‘Where should I start my rune studies?’
Over the many years and workshops I have held, this is one of the most common questions I am asked. Like many, my first introduction to runes was a book and set written by Ralph Blum which continues to be the most available introduction to rune studies. Unfortunately, I can not recommend it in the least. By the author’s own admission, he took inspiration from books on the Chinese ‘I Ching ‘ divination method. He also introduced erroneous concepts such as the ‘blank rune’. Like many of the mass market rune primers, it bears little historicity and imbues the unsuspecting seeker with poor habits and concepts.
It took many years before I was able to find a new introduction to esoteric rune studies, and now numerous volumes on runes grace my shelves. Full disclosure here – I am a member of the Rune Gild. I find it to be a superb place for an open exploration of the runes and sharing of ideas among peers. I don’t, however, recommend it for absolute beginners. It’s best to have a working knowledge beforehand, as it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
I also assume, that before delving into the runes, one should have a decent working knowledge of Northern European lore. Without knowing who O∂inn is, or how he gained the runes, there will be confusion and a lack of perspective. Perhaps in another post, I’ll make my recommendations for books more specifically on Germanic lore and Paganism.
There are those who believe the runes to be entirely without esoteric application, both in antiquity and in the current age. I am not, obviously, one of those people. There are many good texts that deal only with the archaeology and linguistics of the Runes. I will leave those recommendations to secular academics, as I am neither secular, nor an academic. Let us be mystics together, and seek the mystery!
*Note – The links below send you to Amazon, but of course, If you can purchase these directly from local bookshops, please do so.
1 – Rudiments of Runelaw by Stephen Pollington
This slim volume is a perfect primer and one I refer back to time and time again. It contains the basic historical texts that the runes feature most heavily in, including the four rune poems (Icelandic, Old-English, Norwegian and the Abecedarium Nordmannicum), 7 Old-English Runic verses, and some other Runic Finds. His explanation of the basic runes and their names is concise and well informed. This is still my first stop for primary information.
2 – The Runes Workbook by Leon D. Wild
A true primer, The Runes Workbook is just that. Not simply to be read, but a first stage course on rune knowledge. I recommend taking a rune a week and following his exercises. Much of the work in here is a good introduction to deeper concepts such as the Germanic soul components, rune working and meditation. Although the runes are mostly associated with divination (and this book covers that avenue well), they can be used within a number of magical applications, with chanting, rune yoga, visualization and craft work. This book gives a glimpse into how to begin true runic practices in your daily life.
3 – Runelore by Edred Thorsson
Written by Dr Stephen Flowers under his pen name, Runelore is the book that bridges the gap, from a superficial understanding of the runes to the deeper currents of runology. Edred is the founder and Drighten of the Rune Gild in 1980, and author of numerous books on esoteric subjects, though nearly all pertaining in one respect or another to the Runes. Far denser than my other two recommendations, Runelore delves into the history of runes at length, their various formations as well as the modern revival. It also contains the Rune Poems (I love to look at numerous translations) and delves into the cosmology and correlation to the Gods and Goddesses of Pagan Europe. A short chapter addresses runes from a Psychological/Jungian perspective also.
While there are a great number of books on runes by many different authors of worth, these should be a small enough investment to get you started on the path of Runa. I’ll make more recommendations for further education in the future. I hope that you enjoy these! May your journey be fruitful and bring you many stories to tell.