Which Rune Row is Best

(For Esoteric Uses)?



By Steve Anthonijsz





            Anyone who has ever looked into runic studies or, for that matter, read one of the introduction-to-Heathenry books on the market knows that there are four major rune rows used today. Some may also be familiar with the existence of the various medieval runic systems or variations on the major four. These may be used for purposes ranging from artistic decoration to divination and even operative magical work. If used for mundane purposes—decorating drinking horns and so forth—it really does not matter which rune row one uses. One may choose a particular row simply because it is in sync with the national tradition one follows (i.e., Anglo-Frisian Fužorc for Dutch traditions or Younger Fužork for Icelandic traditions). Or one may use the Elder Fužark simply because this row has become “industry standard” in the USA, just as the Armanen Futharkh has become the standard in Germany. But for esoteric purposes which is the most effective rune row? The answers to such a question are, of course, debatable. In this essay I will attempt to provide some food for thought on the topic using history of the various rows to shed some proverbial light.



Elder Fužąrk


                The Gothic Fužark has become the rune row of choice for most would-be runenmeisteren in this country. It is the oldest known rune row (hence its nickname, “Elder Fužark,” among esotericists), although there is some evidence that the Common Germanic Fužark may be of similar age. The two rows however, are so similar that most people today would consider them to be interchangeable. One difference that would most likely prove significant to the runenmeister using this tradition is the fact that the thirteenth (Uuaer/Eihwaz) and fouteenth (Pertra/Peržrō) staves, as well as the twenty-third (Daaz/Dagaz) and twenty-fourth (Utal/Ōžala) are reversed in the two rows.[1]


            Many people find the antiquity of this row to be its greatest asset. This is supported by the idea that states: “The older it is, the better/more valid it is.” This is not, however, necessarily true. If we applied this logic to all the aspects of our lives, this article would never be read by most, as it would require too much work to copy and distribute it using the old-fashioned methods. One must also realize that most of the doctrines taught today in association with the runes are based on sanitized versions of Armanic texts and adapted to the Elder Fužark—they are not ancient secrets preserved for our benefit.

            Another difficulty presented by the antiquity of this row is the fact that there remains absolutely no surviving lore. Any rune poems assigned to this row are only reconstructions based on the Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme, the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, and the Old English Rune Rhyme. Even the very names of the Elder runes are naught but reconstructions. [2]

            Add to this the fact that one must put oneself in the position of manifesting the theoretical mindset of a long-dead culture to even understand what this reconstructed lore means, and one is dealing with some very sketchy ideas to say the least!


            On the other hand, the Elder/Common Germanic Fužark is the only row that might be considered somewhat universal among the Germanic peoples, serving very nicely the needs of the mixed-ethnicity citizens of modern America and the pan-Germanic approach to our religion that most modern Heathens prefer.


            Also in support of the Elder runes is the wide body of modern lore that has come into existence developed by modern runenmeisteren. If one approaches the Elder Fužark runes in a modern mindset rather than to attempt to revivify an ancient system that we know next-to-nothing about, one may find this row very useful indeed.



Anglo-Frisian Fužorc



          The Anglo-Frisian tradition is virtually useless for esoteric purposes as it stands. This is not to imply that it may not be preserved as a proud and viable tradition for exoteric uses, and is certainly not intended to insult those who maintain an interest in this innovation. But the available lore with regards to it is so sparse that, unless the Anglo-Frisian sources are completely re-vamped like the Elder tradition, its esoterica must be considered lost in time.


            Much controversy exists regarding the origins of this tradition. The most common theory is that the Frisians expanded the Common Germanic row to 26 staves, and the Anglo-Saxons further expanded this row to 29 and later to 33 staves.[3] Other theories suggest that the Frisian runes may, in fact, exist only as a jumble derived from neighbouring regions somewhat independent of Anglo-Saxon influence; or that the Anglo-Saxons expanded the Common Germanic row and the Frisians adapted it to suit their own uses.


            Whatever the origins, the surviving corpus is limited at best.

          While Frisian archaeological finds appear to indicate a rich magico-religious tradition, interpretation has proved to be next-to impossible. And the finds are so rare that there really is very little for runologists to build on.[4]

            Anglo-Saxon relics are much more plentiful. However, there is a conspicuous lack of esoterica in Anglo-Saxon finds. Most of the Anglo-Saxon finds dating before the seventh century are near-impossible to interpret. And those dating from the seventh century onwards are generally used for mundane purposes such as texts on coins and so forth. A few pieces do suggest that a magico-religious tradition was significant in the early use of this row (e.g.: why would anyone learn a script in a generally illiterate society just to inscribe a name on a comb?), but knowledge of the means and purposes has been lost. Anglo-Saxon runes appear to have been developed more for orthographic reasons than esoteric ones.



Younger Fužork


          The Younger Fužork—or, as it is known to the academic community, the Standard Nordic Fužork—has preserved the most comprehensive and complete corpus of all the ancient systems. This corpus has been developed in a variety of directions ranging from the esoteric thoughts of Johann Bure within the context of Storgoticism[5] to the more modern, exoteric tradition of Stįv.


            Like the Elder/Common Germanic and Anglo-Frisian systems, the Younger Fužork and its derivatives may prove to be rather clumsy form modern, urbanized individuals to learn at first. But because the corpus has been maintained (although in fragmented form due to the agendas of the various schools of thought) to some degree, it is still very functional. We also have a greater number of transcriptions than the aforementioned rows surviving to teach us how the Icelanders and Danes have worked- and continue to work- with the Younger runes.


            The Younger Fužork does bear the limitation of possessing a smaller number of staves, and, thus, is a less precise means of defining the worlds around and within us. It also originated from an almost exclusively Viking worldview which may not be applicable for many uses toward which one might use the runes today.



Medieval Runes


          Included in this category are a variety of rune rows ranging from non-alphabetic runes to King Wladamar’s runes. There are too many of these systems to deal with them individually in an article of this scope. Suffice it to say for convenience that most of these systems are variants on the Younger rune row, although a few may be based on the Anglo-Saxon.



            There is one major advantage to using one of the mediaeval systems: these systems came into existence in a predominantly christian world although maintaining their Heathen meanings—at least to some degree. While this may, superficially, appear to be a detraction from the “purity” of the runes, one must realize that confused forms can still be used meaningfully and powerfully by the skilled runenmeister. It is also important to recognize that as twenty-first century Americans, we are living in a predominantly christian culture. The vast majority of individuals that make up the current heathenish community come from christian or christian-influenced backgrounds. And despite our rants to the contrary, this has greatly affected the worldviews and attitudes of all but a few of us. When dealing with things esoteric, we need to be honest with ourselves, and this may very well include recognizing that we have all been influenced by foreign cults--most commonly by christianism.


            The obvious disadvantages to utilizing one of these are (1) that they are strongly influenced by an exotic creed that is contrary to our own, and (2) very little available lore exists for the modern support of any of these rows.



Armanen Futharkh


          While the Armanen Futharkh (often misspelled “futhorc”[6]) has become the standard for the German runenmeister, it tends to be frowned upon in the United States. Therefore, its use is not common here.


            The Armanen system is the youngest of the four “big name” systems, having appeared in Germany’s early twentieth century. One of its advantages is this young age, having been developed in a world very similar to our own modern, urbanized, technological world. It is also a system that was developed and presented specifically for esoteric and magical purposes. The Armanen Futharkh possesses the added advantage of being the only system that possesses a complete body of lore from which the aspiring runenmeister may build.

            There are, however, some disadvantages to this system. The most obvious is that it does not originate from a “traditional”  (i.e.; “ancient’) source. List’s powerful emphasis on Wihinei/Wuotanismus (today manifested as Odinism or Irminenschaft), however, indicates that this reconstructed rune row was intended to be utilized for a reconstructed Heathenry—which is precisely what we are practicing today. On the other hand, Amanentum is also very closely tied to Ariosophy, which is about as foreign to our triuwa as christianism!

            Armanentum employs a variety of techniques claiming to be derived from ancient Germanic sources, the authenticity of which are doubtful at best (e.g., rune yoga). If one is searching for “authentic ancient ways,” Armanentum is certainly not the way to go. But if one is seeking a viable magical/esoteric system, it works very well.

            Another major concern among would-be runenmeisteren regarding the Armanen Futharkh is its alleged historical association with the Nazi movement in Germany. While it is true that Armanentum influenced many proto-Nazi thinkers, the system does not promote any particular political view, nor was it widely used by any German National Socialist groups. The most infamous users of runes in wartime Germany were certain officers in the Schutzaffel (SS). These individuals rarely, if ever, used the Armanen Futharkh; instead preferring the rune row developed by Karl Maria Wiligut, the promoter of Irmin-Christianity. Further, it was Wiligut—under the approval of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler—who sent many of the better-known Armanists (e.g.; Siegfried Adolf Kummer) to concentration camps!





                While all the runic systems work more-or-less equally as well for exoteric functions, each rune row has certain inherent advantages and disadvantages for those interested in esoteric runology. Much of one’s choice must be based on the particular needs of the individual. Speaking on general terms, however, the Younger Fužork, and the Armanen Futharkh seem to be the most practical for aspiring runenmeisteren as they stand today. On the other hand a modern approach to the Common Germanic/Elder fužark or the Anglo-Frisian Fužorc—that does not delude its users into believing that they are discovering secrets preserved from ancient times—could prove to be just as viable. The potential contributions that could be made in modern runelore via the various medieval rows, however, ought not be underestimated.


Alaf sig runa!




-- Bammesberger, Alfred Frisian and Anglo-Saxon Runes: From the Linguistic Angle

--Hills, Catherine Frisia and England: The Archaeological Evidence for Connections

--Page, Ray I On the baffling Nature of Frisian Runes





Armanic Runes and their Derivatives in the Alleged Elder Fužark (Followed by Historical Gothic Names as Described by Wulfila)












Os (Othil)

Ansuz;  Ōžila (Ōžala)

Aza; Utal








Hagalaz; Dagaz; Wunjō

Haal; Daaz; Uuinne











Sowilō (Sówuló)



Tiwaz (Teiwaz)



Berkanō (Berkana); Peržrō; Inguz (Ingwaz)

Bercna; Pertra; Enguz


Laguz (Laukaz)



Mannaz (Algiz); Elhaz (Eihwaz) [+ aspects]

Ezec; Uuęr [+ aspects]


Ingwaz; Eihwaz (- aspects)

Enguz; Uuęr [- aspects]




Gibor (Ge)









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[1] Thorsson, Edred Runelore 1987

[2] ibid.

[3] Bammesberger, Alfred Frisian and Anglo-Saxon Runes: From the Linguistic Angle Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Ältern Germanistik 1996

[4] Page, Ray I. On the Baffling Nature of Frisian Runes Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Ältern Germanistik 1996

[5] Bure referred to his system as Adalruna.

[6] List, Guido von Das Geheimnis der Runen 1912

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