Runes, Pt. 1
Recently I felt compelled to explore my Irish and Cherokee heritage, and decided to start with learning more about runes! Though this post will focus mostly on runes, I will say that runes aren’t exactly an Irish thing. My research suggests that while Vikings may have brought runes to Ireland, the Irish had their own really cool language called ogham! It involves stoked designs arranged around a medium line, it looks really, really cool!
The runes comprise the first alphabet developed by Germanic people. As they were most often engraved on wood, stone, metal, and other hard surfaces like that, rather than being written with ink on parchment, runes have simple, angular designs that lend themselves well to carving! The word rune comes from the Proto-Germanic word runo, which means “letter” as well as “secret” or “mystery.”
As that etymology suggests, runes were never just letters as we use letters today. Each rune’s name and design has an important symbolic connotation: the Tiwaz rune, for instance, has the same name as the god Tyr once had. The T-rune’s upward arrow points to the daytime sky where Tiwaz was said to dwell, as well as resembling an arrow tip or spearhead, reinforcing Tiwaz’s domain as a war-god.
The different runic alphabets are known as “futharks” or “futhorcs,” named after the first six runes (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kaunan), akin to how we take “alphabet” from either the first two letters of the Semitic alphabet (Aleph, Bet) or of the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta). The three principal futharks are the Elder Futhark, with 24 characters developed from around the first century CE to 400; the Younger Futhark, with 16 characters developed afterwards that eventually replaced the Elder in Scandinavia; and the 33-character Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, which altered and integrated the Elder Futherk to English.
Now, there’s a lot to go over with runes, so I don’t think I can do it all in one post. Keep your eyes peeled for the next one!