On the Gothic monument stone known as the Kylver Stone we find the oldest complete rune-row. The runes of the Gothic rune-row were used mainly for religious dedications. Unfortunately not a whole lot is known about their meanings because unlike other rune sets there is no Gothic Rune Poem.
Around the middle of the 4th century Bishop Ulfila created a new alphabet, based on the Elder Futhark, to write Christian material in the Gothic language. For the names of the runes below I have listed the name Ulfila had given the runes as well as the Gothic name for the rune.
Stands for: Well being
Casting meaning: This is a rune of prosperity, well-being, and fruitfulness. It represents the Mother Goddess as preserver and nurturer as well as the mythical cow Audhumla. It symbolizes the abundance gained through power, as well as the power itself.
Stands for: Strength
Casting meaning: The rune Urus represents Urd, one of the three Norns, or fates, in Norse mythology. It denotes primal strength and the power of creativity.
Stands for: Thorn
Casting meaning: Thauris is a rune of defense, like the thorn it can resist an attack without a fight. The rune Thyth represents the power of enclosure and has the strength to breakdown disorder and chaos.
Sound: “a” as in “car”
Stands for: Human decent from divine beings
Casting meaning: Ansus is a god rune showing us that humans are descendents of the gods. Aza is a rune that calls upon the divine beings and holds the power of creativity.
Stands for: Motion
Casting meaning: Raida simply means motion and it’s Gothic representation Reda adds to it the feminine power of the Mother Goddess.
Sound: “k”, “c” as in “cake”
Stands for: Knowledge
Casting meaning: The rune Kusma symbolizes insight, learning, knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. Chosma shows us the duality between things such as the thin border between madness and genius.
Sound: “g” as in “gift”
Stands for: The act of giving
Casting meaning: Giba and Gewa, like the Elder Futhark rune Gebo, stands for the gift given between two people as well as the act of giving and the bond that such a gift creates.
Stands for: Joy
Casting meaning: The last rune of the first ætt represents joy, harmony and a peaceful state of mind in a chaotic world.
Stands for: Hailstone
Casting meaning: Like a hailstone, the rune Hagl/Haal represents restrictions and restraints. But like a hailstone melting, Hagl/Haal allows for the transformation form something so restricting to something more fluid and easy going.
Stands for: Need
Casting meaning: This rune denotes the absence or scarcity of something as well as symbolizing a necessity or need. The Gothic rune of Noics also signifies the letter of justice.
Sound: “i” as in “piece”
Stands for: Icicle
Casting meaning: his rune represents an icicle symbolizing unchanging existence.
Sound: “y”, “j” as in “Frejya”
Stands for: Season (or Year)
Casting meaning: Like the changing from season to season or from one year to the next, this rune represents the characters of the cycles found in nature. It is a completion at the proper time with the chance for new beginnings.
Sound: “e” as in “egg”
Stands for: Staff cut from a Yew Tree
Casting meaning: Aihs represents a double-ended staff of life and death cut from a yew tree. Waer symbolizes sacrifice.
Stands for: A Pot (or a Womb)
Casting meaning: The rune Pairthra represents a pot which in turn symbolizes a womb. The Gothic representation of this rune stands for an unexpected resolution to difficult situations.
Stands for: Power (of the elk)
Casting meaning: The rune Algs represents the power that is found in an elk. The Gothic rune of Ezec represents the fifteen starts of traditional European astronomy.
Sound: “ss” as in “kiss”
Stands for: Light overtaking darkness
Casting meaning: The runes of Saúil and Sugil stand for the power of the sun overtaking darkness. The Greek roots of Saúil referring to both the sun and the moon.
Stands for: Victory
Casting meaning: This rune symbolizes victory, goals attained, and earthly strength though male power.
Stands for: Birth (or Regeneration)
Casting meaning: This rune represents the power of woman, birth and regeneration. It also represents the birch tree (or twig) which is the favored wood used for runic divination because it is considered pure and absent of harmful influences.
Sound: “e” as in “egg”
Stands for: Horse
Casting meaning: Egeis represents the power and status of a horse. It was said that the gods used horses in divination, shamanism and royal pageantries. The rune Eyz signifies the aether, the medium prevading cosmos.
Stands for: Basic human qualities
Casting meaning: This rune represents the basic qualities that are found in all humans such as support, social abilities, happiness and cooperation.
Stands for: Water
Casting meaning: As water stimulates the growth of plant life the Lagus/Laaz rune stimulates growth in all of us. It also represents the fluidity and easygoing nature that we all strive to obtain.
Sound: “ng” as in “song”
Stands for: Generative power
Casting meaning: This rune symbolizes the potential power that we must learn to channel before we unleash it on the world. A generative power that is released in a single burst.
Stands for: Day
Casting meaning: The rune that stands for “day” is one that can be used for the protection of entrances. In a reading you may take this rune to mean a protection from new people or situations that enter your life or your present situation.
Sound: “o” as in “cold”
Stands for: Inherited land/property
Casting meaning: Like similar runes that represent land in its many forms this rune is one of a wealth that is passed on to us from our family. Like family knowledge or a family secret it is something we should carefully watch and guard over.
Sound: “qu” as in “quick”
Stands for: Flames of a fire
Casting meaning: Although it is part of the third Gothic ætt the rune Quairtra encapsulates all the other runes in this set. It symbolically represents the flames of a fire as the transform things from one form to another cleansing them as it changes their form.
In the Saga of the People of Vatnsdal we do not come across too many mentions of the runes, but we do find that magic and witchcraft are mentioned a lot in the story. Whether this magic and witchcraft is rune related in anyway is not known. It is quite possible that some of the magic weapons, staves and other items may have been inscribed with runic symbols. However since there is no evidence to back this up the passages that mention magic and witchcraft have been omitted from this site.
Like Egil’s Saga we do come across the idea of casting lots in this saga. Again I have decided to put those passages onto this page so that the readers can come to their own conclusions if the runes may have been used in the lot casting. There is only one mention of the word ‘rune’ in this saga so I have started with that passage, after that I have put the few other passages that might be somehow rune related. Again that is for you, the reader, to decide.
Jokul carved a man’s head on the end of the post, and wrote in runes the open words of the curse, spoken of earlier. Jokul then killed a mare, and they cut it open at the breast, and set it on the pole, and had it face towards Borg.
In this passage we see that Jokul uses the runes as a way to make his oral curse into a written one. This is much to the same effect as we have seen Egil do in chapter 58 of Egil’s Saga. Take into consideration the similarities between the passage of Egil’s Saga and the one here with Jokul. Both of the men after speaking and oral curse carve the curse in runes on a pole. Also both men use a horse (or a part of a horse in Egil’s case) and set it on the pole. Why this is done I cannot say for certain. It may have something to do with the power and status of the horse. If we look at the Gothic rune Egeis/Eyz we see that the gods used horses in divination, shamanism and royal pageantries. So quite possibly the horse could bring the gods attention to the curse. The only other reason that I could think of why a horse may be used would be because of Sleipnir, Odin’s horse. It was said that this eight-legged steed had the runes carved on his teeth. There may be a connection then that a horse on a rune carved pole would carry the message to the gods in a manner similar to the way Sleipnir carried Odin.
Although I had said that I was not going to make mention of the magic and witchcraft involved in this saga I have decided to include one passage that may possibly be linked to a rune casting. The section talks about determining the fates of men that have gathered at a feast. Traditionally this sort of thing is done by a woman casting the runes and reading a man’s fate from the runes. However, there is no mention of the word rune but there is talk of ‘a magic rite in the old heathen fashion’.
Ingjald and his men prepared a magic rite in the old heathen fashion, so that men could examine what the fates had in store for them. A Lapp enchantress was among those present. Ingimund and Grim arrived at the feast along with a large retinue. The Lapp woman, splendidly attired, sat on a high seat. Men left their benches and went forward to ask about their destinies.
The use of the runes to ‘examine what the fates had in store’ for people was not an uncommon practice. However, the one thing to look at is the fact that the readings were done by a Lapp enchantress. Would she cast runes for this ritual or would she go into a shaman-like trance to see the future? It may be safe to say that this is a reference to a rune casting. If she were to enter into a trance to see each man’s destiny she would possibly have to jump in and out of such a trance for each fate that she was looking at. That’s a very exhausting thing to have to do, but casting the runes for each man wouldn’t require her to do such a thing and might be a more likely a situation.
There are several mentions of the use of lots in this saga. The following chapters and quotes are where this is mentioned. Feel free to have a look at them and decide for yourselves if these “lots” might have been runic symbols or not. I will not explain the situations in which the quotes take place in the story since that has no bearing on whether or not the “lots” could be runic symbols or not.
Thorgrim was considered best suited for the chieftain’s role because of his kinship with the Vatnsdal people, but it was to be settled by lot, because many others thought themselves well suited.
The lots were then places in a small cloth and it was always Silver’s lot which came up, because of his magic powers.
Silver’s lot had secured the godord.
Again we have to determine if the lots used here were some form of the runes or something else completely. It is possible that bindrunes1 may have been used to represent each person that was in the running for the godord. But is just as possibly that each man was assigned a number or symbol that was drawn on some material and then drawn from the cloth.