murk-stave’ – something negative to be feared. Sometimes it is a helpful guide to nuanced action.

I do think that a reversed rune is a signal for careful contemplation. The indication is that the runic energy involved will not apply in the most straightforward way. Or, perhaps, that the energy of this rune is one we need to control or sacrifice if we are to achieve the desired outcome.

Regaining full knowledge of the runes is a work in progress for all of us. We must think deeply about every rune in a reading or meditation, considering how its energies may apply in the situation at hand. A sincere ‘beginner’ can be given just as valuable an insight as someone who has studied the runes for years. Sincerity and openness to understanding are what the keys.

Some of you may find reversed/inverted rune positions an unnecessary prop and be able to intuitively see how each runic energy manifests in any situation. For me, these individual rune aspects are valuable contributors to my understanding, but I do not regard them as negative or ‘murky’ in any way.

I do hope that Rune Secrets visitors will find these few thoughts helpful. Please share thinking and experiences with reversed/inverted rune positions – we can all benefit through collective reflection.

— Mahryan