The Runes of the Elder Futhark

As soon as I was exposed to the Runes I felt a spiritual calling like none that I'd ever experienced. It felt like I was home. The 24 symbols that make up the Elder Futhark felt like they were each singing to me, like I was finally hearing a language I didn't realize I knew. According to a DNA test I'm 99.7% Northern European, made up of the genetics of the lands that are home to the runes. I feel a deep spiritual and genetic affinity to them.

The word rune comes from the Norse rún, meaning mystery or secret. No one knows exactly who invented the runes, or when and where they were conceived. According to Norse mythology, Odin brought us the runes by hanging for 9 days on the Yggdrasil, the World Tree, sacrificing himself to himself. Little is known about the origins of the Runes.

Runes are characters of the earliest written alphabet of the Germanic peoples of Europe. The runic Futhark, as they're called for the first 6 runic characters, was used primarily in Nordic countries, within Germanic languages. Best estimates say they were in use from 100 to 1600 AD in various formats, and inscriptions have been found throughout Northern Europe from the Balkans to Germany and all the way to the British Isles and Iceland. In present day, English and other Northern European languages are written using Latin letters but they used to be written using "runestaves."

Below I'll introduce you to the 24 runes of the Elder Futhark, as best as I can interpret them with the lore and my own experience. PLEASE NOTE that no book, legend, myth, or other person's experience with the runes can replace your own relationship with them.

Freya's Aett


(F: Domestic cattle, wealth) Fehu represents cattle, and in ancient times, there was no better form of wealth. Fehu means wealth, earned income, money, and possessions earned or won. It represents abundance, prosperity, and fertility. It means abundance in resources, both financial and of the heart, prosperous relationships. It is a sign of hope and plenty, of success and happiness, of financial strength in the present or near future.


(U: Auroch, a wild ox) The auroch is an extinct, ancient ox of great power and strength. Uruz means physical strength and speed, abundant health. This rune brings about a time of great energy and health. It brings courage, freedom, strength, and tenacity. It stands for masculine potency, passion, and can mean sexual desire and instinct. Uruz can help to formulate the self, and shape your internal power.


(TH: Thorn or a Giant) Thor’s rune, this rune generally means a threat to the established order. A reactive force or a directed force of destruction and defense or conflict. Pain or misfortune from unpredictable or unfortunate events and means you need to counter attacks from without. The need to act against that which could harm you. A thorn can harm but also be protective. Thurisaz can mean giant, demon, or monster. It can include a catharsis or purging, cleansing fire.


(A: The As, ancestral god, i.e. Odin) Communication, breath, or wisdom, Ansuz can be a revealing message or insight. It can indicate there might be issues associated with speech, writing, or communication in general. It speaks to leadership and truth, inspiration, true vision, the power of words and naming. Ansuz can also indicate that magical and psychic powers are present, and is associated with matters of spirit. It represents creativity and is the rune of prophecy and revelation.


(R: Wagon or chariot) Raidho represents travel, both physically and in terms of lifestyle direction. It calls for a blessed journey. It can indicate evolution, change of place or setting, but also a journey or vacation. This is the rune of personal rhythm, the dance of life. It also speaks to destiny, shamanic journeying, and momentum in general. Travel is imminent and can also refer to a spiritual quest. This rune is great to inscribe on your vehicle or anything you travel in or on.


(K: Beacon or torch) Kenaz’s main representation is that of fire, light, warmth, knowledge, and enlightenment. It is the vital fire of life and harnessed power, it is the fire of renewal and transformation. It is the rune of vision, inspiration, and creativity, of bringing something into existence out of nothing. It helps to manifest that which you want, giving you the power to create your own reality, it is the power of light. It is the rune of illumination, opening you to new strength, energy, and power.


(G: Gift) The gift, representing equal exchange. A gift, in both the sense of sacrifice and generosity, indicating balance. This rune represents all matters and relationships in relation to exchange, including partnerships, personal relationships, and contracts. The ancients always felt that a gift called for another in return. It is the giving and receiving of a gift, or an offering. It also is the gifts you are given through your heritage and blood, as in your skills and talents. It is the 7th rune, where our lucky number 7 comes from.


(W or V: Joy) Simply put, Wunjo is the rune of happiness and bliss, pure joy. It contains within it the idea of life going well for you because you’re in total harmony with life. It brings forth prosperity, fellowship, and ecstasy. It is the rune of fulfillment and glory, of a spiritual reward. It also implies companionship and cooperation with other people because joy and bliss is not often a solitary emotion or experience. It is the ultimate achievement, the feeling of goodness and satisfaction, of peaceful winning. It is the rune of blessings.

Heimdall's Aett


(H: Hail) Hagalaz is the rune of hail. It is the rune of disruption, of change and delay. It speaks to bad weather, the wrath of nature, and destructive, uncontrolled forces. It is a crisis that leads to completion - as the hail comes to destroy a crop, hail is left over to fertilize and water the crops that are left. It is the rune of involuntary suffering, affliction, and sudden loss...but that will eventually lead to a rebirth of sorts. It implies a complete change of direction and suggests limitation, interruption, or delay.


(N: Need) Nauthiz is the rune of “need fire.” It is the rune of constraint and constriction. It calls for delays and discomfort, possibly negative events. This is the rune that essentially means “necessity is the mother of all invention.” It is distress, confusion, and conflict and the power within us all to overcome them. If we are in need of something, this is the rune that fires us up to find that which we need. It calls you to face your fears and bring forth major self-initiated change.


(I: Ice) Isa is the rune of ice. It is stasis and inactivity or stagnation. It can indicate a challenge or frustration, or an upheaval or disturbance, like the force of frost pushing a rock up through the ground. It is the rune of standstill and it indicates it might be time to turn inward and wait for what is to come, or to seek clarity. It also calls to new life, of renewal, of conditions thawing. It’s a time to think things through deeply and slowly, and to exercise patience and wisdom. This rune gives you the ability to cool yourself in times of heated situations.


(J or Y: A year, a good harvest) The 12th rune represents the year and the 12 months within it, of cycles ending and the results of earlier efforts are realized. Everything changes in its own time and Jera is a great rune to help you break through stagnation. It is the rune of a fruitful season, a time of peace and happiness. This is just rewards for past efforts. This is the rune of harvest, of a growing time, and indicates a full cycle. It is a positive rune of fruitfulness and promises great rewards to those who work with their hands or on the land.


Eihwaz (EI: Yew Tree) This is the rune of the Yew Tree, normally associated with the World Tree of Norse mythology. It is the symbol of rune magic. It is the rune of “as above, so below,” the rune of spiritual matters, of life and death, of transition. It is also a rune of defense and protection, enlightenment and endurance. It represents the driving force to acquire, giving motivation and a sense of purpose, especially in matters of spirituality. It provides for avertive, deflective, and defensive power, most effectively of a spiritual kind.


(P: Lot cup, vagina) The literal translation of Perthro isn’t certain, but it’s usually meant to be taken as the name of a dice cup, or the name of a game of chance. It represents a gamble, a mystery, an unknown outcome. It is the rune of fate, of divine mystery. It can indicate a secret matter, hidden things, and can indicate one has occult abilities. It pertains to things feminine and all feminine mysteries, including fertility, vagina, and female anatomy. It can indicate a good lot, a positive outcome, or evolutionary change.


(Z: Elk, protection) Algiz lends connection to the gods and can indicate an awakening to a higher life. It is also known for its protective qualities, its ability to shield you from that which may harm you. It provides defense and wards off evil and is a guardian for those who wear it. Algiz represents the antlers of the elk and the shape of the sedge-grass herb. To some people it looks like a hand raised in a protective, warding off gesture, or it can appear as a person whose arms are raised to the sky, appealing to the gods. A powerful rune of protection.


(S: The Sun) Sowilo is the rune of the sun. It represents success, victory, and power. It is the rune of Source, the life force of the Universe, divine cosmic energy and the Higher Self. It brings forth power that will help you achieve positive changes in your life. It is boundless energy, strength of character, and good health and fitness. It represents the natural power of the sun and brings the victories of light over darkness, of good over evil. This rune allows you to face the negative aspects of your life without fear and to find success over them.

Tyr's Aett


(T: Tyr, the sky god) The warrior’s rune, of both the spiritual and physical warrior. Tyr, or Tiw, is the equivalent of Zeus and Jupiter and after whom Tuesday is named. He was the god of war and justice, fair law and regulation, and represents success through sacrifice. This is the rune of honor, justice, leadership, and authority, and provides victory and success in any competition or in legal matters. It calls for doing what’s right, of cosmic balance and karma. The warrior archetype calls for bravery and knowing where one’s true strength lies.


(B: Bertcha, the birch goddess) The rune of the birch tree and the great Mother, Berkana deals with birth, fertility, and physical growth and liberation. It is the rune of feminine energy and renewal. It refers to regeneration, purification, healing, and recovery. Birth in this context can be literal or figurative, such as the prospering of an enterprise or venture, a new idea. This brings forth an exciting time for new beginnings and fresh adventures, though it also speaks to the cycle of birth and death, and that all which dies is reborn again.


(E: Horse, two horses) The rune of the horse, this is the rune of cooperation, loyalty, and trust. Ideally it indicates a wonderful marriage or partnership. It’s the rune of working in tandem and of boundaries with others. It is duality and relationships with others who may “ride” or whom may ride you. It is the rune of faithfulness, such as that between a horse and a rider, a brother and sister, two halves of a whole. It also implies transportation, progress, and sometimes a journey...movement and change for the better.


(M: Man, mankind) The rune of the Self, the individual. It is also the rune of the human race and how the self relates to the rest of humanity, the shared human nature within each individual. It is your attitude towards others and their attitudes towards you. The rune of social order. The rune of the human condition, of human potential and empowerment, of inspiration, of love. It implies cooperation between individuals and for the common good. In a negative aspect, it can indicate unhealthy attachments between two people.


(L: Water, or a leek) Laguz is the rune of water in all its forms. It is a rune of feminine energy and indicates the power of renewal, the power of flow and of cleansing. It is the rune of life energy, organic growth, of imagination. It can also indicate psychic powers and of metaphysical insight, the rune of the unconscious and intuition, dreams and fantasies, the unknown. It is the rune of emotions and our relationship with them. It reminds you to go with the flow. Traditionally, it is the ultimate female rune.


(NG: Ing, the earth god) Ingwaz is the rune of the god, Ing. Ing was a god that brought peace and harmony to his people and then disappeared, and it is said this is whom England is named after. This is the rune of male fertility, of the seed, of “orgone” or sexual energy. It represents inner strength, common sense, and family love. It is the rune of potential, of a plant that cracks through a seed. It is the rune of new beginnings, and the potential of a new indicates completion, like birth is a completion of pregnancy.


(D: Day or dawn) Dagaz means day, or dawn. It represents change or transformation. It is a breakthrough, awakening, awareness. This is the rune of balance, the place where opposites meet. It is hope and happiness, the power to change directed by your own will. It represents enlightenment, the light of the gods, and insight. It signifies growth and progress, development, and sometimes fundamental change. The clarity of a new day as opposed to the uncertainty of a dark night. It is the divine light that will guide you towards your goal.


(O: Family, ancestral property) Othala is the rune of family, of your spiritual and physical heritage. It is the rune of the land of your birth, of inherited property or possessions. It represents what is truly important to one, fundamental values. It is a source of safety and abundance, one’s lot in life. It can include your inherited characteristics from past generations that you will also pass on to your children, or it can represent your united family’s strength. It can represent your spiritual home and everything that you’ve accumulated in your lifetime.