Anglo-Saxon Runes

If you have browsed through any New Age stores and looked at sets of "rune stones", you probably had the impression that there is one specific symbol set known as the Runes. The truth is that there are multiple runic symbol sets. The 24 symbols commonly available in commercial divination sets are the runes of the Elder Futhark, believed to be the oldest runic symbol set of the early Germanic tribes.

Earendel eschews the Elder Futhark for the simple reason that next to nothing is known about it. That's right, despite the stacks of books that have been written about the Elder Futhark, there is absolutely no extant lore about their mysteries. Almost everything about these symbols has been extrapolated from the Old English Rune Poem, which describes a set of 29 symbols known as the Futhorc. These include all of the Elder Futhark runes, plus five others. As Saxon Pagans we identify with the culturally appropriate Futhorc. Furthermore, if runic meanings are derived from the Old English Rune Poem, it seems only sensible, to us, to work with the full set of Old English runes rather than a hypothetical rune set that very little is known about.

Surviving examples of runic symbols are found in inscriptions on boulders, jewelry, urns and tombs. The runes were often used simply for writing, but they could also have magical intentions. Many people today think of runes as a divinatory tool, but these symbols can be used to create outcomes as well as to predict outcomes.

Incidentally, the Norse Rune Poem and the Icelandic Rune Poem both address a set of 16 runic symbols known as the Younger Futhark. We would encourage our Norse Pagan friends to explore this rune set.

Below you will find an illustration of each rune, the Old English passage in the Rune Poem describing the mystery of that rune, and a New English translation. If you have been exposed to the notion of a "blank rune", you will notice that nothing of that sort is given below. That is because there is no such thing. A rune is a symbol; it is not the medium on which the symbol is inscribed. If there is no symbol, then there is no rune.


Feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum,
sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclum hyt dælan
gif he wile for dryhtne domes hleotan.

Cattle are compensation for everyone,
though each man shall greatly share his
if he will be awarded honors from his lord.

Feoh : Cattle

Ur byþ anmod ond oferhyrned,
felafrecne deor feohteþ mid hornum,
mære morstapa þæt is módig wuht.

The aurochs is brave and has horns above,
this very fierce animal fights with its horns,
a great wanderer of the moors, it is a proud creature.

Ur : Aurochs (Ox)

þorn byþ ðearle scearp ðegna gehwylcum
anfeng is yfel, ungemetum reþe,
manna gehwelcum ðe him mid resteð.

Thorn is exceedingly sharp for every servant
seizing it is evil, and it is extremely harsh
to each man who rests among it.

Thorn : Thorn Tree

Os byþ ordfruma ælere spræce,
wisdomes wraþu ond witena frofur
and eorla gehwam eadnys ond tohiht.

The god is the creator of all language,
wisdom's foundation and consolation of sages
and every man's joy and trust.

Os : A God

Rád byþ on recyde rinca gehwylcum
sefte ond swiþhwæt ðamðe sitteþ on ufan
meare mægenheardum ofer milpaþas.

The ride up to every man's hall is
comfortable and very fast for he who sits high on
a mighty horse over the miles.

Rad : Ride

Cen byþ cwicera gehwam cuþ on fyre,
blac ond beorhtlic byrneþ oftust
ðær hi æþelingas inne restaþ.

The pine is a tree known by all for its flame,
shining and brilliant it often burns
where the people relax inside.

Cen : Pine

Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys,
wraþu and wyrþscipe and wræcna gehwam
ar and ætwist ðe byþ oþra leas.

A gift from others is an honor and praise,
a help and of worth, and for sojourners everywhere
a benefit and presence that is otherwise missing.

Gyfu : Gift

Wynn brúceþ þe can wana lýt,
sáres and sorge, and him selfa hæfþ
blæd and blysse and éac burga geniht.

Joy possesses him who knows little want,
illnesses and sorrows, and himself has
prosperity and happiness
and also a sufficient dwelling.

Wynn : Joy

Hagol biþ hwítost corna,
hwyrft hit of heofones lyfte,
wealcaþ hit windes scúra,
weorþeþ hit tó wætere syððan.

Hail is the whitest of seeds,
its circling comes from the lofty sky,
it tosses in the wind's shower,
it then becomes water afterwards.

Hagol : Hail

Níed biþ nearu on bréostan,
weorþeþ híe þeah oft níþa bearnum
tó helpe and tó hæle gehwæþre,
gif híe his hlystaþ æror.

Need is oppressive on the heart,
although it often befalls this affliction of men
to help and to heal somewhat,
if it is heard beforehand.

Nied : Need

Is byþ oferceald, ungemetum slidor,
glisnaþ glæshlútor, gimmum gelícost,
flór forste geworuht, fæger ansíene.

Ice is extremely cold, very slippery,
it glistens clear, like precious gems,
a floor wrought by frost, fair thing seen.

Is : Ice

Géar biþ gumena hiht, þonne god læteþ,
hálig heofones cyning, hrúsan sellan
beorhte bléda beornum and þearfum.

The year is mankind's joy, when the god bequeaths,
ruler of the sacred sky, the earth offers
splendid crops for the well-born and the poor.

Gear : Harvest

Éoh biþ útan unsméþe tréowe,
heard hrúsan fæst, hierde fyres,
wyrtruman underwreþed, wynn on éþle.

On the outside, the yew is a rough tree,
hard and secured in the earth, keeper of fires,
sustained by deep roots,
it is a pleasure to have on one's land.

Eoh : Yew

Peorþ biþ symble plega and hleahtor,
wlancum þar wigan sittaþ
on béorsele blíþe ætsamne.

Gaming is always sport and laughter,
where boastful they sit to make war
in the banquet hall cheerfully together.

Peorth : Gaming

Eolh-secg eard hæfþ oftost on fenne,
weaxe on wætere, wundaþ grimme,
blóde breneð beorna gehwilcne
þe him ænigne onfeng gedéð.

The elk-sedge is native to the marsh,
it grows in the water, it can wound cruelly,
the blood of any man burns
who in any way dares to seize it.

Eolh-Secg : Elk-Sedge

Sigel sæmannum simble biþ on hihte,
þonne híe hine fériaþ ofer fisces bæþ,
oþ híe brimhengest bringeþ tó lande.

The sun for sailors is always hoped for,
when they depart over the fishes' bath,
until their ship carries them to land.

Sigel : Sun

Tir biþ tácna sum, healdeð tréowa wel
wiþ æþelingas, á biþ on færylde,
ofer nihta genipu næfre swíceþ .

The north star is one signal, it holds faith well
with nobles, it is always on track,
throughout night's darkness it never deceives.

Tir : The North Star

Beorc biþ bléda léas, bereþ efne swá þéah
tánas bútan túdor, biþ on telgum wlitig,
héah on helme hrysted fægere,
gehlóden léafum, lyfte getenge.

The birch is without fruit, it bears even so,
It bears shoots instead of fruit,
its branches are beautiful,
high in the tree tops decorated attractively,
laden with foliage, lofty pressing.

Beorc : Birch

Éh biþ for eorlum æþelinga wynn,
hors hófum wlanc, ðær him hæleþ ymbe,
welege on wicgum, wrixlaþ spræce,
and biþ unstyllum æfre frofur.

The horse is for lords the joy of the aristocracy,
horse hooves boastful, where around the hero,
prosperous in respect to horses,
it exchanges discourse,
and its restlessness is ever a help.

Eh : Horse

Mann biþ on myrgþe his mágan léof,
sceal þéah ánre gehwilc óðrum swícan,
for þám dryhten wille dóme síne,
þæt earme flæsc eorþan betæcan.

A joyful person is beloved of his kin,
shall though each one depart away,
for moreover the lord wills his fate,
the destitute flesh be delivered to the earth.

Mann : Human

Lagu biþ léodum langsum geþúht,
gif híe sculun néþan on nacan tealtum,
and híe sæýþa swíþe brégaþ,
and sé brimhengest brídles ne gíemeð.

The sea seems of endless length to people,
if they must venture on unstable ships,
and the sea waves terrify them exceedingly,
and the ship does not heed its reins.

Lagu : Sea or Water

Ing wæs ærest mid Eastdenum gesewen secgun,
oþ hé siððan eft ofer wæg gewát,
wæn æfter ran,
þus heardingas þone hæle nemdon.

Ing was first seen among the East Danes it is said,
until he later went back over the sea,
his chariot following after,
thus the brave men named that hero.

Ing : The god Ingui

Dæg biþ dryhtnes sond, déore mannum,
mære metodes léoht, myrgþ and tóhiht,
éadgum and earmum, eallum bryce.

The day is the god's ambassador, beloved of men,
the great god's light, mirth and also hope,
prosperous and poor, all enjoy it.

Dæg : Day

Éthel byþ oferleof æghwylcum men,
gif hé mót þær rihtes and gerisena on
brúcan on bolde blædum oftost.

The home is very dear to all people,
If there they have the opportunity
for justice and honesty while
enjoying prosperity in the dwelling most often.

Ethel : Home

Ác biþ on eorþan ielda bearnum
flæsces fódor, féreþ gelóme ofer ganotes bæþ.
gársecg fandaþ hwæþer ác hæbbe æþele tréowe.

The oak is on Earth for the children of men,
meat-animal's fodder,
it travels often over the gannet's bath.
The sea tests whether the oak possesses noble truth.

Ac : Oak

Æsc biþ oferhéah, ieldum déore,
stiþ on staþole, stede rihte hielt,
þéah him feohtan on fíras manige.

The ash is lofty, glorified by men,
stiff in its trunk, it holds its position exactly,
although it fights against many men.

Æsc : Ash Tree

Yr biþ æþelinga and eorla gehwæs
wynn and weorþmynd, biþ on wicge fæger,
fæstlíc on færelde, fyrdgeatwa sum.

A bow is for noblemen and warriors everywhere
joy and a mark of distinction, upon a fair horse,
steadfast on its course, a part of the war-gear.

Yr : Bow

Ior biþ éafisc, and þéah a brúceþ,
fódres on foldan, hafaþ fægerne eard,
wætre beworpen, þær hé wynnum léofaþ.

The beaver is a river fish,
and though he resides there,
he forages on land, he has a fair dwelling,
water surrounding, that place he joyfully holds dear.

Ior : Beaver

Ear byþ egle eorla gehwilcun,
þonn fæstlice flæsc onginneþ,
hræw cólian, hrúsan ceosan blác to gebeddan;
bléda gedréosaþ, wynna gewítaþ, wera geswícaþ.

The ground is loathsome to all men,
yet certainly the body will be set upon there,
the corpse grows cold,
the soil accepts its pale bedfellow;
leaves fall, pleasures depart, men cease to be.

Ear : Land, Ground


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