Within the Norse Rune Magic traditions there are many avenues and roadways by which to approach these universal mysteries. It is clear that a rune is not simply a letter or a character in an alphabet. It is much more. Every rune is made up of three elements or aspects:
1. a sound (song)
2. a stave (shape)
3. a rune (hidden lore)
No part of this triad can stand totally alone. Each implies and projects the other. The sound or phonetic value of the rune is it's vibratory quality in the air, in the Quantum Ocean. This is the magical-creative quality that is in speech. It is the quality we think of when we hear about "the word of God," or the Logos (Word), the creative vac of Brahma and so on.
This is the cosmic principle with which runesters work when they sing or speak the runes in acts of Galdor. The shape of the rune-stave is the spatial or visible quality of the rune.
This aspect can be the most deceptive because we put so much emphasis on what we see. The visible staves (characters) are only reflections of the actual runes, which remain hidden from our five senses.
They exist a realm beyond the three dimensions and are only approximated in the two dimensional diagrams we can see. The runes themselves are complex and multifaceted and fit within a web-work which only further complicates the picture.
Really no one definition of rune is possible, for each rune is in and of itself infinite and without bounds. In practical terms the rune is the sum total of lore and information on the stave and the sound. The song is the vibration, the stave is the image, and the rune is the lore needed to activate the magic.
All true Runic traditions take certain factors into careful account. These are: the order of the staves (this gives their numerical value) and their total number 16 - 24), a threefold division of the total number, the shapes of the individual staves, their phonetic values, their special rune names, and a body of complex poetic lore surrounding each stave.
Each of these elements has its esoteric reason for being there. If the runes were merely a system for writing all that would be needed would be the visible sign and a conventionally agreed on sound value.
Brightest of Blessings,