Have you ever wondered where Viking Runes came from? Well, if you have, we have decided to come up with an article that will clarify a majority of the questions you have about the Runic alphabet. Keep reading and learn about these ancient Icelandic symbols, their magical abilities and their mythological foundations.
Simply put, Viking Runes are characters (much like the characters in the English alphabet) that make up the ancient Norse system of writing. The system was used by several Ger manic communities before the Latin alphabet was created. Before the emergence of the Latin alphabet, Nordic runes were the dominant form of writing in Northern, Central, and Western Europe.
The exact origin of the Runic alphabet, however, has been challenged, with different historians coming up with different theories about the source and ancestry. Archeological findings have nevertheless been found to date as far back as 150 AD and the most common theory is that Viking runes were an evolution of relic Italic epigraphs adopted by Germanic communities who travelled South to pillage and take over smaller communities.
What Are Norse Runes
According to most historians and linguists, the word ‘Rune’ directly translates to ‘Mystery’, ‘Secret’, or ‘Whisper’. The Norse runes were believed to be a divine form of reading system issued to the Vikings by the gods themselves; the Vikings believed that the reading system enabled them to gain the power of Odin himself and gain insight into certain mysteries of life. Runes would be inscribed into various materials such as wood, stone, and metallic objects.
A lot of people don’t know this, but there are several versions of the runic alphabet but the most common form is the Germanic runic alphabet, also known as the ‘Elder Futhark’. The Elder Futhark was a collection of 24 runes divided into three groups of eight symbols each; the first six letters of the collection spell ‘futhark’ in English, which is where the Runic alphabet got its name.
In time, the Runic alphabet was adapted in most parts of Europe, but in order to be able to write Anglo-Saxon English, more symbols had to be adopted, which eventually brought the number of symbols in the alphabet to 33. This updated version of the Norse alphabet was known as the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.
A similar adaptation of the Elder Futhark is the Scandinavian Futhark, which was believed to have been used in Scandinavia in the 17th century. All variations of Nordic runes reflect the evolution of language and writing as people in Europe moved from region to region over the years. Also note that as much as each rune is a distinct letter of the alphabet, some runes also held a symbolic meaning that was very significant to the people using the Runic alphabet. Some of these symbols still hold meaning today, which is quite amazing.
Let’s have a look at some of these symbolic meanings in the Elder Futhark:
Fehu, F, could either mean Cattle or Wealth or the color Green.
Uruz, U, could mean Wild Ox or the color Orange.
Ansuz, A, could mean Mouth or the color Purple.
Raidho, R, could mean Chariot or Wagon.
Kenaz, K, could mean Torch or Beacon.
Most people assume that Nordic runes were only used for communication and writing but the truth is that Viking runes were also used for religious purposes and were believed to have the power to guide a person through life’s problems and help predict what the future held. Note, however, that Norse runes were not used for ‘fortune-telling’ and were not expected to tell exactly what would happen. Rather Nordic runes were used to give variables and offer suggestions of how one could conduct themselves for the best possible outcome in different situations. Therefore, runes were used to point one to the right direction, but without filling in on the exact details.
Runic readers have often admitted that the future isn’t rigid, it isn’t fixed, and individuals have the freedom and flexibility to make their own decisions and choose their own path. In other words, if you don’t like the prediction made by the runes, you have the power to choose a different path and change the outcome of the predicted future. Runes therefore gave the old Viking tribes the luxury of using their intuition, taking control of their lives, and eventually determining their own fate.
The continued use and practice of Nordic writing throughout the better part of a millennium adds to their aestheticism and mysticism. In the olden times, runes would be carved meticulously on doorways, stone sculptures, weapons, and relics to invoke their magical power and draw blessing and protection to the owner or the community at large. This runic alphabet therefore provided more power than any language, including Latin and English, could ever provide, which is why runes still held such significance even after the Viking-age was over.
For the longest time, historians and archeologists have been fascinated by the runic alphabet and runic meanings. Some runes have even been discovered on ancient Christian relics and artefacts such as tombstones and temple ruins. Since runes were a gift from the gods of Nordic mythology, their manifestation in Christian history suggests that there was once a happy coexistence between the two systems of belief. The strongest evidence of this being the Celtic Coptic Church established by St. Patrick in 4th Century Ireland.
Nowadays, runes are mostly carved into jewelry pieces and etched into people’s bodies in the form of tattoos, but they still hold just as much significance as they did in the 3rd Century. The magical properties of the Viking runes are a representation of the brimming symbolism of Nordic mythical entities and the powerful qualities of the Norse gods of old.
- Swan, Toril. Language Change and Language Structure: Older Germanic Languages in a Comparative Perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994. Print.
- Karasavvas, Theodoros. Objects with Viking Rune Inscriptions Unearthed in Denmark’s Oldest Town. 17th January, 2018: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/objects-viking-rune-inscriptions-unearthed-denmark-s-oldest-town-009449
- The Physic Well. About Runes: The Alphabet of Mystery. May 2018. http://www.thepsychicwell.com/metaphysics/am-i-psychic/about-runes-the-alphabet-of-mystery/
- Yanko, Xander. Runes: An Introductory Guide to the Elder Futhark. 2016. Print.
- Omniglot. Anglo-Saxon Runes. May 2018. https://www.omniglot.com/writing/futhorc.htm
- The Viking Rune. Younger Futhark: Rune Names and Rune Meanings. May 2018. http://www.vikingrune.com/2008/11/younger-futhark-runes/
- Sunny Way. Runes, Alphabet of Mystery: Meaning of Runes. May 2018. http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/meanings.html
- Melville, Francis. The Book of Runes: Read the Secrets in the Language of the Stones. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 2003. Print.
- Saint Peter and Saint Paul Coptic Orthodox Church, Santa Monica, California U.S.A. A Historic Connection Between the Celtic Church and The Coptic Church. 10th August 2005. http://www.virginmarymtl.org/old_site/Connection%20Between%20Celtic%20Church%20&%20%20Coptic%20Church.htm\
 Swan, Toril. Language Change and Language Structure: Older Germanic Languages in a Comparative Perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994. Print.
 Karasavvas, Theodoros. Objects with Viking Rune Inscriptions Unearthed in Denmark’s Oldest Town. 17th January, 2018
 The Physic Well. About Runes: The Alphabet of Mystery. May 2018.
 Yanko, Xander. Runes: An Introductory Guide to the Elder Futhark. 2016. Print.
 Omniglot. Anglo-Saxon Runes. May 2018.
 The Viking Rune. Younger Futhark: Rune Names and Rune Meanings. May 2018.
 Sunny Way. Runes, Alphabet of Mystery: Meaning of Runes. May 2018.
 Melville, Francis. The Book of Runes: Read the Secrets in the Language of the Stones. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 2003. Print.
 Saint Peter and Saint Paul Coptic Orthodox Church, Santa Monica, California U.S.A. A Historic Connection Between The Celtic Church and The Coptic Church. 10th August 2005.