It is said that Odin, the father of the Norse gods hung himself by the neck from Yggdrasil (the World Ash Tree which supported heaven, earth and the underworld) for nine days, impaled on his own spear, in order to snatch the runes from the Norns, the three female guardians of the tree and gain the knowledge of how to use them. He must have been sick to discover that you can buy them by mail order complete with a velveteen carrying bag and a book of instructions.

Runes look really impressive. They are 22 small pieces of stone or wood each with a totally indecipherable symbol etched on it. These are the letters of the Norse alphabet. For some reason you always 'cast' the runes although there is no actual casting involved. Anyone who does try to throw your runes about should be invited to leave. Instead you lay them out face down, shuffle them about like dominoes and ask the querent to pick 13.

Place 12 of these in a circle like a clock (though you read them anti-clockwise). Each place has its own distinctive meaning, all the usual ones you know about already - number 2, money matters; number 7, love and marriage; number 10, career; and number 13 goes in the middle to tell you the final outcome.

You look at each rune in turn, give its interpretation, tying it in with the runes on either side and opposite. The runes can be upright or reversed

(reversed is unlucky). They each give simple messages like 'Plan ahead' or 'Beware of accidents'.

The experienced bluffer will of course have immediately spotted a few basic problems. If you don't happen to know the Norse alphabet it is impossible to tell one rune from another, far less whether it is upright or not. Even if you tie the 22 runes in with another system (both Astrology and the Tarot have been suggested), it is still a major feat of memory to remember each obscure symbol. They are not even numbered to allow you to use a numerological system.

On the other hand there is very little traditional information about Runes and everything written today seems to be based on information revealed clairvoyantly to people living in Glastonbury. This means that a master bluffer who is prepared to invest a little time and imagination could work out his or her own system (all revealed clairvoyantly of course), write a book about it and absolutely no-one would be able to dispute a word of it. Or else you could hang from the tree Yggdrasil for nine days.

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