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Gothic Rune Set

The Gothic rune set, while lacking its own rune poem, does have some very interesting meanings known to us. The reason for this is due to a bishop from the middle of the fourth century named Ulfila. Bishop Ulfila set out to construct a new alphabet that was largely based on the Gothic runes as well as Hellenic Greek and Arian and Gnostic Christian sources. While his alphabet failed for its purpose it did do a few positive things for the runes. Ulfila’s meanings for his magical alphabet found their way back into the meanings for the Gothic runes. Some would say that this is not a benefit for the runes because Ulfila’s own meanings may have replaced the older meanings for the runes. However, since we no longer have much idea what those meanings are, we do have at least one version of meanings for the runes. Of course, being a bishop, we do tend to see a sort of “Christian flavor” to the meanings, which can be looked on as either a good or a bad thing – all depending on your view.

When Christianity started to rise among the Goths they gave up their use of the runes, but they did replace their rune use with the use of Bishop Ulfila’s alphabet. The use of the new alphabet may in fact have kept us from forgetting about the Gothic runes and their meanings. Even though the true meanings may be lost, we do see at least one set of meanings for these runes thanks to the bishop. Also, I find it hard to believe that while creating meanings for his own alphabet that Ulfila completely ignored the original meanings for the Gothic runes. So there is still a possibility that the newer, “more Christianized” meanings have hints of the original meanings in them.

Another reason we know a little more about the Gothic runes, despite it not having a rune poem, is thanks to Otto von Friesen. This Swedish researcher, in 1928, published Runorn i Sverige in which he reconstructed the Gothic runes, their meanings as well as assigned genders to each rune. An excellent work that allows us more insight to the runes and their meanings on a whole new level.