Monday, May 12, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in History - The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (ASF) possess some distinct characteristics that differentiate it from its predecessor, the Elder Futhark (EF).  Without leaping into the debate about its place of origin, I want to look at its characters (letters) and Rune poem instead.  (I should also say that the ASF names evolved and changed, but I use the EF names, unless I am referring to one of the additional ASF Runes.)

Where the EF has 24 characters, the ASF has 33.  The additional characters were created to accommodate different sounds, such as the 'ior' Rune to make the ia or io sound.  The table below compares the characters of the first 24 letters of the two futharks and shows how some of the characters in the ASF took on different shapes.  The additional ASF letters are presented in the image directly following the table.  We'll get to those shortly.  For now, let's look at the table.  The EF is presented in the lighter colored rows and the characters that have taken on different shapes in the ASF are highlighted in light squares.  Some changes are subtle, such as the slope in Uruz, which can also be depicted as a straight, slanted line; and Sowilo, where the character becomes more vertical than slanted.   Ansuz, Hagalaz, Ingwaz, and Dagaz add lines to their shapes, but the biggest changes are to Kenaz and Jera.  One other note, although I did not do it here, I've seen instances with the ASF where Dagaz and Othala switch places.  In other words, Othala comes before Dagaz.  Although I've seen them listed in this order in the EF, it seems to be a more dominate occurrence in the ASF.

Elder Futhark (light lines) and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (dark lines)
Of course, the ASF has 9 additional Runes, beyond the 24 shown in the table.  They are depicted like this:

The additional letters of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Although the EF derives it meanings from the Anglo-Saxon Rune poem, the poem itself has 29 verses. Still, this means that the final four Runes in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc have no poem verse.  Even with the four additional verses, some of the corresponding Rune meanings are still unclear.

Notice that the second of these additional Runes is identical to the EF version of Ansuz in its shape.  Despite this, it is the newer shape that has the older meaning from the poem.  It is named os and means god.  The 'new' Rune, aesc, means ash.

I listed the meaning of yr as unclear.  This is because I found it interpreted as bow, saddle, a yew, and one source left it named yr.  The final line of its verse has been interpreted in at least three different ways too, calling it war gear, army gear, and reliable equipment for a journey.  If I had to pick one, I would likely go with saddle, though I'd still be unsure.

Also unclear is cweord.  One source listed it as fire, another as a variation of Perthro, whose meaning is not entirely clear either.  Unlike yr, however, cweord does not have a Rune poem verse to aid in understanding its meaning.

It was interesting that ior is interpreted as eel, snake, and beaver by the different sources I found.  Based on the Rune poem verse, I believe beaver is the closest to the verse's meaning, but eel seems to be the most commonly used interpretation.

There is one other Rune in the image at the top of this page.  I am not sure if this is another form of chalice or spear, though it may be a regional variation.  I found it referred to as both and omitted completely from another source.  Again, there is no verse to help explain what it means.

As you can tell from every other post on this blog, I use the Elder Futhark.  Therefore, I am not entirely familiar with the ASF.  What I have attempted to give you here is the briefest of overviews of it to help distinguish some of the different characters and the simplest interpretation of their meanings.  I encourage those of you who have greater knowledge of this Futhark than I do to share your comments on this post.

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc image credit: Copyright: azzardo / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Once I transitioned to using the ASF for divination, I could never really go back to the EF.

    Through my own experience I've found the ASF fills a void within the EF. It only becomes truly apparent once you begin to work with the ASF

    The two runes you listed as unclear, I'll share some personal interpretations.

    Yr has calling to both artisans, and hunters. It exemplifies extreme focus, in creation and/or destruction. The "bow" could be a hunter aspect suggesting a desire to capture something that doesn't wish to be caught (like an animal being hunted (as an example)).

    Cweord is a rune of fire like Kenaz, but is more about destruction/purification. When it shows in a reading it is likely abut a need to rid of excesses (bloat), and trim down to bare essentials. It is a death rune (of sorts), with analogy to cremation on a funeral pyre.

    Excellent blog entry. Great to see it!

    1. Thank you for sharing your insight with us. I really appreciate it. I am glad you liked the post, but even happier that you were able to help clarify a couple of the Runes for us. Cheers!