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Younger Futhork – Rune Meanings

The Younger Futhork consists of 16 runes and is a result of Scandinavian runic scholars shortening the Elder Futhark by 8 staves. This happened around the 7th and 8th centuries when others were expanding the Futhark to consist of 33 total runes.

When reducing the Elder Futhark to make the new Younger Futhork, only the less complex runes were kept and the more complex ones, like Dagaz and Gebo, were dropped. However, from this two somewhat different rune-rows were created, the Swedish-Norse and the Danish rune-rows. Since the two were so similar they are both classified as the Younger Futhork. It also should be noted that the order of runes had changed a little. We now see the order of the first eight runes to spell f-u-th-o-r-k and it is because of this that you will sometime see this rune set called the Younger Futhork (as I refer to it on this site).

Fé

Sound: “f”
Stands for: Cattle (or Money specifically gold)
Casting meaning: Like other similar runes of different sets, Fé represents cattle and money – a wealth. However it is slightly different because in this wealth we take into account actually monetary pieces such as gold. Fé is not all good, however, for it warns us how unbalanced wealth can cause problems even between family members.


Ur

Ur

Sound: “u”, “o”, “y”, “w”
Stands for: Drizzle (or Slurry)
Casting meaning: This rune represents how some things can develop from nothingness. Like the fertile soil that can be created from volcanic ash which in turn with a slight amount of water and sunlight can spawn growth.


Thurs

Thurs

Sound: “th”, “dh”
Stands for: Giant
Casting meaning: Like the giant, Thurs contains a lot of power and strength. It was often used in bindrunes or magic staves to bring extra power to the staves or bindrune.


Óss

Óss

Sound: “o” as in “oh”
Stands for: God and also Mouth
Casting meaning: This rune represents the power of communication, oral bonds, and the commanding force of word and song.


Raeidh

Raeidh

Sound: “r”
Stands for: Riding (as well as the means – Horse, Cart, etc.)
Casting meaning: Since this rune stands for the act of riding its symbolic meaning is one of a journey. A trip or adventure that we must undertake in order to further ourselves down a path we have set out on.


Kaun

Kaun

Sound: “k”, “g”
Stands for: Wound (or Sore or Ulcer)
Casting meaning: Although this rune stands for a wound we must understand that it is through the suffering of such a wound that we gain new insight. This rune represents just that, the new insight that we gain from an illness or wound.


Hagall

Hagall

Sound: “h”
Stands for: Hail
Casting meaning: Just like hail will eventually transform into water we need to see that situations in our lives will do just the same. They will make a transformation from something restricting to something that flows more readily for us. This is what Hagall represents, a transformation of a situation into something more simple.


Naudhr

Naudhr

Sound: “n”
Stands for: Need (or Distress)
Casting meaning: The rune Naudhr represents not only need but the bondage we may fall into if we let the need of something overtake our lives.


Is

Is

Sound: “i”, “e”, “j” as in the “y” in “year”
Stands for: Ice
Casting meaning: Ice is unchanging and restricting and like ice this rune embodies the resistant power that tries to prevent change.


Ar

Ar

Sound: “a” as in “ah”
Stands for: A good year
Casting meaning: Ar is a rune of good results that come from the application of using our skills and knowledge at the proper time. Like the lush crops of a fall harvest resulting from the fertile soil and well timed planting season.


Sól

Sól

Sound: “s”
Stands for: Sól – the Goddess of the Sun
Casting meaning: This rune stands for the Sun Goddess called Sól in Scandinavia and Barbet in Germany and the Netherlands. It is a rune that signifies directed action under spiritual control.


Tyr

Tyr

Sound: “t”, “d”, “nt”, “nd”
Stands for: Tyr – A Scandinavian God
Casting meaning: In the world of the cosmos this rune represents orderliness. In the physical world this rune signifies law and order.


Bjarkan

Bjarkan

Sound: “b”, “p”, “v”, “mb”, “mp”
Stands for: Birch Twig
Casting meaning: The birch twig represents rebirth and purification as does the rune Bjarkan. It is also a woman’s rune symbolizing gestation and birth.


Madhr

Madhr

Sound: “m”
Stands for: Man (as in human, not gender)
Casting meaning: This rune stands not only for humankind but also represents the mythical “first man,” Mannus (or Mannaz). Since it represents humankind it symbolizes the continuity of the family and clan.


Logr

Logr

Sound: “l”
Stands for: Power of water
Casting meaning: Unlike other “water runes” this rune concentrates on the power of water – waterfalls, ocean wave, flowing rivers. It is a purification or washing away of unwanted or unneeded thing, a way to cleanse oneself.


Yr

Yr

Sound: “z”, “r”
Stands for: Bow made from a Yew Tree
Casting meaning: This rune has the same meaning as the Anglo-Saxon rune Yr. It is the entrance to the underworld and in this form is a death rune.


Armanen Runes – Rune Meanings

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.

Fa

Fa

Sound: “f”
Stands for: Primal Fire
Casting meaning: Symbolically this rune represents the power of spirit and change as well as the power of creativity.


Ur

Ur

Sound: “u”
Stands for: Resurrection
Casting meaning: Ur is a physician’s rune and represents resurrection, eternity, and continuity.


Dorn

Dorn

Sound: “th”
Stands for: Lightning and Thunder
Casting meaning: The rune represents the thunderbolt, but symbolically it stands for targeting goals, activity and the phallus.


Os

Os

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.


Rit

Rit

Sound: “r”
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.


Ka

Ka

Sound: “k”
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.


Hagal

Hagal

Sound: “h”
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.


Not

Not

Sound: “n”
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.


Is

Is

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.


Ar

Ar

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.


Sig

Sig

Sound: “s”
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.


Tyr

Tyr

Sound: “t”
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.


Bar

Bar

Sound: “b”
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.


Laf

Laf

Sound: “l”
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.


Man

Man

Sound: “m”
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).


Yr

Yr

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).


Eh

Eh

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.


Gibor

Gibor

Sound: “g”
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.


Saga of the Volsungs

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.

Chapter 13

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.

Chapter 21

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.

Chapter 21

Beer I give you,
Battlefield’s ruler,
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.
Wind them,
Weave them,
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
And unprofaned,
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.

Chapter 34

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.

Chapter 35

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.

Chapter 35

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.

Chapter 35

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.