Rune Equations by Simon H. Lilly, an artist and writer from Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, is a 34-card deck where rune divination has been converted into cartomancy. It’s a black and white deck at standard tarot dimensions (70 mm x 120 mm) that comes with a 170-page book. The book, Rune Equations, is an invaluable reference manual on rune divination and very much worth acquiring for your personal occult library.
There are three main rune systems that we know of:
- the Elder Futhark or Germanic runes, which consists of 24 letters arranged in three groups of eight, or aetts (above photo, left page, top);
- the Younger Futhark from the Viking Era, which consists of 16 letters and is the system associated with the Norwegian and Icelandic pagans (above photo, left page, bottom); and
- the Northumbrian Futhorc, a 32-letter system best known as the English runes (above photo, right side).
This deck allows you to work with either the 32 Northumbrian runes or the 24 Elder Futhark runes.
Every rune can be extracted from a master Pattern of Nine, shown above. This pattern is the kernel of rune cosmology and meaning, tapping in to the magic of 3 x 3 x 3. Thus, each rune is the inscription of one aspect of Universal Energy and writing any one of the runes is an act of magic– invoking that Universal power. The Pattern of Nine is in itself a symbol for the World Tree. This Pattern of Nine reveals the Key of the runic alphabet, which is a coding system for the Tree.
The cardstock, size, and finish are standard. If I had to guess, I would say the cardstock is around 330 gsm. It has a smooth finish that is neither glossy nor matte. They glide beautifully.
The phrases you’ll find along the captions are enigmatic, leaving plenty of space for your intuition and creative interpretation. For instance, “A rapid rush, a radiant road” or “All storm stifled, stalled” and “Skill to stay, skill to go.” Content and substance wise, I love them.
However, for my eyes, I did find the text a little hard to read. I almost always have to peer down, squint, and work really hard to make the words out. In the above photo, the image is magnified, so imagine what you see there… but much, much smaller. Had the graphic designer gone with just 1 or 2 more pixels in the stroke width for the font and increased the kerning, I think the captions would have worked.
I love the integration of sacred geometry in the background of each card, underscoring the unique pattern and Universal power of each rune.
Rune lines are drawn in accordance with a map of time (three vertical lines, past, present, and future) and space (the cross of two lines, forming four directions). So active, diagonal lines upward indicate runes that denote ideas, concepts, or archetypes.
Runes with diagonals downward and in the lower half relate to the physical, material, and practical. When lines mirror, reflect, or show symmetry, that, too, is significant to the divinatory meaning of the rune and also its magical uses as a sigil. Lilly gets into all of these explorations in the text, which is why I think it is such a phenomenal book to have.
Along the four corners in all-caps is the name of the rune. For example, above left is Calc, meaning “chalk” or “cup,” and pronounced kalk. It symbolizes ancestors and family traditions. It’s about libation and remembrance. In terms of magical uses, CALC awakens the spirits, links to hidden roots, and bonds you to the power of your ancestors, and the wisdom of the past. (I’m getting all this from the companion guidebook.)
The book is a gem. If you are interested in studying runes, get this book. I found it to be well-written, rich with content, history, divinatory meanings, suggestions for magical and ritual uses, and is just a wealth of a resource on runes, despite being a rather slim text.
The beginning chapters of Rune Equations gets into introductory content and rune theory. Then the meat of the text is the dedicated entries. Each rune entry features the pictogram, the name of the rune, its short meaning, and how to pronounce it. A general meaning is given, a description of the image that the rune is supposed to represent, how to use the rune in meditation, its divinatory meanings, magical uses, and the healing energies or properties that the rune as an empowered sigil possesses. The closing chapters instruct on reading with runes and casting methods.
One of my favorite ways to use this deck is as a single rune concluding divination to a larger reading I just did, whether that’s with tarot or the I Ching. After an I Ching hexagram reading or after having drawn a handful of tarot cards and cast them into a spread, I’ll reach for this deck, do a single rune draw, and use that single rune as a focal point for meditation and incorporate its design into personal talisman crafting. It reveals to me the magic I need in my life.
Runes emerged in the Early Medieval Period, though Lilly emphasizes that how we approach runes today has very much become a reconstructionist exercise. Lilly’s theoretical approach to the runes is solid and helps to deepen both your understanding and your spiritual practice with the runes, whether you opt for the more popular Elder Futhark or the English runes.