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Rune Casting Guide: How to Read the Runes

Instruction guide to rune casting

Life involves a lot of difficult decisions. Sometimes I find myself wishing there was an answer key, a cheat sheet to avoid missteps. BUT, that’s not the way the world works. However, I have found that certain rituals and tools can help offer guidance for the path ahead.

One tool I use a lot is my rune deck or rune stones (I alternate between the two depending on how I’m feeling). Focusing on a question or issue and then doing a rune reading helps me find the clarity I need to navigate my way through any challenge.

While runes can’t predict the future (sorry!), they offer a powerful way to tap into your own intuition and explore different possibilities.

In this post I’ll explain how to use runes for divination and share some rune spreads to try. While it may seem complicated at first, with practice, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of rune casting for yourself.

So, take a deep breath and let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What Is Rune Casting?

Rune casting is the ancient art of using the runes to uncover hidden knowledge and gain deeper insight into the unknown. Runes are carefully laid out in a pattern or chosen randomly and then interpreted to offer guidance on any problems you may be facing or questions you might have. By using the symbolic power of the runes, you can gain clarity and direction in moments of uncertainty, guiding you to make the right choices and ultimately create a brighter future.

Runes may not be able to predict the future, but they can offer insight and clarity into the present. In its simplest form, rune casting is a ritual that allows to to slow down and clear your mind to make space for new ideas and possibilities to arise. Practiced regularly, this offers you a connection to your deeper self and helps you to make decisions that follow your true potential.

Rune casting is like peering into a mirror that reveals what you are doing and what choices you have to create a different future. It’s an engaging and enlightening way to explore the possibilities of what could be.

History and Origins

The Futhark runes are more than just symbols – they are an ancient, powerful alphabet, believed to have been bestowed upon mankind by Odin himself. Unlocking their secrets can grant access to a timeless source of power and wisdom – one that our ancestors used to connect with the gods and the universal forces. Before the Latin alphabet was adopted in the late Middle Ages, these runes were used in Germanic and Scandinavian countries. Now, with their help, we can tap into a remarkable realm of knowledge and energy.

From a Germanic perspective, runes weren’t just any ordinary alphabet. These symbols were believed to be eternal, pre-existing forces that Odin himself discovered through a great feat of endurance. Not simply a creation of man, the runes were revealed to him by the gods, and were thought to contain immense power.

The mysterious art of rune-staves, or carved wooden sticks, has been around for centuries and is believed to have originated from the symbols etched into rocks in the Bronze and Iron Age of Scandinavia. Tacitus, the Roman politician and historian, wrote of the Germanic people’s use of these carved staves for divination in his book Germania, a testament to the power and mystery of these symbols. Even after all these years, the ancient art of rune-staves still captivates and mystifies us.

How to Cast Runes

Find a quiet corner and settle in for your reading session. Lay out your rune cloth if you’re using one, light a candle, or set the mood with some incense. Take a few moments to center yourself and your energy in preparation for your ritual. Focus your intentions and put any other thoughts to the side.

Give your runes a good mix by shuffling the deck or reaching into the rune bag and giving them a swirl. 

Keep your mind on the issue or results you’re hoping for for and draw out the runes one by one, placing them according to one of the spreads below.

Single Rune Cast

The easiest way to get started with rune casting is with a single rune spread. By drawing out only one rune, you can really explore the interpretations of that symbol and how they may relate to the issue you’re working on.

Not only does a single rune draw keep the reading simple to avoid overwhelm, but it’s a great way to start learning the runes. When I was starting out I would choose a single rune each morning to guide my actions for the day. After doing this for a while, I had memorized all of the rune symbols and meanings.

When you’re ready for more, you can experiment with other casting spreads that offer more complexity and depth.

Rune divination reading for February 14 shows three card spread with Hagalaz, Tiwaz, and Naudhiz

Three-Rune Cast

To expand on a single cast, try a three rune cast next. For this reading you will draw three stones and place them one by one in a line from left to right.

Option 1: Problem & Solution

Rune 1 represents a broad overview of the issue

Rune 2, in the middle, reveals potential obstacles

Rune 3 represents possible solutions or actions to take

Option 2: Past, Present Future

Rune 1 represents the past: this could be stagnant energy holding you back or something you need to take from the past to help you move forward today.

Rune 2, in the middle, is the present. An opportunity or challenge that you’re currently facing.

Rune 3 represents the future. A possible outcome or direction you are heading.


Five-Rune Cross

To bring your rune casting to the next level, do a five rune cast. For this you will pull out five stones, one at a time, and place them in a cross shape starting at the centre and then moving in a left, top, bottom, right pattern.

The simplest way to interpret the positions is by assigning the centre line as past, present, future the same as in the 3 rune reading but the additional runes offer more depth.

The rune at the top represents action items. These things are within your influence or will offer you the results you desire.

The rune at the bottom shows potential hangups or time wasters. These activities are beyone your influence or will not bring you closer to your goals.

Nine-Rune Scatter Cast

Once you’ve become more attuned to the runes, it’s time to give a nine-rune spread a try. Nine has a special significance in the Norse tradition, and this cast can offer great insight into your current circumstances – though it can be more challenging to read than other spreads, since it’s a lot more open-ended than and the interpretations are mostly based on your intuition.

This method works best with rune stones rather than a deck but you could make do with either. You will also need a square cloth for this one as you’ll need to set a boundary for the reading.

Draw out nine runes from your bag or deck. Take a deep breath and keep your question in your mind as you toss the stones onto your cloth.

Imagine a target at the centre of the cloth. The runes that have landed closer to the bullseye are the most significant while those that landed on the outskirts have less weight.

Any runes that have landed together should be read as a group. The meanings of each will be influenced by the other symbols nearby. For example if you had Isa land next to Fehu, it could mean a temporary time of scarcity.

Runes that have landed on opposite extremes of the cloth may signal opposing forces or a fork in the road where you must choose a path.

Always start with the runes that landed with their faces up – these are present issues. Next move on to those that landed face down, flipping them over when you’re ready.

The 9 rune cast is mostly about intuition. Feeling your way through how the runes are relating to each other and how that may relate to your issue or goals.

Just remember to take it slow and have fun!

How to Interpret Your Reading

I’ve spoken a lot about the significance of the positions in each spread but not about how to interpret the symbols. Each rune has multiple meanings and it might take you some time to really become familiar with them.

Start by reading my post on the Futhark Rune symbols & meanings and then you can do more research from there. I’ve left a list of my favourite rune books at the bottom of this post.

The most important thing is not to get frustrated. While each symbol has several interpretations, the most important thing is to let your intuition guide you. After all, rune reading is mostly about accessing our own inner guidance system, so keep your mind open to all possibilities.

Rune divination can be a great way to gain insight into our deeper selves. So grab a set of stones and give one of the beginner spreads a try.

Let me know how it goes!


When you cast the runes, what you’re really doing is unlocking the power of your subconscious.

As you ask a question and focus your conscious and unconscious minds, the symbols you choose become more than random shapes – they become a window into your innermost being, offering you a glimpse of the answer you seek. By delving into the depths of your soul, the runes allow you to uncover the knowledge and wisdom stored within.

To get started all you need is a set of runes.

You can use any type of rune stones or a rune deck. While in this post I’m specifically talking about elder Futhark runes, there are actually many different runic systems you can work with and the general principles of reading them will remain mostly the same.

You can make your own set of runes using materials like wood or small rocks but to get started, I recommend buying a set of simple rune stones from a crystal shop or you can grab a mini rune deck from my online store.

Similar to an altar cloth, a rune cloth is a square of material that is used as a surface for your rune readings.

While you certainly don’t need one to get started, once you’re further along in your journey you may want to add one to your practice.

The rune cloth serves as both a protective barrier for your runes and a spiritual boundary for your practice. Not only will it keep your runes safe from dirt and damage, but it can also add an extra layer of intention and reverence to your readings.

Traditionally this would be a white piece of cloth but there are plenty of specially-designed rune cloths out there if you prefer a bit more personality.

Treat your runes as if they were a priceless treasure, safeguarding them in a soft pouch or felt-lined box. Not only will this help to keep them safe from harm, but it will also save you the hassle of misplacing them.

If your runes don’t come with a pouch, you can easily find one to purchase, or you can even get creative and repurpose something you already have lying around. Keep your runes safe and sound, and they’ll be there to help you when you need them most.

Many rune sets come with a mysterious blank rune, sometimes called Odin’s rune. Opinions on its validity differ widely, with traditionalists claiming there is no evidence of its use throughout history.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to include it in your oracle readings. If you’re feeling uncertain, simply remove any blanks from your set before you begin your ritual. Ultimately, it’s your choice how you use the blank rune – make sure to do so in a way that best serves your practice.

No matter what your issue or question is, you can ask the runes for help. As long as your mind is clear and you’re focused on the outcome that you want, you can gain insights from a rune casting.

When it comes to getting the answers you need, intention is key. Whether you’re trying to gain insight into a particular issue or find a solution to a larger question, the most important thing is to keep your mind on the problem at hand and remain open to different outcomes.

The key is to understand that the runes won’t give precise answers. It’s all about interpretation and using your intuition to explore different possibilities and the potential results.

Reversed runes are any runes that land upside down in a reading.

Also called “merkstaves”, they can provide more depth to your rune work, but they’re not for everyone. Many people read both upright and inverted runes the same, so don’t feel pressured to dive into merkstaves, especially when you’re just starting out.

If you do want to give it a go, rather than seeing them as negative omens, these inverted runes should be viewed as an invitation for self-reflection and growth. By taking the time to interpret them, you can pinpoint areas of your life that need your attention or discover potential challenges that lie ahead.

Developing the skill of interpreting reversed runes involves an open mind and a willingness to look at the spread from a different perspective. As you become more experienced in this practice, you may find that it adds a new layer of complexity to your readings, allowing you to gain a greater understanding of the energies at play.

Further Reading

If you’re fascinated by the runes and don’t know where to go next, here’s a list of my favourite rune books and links to more blog posts.

Blog Posts


While I have included links to Amazon here so you can quickly see the books, I urge you to try and find them at your local bookshop. Independent bookstores are wonderful resources that will disappear without our support!

Andrea Shelley

HI, I'M ANDREA! I create powerful, meaningful jewelry that you can connect with and enjoy each day. I believe that jewelry, when worn purposefully, can have transformative powers. My pieces go beyond decoration to help connect you to your inner self and focus your energies to your greatest strengths. If you're enjoying my content, you can support my page by buying me a coffee so that I can continue to make more content for you.

1 Comment

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    June 22, 2024

    This has been helpful I have today just purchased some Rune stones

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