Norse Runes Meaning, Origin and Symbolism

The first writing systems developed and used by the Nordics and other Germans were runic letters. Norse Runes play the role of letters, but as far as the terms we understand today, they are not just letters.

Norse Runes are ancient alphabet that originated in the Germanic & Scandinavian countries. Pagans use it for magic and divination, and they follow a pagan path. It is an ideogram or pictograph of a certain cosmological principle or power.

Although their meaning may be somewhat obscure at times, most people who use Norse runes find that the best way to incorporate them into divination is to ask a specific question based on your current situation.

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What is the Origin and Meaning of the Norse Runes?

When runologists debated many details of the historical origins of runes writing, they have reached a broad consensus on the overall outline.

What is the Origin and Meaning of the Norse Runes
What is the Origin and Meaning of the Norse Runes?

Presumably, these runes came from one of the many old italic letters used by the Mediterranean people who lived in the southern Germanic tribe in the first century AD.

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The earliest rune inscriptions we know were discovered on the Merdorf brooch made in Northern Germany around 50 AD.

However, the inscription is very vague, and scholars are divided on whether the letter is rune or roman.

The earliest clear rune inscriptions appeared on the Vimose comb of Vimose in Denmark and the spearhead of Øvre Stabu in southern Norway, both of which can be traced back to 160 AD.

The entire carving of futhark (letters) first appeared on the Kylver stone in Gotland, Sweden, dating back about 400 AD.

It is believed in Norse legends that the God Odin pierced his heart with the spear and hung nine days and nights on the world tree Yggdrasil to understand the meaning of the runes.

The runes are symbols from the Well of Urd (the source of destiny), and the Norns used these runes to transport fate to the trunks and branches of Igdracil, and extend to nine worlds among the branches.

Odin paid great pain and adventure for himself because he knew that the runes conveyed deep meanings, and if he could understand their meanings, he would gain deep wisdom and strength.

Also, a noted author Georges Dumezil in his book Gods of the Ancient Northman has mentioned that

“If Odin is the first and always the highest magician, then we will realize that no matter how new it is now, these runes will fall under his control.”

New and particularly effective tools for magic works, by definition, will become an integral part of his work. Odin could have been a strong supporter of this secret and secret knowledge.

Before this, the name of knowledge became the technical name of phonetic and magic signs from the Alps or elsewhere, but it did not lose its previous meaning.

Therefore, we see from this story how the Norse saw runes not only as letters but also had a metaphysical and even magical essence. Since at least the first century, Norse and other Germanic people have written in runes.

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On the contrary, runes are very important inscriptions. They can be carved on rune stones to commemorate ancestors and mark the hero’s grave.

Because of their inherent meaning, they can be used as a means of communication between nature and the supernatural, and therefore as a magic weapon for protection or success.

Carved on any object, it can be cast and decrypted to discern the present or predict the future. Runes are usually not carved on kraft paper or parchment paper but are carved on wood, bones, or stones, and therefore have corners.

Although there is evidence that most Norses’ can read runes at least at a basic level, for them, the true research and understanding of these signs are suitable for the pursuit of the gods.

What is the Folklore or Legend behind Norse Ruins?

Although you don’t need to have Norse descent to use the runes, if you understand the myths and history of the Germanic people, you will have a better understanding of the symbols and their meaning.

What is the Folklore or Legend behind Norse Ruins
What is the Folklore or Legend behind Norse Ruins?

This way, you can interpret these runes in the context where you need to read.

However, from the perspective of the ancient Germanic people themselves, these runes are not as trivial as the ancient italic alphabet.

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Runes have never been “invented”, but are eternal and existing forces, Odin himself discovered them through a huge test, as mentioned in Havamal that:

I know that I hung

On the wind-blasted tree

All of nights nine,

Pierced by my spear

And given to Odin,

Myself sacrificed to myself

On that pole

Of which none know

Where its roots run.

No aid I received,

Not even a sip from the horn.

Peering down,

I took up the runes

Screaming I grasped them

Then I fell back from there

Although there are no records of Norse runes writing on the paper, thousands of carved runes are scattered in Northern Europe and other regions.

There is also detailed folklore stating that the tree from which Odin hung himself must be Yggdrasil, the world tree at the center of the Germanic universe, with nine worlds in its branches and roots.

Right under the tree of the world is the “Ude-Well”, which is an incredible source of wisdom. The rune body seems to have its original residence in its waters.

This folklore is taken from another Old Norse Poem, in the Voluspa which mentions:

There stands an ash called Yggdrasil,

A mighty tree showered in white hail.

From there come the dews that fall in the valleys.

It stands evergreen above Urd’s Well.

From there come maidens, very wise,

Three from the lake that stands beneath the pole.

One is called Urd, another Verdandi,

Skuld the third; they carve into the tree

The lives and fates of children.

These three “maidens” are the Norns, and their carvings must be composed of runes. Therefore, we have a clear connection between the Urd well, runes, and magic-in in this case, the Norns can sculpt the fate of all living things.

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Presumably, then, after Odin discovered the runes by sacrificing himself and staring at the water of the Udejing while fasting for nine days, it was he who gave the runes to the first human rune masters.

His paradigm sacrifice was likely to be symbolically imitated at the initiation ceremonies, where the candidate ideally learned the Norse runes.

What is the Significance of the Runic Philosophy?

Each rune represents a phoneme-the smallest sound unit in a language, such as “t”, “s”, “r”, etc. Therefore, the phonemes are converted into visual form.

What is the Significance of the Runic Philosophy
What is the Significance of the Runic Philosophy?

Most modern linguists like George Trager, Edward Sapir have mentioned this in their researches.

They believe that the relationship between what is referred to (the specific reality that a word refers to) and the one that is referred to (the sound used to utter the word) are arbitrary.

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However, a few linguists have accepted an opposite theory called “phonological semantics”: in fact, there is a meaningful connection between the sounds that make up a word and the meaning of the word.

In other words, the phoneme itself has inherent meaning. For example, the meaning of the word “thorn” derives largely from the combination of phonemes “th”, “o”, “r” and “n”.

We have noticed that the word “rune” is second only to “letter”, and its main meaning is “secret” or “mystery”, which is the mysterious power of the phoneme itself.

Therefore, Norse runes are not only a means of promoting communication between two or more human beings. They are intrinsically meaningful symbols that can be read and understood by at least some non-humans.

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They can promote communication between humans and the invisible forces that give life to the visible world, thereby providing a foundation for many magical behaviors.

What is the Runic Elder Futhark?

The runic letters futharks (or futhorks), based on the first six letters of Elder Futhark, roughly correspond to our F, U, Th, A, R, and K.

What is the Runic Elder Futhark
What is the Runic Elder Futhark?

Appeared on the Kylver Stone in Gotland, Sweden, the date can be traced back to the beginning of the migration era (about 400 years).

As Norse spread across Europe, the form and meaning of many runes changed, resulting in new letter-forms.

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For example, the Futhorcs of the Anglo-Saxons contains 33 Norse runes. There are other variants there, including Turkish and Hungarian runes, Scandinavian Futhark, and Etruscan letters.

Just like reading tarot cards, rune divination is not “telling the future”. Instead, rune projection should be regarded as a guiding tool, work with the subconscious mind, and focus on the problems that may exist in your mind.

Some people think that the choices made within the Norse runes drawn are not completely random, but the choices made by your subconscious mind.

Others believe that this is the answer provided by God to confirm everything we already know in our hearts.

The Symbolism of 24 Elder Futharks

2UruzaurochsUstrength of will
4Ansuzan Aesir godAprosperity
5Raidhojourney on horsebackRmovement, growth
6KaunanulcerKmortality, pain
8WunjojoyWjoy, ecstasy
9HagalazhailHdestruction, chaos
10NaudhizneedNunfulfilled desire
12JerayearJharvest, reward
13EihwazyewIstrength, stability
14PerthutreePSexuality, dance
15AlgizprotectionZprotection from enemies
16SowilosunSsuccess, solace
17TiwazThe god tiwazTvictory, honor
18BerkananbirchBfertility, growth
19EhwazhorseEtrust, faith
22IngwazThe god ingwazNgfertilization
23OthalanInheritanceOheritage , nobility
24DagazDayDhope, happiness
Symbolism of 24 Elder Futharks

Younger Futharks

Younger Futhark has only 16 runes, not because the language is getting simpler, but because it is getting more complicated.

Younger Futhark
Younger Futhark

Phonologically, the young Futhark’s runes are working double to cover the changes that make the tongue of the Nordic different from that of other Germans.

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The young Futhark can be further divided into various styles, including Norse runes for “long branches” (Denmark) and “short branches” (Sweden and Norway).

The proliferation of trade and interaction brought about by the Viking era and the increasing demand for writing and literacy skills have led archaeologists to classify thousands of inscriptions in the younger futhark.

While there are only hundreds of inscriptions in Elder Futhark.

Although the prophets and priestess still use Norse runes to perceive the trajectory of the universe, we found many rune inscriptions related to law or trade, or just a man or woman carving their names on personal items.

How can someone make their Norse Runes?

You can certainly buy pre-made runes, but based on the experience of many Norse magicians, there is a tradition of making or changing your runes.

How can someone make their Norse Runes
How can someone make their Norse Runes?

Strictly speaking, this is not necessary, but for some people, it may be best from a magic point of view.

According to Tacitus in his Germanic language, the rune should be made from the wood of any nut tree, including oak, hazel, and perhaps pine or cedar.

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It is also a common practice to dye Norse runes into the red to symbolize blood.

According to Tacitus, the challenge to the Norse runes was to pour the runes on a white linen cloth and then put them away while gazing at the heaven above.

How can someone read and write the Norse runes?

Indeed there are many mysterious ways in which one can get a hold of reading or writing these Norse runes.

How can someone read and write the Norse runes
How can someone read and write the Norse runes?

We are providing certain resources which might help you to further gain valuable insights about the Norse runes.

  1. The Book of Rune Secrets written by Tyriel
  2. The Rune Primer by Sweyn Plowright,
  3. Rudiments of Runelore written by Stephen Pollington
  4. Runelore and A Handbook of Rune Magic written by Edred Thorsson

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Is there some jewelry designed on Norse Runes?

Although Younger Futhark was the main choice of the Norse era (800-1050 AD), the Vikings are likely to still use and interpret the older version (just as we can understand it after a thousand years).

Is there some jewelry designed on Norse Runes
Is there some jewelry designed on Norse Runes

Today, most Norse rune jewelry uses the Elder version because the letters are easier to translate into English letters.

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There is no denying the similarities between many original elder Norse runes and today’s English alphabet. The sample translation includes the following two words: LIFE and ODIN.


As with other forms of divination, Norse rune’s readers usually solve a specific problem and study the effects of the past and present.

Besides, they studied what would happen if people followed the path they are currently taking.

The future is variable and depends on personal choices. By looking at the cause and effect relationship, the Norse runes caster can help the researcher see the potential results.

However, it must also be remembered that for those who work closely with the Norse runes, the carving is a part of the magic and should not be done easily or without preparation and knowledge.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is Odin’s Rune?

Used more by ruminal than anyone else, Odin’s rune stands for the unknowable. Its representation is that which is not yet ready to be revealed. Odin’s rune can fill you with hope. Odin’s rune reminds you that your future is made from the actions of your life. Odin was the strongest of the Gods.

Are Runes Nordic?

The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around 150–800 AD), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400–1100 AD), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100 AD).

How old are Norse runes?

The Elder Futhark, used for writing Proto-Norse, consists of 24 Norse runes that often are arranged in three groups of eight; each group is referred to as an Ætt. The earliest known sequential listing of the full set of 24 runes dates to approximately AD 400 and is found on the Kylver Stone in Gotland, Sweden.

How many types of runes are there?

There are at least three main varieties of the runic script: Early, or Common, Germanic (Teutonic), used in northern Europe before about 800 ad; Anglo-Saxon, or Anglian, used in Britain from the 5th or 6th century to about the 12th-century ad; and Nordic, or Scandinavian, used from the 8th to about the 12th or 13th century.

Who invented runes?

A likely theory is that the runic alphabet was developed by the Goths, a Germanic people, from the Etruscan alphabet of northern Italy and was perhaps also influenced by the Latin alphabet in the 1st or 2nd-century BC.