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Elder Futhark or Younger Futhark?

I started learning the runes before mobile phones or the internet was really a thing- way back around 1998, seriously committing in 1999.

I learnt the Younger Futhark because that was what my teacher taught, and that was what his teacher taught- simple.

Part of my learning was to translate the 16 rune poems into English, and to ponder their meaning and connection with the runes.

I have also put a great deal of thought into the 18 rune poems of the Havamal- and how they could align with the 16 runes of the Younger Futhark, if we read the Nud (Norns) rune as three in one.

It always made sense to me that the 16 runes of the Younger Futhark were the right choice because we have access to some amazing resources with the rune poems & Havamal, fairly easy to translate from Old Norse, and totally fascinating to open a deep connection with the runes.

One thing that I have found surprising is how defensive some people can be when I question why they use the Elder Futhark. I often ask because I'm interested, keen to learn more and understand their choice- and happy to share my reasons as well. I even got asked to leave a shop recently because I asked if they had any art work with the Younger Futhark- I was told they "didn't work with incomplete systems" and when I tried to suggest the systems are different, not that one is incomplete I was told to leave.

So what is my point of this blog?

Not to prove the Younger is better than the Elder (though I plan to write more looking at historical sources). If you work with the Elder and it suits you- then go with it.

But I want to start to draw people's attention to the fact that there are many different variations of the runes, there is not one "right" set, and one "wrong" set.

And I want to encourage everyone to question where the information comes from. (Yes even mine- always question!)

There can be a horrible gatekeeping in Norse Paganism, with people quoting Edda's as if they are some gospel truth.

The Edda's are a fascinating source of wisdom, and I certainly advise anyone interested in Norse wisdom traditions to read them. But please remember;

  • They are not complete. There are written records of oral traditions, catching only an outline of what most have been a deep, rich and varied tradition. A bit like one single reflecting the entirety of Queen's musical career.

  • They were not written in modern English. Unless you are translating from Old Norse (which I have tried, and was quite exhausting) you are not catching the full meaning. You are depending on the translators interpretation.

In the Old Icelandic rune poem for fe we have the line:

"ok grafseiðs gata"

Now most translators decide this means "And path of the serpent" and I have kept with this traditional translation on my page too.

But lets look again-

graf can mean burial mound

seidr can mean magic, or altered state of consciousness

gata can mean gate or pathway.

Old Norse does not always translate directly into English, we rely on the skill of the translator to take the essence of the words and create a test which is easily readable. But this may well lose some of the complex nuances of the original meaning.

So if you are reading a book on the runes, or a blog, or talking to an expert look to their sources.

Just because someone speaks with authority doesn't mean they know what they are talking about- and I have a simple rule in life. the more defensive someone is, the less certain they are.

Question, ask, explore.

Never take anything at face value just because its in a book or spoken by an expert.

Always ask for source material, or turn to the Bibliography in a book.

Trace back, and see just where people are basing their information on.

Curious about the Younger Futhark? I have a small booklet you can purchase here:


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