Runes are enigmatic symbols which were left by the Vikings on a countless number of documents in wood, stone and metal. These letters, as they’re believed to have played a crucial part in the lives of the Vikings, have been attracting attention for years. These mysterious symbols seem to give us a valuable insight into the life of the Viking people and thus, we all want to know more about them. Here’s everything you should know about the runes and their hidden meanings.
Runes: What Are They and What’s Their Meaning?
Runes are the letters of the runic alphabet which date back to 1st or 2nd Century AD. The runic alphabet is a system of symbols which was developed and used by Germanic people. The runic alphabet is also known as the futhark as the first letter of it are – f, u, þ, a, r, k.
The runic alphabet, or the futhark, has three main forms, Elder Futhark, Younger Futhark, and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. Elder Futhark, used between 100 and 800 AD, had 24 characters. Younger Futhark, which is also known as Scandinavian Runes, used during the Viking Age before being Latinised in the Christian era, had 16 characters. Last but not least, the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc which was used in England had 33 characters.
These are the names and meanings of the 16 runes of the Younger Futhark:
• ᚠfé (“wealth”)
• ᚢúr (“iron”/”rain”)
• ᚦ Thurs (“giant”)
• ᚬAs/Oss (a Norse God)
• ᚱreið (“ride”)
• ᚴkaun (“ulcer”)
• ᚼhagall (“hail”)
• ᚾnauðr (“need”)
• ᛁísa/íss (“ice”)
• ᛅár (“plenty”)
• ᛋsól (“sun”)
• ᛏTýr (a Norse God)
• ᛒbjörk/bjarkan/bjarken (“birch”)
• ᛘmaðr (“man”)
• ᛚlögr (“sea”)
• ᛦyr (“yew”)
The spoken language of the Vikings was Old Norse which was passed down orally. However, in the 13th century, it became being written down by scribes. This implies that the Vikings were all illiterate. However, the runic alphabet seems to have been widely understood as there have been thousands of runestones found all over the Scandinavian countryside.
The runic inscriptions were written on stones, which became known as runestones. These stones, including boulders or bedrock, were covered with runic inscriptions during the 10th and 11th centuries, which are considered to be the Viking Age.
Viking runes which were written on the runestones were discovered to be memorials to departed men. One of the most famous runestones can be found in Södermanland, Sweden. This runestone is known as Kjula Runestone. This runestone has an inscription of an Old Norse poem in the alliterative poetic meter known as fornyrðislag. This poem is about a man known for extensive warfare and was known as Spear. The stone is considered to be raised by Spear’s son in memory of his father.
The Kjula Runestone shows that Viking runestones served as a celebration of Viking values. Some of their most respected values were considered to be heroism, valor, and honor.