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24 Norse Runes and Their Meaning

By James

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Norse mythology has by far one of the most fascinating stories you’ll ever hear, and it all stems from the fact that the gods and goddesses of these stories are not perfect.

In fact, while most other mythologies portray gods as unfathomable beings that are never overturned by anyone and are always one step above their problems, this isn’t the case with Norse mythology.

That’s because according to the Christian series of beliefs, we were made in the image of God, while for the Nordics, their gods were made in the image of men and women.

So, they are deeply flawed beings that drink, eat whatever comes their way, they pillage, they destroy and they trick one another.

Norse alphabet

This makes the Norse Gods seem a bit unhinged, to say the least, but at the same time, it makes for some of the most fun stories you’ll ever read.

And by far one of the most interesting aspects of Norse mythology will always be the Norse runes. But what are they, why were they so important to the Norse gods and more importantly, what do they represent?

That’s what we’re here to find out, so take a seat as we go over the most important questions on your mind right now, starting off with:

What Are Runes?

What Are Runes

When we say runes, we specifically refer to an alphabet that was created and primarily used by the Germanic people.

By far the oldest runes to have ever been discovered are believed to date all the way back to the 1st century CE, and they are known as the 24 Elder Futhark runes.

While we don’t know for sure where they originated from, as is common with ancient knowledge, it is believed to be based on the ancient Italian writing style Old Italic.

With all of that being said though, the word “rune” itself originates from the Proto-German word “runo” or Old Norse “run”.

This is important to note because the two words both refer to a secret, a magic sign or a runic character, depending on which version you opt for.

Nowadays though, the runes are mainly associated with the Norse and the Vikings, as they were the ones to use it back in the day all throughout Scandinavia.

The Rök rune stone

Interestingly enough, the Vikings actually used the Younger Futhark runes, which have only 16 letters, but besides them there was also the Elder Futhark runes.

There are also two different ways to use the Younger Futhark format, the long branch and the short twig.

The first of these was actually used a lot more by the Danish, while the latter was used primarily by the Swedes and the Norse. Vikings on the other hand used both interchangeably.

These runes were used to convey messages, ideas and even to perform magic or divination, which was a very popular activity back in the day.

Regardless, let us now go over the 24 runes and the meaning behind all of them, starting off with the following:

1. Fehu ᚠ — Cattle

The Fehu rune is meant to represent the concept of abundance, wealth, security and of course, fertility. It translates to “cattle”, which was done on purpose because back then, owning a cow was pretty much the equivalent of owning a yacht these days.

The Fehu rune was used a lot in magical practices, as the Norse elders believed that stapling this rune over their households for example would allow them to prosper throughout their lifetimes.

2. Uruz ᚢ — Wild Ox (Aurochs)

The Uruz rune is often times referred to as the mother of manifestation. It is the rune that was primarily used to define the origin and destiny of all things.

Using it will give you plenty of mental and physical health, and as such it was used a lot before a long and arduous battle by the Vikings.

A lot of the time, the warriors would also wear Uruz rune jewelry in order to manifest their destiny onto the battlefield.

3. Thurisaz ᚦ — Giant

Thurisaz is a rather strange symbol, as it has quite a few different translations. For one, it translates to “giant” according to Old Norse, but if you take the Old English version, it translates to “thorn”.

In divination, it is meant to serve as a warning to the people involved, as danger is lurking nearby or intense change is upon them.

It has also been heavily associated with Thor and his weapon, Mjolnir, which is why you’ll often times see followers of Thor wearing jewelry with Thurisaz runes on them.

4. Ansuz ᚨ — God

Interestingly enough, Ansuz means God, and yet it isn’t meant to be a sign of Odin, instead it refers to Odin’s breath.

Even so, it primarily refers to the two gifts that were given to primal man by the gods, which are the breath and the mental capacity to understand one another.

As such, it’s also referred to as the rune of communication and of spoken word. So, in divination, the rune is meant to indicate the fact that you should think before you talk, take a deep breath and listen to everyone else before you open your mouth.

5. Raidho ᚱ — Journey

Raido translates to “journey”, and in texts it is usually used to refer to riding or wagons. For the most part, it is meant to represent moving onwards through the dark future or some sort of a soul awakening.

Using this rune pretty much indicates that you are willing to move forward on your journey and that you’ve finally made your mind on which way you want to go.

6. Kenaz ᚲ — Torch

Kenaz means “torch”, and as you can expect from that, it pretty much refers to taking the first step towards the future you want to have.

As we all know, the brightest part of the human body is the soul, and as such this rune refers to you following what your soul craves as you make your future your own.

7. Gebo ᚷ — Gift

Even though most people take this rune as “gift”, it can also be translated as “exchange”. It pretty much refers to the gratitude that you should offer to someone offering you a gift and the energy exchange between the two individuals as you share gifts with one another.

This rune also serves as a reminder that no matter what gift you receive, you should be grateful for it because in accepting it you are giving a part of yourself to the other person, and you receive a part of them through it.

8. Wunjo ᚹ — Joy

The Joy rune is meant to represent the happiness that you feel when everything works out the way you wanted it to, and you finally don’t have to stress about anything anymore.

It indicates a moment of pure happiness, prosperity and fulfillment, and it is a very common rune to use at weddings because of the shared joy between the couple.

9. Hagalaz ᚺ — Hail

This is one of the most controversial runes out there, as it is usually used to portray wrath or anger, although some experts also believe that it could refer to a series of tests you’ll have to overcome in the near future.

It could also mean that in order to get over your problems you will need to do a bit of shadow work, so take your time and look at yourself from a different point of view. You may be surprised to see how profitable delving into the underworld may be for you.

10. Nauthiz ᚾ — Need

The Need rune is one that you never want to see. This is because the Need rune represents a forthcoming period of struggling and want.

It represents a loss of some sort and a craving to have more, so if you get this rune you pretty much will not be able to make ends meet in the near future.

11. Isa ᛁ — Ice

The Isa rune is quite different, in that it represents a time in your life in which you are frozen. This state is more so mental than physical, as you are unable to move forward no matter what you do.

This could refer to your relationship, your projects, your future plans, pretty much anything that you’ve been working endlessly on and are at a standstill. If you feel like things have been going the wrong way for you, you may want to stop and think of a new approach to get over your problems.

12. Jera ᛃ — Harvest

Interestingly enough, Jera is actually the complete opposite of Isa, as it represents the time after Isa when you’ve looked at whatever problems you had and you overcame them.

This is the time for you to harvest the fruits of your work, it is the time that you’ve been waiting for all along.

13. Eihwaz ᛇ — Yew

This is one of our favorite runes, as it is meant to represent Yggdrasil, the ancient tree of life in Norse mythology.

The tree can mean anything and everything at once, but for the most time it is meant to represent death or the death of past problems as you overcome them.

It is not an entirely positive or negative rune, which is quite common with most of them as they can either refer to a negative experience you will go through in the future or something you need to work on to avoid.

14. Perthro ᛈ — Dice Cup

This symbol refers to fortune, and it is meant to indicate the fact that at this exact moment, you know your current destiny and you are moving forwards to achieve it.

But at the same time, this destiny of yours isn’t necessarily good or bad, so if you feel like the path you’re on will not yearn a positive outcome, you may want to stray away from all of it and choose a new way forwards.

15. Algiz ᛉ — Elk

Algiz is meant to be the symbol of protection, as it pretty much dictates that you need to stand your ground or that something will test you in the near future and you will need to stay strong through everything.

It could also mean that you should take this time to offer some gifts to the gods because you may need their help to overcome your problems.

16. Sowelo ᛋ — Sun

The Sowelo rune represents the “sun” and it refers to a dark period in your life that you will finally get over.

It represents healing and more importantly it indicates the fact that the future ahead of you is bright for once.

17. Tiewaz ᛏ — Tyr

Tyr was the warrior god according to Norse mythology. He represented persistence over any upcoming obstacles and a sense of justice ahead.

Getting this rune indicates the fact that you are ready to become your own leader and that you should follow your own pathway into the future.

Sadly though, it was also used as a symbol by Germany during the 1940s, so you may want to keep this symbol to yourself when you visit their country.

18. Berkana ᛒ — Birch

Representing the birch tree and new beginnings, this rune is meant to indicate a gentle rebirth and renewal, as well as a bright future ahead if you do what needs to be done.

If you get this rune, you may also want to take this time to manifest something into the physical plane, so ponder over what needs to be done and make sure to take the initiative onwards.

19. Ehwaz ᛖ — Horse

Ehwaz is symbolized by the horse, and it is the rune used by people or gods to travel between worlds or states.

It can also mean complete harmony and trust between two different people or two beings, and it could also represent your affinity towards one of the old Norse gods.

20. Mannaz ᛗ — Man

Since it represents “man”, it’s no wonder that this symbolizes the community you are a part of and the relationships you’ve made along the way.

If you’ve been keeping to yourself as of late and you’ve been isolating from your close ones, you may want to change that.

This rune also represents the fact that you need to give more of yourself and expect more from your partner. It also indicates healthy boundaries and the need to take care of each other.

21. Laguz ᛚ — Water

If you get the rune of water the chances are that you need to stop fighting against the stream and that you need to finally do as the world expects of you.

It may also mean that you need to fight against the current to get to your destination, but remember that even the mightiest of rocks will crumble against the power of the stream, so you should take this with a grain of salt.

This symbol can also help with flow and work, and it can manifest the future you want, as long as you follow the stream that you set out ahead.

22. Inguz ᛝ — Ing

This is the symbol that stands for the god Ing. It is meant to represent sexuality, intensity and fertility, all at the same time.

You can use this symbol if you want to do some spiritual healing work, and at the same time it can help you if you and your partner’s struggles have been in vain so far.

23. Dagaz ᛞ — Day

As the symbol of dawn or day, this rune refers to the never-ending cycle that we are all a part of. Every bad day will end, and a new one is always right around the corner waiting for us.

Not every day is good, but no matter what happens, you need to listen to the sign and do as it does. As you transform the next day and you forget who you were back then, you need to manifest your next self into being. 

24. Othala ᛟ — Home

Last but not least we have the universal symbol of home and wealth. This represents the fact that those around you are priceless, and that you need to trust them more as they are the foundation to your past, present and future.

Conclusion

Runes meaning

Runes have a lot of different meanings to them, and a lot of them can be quite vague. So, don’t take them as perfect representations of what your future has in store for you.

They are more so meant to represent indications for your future, as a lot of them simply guide you towards the best version of yourself.

About James

A lifelong fan of mythology and all things ancient, James has always been fascinated by the rich stories and legends of different cultures, and he loves nothing more than diving into a good mythological tale. Learn more about MythNerd's Editorial Process.

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