Every week, before I anoint my candles and charge my sigils, I evaluate my altar’s adornments and make sure everything is still in line with my goals. Depending on my mood, I will sometimes add new symbols or tokens that will seem perfect in the moment but a week later, when the mood has changed, they seem very unfamiliar — too aggressive or a little random — and they will no longer be helpful to me. So, my altar’s symbols have to be refreshed.
This week I received a gift of a new set of runes and couldn’t wait to add my favorites to my altar. This set of runes came with a piece of paper that listed all the rune meanings and, lo and behold, none of these meanings meshed with what I’d already held true about the runes. Instead of calmly shrugging and moving on, accepting that these ancient symbols would, of course, be open to many interpretations, I immediately went to my books and online resources to crosscheck information.
This didn’t bring the reassuring clarity I was seeking.
This happens all the time. One source says one thing and another says something totally different. For people like me, who are admittedly a bit overkeen, this can be maddening. I don’t want a rune to be “unknown.” I don’t want to put a rune on my altar that, according to one book, means success and according to an online source means masculine energy. I think magic works better when the intent is crystal clear. Since all my symbols are there to reinforce my intent, what purpose are they serving if they could mean twelve different things?
How To Create Your Own Rune Set
Originally, runes were used as a Germanic alphabet. As Latin was adopted and the language changed, the original meanings and knowledge of the runes was mostly lost, leaving them wide open to interpretation. As time passed, some runes were forgotten and new runes were added as necessary. Mythology about these ancient symbols grew and the runes were even said to have been fashioned by the gods themselves… thus ideal for use in divining the future. Though there is little evidence to support that the runes were originally intended to be used as magical objects, they were nonetheless a cornerstone of witchcraft then and now.
Divination is a common use of runes, as well as answer seeking and even writing runes on tools as a way to bring success to the owner. Witch’s runes are far more modern and used in much the same way as the Elder Futhark and Scandinavian runes. These runes are simpler and much clearer to interpret, though very broad.
So how do you make your own? The key is simplicity. Start by thinking of an intent you would use frequently in your day-to-day casting and altar needs: Health, success, strength, etc. Over time, the need for more runes will arise and you can add to your set. However, to begin, don’t overdo it. The more time you spend crafting your runes individually — making them slowly and on an as-needed basis — the more familiar with them you will be and the more sincere their creation will become. Charging them will be easier when the time comes because you’ll be used to it already, having devoted a lot of time to them during their creation. Think of each one you make as deeply special and necessary.
Once you know what rune you’ll need, think of a representation for it and then cut it down to the bare bones. For example, if you’re making a rune for strength, use a big animal like a bear or bull, and then whittle it down to a paw or horns — whatever represents its strength best to you. Runes were traditionally drawn on stone and wood, so they had simple, straight lines that were easy to carve. Even though, as a modern witch, you have more options and leeway, keep this in mind and keep it simple. You’ll be charging this rune a lot, which means redrawing it and meditating on it frequently. Mentally recalling the rune will be a snap if you have to call on its help when you don’t have an original in hand.
Like sigils, landing on a design that really speaks to you can take awhile, but you’ll know when you’ve hit the mark. Redraw and tinker until your rune is perfect to you. This is the beginning of your bonding process with your runes.
After the crafting of your rune is complete and you’re happy with it, it’s time to breathe some life into it! Traditional runic symbols are steeped in symbolism. Each rune has a name and different associated elements. Some runes even have specific gods attributed to them. Do this for your runes, too. Write down stories for them in your journals, give them details and associations that will add to the overall purpose of each rune. For example, if you’ve made a rune for wisdom, assign it the element of air for insight and an open mind, and so on. This process will transform your runes from simple designs into powerful, proactive tools. It will also help you tremendously with visualization and focus when the time comes to charge your runes!
Using Your New Runes
You don’t need a whole set to use your runes, though as your set grows you’ll be able to do more with them.
Using individual runes in spellwork and as talismans:
- Whenever you use or redraw your rune, it’s a good idea to charge it, especially if your purpose is changing for its next use. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including using your own blood (this is a method known as consecrating the runes to make them “divine”). However, more simply, you may meditate on your rune and imagine in detail how you want it to work for you before, during, and after you place it.
- Speaking to your rune and saying its intention aloud while holding it can also effectively charge it. Asking your particular gods, goddesses or spirits for assistance and blessings during this time is another common practice. Remember to thank them!
- Draw runes on your body and think of their intention during physical exertion. In addition to charging them, this can work to further bind the runes to your energy, and vice versa.
- Your rune can be drawn on anything, like your tools used in spellwork, for an added infusion of power or extra help and guidance.
- Regularly using your runes, charging them and pouring energy into them, will strengthen them and they’ll become more efficient over time. Their individual purposes will also become more defined and easier to direct!
- To use your runes to help others, charge your rune in the same way but picture another enjoying the benefits of the rune. You may also verbally direct the rune to work to help a friend in need. Draw the rune on a stone and give it as a gift.
- Carry specific runes with you as talismans by drawing them on corresponding crystals and stones, or just pieces of paper. You can recharge them regularly and discreetly by holding them in your hand and quietly focusing on the rune’s meaning.
Using your runes to find answers:
- As you collect more runes, you’ll be able to use them as tools for guidance and divination. Because you created these runes from scratch, they’re already bonded to you and locked into your subconscious, making them more attuned to your energy and vice versa. Therefore, when you ask them questions, they will have better and more focused answers. You will also be able to interpret these answers more easily. Remember to journal these results to see the runes progress over time.
- Carry your runes with you in a bag, and roll them in your hands while out and about to reinforce your connection. Also, you can always ask your runes for guidance and help with your goals as a way to direct their purpose, even when not casting them.
- For quick casting, clear your thoughts and shuffle your bag of runes. Ask your question out loud and then pull a rune from the bag. Interpreting the answer may take some practice, but if you’re still unclear, just reshuffle the runes and repeat the process until you have clarity.
- Cleanse and charge runes before each use.
There are a number of ways to work with runes but, of course, there is no right way or wrong way — just the way that gets you results. Some trial and error will probably be necessary. Journaling what works will speed along your process!
If you just want to use your runes for altar symbols and supporting an intent, they are effective and fabulous tools to become familiar with — and create for yourself!
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