The twenty-four rune spread is very detailed and is also a really good practice spread for the rune practitioner who has mastered the simpler spreads and knows there there are some gaps in their understanding – everyone has runes they connect to more easily and working with all 24 forces you to engage with those you find less accessible. The only problem with the spread is that, as you become more proficient and the runes speak to you more clearly, a reading can take anywhere between one and three hours. Because the spread focuses one each of the runes in the Elder Futhark in order, it also reveals patterns within the Futhark itself and makes it clearer why the order is so important.
The blackthorn runes in the first picture are laid out in the order of the Elder Futhark, while the holly runes below demonstrate a twenty-four rune spread. You will see that I have turned all the runes the right way round but have not turned them upright if they came out of the bag reversed or on their side. A variant to this reading would be to leave any runes that appeared the wrong way up as the are – concluding that they are not important to the reading. I prefer to work with them all, but have found that sometimes two or more runes will be giving exactly the same advice making the reading repetitive (as particular messages are being emphasized). As preparation before trying rune castings this is a really useful spread, it helps you to trust your own intuition and see the way in which particular messages flow through the runes ; on one memorable occasion the message ‘do your accounts’ came up over and over in a twenty four rune spread – a casting may have said exactly the same thing in a more concise fashion, but the twenty four rune spread hammers the message home and helps you trust the information you are receiving before you progress on to castings.
Begin your reading in exactly the same way as normal, asking for guidance from spirit, clearing the bag, focusing on the issues for the reading to address. Then lay all 24 runes out in front of you (or, if you prefer, lay them out one at a time as you speak so you don’t get distracted by the runes that are coming). As an aside, the holly rune set here has runes of an uneven shape and I am often asked whether this detracts from the reading (as you may know what rune you are drawing); some people will find this difficult if they like to move the runes around in the bag while choosing, but I hover my hand over the runes to sense which one is calling and then take the first to brush my fingers (so it doesn’t matter if I immediately know which one it is from the touch).
This post would be exceptionally long if I were to go through a full analysis of this spread, so instead I am going to draw out some of the key points as I see them to give you a flavour of a 24 rune reading:
The first Aett (row of eight) speaks to me of a deep process of inner transformation. Externally it may seem that there is little movement: the ice of the Isa rune on its side stops the energetic flow of the warm Fehu rune; the creative fire (signified by the position of Kenaz) is contained within the gestating enclosure of the Inguz rune, the energy and motion of the Ansuz and Raidho positions are repressed by the downward pointing Algiz and Othala. Internally, however, there is great change at a deep level: the endurance and stamina of Uruz is turned inwards as the core of the self transforms with Eihwaz; the darkness of the subconscious is illuminated by an urgent need for change (with Nauthiz, the need-fire appearing in the chaotic and powerful position of Thurisaz); the communication received through Ansuz comes from the lower world of the ancestors and the subconscious (the rune appearing here being Algiz – personal protection- reversed), the journey takes the soul down into the realm of the ancestors and challenges the self to shake off outmoded thought patterns(with the Othala rune of inheritance appearing in the position of Raidho – to ride). While the upside down runes and winter runes present within the first Aett could be read as signs of danger (for example, the reversed Algiz rune at Ansuz could suggest vulnerability to misadvice from others), but to me the transformation of self seems like a natural process: the will (Wunjo fallen on its side) surrenders to the gift of the Gods (through its position at Gebo) and the rune of self (Mannaz) is found in the place of Wunjo – the self made whole and joyous at the end of the first Aett.
As you can see, the 24 rune spread relies heavily on the way in which one rune interacts with another (see two rune spreads for more on rune pairings). As well as looking at what rune falls in each rune position, you can also trace patterns across the reading. For example, in this reading the Hagalaz rune falls in the position of Berkano, and the Berkano rune falls in the position of Hagalaz – the dynamic formed by the cold hail seed of winter and the exuberant growth of spring will be of great importance to the client. While this continues to speak of a transformation through hardship that will lead to new growth, it also emphasises feminine qualities – the Hagalaz rune being the domain of the Goddess of the Underworld and the Berkano rune the Goddess of Spring. To me these two runes speak of great power and great potential, my client should have confidence that the changes she is undergoing will lead to possibilities she cannot even begin to imagine as yet.
Other runes may provide clues to when changes will occur – the Kenaz rune, which we saw earlier enclosed within the Inguz rune, manifests in the position of Jera (year). Note how interelated the shapes of these three runes are and the way in which the Inguz rune slowly opens out into the Jera rune of slow development and finally the Kenaz rune with its outpouring of creativity. If interpreted as ‘time’ Jera rune may suggest change within a year, but to me it seems likely that the new period of growth will coincide with the turning of the Wheel of the Year – when spring comes and the Hagalaz hail seed germinates into the bright green shoots of Berkano.
When doing the 24 rune spread, do try and consider each rune in turn – it will really help to hone your abilities as a rune reader. Something to ponder on is whether a rune which is found in its own position indicates that the energy is particularly balanced, particualrly powerful, or not powerful at all (as it has no dynamic with the other runes). You will see that in this spread the Laguz rune of water, emotions, dreams and magic is in its own position – it is the intution you develop as a reader, just as much as the your knowledge of each rune, that will guide your interpretation of how each rune has fallen.