Runes: A Brief History
What are Runes?
Runes are a kind of alphabetic script used in Northern Europe
from the first century well into the Middle Ages. What is unique
about Runes and differentiates them from other scripts is that
in addition to their use as a written alphabet, the runes also
serve as a system of symbols used for magic and divination.
In addition, each letter or Rune has a meaning. While A, B and C
are meaningless phonetics of the English alphabet, the names of
the first three Runes, “fehu”, “uruz”, and “þurisaz” are actual
words meaning “cattle”, “aurochs”, and “giant” respectively.
Runes also have religious and magical significance transforming
the simple act of writing into a magical process! Runes are thus
used for divinatory readings and to create magic spells since
History Of Runes
Norse mythology believes that Odin, the Norse High God of Asir,
impaled upon his own spear, hung from Yggdrasil (the world tree)
for nine day and nights to gain Runic knowledge. When the Runes
appeared below him, he reached out and picked them up and became
very powerful. He later passed this knowledge onto the Vanir
goddess Freya in exchange for the magic of seidr. Heimdall, the
God guarding the Rainbow Bridge taught Runes to mankind.
The Elder Futhark
Runic alphabets first made an appearance among German tribes in
eastern and central Europe. The name “futhark”, corresponds with
the word “alphabet” and is derived from the first six letters in
the Runic sequence. The futhark originally consisted of 24
Runes, beginning with an F and ending with an O. This form of
Runes is known as the Germanic or the Elder Futhark.
The Younger Futhark
As the Runes spread towards Scandinavia, some changes were made
to the alphabet around the eight century. Some Runes were
dropped and others came to represent multiple sounds so that the
Futhark was reduced from 24 Runes to a sequence of 16. This
subsequently came to be known as the Younger Futhark.
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc
Between 400 and 600 A.D., the Angles, Saxons and the Jutes
invaded Britain and brought the Rune with them. The forms of
several Runes changed, notably the Runes for A/O, H, C/K, J, S
and Ng. Also nine Runes were added to the language to compensate
for the extra sounds and several Runes were given different
corresponding letters. The Futhark now expanded to 33 Runes and
came to be known as the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.
The Rise Of Runes
The Younger Futhark was commonly used well into the 17th
century. Runes were found on everything from coins to coffins
and even laymen knew simple Runic spells. Unfortunately, the
Church officially banned Runes along with all magical arts in
1639 as part of the drive to rid Europe of all evil. A large
amount of Runic knowledge was lost in this zealousness.
However, worse was yet to come. Runes were revived by German
scholars during the period following the First World War.
Subsequently, Runes became associated with the Nazi movement and
what began as a genuine folkloric resurgence eventually ended up
being the focus of world disfavor.
It was only in the mid-eighties with the interest in the New Age
movement gathering momentum that Runes regained their current
popularity as both a divinatory system and a tool for