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Ancient Runes Lesson 2

Lesson 2 First Years

History & Origin of Ancient Runes

Like many other forms of Fortune Telling, the origin of Runes is shrouded in mystery. The word Rune is associated with several origins, from several different sources. You have the German word Raunen, which means "To Cut or Carve", the Old Norse word Run which means "Secret" and the Gothic word Runa - meaning "Secret Whisper". Certainly the evidence we have indicates Scandinavian and Germanic routes through links to Norse Mythology. What we now know as the runic alphabet seems to have developed from two distinct sources - one magical, one literate. Pre-runic symbols, or hällristningar, have been found in various Bronze Age rock carvings, primarily in Sweden. Some of these symbols are readily identifiable in the later alphabets, while others represent ideas and concepts which were incorporated into the names of the runes (sun, horse, etc.). The exact meanings of these sigils are now lost to us, as is their original purpose, but they are believed to have been used for divination or lot-casting, and it is fairly certain that they contributed to the magical function of the later runic alphabets.

There is some debate over the origin of the "alphabet" aspect of the runes. Cases have been made for both Latin and Greek derivation, and several scholars are once again arguing in favour of both these theories. However, the strongest evidence still seems to point to a North Italic origin. The parallels between the two alphabets are too close to be ignored, particularly in the forms of the letters, as well as in the variable direction of the writing, and certain structural and even symbolic characteristics. This would also explain why so many of the runes resemble Roman letters, since both Italic and Latin scripts are derived from the Etruscan alphabet (itself a branch of the Western Greek family of alphabets). This theory would place the original creation of the futhark sometime before the 1st. century c.e., when the Italic scripts were absorbed and replaced by the Latin alphabet. Linguistic and phoenetic analysis points to an even earlier inception date, perhaps as far back as 200 b.c.e.

When the northern tribes began integrating the Italic alphabets into their own symbolic system, they gave the letters names relating to all aspects of their secular and religious lives, thus transforming their simple pictographs into a magical alphabet which could be used for talismans, magical inscriptions and divination.


1. What does the German word Raunen meant?

2. What two distinct sources has the runic alphabet developed?

3. What is believed to have been used for Divination or lot-casting?

4. Both the Italic and Latin scripts are derived from what alphabet?

5. When is the earliest inception date of the futhark?

a. The northern tribes transformed their pictographs into what?

b. What could it be used for?

Don't forget, the first student to send me the correct answer to the Trivia question will receive an extra 10pts. for their house.
Assignments will be due on:

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