You have probably already heard of the runes. You may even have held a rune stone in your hands. But do you really know their meaning and above all… their power?
What are “runes”?
Runes are stones engraved with symbols that were used by the Viking peoples residing in Nordic countries, from the 2nd century. These graphical representations were widespread among Nordic, Celtic and Germanic peoples. But, today, nobody can tell where exactly the first rune appeared…
Of course, runic stones have easily withstood the test of time. The Vikings carved the symbols on many other surfaces: wood, for example, which was considered to be a noble – even sacred – material. Unfortunately, these inscriptions on wood were the first to disappear, erased over the centuries.
But what has never been lost is the meaning of the runes. They form indeed a real language: the runic alphabet. And it is one of the world’s oldest sacred alphabets.
Today, what we call “runes” are therefore:
- the different stones or other objects engraved with runic symbols, but also
- the runic letters themselves: each of them corresponds to an alphabet letter.
Runes, a message from the gods…
The runes constitute a very old language that is rife with mysterious symbols. Moreover, in the old Scandinavian language, rune meant “secret writing”. But the origins of the word are also found in the old Germanic word “rūn”, which means “mystery”.
There are several forms of runic alphabet but the best known is the ancient Futhark: it comprises 24 runes (letters).
Understanding the runes therefore requires knowing the meaning of these 24 Futhark symbols. But it does not stop there. Exploring these symbols opens the door to a series of mystical puzzles.
You should know that the runes have been closely related to magic since the dawn of time. This is certainly one of the reasons why the use of runes was banned in the 11th and 17th century in England and in several Northern European countries.
Odin is the father of the universe in Nordic mythology. He is the almighty God who rules over the house of heaven. God of war, death, but also poetry and freedom, he is likened to Wottan (in Sweden and Norway) but he is also the equivalent of the Roman god Mercury and the Greek god Hermes.
He is depicted as an old one-eyed man with a long grey beard. He only has one eye because he gave the other one to the goddess Mimir so she would let him drink from the Fountain of Wisdom. This is how he was able to acquire infinite knowledge. From his throne, guarded by two fierce wolves, he can see the whole world as well as the other gods at his command.
How did Odin create the runes?
Legend has it that Odin hung himself upside down on the sacred tree and remained in this position for nine days and nine nights. He then experienced a moment of enlightenment; wonderful magical mysteries were revealed to him, including the secret of runes. So he taught these runes to the wisest men, to initiated men. They perpetuated the divine message by engraving the 24 angular symbols on wood and stone, the symbols that have been used for magic and divination from that moment on.
The runes were therefore used in religious and funeral ceremonies, and they were said to have supernatural powers.
They were not mere symbols. They were real “gates” that were used to communicate with the gods so as to obtain protection. All ceremonies invoking the gods were necessarily accompanied by runes.
The runes were also engraved on swords, shields and other battle equipment so that they be put under divine protection.
But, most often, the Germanic peoples also used the runes to foretell the future. They would regularly consult them to try to decipher the messages coming from the gods, to understand the meaning of life and death but also to ward off the threat of destructive natural phenomena: lightning and storms, for example.