Briefly describe the symbology of your chosen method of divination, and include a method of application for that system. (minimum 100 words overall description plus at least one sentence or line per symbol)
The runes are an alphabet, with each letter representing a sound in one of the Germanic languages. This particular set of runes is derived from the Anglo-Saxons, and is slightly different than the typically seen Elder Futhark, which contains 24 runes. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem describes 29 runes, though the actual number of Anglo-Saxon runes can vary, up to a possible 33. The rune poems give a description of the “meaning” of each rune, whether as a source for divination or simply as a mnemonic device for memorizing them I do not know. (It is certainly more sophisticated than A is for Alligator, B is for Bear.) The translation I’ve quoted below of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem is from Runic and Heroic Poems, by Bruce Dickins (13-23).
You can see the images of the runes here, but note that this includes 4 additional runes that are not part of the rune poem, so I have not included them as part of my rune set.
Feoh – Cattle – Movable Wealth, Generosity, Money, Exchange of Goods
Feoh is about having enough wealth to share it freely, about not being miserly, and about recognizing the inherent instability of wealth (especially wealth in cow-form).
Wealth is a comfort to all men;
yet must every man bestow it freely,
if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.
Ur – Aurochs – Strength, savagery, bravery, courage, fortitude
Ur is bull’s strength, both in the sense of great physical strength and in having a great deal of courage or intestinal fortitude/mettle.
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.
Thorn – Thorn – A warning, caution, impending danger, potential hazard
Thorn is a prickly warning, a hazard coming your way, and it can be seen as particularly bad luck (especially if, as in the rune poem, you sit on one, yowch).
The thorn is exceedingly sharp,
an evil thing for any knight to touch,
uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.
Os – Woden – Language, wit, cunning, communication, inspiration, guidance, wisdom
Os is often translated as Woden, but I see it also as being about beginnings (the source) and wit and wisdom. Like Woden, that can come in many forms.
The mouth is the source of all language,
a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,
a blessing and a joy to every knight.
Rad – Journey – A journey, movement from place to place
Rad is a journey, and not necessarily an easy one – it might look easy from the outside, but when you’re traveling it, it can be pretty challenging, even with a stout horse.
Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors
and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads
on the back of a stout horse.
Cen – Torch – Light, fire, creation or, if uncontrolled, destruction
Torches light halls, and are the ancient equivalent of “We’ll keep the light on for you” – but they also represent fire which, if mishandled, can cause great destruction. (In the Icelandic poem, Kenaz is ‘ulcer’, which is distinctly more negative, so I try to read this rune with nuance. It should not be confused with “ken” or knowledge.)
The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame;
it always burns where princes sit within.
Gyfu – Gift – Reciprocity, partnerships, friendships, social obligations
Gyfu is a gift, though whether it’s a gift that is coming to you, or a gift that you owe someone else will come out of the reading and context. In general, it’s a favorable rune.
Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one’s dignity;
it furnishes help and subsistence
to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.
Wynn – Joy – Delight, Contentment, Having enough, Having what you need
Wynn is contentment, in the sense of having enough of what you need to get by. To the Anglo-Saxons, this was true bliss – not knowing need.
Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety,
and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.
Haegl – Hail – Destruction, transformation, a problem that might turn out to be beneficial in the end (but is definitely currently a problem)
Haegl is extremely destructive, and while something good might come out of it in the end, it takes the work of transformation (for it to be beneficial, it has to become water, instead of being ice), and in the here and now, it’s almost always negative. It does not, however, represent the end of a situation, merely the destruction of what is there now and the possibility of transformation into something different in the future.
Hail is the whitest of grain;
it is whirled from the vault of heaven
and is tossed about by gusts of wind
and then it melts into water.
Nyd – Need – Hardship, Loss, Difficulty, Strife, Struggle, A need unmet, A problem that might be avoided with proper planning, a warning
Nyd is the experience of hardship and loss, but can be avoided or mitigated with quick action. This rune should always be examined closely.
Trouble is oppressive to the heart;
yet often it proves a source of help and salvation
to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.
Is – Ice – All is not as it seems, A warning, Caution – tread carefully, lest you slip
Is is very beautiful, but also very dangerous; it is the personification of things not being as easy or as nice as they look. Take careful action.
Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery;
it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems;
it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.
Ger – Year – Fulfillment, Reward for hard work or actions, Plenty, Right Order
Ger is the time of plenty at the end of the year, when the harvest is fully in, and nobody is hungry. It represents all being right with the world, and the order of sowing and reaping.
Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven,
suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits
for rich and poor alike.
Eoh – Yew – Reliability, Something overlooked, “All that is gold does not glitter”
Eoh’s bark is rough, and it might not be particularly beautiful, but it is strong, well rooted, and reliable. The yew is a very slow-growing tree and, due to its ability to live for literally thousands of years, can be seen as connected to the ancestors.
The yew is a tree with rough bark,
hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots,
a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.
Peordh – Dice cup – Friendly competition, games of chance, an unpredictable outcome
Peordh is about the games of chance played frequently by idle warriors; as an outcome, it is as unpredictable as a game of dice.
Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great,
where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.
Eolh – Elk-sedge – Protection, Defense, Careful action in the face of danger, Warning
Eolh is found in the liminal marshes and can dish out a nasty wound to someone who treads there without being careful. It is defensive, only wounding when touched, but may also represent a warning about the dangers of the marsh.
The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh;
it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,
covering with blood every warrior who touches it.
Sigel – Sun – Guidance, Good advice, Good fortune
The sun was used as a source of navigation, and thus represents a sunny outcome and good advice or good bearings in difficult waters.
The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers
when they journey away over the fishes’ bath,
until the courser of the deep bears them to land.
Tir/Tiw – The North Star – Order and Truth, Justice, Fairness, Keeping faith
Tiw is both the North Star and the God of Justice; as such, it represents order, truth, and fairness in all things, as well as keeping good faith and giving good guidance.
Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;
it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.
Beorc – Birch – An unexpected (but probably positive) outcome, creativity
Beorc trees reproduce in an unexpected way – they are internally strong and creative, and very beautiful.
The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers,
for it is generated from its leaves.
Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned
its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.
Eh – Horse – A strong ally, empowerment, strength
Eh is a great blessing and a strong ally, both to warriors and to rich men.
The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.
A steed in the pride of its hoofs,
when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;
and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.
Mann – Man/Mankind – Relationships, community, tribe (Positive or negative interactions)
Man can be both kind and cruel to his fellow man. The social relationships will define how those interactions go, but ultimately ones wyrd determines the outcome.
The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen;
yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow,
since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.
Lagu – Water, The Sea – Imbalance, Instability, Lack of preparation, Unreliability
Lagu is an unpredictable thing and must be treated with respect. While I instinctively want to read a “water” rune as overflowing and carrying blessings (because as a modern human, I have a deep love for the ocean), in the rune poem it is clearly negative.
The ocean seems interminable to men,
if they venture on the rolling bark
and the waves of the sea terrify them
and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.
Ing – Ing Frea – Ancestor worship, Fertility, Divine connection
Ing was the progenitor of kings, and thus one of the mighty ancestors. He is also a god of fertility, and one who goes among men.
Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,
till, followed by his chariot,
he departed eastwards over the waves.
So the Heardingas named the hero.
Ethel – Estate, Home – Inherited wealth, Home, Family, Prosperity
Ethel is the kind of wealth you can count on – your estate. It represents true prosperity, possibly due to the value placed on owning land in ancient times.
An estate is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.
Dæg – Day – Blessings, Good fortune, Hope, Happiness
Daeg brings the rising sun, which shines upon both the fortunate and the unfortunate. It is a source of hope and happiness in a very real sense.
Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord;
it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor,
and of service to all.
Ac – Oak – Adequate resources, A potential challenge
Ac feeds livestock (with acorns) and provides the wood for ships – where it’s good faith is tested by the sea. It is an extremely useful tree.
The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men.
Often it traverses the gannet’s bath,
and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith
in honourable fashion.
Æsc – Ash – Stability, Reliability, Defense, Stubbornness, Strength against Odds
Aesc is often used to make spears and tools as it’s extremely hard and durable wood. It sustains a beating against the odds and is stubborn in its resistance.
The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men.
With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance,
though attacked by many a man.
Yr – Longbow – Skill, Ability, Success, Craftsmanship, A practiced art
Yr represents the skill and craftsmanship of the longbow, and the art that is practiced by an archer. It is a positive rune, though it comes with hard work, and it represents a skill that is reliable.
Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight;
it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.
Ior – Beaver or Eel – Adaptability, Flexibility
Depending on the translation, Ior is either Beaver (which makes sense in the poem) or Eel (which makes less sense, as eels do not eat on land). However, both are good representations of adaptability and flexibility, and I think that is well expressed in the rune poem.
Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land;
it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.
Ear – Grave – Endings, Death, Sadness, Loss
Ear is the grave that will take us all, and represents endings – not in the transformative sense (which is more to be seen with Haegl), but in the sense of finality, mortality, and loss. All things pass away, and though this loss is not necessarily catastrophic, it is still sad.
The grave is horrible to every knight,
when the corpse quickly begins to cool
and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth.
Prosperity declines, happiness passes away
and covenants are broken.