Norse mythology tells of Odin, the Allfather, as being the first to be graced with the wisdom and knowledge of the runes. In the myth, Odin undergoes a shamanic-like trance, wounded and dying, as he hangs on Yggdrasil for 9 days and 9 nights, without food or water. Upon entering a state of altered reality (call it shock, near-death experience, or what not), Odin sees the runes at the bottom of an unfathomable abyss, grasps them and surfaces back to the world of the Living. His sacrificial hanging, defying death, earns him mystical knowledge and wisdom. Like Prometheus who, according to Greek myth, first gave fire to men, Odin shares the gift of divination, writing and reading with mankind.
In the 5th century BCE the Greek historian Herodotus describes tribes along the Black Sea, who smoke themselves into a trance, gather twigs and toss them skyward. The patterns yielded by the fallen sticks are interpreted as answers to awaiting questions.
In the 1st century AD the Roman historian Tacitus describes Germanic tribal rites were the head of the family or the head of a clan cuts twigs of fruit bearing trees, inscribes symbols into the wood, casts the sticks skyward, invoking the gods, and reads the message conveyed as the sticks lay scattered on a white sheet.
What are Runes?
Runes, themselves, derive from pictorial symbols dating back to the Germanic tribes of the Bronze Age some 1,300 years ago. The symbols were used to depict thoughts that could be written down, read and understood by a third party, without the need for speech.
Until recent history writing and reading were reserved for an elite few, as both abilities were traditionally seen as the bearing metaphysical powers.
The runic alphabet script—the futhark—further developed when Germanic pictogram merged into Northern Italic script, in the alps regions around the 3 century BCE. Although runes were associated with a sound used to phonetically spell out words, the futhark was never limited to a single language—much like the Latin alphabet shared by French and English, nowadays. Both languages use the same set of 26 letters to spell out words. Yet a francophone may not understand a word spelled out in English, despite the use of common letters, and vice versa.
Runes as Vectors of Divination
Consider the act of consulting the Runes as the art of consulting your inner-oracle, your Higher-Self.
The inner-oracle is here described as the Self, a person of great knowledge or wisdom, as opposed to the revelations of a medium, with or without a holy connection.
Runes—like Tarot, the I Ching, the pendulum—draw on one’s an inner knowledge to help face difficult situations one seeks guidance for. Runes are a vector through which the Higher-Self expresses itself. It allows for one to observe a situation from a remote point of view, instead of filtering a problem through the usual lens of interpretation.
Gain perspective, view a problem from a different angle, and change the situation’s outcome—much like resorting to decision-making as explained by the Quantum Theory of behavioural psychology.
Look for answers within yourself, and you will be in awe of the wisdom you harbor.