The Viking Rune

This blog is on Vikings and for Vikings. Warriors and traders from Nordic countries reached as far as North America, leaving lasting marks of their presence everywhere. In battle, Vikings feared nothing, eager to join Odin in his hall. They knew that valkyries chose who would die and become one of the einherjar in Valhalla.

Sun and howling wolfIn Norse mythology Sun is a goddess named Sól. She rides a chariot created by gods to illuminate the nine worlds from the burning embers that come out of Muspelheim, the world of fire. Two horses named Early Awake and Very Quick draw the sun’s chariot. Giant wolf, of the species of monsters known as wargs, whose name is Treachery, is constantly chasing Sun’s chariot. [click to continue…]

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Thurs runeFor years, I have been receiving questions like ‘What is the rune for Joy?’ or ‘What is the rune for Happiness?’. The point is, Norse runes aren’t ideograms. Normally, they do not stand for abstract notions like ‘happiness’ or ‘joy’. Neither are they logograms, that is, they do not stand for all kinds of words like ‘go,’ ‘bird,’ or ‘angry’, unlike Japanese kanji or Chinese Han characters. [click to continue…]


Staraya Ladoga runic distaffRecently I blogged about the Younger Futhark runes as a writing system, emphasizing insufficiency of only 16 runic symbols for 21 consonants and 38 vowels of the Old Norse language between the 9th and 12th centuries. The 16 runes of the Younger Futhark are about three times less than one would expect. Anglo-Saxons invented additional runes for the standard Elder Futhark set of 24 runes when the language changed and additional phonemes emerged. Scandinavians did to the contrary. It is not clear why. [click to continue…]


sunsetAbout two years ago I received a request to write with runes a quote in Old Norse. This happens time and again since people find difficulty in substituting letters of the standard Old Norse orthography for the Younger Futhark runes. The request was for a 6 line stanza from Hávamál (Sayings of the High One): [click to continue…]


Younger Futhark runesPeople tend to believe that there is nothing more easy and natural than to write in Old Norse with runes. In reality it’s quite the opposite. The language that we know as Old Norse is the language of the sagas of Icelanders, which were written down in the 13th century. Strictly speaking, this language is classical Old Icelandic. In reality, Old Norse was constituted by dialects that existed at various places during several centuries. [click to continue…]


Younger Futhark runesWhat did it feel like for Vikings to have the Younger Futhark as an alphabet in the Viking Age? Imagine you have your standard English alphabet. Then you have a reform based on the fact that the writing system is exceedingly complex and the letters are too many. Let us cut down their number, they say, it will be fun, they say. There are many sounds that really sound in a very similar way, let us have only one symbol for the two! [click to continue…]