Runes can conjure up ideas of magic scrolls, Tolkein, and elf warriors when you think of them. But runes are more than simply the stuff of fancy literature. On old rock sculptures in Scandinavia and other parts of the world, they can be seen in great numbers and date back thousands of years.
24 runes make up the Elder Futhark rune set. At least that is what several archaeologists and historians have been able to discover thus far. The earliest recovered Elder Futhark artifacts come from the early Migration Era of European history, which took place between the fourth and fifth century AD. On the Kylver Stone from Gotland, it was discovered in Sweden.
Elder Futhark Runes and Their Meanings
The idea that runes are merely letters from another language’s alphabet is a popular one. Although Elder Futhark is an ancient Germanic alphabet, it is much more than that.
Learn more about the meaning of each rune, and how to utilize them in rituals and divination by reading on to find out how the runes came to be. Because so little is known about these runes, researchers and historians can’t even agree on the precise interpretation of many of them. The Elder Futhark’s runes 24 are as follows, according to the runestones:
Stock Is Represented By FEHU
It stands for plenty, prosperity, success, security, and fertility. The word “cattle” is Fehu. This could indicate prosperity if you had cattle (or if your livestock were performing well).
A Bull Is Symbolized By URUZ
It stands for power, tenacity, bravery, unbridled potential, and freedom. Read about the symbolism, origins and mystical applications of Uruz in our detailed article.
A Thorn Is Symbolized By THURISAZ
Reaction, defense, conflict, catharsis, and regeneration are represented by it. There are several translations of Thurisaz. It translates to “giant” in the Old Norse language. However, it translates as “thorn” in Old English. In terms of divination, it portends a significant shift or, occasionally, peril. Similar to the lightning that Thor commands with Mjolnir, it symbolizes strength and disruptive energy that causes everything to tremble.
An Estuary is represented By ANSUZ
It stands for the Mouth, Understanding, Inspiration, and Communication. The word “god” is Ansuz. Although it translates to “estuary” in the Old Norse rune poetry, which is the place where a body of freshwater meets the ocean. Similarly, this rune represents the awakening that frequently comes before intense spiritual effort and can aid in the release of trapped energy.
A Wagon Is Represented By RAIDO (or RAIDHO)
It stands for movement, tempo, spontaneity, evolution, and choices. It symbolizes spiritual progress following the “night of the soul” or a profound spiritual awakening. Practically speaking, it’s a choice to continue on your trip while taking a certain activity. However, it might also be a literal representation of travel.
KENNAZ Stands For A Torch
It stands for vitality, vision, inspiration, and creativity. In essence, it denotes illuminating something or initiating the manifestation of something. The inner light or sense of purpose inside oneself is what propels one ahead. Without it, we have the feeling of stumbling through the night.
GEBO Stands For A Gift
It stands for harmony, reciprocity, partnership, generosity, and relationships. It represents the energy that arises when gifts are exchanged as well as the ability of appreciation to inspire more giving. A union occurs at that very instant, much as when a gift is given from one person to another since the rune is a crossroads consisting of two branches that are crossing one another. It acts as a reminder to be appreciative and that there is an energy exchange in every connection. It could also represent the necessity for spiritual or energy equilibrium when cast.
WUNJO stands for Joy
It represents the powerful joyful expansion when everything aligns and the atmosphere is energized. It also stands for times of joy, contentment, and success.
Hail Is Symbolized By HAGALAZ
It stands for nature, wrath, being put to the test, and overcoming challenges. Some people think it’s intense like fury, while others think it’s a test and maybe a metaphor for the night of the soul. This can mean it’s time for shadow work depending on where you are in your spiritual path. Or, that pausing to think about things from a different angle before moving on is a good idea. It symbolizes the entry into the underworld and the first rune in the next series.
The Needed symbol is NAUTHIZ
It stands for Confrontation, Willpower, Endurance, and Self-Reliance. It represents a period when you are not attending to your needs or when you are upset because they are not being satisfied. You alone will be able to identify it. It is a sign to consider what needs are not being satisfied and what internal work needs to be done. It could also represent your fortitude amid emotional upheaval and commitment to go on along the road.
ISA Stands For Ice
It stands for clarity, stasis, difficulties, introspection, and waiting and watching. When that happens, you find yourself stuck in a rut. According to a project, goal, or connection, this might refer to anything spiritually or more physically. It has been placed on hold, therefore it’s time to go inside, according to this sign.
JERA Is A Symbol Of The Year
It stands for cycles, accomplishment, transformation, harvest, and reaping rewards. The period when you can enjoy the results of your labor, as opposed to Isa, is represented by this. The cycle or process of everything serves as a reminder of this.
EIHWAZ Is A Symbol For A Yew Tree
It stands for harmony, illumination, death, and the world tree. The death of obsolete ideas, as well as the possibility of healing and transformation that may come through knowledge, have all been associated with the tree in numerous civilizations.
The Symbol For Perth Is A Dice Cup
It stands for fate, chance, enigma, destiny, and secrets. The basic idea is that once you are aware of your current fate, it is up to you to choose how to proceed. Do you continue along the road that will get you there, or do you change your course to try to influence the outcome?
ALGIZ Stands For Elk
It stands for guardianship, protection, defense, instinct, and teamwork. This rune serves as a reminder to be strong in difficult situations. It could also surface when you want more assistance from the gods to overcome hardship.
Read our deep dive into the meaning and origins of the Algiz Rune.
SOWILO Is A Symbol Of The Sun
It stands for cleansing, wholeness, health, honor, and resources. This rune offers warmth and healing energy to help you get past a night of the soul and toward your purpose if you’ve been battling with that.
The Deity Tyr Is Represented By TIWAZ
It stands for battle, justice, leadership, logic, and masculinity. It can imply that you need to rediscover your strength or purpose and take charge of your destiny.
The Birch Tree Is Symbolized By BERKANA
It stands for birth, healing, regeneration, femininity, and fertility. Berkana, in contrast to certain other runes, denotes a delicate rebirth or rejuvenation. It can imply that change, development, or healing is on the horizon or necessary. It also stands for the deliberate choice to bring something to the physical world.
EHWAZ Is A Horse Symbol
This symbol enables the transmission of messages and other forms of communication, as well as the movement of individuals between other states or worlds. It stands for movement, progress, faith, and change.
MANNAZ Is A Symbol Of Humanity
It stands for uniqueness, friendship, society, teamwork, and assistance. It stands for your social network and how you interact with it. If you’ve been isolating yourself, you might need to do more of it. It also exemplifies the ideal relationship: one characterized by mutual respect, clear boundaries, and caring for both the self and the other.
LAGUZ Is A Symbol Of Water
It stands for intuition, feelings, flow, and renewal, as well as hopes, dreams, and fears. In comparison to a calm stream, it is more like the might of a waterfall or the ocean. Having said that, the water’s constant flow ultimately wears away even the boulders in the stream. It can assist you in navigating and utilizing the energies so that you can bring about your desired outcome.
INGUZ Is A Symbol For A Seed
It stands for ambition, development, change, common sense, and the heart (Home). It can aid in the process of spiritual or emotional recovery. Additionally, it can stand in for the seed that is hidden and being nourished before it sprouts.
OTHALA Is The Symbol For Inheritance
It stands for heritage, possessions, experience, value, and heritage. It signifies the conclusion of one cycle and the start of another. It also represents the ensuing spiritual awakening and change.
DAGAZ Stands In For Dawn
It stands for Awakening, Confidence, Enlightenment, Completion, and Hope. It stands for the value of individuals close to you, the need for a solid foundation upon which to grow, and your ties to the past.
History And Beliefs Of The Elder Futhark Runes
In the seventh century B.C., the Latin alphabet was first written on a cloak button. In contrast, the elder futhark runic alphabet is significantly more recent. As far back as 150 AD, we have discovered runic inscriptions. The alphabet was widely embraced by Germanic societies in the first and second centuries AD.
Another fascinating detail is that the rune symbol is called “futhark.” The first six letters of the runic alphabet—f, u, a, r, and k—are the reason it is so well-known.
Futhark comes in three main varieties:
- Elder Futhark, which had 24 characters and was in use from 100 to 800 AD;
- It was used between the eighth and twelfth centuries and had 16 characters (language was growing more complex at the time).
- 33 characters made up medieval (Anglo-Saxon) Futhorc, which was mostly utilized in England during the Viking Age (1100 to 1500 AD).
The rise of trade and human connection brought forth by the Vikings rune and meanings has greatly enhanced the need for spoken and written language.
The Latin alphabet that we use today replaced the Elder Futhark Rune Alphabet as Christianity gained prominence. Even though the Christian church forbade the use of runes, they never completely disappeared. Why is this so? Before being utilized for writing, rune symbols were employed for mystical purposes. On rock carvings that date back 17,000 years, several pre-runic symbols (such as the sun wheel) have been discovered. The runic alphabet eventually included some of these pre-runic characters.
To guarantee a departed loved one’s safe passage to the hereafter, many Norse rune carvings were put on rocks, weapons, jewelry, and tombs.
Therefore, these once rune meanings switched to the Latin alphabet, however between 700 and 1100 AD they continued to employ the runic alphabet for ceremonial purposes and artistic purposes.
The applications of each alphabet vary. The elder Futhark was well-known and frequently circulated. Various Viking settlements and Scandinavian countries have used it. On the other hand, Elder Futhark runes were an exclusive and mysterious man. For reference, over 3,000 inscriptions of Younger Futhark have been found. Only around 350 have been found of Elder Futhark.
Vikings Rune Symbols And Meanings
In addition to the runic alphabet, the Viking culture also had its own set of runes that stood in for various things and symbols. They were carved or inscribed on various items to access their power, and they were employed for a variety of purposes, such as protection or direction. To offer oneself power and defense during combat, you can, for instance, engrave a symbol associated with protection onto your blade.
A rune itself, the world tree of life is where Odin went to find wisdom and truth. Given that it links everything to life and death, it is regarded as one of the most potent runes in Viking history. It parallels the cycle of life, in which we go through life, die, and then come back to life again.
For a deep dive into the Viking Yggdrasil symbol, see our detailed article.
Valknut, Or Odin’s Knot
As a God, one of Odin’s duties is to lead the souls of the deceased into the realm of the afterlife. Odin’s Knot represents a soul’s passage between life and death in this way. This emblem can occasionally be seen alongside images of horses and wolves on antique urns. Since these creatures are connected to Odin, academics surmised that this emblem represented a safe transition for the deceased into the afterlife.
Aegishjalmur, Helm Of Awe
Aegir’s helmet is called Aegishjalmur. The emblem of Aegir, the Norse god of the sea, is a circle with eight tridents. According to legend, everyone who saw it was paralyzed by terror and hence easy prey.
Skuld’s Net In The Web Of Wyrd
The Web of Wyrd represented a significant idea even though it wasn’t one of the most well-known Nordic runes and symbols. It stood for how interwoven the past, present, and future are. The rune’s nine staves stand in for the endless possibilities that the past, present, and future have.
Horns of Odin: Triskelion
A Mead of Poetry allegedly existed, and the giants had it. The blood of Kvasir, the smartest person to ever live, was used to create the elixir. It was taken from these giants by Odin, who then gave it to the gods before giving it to people.
Find out more in our detailed article on Triskelion and The Horns of Odin
Runes of Elder Futhark: The Troll Cross
Swedish legend is largely responsible for the Troll Cross. The Elder Futhark’s conventional version of the Odal/Othala rune would serve as a sign of protection from black magic and its precursors. If you want to know more about the Origin of the Othala rune, then read our detailed article.
They were employed by Viking heroes both symbolically and practically. A raven was kept by Floki on their Viking ships to explore the region and fly toward shore, according to the legend that had been passed down through the years. That is how they learned about Iceland.
More Background On Rune Meaning
Runes, in contrast to contemporary alphabets, contain symbolic meanings and are connected to energies that endure through time, making them just as applicable now as they were thousands of years ago. Rune names interpretations vary widely and are frequently based on the reader’s working assumptions and prior experiences.
There are three components to each rune:
- The shape’s meaning, the sign itself
- The world’s sound and value, combined with the name and meaning
- The spirit and life force that the rune represents.
The letters of the runic alphabet are known as runes. Germanic people with Vikings had developed this system of writing in the 1st or 2nd Century AD. The 24 runes are divided into three groups of eight runes each, known as a letter (plural aett), or “families.” Fehu, Hagalaz, and Tiwaz, often known as the Mother Runes, are the initial runes of each of the three aettir.
The Norse civilization was distinct in that it valued oral communication over written expression. Because of this, sagas were transmitted orally. The Vikings spoke Old Norse orally. There are thousands of runestones scattered across the Scandinavian countryside as evidence that the runic script was widely recognized, although its primary use was for memorial reasons. Norse runes and meanings were employed for more than only inscribed messages on runestones. They were also employed commercially. The runic writings typically contained jokes, love messages, prayers, humor, and other expressions.
Utilizing Elder Futhark Viking Runes On Your Own
It’s important to recognize that rune meanings are frequently metaphorical and not always literal when interpreting them. Drawing an ox, for instance, which is pronounced “ooo-ooze,” doesn’t always relate to the animal but might also represent toughness or endurance.
I advise choosing a new rune every day and carrying it with you or using it as a meditation tool when learning about runes and their meanings. You will have spent a day with each rune if you devote all of your attention to one rune every day for slightly over three weeks. It’s critical to pay attention to your feelings about each rune and to allow your intuition to have some influence.
Rune symbols can start to appear in your daily life as well. This is advantageous! The cosmos is attempting to get your attention! If you need to perform this procedure more than once, don’t be concerned. While you’re still learning, be kind to yourself; it should be enjoyable.
How to Use Rune Activation
It’s time to activate your rune after you’ve generated it. You can make this as straightforward or complex as you like. The quickest approach to use your rune is to concentrate while picturing the outcome. It is advised to wrap it in fabric and keep it hidden from light for a while so that its power can grow and intensify.
When it is unwrapped, you can blow on it to give it life, lay it in incense smoke, bathe it with essential oils, or leave it where it will be exposed to moonlight all night. You can now select how to end the ritual after it has been initiated. Put it in a location you’ll regularly visit.
Today’s article provided an overview of every Elder Futhark rune, including some methods to discover more about who you are and your spiritual journey using the runes on your own. As you can see, many runes, both ancient and modern, have symbolic or abstract meanings. Because of this, there are varying, often contradicting, opinions concerning the meanings of particular runes. If you liked reading it, you will probably enjoy reading our extensive article on Norse Viking Symbols.