Rune Dictionary

written by Venita Wessex

An introduction to the interpretation and usage of Germanic runes.

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Chapter 6: History and Characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

Chapter 8
Languages, scripts and cultures are much more fluid than we are aware of. Our own English has undergone so many changes that the original and the current are only barely mutually intelligible. Our fads change from one year to the next, making all those lime green cloaks you purchased in the 1990’s so out of season. So it goes with all things!

In this section of the book, we will examine one of the “new” scripts that sprang from the Elder Futhark and its alphabet, usage and meaning. In the following chapters in particular, there will be an in-depth look into each of the runes as well as comparison between the two alphabets to better understand the changes that occurred.

History and Origins
The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, also often called the Anglo-Saxon Futhork, is a script which saw popular use around the 5th century and continued on until the 11th century CE. It was the child of the more magically prestigious Elder Futhark, and its use overlapped partially with its sibling, the Younger Futhark (which will be discussed in its own section later on). However that is not to say that the two scripts were the same. The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc had many qualities that distinguish it from its counterpart, even in its creation.

Due to the prolific seafaring abilities of the Norse, trade and contact with other cultures was a common occurrence. This is part of the reason that runestones can be found scattered so far across the globe. Now, the world was not a linguistic vacuum other than the Elder Futhark and Old Norse, and so naturally, their languages and accompanying writing system came into contact with various foreign peoples, cultures, and linguistic systems. It is through Norse contact with Britain and Germany that the Elder Futhark spread from Scandinavia and the Nordic regions -- the countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden -- to Frisia and Britain, where it became the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.

At this time, the British Isles looked slightly different from how we know them now, of course, and was split up into a multitude of warring kingdoms until, around the 10th century CE, those kingdoms began to be united under one king. This historical moment is not only important in the history of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, as it shaped the people who used the script, but was also part of our own, as these were the very beginnings of our very own England. Additionally, as mentioned, this script was also used in an area called Frisia prior to the Anglo-Saxons settling in England. This region called Frisia was made up mostly of a northern portion of the Netherlands and small parts of northern Germany.

Interestingly, it appears that somewhere along the lines, the transition from one language to another rendered the magical usage of these runes incomplete. Indeed, the majority of scholars in the fields of ancient magic, runes, and magiarchaeology agree that there simply are no inherent magical effects ascribed to these runes. Many potential reasons are attributed to this: the fact that the new cultures which received the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc simply were not interested in practicing runic magic, the reality that the Elder Futhark was still perfectly good for magic, the growing need and desire to conceal magic from Muggles, and more all have been considered. Whatever the reason, you will find an obvious lack of magical meanings here. Along the same vein, these runes have not been used in divination by wizarding folk, and therefore no meanings of that sort will be noted in this section either. However, it will be noted when necessary. That is to say, this script was still used to record magical secrets, spells, and potions. Additionally, there do exist some scholars that seek to prove the magical uses and importance of these runes, though there has been no concrete evidence to prove their theories so far.

The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc eventually died out around the 11th century, as time waits for no one. After years of contact, the runic script gave way to the more popular Latin, and was even outlawed by Cnut the Great, the King of England between 1016 and 1035 CE. Fortunately, this script is outlawed no more, and records of its contents survive to this day. In the following four chapters, you can find information about the 33 runes that make up this ancient script and the changes they underwent.

A Brief Author’s Note

To aid ease of comprehension, a guide explaining each entry follows below. Each entry consists of these general categories, though some of these categories may not apply to certain runes and will therefore not be included in that particular entry:

(Rune image(s)) EF Name --- ASF Name
Phonetic Value:
Magical Uses:
General Notes:

“Rune Image” – Simply an image of the rune as it is represented in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. At times there will be multiple variants shown, particularly when those variants were roughly equal in popularity or widely different in appearance from each other.

“Phonetic Value” – Which sounds the runes represented and an example of those sounds as used in words from various languages. If you do not know French or Spanish, ignore those guides, as some are likely to ascribe incorrect sounds to the runes due to incorrect pronunciations. Each line of the pronunciation guide, no matter what language, should be pronounced the same way.

“EF Name” – The name of the rune as applied to the Elder Futhark.

“ASF Name” – The name of the rune as applied to the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.

“Meanings” – Here the book will list the meanings ascribed to the runes as per the rune poems.

“Changes” – Any characteristic about the rune (meanings, phonetic value, etc.) that changed from its transition from the Elder Futhark to the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc will be noted here. See final note below for more specifics.

“Magical Uses” – While this script is not noted to be inherently magical, this area is designated to discuss the runes’ usage in conjunction with anything magical at all. That is, if the rune is a representation of a magical plant or animal, used in a potentially magical way, or there are theories that surround its hypothetical magical use.

“General Notes” – Any other interesting tidbits that do not fit elsewhere will be included here.

Final Note:
The focus of these chapters is to highlight the differences between either the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc or the Younger Futhark and their parent, the Elder Futhark. However, some differences that will not be overtly noted in each entry are as follows: the change in name and the reduction of meanings. The names of each rune changed in all circumstances; as each script was used with an entirely new language, this is to be expected. Secondly, partly due to the research of Sofia Schreiber, and partly due to the Elder Futhark’s use in both magic and divination, there were significantly more meanings discovered for the Elder Futhark. The younger runic scripts, on the other hand, were not subject to the complex nuances of runic magic, nor have they been studied as in-depth as the Elder Futhark. Because of this, there are far fewer meanings for these runes. Therefore, changes in rune meaning that will be addressed in the portion titled “Changes” will not note the general reduction each time, but instead if the eventual meanings have any relation to the original.

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