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Lesson One
by Lliana (gwenlliana)
at July 21st, 2006 (05:23 pm)



What are Runes.

Runes are an ancient Germanic alphabet, used for writing, divination and magick. They were used throughout northern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland from about 100 B.C.E. to 1600 C.E. Runic inscriptions of great age have even been found in North America, supporting stories that the Vikings arrived in the Americas long before Columbus.

Tacitus, in Chapter X of his Germania, describes a form of divination used by Germanic tribes:

"To divination and casting of lots, they pay attention beyond any other people. Their method of casting lots is a simple one: they cut a branch from a fruit-bearing tree and divide it into small pieces which they mark with certain distinctive signs and scatter at random onto a white cloth. Then, the priest of the community if the lots are consulted publicly, or the father of the family if it is done privately, after invoking the gods and with eyes raised to heaven, picks up three pieces, one at a time, and interprets them according to the signs previously marked upon them."

Runes are an oracle from which one seeks advice. They work best if you detail your current circumstances and then ask a specific question. Rune readings are sometimes obscure. They hint toward answers, but you have to figure out the details. This is when the rune casters intuition becomes paramount. Some times the Runes "sing" to me, and their meaning becomes instantly clear.

Runic divination or "rune casting" is not "fortunetelling" in the sense that one actually sees the future. Instead, runes give one a means of analyzing the path that one is on and a likely outcome. The future is not fixed. It changes with everything one does. If one does not like the prediction, one can always change paths.

Since ancient times, runes have been used for divination and magic, in addition to writing. The word "rune" actually means mystery, secret or whisper. Each rune has esoteric meanings and properties associated with it, beyond its mundane meaning and phonetic value. Each translates into a word or a phrase signifying concepts important to the early peoples who used them, representing the forces of nature and mind. Each rune has a story attached to it, a relationship to a Norse God.

Odin, the Norse High God of the Aesir, hung from the world tree, Yggdrasil, impaled on his own spear, for nine days and nights in order to gain the knowledge of runes. When the runes appeared below him, he reached down and took them up, and the runic knowledge gave him power . He later passed on this knowledge to the Vanir goddess Freya. She, in turn, taught him the magic of seidr. Heimdall, the god who guarded the Rainbow Bridge, taught the runes to mankind.

Runic alphabets first appeared among German tribes in central and eastern Europe. Some runes symbols are likely to have been acquired from other alphabets, such as the Greek, Etruscan, and the Early Roman. The runes were made of straight lines to make the characters suitable for cutting into wood or stone. The earliest runic inscriptions on stone are dated to the late 3rd century AD, although it is probable that runic alphabets had been in use for some centuries before.

The Old Germanic Runic alphabet or "Elder Futhark" contains 24 runes. The first six runes of the alphabet spell out the word "FUTHARK". As the runes spread northwards into Scandinavia, some rune symbols were dropped and the alphabet was reduced to only 16 runes. Between 400 and 600 AD, three Germanic tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, invaded Britain. They brought the runes with them. The forms of several of the runes changed, notably the runes for A/O, C/K, H, J, S, and Ng. Also, changes in the language led to nine runes being added to the alphabet to compensate for the extra sounds, and several runes were given different corresponding letters. This alphabet, expanded to 33 symbols, has become known as the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. The rune names themselves have been passed down relatively intact. Although no manuscript exists listing the names of the older, Germanic runes, the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian rune poems agree to such an extent that their common origin can be deduced.

History and Origin of the Runes

What we now know as the runic alphabet seems to have developed from two distinct sources - one magical, one literate. Pre-runic symbols, or hällristningar, have been found in various Bronze Age rock carvings, primarily in Sweden. Some of these symbols are readily identifiable in the later alphabets, while others represent ideas and concepts which were incorporated into the names of the runes (sun, horse, etc.). The exact meanings of these sigils are now lost to us, as is their original purpose, but they are believed to have been used for divination or lot-casting, and it is fairly certain that they contributed to the magical function of the later runic alphabets. There is some debate over the origin of the "alphabet" aspect of the runes. Cases have been made for both Latin and Greek derivation, and several scholars are once again arguing in favour of both these theories. However, the strongest evidence still seems to point to a North Italic origin. The parallels between the two alphabets are too close to be ignored, particularly in the forms of the letters, as well as in the variable direction of the writing, and certain structural and even symbolic characteristics. This would also explain why so many of the runes resemble Roman letters, since both Italic and Latin scripts are derived from the Etruscan alphabet (itself a branch of the Western Greek family of alphabets). This theory would place the original creation of the futhark sometime before the 1st. century c.e., when the Italic scripts were absorbed and replaced by the Latin alphabet. Linguistic and phoenetic analysis points to an even earlier inception date, perhaps as far back as 200 b.c.e.

When the northern tribes began integrating the Italic alphabets into their own symbolic system, they gave the letters names relating to all aspects of their secular and religious lives, thus transforming their simple pictographs into a magical alphabet which could be used for talismans, magical inscriptions and divination. The first Runic Script we will be working with is the Eldar Futhark.

The Elder Futhark

The name "futhark", like the word "alphabet", is derived from the first few letters in the runic sequence, which differs considerably from the order of the Latin alphabet and is unique amongst alphabetic scripts. The futhark originally consisted of 24 letters, beginning with F and ending with O, and was used by the northern Germanic tribes of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Northern Germany. This form of the runes is known as the Elder, or Germanic Futhark.


1) Write your name in Runes. Use the Eldar Futhark Script and either put it in a gif file here or email it to me at gwenlliana@gmail.com

2) Pick one rune you feel drawn to, either by the way it looks or by meaning and we will explore those first.

3) What are you hoping to learn from this class?


Posted by: selene2 (selene2)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2006 01:57 am (UTC)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I really like algiz. I think it means protection. (though I am not sure)

I think that this class is interesting. I just want to learn more about runes.

Posted by: AnndeeGranger (anndee123)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2006 05:29 am (UTC)
Hog Harm Gryff Icon


2. I'm really pulled in by the shape of jera.

3. The history of where runes came from, how and why they have been used, how to use them to better my own life, and how to use them to possibly help others

Posted by: Jade (jadeites_lady)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
HH Ravenclaw


2. I also like the shape of 'jera'.

3. How Runes disappeared to be replaced by the alphabet we now use today.

Posted by: Chocolate Frogs for Breakfast (whimsicalmuse)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2006 06:52 am (UTC)
HP Gryffindor CF4B


2) I'm most interested in ehwaz and eihwaz in light of Hermione's goof on her Ancient Runes O.W.L.

3) I'm hoping to learn about the history of runes, their meanings, and how they're used today.

Posted by: Lady Starlight (ladybluestar)
Posted at: July 24th, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC)
Ravenclaw name

1. In your e-mail inbox.

2. sowulo, which looks a lot like a lightning bolt when seen elsewhere.

3. I'm just curious to find out more information, purely academic reasons.

Posted by: superbeffie (superbeffie)
Posted at: July 28th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC)
Hufflepuff Harmony

1.I am having all kids of issues with my computer and it will not let me post my name in Runes. : ( The closest I can get for now is BMTH. Thats how it looks anyway.
2.I am most drawn to Dagaz. I think it means transformation or journey ( I have seen it on websites as such) and I am very attracted to tha meaning.
3. I am just curious about something that has a standard history that we can explore.

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