The act of seeking guidance and insight comes in many forms: cards, crystal balls and even candles. But this mystical wisdom can also present itself through runes and runecasting. These magickal stones have been historically used as a way of unlocking the subconscious to reveal hidden answers about the future.
The symbols on runes most popularly used today derive from an ancient alphabet known as the Elder Futhark. It’s made up of 24 letters, each with its own meaning, and is the oldest runic alphabet known to us, with its origins in Scandinavia.
Although it has its roots deeply embedded in old Norse culture, much of the modern approaches to runic magick are based on the practices of neo-paganism and the occult.
It’s also worth knowing that besides their magickal purposes, runic symbols have been utilized in political groups, notably by Nazis and neo-Nazis. For example, the SS logo was adopted from the Elder Futhark. It originally represented the sun or success, and was later reinterpreted to mean victory.
There are also other runic systems used in divination, such as the Gothic, Hungarian and Turkic runes. It’s entirely up to you which one you decide to practise.
With the Elder Futhark, each runic symbol represents a different theme: wealth, prosperity, danger and chaos to name a few. They can be broken down even further, but these are just the base meanings. For a full list, visit here.
Traditionally, these runes were made using the wood from a nut-bearing tree, as documented in 98AD by Tacitus, a renowned historian and politician from the Roman empire. Some still choose to make their own, but you can easily find them in witchcraft stores, such as The Psychic Tree and The Purple Spell.
Getting Magickal with Runes
Runes provide a vast scope of guidance that is receptive to multiple meanings and perceptions. The interpretations can really hinge on your intuition; if you get a gut feeling about a particular reading, go with it. There are no rules with rune casting, it’s simply about unearthing secrets that are already within you.
“Sometimes the runes sing to me and the answer to the question is instantly clear,” says Ingrid Halvorsen, who practises Heathenism, a branch of neo-paganism. She emphasises the significance of going with your instincts, even if it doesn’t reflect the outcome of the runes.
It’s important to focus on a specific question, or area in your life that you need guidance on. Whilst stirring the runes, meditate and ground yourself, as this can really help to collect energy, and to centre in on your intuition.
Method 1: Free Casting
One method is to literally throw the runes across a white cloth (which makes for easier reading) and how they land will influence how they are interpreted. Often, the runes that land face down are ignored, and for those that land upwards, the meaning can change depending if it's upright, or upside down. Think of it like tarot - when the card is reversed, the meaning is flipped to symbolise something else.
In Jennifer Smith’s The Runic Journey, she suggests different ways of interpreting runes. Those that land in the centre are said to be the most immediately relevant, but those that land around the edges are less important. In addition, runes that are close together or touching often compliment each other, and perhaps even represent a single meaning.
Method 2: Placing
Instead of freely casting the runes, you can also select and place them down, using your non-dominant hand. This is a particularly good method when approaching the runes with yes or no questions, where you can simply select one rune. Runecasting also works well in tarot spreads, such as past, present and future or situation, action and outcome.
Whichever way you decide, place the runes down and begin deciphering its meaning according to the layout and the question asked. Sometimes the answer may not be immediately obvious; unlocking the subconscious is not always straightforward, and having a deep level of intuition is a craft in itself.
Much like the future, they are fluid and not set in stone - metaphorically speaking that is!
The Secret Craft: Broom Closet Witches
Not everyone can practise their craft freely and with no limitations. There’s still a stigma against witches and witchcraft in many societies across the world, created and perpetuated through folklore stories and modern media. This in turn has caused practitioners to stay secret, and remain in the 'broom closet', so to speak.
And whilst you won’t be put on trial and inevitably drowned for your ‘sinful’ practice now, some of you may be bound by misunderstanding housemates, university accommodation rules and strict landlords. If you're itching to get witching but aren't sure how to overcome these obstacles, fear not, as we've brewed together a list of easy alternatives that you can use in your craft, such as substitutes for your candles, incense and crystals.
It’s important to note that none of our suggestions are essential or even necessary for your spiritual journey; these are just some of the many ways you can keep your practice alive. And often practitioners find that as their knowledge and craft develops, the use of tools isn’t always required, but nonetheless, they can be immensely helpful when directing intention
Altars are often used by those who practise witchcraft and paganism; it’s a sacred place where most of the rituals and spellwork unfolds. But of course, not everyone has a space large enough to freely display all manners of herbs, runes and incense, nor are they open with their practice.
Pocket-sized or travel altars are not only a great option for the witch on the go, but they also work very well for those yet out of the broom closet. They’re also easy to make at home with a small box to carry with you, though you can find them online with ease. If you are, however, open with your practice, dedicating a space in your room can also work - even your bed or the floor, as long as you properly cleanse the space and cast a protection circle beforehand. Be sure to discreetly let your housemates know so you won't be disturbed.
For many practitioners, candles are a key part of their craft for all sorts of spellwork and rituals, or even just for ambiance. Many spells will call for candles in a particular colour that corresponds with an intention, or perhaps even a certain scent. For example, purple is associated with prosperity, and is helpful when casting spells for spiritual help and improving psychic ability.
While it isn’t the same, flameless electronic candles will do the trick if you can’t burn real ones or you’re in need of a quick fix. Plain fake candles are widely available and adaptable for a wide variety of purposes, but if you’re set on coloured candles, we recommend colour-changing fake candles. You can change their colour depending on your intention, and best of all, they make excellent room decoration without the risk of fire. Remember, the candle itself isn’t necessarily magickal, it’s the intention and energy you put into it that makes it so!
Incense is another item that’s often used in rituals, but just like candles, you might not be able to get your hands on some or be allowed to burn it. Luckily, there’s a few ways around this.
Reed diffusers work excellently for longer-term spellwork regardless, but they’re also a great substitute for incense as they’re available in lots of scents and will likely be permitted in strict accommodation and as room décor. Perfumes, colognes, or scented room sprays would also work a charm, with the added bonus of making you smell great quickly. And of course, if you’re looking for a quick scent, herbal and fruit teas can work too.
These are more socially acceptable than most other witchcraft supplies, but there are still some people who might raise their eyebrows at a huge collection. We’d definitely recommend limiting your number where possible, and it’s good to remember that crystals like clear quartz are incredibly versatile.
Jewellery is a great option, especially as crystal-themed items are in fashion and easy to track down from small businesses on sites like Etsy. It’s also an effective way to carry a crystal’s energy with you through your day in a more inconspicuous way.
Besides crystals, there are other ways you can manifest energy into your everyday practice, such as looking into the magickal and healing properties of herbs, and incorporating them into your cooking. Ginger is more than just flavoursome - it’s perfect for success and money spells, as well as easing nausea and sore throats. Whisper an incantation next time you’re cooking with herbs, and feel the magick transpire.
Book of Shadows
Also known as a grimoire, this is a written record of your spells, talismans, rituals, or anything else you might do in your practice that you want to keep a note of. Luckily, with the advent of technology, this doesn’t have to be a physical notebook if that isn’t an option for you.
A password-protected Note on your phone is a common option, but also think about bookmarking pages on a secure Internet browser if you don’t have your own spellwork or rituals to keep track of. If you’re able to keep a physical book it doesn’t have to be huge or aesthetically pleasing - a pocket-sized reporter’s notebook will do the trick just as well, with the added bonus of being able to write things down as they occur to you.
Got your own tips for secret witches? Get in contact with us on our socials! And as always, that these are just suggestions instead of necessary steps or ironclad solutions.