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Two Rune Layout

I once read that the ancient Germanic people, unlike some cultures of that time (Roman, Greek), believe in a twofold concept of time as opposed to a threefold concept. There wasn’t a past, present, and future, but a “that which is” and a “that which is becoming.” The two rune layout is based on that idea. The first rune you pick will represent “that which is” and the second rune will represent “that which is becoming.”

Two Rune Layout

Two Rune Layout


1
– “That which is” – this includes things in the past as well as the present and how they impact the question being asked.

2 – “That which is becoming” – this is how the events or the future as well as the future in general will impact the question being asked.

Recording Sheet

If you wish to record your rune casts I’ve created a a printable recording sheet for the Two Rune Layout rune cast.

File: Two Rune Layout Record Sheet
Version: 1.0
Downloads: 2147
Format: PDF
Filesize: 118.89 kB

‘Casting Lots’ in Sagas

We see in a few of the sagas the mention of ‘lots’ and the act of ‘casting lots’ for many purposes. On each of the saga pages I had said that it was uncertain if these lots were really runes or something else completely. There is some evidence that these lots may in fact have been runes or pre-runic magic symbols that were carved on branches.

In the first century A.D. the Roman author Tacitus wrote his Germania 10 in which he gives an account of some divinatory practices of ancient Germanic people.

For divination and the casting of lots they have the highest regard. Their procedure in casting lots is always the same. They cut off a branch of a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips; these they mark with different signs and throw them completely at random onto a white cloth. Then the priest of the state, if the consultation is a public one, or the father of the family if it is private, offers a prayer to the gods, and looking up at the sky picks up three strips, one at a time, and reads their meaning from the signs previously scored on them. If the lots forbid an enterprise, there is no deliberation that day on the matter in question; if they allow it, confirmation by the taking of auspices is required.

The different signs that were scored on the wood could have only been one of a few things. First off it’s possible that they had carved magical symbols onto the strips. If this is the case they may have been the runes being used as magical symbols or actual magical symbols that date to a pre-runic time. We have to take into account a few things here. If the symbols were in fact magical pre-runic symbols then why would we find items, such as swords and rings, from this time period that contain magical inscriptions carved in runes. Not the pre-runic symbols, but the actual rune symbols. However, there’s another side to this coin. If the runes were used for magical inscriptions then why would we see so many variations in different rune sets? If they were used for magic then there would be no need to make changes to the design of the symbols. It would be similar to the symbols used in astronomy, since each symbol stands for something specific, like the sun or the moon; there is no need to change the symbol. So the symbol gets passed from culture to culture and through time unchanged. However, using the runes as a writing system would give reason to why there were changes in the shapes of the runes.

There is one other possibility that could lead us to believe the symbols carved were rune shapes. This possibility is that the runes were used for both magical purposes as well as for writing. The magical inscriptions were simply oral commands carved onto an item to give the power of the command to the item it was being carved on. This seems to be the more likely explanation. The runes used as a system of writing would allow someone to add magical inscriptions to something without having to know a separate list of magic symbols.

With all that said is it safe to assume that the terms ‘casting lots’ and ‘lots’ referred to the runes in the sagas? Well without any solid proof the answer would be no, we can’t say for certain. However, the possibility of this happening is greater than the possibility of it not happening. At least that’s what I am lead to believe, still you should try to decide that for yourself.

Medieval Runes of Healing and Magick Set

For almost all other rune sets you should be able to find some divinatory meanings for each rune in its set. This is where the Medieval runes differ from the rest. They were never used for divination purposes and are actually not a rune row in their own right. What they are is individual runic symbols that hold magickal properties of protection and healing. They are probably the least known of the rune sets and probably one set that we may never fully understand how and what they were used for. They are said to originate in the Middle Ages and are largely thought to be Germanic or Dutch in origin.

The images and shapes of this set (shown here) are not that different than the other runes that we’ve seen before. But why is that? If these runes were used for magickal protection and healing, why not just use the protection runes or healing runes from an already developed set? The answer to that is not clear and may never be. It could be that the images for the runes were chosen because each rune was said to relate to a god or goddess. If that’s true then setting them apart from the other runes may be the reason why the shape was changed only a little. If you wanted the power of a god to help protect you or your home then it may be wise to use a protection rune from an established rune set. However, if you wanted to make sure that the rune held a little more power and possibly some magick to it, then it may have been the intent of the user to modify the rune just slightly enough so that the image was not identical, but still showed the original rune, therefore adding the element of magick to the rune. This is of course a lot of speculation and guesswork since there is no solid evidence of why these runes were only used for magickal purposes and not in casting.

Four Theories on Rune Creation

As far as how the runes were created and how they traveled from one place to the next is unclear to us. They may have been an adaptation of previous alphabets or could have been the result of original work. To get a better understanding of where the runes may have come from we will look at the four major historical history theories on the runes. After each theory we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each to get a better idea of why the theory may or may not be the correct one.

The four theories that we will cover are as follows:

  1. The Roman (or Latin) Theory
  2. The Indigenous Theory
  3. The Greek Theory
  4. The North-Italic (or Etruscan) Theory

The Roman Theory

This theory was first presented in 1874 by L.F.A. Wimmer and states that the runes are a result of the adaptation of the Roman (or Latin) alphabet. It is assumed that the ancient Germanic people, who came into contact with Roman culture through the invasion of the Teutones and Cimbri, were familiarized with the Roman written alphabet as early as the 2nd century B.C.E. They then adapted the Roman alphabet into the runes and put it to use, spreading it by the means of trading routes into Scandinavian countries and then eastward from there.

The one thing that we need to watch in this theory is the fact that there is little evidence of the runes near Roman lands at such a time. However, the spread of the runes into Scandinavian countries and from there eastward may mean that the adaptation of the Roman alphabet wasn’t complete until the runes had begun to spread northward.

The Indigenous Theory

First put forward in 1896 by R.M. Meyer and popularized by National Socialist Germany, this theory states that the runes were an original “alphabet.” Not only were they said to be original but they were also said to have been the groundwork on which the Greek and Phoenician alphabets were created.

This theory no longer holds much value to it due to the fact that the earliest Phoenician writings can be dated back to around the 13th or 12th century B.C.E., while the earliest runic inscription dates back to the 1st century C.E.

The Greek Theory

This theory was first stated in 1899 by Sophus Bugge and talks about how the ancient Germanic people adapted the Greek alphabet to create the runes. The theory goes that the Goths had come into contact with a cursive form of the Greek alphabet. The Goths then adapted the cursive form of that alphabet for their own use allowing the new alphabet to spread with them as they traveled.

There are problems with this theory, which have led it to be abandoned by many people. Again we see a fault in the times for this theory. The earliest the Goths would have been able to adapt such an alphabet is around 200 C.E. and the earliest runic inscription would have been earlier than that.

The North-Italic Theory

This theory by C.J.S. Marstrander in 1928 was strengthened in 1937 by Wolfgang Krause. The theory goes that the Germanic people living in the Alps came into contact with the North-Italic (or Etruscan) alphabet and adapted it. Then the Cimbri come into contact with the “new” alphabet and pass it on to the Suevi who carry the runes up the Rhine river to the North Sea, Jutland and beyond.

The only real “problem” with this scenario is that the encounter would have taken place two to three hundred before any runic inscriptions that are already dated. But this doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have happened. Items made of wood may have been carved with the runes and may have long since decayed.

Timeline of Rune History

This is only a brief timeline of the runes. I will be adding more as this site continues to grow so please be sure to check back often.

5th century B.C.E.
In the Alpine region the ‘alphabets’ known as North Etruscan, North Italic or Alpine come into existence. Later these ‘alphabets’ will play an important role in the development of the runes.

4th century B.C.E.
The Alpengermanen are thought to have come into contact with Alpine (or North Italic or North Etruscan) ‘alphabets’ and made use of them.

3rd century B.C.E.
There is a fusion between the Alpine alphabets and the pre-systemized runes forming the 24 staves of the Germanic or Elder runes. A bronze helmet found at Negau in Steiermark that was dated to possibly the 3rd century B.C.E. was inscribed in a Germanic language with Alpine lettering.

2nd century B.C.E.
Rome conquered Etruria and brings in the Roman alphabet. However the letters of the Etruscan alphabet may have advanced north through traders.

Near the end of the 2nd century B.C.E. Germanic survivors of the battles of Vercellae (the Cimbri) and Aquae Sextiac (the Teutons) stay in the area. The Cimbri, before crossing the Alps back towards Germany, may possibly have learned the runes and passed them on the Suevi.

1st century B.C.E.
The Cimbri, Suevi or possibly the Teutons advance the runes northwards down the Rhine river. At this same time the Marcomanni move the runes eastward. A goblet found at Vehlingen with a runic formula is dated to the 1st century B.C.E.

1st century C.E.
The Roman author Tacitus writes his “Germania 10” in which he gives an account of the divinatory methods of the ancient Germanic people. Also in this work it is presented that although men carried out the rituals Tacitus may have witnessed, women were held in high regard for their holiness and gifts of prophecy.

200 C.E.
A lance tip carved with runes is found at ØvreStabu in Norway and is said to date to this time.

400 C.E.
Around this time Rome is looted by people who are familiar with the runes. These people may have taken some Roman letters and incorporated them into rune lore. Also the Kylver stone, a Gothic grave slab in Gotland, shows us the first f-u-þ-a-r-k (f-u-th-a-r-k) order.

550 C.E.
A gold medallion found in Vadstena Sweden shows the three families of runes separated by double dots.

800 C.E.
Earliest date of a purely Norse rune-stave inscription.

1000 C.E.
Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem is written.

3rd century C.E.
By this time the runes have made their way to Denmark, Jutland, and Scandinavia by traveling along North Sea costal routes consisting of the Frisian Islands, Heligoland Bay as well as across Schleswig-Holstein.

6th century C.E.
Saxons bring to England the 28 rune-staves of the futhork that was developed in Friesland.

9th century C.E.
Development of the 33 rune-staves in Northumbria.

Early in the 9th century the use of the Germanic Futhark comes to an end. However, after a short transition an entire Scandinavian rune-row comes into existence mainly based on the Germanic runes.

11th century C.E.
Icelandic rune poem is written.

13th century C.E.
Norwegian rune poem is written.

16th century C.E.
Runic inscriptions in Gotland date to as late as the 16th century.

17th century C.E.
Runic inscriptions in Iceland date to as late as the 17th century.