Viking rune: meaning and origin of the Futhark

Type the word “rune” into Google and you will see to what extent this subject unleashes passions.

Love of the history and tradition of our ancestors, medievalist fantasy or obscure desire to monopolize certain powers: there is no shortage of reasons to be interested in the theme of the Viking rune.

Concretely, runes form an ancient writing system used in Northern Europe until a fairly advanced period in the Middle Ages. Although their significance is now forgotten by most people, certain historical and archaeological elements can put us on interesting trails.

If we combine this with the oral tradition passed down to us by the ancients, the meaning that the different Nordic runes carry suddenly becomes clear.

When it comes to the Viking rune, a whole bunch of questions can arise...

Is there a magical power linked to them?

Is the famous “runic magic” a reality?

Do these strange symbols carry power within them?

Together, we will try to answer these questions. But first, let's put things in context and look at the origin of runes.

Before continuing, and to clearly establish what we are talking about, here is a completely classic rune game that we found for you.

Contents :

The mythological origin of runes

Futhark: a Viking alphabet

Overview of the Elder Futhark Runes

And so concretely, what is the meaning of a Viking rune?

The Viking rune: a tool for divination and clairvoyance

Use runes today

Magical-looking forest located in northern Scandinavia, homeland of the Vikings

The mythological origin of runes

In Nordic tradition, a particular story explains how men were able to access the power of the Viking runes.

Basically, runes were magical symbols that flowed from the Well of Urd, the source of the destiny of men and gods.

The Norns, three old women who weaved the web of the world thanks to the threads of destiny, used the runes to transport their creation through the sap of Yggdrasil and, thus, be able to impose it on the nine worlds of Viking mythology.

The god Odin one day decided to impale his heart with his own spear in order to cling to the world tree, Yggdrasil.

For nine days and nine nights, he remained in this posture of suffering yes, but also of connection with the root of the universe, in order to receive a great secret: the meaning of the Viking rune as a whole.

This sacrifice Odin made was not selfless. He knew in fact that, even if this undertaking was risky, the power of the runes was such that great wisdom and great things could be revealed to him.

There was no shortage of this: Odin succeeded in acquiring gigantic powers to the point of becoming the god of magic and esotericism in the Nordic pantheon.

If this kind of story interests you, why not take a look at the Viking lucky charms we've discovered. Each is presented with its history and meaning.

In short, this legend teaches us two essential elements to understand in order to understand the entire meaning of Viking runes.

On the one hand, the origins of this writing system are very old and therefore difficult to date. Indeed, they arise more from a tradition (perhaps thousands of years old) than from an administrative decision of a power to impose a common writing.

On the other hand, unlike other peoples such as the Greeks and Romans, the Vikings gave their alphabet a sacred or even downright magical character.

It is therefore not uncommon to find a Viking rune engraved in a stone commemorating the memory of ancestors or on the grave of a hero.

Because they had an inherent meaning therefore, some have even said that these symbols could be used as a means of communication between the natural and the supernatural, and thus serve as a protective spell or at least a good luck charm.

Regardless, it is widely believed that the meaning of Viking runes is deep and differs widely from that of any other type of written language.

This also makes any form of translation a real challenge because it is not simply a matter of matching a rune to a word or sound but rather to a complex idea.

A set of Nordic runes, two lucky jewels engraved with runic symbols

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Secrets and power of Viking seers

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Futhark: a Viking alphabet

Our French word “alphabet” comes from the Greek letters alpha and beta. Similarly, modern experts have called the runic alphabets "futhark" based on the first six runes.

If we talk about ancient futhark, does that mean there is a "young" futhark? Well yes, absolutely, specialists actually describe it under the name of new futhark.

The ancient futhark bears this name because it designates the oldest runic system (logical, you might say) that was found by historians. This is the one inscribed on the Kylver Stone, discovered in the Gotland region of Sweden and dated to the year 400 (this corresponds to the era of the development of Viking culture).

In all, around fifty runestones of the same type were found. Often placed at the entrance to tombs or on sacred sites, the erection of this type of monument took place in Scandinavia from the 5th to the end of the 12th century.

We can therefore say that the Nordic rune was linked to the Viking civilization throughout its history.

Family sitting on a bench composed of young and old

Different types of futhark

During what historians call the Early Viking Age (793–930), Old Futhark gradually gave way to New Futhark. While the first was composed of 24 distinct runes, the second only had 16.

We could say that this corresponded to a simplification of the Nordic language and thought. In reality, it is the opposite...

The Vikings had colonies in Scandinavia of course, but also in Normandy, England, all along the Danube, Iceland, Greenland and even America.

Inevitably, this profusion of communities led their languages ​​to separate and become more complex. The only way the Northerners could understand each other was to take what their different languages ​​had in common.

Certain sounds and pronunciations then became incomprehensible to others. This automatically led to the common Viking alphabet becoming simplified and some runes disappearing.

Viking longship used for trade in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea

But actually, why the need for a common Viking alphabet?

The answer is rather simple.

The explosion of trade and economic relations that characterized the Viking Age created the need for an effective means of communication.

While archaeologists have only discovered a few hundred traces of ancient futhark, almost always used in a religious context, thousands of uses of the new futhark have been counted, largely in a commercial or diplomatic context.

In fact, priests and seers continued to use the Viking runes of their ancestors while everything linked to law, commerce or the organization of society used the new alphabet.

Viking port in which ships ready to go to sea are located

Great variations at the end of the Golden Age of the Vikings

Towards the end of their civilization, the different branches of Nordic origin had separated so much that the very way of drawing their runes had also evolved. In this respect, we can cite the Anglo-Frisian futhark or the so-called “medieval” futhark.

The latter offered additional possibilities by adding accents but also smoothing the curves of the runes.

Where a traditional Viking rune is made up of branches and sharp angles, the medieval futhark used more rounding.

So there were a whole bunch of different regional spelling traditions.

If we add to this the stylization that certain sculptors could do in a purely artistic way, we understand that the question of the regionalization of the Viking alphabet is a real headache for historians.

If the subject interests you, here is an article from the Vikidia site which presents different ways of writing runes.

List of the 24 Viking runes of the ancient futhark, numbered

Overview of the Elder Futhark Runes

  • Fehu (cattle): wealth, abundance, success, security, fertility.
  • Uruz (the bull): strength, tenacity, courage, untamed potential, freedom.
  • Thurisaz (the thorn): reaction, defense, conflict, catharsis, regeneration.
  • Ansuz (the estuary): the mouth, communication, understanding, inspiration.
  • Raidho (the wagon): travel, rhythm, spontaneity, evolution, decisions.
  • Kennaz (the torch): vision, creativity, inspiration, improvement, vitality.
  • Gebo (the gift): balance, exchange, partnership, generosity, relationships.
  • Wunjo (joy): pleasure, comfort, harmony, prosperity, success.
  • Hagalaz (hail): nature, anger, tests, obstacles overcome.
  • Nauthiz (need): restriction, conflict, will, endurance, autonomy.
  • Isa (ice): clarity, stasis, challenges, introspection, observation and waiting.
  • Jera (the year): cycles, completion, changes, harvest, rewards of our efforts.
  • Eihwaz (the yew tree): balance, illumination, death, the world tree.
  • Perthro (the roll of the dice): destiny, chance, mystery, destiny, secrets.
  • Algiz (momentum): protection, defense, instinct, group effort, guardianship.
  • Sowilo (the Sun): health, honor, resources, victory, wholeness, cleansing.
  • Tiwaz (the god Tyr): masculinity, justice, leadership, logic, battle.
  • Berkana (birch): femininity, fertility, healing, regeneration, birth.
  • Ehwaz (the horse): transport, movement, progress, confidence, change.
  • Mannaz (humanity): individuality, friendship, society, cooperation, help.
  • Laguz (water): intuition, emotions, flow, renewal, dreams, hopes and fears.
  • Inguz (the seed): goals, growth, change, common sense, home.
  • Othala (inheritance): ancestry, possessions, heritage, experience, value.
  • Dagaz (noon): awakening, certainty, illumination, completion, hope

Set of engraved wooden runes discarded on the floor of a forest

And so concretely, what is the meaning of a Viking rune?

It is accepted by almost everyone who is interested in the question that the Viking runes were used as magical symbols, from antiquity to the present day.

From harnessing mysterious powers to discovering what the future holds… we actually have no direct proof that any of this works!

As is often the case with this type of question, it is undoubtedly your personal point of view that will count the most. Some people believe it, and some people don't.

We are not here to judge but simply to provide as much information as possible which will allow you to form your own opinion.

We've already raised this point just before but, yes, the Vikings themselves used runes during religious ceremonies and rituals. Whether it was throwing carved bones into the fire for the smoke to tell them the outcome of a battle, or carving a Norse rune into a helmet or shield as a glyph of protection, the ancient peoples of the The North firmly believed that this type of practice contained real power.

It is with this in mind that we decided to add this ring decorated with runes to our site.

In short, the meaning of the Viking rune as a symbol is above all that of a mystical power arising from interpretation and personal sensitivity.

Runestone erected by the ancient Vikings on a Danish plain

The Viking alphabet: a major archaeological element

We asked ourselves a question while writing this article... How can historians know precisely what each Viking rune looks like?

In reality, the answer is simple. They were engraved in stone, a material that does not stand the test of time.

Whether runestones (of which here are some examples) proudly erected on the tops of mountains, steles in the tombs of great heroes or ruins of ancient temples: Viking runes are found in almost all their places of origin. important worship.

Besides this, similar symbols were found engraved on armor, shields, tools and swords, but also in the wood which was used to make the famous longships.

Set of runes in a small fabric bag placed on a purple velvet canvas

Nordic rune and ancient magic

According to some specialists, certain Nordic runes themselves correspond to magical incantations. Combined together, they can form powerful spells.

A whole bunch of questions can then come to mind when faced with this observation…

Is the magic in the sound or in the shape of a Viking rune? And so, does this magic work better in writing or orally?

What kinds of powers are linked to this strange alphabet?

Is this type of magic dark and evil or is it sometimes justified?

What is the link between Viking magic and the ancient Norse gods?

All these questions are too complex (and above all too personal) for us to be able to provide a clear answer. However, we were keen to raise them to allow you to think about them in your own way.

Old grimoires containing legends and sagas specific to the Viking people

Some traces of runes in Viking sagas and legends

If there is one thing for sure, it is that the Vikings gave pride of place to runes in their mythology. The references, both in oral tradition and in literature, are legion.

Here are a few :

  • The Havamál, a compilation on the life of Odin, points us to the writing and reading of runes as a means of worshiping the gods (because we received them from them).
  • In a Viking legend, a dwarf named Egil Skallagrímssoncarves is shown carving sacred runes on whale bones. After burning them under a sick person's bed, he thus provided a healing that was undoubtedly magical.
  • The Grettis Saga tells us the life of Grettir Ásmundarson, a wizard who carved a powerful Viking rune on a tree stump and used it to kill an evil being hiding on an island.
  • In the Sigrdrifumál (a poem from the famous Poetic Edda), there are allusions to symbols of victory painted on swords, others associated with fertility used during childbirth and certain symbols of eloquence linked to dark affairs judicial.

Runestone erected by the ancient Vikings on a Danish plain

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The Viking rune: a tool for divination and clairvoyance

The Viking rune has been used since ancient times in divination and the creation of spells. If you don't have someone to guide you, it can be difficult to know where to start in your practice.

Don't panic: we are here to help you!

The best way to work with Viking runes is to ask a specific question or, at least, have a general theme in mind. This is a constant in the practice of the divinatory arts.

Besides, if this subject interests you, you should like our collection dedicated to it.

Even if you don't have to be of Scandinavian origin to use them, you will still need to provide prior work to become interested in Viking mythology and gods.

This is necessary to fully understand the thinking of these people and to have a better idea of ​​the messages that your rune drawings will send you.

A set of runestones consists of small crystals or pebbles, each engraved with a particular Viking rune. You can absolutely give them your own meaning and thus adapt it to you.

However, this is something that requires some experience. If you are a beginner in the world of runic magic, you are strongly advised to stick to the original meaning of the symbols you use.

Here is one way (among others) to draw, read and interpret what your runes tell you:

  • Clear your mind.
  • Focus on the questions you want answered.
  • Hold the bag of runestones in one hand.
  • Using the other fingers, mix the stones in the bag.
  • However you want to ask the question, go ahead and ask it.
  • Take a handful of stones (between 2 and 5) and throw them onto a table in front of you.
  • Read the Nordic rune written on each of them and arrange them on a line, in an order dictated by your instinct.
  • The arrangement of the different runes carries a meaning either chronological or cause and effect.
  • Now it's up to you to interpret all of this.

Set of runes intended for use by clairvoyance and mediumship.

Use runes today

Many tools and skills are used today by mediums.

Some are older than others. Some are more widespread. Some are simply more effective.

In the middle of all this, runes occupy a very special place.

Used for centuries to communicate with the forces of the universe, they contain within them great powers that only those who have used them can imagine.

Already, Viking runes serve to protect us : once engraved on ships and painted on shields, these symbols of Viking magic saved the lives of more than one man.

Obviously, they are also used to practice clairvoyance and certain types of oracles. We talked to you in this article about the famous rune drawing, and it is indeed something very powerful.

Thus, runes can help us face the problems we face by showing us the right path to take.

Yes, these symbols contain great powers. After all, it was Odin himself who offered them to men!

We are therefore entitled to say that knowledge of Viking runes must undoubtedly be reserved for an elite, a small caste of priests, sages and magicians... and until very recently, this was the truth.

Today, however, you no longer need to be a specialist in Nordic culture to be able to use runes: thanks to sites like ours, you can acquire all the tools and knowledge necessary to practice magic. runic!

Lucky charms featured in this article

Norse Runes of the Elder Futhark

Norse Runes of the Elder Futhark

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Ancient style ring engraved with runes

Ancient style ring engraved with runes

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.