A rune is a letter in the runic alphabet, a family of similar alphabets that originated with the Germanic peoples. With a few exceptions, runes were employed for specialized writing before the Germanic languages used the Latin alphabet and afterward. Runes can be used to convey ideas that they are named after (ideographs) in addition to the sound value that they represent (a phoneme). Examples of the latter are known as Begriffsrunen (or "concept runes") by academics. The Scandinavian versions are also known as futhark or fuark (from their first six letters of the script: F, U,, A, R, and K), whereas the Anglo-Saxon form is futhorc or fuorc (because the names of those six letters underwent sound alterations in Old English).
The discipline of runology focuses on the history, runic inscriptions, and runic alphabets. Germanic philology includes the specialized field of runology.
Roman senator Tacitus may have mentioned the usage of runes in his writings from approximately A.D. 98, making the first known runic inscriptions from around A.D. 150 and a perhaps older inscription from A.D. 50. Between A.D. 1 and 250, the Svingerud Runestone was carved. By around A.D. 700 in central Europe and 1100 in northern Europe, the civilizations that had utilized runes had mostly been converted to Christianity, and the Latin alphabet had largely taken its place. Beyond this time, however, runes continued to be used for specific purposes. Runes were still utilized in rural Sweden up to the first half of the 20th century for runic calendars and ornamental reasons in Dalarna.
The Elder Futhark (about A.D. 150–800), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400–1100), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100) are the three most well-known runic alphabets. The longer runes (also known as Danish, though they were also used in Norway, Sweden, and Frisia) are separated from the shorter runes (also known as Swedish-Norwegian, though they were also used in Denmark) and the stavlösa or Hälsinge runes (staveless runes) in the Younger Futhark. The Dalecarlian runes (about 1500–1800) and the medieval runes (1100–1500) are additional developments of the Younger Futhark.
Although the early runic alphabet's precise development is still unknown, the script ultimately descends from the Phoenician alphabet. The Raetic, Venetic, Etruscan, or Old Latin are possible sources for the earliest runes. All of these writings shared the same epigraph-friendly angular letter forms at the time, which would later come to characterize the runes and similar scripts in the area.
It is uncertain how the writing was transmitted. The first legible writing may be found in northern Germany and Denmark. A "Gothic hypothesis" assumes transmission through East Germanic expansion, whereas a "West Germanic hypothesis" posits transfer through Elbe Germanic populations. In contemporary popular culture, runes are still employed in a wide range of contexts.
The origins of the runic
There is a fair degree of uncertainty about the runic script's beginnings. The Vimose comb from Denmark, which dates to around 160 CE, has an inscription reading harja that is unmistakably runic. Harja may mean "comb" or "warrior," and scholars believe it to be the product of at least a century's worth of runic writing practice. However, there is a lot of discussion and conjecture about how this custom came to be. The Greek and Roman alphabets, as well as a northern Italic or perhaps Danish origin, have all been cited as sources of inspiration. Given the similarities in writing, the Greek approach is possibly the most plausible. and a variant of the Greek alphabet—which was unstandardized between roughly 700 and 400 BCE—may have made its way to Germanic speakers via a "middle-man" group, possibly made up of eastern Europeans. The deity Odin is said to have learned the runes after hanging on the "windy tree" for nine nights without eating or drinking in Norse mythology (Hávamál, 139–140), which also provides us with an entertaining option.
In any case, by 500 CE, the runic script had spread throughout the Germanic continent, including colonies in Germany, Russia, Poland, and Hungary, as well as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and England. It had also been used to record a number of Germanic languages. The principal runic writing systems that finally emerged were:
Elder Futhark (probably between 160 and 700 CE)
Older Futhark (about 700 to 1200 CE)
Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (also known as Anglo-Frisian Futhorc, around 500–1000 CE)
Futhork in the Middle Ages, about around the 13th century CE.
Variation is evident in the oldest runic remnants we have discovered, which is related to the fact that the runic alphabet was employed in a variety of circumstances to write a wide variety of Germanic languages spoken across a vast geographic region. Rune shapes can vary, as can usage, order, medium, and arrangement due to, for instance, geographical, social, or historical changes. Therefore, there is no such thing as a runic alphabet that is standardized. By 700 CE, variation was at an all-time high. From the formerly relatively uniform Elder Futhark, a divergence can be seen to the reduced-character Younger Futhark in Scandinavia, which would later crystallize into Medieval Futhork, and the more elaborate Anglo-Saxon Futhorc throughout Britain and Frisia.
The words assigned to the runes and the sounds the runes themselves represented started to diverge as Proto-Germanic developed into its later language groups. To account for these changes, each culture would either create new runes, rename or rearrange its existing rune names, or stop using outdated runes altogether. As a result, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc features a number of unique runes to reflect the dialect's distinctive diphthongs.
Some later runic discoveries can be found on monuments, which frequently have solemn inscriptions about famous figures or people who died young. For a very long time, it was believed that runes were primarily used for creating magnificent inscriptions of this nature and that rune carvers belonged to a certain social class.
However, the Bryggen inscriptions a group of about 670 inscriptions were discovered in Bergen in the middle of the 1950s. Inscriptions of a commonplace nature, such as name tags, prayers, personal messages, business letters, and expressions of affection, as well as profane and occasionally even vulgar phrases, were made on wood and bone, frequently in the shape of sticks of various sizes. Following this discovery, it is now widely believed that Runic was a widely used writing system, at least in its later stages.
Runes were also utilized in the clog almanacs (also known as Runic staff, Prim, or Scandinavian calendar) of Sweden and Estonia in the later Middle Ages. Some monuments in Northern America with Runic inscriptions are disputed as authentic; the majority of them have been dated to the modern era.
The earliest runic
Elder Futhark, also known as earlier Futhark or Elder Futhark in those names denoting the English word "thin" is the earliest runic script that has been identified. It was employed in the Germanic realm up until about 700 CE. It is called after the first six letters of the alphabet (f-u- (th)-a-r-k), has 24 characters, and is remarkably uniform. Each set of the runes, known as an aett (pl. ttir), which consists of three rows of eight runes, was named after an item that begins with that sound. Although the names of the Younger Futhark and Anglo-Saxon runes have been preserved in manuscripts from the ninth and tenth centuries CE, the Elder Futhark does not enjoy the same luxury. To the best of our abilities, the Elder Futhark rune-names have been recreated using a combination of the Younger Futhark names, Anglo-Saxon, and even Gothic.
Elder Futhark is still in use today in little under 400 inscriptions (discovered so far), the majority of which have significant wear and tear and are only partially readable. It was used to write Proto-Germanic, Proto-Norse, Proto-English, and Proto-High German, making it fairly geographically widespread. This amount probably only approximates the true sum; the remaining amount must have been lost in space and time. They are originally discovered on metal in the shape of names and on wood, which is obviously not very durable. Military gear, money, jewelry including bracelets, brooches, and combs, as well as the uniquely Scandinavian runestones ome of which were in Elder Futhark as opposed to the later, Younger Futhark were common surfaces. Although these items were first found in Scandinavia, northern Germany, and eastern Europe, after 400 CE England, the Netherlands, and southern Germany joined the club.
It is believed that runic writing did not play a significant role in cultures up to around 700 CE since it focuses only on ownership and has no discernible connections to society at any higher level.
Although the Elder Futhark was generally uniform, there was some variation, so it's important to understand that the rune-row that is currently presented for the Elder Futhark is only a main line.