The Northumbrian runes are an extension of the Anglo-Saxon runes, which in turn are an extension of the Elder Futhark rune set. The Northumbrian runes add 4 more runes to the Anglo-Saxon set making the total of 33 runes. Again due to the set up of the Anglo-Saxon runes, you may see this set also being referred to as the Northumbrian Futhork.
Stands for: Flames of a fire
Casting meaning: This rune represents a process of transformation through fire. The spirit of a body from a person on a funeral pyre is liberated by fire. Cweorth refers to the sacredness of the hearth and ritual cleansing by fire.
Stands for: Offering Cup
Casting meaning: Calc denotes the death of the individual, however it is not seen as a death rune. Like Ear, Calc indicates the natural ending or conclusion of a process. Do not view this ending as a termination, but as the end of an old era resulting in a spiritual transformation.
Stands for: Stone
Casting meaning: Stan represents an obstruction in our path, like a boulder at the entrance to a cave. It also represents the stone playing pieces used in board games. Symbolically it represents a link between heavenly bodies and earthly beings. This rune can be used to obstruct and turn back any opposition in our lives.
Sound: “g” as in “gap”
Stands for: Spear (specifically Gungnir – Odin’s Spear)
Casting meaning: The Gar rune is a special one. Unlike the previous 32 runes in the Northumbrian set, Gar does not belong to an ætt. However, this rune is said to be the center point of all the other runes in this set. It is also said to contain all the other runes in itself, making it a powerful and useful rune.
The Anglo-Saxon rune set was adapted early in the 6th century B.C.E. from a rune row known as the Frisian rune row. The Frisian runes were the result of a rapid change in the language in Frisia. With such a rapid change in the language more runes were eventually needed so the Elder Futhark was expanded by 4 symbols to bring the Frisian rune row to a total of twenty-eight rune staves. Later around the 7th century a twenty-ninth rune, Ear, was added to form the Anglo-Saxon rune set.
When the rune row was expanded a slight change was made to the order of the set. Ansuz, the fourth rune of the Elder Futhark, was replaced with a new rune, Os and Ansuz was renamed Aesc. While this may have been the only change to the shapes and names of some of the runes it was not the only change in rune order that we come across with this set (and its similar sets). In various manuscripts and on some carvings we see the runes in different orders. On a knife found in the Thames River in London we see the full rune row but in a different order. On the Thames River knife we still see that the fourth rune is Aesc, but the last eight runes are arranged differently leaving the rune Ear to be at the end of the rune order.
Most of the information for the order of the Anglo-Saxon and Frisian rune sets is known because of the Thames River knife, also known as the Thames scramasax, and the Vienna Codex. The Vienna Codex is an early 9th century Anglo-Saxon manuscript that does provide a complete version of the Anglo-Saxon rune row.
The reason I have combined the Frisian and Anglo-Saxon rune sets together are due to their close relation to each other. Originally the Frisian set was created by expanding the Elder Futhark set by four runes (the first four listed below – Ac, Os, Yr and Ior). Then later one new rune, Ear, was added to form the Anglo-Saxon rune set sometimes called the Anglo-Saxon Futhork.
It should also be noted that the Elder Futhark rune Ansuz was renamed Aesc for these sets.
Sound: “a” as in “sat”
Stands for: Oak Tree
Casting meaning: This rune symbolizes great potential power and is a rune of great usefulness. Ac channels the power of strong, continuous growth from small beginnings to a powerful and mighty climax.
Sound: “o” as in “home”
Stands for: Mouth
Casting meaning: This rune, like Aesc, is a God rune. Os belongs to Odin in his aspects of a master communicator through language and writing. Os denotes the creative power of word in all its forms – in poetry, song, oral tales, and written literature.
Sound: “y” as in “yoga”
Stands for: Bow made from a Yew Tree
Casting meaning: Yr symbolizes the perfect combination of skills and knowledge applied to materials taken from nature. This rune lets us know when we are in the “right spot” for a situation, and is good to use when looking for lost objects.
Sound: “io” as in “helios”
Stands for: The World Serpent
Casting meaning: Ior symbolizes dual natures, evident in the amphibious habits of many water beasts (like the World Serpent). It also signifies the unavoidable hardships in life that we can do nothing about, but should still not worry about.
Sound: “ea” as in “dear”
Stands for: Soil of Earth (actually the dust our bodies become after death)
Casting meaning: Ear symbolizes the grave that we will all return to. However the only way that we can die is because there was life to begin with. “Without life, there is no death and without time there is no life.” More generally Ear signifies the unavoidable end of all things.