The runes of the Elder Fužark:
Rune: Rune name: Magical meaning: Sound:
Fehu Cattle, Wealth F (or V)
Uruz Aurochs (ancient ox), Strenght, Power U
Žurisaz Thorn, Giant, Troll, Evil Ž ("TH" sound)
Ansuz a God, Divinity, Signal, Message A
Raišo Riding, Travel, Thunar's wagon, the 4 Elements R
Kenaz a Torch, Spirit, Fire, Opening K
Gebo Gift, Sacrifice, Partnership G
Wunjo Glory, Joy, Good fortune W (or V)
Hagalaz Hail, Protection, Disruption, Elemental power H
Naušiz Need, Destiny, Necessity, Pain, Storms N
Isa Ice, Death, Standstill, Blockade I
Jera Year, Good harvest, Fertility J (or Y)
Eihwaz Tree, Yew, Defence, Connection Ļ, IJ, JI (combination sound of I and J)
Peržro Dice cup, Stone, Earth, Secrets P
Algiz Elk, Protection Z
Sowilo the Sun, Victory, Good fortune, Wisdom, Life S
Tiwaz the god Tiwaz/Tyr, Justice, Victory, Self-sacrifice, World order, Warriors T
Berkano Growth, Rebirth B
Ehwaz Horse, Movement, Progress E
Mannaz Man, Mankind, Husband, Self M
Laguz Woman, Water, Flow, Moon, Night L
Ingwaz Fertility, Sexuality, New beginnings NG sound (like in "bring")
Ožala Ancestral property, Inheritance, Freedom O
Dagaz Day, Rising D

The runes:
Before the Germans started using the Roman alphabet they used writings of their own that are called runes, runes were not only used for writing but also for religious purposes.
The runic "alphabet" is called the "Fužark" after the first six letters of it, just like the modern Roman letter system is named "Alphabet" after the first two characters of it; "alpha" and "bčta".

Not much is known about the origins of the runes, the word "runaz" or "runo" means "secret", which tells us something about their meaning; the original meaning of the runes may have been purely magical.
The runes are believed to have been created independantly instead of evolving from another alphabet, though the creators may have been familiar with the Etruskan alphabet since the runes bear some resemblances with this alphabet.
According to some researchers the runes were created in southern Germany where they were influenced by Roman writings, though another more plausible theory is that they evolved from the writings used in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany.
The oldest runic writing that was found is the inscription "harja" on a comb that was found in a bog in Denmark, this finding dates from 160AD.
Most of the early runic writings that were found date from the 2st century AD though the origins of the runes are believed to be much older, most of them have been found in Scandinavia, northern Germany, and eastern Europe, later southern Germany, England, the Netherlands, and many other areas followed.
Most younger runes are from the 11th century AD since they were widely used in Scandinavia during that time, most of that type are written in the younger Fužorc.

Mythological explanation:
According to the Edda the god Odin (Wodan) hung himself on the Yggdrasil (the World Tree) after which he died and went to Helheim, he then learned the runes from the dead and returned back to life, in 250BC Wodan decided to learn his people the runes and from that day forward they were used in Midgard.

Wodan engraves the runes into his spear Gungnir, by F.von Stassen 1914
Hįvamįl, Poetic Edda:
Veit ek, at ek hekk
vindgameiši į
nętr allar nķu,
geiri undašr
ok gefinn Óšni,
sjalfur sjalfum mér,
į Žeim meiši
er manngi veit
hvers af rótum renn.

Viš hleifi mik sęldu
né viš hornigi,
nżsta ek nišr,
nam eg upp rśnar,
ępandi nam,
fell ek aftr Žašan.

Fimbulljóš nķu
nam ek af inum fręgja syni
BölŽorns, Bestlu föšur,
ok ek drykk of gat
ins dżra mjašar,
ausin Óšreri.

Žį nam ek fręvask
ok fróšr vera
ok vaxa ok vel hafask,
orš mér af orši
oršs leitaši,
verk mér af verki
verks leitaši.

Rśnar munt Žś finna
ok rįšna stafi,
mjök stóra stafi,
mjök stinna stafi,
er fįši fimbulŽulr
ok geršu ginnregin
ok reist Hroftr rögna.

Ódinn meš įsum
en fyr alfum Dįinn,
Dvalinn ok dvergum fyrir,
Įsvišr jötnum fyrir,
ek reist sjalfr sumar.

Veistu hvé rista skal?
Veistu hvé rįša skal?
Veistu hvé fįa skal?
Veistu hvé freista skal?
Veistu hvé bišja skal?
Veistu hvé blóta skal?
Veistu hvé senda skal?
Veistu hvé sóa skal?

I know that I hung,
on a wind-rocked tree,
nine whole nights,
with a spear wounded,
and to Odin offered,
myself to myself;
on that tree,
of which no one knows
from what root it springs.

Bread no one gave me,
nor a horn of drink,
downward I peered,
to runes applied myself,
wailing learnt them,
then fell down thence.

Potent songs nine
from the famed son I learned
of Bölthorn, Bestla's sire,
and a draught obtained
of the precious mead,
drawn from Odhręrir.

Then I began to bear fruit,
and to know many things,
to grow and well thrive:
word by word
I sought out words,
fact by fact
I sought out facts.

Runes thou wilt find,
and explained characters,
very large characters,
very potent characters,
which the great speaker depicted,
and the high powers formed,
and the powers' prince graved:

Odin among the Ęsir,
but among the Alfar, Dįin,
and Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Įsvid for the Jötuns:
some I myself graved.

Knowest thou how to grave them?
knowest thou how to expound them?
knowest thou how to depict them?
knowest thou how to prove them?
knowest thou how to pray?
knowest thou how to offer?
knowest thou how to send?
knowest thou how to consume?

Way of writing:
Runes were originally written in all directions; left-right, right-left, up-down, down-up, later this changed to left-right only, though up-down runes were also sporadically used.
Most words were not separated but were written without spaces like this: "hellohowareyoudoing", though sometimes dots were used to separate words; "hello:how:are:you:doing".
If there is space between the runes on a runic inscription it does not necessarily have to be a separation of words, sometimes it was also done for decorative reasons or practical reasons, a good example is the inscription of Raum Trollhättan in Sweden:
The inscription says "Tawo Lažodu", which means: "(I) prepare (the) invitation", if we would have interpreted the space between the runes as a separation of words we would have read; "Tawol Ažodu", which has no meaning.

An Elder Fužark runestone with some bindrunes at Järsberg, Sweden Pronounciation:
The runes were not just plain letters like the Roman alphabet, they represented phonetical values; for instance the "ng" sound (like for instance in the word "long") is represented by one runic character (Ingwaz) while the Roman alphabet uses the "n" and the "g" combined to represent the "ng" sound.
Originally there were no C,Q,V and X letters in runic writing, though some of this letters were added in later versions of the runes.
The sounds of this missing letters were represented by other letters;
  • the C is either pronounced as an "S" or a "K", which means that either the Sowilo or the Kenaz rune was used to represent the "C" in runic alphabet.
  • the Q can either be pronounced as "K" or "KW" so the Kenaz rune must be used here (or Kenaz and Wunjo in the case of "KW")
  • the V sound was considered the same as the W sound so the Wunjo rune was used to represent both V and W, though Fehu was used for the "F" sound
  • the X sound was represented as "KS", for instance the English word "axe" would be written as "aks" in runic since those are the only letters you hear when it is pronounced.

    In the oldest Germanic languages the letters C,Q,V, and X were not used, in later runic alphabets some of this letters were included like for instance in the Anglo-Saxon Fužorc.
    After the transfer to the Roman alphabet many Germanic languages used two letters that are unknown in most of our modern alphabets, this letters were the ž and the š (which are still used in Iceland by the way).
    The Ž or ž is pronounced as a "th" like in "Thor" (which could also be written as "Žor") and the Š or š is pronounced as a "dh" (soft D) like in the words "bed" and "heading".
    The runes and have even been adopted into the Roman writing system, but they disappeared during the Middle Ages, only the rune has survived until this day in Icelandic where it is written as ž.
    Each rune has a name that gives an indication of how the rune should be pronounced, the Elder Fužark names are in Proto-Germanic though later names used in younger runic alphabets may differ because they were translated into different dialects, therefor you will sometimes encounter many names for the same rune, the list that I made at the top of this page (the table) contains the Elder Fužark and the oldest (Proto-Germanic) names.

    The Eihwaz rune:
    There is some controversy about the original phonetical value of the Eihwaz rune , although it's phonetical value changed in later runic alfabets runologists believe it originally represented the Ę sound and others think it represented an Y (EI) sound, the most plausible explanation I have heard so far is that it originally represented a combination of I and J, thus the Ļ, IJ, or JI sound, or maybe even all three of them, most runic finds support this theory, another interesting thing to mention is that the rune looks like a bindrune of and , the Eihwaz rune was probably occasionally used in words like "frijonds" (friend) where it represented the letters i and j.

    The blank rune:
    In some modern writings the "Wyrd" rune is mentioned; this is a blank "rune" that can be found in the modern commercial rune sets that are often used by people who are interested in old magic like Wiccans and New Agers, it is said to represent the future and was added to the original fužark during the 20th century.
    The blank rune is false and has no historical origin: it was probably invented by the New Age movement though I have also heard other stories about how it came to life.
    There is no historical proof for its existence whatsoever so don't be fooled; the Wyrd- or blank rune is a forgery.

    Abuse of the runes:
    In WW2 the nazi's abused the runes for their own evil purposes, especially the Sowilo rune (in German "Sigrune" or "victory rune") is associated with the nazi's by most people because the SS used a double pair of Sowilo runes as their symbol.
    The Sowilo rune is a sun symbol that also represents victory and is associated with Baldr, the god of beauty and good.
    It brings honour, luck, and guidance and is related to the Sunwheel.
    Unfortunately the nazi's have given this rune a whole new meaning then our ancestors intended and it became a symbol of evil in the eyes of most people.
    Another rune the nazi's abused was the Othala rune ("Odal rune" in German), which represented ancestral property; it was a symbol of the unity of the Germanic peoples but the nazi's gave a whole new twist to it and used it as a racist symbol, while that was most certainly not the case.

    More information:
    The sequence of the Elder Fužark is;

    This sequence may differ sometimes but most runic alphabets that have been found use this sequence.
    In many modern sources runes are arranged in Ęttir; each Ętt consists of runes whose powers are associated with the god of that Ętt, the Ęttir are Freya's Ętt (F,U,Ž,A,R,K,G,W), Heimdall's Ętt (H,N,I,J,Ļ,P,Z,S), and Tiwaz's Ętt (T,B,E,M,L,NG,O,D), as far as I know there is no historical origin of these Ęttir so they can be regarded as a modern invention.
    There are also many books and websites that claim there are connections between runes and the four elements or connections to certain gods and mythological beings, which is also not based on historical sources, though for example a connection between the god Tiwaz and the Tiwaz rune would be pretty obvious of course.
    A line of runes was called a "stafa" (stave).

    The oldest runes:
    The oldest known Germanic writings are petroglyphs and rune-like symbols that were found on rock paintings in southern Sweden, they may have represented the fundamental forces of nature.
    I am not entirely sure whether this symbols should be interpreted as runic writings but they may have formed a visual message.

    The Elder Fužark:

    Elder Fužark

    The elder fužark is the common runic alfabeth from which other variations like the younger fužorc and the Anglo-Frisian runes were developed, it is the oldest runic script known.

    Gothic runes:

    Gothic Fušark

    Little is known about the Gothic runes, the Goths were one of the oldest Germanic tribes and it is believed that they were the inventors of the runes, it may be possible that not the elder fužark, but the Gothic fušark is the oldest runic alfabeth, but this cannot (yet) be researched since there are very few examples of Gothic runes, the Gothic runes were replaced by the Gothic uncial alphabet in the 4th century AD.

    Gothic uncial alphabet:

    Gothic uncial alphabet
    This alphabet have been developed by the Greek/Gothic bishop Wulfila who used it in his famous bible translation (Codex Argenteus), it was based on the Greek alphabet but he also used some letters from the runic and Roman alphabets.
    Each letter also had a numeric value.

    Anglo-Saxon/Frisian fužorc:

    Anglo-Saxon/Frisian runes

    The runes were brought to England in the 5th century AD by Western Germanic settlers where they were used until the 11th century AD, the runes were extended with new letters to make it compatible with the Anglo-Saxon language.

    Younger Fužorc:

    Younger Fužorc

    The younger fužorc was developed out of the elder fužark and took it's final form at the beginning of the 9th century AD, it was used in Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, some parts of the British isles, and other areas where Scandinavians settled.
    Around 1200 AD it was replaced by the Roman alphabet under the influence of Christianity but a Romanized "dotted" form of it survived until 1850. (which was only used for decorations)

    Later Swedish/Norwegian short twig form of the Younger Fužorc (800AD):

    Short Twig Fužark
    Final dotted form of the Fužorc from the Middle Ages:
    Mediaeval Fužorc

    Armanen runes:

    Armanen runes
    The Armanen runes have been "discovered" in 1902 by the Austrian Wodanist Guido von List, who saw them in a vision during a short period of blindness; he believed that Wodan showed them to him and that those were the only true, authentical runes.
    The people who believe von List say that the Armanen runes can be found encrypted in the Hįvamįl (Poetic Edda) and in WW2 the nazi's used the Armanen runes in occult rituals to find out where enemy submarines were located, but to no effect.
    Nowadays the Armanen runes are still used by people who believe in von List's sincerity, but there is NO archeological evidence whatsoever that proves any authenticity of the Armanen runes so I can say with certainty that this runes are fake.

    Hälsinge runes

    Hälsningar runesHälsningar runes compared with other runes
    This staveless runes were invented in a later period to allow quick writing, their form is derived from older runes.
    There are 10 descriptions of them known in Sweden, most of them in Hälsinge (where they are named after) and Medelpad but there are also examples in Uppland and Södermanland.

    Runes were mainly used for magical purposes, adding ownership tags to posessions, or for writing down simple messages, though the Anglo-Saxons also used runes to write long documents.
    There have also been findings of pieces of wood or bone with magical charms written on them in runes, they probably served as protection amulets or had other magical meanings.
    Runes were often used to inscribe an ownership tag into a posession, for instance; if I would have made a spear I could inscribe it with:
    Converted into Roman letters it says: "ansuharijaztawide" (Ansuharijaz tawiše), which means "Ansuharijaz (a name) made (this)"

    Special words:
    There are certain words that often return in runic inscriptions, they appear so frequently that they may have meant something special:
  • Alu: the word "alu" literally means "ale", drinking beer and ale was one of the most favourite things to do in Germanic society, besides that it was also used as a medicine and as anaesthesia for medical means and some historians even believe that it was used as a battlecry.
    Ale was also a popular good to offer to the gods and it was used in many religious ceremonies.
    The word "alu" was especially used on amulets, which points to a possible use as "lucky word".
  • Auja: the word "auja" is believed to mean "good luck" or "protection", it was often written as "gibu auja" ("give good luck" or "give protection") and may have been used as lucky charm, though we can only guess after its real meaning.
  • Lažu: the word "lažu" is believed to mean "invitation" or "summoning", it may have been used to invite supernatural forces (gods/spirits/etc.) to a ritual.
  • Laukaz: this word is believed to represent "fertility" or "prosperity", it literally means "leek" of which is known that is was used as antidote and medicin.

    Magical meanings:
    It was believed that each rune of the Elder Fužark posessed certain magical powers and that those powers could be used to do good or evil, they had to be "initiated" by saying prayers and charms, extra force could be given to them by dripping blood over them (blood was thought to contain life energy) and they could also be thrown on the ground after which the future could be read from the way they ended up on the ground, this type of magic was known as Galdr and a rune specialist was called a Vitki, other forms of magic (like Spį and Seiš) also used runes, a good description of each runes' magical powers can be found at
    Before an important undertaking was to be made the Germans always consulted the runes first, in later times the Vikings also performed a rune casting before they embarked on a plunder raid.
    Runes were believed to only have power when they were used for magical purposes, a rune that was used for writing was considered "unloaded" and was nothing more than a writing symbol.
    For people who believe in magic; during my studies I have spoken with some people who use runes for magical purposes and they told me that the power of runes should not be underestimated, especially bindrunes are said to be extremely powerful and dangerous when used by an unskilled person.

    An example of a runecasting ritual is also briefly described by Tacitus;
    "For omens and the casting of lots they have the highest regard. Their procedure in casting lots is always the same. They cut off a branch of a nut-bearing tree and slice it into strips; these they mark with different signs and throw them completely at random onto a white cloth. Then the priest of the state, if the consultation is a public one, or the father of the family if it is private, offers a prayer to the gods, and looking up at the sky picks up three strips, one at a time, and reads their meaning from the signs previously scored on them. If the lots forbid an enterprise, there is no deliberation that day on the matter in question ;' if they allow it, confirmation by the taking of auspices is required."

    There were also many alternative ways of writing a rune, this alternative versions were probably used for magical purposes, these versions have been divided into "begriffsrunen", "wenderunen", "sturzrunen", "spiegelrunen" and "binderunen" by modern German runologists, I shall now describe these types:

    A begriffsrune (meaning-rune) is a rune that stands for its meaning, so if an object is only inscribed with a Hagalaz rune it should not be seen as a text that only contains the H-sound but as a single symbol that contains the meaning of the rune, in the case of the Hagalaz rune this meaning is either "hail" (literal meaning), or "protection" (magical meaning).

    A wenderune (wending-rune) is a reversed rune, they were often used in runic writings that run from right to left, they are also believed to have had a magical meaning; maybe to reverse the working of a rune.

    A sturzrune (fallen-rune) is a rune that has been turned upside down, they were used for decorative reasons but they probably also had a magical meaning, possibly to invoke the negative side of a rune.
    There were also combinations of wenderunen and sturzrunen which may have also been used for magical purposes.

    A spiegelrune (mirror-rune) is a "double" rune that has been mirrored so that they can be read from both left to right and right to left, they are believed to have had a purely decorative meaning.
    Below this text you can see an example of spiegelrunen that has been found in Norfolk, England.

    A binderune (bind-rune) is a symbol that combines two or more runes, for instance the (Hagalaz) rune and the (Ansuz) rune could be combined into the bindrune to write down the "HA" sound in one symbol instead of two.
    Combining two or more runes was often done to get a shorter message, the sounds "AL" or "GA" for instance were sometimes represented by bindrunes to abbreviate the message:

    There is also a possibility that bindrunes were used for magical purposes so perhaps it was believed that combining runes into a bindrune could join the powers of the runes involved, for instance if you are going on a long journey and would like to receive protection on that journey you could combine the Raišo rune (rune associated with travel) and the Hagalaz rune (rune associated with protection) into a bindrune and carry it during your journey, but whether bindrunes were really used in such a magical way can not be said with certainty.
    Most bindrunes combine several runes into one symbol, though if they became too many one could also draw a cross or multi-axed cross and fix runes to each end to create a bindrune containing all symbols, for instance; the runes (Dagaz) (Wunjo) (Ansuz) (Berkano) (Ehwaz) (Sowilo) (Fehu) (Eihwaz) can be combined in this bindrune;

    List of the most important runes:
    Gary Walker created this interesting list containing the most important runes, I have already mentioned most of them but since there are so many different versions of runic alphabets I thought that it would be good to place this one as well.
    List of the most important runes