Viking Runes

Image of Viking runes viking rune stones

In the Viking ancient time, the common system of writing developed and used was the Runes. The word “rune” means both “mystery” or “letter” and “secret”. Viking runes now have been recognized as one of the most mysterious signs that possess the unpredictable power within themselves.

Each rune had its meaning and belonged to a god. Each runic letter had a name that connected with its visual form and the sound it possessed. For example, the Tiwaz rune was the rune of the god of Justice Tyr in Norse myth. It was in the shape of an arrow pointing upward visually presented the balance of the justice and fair scales always went up.

Runes were often carved on weapons, tools, bones, jewelry, stones, etc. The runic inscriptions could be read from left to right, sometimes from right to left.

Image of futhark 24 viking runes norse
24 Viking Runes

The rune system was known as “Futharks”, named after the first six runes including Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, and Kaunan) just like the way the word “alphabet” formed from the first two Semitic letters (Aleph and Beth). Futharks consisted of 24 runic letters. Some inscriptions showed that futharks were divided into three ættir “families” of eight runes although the importance of the division was unknown.

Origin of Runes


Image of Odin hanging on Yggdrasil to obtain Viking runes
Odin hanging on Yggdrasil

The creation of Runes remains a mystery and no one or no surviving material could point out the exact event of rune creation and rune first practice. But in Norse mythology, runes were first introduced by Odin the Allfather. Odin himself was famous for his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom. He continuously sought knowledge no matter what price he had to pay. Once he knew that the runes carried the destinies of all beings in the cosmos, he desired to decipher runes.


To obtain the ability to decipher runes, Odin had to physically sacrifice. He hung himself on the branch of Yggdrasil the Great Tree of Life for nine days and nine nights. Moreover, he got stabbed by his own spear Gungnir and did not eat or drink during his whole sacrifice. After all, Odin managed to get the meaning of runes and he decided to introduce this magical alphabet to the cosmos. Thereby, the powerful runes always connected with Odin and his power. According to the myth, there was no invention of runes, but they just existed and the Norns themselves just kept the meaning of runes until Odin discovered.

Viking Runes and their Use

Image of Viking rune stones viking runes in America
Viking Rune Stones in America

The word “rune” meaning “letter” was just of secondary importance while what mattered the most was “secret”. Indeed, the ancient Viking did not often use runes to communicate with each other but to present their belief in the deity and call for their help. Remember that what revolved around the runes connected with the gods. Odin experienced an extreme ordeal only to get the meaning of the runes. Each rune had its direct connection with a god in the pantheon. Thus, runes were not a communicative system between human and human only. They were more likely to be a means of facilitating communication between the humankind and the invisible but invincible power.




Meaning of Viking Runes

Of course, in this day and age, we have obtained the general meanings of 24 runes. There might not be the sufficient meanings but, overall, these meanings are universally accepted.

Image of Viking runes meaning
Viking Runes Meaning