~ Rune Magic (How To) ~
Rune magic has five distinct steps which are mentioned in the Havamal:
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
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
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.
Thanks so much to the enlightened words of Donald Tyson.
Reprinted partially or entirely from Rune Magic