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Books to Study for Runic Knowledge

There is a lot of literature about reading the Elder Futhark runes. I've come across quite a lot, purchasing and reading both texts that I love and loathe on the subject. Of course, I haven't read the entire canon of rune books. There are many worthy of study with which I am unfamiliar. But as a rule of thumb, stick to the apparent scholars.

When looking to get into reading the runes, a lot of beginners will grab the first or most attractive-looking book that they see. This blog post will save you the trouble of weeding your way through various sources on the runes so you can get right down to the nitty-gritty.

Without further ado, here are some books and authors that I consider essential to the study of the runes:

Recent Publications

As noted above, I am a bit wary of publications within the last decade. Runes are slowly re-entering our cultural lens for the first time in centuries. Whereas it was previously difficult to discover good information on the runes, information on them now abounds, whether in good or ill forms. Here are the recent publications from recent years that offer great info for beginners:

Runes for Beginners

If you're an absolute beginner to reading runes, Lisa Chamberlain offers the most admirable introductory experience to the runes I have yet encountered. (I've browsed many an introductory rune book within bookstores and from friends.)

In Runes for Beginners, Chamberlain relays a brief and educational history of runes, conveying a knowledge of the relevant mythological texts and figures. Unlike many fanciful introductory rune books on the market, she grounds her explication of the runes historically.

My only critique of Chamberlain's approach is that it's coming from a Wiccan perspective. This reflects in the text's insinuation of runic ideas being related to the Wiccan Rede, Rule of Three, and related concepts. Of course, this is fair considering that our author practices Wicca. Nevertheless, these ideas are not true to the runic tradition.

How to Read Runes

How to Read Runes is my affordable ebook for beginners looking to gain runic knowledge. It is for sale on Etsy, and I continually update its content as I increase my runic expertise. That said, as someone who has read all the books in this post, it gets all the necessary and correct information that I have deemed essential and includes references to texts for further study at the end!

Works by Edred Thorsson (aka Stephen E. Flowers)

I have purchased many a work by Stephen E. Flowers, Ph.D., and I find all of them to be intelligent, illuminating, and leaving nothing wanting. The first work I ever read was his edition of The Galdrabók: An Icelandic Book of Magic, which has a lovely historical introduction (that I nearly cited in my honors undergrad thesis in my attack on exegetical readings of pre-modern literature).

I also consider his Icelandic Magic to be indispensable. However, when considering more specifically his works on the runes, I recommend the following (although he has more books that I have not read that I am entirely sure are also worth reading):

Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic

Futhark is more specifically about rune magic than divination. For that, other works by Thorsson, such as The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic, are helpful. (The big book contains content from Futhark, Runelore, and Runecaster's Handbook, which are indispensable to study.)

Runecaster's Handbook

Runecaster's Handbook is an illuminating text on the history of casting runes and how to create and cast your own. It is ideal for all levels of rune readers, and Thorsson tends to be more informative, generous, and helpful than most other authors on the subject.

Primary Source Texts

Although exploring more recent books on how to read the runes, the runes are primal energies grounded in Old Norse and Icelandic mythos and thought. Studying primary sources such as the Eddas and sagas of old will allow you to better immerse yourself in runic lore, knowledge, and understanding.

The Prose Edda

Snorri Sturluson wrote the Prose Edda (aka the Younger Edda) after the introduction of Christian colonialism in Iceland. The beginning of the Edda seemingly attempts to assimilate Old Norse Mythos with Christianity, but this was probably just a disclaimer to protect the textual content. Snorri proceeds to narrate the Old Norse mythological tales without further apology.

In it, you will find riveting mythological tales, figures, and insight into the necessary mindset.

The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda (the Elder Edda) accounts for the cycles of creation and destruction in the Old Norse mythos. Several sections cover the gods, the runes, and the Nornir (which are excellent figures to consider when learning about the runes).

The Rune Poems

There are quite a few rune poems, and studying them is a great way to acquaint yourself with runic mysteries further. There is the Old English Rune Poem, the Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme, the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, the lesser-known Abecedarium Nordmannicum, and the Early Modern Swedish Rune Poem. A translation of each of these is contained within P.D. Brown's addition.

The Saga of the Volsungs

The Saga of the Volsungs is perhaps my favorite text ever, and it influenced J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. The saga's plot resembles that of the Nibelungenlied (but take it from I, who has read all of these texts, The Saga of the Volsungs is FAR superior). This saga is an indispensable insight into the Icelandic mindset and tradition, and references to the runes occur on more than one occasion. Please read it.

Egil's Saga

Egil's Saga is an Icelandic saga (of which there are many). Egil Skallagrimsson is a runic magician, and the saga takes us through his life and conveys situations relevant to a better understanding of the Icelandic mindset.

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