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Runes: The Alphabet of Odin

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Saved by Örn Ironfist
on November 27, 2009 at 10:57:01 am

Runes first appeared in literature in the text of the Havamal where Odin discovers them while hanging from Yggdrasil, the World Tree. These symbols that he learned were reputed to be charged with magical powers which, if cast or marked out correctly, could enact powerful spells which could do anything from making a warrior impervious to damage, to allowing a dead man to speak with the living. This amazing power symbolizes the very power of Odin as the Father of All, and it is no wonder that these runes have captured the attention of so many over the course of history. The purpose of this page will be to describe the role of Runes in Proto-Germanic (read Viking) society, as well as their archelogical origins, the meaning of each of the runes, and their uses in modern society among Neo-pagan faiths.


The first group of runes to be found on the archeological record belong to the aptly named Elder Futhark, named thus for the phonetic sound of the first six letters (f, u, th, a, r, k). Below is an image of the elder futhark which gives the phonetic value of each of the runes. 



As can be seen above, the elder futhark contains enough letters that it could be used for writing with, after a fashion. And though we do find instances of large groups of runes being carved in certain places, usually in the form of large runestones (see below), for the most part it seems that they were only rarely used to write with, usually to claim ownership of an item or to boast about the workmanship involved in creating the item. This use of runes can be seen having been employed either way in the image of the antler comb which dates from between 150 and 200 CE  with the engraving "Harja" on its handle.




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