I know I hung on that windswept tree,
Swung there for nine long nights,
Wounded by my own blade,
Bloodied for Odin,
Myself an offering to myself:
Bound to the tree,
That no man knows
Whither the roots of it run.
None gave me bread,
None gave me drink,
Down to the deepest depths I peered
Until I spied the Runes.
With a roaring cry I seized them up,
Then dizzy and fainting, I fell.
Well-being I won
And wisdom too.
I grew and took joy in my growth:
From a word to a word
I was led to a word,
From a deed to another deed.
- The Poetic Edda (circa 1200 A.D.)
Runes are not just magical symbols, or a magical alphabet. They are a Mystery unto themselves. Those interested in taking up the Runes should consider that they are inseparable from the Northern culture and lore they were founded in. Acquiring the knowledge of the mysteries that the Runes represent will also require a certain amount of interaction with Odhinn, their discoverer.
At the time I found this information, I really liked it. Ten years down the road, I see it differently. I won't remove it, but this contains a judicious amount of 'fluff', with some useful information mixed in. For those really really interested in the runes, I suggest reading the various runepoems out there (Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Iselandic) and the following:
The Havamal Futhark and Runelore - Edred Thorsson Taking Up The Runes - Diana Paxson Rudiments of Runelore - Stephen Pollington
The First Aett -
Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, Kenaz, Gebo, Wunjo
The Second Aett -
Hagalaz, Nauthiz, Isa, Jera, Eihwaz, Pertho, Algiz, Sowelu
The Third Aett -
Tiewaz, Berkana, Ehwaz, Mannaz, Laguz, Inguz, Dagaz, Othila