The Armanen rune set, like other sets, has a difficult history to pin-point where and when it was established. Some will say that this set was originally developed by Guido List, while others will tell you that List followed the previous works of a scholar named Johannes Bureus. However, either way you look at it List’s work varies enough from previous scholar’s work to make the Armanen rune set one worth having a look at.
Gudio List (1848-1919) was the founder of a school of German rune work. The contributions to the study and preservation of the runes may be one of the reasons that we know as much about the runes as we do today. That’s not to say that all that List had taught was to be held as truth. In fact List claimed that his Armanen rune set was not only older than the Elder Futhark but that his set had laid the groundwork for the Elder Futhark as well as other rune sets.
It is said that the Armanen rune set came to List in a vision one day after he had become temporarily blind from an eye surgery. He envisioned 18 runes that were said to be the original rune set and the most ancient script for the Aryan race. However, if we look closely at the 18 runes we’ll notice that List simply took various Scandinavian rune sets, used from those sets various rune staves and then added 2 more to get a total of 18 rune staves for his set – which incidentally is the number of runes talked about in the Hávamál (Sayings of the High One – Part of the Elder Edda).
As far as the divinatory meanings for List’s runes we can see a close connection to the meanings of the Younger Futhork. However, with List’s set there are different meanings for daemoniums (reversed runes) as well as different names1. The use of this set among Germans and people in German speaking countries seems to be very widespread. However, since this set has ties to Socialist German, the Nazi party and in some aspects even to Hitler, we see this set being used less by modern day rune casters.
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.
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.
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.
This is only a brief timeline of the runes. I will be adding more as this site continues to grow so please be sure to check back often.
5th century B.C.E.
In the Alpine region the ‘alphabets’ known as North Etruscan, North Italic or Alpine come into existence. Later these ‘alphabets’ will play an important role in the development of the runes.
4th century B.C.E.
The Alpengermanen are thought to have come into contact with Alpine (or North Italic or North Etruscan) ‘alphabets’ and made use of them.
3rd century B.C.E.
There is a fusion between the Alpine alphabets and the pre-systemized runes forming the 24 staves of the Germanic or Elder runes. A bronze helmet found at Negau in Steiermark that was dated to possibly the 3rd century B.C.E. was inscribed in a Germanic language with Alpine lettering.
2nd century B.C.E.
Rome conquered Etruria and brings in the Roman alphabet. However the letters of the Etruscan alphabet may have advanced north through traders.
Near the end of the 2nd century B.C.E. Germanic survivors of the battles of Vercellae (the Cimbri) and Aquae Sextiac (the Teutons) stay in the area. The Cimbri, before crossing the Alps back towards Germany, may possibly have learned the runes and passed them on the Suevi.
1st century B.C.E.
The Cimbri, Suevi or possibly the Teutons advance the runes northwards down the Rhine river. At this same time the Marcomanni move the runes eastward. A goblet found at Vehlingen with a runic formula is dated to the 1st century B.C.E.
1st century C.E.
The Roman author Tacitus writes his “Germania 10” in which he gives an account of the divinatory methods of the ancient Germanic people. Also in this work it is presented that although men carried out the rituals Tacitus may have witnessed, women were held in high regard for their holiness and gifts of prophecy.
A lance tip carved with runes is found at ØvreStabu in Norway and is said to date to this time.
Around this time Rome is looted by people who are familiar with the runes. These people may have taken some Roman letters and incorporated them into rune lore. Also the Kylver stone, a Gothic grave slab in Gotland, shows us the first f-u-þ-a-r-k (f-u-th-a-r-k) order.
A gold medallion found in Vadstena Sweden shows the three families of runes separated by double dots.
Earliest date of a purely Norse rune-stave inscription.
Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem is written.
3rd century C.E.
By this time the runes have made their way to Denmark, Jutland, and Scandinavia by traveling along North Sea costal routes consisting of the Frisian Islands, Heligoland Bay as well as across Schleswig-Holstein.
6th century C.E.
Saxons bring to England the 28 rune-staves of the futhork that was developed in Friesland.
9th century C.E.
Development of the 33 rune-staves in Northumbria.
Early in the 9th century the use of the Germanic Futhark comes to an end. However, after a short transition an entire Scandinavian rune-row comes into existence mainly based on the Germanic runes.
11th century C.E.
Icelandic rune poem is written.
13th century C.E.
Norwegian rune poem is written.
16th century C.E.
Runic inscriptions in Gotland date to as late as the 16th century.
17th century C.E.
Runic inscriptions in Iceland date to as late as the 17th century.
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.