The association of the runes and divination is almost certainly as old as the runes themselves. The word rune comes from an ancient root meaning ‘mystery’ and ‘secret’.
It is easy to understand how such an association arose, when you remember that at the time the runes developed, the skill or reading and writing was known only to a few.
An ability to read and write meant access to texts — and texts contained knowledge which was entirely hidden from those who did not possess the skill to read them.
There are many parallels throughout history and around the globe, which demonstrate this connection of literacy with knowledge, magic and power.
Even today, in countries which have highly literate and well-educated populations, this deep-seated — and passionate — belief in the power and sanctity of the written word, especially in the sphere of religion and magic, is still very commonly encountered.
But let us return to the Runes…
There is actually more than Runic system:
- the evocatively named Eldar Futhark — of the 2nd to 8th Centuries. This is so old that the actual names of the letters have had to be reconstructed. It takes its name from the first seven letters of the Eldar and Younger Futhark alphabet — namely f, u, þ, a, r, k
- the Anglo-Frisian (essentially Anglo-Saxon), used beteween the 5th and 11th Centuries
- the 8th-9th Century ‘Marcomannic Runes’
- the Younger Futhark. 8th-12th Centuries.
I prefer the Anglo-Frisian:
- Feoh (F) – ‘wealth’
- Ur (U) — ‘cattle’
- Þorn (Þ) — ‘thorn’ (Thorn)
- Os (O) — ‘mouth’ (or Ós — ‘God’)
- Rad (R) — ‘ride’
- Cen (C) — ‘torch’
- Ʒiefu (Ʒ) — ‘gift’ (Giefu)
- Ƿynn (Ƿ)– ‘joy’ (Wynn)
- Hæʒl (H) — ‘hail’
- Nyd (N) — ‘need’
- Is (I) – ‘ice’
- Jear/Ior (J) — ‘year’
- Ēoh (Eo) — ‘yew’
- Peorð (P) — uncertain — possibly a type of woodwind instrument (Peorth)
- Eolh/Eolxecʒ (X) — ‘elk’, ‘elksedge’
- Siʒel (S) – ‘sun’ (Sigel)
- Tir (T) — ‘(the God) Tyr’
- Beorc (B) — ‘birch’
- Eoh (E) — ‘horse’
- Man (M) — ‘man’
- Lagu (L) — ‘ocean’
- Ing (Ng) — ‘(the God) Ing’
- Œðel (Œ) — ‘estate’ (Oethel)
- Dæʒ (D) — ‘day’ (Daeg)
- Ac (A) — ‘oak’
- Æsc (Æ) – ‘ash’
- Yr (Y) — ‘bow’ (but see Eolh)
- Ear (Ea) — ‘earth’
- Iar (Ia) — ‘serpent’
- Kalc (K/KK) — ‘chalice’
- Gar (G) — ‘spear’
- Cƿeorð (Cƿ) — ‘fire’ (Cweorth)
- Stan (St) — ‘stone’
The Runes offer an interesting source of names, not just the names of the Runes themselves — some of which have potential from one system or other — but for the inspiration. Those who first used the Runes also wrote poems about them, capturing their essence, and each rune possess certain qualities and meanings, just like the cards of a tarot.
All this make the Runes a great starting place for someone on the search for a perfect name!
Indeed, a number of names may have arisen from the word rune itself and its cognates.
The Vikings had Rúni ♂ and Rúna ♀, which were either from the Old Norse rúnar ‘secret’, ‘hidden lore’ and ‘wisdom’, or runi/rúna ‘intimate friend’.
These have become the modern Scandinavian Rune and Runa.
There is also the traditional Welsh name Rhun, from the Proto-Celtic *r³nƒ ‘secret’ and ‘magic’, as well as the modern Welsh girl’s name Rhinedd, from Welsh rhin ‘secret’.
Over the coming weeks, I shall be taking a closer look at each Rune, and some of the naming potential they present.
And then I shall move onto the Ogham !