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.
After an eye operation Guido List claimed to have had a vision where he saw the “original” set of runes. He claimed that these runes were the runes that all other rune-rows were based on. Having 18 runes in his set, he identified each of his runes with one of the 18 spells in the Havamal1 in the Elder Edda. However, there was no evidence to support his claim.
Stands for: Primal Fire
Casting meaning: Symbolically this rune represents the power of spirit and change as well as the power of creativity.
Stands for: Resurrection
Casting meaning: Ur is a physician’s rune and represents resurrection, eternity, and continuity.
Stands for: Lightning and Thunder
Casting meaning: The rune represents the thunderbolt, but symbolically it stands for targeting goals, activity and the phallus.
Sound: “o” as in “cold”
Stands for: Mouth
Casting meaning: Os represents the spiritual power that is gained through speech. It is the breath of the world, its voice. It also signifies the strength that a person needs to rise up in power.
Stands for: Ritual (or Primal Laws)
Casting meaning: This rune represents the orderliness in the world, the ritual, primal law and things that are done correctly. It also stands for cynical events and rescue from an enemy.
Stands for: World Tree
Casting meaning: List’s version of this rune was simply for it to represent the world tree. However, more modern versions of this rune say that it stands for power, generation, ability and artfulness.
Stands for: Hail (not positive)
Casting meaning: Due to its shape Hagal is sometimes called the Mother rune and is said that all other runes derive from its shape. It is a rune of enclosure but contains a potential for growth.
Stands for: Necessity of fate
Casting meaning: This rune can be taken as the same idea as the Hindu concept of karma. What is done in this lifetime will determine our future existence.
Sound: “i” as in “piece”
Stands for: Ego
Casting meaning: Just like our ego, this rune is one that is used to control ourselves. It represents the personal power of control, obedience and our compelling will.
Sound: “a” as in “aah”
Stands for: Leadership
Casting meaning: Modern meanings of this rune are of beauty, fame, intelligence and virtue. List’s version of this rune has it representing sunlight that washes away darkness as well as having it denote nobility and leadership.
Stands for: Sun Power
Casting meaning: Like Ar this rune represents the power of the sun. The difference is that Sig is the power of the sun whereas Ar is the power that the light of the sun contains. It is also a rune of success and victory.
Stands for: Rebirth of the Sun God
Casting meaning: Tyr is a rune that has the power to make situations turn completely around. A rune of wisdom, spiritual understanding, and the power of generation.
Stands for: Birth
Casting meaning: This rune represents birth, but in a sense of the birth of the future life that is preordained for us. Modern versions of this rune say it stands for the power of becoming as well as the power of creativity found in song.
Stands for: Örlog (Primal Law)
Casting meaning: List said this rune stood for the concepts of defeat and the laws of nature. Today modern versions have this rune denoting life, water and primal law.
Stands for: Man (as in human, not gender)
Casting meaning: The second mother rune of this set, Man was used in Armanen tradition to represent birth. Modern versions say it stands for health, increase, maleness and man (gender this time).
Sound: “y” as in “tiny”
Stands for: Bow (or Rainbow)
Casting meaning: Modern interpreters see this as a female rune, the night, death and instinct. List said it denoted anger, falsehood, error and the oppositions found in man (as in human not gender).
Sound: “e” as in “every”
Stands for: Duality (or possibly even Horse)
Casting meaning: The rune Eh is said to symbolize duality where a pair is bound by primal law, love, trust and marriage.
Stands for: Gift of life
Casting meaning: This rune represents the giver of life and both the giver and the gift of life itself. It is also the cosmic consciousness and the divine principle.
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.