Elder Futhark Rune Meanings + Rune Casting Basics Explained

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Elder Futhark Rune Meanings — Rune Casting Guide

Casting runes is a practice you can use for guidance in all areas of life.

While practice of rune casting has seen a resurgence due to the popularity of Fortnite, runes have been used as tools of divination since the first or second century.

What are runes?

Runes are ancient letters belonging to the corresponding runic alphabets that were used as a written language system by Germanic and Nordic tribes prior to the adoption of the Latin alphabet. The earliest known runes are thought to have emerged around 150 CE, as dated from a comb with runic inscriptions found in Denmark.

The word rune comes the Old Norse word rún (meaning "secret, runic letter"), which comes from the Proto-Germanic word *rūnō (meaning “letter, literature, secret”), which comes from either the Proto-Celtic word *rūnā (meaning "secret, mystery") or the Proto-West Germanic word *rūnu (also meaning "secret, mystery").

But runes aren't only letters. They have been used for centuries as tools of divination, a fancy way of saying "to predict the future" or otherwise uncover the unknown through supernatural means. There is some evidence of runic magic practices being used as far back as the 3rd century. The sequence alu (ᚨᛚᚢ), an early charm word, "is found in numerous Elder Futhark runic inscriptions of Germanic Iron Age Scandinavia (and more rarely in early Anglo-Saxon England)."

According to Norse mythology of the Viking Age ((c. 790- c. 1100 CE), Odin, the king of the gods and the god of wisdom and war, "willingly hung himself from Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, for nine days while pierced with his own spear in order to gain knowledge of the runes. He then shared that knowledge with mankind."

What Is rune casting?

Runes can be read in a fashion similar to tarot card readings, with the runes laid out in spreads and read to gain a better perspective on a specific situation or a question. Unlike tarot cards, however, which can be connected to astrology, modern use of runes in divination is based on the traditions of Hermeticism, Occultism, and the I Ching.

Rune casting is more traditionally done by focusing on a specific question or issue as you or a rune reader reach into a bag of runes, pull out a small handful and toss them onto a casting cloth. Each rune letter has a corresponding meaning, and those you cast are interpreted to guide you toward possible answers or solutions. When runes land face down, they have alternative reverse meanings known. This is position is known as merkstave, which means "dark stick" and implies a dark meaning.

Runes are typically made of stone, wood, pebbles, crystals, bone or metal. They most often come in sets of 24, each inscribed with one letter of the runic alphabet, although some also include a blank rune (more on that below).

Runes can be used for guidance on both simple and complex issues, altering you to possible causes and effects, as well as potential outcomes.

Rune Alphabets

There are several rune alphabets, including Elder Futhark, Younger Futhark, and the Medieval (Latinized) Futhark. Elder Futhark, the oldest rune alphabet, consists of 24 letters, the first six of which spell out the word "futhark."

Elder Futhark Runes And Their Meanings

1. Fehu

Meaning: Cattle, Wealth

English equivalent: F

What fehu means in a rune casting: Fehu represents a measure of a man's worth, meaning your status within your community and family, as well as hard work toward a goal. Fehu is about your independence, self-worth, income earned, and revenue. When it lands upright, it is considered a sign of financial abundance and wish fulfillment.

Fehu reverse merkstave meaning: Loss, financial failure, disappointment. This could be an indication that there is more work to be done or that work has been lacking.

2. Uruz

Meaning: Aurochs, Wild Ox

English equivalent: U

What uruz means in a rune casting: Uruz is the bearer of strength, health, vitality, personal willpower and masculine energy. Upright, it indicates your strength will prevail and success is near. In a relationship, it indicates strong emotions.

Uruz reverse merkstave meaning: Weakness, misdirected force, and domination by others.

3. Thurisaz

Meaning: Giant

English equivalent: Th

What thurisaz means in a rune casting: Thurisaz provides strong protection and luck. Thurisaz represents the Hammer of Thor, the mighty weapon Mjollnir, protector of man and gods alike. Casting this rune indicates a stroke of luck and symbolizes using force to overcome obstacles. Thurisaz represents the masculine force balancing with the feminine to create a third force. It can indicate destruction in order to create something new.

Thurisaz reverse merkstave meaning: Loss in battle, weaknesses exploited by an adversary, and betrayal.

4. Ansuz

Meaning: God or Diety (usually Odin)

English equivalent: A

What ansuz means in a rune casting: Ansuz stands for communication and knowledge to be had. Ansuz is the rune for the mouth, as it refers us to the spoken word and acquisition of wisdom. It can also indicate written communications of all types, including exams, or a chance encounter with someone who has the knowledge you need. It can Indicate parental types of advice or advice that is freely given.

Ansuz reverse merkstave meaning: Deceit, lack of respect, miscommunication or vanity.

5. Raidho

Meaning: Ride, Journey, Chariot

English equivalent: R

What raidho means in a rune casting: Raidho represents swift movement and travel. This could mean in travel in a literal sense, like a vacation, or figuratively, such as moving forward with a new venture or relationship. It might even indicate a journey of your soul.

Raidho reverse merkstave meaning: Delays, accidents, demotion, dislocation, or death.

6. Kenaz (or Kaunaz)

Meaning: Beacon, Torch, Ulcer

English equivalent: K

What kenaz means in a rune casting: Kenaz, the Norse symbol for fire, represents the home fires burning where fertility is possible. It's not the destructive side of fire, but rather the warmth and comfort fire can afford. Kenaz is a protective rune indicating a time of lessening of worries and troubles, as well as heightened creativity, passion, and personal power. As a rune of fertility, it may appear in a casting to indicate a birth, either literal or figurative (such as the birth of a new idea).

Kenaz reverse merkstave meaning: Nakedness, exposure, false hope.

7. Gebo

Meaning: Gift

English equivalent: G

What gebo means in a rune casting: Gebo symbolizes the best gifts in life and is almost always indicative of a blessing you will receive. Gebo indicates some type of partnership maybe even a marriage proposal. Sometimes, Gebo can indicate the issue is of an emotional nature.

Gebo reverse merkstave meaning: None.

8. Wunjo

Meaning: Joy

English equivalent: W or V

What wunjo means in a rune casting: Wunjo represents those things that bring joy and happiness. Wunjo is another of the positive runes, Its symbolic representation is of joy and happiness. In a rune cast, it indicates a positive outcome for troubles. Wunjo is a great rune of success and shows the wheel of fortune has turned in your favor or will soon! In a love reading, it could indicate a deep and respectful love with a strong potential for lasting happiness. Wunjo can show happiness in your work especially if the work is creative in nature.

Wunjo reverse merkstave meaning: Slow movement, troubles that are burdensome to surmount.

9. Hagalaz

Meaning: Hail

English equivalent: H

What hagalaz means in a rune casting: Hagalaz represents forces outside your control. It is one of the primary runes for delays and limitation. It is a symbol of disruption. Hagalaz can turn up for someone considering taking some type of a risk.

Hagalaz reverse merkstave meaning: None.

10. Nauthiz (or Naudiz)

Meaning: Need

English equivalent: N

What nauthiz means in a rune casting: Nauthiz means to slow it all down. Nauthiz counsels for patience and is considered one of the three great runes of delay. Nauthiz advises you to hold back as no amount of haste will speed things up. Nauthiz always indicates passing through a difficult learning situation. It refers to a time of crossing the abyss. Emotional challenge of some nature is indicated by Nauthiz. You may be called upon to conquer fear.

Nauthiz reverse merkstave meaning: Impatience, rushing forward into situations that could end badly.

11. Isa (or Isaz)

Meaning: Ice

English equivalent: I

What isa means in a rune casting: Isa tells you when things have frozen in place. Isa is one of the three main delay runes and indicates a freeze of sorts. No movement will be had will Isa at play. Isa forces us to stop action in a certain direction. Isa in a relationship reading could indicate a breach of loyalty. Isa regardless of the type of relationship shows a cooling off.

Isa reverse merkstave meaning: None.

12. Jera

Meaning: Year, Good Year, Harvest

English equivalent: J

What jera means in a rune casting: Jera lets you know that it's time to reap what you've sown. Jera represents the Harvest and indicates a time when you will reap what you have sown. Looking at the surrounding runes will be helpful in determining the type of harvest. Jera can also represent legality and justice of all types. Jera shows that the harvest can't be rushed and will come but in its own time. In a primarily negative rune cast, Jera can show all is not lost.

Jera reverse merkstave meaning: None.

13. Eihwaz

Meaning: Yew tree

English equivalent: Ei

What eihwaz means in a rune casting: Eihwaz shows that protective forces are at play. To the ancient Norse, Eihwaz represented the Yew tree. Eihwaz was a powerful ally to the Norse in their daily life. The Yew tree was the most important tree for the Norse people as it was the tree of Yggdrasil, the great tree which forms the nine worlds of man and spirit. The Yew was also the best tree to make their prized longbows from. Eihwaz is a great and powerful rune of protection. If Eihwaz is in a prominent place no matter how bad things seem they will turn for the better.

Eihwaz reverse merkstave meaning: Confusion, destruction, dissatisfaction.

14. Perdhro (or Perthro)

Meaning: Uncertain meaning — possibilities include cup, luck, pear tree

English equivalent: P

What perdhro means in a rune casting: Perdhro or Perthro indicates deep mystery surrounding the issue. Perthro is a powerful rune of mystery both literally and magically. Even experts have tended to struggle with the meaning of Perthro. For divination purposes its meaning is clear, it indicates things that are hidden, secrets and the occult. Perthro can show something that was once hidden will come to light. In a relationship reading it can indicate extreme sexual chemistry. Perthro can indicate you have a strong connection to intuitive or occult abilities.

Perdhro reverse merkstave meaning: A disappointment from broken trust.

15. Algiz

Meaning: Elk, Protection

English equivalent: Z

What algiz means in a rune casting: Algiz means something new is beginning. Algiz is the rune of friendship. It can point to a new friendship or positive new influence in your life. Algiz tells you to go with your instincts and use your intuition.

Algiz reverse merkstave meaning: You should hold back until you know more of the other person's character.

16. Sowilo (or Sowulo)

Meaning: The Sun

English equivalent: S

What sowulo means in a rune casting: Sowilo symbolizes victory, and power abound. Sowulo is considered one of the great runes of victory. Its position is of great power. Sowulo in a rune cast shows you have much potential for power in your life to effect beneficial changes. If Sowulo is cast in a reading swift victory is indicated. Since Sowulo is also associated with health if its in a mostly positive reading it would indicate recovery or a strong life force.

Sowulo reverse merkstave meaning: None.

17. Tiwaz (or Tiewaz)

Meaning: The sky god Tyr

English equivalent: T

What tiwaz means in a rune casting: Tiwaz or Tiewaz is a victory in the competition, which can really be anything you want to succeed in. Tiwaz represents success in a competition of any sort. The rune Tiwaz embodies the competitive spirit. If Tiwaz appears in a cast you may be looking to take up a cause to fight for. Tiwaz shows you are ready to fight for what you believe in. Tiwaz points to motivation and overcoming the odds. No matter the opposition Tiwaz shows you should be able to overcome.

Tiwaz reverse merkstave meaning: Waning effort, loss.

18. Berkano (Berkana or Berkanan)

Meaning: Birch

English equivalent: B

What berkana means in a rune casting: Berkana, the preeminent rune of birth, symbolizes the Mother and Child; Its considered a rune of fertility. The birth may be an actual one or the birth of an idea. In a rune cast for a new project, it indicates a tangible result and plans should be implemented right away. Berkana shows a positive outcome.

Berkana reverse merkstave meaning: Family and domestic issues.

19. Ehwaz

Meaning: Horse

English equivalent: E

What ehwaz means in a rune casting: Ehwaz is the movement of a dwelling place, such as a relocation of home or even work. Ehwaz is the rune of physical shifts such as moving your dwelling place. It signifies change but a change for the better. Ehwaz type of change would be deliberate and the result of planning and effort, perhaps of a gradual nature. Ehwaz can point to common sense advice that will aid you in troubles.

Ehwaz reverse merkstave meaning: Reversed Ehwaz does not have to mean anything negative. If it's surrounded with positive runes, it more likely means the same as it would upright. If it's surrounded with negative runes, however, you are being cautioned to not implement change at this time.

20. Mannaz

Meaning: Man, Mankind

English equivalent: M

What mannaz means in a rune casting: Mannaz signals depending on community support, having supportive assistance around you. Mannaz in Norse represented Mankind. It is a rune of interdependence. This rune can indicate aid or advice that is honest and unbiased. It can indicate you are too close to the problem and need to step back for a broader view. Mannaz can also indicate problems with women regardless of your gender.

Mannaz reverse merkstave meaning: You won't receive aid with the issue and may come up against obstacles.

21. Laguz

Meaning: Water, Lake, Leek

English equivalent: L

What lagaz means in a rune casting: Laguz means to trust your gut, intuition is key here. Lagaz is the rune symbolizing intuitive knowledge. Lagaz counsels to pay attention to your intuition. It can indicate psychic abilities even if you are not aware of any. Lagaz is the principal feminine rune. Lagaz often will appear when your dreams should be looked too for guidance. Listen to your inner voice is the counsel of Lagaz. Good memory and success in learning are also a focus for Lagaz.

Lagaz reverse merkstave meaning: You're leading yourself astray. It can indicate temptation or infidelity.

22. Ingwaz or Inguz

Meaning: The earth god Ing or Ingwaz

English equivalent: Ng

What ingwaz means in a rune casting: Ingwaz or Inguz is an end to worry is in sight, resolution and peace are forthcoming. Ingwaz is almost always a positive rune. It shows relief is at hand, the force to overcome your obstacles is with you. Ingwaz in a rune cast could indicate a milestone event such as a birth, new job or a new relationship. Ingwaz points to auspicious beginnings and an end to over anxiety and strife.

Ingwaz reverse merkstave meaning: None.

23. Dagaz

Meaning: Day

English equivalent: D

What dagaz means in a rune casting: Dagaz is healthy growth and hope. Dagaz symbolizes growth and prosperity. In a rune cast, shows a time of peaceful gains. Having Dagaz appear in a casting portends a period of increase even in a negative cast. When Dagaz appears with delay runes it indicates a softening of their effects. Dagaz shows you that a new day will dawn.

Dagaz reverse merkstave meaning: None.

24. Othala

Meaning: Inheritance, Ancestral property

English equivalent: O

What othala means in a rune casting: Othala represents what you own, your valuables in life. Othala is the rune that represents possessions. Usually things money can buy even land or buildings. It can indicate inheritance or trust. Depending on the surrounding runes it can indicate someone stingy with material possessions or alternatively a person who works very hard.

Othala reverse merkstave meaning: Frustration, often brought on by trying to rush things.

The Blank Rune (also known as Wyrd or Odin's rune)

The blank rune has no meaning in traditional rune casting and generally should not be used.

The blank rune first appeared in the 1980s and is said by those who use it to represents the element of the unknown, showing areas where clarity is needed.

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Amanda Ilene Sawyer is a writer and Mississippi native who is interested in science, anthropology and spiritualism. When she’s not writing about astrology, numerology and tarot, she enjoys running her business and designing macrame pieces for her Etsy shop.