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Runes

                                                                  “Casting the Runes”
History
What we now know as the runic alphabet seems to have developed from two distinct sources - one magical, one literate. Pre-runic symbols, or hällristningar, have been found in various Bronze Age rock carvings, primarily in Sweden. Some of these symbols are readily identifiable in the later alphabets, while others represent ideas and concepts which were incorporated into the names of the runes (sun, horse, etc.). The exact meanings of these signals are now lost to us, as is their original purpose, but they are believed to have been used for divination or lot-casting, and it is fairly certain that they contributed to the magical function of the later runic alphabets. 
There is some debate over the origin of the "alphabet" aspect of the runes.

Cases have been made for both Latin and Greek derivation, and several scholars are once again arguing in favour of both these theories.


However, the strongest evidence still seems to point to a North Italic origin. 

The parallels between the two alphabets are too close to be ignored, particularly in the forms of the letters, as well as in the variable direction of the writing, and certain structural and even symbolic characteristics.  This would also explain why so many of the runes resemble Roman letters, since both Italic and Latin scripts are derived from the Etruscan alphabet (itself a branch of the Western Greek family of alphabets).

This theory would place the original creation of the futhark sometime before the 1st. century c.e., when the Italic scripts were absorbed and replaced by the Latin alphabet. Linguistic and phonetic analysis points to an even earlier inception date, perhaps as far back as 200 b.c.e.
When the northern tribes began integrating the Italic alphabets into their own symbolic system, they gave the letters names relating to all aspects of their secular and religious lives, thus transforming their simple pictographs into a magical alphabet which could be used for talismans, magical inscriptions and divination.

The Meaning of Runes
There are several historical runic inscriptions, found on everything from swords to stones to bronze pendants, which list the entire runic alphabet in order. One of the oldest and most complete of these is the Kylver stone, found in Gotland, Sweden and dating from the fifth century c.e. Others are less complete, but show a remarkable continuity in the order in which the runes are listed. The only surviving written accounts of the actual names and meanings of the runes, however, were not recorded until the advent of the Christian era. 

Some of these manuscripts, which date from the 9th. century until well into 12th, are known as rune poems. These poems have a verse for each rune, each of which begins with the rune itself and its name. Some of these poems are more Pagan than others, particularly those from Iceland, where Christianity was not yet as widespread as it was in the Anglo-Saxon regions.

The rune names themselves appear to have been passed down relatively intact, and although no manuscript exists listing the names of the older, Germanic runes, the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian rune poems agree to such an extent that their common origin can be deduced. These names are probably our best clue as to what the individual runes actually meant to the people that used them. 

  

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