The Futhark for Beginners

The purpose of this article is to help beginners get to grips with the basic arrangement of runes.

Runes are symbols (pictograms, or little pictures if you like) that were used by the ancients for magic and later for writing. Their origin is shrouded in mystery, but they seem to have come from Etruria, a kingdom in the land we now call Italy, and worked their way up through Germany to Scandinavia, where they had their heyday during the first millennium (0-1000AD).

At first the runes were just used for divining and magic, but the people of Northern Europe started to use them for writing messages as well. Each rune represents something in its magical sense, and also represents a sound in its writing sense. The sounds usually match up with the magical meaning, too. For example the rune Dagaz represents "Day" in rune magic, and it also represents the sound "D" when it used for writing.

There are 24 runes in the full rune row or set which is known as the Futhark.

This is the Anglo-Saxon Futhark which was brought to Britain by Vikings and other early European settlers. It's the Futhark featured in the Runemaker website and is a little different from the Elder Futhark, as the original rune row is called.

We use the word alphabet for the set of letters we use every day. That word comes from the Greek names Alpha (letter A) and Beta (letter B). The rune set is called Futhark from the first six letters in the rune row.  These are Fehu (F), Uruz (U), Thurisaz (Th), Ansuz (A), Raido (R) and Kauno (K).

Here is a table of the runes of the basic Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, their meanings, and the sounds they make.
Anglo-Saxon RuneName   Letter Equivalent Sound
Fehu F F as in fat
UruzU U as in under
ThurisazTH Th as in thin, or in weather
AnsuzA A as in add
RaidoR R as in red
KaunoC (hard), K C as in cat; K as in king
GeboG G as in good; Gh as in loch
WunjoW, V W as in wax; v as in van
HagalazH H as in hat
NaudizN N as in now
IsaI (short) I as in sit
JeraJ, Y J as in jam; Y as in yap
IhwazI (long) I as in site, Y as in style
PerthP P as in pot
AlgizZ Z as in zone. S as in cousin (may also have been the rolling RRR heard in Scottish dialect)
SowiloC (soft), S C as in nice; S as sit
TiwazT T as in top
BerkananB B as in bag
EhwazE E as in end
MannazM M as in man
LaguzL L as in let
IngwazNG ng compound consonant as in finger
OthilaO O as in old, or in cot
DagazD D as in dog

For more information on the Futhark and how it developed over the centuries, check out the Oswald the Runemaker website. You will find retrospective details of the rune casting sets, amulets and a range of other fine rune wares once produced by Bob Oswald. But there is wealth of information here for non-shoppers, too. There are articles on the early history and development of runes, giving examples of runic monuments and Anglo-Saxon art with some stunning pictures, and there is a complete section of the site that catalogues each rune with its interpretation when used in runic divination.

For a comprehensive guide to all the rune meanings visit .
You can also have "The Rune Reminder" eBook at US$5.95 delivered right away to your email address, to order. The 40 page e-book is designed as a memory aid for rune diviners. The full color illustrated pages give the meanings, interpretations and associations with colors, gemstones, trees and herbs etc. for each rune. The eBook also includes 11 original single-page articles on various points of interest that are not available on the website.
Author Bob Oswald
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Copyright 1994-2015 Bob Oswald

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