In my eyes, it is not possible to understand the true nature of the runes without studying the Norse mythology. A common mistake made by New Age “runemasters” is that they study the runes from divination point of use, and not from the ancient tradition. But the people of the North were using the runes in many different way, the divination practices were only part of them.
It is important, for every runemaster wannabe to remember, that if you want to master the Norse runes, you must read the Norse mythology, explore Poetic Edda and Northern sagas. What can these teach you? Many things, I might say.
For example, I have learned many different runic spells and rituals that have not been described in any book about runes I have ever encountered; therefore, it is my belief that their authors never really studied the mythology behind runes. A lot of interesting uses of runes in spells and high magick can be found within the Poetic Edda itself. More information can be found in classic Sagas. For example, no book about runes I have read ever mentioned that the Thurisaz rune can be used to cause mental illness.
Another interesting thing that you can find with the help of Northern mythology is the correspondence between runes and Northern gods. For example, while most book about runes agrees that Thurisaz is the rune of the god Thor, I haven’t found many books that mention that Heimdall was the god of Daguz and few more other runes. Or, that Nauthiz, Isa and Hagalaz are the runes “guarded” by the Nornes – Urd, Werdandi and Skuld. This leads to interesting interpretation that the Hagalaz guarded by Urd is the rune of the past; Nauthiz guarded by Skuld is the rune of the future; and Isa, guarded by Werdandi, is the rune of the present. This can be used in many different divination and magical practices.
Exploring the Norse mythology is not only fun, but also educating for everyone who is interested in the Runes. You can find explanations of each rune, descriptions of spells and rituals, and examples of uses for each rune, scripts and bindrunes. It is important to remember that mastering the subject of the runes require not only learning the runes themselves, but also the culture from which they originate – the culture of the Vikings, and people before them. Without this, no one can become a true runemaster.