Origins of the Runes

The origins of the runic shapes themselves are from the bronze age and were ideographs used by their priest or magicians. They were abstract graphic expressions of the innermost contents of their religious and magical teachings.

The origins of the runic systems we know today are from the folklore of the Germanic, Gothic, Indo-European and Nordic tribes, the similar folklore behind the mysteries and their meanings are evident in all the cultures mentioned.

It was said that the god Odin hung from the tree of Yggdrasill for nine nights, as a form of self sacrifice. As he approached and sank into the realm of death, he received the secrets of the multiverse (i.e. the runes themselves). In a flash of inspiration he returned from that realm and knew it was his function to teach the runes to certain followers (i.e. the gods Tyr/Thor and Freya) in order to bring wider consciousness, wisdom, magic, poetry and inspiration to Midhgardhr and to all the other worlds.

The runic system may have been developed as early as 200BCE. It is certain that the magio-religious practices of the ancient Germanic priesthood were aided by the use of many runic signs.

There are three different types of runic tables (i.e. Futharks), starting with the Germanic futhark, known as the Elder futhark, which has 24 staves (i.e. runes). This system was mostly used by the Germanic tribes. As the tribes migrated and traded with other cultures we find that the Anglo-Saxon and Younger futharks emerged from the Elder futhark. The main difference between these futharks is in the number of staves represented in each one, the Anglo-Saxon has 33 staves, whilst the Younger futhark has on;y 18 staves. It is also noted that all these cultures have the same gods (i.e. Odhinn – old Germanic, Odin – Nordic and Woden or Wodan – old English/Anglo-Saxon:this pre-dates Christian Saxons), although his name was pronounced differently.

These futharks were used not only as a writing system by these cultures, they also employed their uses in the art of divination and in pagan or magical rites; there are many inscriptions across the European continent to support this.

Elder Futhark

Elder futhark: This is known to be the oldest of the three futharks and is illustrated below with its modern phonetic value.

Saxon Futhark

Anglo-Saxon/Frisian futhark: This futhark is not as old as the Elder Futhark, but pre-dates the Younger futhark.

Younger Futhark

Younger futhark: The Danish futhark originates roughly about 600 C.E., when the Viking age dawned, being institutionalised throughout the Nordic/ Scandinavian lands.

Danish Futhark

Danish Futhark

Swedish Futhark

Swedish Futhark

Norwegian Futhark

Norwegian Futhark

Source: Rune Lore and their modern meanings by Njall Thorenson, DASmag Summer 1996

This entry was posted in 9th Century History. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.