Odin (Woden), the supreme god of the Norse pantheon wished to obtain mystical knowledge. He impaled himself on Yggdrasil, the World Tree with his own spear and hung there for nine days and nine nights. As he neared death, 18 runes appeared to him. As he grabbed the last one, he died. He decided to share the secret of runes once he was resurrected.
Runes have been used for a variety of magical work including healing, divination, charms, and spells. In the Dark Ages magicians inscribed spells made of runes on wands, swords, chalices, and stone tablets to accomplish whatever they desired. They could be used as amulets for protection or even inscribed on buildings. Runes also had the power to keep the dead in their grave, or to resurrect the dead. Divination was one of the most important uses. The runes were cast and their meanings were interpreted by readers. Because of this, runes were associated with the Norns, the three Fates of past present, and future.
Runes were almost snuffed out along with other pagan practices during the 14th century when the Inquisition began their crusade. A law was passed in Iceland in 1639, forbidding anyone from using runes. If you did, you were considered a witch and treated accordingly.
German occultists revived interest in the early 20th century. They associated runes with racial supremacy. When the Nazis came to power, they adopted two runes that are now infamous: the swastika, the rune of Mother Earth and hammer of Thor, and the sig or S rune, which became the trademark for the SS.
Today runes are popular for divination, like tarot cards. Do you have a method of divination that you like?