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The Norse Futhark: A Magickal Alphabet

Updated on May 22, 2013

The 24 Runes of the Norse Alphabet

This alphabet gets its name from the 1st 6 letters (top row), F, U, TH, A, R, K.
This alphabet gets its name from the 1st 6 letters (top row), F, U, TH, A, R, K. | Source

From Memorials to Magick, Runes Rule!

The Vikings wrote in runes. These runes. The futhark. Economy & elegance are the earmarks of this simple, useful alphabet whose true origins remain obscured by the mists of time. There are a few prevailing theories.

The Scandinavians swear up & down to this day that Odin, when he was just hanging around learning the Cosmos, got them, infusing them with the Wisdom of Everything, & gave them to his people. Since it's their original ancestral alphabet, I'm surely not going to argue with them!

European historians & scholars seem to think that the futhark is an innovation on an earlier alphabet. Some like the Etruscan alphabet used by a war tribe similar to the Vikings & others like good old Latin. Could be either; could be both. We're not sure, but the mystery of the futhark's origins sure lends to its glamour & makes the whole Odin scenario nearly plausible.

The Norse tribes used runes to honor folks who did great big things in times of war, which was pretty much all the time for those guys, & in times of peace, which was rather rare, if the records are correct. I mean, really, how much peace can you have if you're aiming to keep all your guys in human skull mugs brimming with wine & mead? That's a lot of skull cracking & vineyard acquisition!

The Viking raiders also used runes to denote ownership of everything from swords & shoes to "great tracts of land", to quote Monty Python. A more somber use of runes were epitaphs for everyone, although it looks like the soldiering sort were the first to benefit from this noble Norse cultural practice.

All-out warriors used runes all over their weaponry, as much to decorate as to intimidate the opposition with large & small displays of protective, magickal symbols straight from Odin, Mr. Upsy-Daisy himself.

As the Vikings travelled, pillaged, dominated, & infiltrated various cultures all over Europe, the communities in which they waged war & settled began to see the benefits of runes. Those symbols must have some power, since those marauding Norse beat the pants off their own folks, along with everybody in a 100-mile radius. Besides, the futhark is a truly economical, elegant way to engrave, memorialize, & infuse daily communication with a little stylish magick.

To this day, all through Europe you can see runes on Christian & pagan gravestones alike wherever the Norse rubbed shoulders & knocked heads with folks from every possible path & tradition.

Very quickly, witches & educated folks saw the many benefits of the runic alphabet from The North, especially once the neighbors decided that knowing stuff was dangerous & started extending invitations to bonfires & barbecues that one simply could not refuse. Literally.

For witches in particular, the futhark offered great protection for grimoires, family naturopathic recipes, spells, one's Book of Shadows, & the household codex or omnipedia. Individual runes were often used as mnemonic visual cues for witches, while on their healing rounds or collecting herbs or making tinctures & the like. Given the inflamed (ahem) atmosphere in Europe during The Burning Times, witches really needed to exercise caution, committing everything to memory. Simple, elegant visual cues like runes were terrific keys to each witch's Mind Palace, unlocking decades, if not centuries, of knowledge with just a few clean, straight lines.

As time went on, the flames of Europe's big barbaric barbecue died down to a sleepy glow then finally sizzled out with an embarrassed little hiss. Witches weren't going to take any chances in future, continuing to use the futhark as a common magickal alphabet for corresponding within & between their sacred communities. Along with other "mystical" alphabets, the futhark gained prestige in the pagan community as magickally protective, since it brought centuries of knowledge straight through The Burning Times safe & sound, for future generations to practice & enjoy. Yes, the futhark became invaluable to witches all through Europe & the UK, whether used all together to write whole thoughts or used individually to intend or manifest certain outcomes in spellwork.

So, thanks to some warlike Northerners a long time ago, & possibly an inverted immortal, witches today have the futhark to use for a variety of magickal purposes. Runes are gaining in popularity & power every day in the modern pagan community, especially among witches, precisely because of their multiple applications & simplicity.

Kitchen Witches especially love runes for potentizing foods & beverages, healing teas, decoctions, & tinctures. Witches of any tradition can borrow this application, of course. The results are just tremendously encouraging, & will truly boost the loving, protective, healing energy in everything you make for your own well-being & that of your near & dear ones.

If you're feeling curious about runes in the kitchen, grab a tube of dairy case sugar cookie dough, roll it out, & shape the 24 Norse runes of the futhark with your little Vikings & witches. It's a great way to pass a rainy Saturday afternoon. In fact, while those rune cookies are baking, hop onto NOVA's site to spell all of your names the futhark way & learn a little bit more about each of the 24 symbols.

Have fun finding neat-o keen ways to incorporate runes into your daily magick & watch them work wonders, as they have done for millenia.

Blessed be!

© 2012 Lady Enchantee for Charmed Life. All rights reserved.

Chatter Round the Cauldron

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  • WiccanSage profile image

    Mackenzie Sage Wright 5 years ago

    Excellent hub. I totally agree, I prefer working with Futhark over other rune systems and find them quite potent for kitchen witchery, folk magic as well as for ritual magic & divination. When I take on a student, it's one of the first studies I assign them-- to learn Futhark. Voted up.

  • Lady Enchantee profile image

    Lady Enchantee 5 years ago from My Enchanted Garden

    Dear divinebyjo...

    Just wanted to thank you for your kind gift of time to read this hub & your sweet comment. It pleases me no end that you have found joy in this hub.

    Brightest blessings to you, as always, dear!

    Warm regards...Lady Enchantee

  • divinebyjo profile image

    divinebyjo 5 years ago

    I love this hub!

  • Lady Enchantee profile image

    Lady Enchantee 5 years ago from My Enchanted Garden

    Blessed be, Daughter of Maat!

    Thank you for your kindness in reading this hub & in sharing your personal experience & thoughts of the futhark.

    I am a great admirer of both the grand Asatru & Egyptian magickal paths. Both have enormous integrity & great power for personal transformation. It is delightful to hear that you & your hubby have each found the traditions that feed your souls & work so beautifully together! Your magickal paths certainly must add joy & depth to your relationship.

    As a student of the futhark, I am thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the information presented & found that it added to your already extensive magickal knowledge.

    Thank you for your sharing here, dear, & may you & yours be blessed always.

    Warm regards...Lady Enchantee

  • Lady Enchantee profile image

    Lady Enchantee 5 years ago from My Enchanted Garden

    Blessed be, Johan Smulders!

    Thank you for taking the time & the effort to read this hub & to share your thoughts here!

    How wonderful that you experience a spirit world & find that enriching in your spiritual life. Thank you for sharing this lovely blessing with us here.

    Your path is is a noble one, & I celebrate your connection to The Christ as a follower of Jesus. This is a beautiful & rewarding path that several of my dearest friends walk joyfully. You are certainly among friends here!

    I'm delighted that you enjoyed the information on the Viking futhark & its subsequent uses by many peoples, including witches.

    Warm regards...Lady Enchantee

  • Lady Enchantee profile image

    Lady Enchantee 5 years ago from My Enchanted Garden

    Blessed be, OldWitchcraft!

    Thank you so very much for your kindness in stopping by to enjoy this hub & to share your special knowledge of the futhark with us all. May you be blessed for your thoughtfulness! It is greatly appreciated.

    This is very exciting information that you offer regarding Iceland, in particular. It would, indeed, be delightful to see a full photographic catalogue of these images...& wonderful to go see them in person!

    Your correlation of the futhark with the Hebrew alphabet is quite astute. Both can be used to great effect in working magickal intention, storing large thoughts, concepts, & ideas for spellwork, & for sending beautiful baskets full of energies to others when doing long-distance intentional work.

    I have found that, in addition to using these two alphabets & the traditional selection of magickal alphabets in my Craft, the Japanese runic systems (hiragana, katakana, & kanji) & ancient Chinese glyph systems work beautifully for expressing large groups of related concepts & intentions simply, economically, & elegantly.

    As you have said so well, these runic systems "were originally intended to communicate with the gods"...the gods around us & the gods within each of us.

    Warm regards...Lady Enchantee

  • Lady Enchantee profile image

    Lady Enchantee 5 years ago from My Enchanted Garden

    Blessed be, blake4d!

    Thank you for your kindness in stopping to read & to share your extensive knowledge & well-considered thoughts on the futhark with all of us. You are generous.

    You are correct. The futhark & other "mystical" alphabets from the earliest civilizations have been invaluable to cultural exchange & to the preservation & growth of various magickal paths for millenia. We owe much to those who took the time & effort to create a symbolic communication system as elegant, simple, & easy to use as the futhark!

    Warm regards...Lady Enchantee

  • Daughter Of Maat profile image

    Melissa Flagg COA OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

    Great hub. My hubby is on the Asatru path, and loves the runes. I'm not drawn to the Norse tradition (I prefer Egyptian) but the FUTHARK runes are fascinating and there isn't much information on them that isn't a regurgitation of another source.

    Voted up and shared!

  • Johan Smulders profile image

    Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

    Interesting article but I leave the magic to others. I believe in a spirit world and as a Christian I follow Jesus. That is enough for me. Thanks for the look into the world of Vikings and witches!

  • OldWitchcraft profile image

    OldWitchcraft 5 years ago from The Atmosphere

    Nice article. Some of the best information about the futhark was preserved in Iceland where the Christian influence was small. The runes were used for all kinds of purposes, including healing, harming, locating a thief, etc.

    I see them as similar to Old Hebrew. Neither are an alphabet in the conventional sense and both were originally intended to communicate with the gods.


  • blake4d profile image

    Blake Ford Hall 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

    Nice work. A lot of people do not realize how important the Viking alphabet and the Druid tree runes were to European pagan cultures, let along how the influenced the eventual languages that evolved in those regions. I have found the Viking alphabet to be one of the best to begin your studies of cross cultural symbolism, and the understanding of its workings crosses over into almost all major studies of the occult and ceremonial magick. Nice to have you on Hubpages. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d