The runes are commonly divided into groups called aetts, a word that is equivalent to clan or a social group with a common descent. Each group holds eight runes.
Most people are familiar with the 24 runes found in these three groupings. They are referred to as the Elder Futhark. In fact, there are some rune workers who will only use these 24.
When the ancestors gave me the vision of the lost teachings I was shown the rune Gar as a center point around which 32 runes were circling, not just 24. I believe that these additional eight runes are the runes of the primal giants and so I group them together into a fourth aett I call the Jotnar Aett. There are other rune workers who group them in the same way. When Odin tore a hole in the Web, runes poured forth. It is possible that these additional runes were part of the ones received at that time by the giant Alsvith. This is spoken of in the Hávamál stanza 144.
There are various spellings for each of the runes as well as various pronunciations. Some of them are shown with slightly different shapes such as Hagalaz with two diagonal lines, or Jera formed by Isa with two Kenaz shapes attached, one on each side of the vertical line. There is also a version of Yr that is drawn without a horizontal line, the short vertical line floating in the middle. Calc is another one. It sometimes appears as an inverted Algiz.
As I have come to know the runes through listening to them, I have found that the various shapes carry slightly different energies, rather like the black half-note keys on a piano.
The 33 rune poems written in this book are my original creations. Each poem is composed using only 33 words. They first appeared in print in the limited edition, handmade, leather-bound book called (un) familiar. The story of its creation can be found on my website.
The drawings featured in this book are the work of artist Naomi St. Clare. The style she used to draw the runes is based upon her own feelings and experiences with them.
Anyone interested in the runes discovers quite quickly that there are shelves of rune books, each author offering their own version of what a rune means or how to interpret it or how to use it. Do not become fixated on trying to find the one right book or the one right meaning. There is value in all of them. You may find it useful to gather many books together and compare their explanations. As your relationship with the runes develops you will begin to hear them speaking to you personally and you will be shown many variations and connections.
As I have stated elsewhere in this book, the runes are alive and they vibrate with wisdom. They form and inform each other and present various aspects of themselves depending on which ones appear together in a casting or a reading.
I share here some very basic rune meanings based upon my personal experiences with them. I encourage you to read my book The Runes Revealed—an (un) Familiar Journey to gain further insight and understanding from my perspective.
As the ice is melting, more and more runes are being revealed. They hold the sounds of destruction and creation. We have only just begun to truly grasp the magnitude of the runes. They are without number just like the stars.
Coming to know the runes, developing relationships with them, even remembering their shapes and names can be a daunting task. You are learning a new language with all its complexities and subtleties, within the context of time and location. Be patient. Be willing to listen. Learning to use and live with the wisdom of the runes and the Wheel takes time. You will be rewarded.
I often suggest to those who are new to the runes, and even to those who are not, to create a system using index cards or something similar. Mark a rune shape and its name on each card. If the rune has variations in its shape or spelling, you might want to include them as well. Use the back of the card to make notes about the meanings, the feelings, the experiences you have with each rune as it appears to you, as you read about it, as you meditate with it or even hear it.
Do not be tempted to rely upon one source for definition and meaning.
There is no one true interpretation.
There is no one right meaning.
Start a collection of books about the runes. Each author will share a new perspective based on their personal experience and understanding.
Trust yourself and your own relationship with these ancient beings.
Let the ancestors guide you.
Listen to the runes as they vibrate.
Feel them in your body.
Do they harmonize?
Do they align?
Do they restore balance?
What value do they bring into your life?
You will quickly discern the places where you are out of tune.
Your experiences and insights are just as valid, just as true as anyone else’s.
The ancestors, the gods and the Jotunfolk are still with us.
Why would we think that they only had dealings with human in the past?
Bring each rune, one by one, into each direction.
I have named the runes as I know them.
The artist has drawn them as she sees them.
The explanations are mere snippets of information.
Use the information as a starting place.
Remember, they are multi-faceted, complex individuals and we can never know all there is to know.
My personal experiences over the years have shown me that I have more connection and intimacy with some of the runes than I do others. Some I am drawn to. Some feel really foreign to me. And I am constantly being amazed by their wisdom. You may also have such experiences. Allow them to come to you. Do not try to force them into a mold of your or anyone else’s making.
I like to illustrate it this way. You may have met me at a book signing event and know me as an author and educator. You may have seen me in a yarn shop buying yarn for my next knitting project. You do not know that I milked cows in my grandmother’s barn on a small ranch in northern California and you might be shocked to see me pass you in the fast lane on the freeway, dressed in black leathers and riding my Harley. I would wave.
Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, Lost Teachings of the Runes by Ingrid Kincaid is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher atwww.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.