The Runic Alphabet – Futhark

The word rune comes from the Norse rśn which means mystery. No one knows exactly when, where or by whom the runes were invented. The only thing archaeologists can confirm is that the oldest runic inscriptions found are about 1700 years old.

They were discovered in Denmark and Norway. The runic alphabet was used within Germanic languages – but primarily in the Nordic countries. It was a writing system where each character marked a certain sound.

The alphabet is called Futhark after the first six runes. (An observant reader count seven letters in the name: The reason is that th is a diphthong – the same sound as the English sound th in thing). The original name is spelled fužark.

Runes could be written in both directions from right to left or left to right. The runes could also be inverted or upside down. The elder Futhark was used until 600 AD and consisted of 24 characters. Scientists have found examples in Norway on various changes in Futhark during the 7th century. In the early 700 AD, a shorter runic alphabet consisting of 16 characters was dominating. These changes were connected with what is called the Syncopation Years (ca 500-700 AD), where the

Nordic language underwent major changes. The words were shortened (syncopated), and some runes got new sounds. The word jįra (year) was shortened to įr. The letter į eventually developed into the letter å in today’s Nordic alphabet.

It is difficult to tell how common runes were for people from lower social classes. However, archaeologists have seen some changes within the inscriptions after the year 1000 AD. The findings from this period indicate that it was not only professionals who was writing: So-called exercise sticks that were found shows two text lines – one line written by a professional with straight letters and one with crooked letters – most likely a student. This shows that writing courses also were common in the 11th century.

Rune sticks were also used to deliver everyday messages and notes. Even cheeky messages were transmitted. Several findings from Bergen and Oslo confirm that sex was a popular theme: Ek kann gilja (I can seduce, sleep with girls) and Smišr sarš Vigdķsi (The blacksmith slept with Vigdis).

In the 11th century, Christianity and the Latin alphabet arrived in Norway, but it would take a few hundred years before people started using the new alphabet. The main reason was their tools: The advantage of the runic alphabet was that writing tools were cheap and easily available. If you had a knife and a piece of wood or bone, you could start writing.

The Latin alphabet, however, had a form that was difficult to carve into the hard material and it was best suited on parchment. This was both expensive and impractical for the poor Norwegian farmers. After the Middle Ages, runes slowly went out of use and the Latin alphabet became dominant.

Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews

Algiz - Protection, the Elk - control of the emotions is at issue, unwanted influences.

Ansuz - Signals, Messenger, the God Loki - receiving messages, signals, gifts.

Berkana - Growth, Rebirth, Birch Tree - a form of fertility that fosters growth both symbolically and actually, blossoming and ripening.

Dagaz - Breakthrough, Transformation, Day - the final Rune belonging to the Cycle of Initiation, a major shift of self-change, a complete transformation in attitude.

Ehwaz - Movement, Progress, the Horse - transit, transition, movement of physical shifts, new dwelling places, new attitudes or new life, improving a situation.

Eihwaz - Defense, Avertive Powers, Yew Tree - do not be overly eager to press forward, for this is not the time or situation to make your influence felt.

Fehu - Possessions, Nourishment, Cattle - fulfillment, ambition satisfied. love shared, rewards received.

Gebo - Partnership, a Gift - true partnership is achieved only by separateness even as they unite.

Hagalaz - Disruption, Elemental Powers, Hail - change, freedom, invention and liberation; a need within the psyche to break free from identifying with material reality.

Inguz - Fertlity, new Beginnings, Ing the hero God - akin to the moon, the intuitive part of our nature with its urge toward harmonizing and adjusting in the sphere of personal relationships.

Isa - Standstill, Withdrawal, Ice - the winter of the spiritual life is upon you, powerless to do anything except submit, surrender, sacrifice some long-cherished desire.

Jera - Harvest, Fertile Season, One Year - beneficial outcomes, any activity to which you are committed, no quick results can be expected.

Kano - Opening, Fire, Torch - opening and renewed clarity of dispelling the darkness that has been shrouding some part of your life. You are free to give and accept gifts.

Laguz - Flow, Water, that which Conducts - unseen powers that nourish, shape and connect, the ebb and flow of emotions, careers and relationships.

Mannaz - The Self - a correct relationship to your self is primary, from it flow all possible right relationships with others anf the Divine.

Nauthiz - Constraint, Necessity, Pain - the obstacles we create for ourselves as well as those we encounter in the world around us.

Othila - Separation, Retreat, Inheritance- old skins must be shed, outmoded relationships must be discarded.

Perth - Initiation, something hidden, a secret matter - powerful forces of change are at work.

Raido - Journey, Communication, Union, Reunion - communication with the attunement of something that has two sides, two elements, and the ultimate union at the end of a journey.

Sowelu - Wholeness, Life Force, the Sun's Energy - wholeness, that which our nature requires, the path you must follow.

Teiwaz - the Warrior, Ttw, the Sky God - the battle of the Spiritual Warrior is with the self, stay out of your own way and let the Will of Heaven flow through you.

Thurisaz - Gateway, Place of Non-Action, the God Thor - there is work to be done both inside and outside yourself, the gateway is not to be approached and passed through without contemplation.

Uruz - Strength, Adulthood, the Wild Ox - terminations and new beginnings, the life you have been living has outgrown its form..

Wunjo - Joy, Light - a fruit-bearing branch, travail has ended and you have come to yourself in some regard.