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.
I’m no longer sure where I found the information that I’m about to present to you. It was a while back when I found it on some web page and took a closer look at the information for myself. In the Hávamál, found in the Elder Edda (or Poetic Edda) there is a section where Odin talks about the runes that he has discovered and their uses. The information below talks about the eighteen charms, their intent and the primary and supporting runes of the elder futhark in relation to that story. We can’t say for certain if the material below is accurate or not, but it is interesting enough that I think it’s worth putting on this site.
I know spells – no king’s wife can say – and no man has mastered; – one is called “Help” – because it can comfort – the sick and careworn, – relieve all sorrows.
I know another – which all men need – who hope to be healers.
I know a third – if I should need – to fetter any foe; – it blunts the edge – of my enemy’s sword, – neither wiles nor weapons work.
I know a fourth: – if I should find myself – fettered hand and foot, – I shout the spell – that sets me free, – bonds break from my feet, – nothing holds my hands.
I know a fifth: – in battle’s fury – if someone flings a spear, – it speeds not so fast – but that I can stop it – I only have to see it.
I know a sixth: – if someone would harm me – by writing runes on a tree root, – the man who wished – I would not come to woe – will meet misfortune, not I.
I know a seventh: – if I see flames – high around a hall, – no matter how far – the fire has spread – my spell can stop it.
I know an eighth – which no one on earth – could fail to find useful: – when hatred waxes – among warriors – the spell will soothe them.
I know a ninth: – if I ever need – to save my ship in a storm, – it will quiet the wind – and calm the waves, – soothing the sea.
I know a tenth: – any time I see – witches sailing the sky – the spell I sing – sends them off their course; – when they lose their skins – they fail to find their homes.
I know an eleventh: – if I lead to war – good and faithful friends, – under a shield I shout – the spell that speeds them – well they fare in the fight, – well they fare from the fight, – wherever they go they fare well.
I know a twelfth: – if up in a tree – I see a corpse hanging high, – the mighty runes – I write and color – make the man come down – to talk with me.
I know a thirteenth: – if I pour water – over a youth, – he will not fall – in any fight, – swords will not slay him.
I know a fourteenth, – as men will find – when I tell them the tales of the gods: – I know all about – the elves and the Æsir – few fools can say as much.
I know a fifteenth – that the dwarf Thjodrorir – chanted at Delling’s door: – power to the Æsir, – triumph to the elves, – understanding to Odin.
I know a sixteenth: – if I say that spell – any girl soon grants my desires; – I win the heart – of the white-armed maiden, – turn her thoughts where I will.
I know a seventeenth, – and with that spell – no maiden will forsake me.
I know and eighteenth – which I never tell – a maiden or any man’s wife – the best of charms – if you can chant it; – this is the last of my lay – unless to a lady – who lies in my arms, – or I’ll sing it to my sister.
Intent: Union of male and female
Primary rune: To be discovered by the reader
Supporting runes: To be discovered by the reader
The Saga of the Volsungs is a Norse Epic dealing with the dragon slayer, Sigurd. It’s a wonderful tale that makes many references to the runes. In chapter 21 we get a close look at how many of the runes are used when Brynhild speaks a short verse to Sigurd. Throughout this tale we see how important it is not only to know how to use the runes, but to use them and read them properly.
Regin, the son of Hreidmar, was Siguard’s foster father. He taught Siguard sports, chess, and runes.
Early in the story we can get a look at how important the runes are going to be in the tale. It’s mentioned that Sigurd is taught how to use the runes by his foster father. Later in the story we’ll come to find out how important it was for Sigurd to learn how to read and cut the runes.
She answered: “You know them better than I. But gladly I will teach you, if there is anything I know that will please you about runes or other matters that concern all things.”
Chapter 21 is a great section to read. If you’re not planning on reading this entire saga I would suggest that you at least glance over this chapter. It’s full of information on the runes. This is the section where Brynhild tells Sigurd all that she knows about the runes and their uses.
Beer I give you,
With strength blended
And with much glory.
It is full of charmed verse
And runes of healing
Of seemly spells
And of pleasing speech.
Victory runes shall you know
If you want to secure wisdom,
And cut them on the sword hilt,
On the center ridge of the blade,
And the parts of the brand,
And name Tyr twice.
Wave runes shall you make
If you desire to ward
Your sail-steeds on the sound.
On the stem shall they be cut
And on the steering blade
And burn them on the oar.
No broad breaker will fall
Nor waves of blue,
And you will come safe from the sea.
Speech runes shall you know
If you want no repayment
In hate words for harm done.
Tie them all together,
At that thing
When all shall attend
The complete court.
Ale runes shall you know
If you desire no other’s wife
To deceive you in troth, if you trust.
They shall be cut on the horn
And on the hand’s back
And mark the need rune on your nail.
For the cup shall make you a sign
And be wary of misfortune
And throw leek into the liquor.
Then, I know that,
You will never get
A potion blended with poison.
Aid runes shall you learn
If you would grant assistance
To bring the child from the mother.
Cut them in her palm
And hold her hand in yours.
And bid the Disir not to fail.
Branch runes shall you learn
If you wish to be a healer
And to know how to see to wounds.
On bark shall they be cut
And on needles of the tree
Whose limbs lean to the east.
Mind runes shall you learn
If you would be
Wiser that all men.
They were solved,
They were carved out,
They were heeded by Hropt.
They were cut on the shield
That stands before the shining god,
On Arvak’s ear
And on Alsvid’s head
And on the wheel that stands
Under Hrungnir’s chariot,
On Sleipnir’s reins,
And on the sleigh’s fetters.
On bear’s paw
And on Bragi’s tongue,
On wolf’s claws
And on eagle’s beak,
On bloody wings
And on bridge’s ends,
On the soothing palm
And on the healing step.
On glass and on gold
And on good silver,
In ale and in wine
And on the witch’s seat,
In human flesh
And on the point of Gaupnir
And the hag’s breast,
On the Norn’s nail
And on the neb of the owl.
All that were carved on these
Were scraped off
And mixed with the holy mead
And sent on widespread ways.
They are with elves,
Some with the Æsir
And with the venerable Vanir,
Some belong to mortal men.
The are cure runes
And aid runes
And ale runes
And peerless power runes
For all to used unspoiled
To bring about good fortune.
Enjoy them if you have learned them,
Until the gods perish.
Now shall you choose,
As you are offered a choice,
O maple shaft of sharp weapons.
Speech or silence,
You must muse for yourself.
All words are already decided.
A lot of what is said above is pretty much laid out for you. There shouldn’t be much to explain, however I will say a few things about the runes that may have been used. As always we are uncertain as to which set of runes were used around the time of this saga and we will assume the use of the elder futhark.
When we take a look at the elder futhark and the mention of the runes above we can make some connections. For example the “runes of healing” could be uruz, which is a healing rune. The stanza which mentions “victory runes” also mentions the name Tyr which would be the rune Teiwaz since it’s name is derived from Tyr’s name. There are of course some other easy connections between the runes mentioned in the verse and the runes of the elder futhark, but the rest I’ll leave for you to take a closer look at.
Do not always assume that since the runes listed on the elder futhark page stand for something other than what you are looking for that it’s not the proper rune. For example in the verse above one stanza talks about “mind runes” yet there is no rune that stands for the mind or for thought. However, if we look at the meaning of the rune Kenaz we see that it deals with learning and knowledge, two things handled by the mind.
The drink was mixed with the strength of the earth and the sea and the blood of her son, while the inside of the drinking horn was carved with all manner of runes, reddened with blood, as is here told:
The horn was lined
With runes manifold,
Carved and cut with blood.
This is another case where the runes are used to protect the drinker from added poison in the drinking horn. The runes are carved on the inside of the horn and reddened with blood to set them in motion. The idea here is that if some poison were to enter the drinking horn, either in some mead or simply poured in, the horn would counter the poison. We see in Egil’s Saga (chapter 44) that the runes counter such poison by shattering the drinking horn. In this saga we see that the runes are carved only as a precautionary measure and are never put to the test.
The queen, aware of the king’s private meeting with his counselors, suspected there would be treachery toward her brothers. Gudrun cut runes, and took a gold ring and tied a wolf’s hair onto it. She gave it to the king’s messengers who then departed as the king had ordered. Before they stepped ashore, Vingi saw the runes and changed them in such a way that Gudrun appeared to be urging the brothers to come and meet with Atli.
Here we see the runes being used to deliver a message to Gudrun’s brothers. However, before the message is sent it is changed in order to make it look like Gudrun is trying to get her brothers to visit her and to come into danger.
Vingi then showed him the runes that he said Gudrun had sent them. Now most people went to sleep, but some stayed up drinking with a few of the men. Hogni’s wife, Kostbera, the fairest of women, went and looked at the runes.
As with the passage above we see the runes that Gudrun had used to warn her brothers have been changed. However the message was never closely examined by anyone except Kostbera. She is a competent rune reader and notices that some of the runes do not appear to be correct.
Kostbera began to look at the runes and to read the letters. She saw that something else had been cut over what lay underneath and that the runes had been falsified. Still she discerned through her wisdom what the runes said. After that she went to bed beside her husband. When they awoke she said to Hogni: “You intend to go away from home but that is inadvisable. Go instead another time. You cannot be very skilled at reading runes if you think you sister has asked you to come at this time. I read the runes and wondered how so wise a woman could have carved them so confusedly. Yet it seems that your death is indicated underneath. Either Gudrun missed a letter or someone else has falsified the runes.
The last part of chapter 35 dealing with the runes is when Kostbera brings the false rune message to her husband Hogni. Kostbera has already noticed that the runes had been carved over and tampered with. Knowing that this was more likely a message of warning than of invitation she tells Hogni that it could mean his doom. She knows that Gudrun is well versed in the use of the runes and that there is no way she could have made a simple mistake when carving the rune message.
This saga is full of rune information and it’s worth reading if you are interested in studying the runes. You get to see the many different ways that the runes were used as well as some good idea on which runes were used for specific purposes. You also get a good idea on just how important it was to understand the runes to avoid situations where a changed message could mean something totally different than what it was intended to mean. If you read any one saga I highly suggest that it be this one, not only because of the rune information found in it, but because the story is excellent as well.
The Elder Futhark consists of 24 runes divided into three groups of eight, known as an ætt (singular of ættir), which are said to be ruled over by both a god and goddess. The first ætt is ruled over by Frey and Freyja, the deities of fertility. The second ætt is ruled over by Heimdall and Mordgud, and the third and final ætt is ruled over by Tîwaz and Zisa.
I have added to this page the color associations for each rune. The first color will be the color that I have assigned to the rune and the one in parentheses is the color assigned by the author D. Jason Cooper in his book Esoteric Rune Magic. If there is are no parentheses for a second color that simply means that my color choice is the same as Mr. Cooper’s.
Stands for: Cattle
Color: Green (Brown)
Casting meaning: Fehu is a rune of power and control. It represents new beginnings and “movable” wealth such as money and credit. It is a rune that gives us the power we need to obtain wealth as well as the power we need to hold on to it.
Stands for: Auroch (like a wild ox)
Color: Orange (Dark Green)
Casting meaning: Uruz is also a rune of power, but unlike Fehu, it’s a power that we can neither own nor control. In a casting it can mean that personal success is near. For charms and talismans use Uruz for its healing powers.
Stands for: Thorn (or Giant)
Casting meaning: This rune represents the ability we have to resist unwanted conflicts in a passive manner. It is a rune of protection and can tell us of a possible change that would have otherwise come without warning. You can use the protection aspect of Thurisaz as a defense against adversaries.
Sound: “aa” as in “aah”
Stands for: Mouth (or Divine Breath)
Casting meaning: Ansuz is a rune that symbolizes stability and shows us order. It is also a rune that indicates intellectual activities and directly represents the divine breath of all life and creation.
Stands for: Wheel, Cartwheel (or Riding)
Color: Blue (Black)
Casting meaning: This rune allows us to focus our energy so that we may obtain our goals. However to do so effectively we must be “in the right place at the right time.”
Stands for: Torch
Casting meaning: Kenaz is a rune of knowledge, understanding, learning and teaching. It allows us to view situations with more clarity than we normally would.
Sound: “g” as in “gift”
Stands for: Gift
Color: Gold & Silver (Red)
Casting meaning: Gebo represents the honor and connection that is created between people when they exchange gifts. The connection and honor is similar to the connection and honor that a person has with the gods for giving them life.
Sound: “w”, “v”
Stands for: Joy
Color: Pink (Blue)
Casting meaning: This rune shows us the balance between all things even when in a chaotic world. It is also a rune of fellowship, common goals and well being to all things. If you come across this rune in a reading you can expect good news to come your way.
Stands for: Hail, Hailstone
Color: Blue (White)
Casting meaning: Representing a hailstone we can expect time and situations to be constricting if Hagalaz turns up in a reading. But much like a hailstone will eventually turn to water, which flows smoothly, these situations and times will eventually flow smoothly for us.
Stands for: Necessity (or Need)
Color: Black (Blue)
Casting meaning: This rune represents how our need or want of something can put a restriction on us. It restricts our possibilities but also contains the power we need to break free from those restrictions.
Sound: “i”, “ee” as in “east”
Stands for: Ice
Color: Brown (Black)
Casting meaning: Like an icicle formed at the start of winter, with this rune we can only wait until the warmth of the sun allows us to be free from a constricting form. Isa represents a halt in activity until a change is made.
Sound: “j” like the “y” in “year”
Stands for: Harvest (or Year or Season)
Casting meaning: Jera is a rune that represents the cycle of life. With this rune we see that we must go with the flow of nature to obtain the goals we want.
Sound: “eo”, “æ”
Stands for: Yew Tree
Color: White (Green)
Casting meaning: Eihwaz is a rune that can be used as a magical protector and facilitator. It shows us that in the event of an ending situation we find the start of a new situation.
Stands for: Dice Cup (there are many variations)
Color: Blue (Red)
Casting meaning: Perdhro reminds us of the uncertainties in life and represents freewill and the connection of the restrictions we have due to our circumstances. It is viewed as a rune of memory and problem solving.
Sound: “zz” as in “buzz”
Stands for: Elk (or Protection)
Color: Black (Purple)
Casting meaning: This is a rune of great restraint power, defense and protection. Use this rune in charms and talismans to protect yourself as well as your property.
Stands for: Sun
Casting meaning: With the help of this rune we tend to be able to see things more clearly. Like the sun sheds light on dark times, with Sowulo we too can find the light during dark times.
Stands for: Creator
Color: Green (Red)
Casting meaning: Teiwaz can promise us success in our actions but this time without personal sacrifice. It also means success in “legal” matters but only if we were in the right to begin with.
Stands for: Birch Tree (or Birch Twig)
Color: White (Blue)
Casting meaning: Like the birch tree coming to life from a seed planted in the earth, Berkana represents a new beginning and is also a powerful birth rune.
Sound: “e” as in “every”
Stands for: Horse
Color: Red (White)
Casting meaning: Ehwaz reminds us that in order for success there must be a natural flow in the task at hand. With this rune to give us power as well as it making use of our good intentions we can surely achieve such success.
Stands for: Man (as in human, not gender)
Color: Blue (Purple)
Casting meaning: Mannaz has many powers. First it is a rune that lets us know we can achieve our fullest potential. Secondly it reminds us that we, as humans, all have shared experiences in life. Lastly we can use the power of this rune to gain the upper hand in disputes and arguments.
Stands for: Water (or Lake)
Color: Black & White (Green)
Casting meaning: Laguz represents the power of water and its easy flowing nature. We must learn to “go with the flow” when this rune shows up in a reading so that we can take full advantage of our powers.
Sound: “ng” as in “long”
Stands for: Fertility
Color: Brown (Black)
Casting meaning: This rune allows us to spread our energy out far and wide. It is a protective rune mainly for the protection of our homes. To use Inguz effectively we must learn to build up our powers over time and then release the power all at once.
Stands for: Day
Casting meaning: Dagaz represents a stability between opposites, such as light and dark. It can stop harmful energy from getting to you but at the same time allow the good energy to slip through so that you can make good use of it.
Sound: “o” as in “old”
Stands for: Home (or Odla – sacred ancestral land)
Color: Copper (Brown)
Casting meaning: Much like Fehu this is a rune of wealth. But unlike Fehu, Othala represents a wealth that cannot be sold. This is wealth like family, friendships or our culture and heritage that is passed down to us. It represents an enclosure and maintains the existing state of things as they presently are.
I forget where and when I read about the concept of runic half-months and I really wish I could remember so that I may give some credit to the author here. However, I feel that this idea is too great to leave off the site simply because I can’t remember where I read it.
How does it work? The idea is simple: There are 12 months in a year and 24 runes of the elder futhark. Which means that each month contains two runes, or each rune has a half-month where it represents the time, season and events of that month. A similar action can be held true for the hours in a day, which will be covered in another section (24 runes, 24 hours in a day).
|Runic half-month start date*||Rune|
For those of you who are new to the runes and wish to learn more – well use this table to your advantage. Read and learn as much as you can about the rune that relates to the half-month you are currently in. Learn the different names and symbols for that rune, the color and sound associated with it and even try to commit the rune meaning for casting to memory. It sounds tough, but trust me it’s a great exercise.
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.