An Introduction to the Elder Futhark Runes, Their History, and How to Use Them in Divination

The Elder Futhark runes are twenty-four symbols that make up an alphabet, which can also be read as a cycle, and used for divination. They are very powerful, and working with them on a consistent and ongoing basis can be very rewarding.

The details of the origins and dating of the Elder Futhark are debated among scholars, but they appear in inscriptions between the second and eighth centuries. We know the names of the runes from the Old English Rune Poem, which was glossed with their names in the eighteenth century. The poem describes the Anglo-Saxon runes and their uses in magic. 

Our Divination Rune Set includes twenty-five runes, and some people use the blank rune in divination. If this is your practice, that's cool, but in my own practice, I set this rune aside and keep it in case one of my other runes decides to disappear and go on an adventure. When this happens, I craft a replacement using the blank rune. Then, I try to reconnect with the rune and find out why it left me!

Working with the runes is an ongoing process. Before you really attempt to use them for divination, I think it's important to take the time to learn each of them. Understand the relationships between them. The runes tell a story, in much the same way that the major arcana cards of the tarot do, but unlike the tarot, they are much more mischievous. They demand attention and care.

I always say that the runes are like cats. They want your attention when they want it, and they will withhold theirs whenever they feel like it. They may back off if you come on too strong, or they may sit on top of everything you’re supposed to be doing. They’re fun to play with ... if you understand that they’re in control! They’re playing with you. Sometimes, they like to let you know it. So, it is important to spend time with each rune. Take the time to get to know them!

I think the best way to do this is by meditating on the individual symbols. Then, study the interplay between groups of runes. The aetts. Groups of three. All of these meanings are important when you want to use the runes for magic, bindrunes, or divination. At Yule, we examined the meanings of three of the runes, and the relationship between them. If you didn't try the ritual, or you want to review, check it out here.

You can also listen to music or chants that help you access the meaning of the rune. This playlist by Wardruna will take you through the Elder Futhark!

To learn more about the Elder Futhark, check out my Blog of Shadows at, and make sure to follow our Instagram to stay in the loop when we post more lessons on reading the runes!

Back to blog