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Bifrost Layout

Here again we have a rune cast that makes use of Norse Mythology. According to Norse Mythology, Bifröst is the bridge that connects two worlds together, the world of the gods and the world of the humans. Since Bifröst acts as a connection between the humans and the gods we get a sense with this layout that our answers and the help the runes give us are coming straight from the gods themselves.

The order for this layout is again a simple one. Bifröst is often said to be a rainbow bridge between two worlds so we make use of the basic colors of the rainbow for the position. You may have seen the “Roy G. Biv” trick taught to children to help them remember the colors of the rainbow. This is where we come up with the positions and names for this layout.

Bifrost Layout

Bifrost Layout


  1. Red: Attitude of the past
  2. Orange: Effects of the past
  3. Yellow: Attitude of the present
  4. Green: Effects of the present
  5. Blue: Attitude of the future
  6. Indigo: Effects of the future
  7. Violet: Overall outcome

Things to be aware of for this cast

This cast is pretty straightforward and there’s not too much you need to be aware of. You just want to make sure that you’re reading the correct runes for the position you place them in. It’s basically a “Past, Present, Future” layout with a few exceptions. More often than not in a “Past, Present, Future” layout we are only dealing with the effects of each and not the attitudes of those positions. The attitude portions of this cast help to give us insight into why the effects have taken place, are taking place or may take place. If you’re not sure what I mean by this let’s look at a simple example.

We’ll pretend that you’ve cast this layout to find out about a possible promotion at work. When you start to read your runes for this cast the first rune you select will be for the “Attitude of the past” – meaning your attitude about past promotions you may or may not have received. In the past, if you had been a hard worker with a positive outlook and have received a promotion, the runes may be able to let you know that it was, in fact, your outlook and work efforts that helped you get the promotion.

One other thing you need to be aware of is the last rune for this cast, “Violet: Overall Outcome.” For most “Past, Present, Future” rune readings you won’t have an overall outcome because the “future” position will usually represent the outcome. For this rune layout the overall outcome position is there to help provide a more in-depth look at the outcome. We still need to make sure that we look at the overall meaning to the cast by taking all the other runes into consideration, but we must not forget that there is also a rune to show us the overall outcome. Such a rune can be very helpful to us at times so we should not take it too lightly.

Recording Sheet

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

File: Bifrost Layout Record Sheet
Version: 1.0
Downloads: 1964
Format: PDF
Filesize: 124.21 kB

Midgard Serpent Layout

As you can tell I like to create my rune spreads around figures and objects from Norse Mythology, and this spread is no different. The Midgard Serpent is a beast that is said to live in the ocean that surrounds the world and is so long that he is able to bite his own tail. In this layout we use the fact that the serpent is able to bite his own tail and it’s important in the reading that we are aware that if we’re not careful the results of this layout can pass us by.

Midgard Serpent Layout

Midgard Serpent Layout

You do not need to worry about placing the runes in the “flowing” pattern of the image above. The purpose of line in the image is to give you a feel that we are placing the runes to create a serpent. However the line also helps us to better understand the positions and their meanings. We pretend that we start at position one (the tail) and we “walk” along the line until we reach the head of the serpent at position seven. As we “walk” along the serpent we must make “uphill journeys” which represent obstacles or situations that we may need to overcome. The “downhill journeys,” for example moving from position two to position three, are times after we have conquered or overcome an obstacle. These are periods when we can relax a little and once again prepare ourselves for future hurdles that may come our way.

Now let’s take a look at the rune positions and their meanings.


1
– Represents our feelings in the distant past in relation to the situation we are asking the runes for help with.

2 – Represents the struggles with this situation as a result of our feelings from position one. Also the “hump” symbolizes the obstacles we may have overcome and we should be aware of how we handled the situation in the past because it may once again come back to us in the present time (position four).

3 – This point concerns our feelings about the situation during the present time. Physically it is the closest rune to us as we lay the runes down so it not only represents the present time, but also the close connection to our heart or feelings.

4 – Position four is when we start the journey towards our outcome. The obstacles we may have had in the past (at position two) may come back into play for us here. We also see that the “hump” here is a little steeper, which may mean that the obstacle is even more difficult to overcome. However, we do have our past experiences with this matter to help guide us along our path.

5 – At position five we reach the peek of our journey and we can see our goal clearly. This rune will tell us about our feelings and how they can begin to control us once we think we can achieve our goal. We cannot let our feelings get the better of us, rather we must learn to understand that we need these feelings to gain our goal but at the same time not let them control us.

6 – Position six reminds us that we still have to work towards our goal if we want to achieve it. Take this rune to heart. If it is telling you that you need hard work to get to your goal then you’ll need to listen. If it’s a rune about power and control, you may need to be strong and control your emotions in order to get to the goal.

7 – This spot represents the Midgard Serpent’s head. Most of the time this is our goal. However, according to Norse Mythology, the serpent is so large that is able to bite its own tail. If we are not watching what the other runes are saying to us so we can reach our goal we may find ourselves passing by our goal and beginning once again on the tail of the serpent.

Things to be aware of for this cast

This rune layout represents a sort of “timeline” to reach our goal. Position one starts us off at the tail of the serpent and we must work our way towards the serpent’s head at position seven. We must be aware that time, like the Midgard Serpent, can often be seen as a cycle. Time continues to move from one day to the next as the sun and moon rise and fall letting us know that a new day has come and gone. This cycle continues unbroken in our mind unless we form “breaking points” to split up this constantly moving cycle. With time we use “breaking points” like weekends or holidays to give us a rest from the busy workweek, which can have a monotony of it’s own. The “breaking point” for this layout can be seen as our goal for the situation we are asking the runes about. If we’re not careful we may pass up our goal because of our feelings of excitement to break this cycle. If that happens we may find that we may, in fact, not have reached our goal at all and instead have restarted our journey at the tail of the Midgard Serpent. Because of this we must learn to understand, control and make good use of our feelings as we try to achieve our goal.

Recording Sheet

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

File: Midgard Serpent Layout Record Sheet
Version: 1.0
Downloads: 2290
Format: PDF
Filesize: 127.05 kB

Four Directions Layout

Since the runes have a solid base in Norse Mythology the names for each of these positions is named after each of the dwarfs that are said to hold up the sky, which (according to Snorri Sturluson) was the skull of the giant Ymir.

Four Directions Layout

Four Directions Layout

The idea for this layout is simple, just a North, South, East and West pattern to place your runes in. The meaning for each position is just as simple…

  1. Nordri (North): The past – Influences that have had an effect on the past in relation to the topic of the cast.
  2. Vestri (West): The present – things presently happening that have an effect on the present in relation to the topic of the cast.
  3. Austri (East): The future – possible obstacles to watch for that may hinder the outcome or goal you have set.
  4. Sudri (South): The possible outcome of the rune cast.

Things to be aware of for this cast

This cast is very similar to a three-rune layout because we have the past, present and future involved with it. However, be aware that the third rune (Austri) is not the one that “predicts” the future for you. Its mission is to try to make sure you’re aware of any obstacles that may come your way as you try to reach your goal. The last position (Sudri) takes on the role of the usual “future position” for a three-rune layout.

Another thing you should be aware of is that the outcome position is only one possible outcome. You may end up with a rune here that, by itself, makes little or no sense in relation to your topic. If this is the case you need to make sure that you look at the reading as a whole and see what it is the runes are trying to tell you.

Recording Sheet

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

File: Four Directions Layout Record Sheet
Version: 1.0
Downloads: 2456
Format: PDF
Filesize: 122.92 kB

Odin Discovers the Runes

The Elder Edda is a book of mythological stories of the Norse gods and goddesses and it is in here where we first see Odin learn about the runes. A story called Havamal1 or “Sayings of the High One2” tells us just how Odin first learned the runes.

Odin said:
I know that I hung on a high windy tree
for nine long nights;
pierced by a spear -Odin’s pledge-
given myself to myself.
No one can tell about that tree,
from what deep roots it rises.

They brought me no bread, no horn to drink from,
I gazed toward the ground.
Crying aloud, I caught up the runes;
finally I fell.

We see that Odin, in a shaman-like self-sacrificing ritual, deprives himself of food and drink as he hangs upside down on a tree. In some translations we are told that this tree is Yggdrasil, the Norse World Tree. As the days drag out longer and longer for him, nine nights pass and it is then when Odin sees the shapes of the runes. Crying out, he catches up the runes and falls from the tree.

The poem goes on talking about the runes and how Odin knows how to carve them for magickal uses. There are a total of eighteen runes that are listed but we never are told the names nor hinted at what they may look like. However if you believe the stories and tales of Guido List then you would tend to accept the Armanen Runes to be the runes that Odin discovered. Of course there is no evidence to even come close to supporting List’s claim as his rune set being the very first and original rune set.

If you are looking for the section in the Hávamál where it talks about Odin and the runes, it starts on the 138th stanza in the poem. Or if your poem doesn’t tell you the stanza number look for the section “The Lay of Loaddfafnir” (which starts on the 111th stanza). Skim a little ahead and you should see it.

Saga of the Volsungs

The Saga of the Volsungs is a Norse Epic dealing with the dragon slayer, Sigurd. It’s a wonderful tale that makes many references to the runes. In chapter 21 we get a close look at how many of the runes are used when Brynhild speaks a short verse to Sigurd. Throughout this tale we see how important it is not only to know how to use the runes, but to use them and read them properly.

Chapter 13

Regin, the son of Hreidmar, was Siguard’s foster father. He taught Siguard sports, chess, and runes.

Early in the story we can get a look at how important the runes are going to be in the tale. It’s mentioned that Sigurd is taught how to use the runes by his foster father. Later in the story we’ll come to find out how important it was for Sigurd to learn how to read and cut the runes.

Chapter 21

She answered: “You know them better than I. But gladly I will teach you, if there is anything I know that will please you about runes or other matters that concern all things.”

Chapter 21 is a great section to read. If you’re not planning on reading this entire saga I would suggest that you at least glance over this chapter. It’s full of information on the runes. This is the section where Brynhild tells Sigurd all that she knows about the runes and their uses.

Chapter 21

Beer I give you,
Battlefield’s ruler,
With strength blended
And with much glory.
It is full of charmed verse
And runes of healing
Of seemly spells
And of pleasing speech.

Victory runes shall you know
If you want to secure wisdom,
And cut them on the sword hilt,
On the center ridge of the blade,
And the parts of the brand,
And name Tyr twice.

Wave runes shall you make
If you desire to ward
Your sail-steeds on the sound.
On the stem shall they be cut
And on the steering blade
And burn them on the oar.
No broad breaker will fall
Nor waves of blue,
And you will come safe from the sea.

Speech runes shall you know
If you want no repayment
In hate words for harm done.
Wind them,
Weave them,
Tie them all together,
At that thing
When all shall attend
The complete court.

Ale runes shall you know
If you desire no other’s wife
To deceive you in troth, if you trust.
They shall be cut on the horn
And on the hand’s back
And mark the need rune on your nail.

For the cup shall make you a sign
And be wary of misfortune
And throw leek into the liquor.
Then, I know that,
You will never get
A potion blended with poison.

Aid runes shall you learn
If you would grant assistance
To bring the child from the mother.
Cut them in her palm
And hold her hand in yours.
And bid the Disir not to fail.

Branch runes shall you learn
If you wish to be a healer
And to know how to see to wounds.
On bark shall they be cut
And on needles of the tree
Whose limbs lean to the east.

Mind runes shall you learn
If you would be
Wiser that all men.
They were solved,
They were carved out,
They were heeded by Hropt.

They were cut on the shield
That stands before the shining god,
On Arvak’s ear
And on Alsvid’s head
And on the wheel that stands
Under Hrungnir’s chariot,
On Sleipnir’s reins,
And on the sleigh’s fetters.

On bear’s paw
And on Bragi’s tongue,
On wolf’s claws
And on eagle’s beak,
On bloody wings
And on bridge’s ends,
On the soothing palm
And on the healing step.

On glass and on gold
And on good silver,
In ale and in wine
And on the witch’s seat,
In human flesh
And on the point of Gaupnir
And the hag’s breast,
On the Norn’s nail
And on the neb of the owl.

All that were carved on these
Were scraped off
And mixed with the holy mead
And sent on widespread ways.
They are with elves,
Some with the Æsir
And with the venerable Vanir,
Some belong to mortal men.

The are cure runes
And aid runes
And ale runes
And peerless power runes
For all to used unspoiled
And unprofaned,
To bring about good fortune.
Enjoy them if you have learned them,
Until the gods perish.

Now shall you choose,
As you are offered a choice,
O maple shaft of sharp weapons.
Speech or silence,
You must muse for yourself.
All words are already decided.


A lot of what is said above is pretty much laid out for you. There shouldn’t be much to explain, however I will say a few things about the runes that may have been used. As always we are uncertain as to which set of runes were used around the time of this saga and we will assume the use of the elder futhark.

When we take a look at the elder futhark and the mention of the runes above we can make some connections. For example the “runes of healing” could be uruz, which is a healing rune. The stanza which mentions “victory runes” also mentions the name Tyr which would be the rune Teiwaz since it’s name is derived from Tyr’s name. There are of course some other easy connections between the runes mentioned in the verse and the runes of the elder futhark, but the rest I’ll leave for you to take a closer look at.

Do not always assume that since the runes listed on the elder futhark page stand for something other than what you are looking for that it’s not the proper rune. For example in the verse above one stanza talks about “mind runes” yet there is no rune that stands for the mind or for thought. However, if we look at the meaning of the rune Kenaz we see that it deals with learning and knowledge, two things handled by the mind.

Chapter 34

The drink was mixed with the strength of the earth and the sea and the blood of her son, while the inside of the drinking horn was carved with all manner of runes, reddened with blood, as is here told:

The horn was lined
With runes manifold,
Carved and cut with blood.

This is another case where the runes are used to protect the drinker from added poison in the drinking horn. The runes are carved on the inside of the horn and reddened with blood to set them in motion. The idea here is that if some poison were to enter the drinking horn, either in some mead or simply poured in, the horn would counter the poison. We see in Egil’s Saga (chapter 44) that the runes counter such poison by shattering the drinking horn. In this saga we see that the runes are carved only as a precautionary measure and are never put to the test.

Chapter 35

The queen, aware of the king’s private meeting with his counselors, suspected there would be treachery toward her brothers. Gudrun cut runes, and took a gold ring and tied a wolf’s hair onto it. She gave it to the king’s messengers who then departed as the king had ordered. Before they stepped ashore, Vingi saw the runes and changed them in such a way that Gudrun appeared to be urging the brothers to come and meet with Atli.

Here we see the runes being used to deliver a message to Gudrun’s brothers. However, before the message is sent it is changed in order to make it look like Gudrun is trying to get her brothers to visit her and to come into danger.

Chapter 35

Vingi then showed him the runes that he said Gudrun had sent them. Now most people went to sleep, but some stayed up drinking with a few of the men. Hogni’s wife, Kostbera, the fairest of women, went and looked at the runes.

As with the passage above we see the runes that Gudrun had used to warn her brothers have been changed. However the message was never closely examined by anyone except Kostbera. She is a competent rune reader and notices that some of the runes do not appear to be correct.

Chapter 35

Kostbera began to look at the runes and to read the letters. She saw that something else had been cut over what lay underneath and that the runes had been falsified. Still she discerned through her wisdom what the runes said. After that she went to bed beside her husband. When they awoke she said to Hogni: “You intend to go away from home but that is inadvisable. Go instead another time. You cannot be very skilled at reading runes if you think you sister has asked you to come at this time. I read the runes and wondered how so wise a woman could have carved them so confusedly. Yet it seems that your death is indicated underneath. Either Gudrun missed a letter or someone else has falsified the runes.

The last part of chapter 35 dealing with the runes is when Kostbera brings the false rune message to her husband Hogni. Kostbera has already noticed that the runes had been carved over and tampered with. Knowing that this was more likely a message of warning than of invitation she tells Hogni that it could mean his doom. She knows that Gudrun is well versed in the use of the runes and that there is no way she could have made a simple mistake when carving the rune message.

This saga is full of rune information and it’s worth reading if you are interested in studying the runes. You get to see the many different ways that the runes were used as well as some good idea on which runes were used for specific purposes. You also get a good idea on just how important it was to understand the runes to avoid situations where a changed message could mean something totally different than what it was intended to mean. If you read any one saga I highly suggest that it be this one, not only because of the rune information found in it, but because the story is excellent as well.

Runes in Mythology and Sagas

An important part of runic knowledge can be learned by examining the mythology, sagas, and folklore of the people of Northern Europe, Iceland and even Greenland. By doing so we start to get an understanding of where the runes may have come from, how there were used and even some of the mystery and magick behind them.

For this section I have broken down the stories or myths and have given my input on how the runes come into play in that story or myth. A good place to start is to take a look at how the runes are said to have come into existence in Norse mythology. After we examine the runes in mythology we can begin to learn and understand more about how the runes were used by the people in the saga tales.

Mythology

Odin Discovers the Runes
Runes of the Hávamál

Sagas of Iceland

Egil’s Saga
Saga of the People of Vatnsdal

Other Sagas

The Saga of the Volsungs

Miscellaneous

‘Casting Lots’ in Sagas

Rune Meanings

If you’ve had time to look at the different type of rune sets then you may be curious about is just what those runes stand for. As the runes were developed and as they transformed over time they came to stand for more than just sounds. They held magickal properties to people who used the runes for casting. They were still being used for writing so they held a phonetic sound as well. The name of each rune held a certain meaning and could stand for an item or an idea. For each different set below you will get to see an image of each rune, the phonetic value, what the rune stood for and also it’s meaning for casting purposes.

Anglo-Saxon and Frisian Runes – consists of the Elder Futhark Runes plus 5 more runes

Armanen Runes – similar to other runes in Scandinavia but were created by Guido List (1848-1919)

Elder Futhark Runes – sometimes called the German or Viking Futhark

Gothic Runes – the type of runes that are found on the Kylver Stone

Medieval Runes of Healing and Magick – 8 runes that were not used for writing but for magickal and healing purposes during the Middle Ages

Northumbrian Runes – consists of the Anglo-Saxon Runes plus 4 more runes

Younger Futhork Runes – includes the Danish and Swedish-Norse Futhark

It’s important to note that the names of the runes that you will find on other sites and in books may be different than the ones that you see on the pages for this site. For example the Elder Futhark rune “Kenaz” has at least five different names (or spellings) that I can think of off the top of my head. What I have done here is to use the names which I have used in my runic journal since I started it. You may also find that the images in a few books or other sites may be a little different as well. I took the most common images that I found in all of my rune books and used those in hopes that if you further your study on the runes that you may encounter the images I have used.

Sets in bold will be covered here when I get the time.