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The Elder Futhark: Fehu

The Elder Futhark: Fehu

As I’ve promised, I will go through each of the Elder Futhark, hopefully once a week. I may write about other runic alphabet variants, should there be enough interest in both the runes and my understanding/interpretation/insights in them. This week, I start with Fehu, being the first in Freyr’s ætt. The runes are traditionally split up into eights or ættir. Those ættir are Freyr’s (Or Freyja’s) ætt, Heimdall’s ætt, and Tyr’s ætt. So, let’s talk about Fehu.

Fehu’s Meaning

Fehu means “wealth,” “cattle.” In Anglo-Saxon the word is Feoh and in Old Norse it is Fe. It’s meaning is along the lines of acquired wealth, cattle, or livestock.  In the past, our ancestors considered cattle and livestock as wealth that was acquired and made, not inherited wealth from the family or clan. This was wealth one would earn due to one’s hard work. In the alphabet, it corresponds to our letter “F.”

Divination with Fehu

Since Fehu is associated with acquired wealth, it’s actually a nice rune to show up, especially if you are looking to earn more money. Of course, that depends on where it shows up in a casting, but it is usually a good rune to see. For example if the cast combines Fehu with Wunjo (joy), it can mean success in earning money, a new job that will bring about success, or a payoff in investments. However, when the cast combines Fehu with Hagalaz (disruption), it can mean destruction of acquired wealth or loss of a job, again, depending on where the runes sit in the casting. Or it may suggest that you will have a sudden disruption in your finances, either good or bad.  (A lot is finesse here when it comes to interpretations.)

Reading Fehu depends on what your life situation is as well as the runes around it. But when you see this rune, you can assume it is something having to do with your career or investments.

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Which Runic Alphabet Should You Choose for Casting?

Which Runic Alphabet Should You Choose for Casting?

With all this talk about runes here, at this point you’re probably thinking you’re ready to make or buy some runes and begin casting. Well, maybe. Which runic alphabet should you choose for casting, exactly? Elder Futhark? Younger Futhark? Anglo Saxon? Danish runes? Norwegian-Swedish runes? Something else?

Okay, maybe you have heard that there are different versions of the runes. But which one will you use to cast? Let’s talk about them and see which makes sense for you to use.

The Elder Futhark

The Elder Futhark are the oldest runes we know about, having been around between 150 and 800 CE or AD. These runes were first used by Germanic tribes in Northern Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Called the Elder Futhark because the first letters of the alphabet are F U TH A R and K. (There’s your answer for Trival Pursuit, Norse Style. You’re welcome.)

Not surprisingly, these are the runes we see the most of when it comes to rune sets. A lot has been written on divination with Elder Futhark runes. These are the runes I use to cast, mainly because they are the ones I was first introduced to.

The Younger Futhark

The Younger Futhark is actually two different types of runic alphabets. You can choose either the Danish runes or the Norwegian-Swedish runes. The Danish runes are called the Long Branch runes while the Norwegian-Swedish runes are called the Short-Twig or Rök runes. These runes came into being around the 8th century to about the 12th century, when the Latin alphabet took over.

Anglo-Saxon Runes

The Anglo-Saxon runes or Anglo-Frisian runes are collectively known as the Futhorc because those are the first letters of that runic alphabet. The earliest form of the Futhorc looked almost exactly like the Elder Futhark with three more runes in the 5th century. By the 7th century, most of the Anglo-Saxon runes had been replaced by the Latin alphabet, but it was still used occasionally up until the 12th century.

Marcomannic Runes

These runes appeared in a treaty called De Inventione Litterarum which attributes these runes to Marcomanni, hence the name. It’s a merger of Elder Futhark and Futhorc runes. The manuscript was drawn up in the southern part of the Carolingian Empire, around Bavaria. These runes are supposedly in use in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Medieval Runes

Although Scandinavia was now Christianized, people still used runes, blending them with the Latin alphabet. They were used between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Dalecarlian Runes

In some isolated areas in Sweden, particularly Dalarna, people used runes to transcribe Elfdalian from the 16th up until the 20th century. Also called Dal Runes, it’s unknown if the runes in Dalrunorthe 19th and 20th centuries were in common use or if they were learned from books and used in scholarly writings.

Which Runic Alphabet Should You Use?

With so many versions of the runes available, it may be difficult to decide on which one works for you. At this point, my advice is to look at the runes and decide which one actually calls to you the most. Maybe try making your own runes on index cards or Popsicle sticks and play around with them a bit to see if you want to make some more permanent runes with them.

Obviously, if you want to go with the Elder Futhark, you’re in good company and there is a lot written about that runic alphabet in terms of divination. But you can find information about the Younger Futhark, Futhorc, and other runes around. If this becomes particularly popular, I may just cover them after I cover the Elder Futhark.

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Understanding the Runes

Understanding the Runes

I’ve been meaning to write about rune castings and rune readings, as well as understanding the runes, but I’ve had no time. Or less than no time. Because of this, I’ve been sort of remiss in my duties as The Rational Heathen, as it provides good content. Nevertheless, I’m going to start off talking about the runes and try to get at least one rune covered every other post.  That’s my intent. I’ll see if I can really talk about the 24 runes and how they came about. Let’s begin.

The Story of Odin Hanging Himself on Yggdrasil

If you haven’t read the Havamal where Odin sacrifices himself to himself to gain the knowledge of the runes, here’s the translation:

137.
I trow I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.


138.
None refreshed me ever with food or drink,
I peered right down in the deep;
crying aloud I lifted the Runes
then back I fell from thence.

Wow, pretty powerful stuff there. You might even notice the similarity to Christ’s crucifixion. I’ll touch on that another time, perhaps. TElder futharkhe story, if you haven’t gleaned it from the Havamal is that Odin hung himself on Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights to get the runes. He offered himself to himself as a sacrifice. When he finally saw the runes, he took them and brought them to the gods and us humans.  Pretty cool, right?

What Scholars Think

The Elder Futhark is the oldest version of our runes (there are other sets, and I will talk about them later) dating somewhere to the first or second century CE or AD. I’ve written about their origin here. It’s believed that the Germanic peoples based their runes on the Italian alphabets, most likely either the Northern Etruscan or Raetic alphabets. They may have been based Venetic Raetic Camunic Lepontic alphabetson the Latin alphabet, but given Raetic has several rune-like characters, it’s likely the Germanic peoples adopted the alphabet and then made it their own, sometime even before the Roman Empire was in full swing.  The similarities between our Latin alphabet and the runic one  is too hard to ignore, so despite the verses in the Havamal explaining how Odin won the runes, we think it was more an assimilation of an alphabet created by someone else. The Etruscans and the Raeticians may have gotten their alphabet from the Greeks and Phoenicians, so it’s all good. Basically we’re dealing with an ancient alphabet founded on an even more ancient alphabet, and so on.

Where’s the Magic in a Derived Alphabet? (Or Understanding the Runes)

At this point, you may be wondering how we could possibly get magic out of a derived alphabet. Understanding the runes requires understanding their origin and what they actual do. The runes are considered sacred not only because of the myth that they were given to us by Odin but also because of what they do. They convey our thoughts and words, allowing us to talk not just to others around us but also to generations to come long after we’re gone. They have a special power to convey ideas across time and space. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

So, what happens when you do a rune casting? I think it is something that connects with your subconscious and gives you advice when you cast them. I also get the feeling that the gods also give advice through the runes. I’ve seen it before, so even though it’s Unverified Personal Gnosis time, I truly believe this. I also know others have had a similar experience.

Casting Runes

You can cast runes anywhere, but it really helps if you have someplace quiet to do it.  You can cast it on anything, but I like using a special cloth–in this case, a bandana with wolves printed across it–to cast on. There are several different spreads to cast on, the most notably being the one rune, three rune, Teiwas shoat, nine rune, and the tarot cast. All work okay, but for simplicity sake, I use the three rune combined with one rune.  I’ll go through that later. The choice of rune casts are really up to you. Just make sure you understand the cast positions and what they mean. before doing the cast. For example: I can never remember what the positions mean in the Teiwas shoat, having not cast it enough. I gives me answers, but not necessarily clear answers because it’s muddled in my brain. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. (But you’d think a follower of Tyr would have better luck with it.) It’s better to go with something you know well, if you’re doing a formal cast. Just my opinion; your mileage may vary; not valid in all states; yada, yada, yada.

Stay Tuned Next Week: Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel…

I’ll start in on the runes and tell you both the common interpretations and my own insights. So, hang in there. (Heh! Pun intended, Odin!)

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