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runeology (Runeology) -
Professor Raynwülf Wolvenpath

Runeology is the linguistic study of runes and texts written in runes. Along with the auxiliary sciences of history, it provides tools for understanding runic texts. Until the 12th century, runic inscriptions are the only Scandinavian language primary sources. As such, they are essential to our understanding of the Viking Age, in particular

History of the Runes

Runology is the study of the runic alphabets, Runic inscriptions and their history. It is a form of Germanic linguistics.

Runes are an ancient alphabet that dates to the year 0 and has evolved throughout the ages. When we ask what a rune is, it is said that a rune is a letter in a set of related alphabets known as a runic alphabet. It is unknown where exactly the runes came from, but most commonly known in the region of Scandinavia. Scandinavia comprises the Norse countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. 

The name rune stems from a Proto-Germanic form reconstructed as rūno which translates to secret or mystery. Unlike the Latin alphabet we use today, the letter in the runic alphabets all have a deeper meaning and can be used as a source of divination. In this course, it is my goal to share a deeper meaning to the runes.

Runes are depicted as “pointy symbols” because when they were most commonly use there were no softer materials other than wood or stone which means that they would have to be carved as straight lines or staves. This also explains that when we see the inscriptions of runes that that are always vertical going with the grain of the wood otherwise the material would crack making the message illegible.

The first known inscriptions of runes would be on the Svingerud Runestone, found in a grave west of Oslo, Norway, which features the Elder Futhark; the earliest depictions of the runic alphabet, in which we will be focusing on more in-depth in future lessons.

The letters of the Elder Futhark can be found in the following table.











If you noticed the c and k rune were the same rune as well as the v and w rune. That is because in the Elder Futhark there were only 24 letters or symbols, but when translated to modern day English we have 26 letters to comprise of the language that we speak; so there had to be substitutions.

Another thing to point out is that in the Viking Age, where the runes were most used, is that there were no capital letters used. Sometimes you will find that due to modern day English translation that the runes would be written upside down to denote a capital letter but historically that was not so, and is therefore ‘incorrect.’.

In this lesson, we have gone over just a brief history or what the runes are, where they came and what they looked like. For the remainder of this course, we will be looking at each individual rune and stories of Norse mythology and Viking culture.

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