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~ Rune Magic (How To) ~

Rune magic has five distinct steps which are mentioned in the Havamal:
1. Cutting
2. Reading
3. Staining
4. Evoking
5. Sending


In earliest times the runes, or symbols very much like the runes, were cut on wood with stone knives. For nomadic hunters of the forest, no material was more readily available than twigs of wood. They could be taken up or discarded at will. The knife was necessary for survival and would always be near at hand. Runes could be cut when the evening camp fire was made, then burned before the group moved on in the morning.

All magical materials are prepared with solemn ceremony in the sight of the gods and under their good auspices. Similar care must be taken with the runes. No doubt they were often carelessly cut in ignorance or haste, but that a proper and accepted way of cutting them existed is probable. It may have varied in its details from tribe to tribe, but its purpose would remain the same-to set the runes apart from the mundane world and link them to a particular aspect of the spiritual world.

The wood upon which the runes are cut should be taken from a fruit-bearing tree. Nuts are considered fruits of the tree, so this includes such trees as the oak and chestnut. The branch is to be cut at a magically favorable time. The first light of dawn is suitable for honest works, symbolizing as it does the triumph of the light over darkness. The vernal equinox, the moment the sun emerges from an eclipse, even the beaming of the sun's rays from behind a curtain of cloud have a similar significance. On the other hand, for works of evil the branch should be cut from a barren or dead tree in the darkness or shadow.

The knife used to lop off the bough, and later to cut the runes upon it, must be consecrated through a ceremony in which it is offered in service to the god or gods who will oversee the rune magic. If the knife is intended for general use it should be consecrated to all the gods who will act through it, or to the One who is over all. Odin in his guise as All-Father is an agent of the Nameless One, therefore the knife can be consecrated to the All- Father. Consecration usually takes the form of a prayer and a symbolic action such as the anointing with oil.

During the consecration of the knife, will the powers of the gods in whose names the knife will be used to flow into the blade. If you are able to clearly visualize the the knife as gleaming and scintillating with radiance, its power will be greater.

The knife should be spotlessly clean and at least partially manufactured by the Magus-usually the hilt is made. It must be undamaged and unbroken, and preferably never employed for other than magical purposes. The blade must be razor sharp. An old knife in perfect condition can be used if it is thoroughly purified before consecration.

Purification is done by exposing the object to be cleansed to fire and water while speaking a cleansing prayer. Draw the blade through an open flame three times , moving it in a clockwise circle, so that it is warmed. Then sprinkle consecrated water over both sides three times. An alternative is to dip the blade three times in a chalice filled with consecrated water. The Magus seeks to glorify the gods, not insult them. He must never offer them anything he himself considers second rate. Since the gods look upon the instruments of the Art through his eyes, and his perception is modified by his prejudices, he must truly believe that his instruments are as perfect as he can reasonably make them.

Take a nine-inch long section of the branch and cut into its bark the runes to be used in the ritual. Allow the shavings to fall on the open ground, or if this is impossible gather them up and scatter them over tranquil earth. Cut each line of the runes with two sure and forceful strokes-the first to incise, the second to clear away the wood from the grooves. On a rounded wand this is best done with a slight rolling action.

The motions of the cuts should be from top to bottom and from left to right. Top to bottom is the line followed by the descending rays of the sun. Left to right is the path traced by the solar orb across the sky. Before beginning to cut the runes, speak an invocation to the god or gods who will oversee the ritual. It should be short and original, an invitation for the gods to take notice of your purpose and lend their authority to its fulfillment. Since the runes act independently, the gods invoked may be from any pantheon. For the unity of the ritual it is best to call upon the Teutonic gods when possible.

Runes can be formed with pen and paper. A pen nib is of steel and is used for marking a line in a way analogous to the cutting stroke of a knife. Modern paper is made entirely of new wood except at the extremes of quality-very cheap paper has recycled fiber; very expensive paper has a rag content. However when using pen and paper the tactile sensations of cutting the runes in wood, which are quite potent magically, are lost. The process of forming the runes becomes perfunctory and is liable to be undervalued.


At first consideration reading the runes might be interpreted simply as knowing what they mean. Any person using the runes for magic would know their names and associations. Why then list reading as a second step after cutting? Surely the two go together. And if they are considered apart, reading-or knowing what the runes signify-would naturally precede writing the runes down.

The explanation is that when a rune is read aloud it becomes actual in the mind and spirit. Speaking the rune carves it on the beating heart. Before it is spoken it exists potentially. Vibrated in the air by the lips and tongue, warmed by the breath of the lungs, it is born just as the universe was born at the Word of God.

Breath, air, words-all have powerful magical associations that transcend the boundaries of culture and time. Breath is the life force. Air is the medium of thought. Words are not mere symbols but living beings. By articulating the runes, the Magus lends each its unique identity that separates it from the undifferentiated mass of oblivion. He names them, and they awake with an awareness of their own being.

After the carving of the runes has been completed, they should be spoken aloud one after the other in order. The names need not be shouted. They may be barely audible to a nearby listener, but they must resonate inwardly. The Magus should receive the impression that they are spoken in peals of thunder. As he name each rune he forms an intellectual and emotional picture of it similar to the impression one gets on hearing the name of a familiar person.

there is a specific method for vibrating names in modern magic. Open your throat and allow the column of air in it to resonate against your diaphragm. This will produce a buzzing in the bones of the ears and a tickling in the nose. Your chest should vibrate like the skin of a drum. Each rune name is stretched out and fully articulated so that it seems to be spoken in slow motion.

The physical vibrations produced by this exercise must be transmitted into psychic channels so that they reach the higher spheres. The mechanics of vibration are only the means of effecting changes on the level of spirit. Of themselves they are powerless. Properly vibrating a rune name on all levels opens a communication with its secret essence and makes it available for use.


Originally runes were stained with blood; either the blood of the person using them, or the blood of a sacrificed human being or animal.

Berserkers (a mane meaning bear coats) were a fanatical cult of Norse- men devoted to warfare who carved runes on their weapons and before a battle gashed themselves so that their blood flower over the runes. They believed that the runes, particularly the Tyr rune, rendered them invulnerable. Their rage was similar to that of fanatical Moslems. They rushed into the thick of the fray without the least regard for their safety, and considered death by the sword a glorious honor as it is assured them a place in Valhalla.

Grettis Saga in which the witch Duridr carves runes in the root of a tree and stains them with her own blood to bring ruin on Grettir, confirms that runes were bloodstained for reasons other than warfare. No doubt it was the common practice in all works of magic where much energy was required, but it is unlikely the blood always flowed from the veins of the sorcerer. It would be to great a temptation to take the easy way out and use the blood of a beast, fowl, or even another man.

The Romans mention human sacrifice among the northern tribes and there are echoes of it in the early writings of the Christian Church. For many years this was regarded as propaganda by Norse scholars who could not believe the hardy Vikings would descend to such acts, but not long ago physical evidence was uncovered, and there is now general agreement that human sacrifice was a occasional part of Teutonic worship. Very likely animal sacrifice was substituted early on as in other primitive cultures. A people that continues to sacrifice its members on a large scale cannot long endure.

Blood played the same role in rune magic as it plays today in Voodoo worship, where it acts as a source of supernatural nourishment and vitality, and is daubed upon an idol or spilled at its foot to feed the god. The most ignorant worshipers believe the idols to physically drink the blood as they believe them to consume offerings of food and drink. More cultured worshipers look upon the physical blood as the outward manifestation of an invisible psychic blood which feeds the unseen and intangible spirits who dwell in the carven idols.

The truth is more subtle. Blood takes its vitality from the emotional and symbolic associations it has in the human mind. The gods or spirits feed on human feelings. This is why only blood spilled from the body of a worshiper will have full potency. A man may be indifferent to the spilling of animal blood. He may even be so depraved as not to react at the sight of a bleeding human being. In any case, his emotions will be more debased than those he experiences when his own lifeblood is shed.

To gain the maximum effect from the runes, the Magus must stain them with his own blood. As he cuts his skin and spreads his blood across the runes so that it settles into the grooves, he must not feel fear or regret. The self-shedding of blood is a voluntary sacrifice of the most intimate kind. It is at one moment a gift and a contract delivered to the rune powers. The Magus should fill his heart with quiet joy. It may help him to imagine the emotions of Odin hanging from Yggdrasill,or indeed of Christ on the cross.

Baser feelings such as lust, cruelty, fear, anger and hatred will evoke powers that are not only unproductive but dangerous. Sacrifice of another's blood can never produce the desired gestalt of psychic events, called a mind-state, dominated by a feeling of selfless surrender that is necessary for working constructive rune magic. No lasting pleasure can come from works of evil. What is first perceived as personal advantage swiftly turns to delusion and despair.

An ancient alternative to blood used to stain the runes was red ochre, and earth pigment. The Old English word teafor (pigment) is related to the Old Norse taufr (sorcery). Red ochre was rubbed along a rune staff in a powered form to etch the lines of the runes against the background of the wood. Symbolically, it served as the blood of the earth.

The use of pigment is part of a process of degeneration in which the red blood of the magician became the blood of a human sacrifice, which became the blood of an animal, which became dried and powered animal blood that need not be shed afresh each time magic was worked, which became red pigment linked to blood by color alone. The modern Magus should either go back to the source, his own fresh blood, or should follow the process to its logical conclusion and link in his mind red paint or ink to the emotions of sacrifice that alone feed the runes.

Blood will not necessarily work better than pigment. It depends on the mind-state the Magus is able to create and maintain. Blood is usually more effective only because it carries powerful natural associations. It is a psychological aid that the experienced Magus may not need to rely on.

However, do not fall into the modern error of thinking that since you recognize blood is a symbol, any other similar symbol will do as well. Symbols are alive. They each have a unique identity. They cannot be casually interchanged. An adept may be able to get the same results from red paint as he gets from blood, but it will require a highly developed mental control.

Blood is only one of the bodily fluids that may be used to stain the runes for different purposes. The others are saliva, urine, sweat, tears, and semen (in women, menstrual blood). Each fluid carries unique associations and creates a different mind-state. For works of art or science, saliva is most effective. For works of destruction and storm, urine. For works of growth, sweat. For works of piety and love, tears. For sex magic, semen or menstrual blood.


Evoking refers to the chants that are spoken over the runes to realize their power. Since the Germans had no literature, all incantations have been lost except for a few debatable scraps that may have survived in folk charms. By their nature the Norse chants were secret and never written down. Perhaps special gestures of the hands or body were used in conjunction with the chants, but these are a matter of speculation.

The chants must have been a summoning of the powers of spirits of the runes into manifest being; a calling of them from the potential to the actual. They were probably directed into the object upon which the runes were carved, or into the runes themselves. The rune object became the temporary home of the powers until they were sent to accomplish the desire of the shaman.

All magical chants are short, metrical, usually rhyming, and go straight to the point. They may be composed in the form of a riddle so that anyone overhearing them will not be able to guess their significance. Often they are repeated many times in a sing-song voice to endure a trance state so that their message will reach the subconscious. Rune chants will use the names of the Teutonic gods as words of power. The chant should be accompanied by appropriate gestures designed to draw down the power of the runes, the most effective of which is the vortex. Revolve the knife over the runes in a sunwise circle while visualizing a psychic whirlwind whose center opens over them. alternately, walk or dance around the runes set in the center of the magic circle sunwise. Nine revolutions should be made. Nine is a powerful number in rune magic and signifies realization. Evocation has the effect of priming the runes. At this point the ritual may become dangerous. Previously the runes were empty markings on wood- now they are charged with occult potency. In addition to his other protective devices, the Magus should wear about his neck an amulet with the Eoh rune prominently carved upon it. Before the runes are stained, the amulet should be stained. Before the forces of the runes are evoked, the protective power of the Eoh rune should be summoned into the charm. In this way if anything goes wrong with the ritual, the amulet will protect the Magus by the very powers that the rune spirits may try to use to harm him.


Evoking and sending are closely related. In practice they may form tow stages of a single action, However, they can be discussed separately. Evocation draws sown the powers of the runes. Sending releases those powers toward the target. If evocation is thought of as loading and cocking a gun, sending is akin to aiming and firing. Sending can be accomplished manually by passing the runes to another person or secreting them in a specific place. This method is imaginatively described by M.R. James called Casting the Runes, in which a nigromancer takes a dislike to a critic and puts into his possession runes of destruction. The runes are timed to take effect at a certain hour. Throwing them away is no help-the only way the critic can save himself is by returning the runes personally to their maker, which he does just before the fatal hour by means of a trick. When the runes cannot be delivered to the object of desire hand to hand or through the mail, they may be sent through the elements. All elements can be used with the exception of Light, which is too subtle, but one will be more appropriate in any given circumstance. For example, if you wish the runes to act on a person who is aboard shop or to raise a tempest, the runes can be cast into the sea. If you wish to affect crops or property, the runes should be buried. If you desire to summon winds or otherwise change the weather, write the runes on a piece of paper and tear it into tiny pieces, then scatter them in the air. If you want to create emotional or physical heat, the runes are best burned.

Any method will work more or less well with any set of runes provided the proper concentration and visualization are linked with specific words of direction. Some elements are merely more appropriate for certain purposes. It can generally be stated that Fire is a suitable medium for works of war, lust, anger and violence; Air is fitted to works of science, philosophy, judgment and justice; Water is for works of love, art, kindness and illusion; and Earth for works of construction, toil, strength and endurance. and violence.

Thanks so much to the enlightened words of Donald Tyson. Reprinted partially or entirely from Rune Magic