The Elder Futhark is the oldest known set of the Scandinavian Futhark. It consists of 24 runes. Later, the Futhark was both expanded and contracted to fit the needs of the varied groups using them; at its largest, in the Anglo-Saxon Futhork, it reached 33, while the most striking reduction occurred later in Scandinavia, was 16 runes. Through all of the changes, however, the alphabet retained its basic order. The Germans had divided the Futhork into three parts consisting of 8 runes apiece in a fixed order. These were called aettir; aett is the Old Norse word for families or generations. Each aett was named for the rune that began it: Fehu, Hagalaz and Tiwaz.




For the history and lore surrounding these runes, try the following nodes:

-Norse Mythology
-Younger Futhark

And to learn how to cast and interpret runes, go here.

This is what the Elder Futhark runes look like
(to the extent ASCII allows it, that is):

 |//    |\      |      |\     |\       /    \  /    |\   
 |/     | \     |\     |\\    |/      /      \/     |/
 |      | |     |/     | \    |\      \      /\     | 
 |      | |     |      |      |        \    /  \    | 
Fehu   Uruz  Thurisaz Ansuz Raidho  Kenaz   Gebo  Wunjo

 |  |     |      |     /       |\    |\/    \|/    /
 |\ |    \|      |    ( \      | \   |       |     \ 
 | \|     |\     |     \ )   \ |     |       |      \ 
 |  |     |      |      /     \|     |/\     |      /
Hagalaz Nauthiz  Isa  Jera   Eihwaz Perthro Algiz  Sowelu 

 /|\     |\     |\/|   |\/|   |\      /\     /\   |\  /|
  |      |/     |  |   |/\|   | \    /  \   (  )  | \/ |
  |      |\     |  |   |  |   |      \  /    \/   | /\ |
  |      |/     |  |   |  |   |       \/     /\   |/  \|
Tiwaz  Berkano  Ehwaz Mannaz Laguz  Ingwaz Othala  Dagaz
Some other interesting facts about the futhark –-

The word “futhark” was formed much in the same way “alphabet” was; by joining the sounds of the first letters. Namely, Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, and Kenaz.

Also, there are no curved lines or even horizontal lines because curved lines are hard to carve, and horizontal lines would usually amount to cutting with the grain of wood, and then it would swell in wet weather.

If you ever see Futhark runes with bars above and below them, these are bindrunes and are usually associated with magic spells and such.

Another interesting fact about the so-called Elder Futhark is that all the names are made-up, apparently in 1966.

These are words in Proto-Germanic, the hypothetical reconstructed ancestor of the Germanic languages. Proto-Germanic was never written down. It did not use these runes.

The earliest written Germanic languages are Old Norse and Gothic, both from around 300 CE. These were significantly different from each other, and their common ancestor would have existed many centuries before.

Given that in Old English the letter W was given the name wynn 'joy', and Th was called thorn, and so on through the rest of the known historical futhorc of Old English, we may indulge in a pleasant flight of imagination, and suppose that if the Proto-Germanic speakers had known the secret of writing, then they might have used the same naming principle and called their W letter wunjo, unwritten and hypothetical ancestral form of the word wynn.

The first time any of these "names" were actually written was in the early to mid nineteenth century, as linguists studied records of existing languages and pieced together what the ancestor must have looked like to produce them.

I don't know whether Bopp and Schlegel and other founders of the study of comparative philology passed their idle moments (on weekends perhaps) in inventing names of runes for people who had never seen runes, but I suspect that the inventors lived closer to us, around about the 1980s, when a cute little game came out, a bag of faux-bone runestones with a booklet. But I don't know: marketing isn't really my field. They took a scholar's (1966) reconstructions of the earliest forms and popularized them.

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