Nordic Runes

1990s, Near Stromness, Scotland, UK --- Engraved Viking runes on a stone in Maes Howe near Stromness in the Orkney Islands Area in Scotland. --- Image by © Homer Sykes/CORBIS

One of the most recognizable symbols used in modern Paganism is the Nordic Runes. The symbols originate from a series of related alphabets used to write Germanic languages in pre-Christian Europe. The earliest record of these inscriptions has been dated to 150 AD, many of the oldest found in Denmark and northern Germany. The runic alphabets had mostly been replaced by the Latin alphabet during the Christianisation of Europe (roughly 700 AD in central Europe and 1100 AD in northern Europe), but many in the North continued to use their native alphabet for specialized purposes, and the runes survived the invasion of Roman culture.

The Scandinavian version of the runic alphabet is also known as Futhark, and the Anglo-Saxon variation was called Futhorc. There are a number of subsets and variations within those two primary categories, but the three most recognized are Elder Futhark (150-800 AD), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400-1100 AD), and the Younger Futhark (800-1100 AD). Here, we will be discussing primarily the Elder Futhark variation.

In Pagan tradition, each rune is used as both a letter of the alphabet (“A” for example) and a sound or series of sounds (“AY”, “AW”, “AH”). But each symbol also has a name and a specific meaning. For further information on each rune, click it’s name below the image.


list of runes



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