What are Runes?
Runes are the letters of the runic alphabet. Germanic people with Vikings had developed this system of writing in the 1st or 2nd Century AD.
What is unique about the Norse culture is that it was more oral than written. That is why sagas were passed down orally. Old Norse was the oral language of Vikings. The Runic alphabet was widely understood, but the main idea of its usage was for memorial purposes – the proof of the fact that there are thousands of runestones, which can be found throughout the Scandinavian countryside. Norse runes were not only used as inscriptions on the runestones. They were also used for business. The runic inscriptions were frequently expressing jokes, love letters, prayers, gags, etc.
Runes are the mystical alphabet, used 2000 years ago to name things and places, provide protection, attract luck and fortune, and magically divine the course of future events. There were runes and spells to influence the weather, the seed, the tides, health, and love. The more interesting is the fact that there were runes to affect the fertility, the runes for the abortion of the curse, runes for death and birth. Nordic runes were carved on cups, amulets, the lintel of the houses, and at the bow of the Viking ships.
Of that time, such tools as knife, ax or chisel were not used to form the curved lines of the rune letters. That is the one and probably the main reason why the runic letters were created only with straight lines. In the Runic alphabet, each letter represents a sound that is why double consonants are not used.
The Nordic tribes of northern Europe created these unique Nordic runes especially to represent the forces of nature. In the ancient times, people believed that when the wearer or caster picked the right rune, he could harness the strength and power the rune represented.
Viking Runes’ History
One more exciting fact “futhark” – the name of the runic alphabet. It is known so because of the first six letters of the runic alphabet– f, u, þ, a, r, k.
There are three primary forms of futhark:
- Elder Futhark – included 24 characters; was used between 100 and 800 AD;
- Younger Futhark – included 16 characters (language was becoming more complicated); was used between the 8th and 12th centuries
- Medieval (Anglo-Saxon) Futhorc– included 33 characters; was used mostly in England during the Viking Age (1100 to 1500 AD)
Because of the development of trading and interaction brought by the Vikings, the demand for oral and written language has significantly increased.
Reading and Writing in Runes
The earliest runic inscriptions were found on the Vimose comb from Vimose in 160 CE. The first and the most initial carving was found on the Kylver stone from Gotland, Sweden in 400 CE. The transfer of writing language from southern Europe to the northern passed through Germanic warbands.
Writing and reading in Norse runes is a complicated process. The charts provided below will help those who want to get more details on how to transliterate their names or to find associations with a particular meaning.
This table will help you translate your name from English to “Viking.”
Runestones and their Purpose
Runes were carved on wood, metal, stones, etc. Runestones are the stones covered with runic inscriptions. They were not only used as memorials to departed men – more than 3 000 runestones were found in Scandinavia.
Kjula Runestone is the most famous runestone. Its origin is in Södermanland, Sweden. Kjula is an excellent example of Viking runestone as a celebration of Viking heroism, courage and honor.
Because of numerous researches, scientists have found that runic inscriptions were also used as:
- Art and craft objects
- Magical talismans
- Religious purposes
- Rocks and buildings as graffiti
In the old Norse poem Hávamál (“The Sayings of the High One”) Odin says:
“I know that I hung
On the wind-blasted tree
All of nights nine,
Pierced by my spear
And given to Odin,
Myself sacrificed to myself
On that pole
Of which none know
Where its roots run.
No aid I received,
Not even a sip from the horn.
I took up the runes –
Screaming I grasped them –
Then I fell back from there.”
Odin is the god of wisdom, magic, poetry, death, and divination. In the pantheon of Norse gods, he was the main god. Through his self-devotion and suffering, he has brought the runes. The legend says Odin has been hanging on the tree, well-known Yggdrasil tree for nine nights. Hunger, pain, and thirst tormented him. His falchion wounded him. Being alone and close to death, he saw the runes. He gathered all his efforts, reached for the runes, and got the runes.
Having been initiated into the mysteries of the runes, Odin told:
“Then I was fertilized and became wise;
I truly grew and thrived.
From a word to a word I was led to a word,
From a work to a work I was led to a work.”
Being equipped with the knowledge Odin has become the most accomplished beings in the cosmos. With the help of chants, which he learned Odin could heal emotional and bodily wounds, bind his enemies, free himself from constraints, protect his friends in battle, put out fires, win and keep a lover, and more.
What are the Runic Futharks?
The word “alphabet” comes from the Greek “alpha” and “beta”. Experts have names the Runic alphabet futharks (or futhorks), based on the first six letters of Elder Futhark – f, u, þ, a, r, k, which correspond to our F, U, Th, A, R, K. Elder Futhark is the oldest-discovered complete runic system. It appeared on the Kylver Stone from Gotland, Sweden in 400 AD.
Many runestones were found at the Viking era in 950-1100AD. Some runestones firstly appeared in the 4-th and 5-th century in Sweden and Norway (in Denmark it appeared in the early 8-th and 9-th centuries). Most of runestones were found in Sweden. The National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen has one of the first runestones – Kingittorsuaq Runestone, found in Greenland.
Runes and Their Meaning
Here we have provided you with the ten Nordic runes and their detailed meaning. Each of them was a symbol of new changes in life as well as the prediction of the nearest future. Take a few minutes to get more details about the Norse symbols and meanings of each of them.
GEBO - a Gift, a Partnership
This rune is a symbol of unity, partnership, and union. However, it is demanded not to accept this. A real collaboration should only include two independent beings. This advice is necessary to take into account for all levels, whether it is romantic relationships, partnerships, commercial things, etc.
OTHILA - Separation, Heir, Withdrawal
OTHILA means a time for new changes and separating: outdated relations should be given up, the old skin should be shed, and the old clothes should be thrown away. It is a rune of the cardinal separation. If you pull this rune, you should be ready for the radical changes in your life. Withdrawal and obedience are necessary; you have to know when and how you need to withdraw as well as have a firm resolution to do it. This rune is the rune of acquisition and profit. However, you need to refuse the benefit. It could be especially complicated and confusing in case the “heir” is your cultural backing and heir.
FEHU - Property, Food, Livestock
This rune is the rune of fulfillment and balance. Your ambitions are satisfied, love is fulfilled, and the salary is received. The Fehu rune offers food from the commonplace to the holy divine. This rune requires in-depth research and understanding of property in your life. It helps and preserves those things, which you have already achieved. You should be cautioned especially in the happy times. Do not waste your precious time on reckless bliss in case of happy life event or celebration.
URUZ - Manhood, Power, Femaleness, A Wild Bull
Uruz is the rune of termination and beginning of the new page in life. In case you pull out this rune, it symbolizes that your life is waiting for further changes. It means that you have grown up and your life has grown out of its frame. It means that it should be left behind. You should take a rebirth to get a new experience and plenty of unique strengths. The chance of life-rebirth can be hidden behind the costume of loss.
NAUTHIS - Necessity, Compulsion, Pain
If you pull out this rune, you should find proper yourself for stagnation – a chance to reconsider your ideas and plans seriously. It is the time to pay off your old gild and restore your inner balance. If you cannot achieve something in life you need to improve it, reconsider, reconstruct. Organize and start from the very beginning. If the fisherman cannot pull out, he starts repairing his fishing nets. Keep your nerves, anger, muscles, and demons under control. Good mood, modesty, and patience are necessary at these times.
ALGIZ - Sedge and Rushes, Protection, a Moose
This rune means calmness and control of emotions. During life changes and transmissions that can change the whole life, it is highly essential to take your feelings under control and not make hasty decisions. It does not matter whether the business you have is growing or not. Keep in mind, to achieve the success you need to control your emotions and always stay calm. You may not win the battle, but you will never lose, as you will ever learn from what has happened.
INGWUZ - Fertility, New Beginning, The God-Hero
Ingwuz is the rune of the new beginning, new life, unique way. The run means that you have the power to achieve your completion. It means you have the right decision to start a new page in life. The completion is the most important. The rune means you need to fertilize the soil to achieve your liberation.
ANSUZ - Messenger Rune, Signals, The God Loki
Thy keywords here are the signals, gifts, and messages. A timely warning about the problem or the other thing may be received as a real gift. In case the Ansuz rune brings holy knowledge, it means that the person is blessed. Be attentive, polite and patient during every meeting, talk and decision. Make efforts to everything you are going to do or say. Be exceptionally patient and careful with people who are wiser than you are.
WUNJO – Light, Joy
This Wunjo rune is a real fruit-bearing branch. The time of sadness has already gone. You have found yourself and your way in life. The changes are behind. You are ready to access blessing, whether it is material or emotional. This rune represents a harmonious combination of limiting the ego with the higher self. You are confident and secure. You are honest to others and yourself. Remember, you cannot fail.
PERTH - Initiation, Something Concealed, A Secret Thing
You inner profound formative powers are interconnected. They are interacting. The thing you are going to get out of them is not easy to recognize. It is a profound mystery what is going to heal our soul and us. Wait for surprises and unexpected income on the side of the material world. You always have a chance to try something new, but you cannot repeat the old things you used to do without suffering.
Modern Day Rune Jewelry
While the younger Futhark was the leading choice during the Viking era, it is likely Vikings use and interpret the Elder version. Today a lot of modern rune jewelry uses Elder version, as these letters are more comfortable to translate to English.
Many North runes are found in our jewelry items.