Apprentice Pages

What are runes anyway?

Runes. Hmmm. Complex subject. They're a bit like chess, really. Five minutes to learn, a few years to use properly, a lifetime to master.

In their most basic description they are a series of marks made out of straight lines. There can be from 16 to 33 runes but the most common number is 24. They have been used for many different purposes, from writing to talismans, from protective amulets to representing whole words. The runes are quite a big subject, there is nothing in the modern day world which equates to their variation in use. The first step is finding out if they are really for you. Step two is finding information and exploring possibilities. Step three is branching out on your own. This rune page should give you the basics. The novice and advanced pages should run on from this, giving a complete begining to this subject.

So, where to start. The runic alphabet is called the FUTHARK (or FUTHORK,(Anglo Saxon version)) after it's first six letters. (Yes I know there's seven, the 'th' counts as one sound.) This is the most widely used Germanic alphabet, containing 24 runes. This is the one I will refer to most in these pages, where other ones are mentioned, they will be refered to by name.

The 24 runes are split into 3 groups of eight runes, called AETTIR, each named after a Norse deity (Aettir = 'families', this word can also have variant spellings, so don't worry if someone else spells it differently). Although this makes them easier to learn, no - one knows why this is. The first AETT will be linked to this page, the other two on the Novice and Advanced pages. They don't get harder to learn, it's just that theres a lot of information and it's easier to split it up into sections.
They are most associated with the Viking period in history. The Vikings used them as a written script and as protective markers on weapons, tools and gravestones. Indeed, there are over 2000 stones in Sweden alone with runic writing on them. (Thats a lot of runes!)
Contrary to popular belief, the runes actually existed before the Viking culture, (between the 3rd and 10th Centuries) There is one artefact in particular which dates to the 3 -4th Century BC. The story of it is nice and easy to remember: A helmet (Now called the NEGAU HELMET) was found on the Austro - Yugoslav border in 1812. It dated to the 4th Century BC and had a mix of latin letters and runes in an inscription around the brim. The inscription has been translated as being a dedication to a War God of the period. This means that runes where in use as a complete lettering system at least as early as this. There have been many discussions about where the runes originated from, the most widely accepted theory nowadays is that they came from the Etruscan written language, witha little bit of roman lettering mixed in for good measure. The Etruscans where the last people to rule Rome as Kings before the invention of the Senate and the Caesars. Interesting stuff, Eh?!

The runes have many uses and some things which they cannot be used for. They cannot tell the future, give you the name of who is going out with whom or tell you how much money someone has. This may confuse some people with them not being able to tell the future. They will tell you what you need to know in your life right now They are nothing to be frightened of and are nothing to do with the occult.

So why are runes so complicated? Take the first rune as an example, It translated as the letter 'f', has the name of 'feoh'(there are also variations on the spelling) and the meaning of 'material wealth' or 'possesions'. So a carver, wanting to write the word 'possessions' in the middle of his text, may carve the rune of material wealth to represent the idea rather than writing 'material wealth'. Essentially, the runes can stand for a single letter or a concept when they are written on an object. There are examples of swords from the Viking period which have a rune on them representing 't' or 'the warrior'(can also mean the star or the guide, I told you it was confusing!). With the connotations of strength, greatness in battle and survival, the rune surely means this instead of (as well as) the letter 't' in this circumstance.
There are many different variations of runic alphabets. The one I will be dealing with the most is the germanic or elder futhark. It does translate into English letters, one of the first things I learned was to write in runic (top to bottom, right to left) This provided a foothold when I came to learn the meanings of the runes, as I already knew the shapes off by heart. The alphabet below should help you get started and recognise what is a rune and what isn't. (although there are some changes in other alphabets)

Ahem... ok, so I haven't mastered putting pictures on here yet. Take heart, they'll be here soon!


Don't worry it's not too hard, it's just to check if youv'e been reading the words or just had this on your screen as an interesting screensaver.
1. Can you use curves when writing runes?
2.What is the name of the runic alphabet?
3. In which country are the most rune stones?
4. Where and in what year was the Negau helmet found?
5.What is the name for a group of 8 runes?

See. I told you not to worry about it. Please don't E - Mail me with the answers, check them yourself!

Please note, I can't seem to fit all of the information on each rune onto this page, so I am in the process of creating a page for each rune. Much better that way as I can add to each individual page without fear of running out of space! Please find links at the bottom!

- This should give you words connected with this to look up in books, on the internet or in dictionaries


Please look these up on the book reviews page (link at bottom), for more information on how good they are, publisher, ISBN and price information (if I have it). In short, enough information to track down a copy for yourself.

Arcarti, K. (A beginners guide) Runes
Blum, R. The New Book of Runes
Pennick, N. The Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes

Novice Page
Book reviews
Main Page - (help I want to get out!)
First rune - Fehu
Second rune - Uruz
Third rune - Thurisaz
Fourth rune - Ansuz
Fifth rune - Raido
Sixth rune - Kano
Seventh rune - Gifu
Eighth rune - Wunjo