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.
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.
There are many different versions or sets of runes that you will encounter as you read more about the runes. This is largely due to the history, travel and adaptation of the runes by different societies and cultures as they traveled around Europe. History tells us that the runes moved from society to society by the means of traders, travelers and warriors. A person may encounter and learn the runes from one society and then carry that knowledge to a new society through their travels. Since each society may have different phonetic sounds in their vocabulary the runes would take on new sounds, forms and meanings. For the most part you’ll see that the meanings and sounds didn’t change all that much. Similarities can be found between many sets. Of course there are times when you see that one rune set may be expanded or shortened to fit the needs of a specific society.
But what makes one set different from another set? Is it simply their shapes, meanings and sounds? Or can it be something deeper than that? From here on we’ll examine a few of the different rune sets and see what makes one different from the other. Click on the links to learn more about them.
Anglo-Saxon and Frisian Rune Sets – Expanded versions of the Elder Futhark rune set totaling 28 runes staves for the Frisian runes and 29 staves for the Anglo-Saxon set.
Armanen Rune Set – An 18 rune stave set created by Guido List. List claimed that this set was the “original rune set.”
Elder Futhark Rune Set – Also known as the German or Viking rune set, the Elder futhark set contains 24 rune staves.
Gothic Rune Set – This rune set of 25 staves was adapted from the Elder Futhark by a 4th century bishop for the use of writing Christian material.
Medieval Runes of Healing and Magick Set – These 8 runes were never really used for writing but were mainly associated with gods and goddesses that were worshiped in secret during Christian times.
Northumbrian Rune Set – This 33 rune stave collection was an extension of the Anglo-Saxon rune set adding 4 more runes to the already 29 rune set.
Younger Futhork Rune Set – Around the 7th or 8th century the Elder futhark rune set was shortened to 16 runes to form two new sets collectively known as the Younger futhork.
If you’ve had time to look at the different type of rune sets then you may be curious about is just what those runes stand for. As the runes were developed and as they transformed over time they came to stand for more than just sounds. They held magickal properties to people who used the runes for casting. They were still being used for writing so they held a phonetic sound as well. The name of each rune held a certain meaning and could stand for an item or an idea. For each different set below you will get to see an image of each rune, the phonetic value, what the rune stood for and also it’s meaning for casting purposes.
Anglo-Saxon and Frisian Runes – consists of the Elder Futhark Runes plus 5 more runes
Armanen Runes – similar to other runes in Scandinavia but were created by Guido List (1848-1919)
Elder Futhark Runes – sometimes called the German or Viking Futhark
Gothic Runes – the type of runes that are found on the Kylver Stone
Medieval Runes of Healing and Magick – 8 runes that were not used for writing but for magickal and healing purposes during the Middle Ages
Northumbrian Runes – consists of the Anglo-Saxon Runes plus 4 more runes
Younger Futhork Runes – includes the Danish and Swedish-Norse Futhark
It’s important to note that the names of the runes that you will find on other sites and in books may be different than the ones that you see on the pages for this site. For example the Elder Futhark rune “Kenaz” has at least five different names (or spellings) that I can think of off the top of my head. What I have done here is to use the names which I have used in my runic journal since I started it. You may also find that the images in a few books or other sites may be a little different as well. I took the most common images that I found in all of my rune books and used those in hopes that if you further your study on the runes that you may encounter the images I have used.
Sets in bold will be covered here when I get the time.