24 Futhark Runes: its Meaning, Symbols & How to Use them

Jovana Petrovic
34 Min Read

What Are Runes?

No, they are not just magic rocks or wooden chips with carved symbols used in fantasy movies and books. Although they do make pretty props, runes have been around since the Viking ages.

Rune symbols were originally used as an alphabet for several Germanic languages before the Latin alphabet was introduced.

The letters weren’t just found carved in rocks, but also in jewelry, weapons, animal bones, and wood. Each carved rune had a separate name, pronunciation, and meaning. 

Their name originates from the Old Germanic “rūn”, meaning “secret” or “mystery”, and the Old Norse “rún” referring to the letters themselves that people thought contained magic.

In this way, whoever used the runes was believed to be performing magic. Norse people also believed that, apart from writing, these runes could also be used for divination

Runic symbols have held a deep spiritual significance for Germanic and Norse people for thousands of years, and the first discovery of their usage was noted in Denmark around AD 150.

The alphabet was finalized somewhere around the fifth century, and it was most famously used in carvings on runestones all across Sweden and other Scandinavian countries.

What is the Elder Futhark?

what is the elder futhark

The Elder Futhark Runes are considered to be the oldest rune system. The name “Futhark” is actually an acronym for the first six runes: Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, and Kennaz.

Traditionally, the Elder Futhark contains 24 different letters that are divided into three groups, or “aetts” (“eights”).

The first aett is associated with the Norse god Freyr, who ruled over the crops and fields, promising peace and fertility. The second aett is dedicated to the watchful Heimdall, the Norse god of keen hearing, eyesight, and protection.

The last aett belongs to the warrior god Týr, Odin’s son, who fights for law and swift justice.

In the 9th century, the Futhark was shortened into the Younger Futhark, which contains 16 runes.

On the other hand, Anglo-Saxons decided to expand it into their system called Futhorc (ᚠᚢᚦᚩᚱ), which counted between 26 and 33 rune symbols.

Rune Symbols and Their Meanings

Connecting runes with meaning has been the goal of many scholars for purely academic purposes, but it’s also been a way for runic practitioners to try to tap into ancient wisdom and channel the symbols’ innate supernatural powers.

Shall we reveal their mystical interpretations? 

1. Fehu

fehu rune
  • Symbol: ᚠ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Fehu symbolizes the most prized possession in Nordic countries – cattle. In the present day, this rune tells us that money and material possessions are within our reach.

Inverted Meaning: 

Financial loss, setbacks, or delayed payments are on the horizon. When inverted, this rune warns you to be careful with your spending. 

2. Uruz

Uruz rune
  • Symbol: ᚢ

Meaning and Interpretation:

Uruz channels the life force of every living being. It was originally connected to wild oxen, symbolizing strength, vitality, and the untamed forces of nature.

Inverted Meaning:

If you find this rune inverted, it is a reminder to take a much-needed break. Don’t rush into situations head-first; think things through, and watch your health. 

3. Thurisaz

thurisaz rune
  • Symbol: ᚦ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Inspired by Thor’s hammer, Mjöllnir, this rune embodies protection against dark entities and energies. It also stands for destruction of unhealthy boundaries, and a shift in energies that results in a new beginning. 

Inverted Meaning:

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. You can’t afford to be vulnerable right now, so put your defenses up. One can never be too careful.

4. Ansuz

Ansuz Rune
  • Symbol: ᚫ

Meaning and Interpretation:
When Ansuz shows up in your reading, it’s time for some honesty. This rune is linked with Odin, the god of wisdom, divination, and magic, among other things.

It serves as a way for you to communicate with your higher self, to use your voice to give advice to others, and also to be ready to receive it. You are never too old to learn life’s many lessons. 

Inverted Meaning:

Miscommunication is a bitch. You are not being honest with yourself, or others, and this will eventually cause more trouble than it’s worth.

If someone is not clear with their intentions, call them out on it. Red flags are so last year.

5. Raidho

Raidho Rune
  • Symbol: ᚱ

Meaning and Interpretation: 

The rune of journeys, both physical and spiritual, is here to guide you through your personal transformation. If you’re going through hell, keep going.

A change is drawing near, and a reunion with someone from your past may be exactly what you need right now.

Inverted Meaning:

You need to leave the stagnant waters you are in. Even if you don’t know what the future holds, take a chance and make a decision. You won’t regret it.

6. Kenaz

Kenaz Rune
  • Symbol: ᚲ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Kenaz is the rune of inspiration, serving as a muse in all your creative endeavors. It’s here to awaken that spark inside of you so you can finally manifest your deepest desires.

Kenaz also shines its light on your spirit, giving you the passion, intuition, and energy to push through anything. 

Inverted Meaning:

When Kenaz is inverted, you might experience a creative block that’s holding you back.

This block can also transfer to your relationships, making you feel helpless at times. Take a step back, and wait for the storm to pass. 

7. Gebo

Gebo Rune
  • Symbol: ᚷ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Gebo is the give-and-take rune, maintaining the balance and harmony of all your relationships, whether romantic or platonic.

It also deals with gifts, generosity, and the exchange of energies for mutual fulfillment. 

Inverted Meaning: 

Even when inverted, Gebo isn’t that bad. It’s just a reminder that what goes around, comes around, so whenever a conflict arises, do some introspection and see where things went wrong.

Everybody makes mistakes, so forgive and forget. 

8. Wunjo

Wunjo Rune
  • Symbol: ᚹ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Wunjo is probably the happiest rune of the set, radiating joy, comfort and contentment with what you have.

Realize that sometimes less is more, and enjoy the little things in life. Prosperity and success will follow once you stop chasing them. 

Inverted Meaning:

We often look for happiness in other people or possessions that we think are going to magically make everything better.

This is not the case, though. As long as you hold onto external sources of happiness, you will never be satisfied. Find the true bliss that lies within you.

9. Hagalaz

  • Symbol: ᚺ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Hagalaz brings with it chaos, madness and disruption. However, this chaos is needed in order to cleanse the past and remove what no longer serves you.

The old needs to be destroyed so that the new can thrive. 

Inverted Meaning:

You are clinging to old habits, people, or ways of life that are holding you back. You might even be afraid of growing up.

It’s scary, but understand that it’s a necessary part of life. Let go and let the Universe take charge. 

10. Nauthiz

Nedis rune
  • Symbol: ᚾ 

Meaning and Interpretation:
We all have our needs and desires, but they can’t always be met. Some rough times may be ahead, and it is up to us to find our way through the curveballs life throws at us. 

Inverted Meaning:

You may feel limited or trapped, but it’s time to realize that the only person holding you back is yourself.

Your inner saboteur is not doing you any favors. You may have to seek guidance from others to make the right decision.

11. Ice

Ice Rune
  • Symbol: ᛁ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Solitude doesn’t always mean loneliness, it means taking some time to yourself, contemplating, and figuring out what you truly want in life.

Isa is the rune that tells you to embrace peace, tranquility, and inaction. It reminds you to go within to find true wisdom. Don’t do, just be. 

Inverted Meaning:

When Isa is inverted it means that you have been embracing solitude for far too long. You are growing colder every day, weakening the tender connections you have with others.

Snap out of the icy grasps of detachment before it’s too late.

12. Jera

Jera Rune
  • Symbol: ᛃ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Congrats! Hard work pays off, and you will soon reap what you have sown. This rune symbolizes abundance and harvest, and it’s here to reward your patience.

The time is right for you to take aligned action if you haven’t already. 

Inverted Meaning:

When Jera appears inverted, it’s time to rethink your goals. Realistically, this time. Risk doesn’t always pay off, so lower your expectations for this one. 

13. Ehwaz

Ehwaz Rune
  • Symbol: ᛇ

Meaning and Interpretation:

Stay strong. This is the main meaning of Eihwaz. It channels your strength, resolution, and endurance.

This rune will help you face your fears and laugh in the face of misfortune. No challenge is challenging enough for you right now.

Inverted Meaning:

You refuse to transform, but change is necessary for your personal growth. Your shadow self needs to be dealt with, so find the strength to face it, fight it, and, in the end, embrace it.

14. Pertho

Pertho Rune
  • Symbol: ᛈ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Do you believe in destiny? Perthro sure does, especially if it appears upright in your reading.

This rune of mysteries reminds you that the forces of fate are weaving your future right now.

If you are smart about it, you will use your intuition and take advantage of this moment to understand the secrets of the Universe you have been yearning to discover.

Inverted Meaning:

One cannot outrun destiny just because they are scared of it. Don’t fight it. Instead, use it to learn more about your mission here on Earth.

You don’t know all the facts, so don’t make any decisions just yet.

15. Algiz

Algiz Rune
  • Symbol: ᛉ

Meaning and Interpretation:
This rune is a sign that higher powers are looking out for you. Divine presence is around you, and you might miss the signs that are right in front of you if you don’t pay attention.

Algiz is associated with the watchman of god Heimdall, so channel his protective energy into your life.

Inverted Meaning:

Have you heard of healthy boundaries? It’s time for you to stand up for yourself and put yourself first. You are vulnerable, and you might lack spiritual connection, but trust me, it’s not impossible to take the wheel.

16. Sowilo

Sowulo Rune
  • Symbol: ᛋ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Inspiration strikes again through Sowilo, the rune that promises success and surrounds you with positive energy.

It’s a supportive rune that can be used to strengthen your manifestation practices. Take advantage of it while you can.

Inverted Meaning:

Sowilo asks you to reconsider whether your goals and aspirations are truly aligned with who you are as a person.

Is money really that important to you? Is a relationship really what you need right now?

Pick another rune to clarify what an inverted Sowilo means for you.

17. Tiwaz

teiwaz rune
  • Symbol: ᛏ

Meaning and Interpretation:
The warrior god Týr comes through with this rune, delivering justice, truth and providing you with the courage you might need at this moment.

It’s time to take action and not let anyone get in your way. Even if someone else has won the previous battle, you are winning the war.

Inverted Meaning:

An inverted Tiwaz suggests no action is better than impulsive action.

Don’t do things you might later regret, especially if they lack integrity. Your rash decisions can create irreparable damage, so sit this one out.

18. Berkana

berkana rune
  • Symbol: ᛒ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Berkano (or Berkana) is a rune of fertility, nurturing energies, and new beginnings. It’s a great omen for those who have been trying to conceive, as well as those who need a little healing in their lives.

Reach out to your family members and loved ones for support, and be ready to give the same in return.

Inverted Meaning:

Families fight, it’s just the way of the world. At the end of the day, you are still a family, blood, or chosen, so don’t let this negativity linger.

Words can cut deep, especially if they’re spoken by those closest to you, but an inverted Berkano urges you to let bygones be bygones. 

19. Ehwaz

Ehwaz Rune
  • Symbol: ᛖ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Literally meaning “horse”, Ehwaz stands for loyalty, partnership, and the collaborative power that can further both our personal and professional progress.

You are about to find (or have already found) a steadfast partner who will help you achieve your shared goals.

Inverted Meaning:

When inverted, Ehwaz brings with it trust issues that can make you wary of others and their intentions.

Not everyone is trying to stab you in the back, so keep your guard up, but don’t be completely closed off. Teamwork makes the dream work.

20. Mannaz

Mannaz rune
  • Symbol: ᛗ

Meaning and Interpretation:
The rune of community and self-awareness comes through to shine a light on your individuality, but also your interconnectedness with all beings.

It celebrates your autonomy but also reminds you not to forget about those who have been there for you all your life, even if you don’t always see eye to eye.

Inverted Meaning:

An inverted Mannaz tells me you’ve been trying too hard to fit in, to belong, but the disconnect between you and others is obvious.

Read the room, as this may come off as desperate. Sorry, not sorry.

21. Laguz

Laguz rune
  • Symbol: ᛚ

Meaning and Interpretation:
The rune of water dives deep into the subconscious mind, motivating you to listen to your gut instinct and tap into your feminine side a bit more.

Yes, even if you’re a guy. Accept the ebb and flow of your emotions and go with the flow for a while.

Inverted Meaning:

Your intuition seems to be blocked, and your emotions are all over the place, so it’s time to find an anchor while you figure out how to navigate the stormy seas of life.

22. Ingwaz

Ingwaz rune
  • Symbol: ᛝ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Exemplifying the fertility god Ing, this runic symbol awakens the creative seed in you and reminds you that it’s time to learn how to cultivate it before you can harvest it.

Your personal potential is limitless, as long as you learn how to tap into your inner resources and use their transformative power.

Inverted Meaning:

When inverted, Ingwaz lets you know that profound progress isn’t linear.

We stumble and fall, and we don’t always reach the harvest in all our ventures, but we mustn’t stop trying.

23. Dagaz

Dagaz rune
  • Symbol: ᛞ

Meaning and Interpretation:
The rune of transformation appears in order to fuel your optimism, to shine its radiant light on the endless possibilities that are coming your way.

Its brilliance will help you gain more clarity and make better decisions.

Inverted Meaning:

Even when inverted, Dagaz maintains the balance between light and dark, between good and evil. The eternal battle keeps going on, but we all know that good conquers evil in the end.

24. Othala

Othala rune
  • Symbol: ᛟ

Meaning and Interpretation:
Othala is the rune of heritage, family, and ancestral wisdom that is carried throughout generations. This symbol reminds us that the past shapes both the present and the future.

Inverted Meaning:

We often stray too far from our roots, but you have to remember that we cannot grow branches without roots. You don’t have to cling to the past, but you also can’t forget your legacy.

How to Use Runes

1. For Divination

Runes have been used in prophetic and divination practices for ages. In the 1st century, Germanic people would carve strips of wood and mark them with runic symbols before they prayed to their gods and chose the strips in a specific order that would tell them how the future would unfold.

In this way, although it’s a different practice, we can connect them to Tarot, a form of cartomancy from the 15th century.

Rune sets often come as a deck of cards that can be used similarly. If you scroll down, you will see how you can interpret the runes in a more structured manner through runic spreads.

Runes can also be used in scrying, a divination practice that usually uses a black mirror or another dark or reflective surface that, once you stare at it long enough, will formulate messages or visions from its reflection.

You don’t need a crystal ball, a chalice of water or an obsidian mirror, though.

You can shuffle and choose runes that, once laid out and meditated upon, will bring forth a flashback from the past or a premonition of the future.

Pay attention to which runes have been drawn and what their relationship is. What do they have in common? What feeling do they invoke in you? 

Whichever divination practice you use, make sure to write it all down. It will help you notice future patterns much faster and work out the connected meaning of the visions you may receive. 

2. In Spellwork

It’s easy to incorporate runes into your daily practice. With spellwork, we often use candles, crystals, paper, ritual knives, and offerings.

All you have to do is write down the runes on any of these items valuable to your spell.

Preferably, an item that corresponds with the spell’s desired outcome. You may need some previous knowledge of the meaning of crystals or the colors of candles, but a quick Google search will do the trick.

I often carve the runes with my athame into candles to channel their energy, but there are no limits or strict rules on how you implement them in your spellwork.

A simple sharpie or pencil can get the job done. The easiest thing to do is write the rune down on a piece of paper, and either fold the paper around a crystal or throw it all together into your chalice, cauldron, or other bowl of choice. 

This is how I created the money bowl that I charge on the first of every month with an incantation.

Fehu, Dagaz, Gebo, various coins, crystals, and cinnamon sticks mixed up in a vessel of manifestation.

It’s not rocket science, people!

Even if you don’t remember the meaning of each rune, trust your gut instinct. It will let you choose the right rune for you if you let it.

You can also carve the symbol into a fruit or other edible offering to a deity and then consume it in order to activate and use its ancient life force. Or, of course, just wear it as an amulet or talisman.

3. As Amulets and Talismans 

elder futhark runes amulets

Before we continue, do we know what the difference between an amulet and a talisman is?

Okay, so while amulets protect the wearer from evil spirits and negative energy, talismans bring more power to the wearer, usually good health, luck, love, or prosperity.

It is up to you what function you want to assign to the rune.

You can often find runes as talismans and amulets in random jewelry shops, stands, or even at fairs.

If the seller knows anything about runes, they might try to convince you to buy a Fehu talisman to attract riches, an Algiz amulet for protection or a Raidho item to manifest your dream vacation.

You will probably spot these runes engraved on pendants, bracelets, or rings, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

Any item that is on you can serve as an amulet, be it your phone case, your t-shirt tag, or your socks. I’m not joking.

It may be unconventional, but it will be just as effective, as long as it’s close to your body, and you allow it to enter your aura and become the shield that it is meant to be.

The same goes for talismans, you don’t have to buy certain trinkets to attract what you desire.

Use any rune, or a combination of runes, to turn any object into a talisman that will channel and fuel your intentions to fruition.

You don’t have to carry talismans with you, so any item that you have a connection with can carry the burden or the blessing you are inviting into your life.

How To Read Runes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Set the Ambiance

Rune readings should start with a cleansed set of runes, in a dimly lit, quiet room. It is important that you aren’t distracted by people or noises around you. Make sure to cleanse your space with sage, salt, or other smudging variants.

Step 2: Choose Your Runes

The rune set you select for your reading doesn’t really matter. It can be a set of carved stones, wooden tiles, or even a card deck.

You can easily make one on your own by printing out images of the symbols or even drawing them. If you still can’t remember the meanings of the runes, write keywords under the symbols to refresh your memory. 

Step 3: Stay Mindful

With your runes in front of you, try to enter a relaxed, meditative state. Shift your awareness to your intention or the question you have for the runes, while slowly shuffling your cards, tiles, or stones (preferably in a little pouch).

Step 4: Select a Rune Spread

Rune spreads or layouts give structure to your readings, helping you see the bigger picture through the placement of each rune. 

  • Three-Rune Spread: The most common layout, where you spread out the runes horizontally or vertically.
    • The first rune you draw (usually on top or on your left) represents the past.
    • The second rune (in the middle) represents the present.
    • The third rune (on the very bottom or on your right) represents the future. 
  • The Runic Cross: This popular spread is laid out in the shape of a cross.
    • The first rune (left side of the cross) represents the past.
    • The second rune (under the fifth) stands for the present.
    • The third rune (right side of the cross) reveals how you think the future will play out.
    • The fourth rune (bottom of the cross) tells you background information that you may not have known about yourself or the situation.
    • The fifth rune (center of the cross) denotes possible problems or obstacles.
    • The sixth rune (top of the cross) reveals the eventual outcome of the situation.
  • Custom Spreads: Once you get comfortable with reading runes, you can create your own spreads based on a personal situation that you need guidance with. And, since runic spreads aren’t that common, you can use tarot spreads. Use runes instead of cards, or use a combination of both for more clarity.

How To Interpret A Three-Rune Spread

three rune spread

If I envision my reading to be about my career and/or money, and my three-rune spread reveals Fehu, Thurisaz, and Berkano, my interpretation would go something like this:

  • First Rune: I come from a place of financial security, maybe through generational wealth, or my own income is enough to sustain me. But, in the present, that isn’t enough. I’m either tired of it, or I need something or someone else to bring me happiness because I’ve become too obsessed with grinding and making money. 
  • Second Rune: Thurisaz tells me that it’s time for a shift, for a disruption in the balance of things that has already started. I could quit, get fired, or even have someone else enter my life and offer me a chance at something new. 
  • Third Rune: The future holds Berkano, a rune that shows the birth of something new once the old has vanished. In my situation, this tells me that even if I don’t get the stability I’ve had so far, I will go out of my comfort zone and accomplish things I never thought possible. 
  • Extra Rune: If it still isn’t clear to you, you can always choose another rune for extra clarification on the topic. If Ehwaz appears next, I would take that as another person who will help me succeed. Here, it is up to me to find out who that collaborative person in my life is, or whether that person is just another aspect of me – my shadow self.

It’s important to know that this form of divination isn’t fixed. It shows you the outcome of a situation or perspective if the circumstances stay the same.

However, we have been given free will, so when we act upon something, or let someone else change the course of our path, the outcome is open to change. 


I hope this article taught you at least a tiny bit more about runes and how to use them in your divination journey and spiritual practices. Runes can be a powerful tool that provides not only guidance but also personal growth and a deeper connection with the mystical forces of ancient Germanic and Norse civilizations.

That is, as long as you understand and appreciate the way in which runes can work for you. How effectively you channel the power of these ancient letters depends on your intuition, your belief system, and your willingness to expand your consciousness. 


How many runes are there? 

The most famous rune alphabet, the Elder Futhark consists of 24 runes split into three groups of eight runes called “aetts”. Each rune has its own name, symbol, and specific meaning. 

What does it mean when a rune is inverted?

Similar to reverse tarot cards, inverted runes suggest that the original meaning has shifted to a new person or perspective, the effect has been delayed, or the opposite effect is about to bite us in the ass sooner or later.

Can runes be used for spellwork?

Runes can absolutely be used in spellwork. They give an extra kick to your intent while casting any spell.

Remember to stick to its intended (or inverted) meaning so you don’t get mixed results that you will regret. Transformation spells would thrive with Dagaz, while love spells would get a boost from Gebo or Wunjo. You get the gist.

How do I cleanse my runes before use?

The way I like to cleanse my runes is by singing various melodies to them. I imbue whatever melody comes to mind with my intention through the vibrations of my voice. 

Any practitioner should know that there isn’t a single way to cleanse their runes. You need to find what resonates for you and make it work for you.

Some like to visualize white light activating their powers, while others bury them underground overnight, run them through water, or expose them to the full moon (if you don’t hate waiting 28 days for a single cleanse). 

The most common way to do it, though, is probably by passing them through your favorite incense.

Do the runes correspond to any other spiritual systems (like Tarot or the Zodiac)?

Although they have been linked to certain Zodiac signs, the runes don’t strictly correspond to this spiritual system. 

Share this Article
Jovana Petrovic is a writer, holistic tarot reader, and traditional Western astrologer. She possesses clairaudient and clairvoyant abilities, which she uses to help others tap into their purpose, release old patterns, and realize their fullest potential. Her practice blends intuitive guidance with psychic tools, knowledge, and experience. As a graduate Pedagogist and spirituality enthusiast, Jovana uses her expertise to help people navigate through their spiritual awakening and heal their inner child. Besides tarot and astrology, she practices incorporating shadow work, self-love techniques, and chakra healing.