Two rune spreads are rare – it’s when we move to three rune spreads that things really start to get exciting. Having said that, rune pairs are extremely interesting and there is a great deal to learn from looking at runes as either complementary or opposing forces. Edred Thorsson says, of runic numerology, that two is the number of co-operation, tandem forces, and combined strength; and he reminds us that there are many divine pairings in Germanic myth (e.g. twin deities, companion adventurers, teams of animal companions). Sometimes these pairings are symbiotic (e.g. Odin’s ravens ‘thought’ and ‘memory’), at other times these relationships are more stormy, but remain necessary to maintain balance or law (e.g. the uncomfortable alliance of Thor and Loki, or the arranged marriage of Skadi and Njord). The very fabric of Germanic cosmology is rooted in a tension between order and chaos – the continual making and unmaking of Wyrd.
The importance of ‘pairings’ is clear within the Elder Futhark itself. Diana Paxson cleverly uses this in her book Taking Up the Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic, discussing the runes two by two; her approach shows how important the order of the Elder Futhark is as concepts such as conscious mind/ unconscious mind, guidance/protection, stillness/movement, flow from one rune to the next. Pairings might relate to shape (note how Kenaz makes up half of the following rune Gebo), or concepts (e.g. Jera, the rune of time, circling around the world axis Eihwaz). Rune pairs aren’t just restricted to adjacent runes though, and it can be very interesting to draw two runes and meditate upon their connections. There are also runes which imply partnership within their shape and meanings: Gebo is the rune of exchange and contracts; Mannaz (humankind) combines two Wunjo runes (kin and joy); Teiwaz (the warrior) mirrors Ehwaz (his horse).
In many spreads, you will find that a particular ‘house’ is governed by one rune - you then lay a rune over that house and ‘read’ how the two runes interact. For example, you might have a position in your spread governed by Fehu (wealth) and place Uruzupon it – this would indicate a position of strength and potential for growth (the domestic cow of Fehu pairingwith the wild cow of Uruz); however, if Uruz was reversed the wild cow would lower his horns in defence of the feminine Fehu, suggesting that spending should be restricted and savings guarded. If you have a specific question, you can practice your rune knowledge by selecting a particular rune to represent that question – then draw another rune to pair with it and provide the answer.
Jan Fries gives an interesting two rune spread as follows:
The right hand selects a rune for the ‘day-side’ of consciousness, the world of reason and law, a known world connecting to the knowledge of ourselves. The left hand selects a rune for the ‘night-side’ of our being, for the dark and deep realms of chaos and potential where unknown beings move unseen. Thus, the right describes the outer, visible appearance, the surface of the subject, while the left suggests what is going on underneath. Meditation on the day and ‘night-side’ of your being should make this model easy and natural. (Helrunar: A Manual of Rune Magick, pg. 244)
The only other two-rune spread I have been able to find is suggested by Grimnisson (Rune Rede: Wisdom and Magic for the Life Journey) who suggests building on ‘Rune of the Day’ by drawing a rune at the end of the day as a comparator for your original rune (e.g. did the opportunities presented by the first rune come to fruition or, conversely, were the dangers warned of averted?)
To conclude, rune pairs can provide useful insights for divinatory purposes but, even more importantly, they will help you to start building on your knowledge of how the runes can work together to enhance your magical practice. When you know which runes work well together you will be able to use these for sigilisation, energy work, and the development of your own intuitive meanings in more complex spreads and castings.