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Let’s start with the dictionary definition:
- any of the characters of certain ancient alphabets, as of a script used for writing the Germanic languages, esp. of Scandinavia and Britain, from c200 to c1200, or a script used for inscriptions in a Turkic language of the 6th to 8th centuries from the area near the Orkhon River in Mongolia.
2. something written or inscribed in such characters.
3. an aphorism, poem, or saying with mystical meaning or for use in casting a spell.
Origin: 1675–85; < ON rűn a secret, writing, runic character; c. OE rűn (ME rune, obs. E roun
Nordic and Celtic Runes
More often than not, when people talk about runes they’re talking about Nordic or Norse runes. But the Norse were not the only ones with a runic alphabet. The Ogham is a Celtic runic alphabet and is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to represent Gaelic languages. Ogham is sometimes referred to as the "Celtic Tree Alphabet."
Runes and Magik
Among early peoples writing was a serious thing, full of magikal power. The Greek Epic poem, The Iliad, calls this writing "baneful signs." Meaning they are signs that cause harm, ruin or death. The Germanic peoples used a runic alphabet as their form of writing, using it to identify the possession of an item, such as a sword, helmet, or staff. They used runes to make calendars, encode secret messages, and mark funeral monuments.
Runes were also used in casting spells. Spells for love or war, and even healing often employed the use of runes. The runes would be carefully ordered to spell out the name of an enemy or the desire of one’s heart; while the caster would whisper or quietly chant a poem or incantation. These two meanings also appear in Old English rűn, the ancestor of our word. The direct descendants of Old English rűn are the archaic verb ”round”, "to whisper, talk in secret," and the obsolete noun ”roun”, "whispering, secret talk."
”Casting” runes is a form of divination. It involves “casting” or dropping the runes and letting them fall into a pattern, then deciphering the message from that pattern. In theory the runes ‘write’ out the message to be delivered from the spirits and all you have to do is read it.
The use of the word to refer to inscribed runic characters apparently disappeared in the late 14th or early 15th century but was revived by Danish writers on Germanic antiquities, who adopted it from Old Norse toward the end of the 17th century.
Much of the revival in the 18th and 19th centuries focused on the Norse runes. Their distinct characters are easily recognizable; where as the Celtic Ogham may take a little more effort. With the increased interest in old pagan ways, the Ogham too has found it’s resurgence and interest.
Additional Information:
The articles on concerning Norse Runes and the Celtic Ogham is forever growing and changing. They’re certainly not a comprehensive study of either forms. But perhaps it’s a place to start your research and discover the large number of resources available today on these topics.
  1. Nordic Runes
  2. Celtic Ogham

Source: 1, c4, c6, c11, c12, c24, c30