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by Nokki Nollason September 08, 2020 8 min read

The runic alphabets were the first written signs created by the Germanic people and used later by Norseman back in the day. Elder Futhark runes have an important place in Norse mythology as well. Runes had the function of letters and were used for writing in several Germanic languages. However, the meanings of the Elder Futhark runes were much deeper than that of the letters we know today. Each rune was a symbol of some cosmic force. Therefore, writing a runic letter meant invoking the power that the written rune symbolized. According to tradition, runes were carved on hard natural materials such as stone, wood, or metal. For this reason, the runes had a sharp, angular shape.

Runic Alphabet Origins

The word "rune" in German means "letter" and "secret." And that is precisely why it is believed that its original meaning was - "a silent message." The earliest runic inscriptions discovered date from around 150 AD. During the Viking era, the Norsemen used these runic symbols. However, as Christianity spread, runes were replaced by the Latin alphabet. Even though Vikings may be gone, their spirit isn't, as in northern Europe, runes were used for decorative purposes until the beginning of the 20th century!

Runic alphabets used by Norse people are also called "futharks". They got this name from the first six runes (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kaunan).

We distinguish the three most famous runic letters:

1. The Elder Futhark (consists of 24 characters and was used from 150 to 800 AD),

2. Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (consisting of 33 characters and was used from 400 to 1100 AD),

3. The Younger Futhark (consisted of 16 characters and was used from 800 to 1100 AD).

Today, we will tell you about the oldest runic alphabet and its meanings - Elder Futhark runes meaning. Information you find about the meanings of runes might seem overwhelming. Thus, we will do our best to make today's article as informative and as simple as possible. 

What are the Runes of Elder Futhark?

Elder Futhark is the oldest runic alphabet used by the Vikings. It consists of 24 unique runic symbols, each of which has its own meaning. The runes of this letter are grouped in three rows. This means that there are eight symbols in each row. It was believed that one God and one Goddess ruled over each order (a group of runes). 

So, the first group was ruled by Freyr and Freyja, the Deities of Fertility. The second group was ruled by Heimdall, and the ruler of the third group of runes was Tyr. To date, a bit less than 400 runic inscriptions have been found using the letters of Elder Futhark. However, most are partially or entirely unreadable due to wear and tear over time.

Runes are believed to have been used during magic rituals (invoking powerful forces) long before they began to be used for writing. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, each runic letter symbolized a specific power. An interesting fact is that invoking a rune did not necessarily mean success. Runes, whose shape is not symmetrical, can be reversed and invoke a force opposite to the one they symbolize. 

Let's take a look at the Elder Futhark Rune meanings (both regular and reversed).

1.Fehu (Pronunciation: Fey-who)

Fehu Elder Futhark rune

Symbolizes: Domestic animals and wealth.

The Fehu ("f" rune) is interpreted as prosperity, happiness, and financial gain. Fehu is also a sign of hope and abundance. Should the Fehu rune be reversed, it would mean disappointment or a wrong decision. An inverted Fehu rune essentially means some personal failure.

2.Uruz (Pronunciation: Oo-rooze)

Symbolizes: Physical, spiritual, and emotional strength, wild ox, unexpected change for the better, and health.

The Uruz ("u" rune) symbolizes wild strength, indomitability, and power (like that of a wild ox). Also, this rune signifies courage in overcoming all obstacles in life. If the rune Uruz were reversed it would be a hint of weakness, misdirection of force, brutality, and violence against other people.

3.Thurisaz (Pronunciation: Thoo-ree-sahz)

Symbolizes: Caution, protective attitude, and the God Thor.

The Thurisaz ("þ" rune) symbolizes thorns on branches. That is why its meaning is directed towards precautionary measures (protection). This rune is a kind of warning of possible enemy ambushes. If the Thurisaz rune is reversed, it signifies danger, evil, betrayal, and helplessness.

4. Ansuz (Pronunciation: Ahn -sooze)

Symbolizes: Good communication, prophecies, wisdom.

The Ansuz ("a" rune) indicates signs that indirectly lead to making the right decisions. If the Ansuz rune is reversed, it can mean deception by the God Odin or misunderstanding and delusion.

5. Raidho (Pronunciation: Rye-though)

Symbolizes: Physical and spiritual travels, change, rest, seeing the bigger picture.

The Raidho ("r" rune) has multiple meanings. It signifies that one should always be adaptable and ready for change. Some interpretations refer to meeting old friends again. If reversed, the Raidho rune signifies possible stagnation and delay. Also, an inverted Raidho rune is a sign that a Viking should reconsider their behavior and analyze their mistakes.

6. Kenaz (Pronunciation: Kane- awze)

Symbolizes: Torch, fire, beacon.

The Kenaz ("k" rune) represents light and is believed to have the power to cast out the darkness. It opens the door to creativity and signifies personal progress and development. When the Kenanz rune is reversed it leads to instability and lack of inspiration.

7. Gebo (Pronunciation: Gay-boh)

Gebo Elder Futhark rune

Symbolizes: Self-sacrifice, gifts, generosity, unity, forgiveness.

The Gebo ("g" rune) symbolizes a mutual connection between two people and can also signify self-sacrifice. It is all about keeping the balance in relationships, whether business, friendship, or romantic. The Gebo rune cannot be reversed.

8. Wunjo (Pronunciation: Woon-yo)

Symbolizes: Satisfaction, euphoria, and joy.

The Wunjo ("w" rune)primarily symbolizes joy. According to Wunjo runes, anyone whose thoughts are pessimistic will attract negative energy. In contrast, positive thoughts always bring positive energy. When the Wunjo rune is reversed it is believed that there is a bad and unhappy period in life coming.

9. Hagalaz (Pronunciation: Haw-gaw-lawz)

Symbolizes: Destructive, uncontrolled forces and the wrath of nature.

The Hagalaz ("h" rune) means negative energy and force that cannot be controlled. Examples of some uncontrolled forces that do not depend on the human will are diseases and natural disasters. The Hagalaz rune cannot be reversed.

10. Nauthiz (Pronunciation: Now-these)

Symbolizes: Need and stagnation.

The Nauthiz ("n" rune) marks the beginning of troubles that prevent the realization of plans. In order to overcome these troubles, the most important thing to do is to face your fears. It is also necessary to make as much self-initiated change in life as possible (change of job, for example). If reversed, the Nauthiz rune signifies the restriction of freedom, poverty, and hunger.

11. Isa (Pronunciation: Eee-sah)

Symbolizes: Ice and winter.

The Isa ("i" rune) symbolizes frozen water (ice), which usually means a delay or postponement of plans. The Isa rune characteristic is that it enhances the effect of the runes around it. This rune also cannot be reversed.

12. Jera (Pronunciation: Yair-ah)

Symbolizes: Good harvest, natural cycles, and movement in time.

The Jera ("j" rune) represents the profit from invested efforts (i.e., sown crops, as they can finally be harvested). The effort and work invested in the harvest are finally rewarded, and it is time for a peaceful and happy period in life. Jera rune cannot be reversed.

13. Ehwaz (Pronunciation: Either Ay-wahz or Eee-wahz)

Symbolizes: Life and death, renewal, and the Yew tree. 

The Ehwaz ("ï" (æ)rune)does not mean death in the real sense of the word. It points out that everything is renewed and born again. Also, the Ehwaz rune symbolizes a Yew tree. The Yew tree is considered the Tree of Life due to its long lifespan. The Ehwaz rune has no inverted meaning.

14. Perthro (Pronunciation: Pear-throw)

Symbolizes: A secret, a mystery, and hidden things waiting to be discovered.

The Perthro ("p" rune) suggests that there are always mysteries unknown to humans. It is crucial to follow the signs that the Universe is sending our way carefully and rely on intuition. An inverted Perthro rune is an indication that an unwanted secret may be revealed.

15. Algiz (Pronunciation: Al-geez)

Algiz Elder Futhark rune

Symbolizes: Instinct and protection of your home or sanctuary.

The Algiz ("z" rune) carries protection against various types of threats. With this rune, it is possible to guide cosmic forces in a positive direction, preventing the action of negative forces. The inverted Algiz rune represents a warning or some hidden danger.

16. Sowilo (Pronunciation: So-wee-loh)

Symbolizes: Health, sunlight, vitality, and good energy.

The Sowilo ("s" rune) represents solar energy and is believed to be the energy that drives the world. The energy of the Sun helps to achieve goals and indicates positive changes in life. The Sowilo rune cannot be reversed.

17. Tiwaz (Pronunciation: Tee-wahz)

Symbolizes: Victory, courage, and the Norse God Tyr.

The Tiwaz ("t" rune) symbolizes a warrior, due to its spear-like shape. It also represents a willingness to sacrifice for greater goals. This rune is also a symbol of the Norse God Tyr. If reversed, the Tiwaz rune signifies a lack of motivation as well as a fear of failure.

18. Berkana (Pronunciation: Bear-kah-nah)

Symbolizes: Birth, new beginnings, family and loved ones, and the birch tree.

Berkana ("b" rune) symbolizes the life cycle. Also, this rune is a symbol of the birch tree that blooms first in spring. This is considered a hint of birth (sometimes pregnancy) and a new beginning. If reversed, the Berkana rune signifies stagnation and slower achievement of life goals.

19. Ehwaz (Pronunciation: Ay-wahz)

Symbolizes:Partnership, loyalty, horse, teamwork, progress, and movement.

The Ehwaz ("e" rune) symbolizes friendly ties, togetherness, and teamwork. When these three things work flawlessly, every goal is easily achievable. Even if the Ehwaz rune is reversed it does not have to have a negative meaning. An inverted Ehwaz rune can simply mean just a need for a change (i.e., lifestyle change).

20. Mannaz (Pronunciation: Mahn-awz)

Symbolizes: Humanity and self-awareness.

The Mannaz ("m" rune) represents everything that makes a person: mind, ability to reason, traditions, customs, etc. The Mannaz rune is essentially a reminder that there is something in common for all people in the world despite their differences. If reversed, the Mannaz rune can mean the onset of depression and the need for isolation from other people.

21. Laguz (Pronunciation: Lah-gooze)

Symbolizes: Water currents, intuition, and cleansing.

The Laguz ("l" rune) represents all forms of water elements present on Earth (water surfaces in nature, but also water in the human body). Laguz symbolizes intuition and suggests that a person should follow their instincts at all times. If reversed, the Laguz rune signifies a stalemate and a lack of creativity.

22. Ingwaz (Pronunciation: Ing-ooze)

Symbolizes: Male sexuality, inner growth, and ideal timing.

The Inguz ("ŋ" rune) is a positive rune, which mainly means happiness and fertility. Whether it is a business, creative, or some other endeavor, the Inguz rune attracts the energy needed to accomplish it. The Inguz rune cannot be reversed.

23. Dagaz (Pronunciation: Dah-gaz)

Symbolizes:Radical change and self-transformation.

The Dagaz ("d" rune) is also called the "rune of dawn" and it symbolizes hope and coming out of darkness. Metaphorically speaking, the Dagaz rune states that with a strong will, any goal can be achieved (even the darkness can be turned into light). The Dagaz rune has no inverse meaning.

24. Othila (Pronunciation: Owe-tha-la)

Othila Elder Futhark rune

Symbolizes:Ancestral spiritual power and love between family members.

The Othila ("o" rune) indicates the importance of the connection with ancestors and spiritual heritage. Also, the Othila rune signifies the importance of family support in all life decisions. The inverted Othila rune symbolizes bad family relationships.

Let Us Wrap Up our Story About Elder Futhark Rune Meanings

Dear fellow Vikings, we have reached the end of our story about the Elder Futhark Runes meaning. As mentioned earlier, this is quite a complex topic that we have tried to explain as simply as possible.

We sincerely hope that now you have a clearer picture of Elder Futhark rune meanings in their regular and reversed forms. Moreover, now you might have an idea of why and when the Vikings would need to use these runes back in the day.

We have a large range of Rune themed jewelry and symbolic rune themed clothing in our store.

Anyway, may the All-father protect you until our next meeting,

Skål!


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