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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Which rune row should I use?

Here is a basic introduction to the question "which Rune row should I use?" and some practical answers. It's based on an older article by Steve Anthonijsz, though I have expanded on it with some more information which I used in making my decision; however keep in mind that all of the following Runic rows have cultural and/or historical basis in Germanic folkways, and thus all are considered valid by serious Rune-practitioners; they simply serve different purposes and may have also been preferred by different classes or specializations in Germanic cultures across the ages. This is NOT a question of which one is "right" and the other ones "wrong", but rather a matter of which Rune-row fits your preferences and purposes in Rune-magick or other Runic practices.

There are four major Futharks or Rune-rows, as well as a plethora of lesser medieval systems and regional derivatives. The four Futharks are as follows:

The Gothic or "Elder" Futhark (24 Runes)
The Nordic or "Younger" Futhark (16 Runes)
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (multiple variants ranging from 29 to 33 Runes)
The Armanen Futharkh (18 Runes)

So which Rune system is best for me anyway?

Anyone who has ever looked into runic studies or, for that matter, read one of the better "introduction-to-runes" books on the market, knows that there are four major rune rows used today. Some may also be familiar with the existence of the various medieval runic systems or variations on the major four. These may be used for purposes ranging from artistic decoration to divination and even operative magical work. If used for mundane purposes—decorating drinking horns and so forth—it really does not matter which rune row one uses. One may choose a particular row simply because it is in sync with the national tradition one follows (i.e., Anglo-Frisian Futhorc for Dutch traditions or Younger Futhark for Icelandic traditions). Or one may use the Elder Futhark simply because this row has become “industry standard” in the USA, just as the Armanen Futharkh has become the standard in Germany. 

But for esoteric and magickal purposes, which is the most effective rune row? The answers to such a question are, of course, debatable. It really depends on what you are trying to do. The following is some some food for thought on the topic using history of the various rows to shed some proverbial light. 

Elder Futhark

The Gothic Futhark has become the rune row of choice for most would-be Runenmeisteren (Rune-masters) in the USA. It dates from the Migration Age, roughly from 1000 BCE to 700 CE, and is widely considered the oldest known rune row based on the current archaeology (hence its popular nickname, “Elder Futhark,” among modern rune enthusiasts), although there is some evidence that the Common Germanic Futhark may be of similar age. The two rows however, are so similar that most people today would consider them to be interchangeable. One difference that would most likely prove significant to the Runenmeister using this tradition is the fact that the thirteenth (Uuaer/Eihwaz) and fouteenth (Pertra/Perthrô) staves, as well as the twenty-third (Daaz/Dagaz) and twenty-fourth (Utal/Ôthala) are reversed in the two rows.[1]

Many people find the antiquity of this row to be its greatest asset. This is supported by the idea that states: “The older it is, the better/more valid it is.” This is not, however, necessarily true. If we applied this logic to all the aspects of our lives, this article would never be read by most, as it would require too much work to copy and distribute it using the old-fashioned methods (hand-written calligraphy, grinding your own ink from iron or insect galls - think Gutenberg, only without the printing press!). One must also realize that most of the doctrines taught today in association with the runes (their esoteric meanings, numerical usage, Stodhr or rune-yoga) are based on watered-down versions of  the Armanen texts and adapted to the Elder Futhark—they are not ancient Migration-age secrets preserved for our benefit.

Another difficulty presented by the antiquity of this row is the fact that there remains absolutely no surviving lore. Any rune poems assigned to this row are only reconstructions based on the Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme, the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, and the Old English Rune Rhyme. Even the very names of the Elder runes are naught but reconstructions, and the Proto-Germanic language associated with them has also had to be reconstructed, largely based on Gothic and other derivative languages. [2] Despite the popular conflation of of the Elder Futhark with Vikings in Viking-obsessed North America, it is far older than the Viking Age, and was not used by the Vikings - they used the Younger Futhark, which had already largely replaced the Elder around the 7th century CE, before the the Norse "went Viking" and began to raid Christian kingdoms.

Add to this the fact that one must put oneself in the position of manifesting the theoretical mindset of a long-dead (and thanks to Christianity, largely wiped-out) pre-Viking culture to even understand what the reconstructed Proto-Germanic language and lore means, and one is dealing with some very sketchy ideas to say the least!

On the other hand, the Elder/Common Germanic Futhark is the only surviving rune row that might be considered somewhat historically universal among the Germanic peoples at some ancient point in time, serving very nicely the needs of the mixed-ethnicity citizens of modern America and the pan-Germanic approach to Norse lore that most modern rune masters (and most 
Ásatrúars) prefer. Its use of certain farming-related runes not found in the Younger and Armanen systems (i.e. Jera, Dagaz) indicates this was a rune row with uses mostly related to the agrarian class, and the few well-known magickal inscriptions of Elder Futhark runes (Gibu-Auja and ALU) appear to pertain to mostly exoteric rites and spells to bring luck, health and plenty for the land and the plowman. Thus the Elder Futhark at least has the reputation of being an easily accessible "common man's rune row" without a great deal of documented formal ritual, which may also explain its popularity in the modern United States.

Also in support of the Elder runes is the wide body of modern lore that has come into existence developed by modern Runenmeisteren. If one approaches the Elder Futhark runes in a modern mindset rather than to attempt to revivify an ancient magickal system that we honestly know next-to-nothing about, one may find this row very useful indeed. If you want only the naked ancient meanings of the Elder Futhark (such as survives of them today almost entirely through later tertiary sources), I suggest buying a copy of The Rune Primer by Sweyn Plowright. While it briefly covers all four runic systems and many modern runic authors, the primary concentration is on the Elder Futhark and the bare bones of what's known about them from historical and archaeological sources (beware though, as Plowright does have some disdainful bias towards the other systems, often based on misleading opinions).

Younger Futhark

The Younger Futhark—or, as it is known to the academic community, the Standard Nordic Futhork—has preserved the most comprehensive and complete body of historical texts of all the ancient systems. This corpus has been developed in a variety of directions over the centuries, ranging from the esoteric thoughts of Johannes Bureus within the context of Adalruna and Storgoticism[5] to the more modern, exoteric martial arts tradition of Stáv.

The Younger Futhark is the only rune row that actually dates from around the Viking Age, and thus when "Viking Runes" are being discussed, this is the relevant system. It comes in two main forms: the long-stem "Danish" variant and the short-stem "Norwegian" variant (which is less commonly seen today in runemagick). Paradoxically despite their nicknames, some "Danish" rune inscriptions have turned up in Norway and Norwegian-colonized areas (such as Iceland) and some "Norwegian" runes also have been found in Denmark and Danish-colonized areas. Like the Elder/Common Germanic and Anglo-Frisian systems, the Younger Futhark and its derivatives may prove to be rather clumsy form modern, urbanized individuals to learn at first. But because the historical literature has been maintained (although in fragmented form due to the agendas of the various schools of thought) to some degree, it is still very functional. We also have a far greater number of surviving stone, bone, and metal inscriptions (and transcriptions of lost inscriptions) than the aforementioned rows, to teach us how the Icelanders, Swedes, Norwegians and and Danes have worked - and continue to work- with the Younger runes.

The Younger Futhark does bear the limitation of possessing a smaller number of staves (only 16 runes in total), and, thus, is a less precise means of defining the worlds around and within us - though it may be argued that it is a "purer" rune row, closer in esoteric meaning than the Elder, to the original 18 mystical Runes of Odin mentioned in the verses of the Havamal. It is indicative from the heavy emphasis on runes in general as widely applicable magickal devices in the Eddas and Sagas, that the Viking Age skalds desired to resurrect those legendary 18 Odinic runes out of the more cluttered and exoteric Elder Futhark, and yet were uncertain about the identity of the last two, thus ending up with 16. They also selected apparently more primitive alternate forms of some runes such as Hagal/Hagalaz, removing full-length double verticals (as in the changes to Ehwaz and Mannaz) as well as totally eliminating runes without verticals (Jera, Othala), a decision which recalls the Odinic idea of the original Runes being deeply connected with Yggdrasil, and thus by implication, tree-like. The 
Björketorp Runestone shows a unique snapshot of the transition from the Elder to the Younger Futhark in the 7th century CE. 

Aside from its apparently closer "reverse-engineered" correlation to the Havamal rune verses, Younger Futhark specialists also prefer the lower count of 16 runes to the Elder Futhark's 24, as this protects this system from the excess redundancy sometimes found in published editions of both Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and reconstructed Elder Futhark meanings. As the Norse language of the Viking Age had more than 16 phonetic sounds, a number of the 'Younger' runes have been used in inscriptions to represent multiple sounds and concepts depending on their position in a word. However it is precisely this region-specific and cryptic multi-faceted nature of the Younger Futhark runes which may render it a bit of a shock to runers outside Scandinavia. It also originated from an almost exclusively Viking worldview which may not be applicable for many uses for modern people today. However it is the system most commonly used by Scandinavian Ásatrúars, for whom the preference of American runers for the comparatively lore-less "Elder" Futhark must seem bizarre.

Anglo-Saxon (and Anglo-Frisian) Futhorc

The Anglo-Saxon Rune tradition (and the related Anglo-Frisian one)  is virtually useless for esoteric purposes as it stands. This is not to imply that it may not be preserved as a proud and viable tradition for exoteric uses, and is certainly not intended to insult those who maintain an interest in this innovation. But the available lore with regards to it is so sparse that, unless the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc is completely re-vamped by modern authors like the Elder tradition has been, its esoterica must be considered lost in time.
Much controversy exists regarding the origins of this tradition. The most common theory is that the Frisians expanded the Common Germanic row to 26 staves, and the Anglo-Saxons further expanded this row to 29 and later to 33 staves.[3] Other theories suggest that the Frisian runes may, in fact, exist only as a jumble derived from neighboring regions somewhat independent of Anglo-Saxon influence; or that the Anglo-Saxons expanded the Common Germanic row and the Frisians adapted it to suit their own uses. Further complicating the issue is the presence in Germany of the "Thuringian Runes", a transitional form between the Gothic Futhark and the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.

Whatever the origins, the surviving corpus is limited at best. While Frisian archaeological finds appear to indicate a rich magico-religious tradition, interpretation has proved to be next-to impossible. And the finds are so rare that there really is very little for runologists to build on.[4] However, there is a body of work by the 20th Century German runologist Friedrich Bernhard Marby using the Frisian form of the Futhorc, some of which relates to the practice of Stodhr or Rune-Yoga, which is essentially a modern re-integration of western and eastern Aryan spiritual practices using Runes as the basis of yoga postures and breathing exercises. Marby's Stodhr-work in Frisian runes parallels that of Siegfried Adolf Kummer and Peryt Shou working in the Armanen rune system, which is generally better known.

Anglo-Saxon relics by contrast, are much more plentiful than Anglo-Saxon or Frisian runelore. However, there is a conspicuous lack of clear esoterica in Anglo-Saxon finds. Most of the Anglo-Saxon finds dating before the seventh century are so cryptic as to be near-impossible to interpret. And those dating from the seventh century onwards are generally used for mundane purposes such as texts on coins and so forth. A few pieces do suggest that a magico-religious tradition was significant in the early use of this row (e.g.: why would anyone learn a script in a generally illiterate society just to inscribe a name on a comb?), but knowledge of the means and purposes has been lost. Anglo-Saxon runes appear to have been developed into a rune system more for orthographic reasons than esoteric ones, though some of the later ones pertain to items which may have been sacred to symbolic initiation rites of the Saxon warrior aristocracy (Calc, the chalice, and Stan, the Stone, for example). Not surprisingly then, this is the same knightly system that J.R.R. Tolkien used (almost verbatim, though with altered sounds) for his fictional Dwarf-runes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Its large number of runes and variations makes it the most  convenient rune row for transcribing names from modern English as well as any of a host of other languages - though historically it appears that this rune row was only used for Anglo-Saxon, Frisian, and related west Germanic tongues.

Medieval Runes

Included in this category are a variety of rune rows ranging from non-alphabetic runes to late derivatives of Younger Futhark variants, to King Wladamar’s runes. Technically these runes are no longer used, because they are considered too "corrupted" and "tainted" by medieval Christianity from the point of view of modern rune practitioners, so they are not on the same level of popularity as the other "Big Four" runic systems in use today. Medieval runes are in fact not one rune row, but many - perhaps hundreds across many regions and local clan traditions throughout Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. They developed from different futharks, those in Scandinavia being derived from the Younger, and those in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands being closer in form (though not always in number) to the Elder and Anglo-Saxon Runes. Some of these systems may have also influenced Slavic "runes", due to the Gothic influence in much of Eastern Europe. There are too many of these systems to deal with them individually in an article of this scope. Suffice it to say for convenience that most of these systems are variants on the Nordic (Younger) rune row, although a few may be based on the Anglo-Saxon or other regional German systems.

Within the vast expanse of medieval rune systems there is also one particular (and rather short) rune row which was in common use in the forests of southern Germany, commonly known today as the Runes of Healing. These "runes" include a few derived from the "Elder" and "Younger" Futharks, as well as more obscure signs from Germanic folklore suck as the Wendehorn and the Wolf's Hook.

These runes are unusual in that they were apparently not used for divination at all, but rather strictly for healing and as protective spells. They were, judging by some of their names, supposedly associated with Gods and Goddesses that were honored in secret during Christian times. They were apparently used by secret shamans or "witches" living deep in the woods, who out of necessity had little contact with the Christian world but could always be sought out by those in need of traditional medicine or psychic healing - if you knew where to look. There have also been many local systems of medieval runes further derived from this set as well as the Gothic/"Elder" row, some with allegedly long-established family traditions behind them. The medieval runes were among the first to be researched by German scholars in the 19th century, and as a result there was a great deal of Romantic-era literature attaching them to medieval tales such as the Niebelunglied and Tristan und Isolde. It is actually from these sorts of medieval rune rows (and not the Armanen system, as often wrongly believed) that Karl Maria Wiligut, and later the SS, derived the infamous "Third Reich Runes".

There is one major advantage to using any of the medieval systems: these systems came into existence in a predominantly christian world although maintaining their Heathen meanings—at least to some degree. While this may, superficially, appear to be a detraction from the “purity” of the runes, one must realize that confused forms can still be used meaningfully and powerfully by the skilled Runenmeister. It is also important to recognize that as twenty-first century Americans, we are living in a predominantly christian culture. The vast majority of individuals that make up the current heathenish community and the rune magick community come from christian or christian-influenced backgrounds. And despite our rants to the contrary, this has greatly affected the worldviews and attitudes of all but a few. When dealing with things esoteric, we need to be honest with ourselves, and this may very well include recognizing that we have all been influenced by foreign cults--most commonly by christianism.

The obvious disadvantages to utilizing one of these are (1) that they are strongly influenced by an exotic creed that is contrary to authentic Germanic spirituality, and (2) very little available lore exists for the modern support of any of these rows. They are basically divorced step-children of the original Elder and Younger systems.

Armanen Futharkh

While the Armanen Futharkh (often misspelled “futhorc”[6]) has become the standard for the German Runenmeister, it tends to be frowned upon in the United States, for preconceived reasons that are not all that logical. Therefore, its use is not common there, though many American runers unknowingly apply modern Armanen-based methods to their practice of the Elder Futhark.

The Armanen system is, in terms of being known to the public at least, the youngest of the four “big name” systems, having appeared in Germany’s early twentieth century, largely due to the work of Guido von List (1848-1919), the most towering figure in German occultism and folk-revivalism. List promoted the Armanen Futharkh as the modern revival of the original 18 runes discovered by Odin himself, as narrated in the 
Hávamál, one of the core parts of the Poetic Edda and still the most important text in all of Norse Rune-lore. 

One of the advantages of List's Armanen system (both the rune-row and its modern lore) is this young age, having been published in a world very similar to our own modern, urbanized, technological world (though it must be pointed out, List and the other Armanists claimed a very ancient esoteric lineage to this system, through secretive crypto-Heathen families such as Clan Lauterer). It is also a system that was associated specifically  with esoteric and magickal purposes, including divination. It comes in two main variants: the traditional "stave" form, which resembles the Younger Futhark and is most common in exoteric German Wotanist/Odinist circles, and the hexagonal radial form, which is more common among occultists and esoteric Rune magicians involved in metaphysical or ritual work. The Armanen Futharkh possesses the added advantages of being the only system that both draws on ancient sources (the Hávamál as well as elements of the Elder and Younger Futharks) as well as a contemporary understanding of how to apply Rune-Magick in the modern world - and uniquely among Rune-systems, it possesses a substantial body of modern lore from which the aspiring Runenmeister may build.

There are, however, a few disadvantages to this system. The most obvious is that it is not attested in its entirety from purely “traditional”  (i.e.; “ancient and archaeological) sources such as gigantic carved Rune-stones or metal amulets - though many of its component Rune-symbols are indeed found on these artifacts (the first 16 of them are essentially the same as southern forms of the Younger Futhark). However, List’s powerful emphasis on the ancient Solar religion of the early Germanic Tribes, which he knew as Wihinei  orWuotanismus (today manifested as "Irminenschaft" and "Armanenschaft"), as well as the ancient oral Runic clan traditions claimed by certain 20th-century Armanists, indicate that this esoteric rune row is based on old folk traditions whose age is definitely pre-Christian and may even be pre-Roman. In addition, the Armanen system claims a link to the most authentic ancient Runelore, namely the 18 Rune-verses of the Hávamál, and yet at the same time, it was intended by List to be utilized for a reconstructed Germanic Heathenry - which is precisely what modern Odinists/Ásatrúars are practicing today. From this point of view, employing "Elder" runes simply because they are ancient is a bit misleading - especially when their meanings are far more speculative and incomplete than what you get with Armanen Runes. 

Contrary to popular stereotypes, the Runes of the Armanen rune row actually are ancient runes common to the Elder and Younger Futharks and known from ancient inscriptions of the same - yet it's also a modern and unambiguous rune system for a modern and evolving Nordic/Germanic spirituality. You cannot truly reconstruct the exact spiritual and runelore system of the ancient pre-Viking Norse, the Saxons, or the Teutons no matter how hard you try. Too much is lost or destroyed. Too much will always be modern speculation, be it ever so well-meaning or well-guided. Too much has been altered by Christianity. Even the names of the "Elder" Futhark runes are speculative reconstructions, and yet that system has not been fully restored/refined back to Odin's original 18-rune row. Armanen's clarity in this sense solves all of these problems and makes it superior to "Elder" systems, whose original pre-Viking esoteric meanings, corpus of literature, and even correct pronunciations are all but completely lost (most having been filtered through the later "Younger" and "Medieval" runes and the all-pervasive influence of Christianity). This makes the Armanen rune row clearly preferable in terms of its consistency and unambiguous preservation/integrity of meaning to be properly understood in our modern age, in addition to still having a strong basis in the Hávamál and (allegedly) continental Germanic folklore traditions in obscure forest communities from Thuringia to the Osterreich. On the other hand, the related esoteric philosophy of Armanism was (at times) also borrowed from by Ariosophy, an eclectic occult discipline which is about as foreign to most modern Heathens as Christianity.

Armanen rune lore employs a variety of techniques claiming to be derived from ancient Germanic or in some cases more general Indo-European sources, the authenticity of which I accept, but which pure academic types no doubt find to be debatable (e.g., Stodhr or Rune-yoga). If one is a fanatical purist, searching for “100% academic ancient ways” (or what little evidence remains of them) at all costs, Armanen is certainly not the way to go. But if one is seeking a viable and practical modern magickal/esoteric system with an ancient cultural Immanence and substantial grounding in the archetypes of ancient traditions (understanding that culture often speaks louder than individual accounts, and that what little academic history does survive was often doctored or censored by the enemies of Germanic paganism) the Armanen system works very well, indeed better than any other rune system. For the esoteric sciences such as numerology, meditation, manifesting energy, and yes, divination, it is unmatched, particularly in its "crystalline" hexagonal variant, which was first published by Rudolf Gorsleben in the 1920s and is advocated by modern mystic Karl Hans Welz.

Another major (though misplaced) concern among some would-be Runenmeisteren regarding the Armanen Futharkh is its alleged historical association with the Third Reich in Germany. While it is true that Armanism emerged out of its long concealment in a time and climate of romantic, quasi-Wagnerian cultural ideals, and may have influenced some Volkisch and even a few proto-National Socialist thinkers, the system was well-known in Germany long before the founding of the NSDAP or even the first World War (Guido von List first published the Armanen Runes in 1907). In other words, Armanen Rune schools were already well-established long before the Third Reich or even National Socialism got off the ground. The Armanen Rune row is a cultural and mystical system, not a political philosophy - nor was it widely used by any German National Socialist groups. The most infamous users of "runes" in wartime Germany were certain officers in the Schutzstaffel (SS). But these individuals did not use the actual Armanen Futharkh; instead preferring either the Elder Futhark or the personal rune row of Karl Maria Wiligut, the mentally unstable inventor of "Irmin-Christianity" (an ideology that has no real connection to List or the Armanen). Wiligut largely ripped off existing rune rows (mostly the Elder Futhark and the medieval healing runes) to get his anachronistic and jumbled rune set, also throwing in a few Celtic glyphs and Greek letters for good measure - he was not an Armanist, and in fact was one of their biggest enemies. Further, it was Wiligut—under the approval of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler—who persecuted and even sent many of the better-known Armanists (e.g.; Siegfried Adolf Kummer, Ernst Lauterer) to concentration camps! 

In Germany this historical distinction is well known; thus while openly praising Hitler, Himmler, or the SS is highly controversial and even illegal in Germany today, using the Armanen Runes is perfectly acceptable and carries no such controversy, since their origins and practitioners were non-political and went back well before the NSDAP existed; indeed the roots of List's rune research stretch well back into the late 1800s, and the Armanen clans like the Lauterers claimed a hereditary lineage to these 18 Runes going back at least to the near-legendary time of the Volsungs. This combined with List's almost singular esteem as the penultimate esoteric teacher and the first and most influential rune-master in modern German history, has ensured that Armanen is still THE rune system of choice in Germany. And interestingly, it appears to be becoming so in much of the Spanish-speaking world as well, where it is simply known as "Las Runas" (The Runes).


While all the runic systems work more-or-less equally as well for exoteric functions, each rune row has certain inherent advantages and disadvantages for those interested in esoteric Runology and Rune-magick. Much of one’s choice must be based on the particular needs of the individual. Speaking on general terms, however, the Younger Futhark and the Armanen Futharkh seem to be the most practical for aspiring Vitkar and Runenmeisteren as they stand today - the Armanen being more so because of having 18 runes rather than the more limiting 16 of the Younger Futhark, as well as a more complete body of literature regarding its uses. On the other hand a modern approach to the Common Germanic/Elder Futhark or the Anglo-Frisian Futhorc—that does not delude its users into believing that they are discovering secrets preserved from ancient times—could prove to be just as viable. The potential contributions that could be made in modern runelore via the various medieval rows, however, ought not to be underestimated.

In short:

Elder Futhark = best for pre-Viking ceremony and ceremony pertaining to the farmer class or the common people (although the rituals and meanings of the time are long-gone, thus all Elder Futhark rituals are reconstructed).

YoungerFuthark = best for Viking-age skaldic ceremony (rituals and meanings are much better preserved), as well as some specific Galdr  (chanted spells) and other Rune-Magick rituals based on Viking-age Sagas.

Anglo-SaxonFuthorc = best for orthography, warrior rituals, writing languages, writing one's name in runes (literature for this system is almost nil, though we know it was geared towards war and conquest).

ArmanenFutharkh = best for ritual Rune-magick, general Galdr, numerology, geomancy, clear rune castings, and all practical esoteric uses (the literature is complete, undamaged, and suited to modern times).

Alaf sig runa!

Works for Reference

Amsterdamer Beiträge Zur Älteren Germanistik [Frisian Runes and Neighbouring Traditions: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Frisian Runes at the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden 26-29 January 1994
-- Bammesberger, Alfred Frisian and Anglo-Saxon Runes: From the Linguistic Angle
--Hills, Catherine Frisia and England: The Archaeological Evidence for Connections
--Page, Ray I On the baffling Nature of Frisian Runes
  • Flowers, Stephen. The Galdrabók: A 16th Century Icelandic Grimoire. 1989 Samuel Weiser, Inc.
  • Kummer, Siegfried Adolf. Runen-Magie; translated by Edred Thorsson. 1993 Rûna-Raven Press
  • List, Guido von. Das Geheimnis der Runen. 1907-08
  • Thorsson, Edred. Runelore. 1987 Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Armanen Rune Sounds and their Derivatives in the Alleged Elder Futhark 
(Followed by Historical Gothic Names as Described by Wulfila)



Os (Othil)
Ansuz;  Ôþila (Ôþala)
Aza; Utal
Hagalaz; Dagaz; Wunjô
Haal; Daaz; Uuinne
Sowilô (Sówuló)
Tiwaz (Teiwaz)


Berkanô (Berkana); Perþrô; Inguz (Ingwaz)
Bercna; Pertra; Enguz
Laguz (Laukaz)
Mannaz (Algiz); Elhaz (Eihwaz) [+ aspects]
Ezec; Uuær [+ aspects]
Ingwaz; Eihwaz (- aspects)
Enguz; Uuær [- aspects]
Gibor (Ge)


[1] Thorsson, Edred. Runelore. 1987
[2] ibid.
[3] Bammesberger, Alfred. Frisian and Anglo-Saxon Runes: From the Linguistic Angle. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Ältern Germanistik 1996
[4] Page, Ray I. On the Baffling Nature of Frisian Runes. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Ältern Germanistik 1996
[5] Bureus referred to his system as Adalruna.
[6] List, Guido von. Das Geheimnis der Runen. 1908


  1. Just found your blog on this morning of 11/2/15. Having covered this ground in yesteryears, I still find the article inspiring. I feel, however, that although certain rows appear more, what is the word, tidy, integral, conducive, one over the other is rather moot outside utilitarian aims. There are no vacuums and everything is influenced by something prior or tangent.

    I've spent ages trying to discern something of a Perennial (Wisdom) nature with the Elder Futhark and have found a few curiosities but nothing demanding a published record as of yet. I wonder at List's choice of term gibor as that to me smacks of something Hebraic (Elohim Gibor...). But it certainly makes sense to fashion a row around the Havamal's 18 Charms. This along with Welz' idea of the crystal's terminal as originating pattern provides a conducive substrate for magical work, or philosophy-ing. The postures are understood as another medium for focus and or connection. Having typed that, the idea seems a bit preposterous.

    Having typed all that... I must add that I think we need to determine, for ourselves, whether we are dealing with a rune row as a fully exclusive system unto itself, or a construct which is essentially based on something more ubiquitous and or long standing. Ie., The Alphabet (subsequent to Hieroglyphs - yet there was Cuneiform. But I refer to the trend subsequent to Egyptian glyphs via Coptic etc). What I am saying is, for example, a U is a U where ever you (hint hint) go. That the Norse tweaked the U; Sound... into Uruz with the concepts of, well, drizzle or aurochs, appears to be a cultural exclusivity. To me, this turns the entire affair into a Rorschach Test sort of thing. Seems to me it's all about Style, if you understand.

    So we are, inevitably, back to the magical square one; where it is all in the operator's mind. Still, we could offer arguments either way and so ends my comment on the lovely overview above.

    I'm glad to have found your blog and it's bookmarked. Thanks for your effort and interest. I actually joined the AFA about two months back but haven't attempted a thing therein so may let my membership expire (much on my plate). My heart is there however. I think I'd rather join the Icelandic group! But it appears they cater to their own kin alas.

    And last but not least, I've so many in your face, billion to one, synchronicity based events from involving myself with runes I cannot help but be satisfied. No won lotteries or loves but more the metaphysical, depth psychological type of experiencing. This includes North West European deities as well, such as the Dagda.

    Cripes, how could I forget. I am in love with godly, or rather heathenish, Black Metal and play the tremolo riffing myself. Tree worshiping, atmospheric black metal and thank you Scandinavia. France has some good stuff too. Curious phenomenon there as most other countries, with a few exceptions, simply cannot do it right.


    1. Some interesting points you bring up.

      Firstly, as far as the "Elder" Futhark goes, keep in mind that it dates from the Migration Age and essentially could be called an assimilative rune row as it exceeds the Odinic count of 18 and some of the runes are not based around central hexagonal staves (consider Ingwaz, Dagaz, Perthro, etc.) and are ultimately phonetic and morphological derivations of other runes (Perthro is like an opened-up Bar ("Par") rune, Dagaz resembles two Thorn ("Dhorn") runes joined at the tip). Essentially from a Listian standpoint the "Elder" runes were derived from Odin's runes and added some primarily agricultural or seasonal symbols (i.e. Perthro, Jera, Dagaz) as new lands were settled, drained and farmed, so this could be called the rune-row of the farmer class or "Ingvonen", people of Ing-Fo or Yngwi-Freyr, whom Tacitus called Ingaevones.

      The Saxon rune row, with even more added symbols - pertaining to chalices, spears, tree woods (ash, oak, i.e. materials for arrow shafts, shields and axe handles) and so forth - was generally used by warriors and thus would be associated with the warrior class "Ostivanen", the people of Os-Tivar or the god Tyr (i.e. Istaevones).

      Lastly the core Odinic 18-rune row itself, which the Vikings tried to reconstruct with the "Younger" futhark (being in doubt about the last 2 Havamal runes) is described in Havamal as a system of deep esoteric power, would have been used by the priest class or "Armanen" as described by List (i.e. the Irminons mentioned by Tacitus). They were people of Arman or "Irmin" in low german, which was a German nickname for Odin/Wotan meaning "ascended" or "ideal". Interestingly "Arman" also means "the ideal" in many other Aryan-derived languages including Persian and Armenian (likewise "Ostivar" means "soldier" in these languages, as "Farr" or "Fravar" means radiant or virile...).

      So we have 3 runic systems, 3 classes in ancient Indo-European societies, and 3 associated Gods symbolically linked to them.

      Second, List's use of the rune "Gibor" (which corresponds to the "Elder" rune Gebo or Gibu) is not in any way hebraic. Gibor means "giver" in List's southern rendition of Old Germanic (the modern German pronunciation is Geber). Gibor = Giver, just as Gebo = gift or to give. List's interpretation of this rune (which is essentially a semi-concealed Fylfot) is not merely of the gift itself as passive object (the way that modern academics reconstruct the "Elder" rune Gebo) but rather that of the active giver and the one who receives the gift achieving spiritual unity, unity of Gods and Men, or creator and created, and the shared consciousness of that union is the real great Gift of the All.

      This rune is one of three associated with Odin since it is essentially two Os-runes inverted and bound to each other (much like Odal, sometimes used in place of Os by Armanists, is two Os-runes mirrored and crossed). Gibor represents the Odinic capacity of Allfather as the All-giver, whose gifts of wisdom only the ascended ("arman") personality will be able to grasp and receive in full, though all people ultimately benefit from their effects unknowingly.

      Also keep in mind that just as the rune Gibor with its complex symbolic meanings has no connection to the hebrew "Gibor" (a reductionist and utilitarian term meaning simply "strong"), similarly other languages have an unrelated work "gibor" with no relation to the Germanic word. For example in Turkish "gibor" is a conjunction meaning "it is like....." which clearly has no relation to Givers or Gifts. Just because a similar sounding word pops up in a different language it doesn't mean the word is derived from that external language. The runic Gibor is Germanic, nothing else.

    2. Indeed you could even potentially make the case that some hebraic words were not hebraic at all. A good example is the term "din" which also appears in Arabic. Originally it was actually an ancient Iranian Avestan (translation: Aryan) term pronounced "Deyn" or "Daena" which meant inspiration, revelation or epiphany. Its original meaning was deep, soul-shaking, and only properly experienced through meditation on the solar cycles of nature. By contrast, when the hebrews encountered Persia and came across this term, they reduced it to a purely materialistic and fear-based definition of "law", "judgment" or "commandments", things that must be obeyed, rather than inspiration which is never forced. The Arabs, at least, maintained a smidgen of the word's original depth by using "din" to refer to faith or spirituality itself, which is what it still means in Islam today, as opposed to mere commandments ("fara'id") or judgments ("hukaamah") or even religious denomination ("madh'ab").

      Honestly I don't think that all languages, written or otherwise, are variations of the same theme. Even if all humanity evolved language from non-language only once with a single common ancestor inventing the first one (with the influx of Neanderthal, Denisovan and other near-human populations in the Ice Ages I take the view that some different families of languages evolved convergently, not from the same root) you still run into the problem of trying to make one symbol mean the same thing to different cultures at different times.

      I don't think the Norse "tweaked" the "U" into drizzle and Aurochs. Those are just the meanings that the Icelanders and the Anglo-Saxons of much later years attributed to the Ur-rune, and even then, only according to post-christian sources. It must be remembered that runes were initially NOT an alphabet for Germanic or Indo-European peoples, but rather a magickal symbolism. It was only in later times (i.e. Gothic migration age and after) that they were used as a writing system, and even then, often more cryptically and mystically than in a modern utility sense. It is pretty much the exact opposite of how language scripts went in semitic and pelasgian societies, where pictographs evolved into utilitarian letters without deeper individual meaning, only later to be configured and crunched into some sort of numerological or letter-value code for magick spells. For the Norse, the runes and bind-runes themselves WERE the spells. The symbols of might. far more than mere letters.

      So rather than a Rorshach Test, imagine runes as keys to runic ENERGIES, i.e. the primal energies of the universe and natural law. More about culture than style, which culture's values and ethics you resonate best with. For example you could lecture on and on to me about mongolian shamanism or kabbalah and none of it would sync with me at all because it's all herder-archetype cosmology of a utilitarian type and I am of Indo-European descent and culturally and values-wise very much in the farmer-archetype mold, hence things like summoning spirits and compelling them to do your bidding, or thinking you can force mere numbers to do such, does not appeal to me in the least. Indo-European magick of all forms generally focused on being in tune with nature, not exploiting it, and on self-empowerment and self-actualization, rather than the use of other beings or energies for mere self-gratification. Essentially it is tapping into active principles, not invoking reluctant entities by hook or crook.

    3. It's good that you found my blog thanks for the compliments! I too wish there was a group like the Icelandic Asatruarfelagid in North America, but yes they do seem to be only concerned with Iceland. They seem to be a pretty level-headed group, the only flaws I can find are that they view the Aesir as basically cultural constructs rather than independent entities, and don't properly understand the Armanen system or Guido von List's actual views on it.

      As for the AFA, while I don't deny there are many good people in it, the leadership and especially Stephen McNallen have increasingly become hardline "white nationalists" (to put it politely) and seem to be more about pushing the extreme anti-immigrant agenda of the zionist-Christian far-right, disguised in heathen clothing, than about actually delving into Germanic spirituality. Now some people may not have a problem with that, but I think it's fair to know where your membership dues are going - when a group's leader continues to push debunked pseudoscience racial theories like "metagenetics" or claims that Mexican immigration (into states that were originally part of Mexico before 1848!) amounts to an organized "invasion" or a "white genocide" directed by the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl himself, I have to start really questioning the man's sanity not to mention his ethics. He also appears to revel in a rabid Huntingtonian Islamophobia and even tries to use modern conflicts to justify the crusades, despite the fact that the Frankish crusaders initially made their bones in Europe killing Saxons and Cathars for "heresy", and conveniently forgetting that it was Muslims alone who extended a lifeline of trade to the pagan Norse when all of Christian "western civilization" had placed them under a strangling economic interdict and put a price on their heads.

      Like you I have also found some good atmospheric metal, and dark ambient music with heathen themes, that has proven very useful in runic meditations. Vali and Nebelung are two very good artists, ambient guitar. Also Forndom (formerly Heathen Harnow) is pure genius, he picks up thematically where Wardruna leaves off, and then goes even deeper into the mists of time and myth in Scandinavia's dark forests. But none of them are tree-worshippers. Germanic heathens don't worship or pray to trees. Trees are simply respected as living things far more in heathenry than in herder-archetype nomadic faiths that arose in barren grasslands and see trees as merely a resource to be exploited for profit.

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  3. Thanks for the replies. I'll have to admit I typed, in places, somewhat loosely. I do not, and don't know anyone who literally worships trees. It's more like a coined phrase in black metal... Otoh, I love them.

    Ok so now I will tell you where (the hell) I'm coming from. I should have typed this but others seem to have nothing to say about it so I leave it out. In my other recent reply I mentioned the B...

    So now, consider the human's mouth cavity, vocal apparatus. I find it interesting that the human can make all those *Distinct* sounds.
    To me, Nature (Intel Design etc) herself enabled this. This and or we as a Collective Mind. So All humans can make this BBBbeee sound. Was there An original language?

    So it seems to me, that on the other side in timespace, or the realm of Spirit/Mind whatever (or maybe it involves the Process of creation), that Some kinda phenomenon Brought us into Being aBle to say that particular sound (note the clear, recurring usage of the b Motif which is similar twixt ie berkano and today's English usages). That it's more than coincidence or convenience that I can say B, Distinctly.

    Hope this makes me sense out of my ravings. We can all say b in whatever context. So I'm guessing there is some ultimate goings on with this, going beyond cultural veneer. This is what Stan Tenen as well as Dan Winter address in so many ways. Dan has admitted to fabrication but there is still some meat therein. These guys and others have found archetypal significance to the Letters, individually.

    I am talking a kind of Cymatics. Each has it's own signature as it were.... Could be my bad for projecting this stuff onto rows far removed. But then we need to ask Why (the hell) did the rune rows (etc etc) all Have that bbbBeee?

    That kinda thing.

    1. They also all had FFFFF UUUUU THTHTHTH AAAAA RRRRR KKKKKK and most of the other runes the same between them too... you're really making a big fuss over nothing. Yes humans can say "B". And the letter looks similar to the Bar rune. So what? All humans can click but it doesn't mean we all know how to speak Khoisan. Latin alphabet is descended from old Ind-European letters so that's not a surprise. Is that proof of higher consciousness, just because we can all make the same noise? Your reading WAY too much into things. Once again, please get some help. The true symbolism of the runes is just flying way over your head, you're obsessed over mere vocal capabilities as if that's somehow a sign of culture.

  4. Wonderful article! But what about the Slavic Runes, for example?
    I feel at a loss, because there seems to be little relevant material when it comes to them, printed material, that is. However, on the internet a Slavic Rune Row can be read about, one that has EIGHTEEN RUNES! Every Rune is paired with a Slavic pagan deity, which fact facilitates a lot the process of learning them. Also extant are their (tentative?) elemental attributions, but only the four "usual" elements are used, Fire, Water, Air, Earth. The element of Ice that is often employed in texts teaching the Elder Futhark, and that has the Runes ISA and HAGALAZ attributed to it, is wholly absent. The Runes themselves are very interesting as far as their shape is concerned: twelve of the Runes are the same as in the Armanen Futhork, three are entirely unique to the Row at hand, and the rest are combinations (or rotations) of familiar shapes.
    I guess a person can work with Slavic Runes to his/her advantage - after at least the basics have been assimilated and a working knowledge gained of the Nordic Runes. It is a pity the knowledge is lost, or seems to be. I, at least, know of no literature treating of the Slavic Staves. Perhaps I am just not informed enough?

    1. The Slavic rune systems are themselves very interesting. There's more than one system though, and nearly all of them use some primal Odinic rune forms - but give them different names. The Hagal rune, for example, is called "Jeeva" in the Slavic system, which may actually be a Scythian/proto-Vedic word from Sintashta or Andronovo cultures.

      There are multiple rune sets and also hundreds of radial staves, fylfot-derivatives, sonnenrad-like staves, and outright Bind-runes unique to Slavic culture. It's no secret that Vikings and Slavs mixed and intermarried in placed like Kiev, Novgorod, etc. but I suspect the deep connection between these cultures is actually far older than that! I know for a fact that my ancestors knew of and traded with Germanic tribes who sailed across the Caspian Sea for millennia before the Vikings went to Gorgan (Hvargan) to get the damascus steel to make "Ulfbehrt" swords. The fact the Hvargan is a place-name with both Iranian and Germanic roots, as well as Arman still being a word in Iranian tongues today, shows that. Well guess who was the in-between culture to those two? The Slavs, by far.

      So Slavic/Germanic interactions go back at least as far, perhaps to when these cultures first began some 13,000 years ago, before the end of the Ice Age. So this can explain why they have so many symbols in common.

      Now for the bad news: most of the knowledge of the Slavic symbols like runes, sun-staves, etc. was heavily suppressed by the orthodox church and later the "soviet synagogue". So the knowledge of Slavic stave-magick and runes only survived in isolated pockets where people still practiced the Old Slavic Way known as "Rodnovery" though this may be only one of many systems where the others were lost. Today there are other Slavic pagan systems besides Rodnovery, but the source books of many of them are disputed, there are many texts rumored to have been "discovered" in the last two centuries like the "Slavic Aryan Vedas", some Slavic heathens swear by them, others say they are fakes and forgeries. I haven't read them so I don't know their content and can't judge either way.

      Probably your best bet for studying Slavic rune systems would be to find copies of Rodnovery books, or these "Slavic Aryan Vedas". Or get in contact with people like Aske Svarte (Odinist who also has experience with Rodnovery) and Veleslav (Rodnover priest), they may be able to provide information.

  5. The system I am 'familiar' with calls the Hagal rune by the name of ROK and the deity Svjatovid, i.e. Holy Sight. Thank you a lot for the information; I think there is little sense in me immediately running all over the place, at first I'll try to at least familiarize myself with the systems that are supported with corresponding lore, ther will be time later on, I hope, for Slavic staves. SLAVA!

  6. P.S. Slava is the equivalent of the Germanic/Nordic salutation: HEIL! Its literal meaning is 'glory', but glory from above, not mere (human) notoriety or fame.

  7. Yes I am familiar with Slava, I have some Polish and Ukrainian friends and they say Slava a lot. Slava is also a saying related to SVARNA, which is the east-Aryan form of "glory" or "divine favor", in Pali is is Suvarna, in Old Persian it is Hvarna, and Khavarena in Avestan.

    Hagal rune probably has many names in Slavic systems, in Ukraine it is called Jeeva. You can buy a pendant of this Jeeva rune from Ukraine: It also has many other Slavic runes, some of which look identical to Germanic ones. Svitovit, I have read, is associated with another symbol called Svetoch, which is two Kolovrats inside each other, spinning in opposite directions. Very powerful solar stave.


  8. The pendant looks nice, it can even be said it has an overall magical effect, mostly due to the Hagal rune, but while those signs in the circle do look kinda 'intriguing', some of them, those are not runes at all, I think, but some mumbo jumbo 'atlantean' stuff that was made up by inventive Slavs of dubious morals, always ready to releive the naive new-agers of their shekels.
    I don't know about the Slavic Aryan Vedas, they may be authenic, at least partly, but if they are anything like the above symbols, some of whom I saw some time ago as "pertaining to the Emerald Tablet" (!) then they are not - and it should be easily proven. The runes worthy of the name are of uniform spirit and character, they are coherent in an internal (and external) manner, they were won by the same pain and sacrifice, whereas in the case of these Slavic symbols one can almost smell the noetic process of the 'inventor' at work - he or she simply came up with what they thought would sell. And he/she didn't even try too hard, as it seems. The runes are runes because they are runes, i.e. they are mysteries that pertain to mysteries and secrets and facts of existence, one can't simply invent them, even Odin could not. Not that he was disrespectful enough to even try it, despite all his mischief-loving nature he has respect for things holy. Loki, on the other hand....

    1. Yes, we don't need to mess around with Loki. Every time he does a service for anyone, he extracts a much higher price in return. Odin only asks a gift for a gift, in fact when he gave mankind the rune, he didn't even ask for a gift in return! But Loki doesn't want just a gift, will rob you of all your Hamingja and every good thing in your wyrd if you allow him to get anywhere near it.

      What's funny is that behind the "Atlantean" mythos there are some valid points, one may even argue there was an "Atlantean race" but it was ironically not the Aryans (though it had some similarities). However there are good authors and bad authors. And I don't recognize some of the non-runic symbols on that pendant, so I don't know if they are "Emerald Tablet" stuff or not. Emerald tablet story isn't even Atlantean, it's supposed to be Hermetic. But of course it's fake anyway. Not sure how any of that stuff could find its way into a Slavic context.

      As there are different Slavic rune rows it's hard to tell, most of them appear to be largely runic in the true sense, but some of them do appear to have symbols that were later inventions and do not follow the runic stave pattern (i.e. some of them use horizontal lines or right angles). Even these, we do not know if they were medieval inventions or modern ones. Even if the Slavic Vedas are not ancient in origin, I believe they were composed with the sincere intent of reviving the Old Ways, even if they had to do some guesswork in the process. This is similar to what I proposed for writing a new Edda to take into account the great struggles of Men Against Time in various Aryan cultures that were left out of the Prose and Poetic Eddas. There are gaps that would have to be filled, with a bit of Skaldic invention occasionally. But I don't know if the content of the Slavic Vedas is anything like that. It may be based on ancient Lore, or it could just be impossible pseudo-history like Blavatsky's self-contradicting "Root Races" theory or like Wiligut's so-called "200,000 year old Krist clan tradition". There do not appear to be any English translations of the Slavic Aryan Vedas, it's all in Russian and apparently an old dialect, so I would not be able to understand much of them, unless I can find a Russian who has some spare time to help translate.

  9. The intention to revive the Old Ways is comendable all-ways. I tried to find a page with Slavic Runes but only managed to find this from an online new-age magazine:

    However, the 18 Runes are plainly shown, even if painted on cards.

  10. The Gothic Futhark link leads to porn. I'm not sure if you know that, but I'm just putting that out there.

    1. That's odd... I just tested the link now, and it goes to the Gothic/Elder Futhark post:

      No porn there at all. You sure your computer isn't compromised?