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Lesson 8) Using Runes in Spells and Enchantments

Welcome to your last full class of Ancient Runes 201! Next week will be a review, as well as your final exam. Last week, we discussed the different ways of translating runic inscriptions. This week, I will be speaking a little bit about how runes can enhance your other spellwork, including healing, enchantments, charms, and even potions. I am very grateful to Professor Brigham and Professor Baine, for the opportunity to chat with them and discuss these concepts and offer their thoughts and expertise. After the lesson, you will be afforded the opportunity to create your own unique spells and enchantments, but first, let us study the theory!

Runes in Enchantments and Spells
Diving right into the lesson, the use of runes and runic magic in conjunction with other spells and enchantments is not something to be taken lightly. You may notice that in daily activities, we typically do not see people using ancient runes in conjunction with their spells. Up until this point your Charms class has not mentioned the use of runes as a central component in the creation of charmed objects, although runes were formerly much more commonly used when casting permanent or long-lasting charms on an object. This is due to the fact that creating and charging runes properly is a time-consuming endeavour, and typically, most spells you will cast in your daily life do not require them. Witches and wizards do not stop during an informal duel to carve and activate runes in order to engage in combat, for example. However, you may remember that in serious times of need, even witches and wizards engaged in intense combat used runes to help their cause, such as the use of Thurisaz during the Battle of Hogwarts.

Runic magic is considered by many to be an older form of magic. Some would also call it a slightly subtler expression as well, as the result does not typically appear as dramatic or “flashy” as many charms or enchantments appear. Although spells cast with runes are typically longer lasting than most charms you will utilize, they also come with certain limitations. When dealing with verbal magic, such as charms, enchantments, and even transfiguration to a certain extent, the sky is the limit. While there are restrictions and laws (both natural and manmade) dictating the use of verbal magic, it is a much broader field that allows for a wider range of results than runes do, as runes have a finite number of successful combinations and variations. Casting charms also does not require the existence of a natural object upon which to carve the rune in order to activate its abilities.

However, before we begin discussing spellcasting with runes, there is one oft-overlooked similarity between charms and runes to which I would like to draw your attention. While using runes in spellcasting requires that the rune be carved or drawn into a tangible - preferably natural - surface and then activated using the Activation Charm we will be reviewing shortly, we do see the association of a specific shape or form when casting charms as well: accompanying almost every verbal spell, the caster utilizes a specific wand movement. This can almost be compared to drawing a rune over or in front of the object to be enchanted, and then pairing that form with a charm-specific activation spell.

While physically carving this form as a rune into the object and uttering the same incantation will not work similarly, the fact that the movement is one that is drawn in the air rather than having any concrete and long-lasting form may contribute to charms’ slightly shorter-lived effectiveness in most cases. The intangibility of this wand movement may also contribute to charms and verbal enchantments often being more dynamic and mutable in a way that is not seen in association with runic magic.

Activating Runes and Rune Sets
If you have been keeping up with the textbook so far this year, you may have already read about the Activation Charm for individual runes as well as rune sets. However, as a review for those of you who have not necessarily retained that information or reviewed it, the spell for activating as well as deactivating your runes is relatively simple.
To activate a rune or a set of runes, simply draw your wand in a clockwise circle over the rune or runes, as seen in the figure above. When dealing with more than one rune, you draw your wand around the entire design of runes. After you complete the circle, the movement is completed with a stabbing motion towards the centre of the rune or the central rune in the design. The incantation is Venenate (VEH-neh-nayt), and it should be said as you are drawing the circle.

Deactivating your rune or rune set is just as easy. The incantation is Devenenate (deh-VEH-neh-nayt) and for the wand motion, simply reverse the Activation Charm: first draw a counter-clockwise circle, and then pulling your wand back from the central rune. This should successfully deactivate any runic magic you have cast.

Of course, once your runes or rune set have been activated, they will not suddenly begin to glow or give other obvious signs that the incantation was successful. Therefore, you may wish to verify that the spell worked using the Enchantment Revealing Charm. We covered this spell in your very first lesson, but I think it is important to review it at this point in the course. To cast the Enchantment Revealing Charm, point your wand at the rune or rune design, and say the incantation Specialis Revelio.

Spell Blocks

The Activation Charm
Incantation: Venenate
Pronunciation: VEH-neh-nayt
Wand Movement: clockwise circle around the entire design with a stabbing motion towards center
Concentration: High (desired meanings of each rune must be help firmly in place, as well as how they relate to each other)
Willpower: Low (though more can be applied, many find it difficult after expending so much energy on concentration)

The Deactivation Charm
Incantation: Devenenate
Pronunciation: deh-VEH-neh-nayt
Wand Movement: counterclockwise circle around the entire design with a pulling motion away from center
Concentration: Moderate (must direct focus towards all magical runes, or unpredictable effects will remain. This is often how a red glow occurs)
Willpower: Low

Remember to also use this spell after deactivating runes when they are no longer wanted to ensure that they are harmless before touching or discarding of them. If you have not successfully deactivated them, it could make for a very unpleasant and unwanted surprise for any who should stumble across them!

The Enchantment Revealing Charm should have one of four results:

  • No result: not active
  • Amber or Bronze Glow: successfully activated
  • Red Glow: the runes are activated; however, there is something wrong with the rune or rune set
  • Pale Blue Glow: there is some form of enchantment or spell on the runes, although it is not clear what it is.

If the runes are not glowing amber or bronze, however, it is in your best interest to consult with an expert and proceed cautiously if at all. It may indicate a milder enchantment of some sort has been placed on the runes, or it could indicate a far more insidious spell at work.

Runic Spells
Now, let us look at runic spells. One of the most common uses for runic spells on their own is on amulets or other pieces of jewelry or coins, which can be sewn into the fabric of clothing in order to protect the wearer or to emphasize positive attributes, including good health, strength, success, and creativity. Occasionally single runes would be used in conjunction with their affiliated attributes, but in other cases, entire spells or enchantments may be carved directly into the object being used.

Kragehul I

Take, for example, the above image of Kragehul I, a lance fragment that was discovered in Denmark. It is thought to date between 200 and 475 CE, and it includes an Elder Futhark inscription that reads as follows:

ek erilaz āsugīsalas muha haite, gagaga [ginu gahellija, hagala wiju bi gaize](?)

The first part has been determined to read, “I, magician/runemaster of Āsugīsalaz, am called Muha, ga-ga-ga.” The ga-ga-ga has been often interpreted as a war cry or a cry of encouragement of some sort. The second part of the inscription, as connoted in brackets, has been unconfirmed, however, and there is disagreement as to the intent as well as the overall proper reading of the inscription. The most recent known interpretation was done in 2006 by Muggle linguistics and history experts Dr. Mindy MacLeod and Dr. Bernard Mees of Melbourne, Australia. They suggest that the rest of the inscription reads as the bracketed bit above. This would mean that the rest of the spell can be interpreted as, “[ga-ga-ga] I yell resoundingly, hail I dedicate in the spear.”

This activated runic spell would suggest a combination to increase the strength and power of Muha, thought to be a noble warrior or soldier of some sort. However, the exact meaning of the second half of the inscription is contested, and others attribute some measure of luck implied in the charm, as well as a dedication to the god Odin, a popular figure both for runic charms and enchantments invoking health as well as strength and power. In this sense, our own knowledge of Elder Futhark is somewhat limited, as charms written in this runic alphabet also had something of the intent of the writer behind them in their creation.

The Lindholm Amulet

Along with an inscription that explicitly spells out the intent or design of the charm or spell placed on the object, many also used Elder Futhark runes in order to string together several magical runes in a way that did not necessarily spell out a coherent phrase. Take, for example, the Lindholm amulet, a bone piece that was found in Sweden, which dates back to sometime between the 2nd and 4th centuries. The inscription found on this bone fragment reads:


The first line of this inscription has been interpreted as “I am a magician/runemaster, I am called Sawilagaz,” where it is thought that Sawilagaz denotes either a given name, implying “the one of the Sun,” or possibly calling himself “the wily” or “the deceitful one.” The second line of text, however, does not spell out words using runes, but rather is a string of magical runes ending in "ALU": Ansuz, Laguz, and Uruz. This specific three-rune combination’s meaning is disputed, but it is thought to be an early magical charm indicator or metonym of some sort. The three consecutive Tiwaz runes are thought to be an invocation of the god Tiwaz, while the first eight consecutive Ansuz runes indicate an invocation of eight gods. However, there is not yet consensus as to what the string of letters in the centre may connote or mean as regards the purpose of the charm.

This method of stringing together magical runes in order to indicate purpose is another means by which runes can be used in spellcasting. However, it is important to have the intent clear in your mind when activating runes in this fashion, for any ambiguity or question could lead to unwanted or unexpected effects even if the activation is successful. This is a dilemma that does not exist quite as often when successfully casting verbal charms or brewing potions to gain a specific intended effect.

Runes with Verbal Charms
Runes can also be used in conjunction with verbal charms in order to enhance and modify their effect. This is typically done when creating charmed objects, although there are exceptions that include curses or the like. It is important to note the difference of effect that a runic spell will have as opposed to a charm by itself.

Professor Brigham describes the impact of a runic spell on a charmable object as a “web” or a sort of “suit of invisible armour” that can provide an anchor for other charms that one may apply. It gives a subtle push towards the effectiveness of other charms that are added. One can either include single runes or a string of magical ones, as seen in the examples above, either with symbolic meaning or spelling out that which one wants the runic charm to achieve. Please make sure to note that the runes only impact the surface or the area around the object, while charms and enchantments can modify the composition of the object itself.

For an example of the use of runes in affiliation with charms, one may use Wunjo, which connotes joy, to strengthen and enhance spells that either require or increase happiness and good feelings, for example the Patronus Charm or the Cheering Charm, the latter of which you will learn within the next year. Remember that Professor Brigham herself has a bracelet that is imbued with a powerful, though primitive Cheering Charm, if you would like to ask her if you can take a look at it at some point.  The bracelet itself has joy-promoting runes carved into it, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which runes those might be! Additionally, regarding the Patronus Charm, wearing an amulet with runes that subtly promote joy and positive feelings may make the Patronus Charm slightly easier to cast, as it would be easier to frame one’s mind towards positive feelings.

In reviewing your past lessons and the textbook, you can find other examples of runes that work well when charming specific objects or people, as well as increasing the potency and efficacy of non-object related charms, such as bolstering the effectiveness of overall protection charms.

Runes with Potions
One subject area where runes have proved particularly effective is the use of runes in partnership with potions and brewing. This is a topic you have not yet covered in your Potions class, as it is something that is not quite as common in day-to-day creation of potions, but Professor Baine has encouraged me to share her thoughts on this subject with you, so that you are aware of the possibilities for the future.

There are some runes that are particularly effective in specific fields within potioneering. Take, for example, the rune Kenaz, as you discussed in Lesson Four of this year. In its standard, upright form, Kenaz connotes disease, confusion, or ill health. This rune may be used in this fashion by one with more malevolent intentions, although I expect that none of you should have cause to ever utilize the rune in this less-then-ethical fashion.

However, in its merkstave form, Kenaz implies good health and vitality. Many healers utilize this rune fairly regularly, and I expect it will reappear should you make healing your primary focus as you advance in your magical career. It can be used in conjunction with healing and healing potions in one of two ways. The first way one can utilize Kenaz in its merkstave form is carving it directly onto your cauldron and then activating it using the Activation Charm. When an activated merkstave Kenaz has been added to your cauldron, it will cause many of your potions to have increased energetic and healthy components. This means that if you brew mostly antidotes or other healing and health potions, this can be particularly effective.

Nonetheless, there is a downside to inscribing this rune directly on your cauldron. Say, for example, you wanted to brew a poison, such as a Herbicide to take care of unwanted plants in your garden or Doxycide to combat a Doxy infestation. Instead of working to increase the potency of those potions, the merkstave Kenaz carved into your cauldron will actually weaken their effectiveness. Of course, one could get around this by either deactivating the rune every time one is not brewing health, intellect, or energy potions or by using another cauldron entirely.

Another option, as your previous lesson about this rune cites, is to inscribe and activate merkstave Kenaz - or other runes - directly onto the phials that you use to store your healing potions. It has been suggested that this is not quite as effective as if the rune is active during the brewing process, but it still has the ability to enhance the healing properties of your potions and draughts. If you decide to choose this option, it is a relatively simple process: simply carve the rune or runes you desire into the phials that you will be using and use the activation spell. Following activation, you need only to use those phials to store your successfully-brewed healing, strength, and vitality potions. Many potions supply stores will also sell phials that already have many popular runes already carved into the glass.

Just a note, as I know that this is a very popular potion among students, although you have not yet learned to brew it, storing Felix Felicis inside phials that are marked with Perthro can increase the duration and strength of luck when the user takes this potion. As this rune is also associated with femininity as well as luck, these phials can also occasionally be used to strengthen fertility potions.

In summary, we can state that runic spells can be used either on their own or in conjunction with charms, enchantments, and potions. On their own, you can either draft a complete sentence using Elder Futhark and activate the spell as indicated, or you can string together a collection of magical runes that lead to a desired effect through their individual meanings and activate those runes. However, it is always crucial to be clear in your intent, and to thoroughly consider the method and use of the runes you are using.

And now that I’ve talked your ear off about the use of runes alongside your spellwork, I will let you do what I know you’ve been eagerly anticipating for much of this year; for homework, you will have the chance to create three spells or enchantments with the knowledge you have about Norse runes and spells. There will also be a quiz covering the material that we discussed in class today.

That brings us to the end of Lesson Eight and nearly the end of Year Two. The next lesson will largely be a review of what you learned and then your final exams.


 a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated. Example: "tongue" used as an expression to mean "language" or how delicate porcelain from China came to be called "china".

1. Other similar magical (or suspected magical) metonyms include "lathu", "laukaz", "auja" and "ota" among others.

Original lesson written by Professor Rebecca Black
Additional portions written by Professor Venita Wessex
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons (Kragehul I &Lindholm Amulet), Professor Rebecca Black (Activation Spell)

Have you ever come across strange markings in old, worn books and wondered what they said? Do you have a love for languages and writing? Would you like to learn some of the world’s oldest magic? The study of Ancient Runes is a course concerning itself with ancient magical scripts from around the world, their history, their linguistics, and the spells they were used to compose. This year, prepare to enter the world of the Nords, the councils of the magi, and the halls of Valhalla.
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