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Nordic Runes

Nordic Runes

author: Paul Rhys Mountfort
Destiny Books
Inner Traditions
ISBN #0-89281-093-9

Runes act as a gateway into ancient times and universal wisdom - they are, in written form, a continuation of the oral legacy of the ancient tribes. In Nordic Runes, author Paul Rhys Mountfort addresses the Runes through: Runelore, the history and mythology of the Runes; Runestaves, descriptions of the cards and how to work with them; and Runecasting, a guide to interpreting the Runes.

I have had a personal interest in the Runes for many years, beginning when I picked Ralph H. Blum's The Book Of Runes. Blum himself is perhaps regarded as being on the "New Age" end of Rune work, but his book did bring the Runes to many people who might otherwise not have heard of them. I now own three sets of Runes - the ones that came with Blum's book, and two that were made for me - one from wood and one from rose quartz crystals.

Paul Rhy Mountfort comes from a background of being active in the Pagan community and working as a writer, researcher and work shop-leader specializing in the Celtic and Norse traditions. Nordic Runes acts as a companion book to his Ogam: The Celtic Oracle Of The Trees and preceedes his third book, Tarot: Oracle Of The West. In his writing, Mountfort attempts to cover Celtic and Norse mythology, as well as that of western European cultures, focusing on their pagan nature.

In "Runelore", Mountfort does an excellent job of discussing Odin, and his quest to Mimir's well at the root of the World Tree. The journey that Odin takes, and his nine days and nights of questing, are quite fascinating. Much of the material that is presented here has similarities to the mythology of other cultures, so that the flow of thought can be readily followed. The Nine Worlds, and their similarity to the Tree of Life of Qabalah is quite interesting. From the book:

The Web of Wyrd

The runic signs that Odin grasps are the tokens of his newly gained knowledge: magical glyphs embodying primal, archetypal forces. An archetype (in Jungian terms) is a basic, formative energy that creates patterns in the collective unconscious of humanity. Archetypal processes are also the underlying, generative elements of any situation, t he "building blocks" of experience. Many people regard runestaves as an ancient attempt to capture in symbolic form primal archetypes of creation that gave rise not only to the material world surrounding us but also to the inner, experiential plane of our thoughts and emotions. We might say, in fact, that one is a reflection of the other.

The playing out of such forces is one aspect of the multifaceted concept of wyrd. The root of our modern English word "weird", the Anglo-Saxon term "wyrd" derives from the Old Norse term "urd", after which is named the eldest Norn, Urd, and the Well of Urd in Asgard. "Wyrd" has no direct equivalent in modern English, and its meaning must be inferred from a variety of Norse and Old English sources. It means individual "fate", the web of all that happens, and ultimately, therefore, the forces of the universe itself. It is both an objective force and a shaping agent in the uniqueness of individual experience. Runecasters regard the process of reading runes as contacting the "wyrd", thus opening the possibility of grasping the underlying threads of past and present and glimpsing the seeds of the future, if one learns to "read staves rightly". Casting runes not only gives an indication of possible future paths, it tells the Runecaster the tale of his or her own life and fate in the language of the signs, through the field of their meanings and associations, and thus ultimately retells our story to us through the themes of Norse mythology and thought. Such is the underlying philosophy of runic divination, the use of the Runes as an oracle.

Though runes tend to hold a special place among initiates to the Northern Mysteries, the unique fragments of ancient pagan heritage embodied in its literature make the Norse tradition significant to all contemporary Pagans and, potentially, seekers of wisdom of whatever creed or label. Mimer's Well, from which Odin draws up the signs, symbolizes, after all, the infinite reaches of the unconscious and thus the fathomless depths of the self. The myths and legends, magic and lore, counsel and advice that the runes evoke may connect us to the ancient past, but they also offer ways of living more fully in the now. In order for us to use the runes as a divination system to compliment personal intuition, it must be tailored to the needs of present generations. Indeed, it is in the very act of using them that we forge a continuity between past and present, the roots of tradition and the wellspring of the self.

It is to the remnants of that tradition - as preserved from ancient languages, inscriptions on sticks, metal and stones, the wealth of ancient Norse literature; and the Rune poems - that we now turn. 1

Mountfort goes on to talk about the Rune poems, about using the Runes for charms and spells, and gives us a good look at the foundation of this wonderful oracle.

In "Runestaves", Mountfort takes each Rune in turn and gives us a multi-faceted look at how to understand it, and how to interpret it in a reading. Each Rune is presented by name, with a specific Rune poem, with a visualization specific to the content of the Rune meaning, with the Rune meaning itself and with the myths and legends surrounding the Rune. From the book, a partial reading for the Rune Fehu:

Abundance: fehu (Cattle)
Names: Gmc "fuhu" (cattle, goods); Gothic "faihuffe";
OE: "feh"; NRP and IRP: "fe" (wealth)

Sound: "f" (as in fee)

Correspondence: gold

Old English Rune Poem

Wealth provides comfort,
But you must share it who hope to cast lots
for judgment before the gods.

Norwegian Rune Poem

Money causes strife among kin;
the wolf grows up in the woods.

Icelandic Rune Poem

Money causes strife among kin;
and the fire of the flood tide
and the path of the serpent.


A cow with curved horns stands in a fertile field. To the left a wolf lurks in a dark wood, and in the foreground a snake lies coiled like a ring in the grass. 2

In "Runecasting", Mountfort does a wonderful job of presenting us with the system behind the reading of the Runes. I was especially interested in the mention that he made of the German occultist Guido von List, and his work with the Third Reich. Also mentioned is J. R. Tolkein and his use of the Runes in The Hobbit.

I appreciated very much the work that Mountfort did in presenting the section of making your own Runes and charging them. To me - this told me all I needed to know about his understanding and intent with this work.

The spreads t hat are presented in this book are aimed at a largely Pagan audience, but can certainly be used by anyone of any background. There is the "Three Norms" spread for taking a quick look at an issue; the "Four Season" and "Eightfold Wheel" spreads, which are attuned to specific times of the year; the "Nine World" spread, used in getting an in-depth look at any issue; the "Rune Master's" spread and "Free Runecasting" (reading without defined positions).There are sample readings for each spread presented - a veritable wealth of information!

I recommend this book highly! It is well written, in depth, informative and geared to be used in a very real, "this worldly" sense. It shows respect for the Runes, while at the same time taking them into the world that we live in.


1. ibid. pages 14-15.
2. ibid. pages 68-69.

(c) November 2003
Bonnie Cehovet

Personal Lifestyle Reading - I offer a Personal Lifestyle Reading using Tarot that looks at past, present and future influences in your life, at the energies that are currently available to help you along your path, and at those energies that are appearing as challanges. My goal is to offer you insight into your decision making process, as well as tools that you can use to both better understand your path and make conscious, choice centered decisions.

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