Most introductory works about the runes will focus on their uses for divination and their place within the Northern Tradition, a smaller number cover spell and energy work. The selection below represent the texts that I would recommend as trustworthy introductory texts.
Power and Principles of Runes, Freya Aswynn, 2007
Click here to purchase Power and Principles of the Runes from Amazon
Principles is billed as ‘The only introduction you’ll ever need…’ and I haven’t found a better contender yet. The book was written in 2000 after the better known Leaves of Yggdrasil (later revised and updated as Northern Mysteries and Magick: Runes, Gods and Feminine Powers ), and so represents a distillation of Aswynn’s considerable experience. The book was then re-released in 2007 as Power and Principles with some additions and a combining of the traditional and ‘deeper’ meanings chapters – in some ways a shame as I valued the distinction in the original text.
Unlike some texts, Principles neither represents the runes as a set of meanings without cultural context, nor does it assume that the aspiring practitioner will also be an aspiring Asatru (follower of the Northern God/esses). The importance of exploring the runes for yourself is emphasised - I have found that the best books seek to inspire you, not just to teach.
I found the chapter on divination extremely helpful and was pleased to see a section on ethics (often omitted in works about divination). Her example readings and spreads are clear and practical – giving a flavour of the potential richness of readings and variety of applications.
The end of the book features chapters on development, magickal uses, and some very interesting appendices which are covered in other sections of my reading list. I return to this book again and again when I want clear and simple guidance – it covers more in under 200 pages than a whole shelf of other introductory texts.
Click here to buy Futhark: Handbook of Rune Magic from Amazon
Thorsson’s classic text remains an old favourite; it is well researched with a wealth of information provided about each rune including rune stances, sounds and alternate forms. The book also provides information on meditation techniques, Thorsson’s Hammer of Thor ritual, constructing rune talismans, and stadhagaldr (rune ‘yoga’). This was the first book I got when I wantedto further my rune practice beyond divination, the exercises I chose were very worthwhile and very constructive. The book is not always the easiest read as there is a great deal of information being provided in a relatively short text, but it rewards perseverance and the information on the Elder Futhark is invaluable.
Click here to buy The Rune Primer: A Down-to-Earth Guide to the Runes from Amazon
This is a really good antidote to the many rune books out there which simply reiterate meanings and correspondences found in similar works. Plowright has set himself the challenge of sorting the wheat from the chaff and debunking, providing a short ‘myth-buster’ of a text which is immensly useful for anyone trying to study the runes and work with their energies.
The Primer includes the originals and translations of all the rune poems, discussion of the different rune alphabets, source texts, key authors and myth-busting on various topics including the blank rune and runic astrology.
Click here to buy Discovering Runes from Amazon
This book is so pretty that I can’t help but love it. Bob Oswald has dedicated many years and much passion to the runes, providing resources for beginners and advanced practitioners alike. It is a great shame that there are some printing errors in the book (e.g. the Eihwaz rune has a picture of Isa) but there is also lots of inspirational advice, a plethora of correspondences and lots of ideas for the enthusiastic runester. The book only features one rune poem per rune (the Anglo-Saxon rune poem) and doesn’t give attributions for its correspondences; for this reason I would recommend getting in in conjunction with Plowright’s book above as – both books are by passionate souls well versed in their fields, but with very different approaches.
Click here to buy The Book of Runes from Amazon
I felt that I had to include The Book of Runes although I would not recommend it to any new practitioner. Nonetheless, it would be wrong not to concede that this was my first introduction to the runes and it certainly didn’t put me off and was a great source of inspiration at the time. Ralph Blum has done a great service by providing a book that appealed to a main stream audience and so paved the way for many practitioners who would subsequently go on to discover more historicaly accurate sources that discuss the runes’ actual cultural heritage. Anyone studying the runes would do well to read this book as it has impacted on the way many people understand and use the runes today (and note the use of the infamous ‘wyrd’ rune); just please don’t let it be the only book you read on the subject!