Icelandic Runes | Runic Writing, Symbols, & Staves

Discover the Magic of Icelandic Runes

If you are visiting Iceland, you might be curious to learn more about Icelandic runes. Exploring the origins of the ancient Icelandic symbols, Viking writing, and Icelandic magical staves is a fascinating journey. Known as the land of ‘Fire and Ice,’ Iceland offers majestic, extreme contrasts in natural landscapes and a culture immersed in mythology and magic, complete with magical creatures and symbols. 

 

Join us as we uncover all there is to know Icelandic runes. Let’s dive in. 

What are Icelandic Runes?

Runes are symbols, or characters, making up ancient writing systems. What is now used in Europe are variations of the Latin alphabet. Before the introduction of the Latin alphabet system, the runic writing system was in place. Archeological findings place the origins of Icelandic runes back to 150 AC. 

The History of Runes

Viking writing letters are also known as runes. These runes were not created by paper and ink. Instead, they were carved into stone and even placed on weapons to bestow them with more power. Viking writing can be found on jewelry for luck and even gravestones to help with the soul’s passage. Such is the magic of Icelandic runes

 

The major shift from the runic writing system to the Latin system happened around 700 AD when Europe became Christian. However, runes kept being used by the Nordic countries as late as 1100 AD. 

 

The first settlers in Iceland brought with them the runic writing system, where it remained in place ever since. Like most European countries, Iceland shifted to the Latin system. However, the runic writing system has stayed a substantial part of the Icelandic culture and history. 

 

The runic writing system consists of a variety of alphabets. The most well-formed known alphabet is Elder FUÞARK, which is made up of twenty-four symbols. Later on, around the 8th Century, which is the beginning of the Viking Age, the Elder FUÞARK was replaced by a shorter version consisting of only sixteen runes. This shorter version is known as the Younger FUÞARK (or Scandinavian Runes). This is the version that comprises what we identify as Icelandic Runes

 

Interesting facts about Icelandic Runes:

 

  • They were not necessarily placed from left to right.
  • There are many examples of top to bottom and right to left writings.
  • They also changed direction from horizontal to vertical.
  • It is believed that the direction of the text affected its meaning.
  • Runic symbols are made up of straight lines, making them ideal for carving into wood or stone.
  • The word ‘rune’ actually translates to ‘to carve out.’
  • Runes were the perfect symbols to cast spells and create blessings, tying them closely with magic.
  • Mysticism and atheism are credited for keeping runic writings alive.
  • Latin and Runic forms of writing coexisted in Europe. 
  • The Latin and Runic coexistence has fascinated historians throughout the ages.
  • Norse Mythology declares that the runes were gifts from heathen gods.

 

Currently, we know of approximately one hundred archeological examples of rune carvings. Runes were widely used for decorative purposes in Iceland until the Bishop Oddur Einarsson ruling in 1592. The new rule stated that all Icelanders had to convert to Lutheran orthodoxy.  This ruling demanded abolishing anything that dealt with ancient practices, magic, healing practices, and other ancient medical sciences. 

 

In the 1600s, twenty people from Iceland were executed for practicing witchcraft. Anyone with any knowledge of Icelandic symbols was labeled a ‘sorcerer’ or ‘witch.’ 

 

Fast forward to now. Runes are an important part of Icelandic culture and heritage. 

 

Now that you know more about runes, let’s explore the Icelandic magical staves.

Magical Properties of Icelandic Staves 

Icelandic staves, also known as galdrastafir, are symbols credited with magical powers.

 

  • The Aegishjalmur symbol was linked with introducing fear, prevailing in battles, and protecting warriors.
  • The Veldismagn symbol is very popular and known for granting protection against evil, promoting good luck, and bestowing wealth. 
  • The Draumstafir symbol represents the dream of unfulfilled desires. 

 

Other Icelandic magical staves included runes to attract the love of a girl, to help kill an enemy’s cattle, to promote fertility, to help open hills, to help open doors without a key, to win in legal matters, to cause fear in your enemies, to invite ghosts and evil spirits, to protect belongings against thieves, to bring luck in fishing, and even to ward off foxes. 

 

The magical staves would be instilled by symbols (sigil’s) creator. The creator was often a magician known as a sorcerer (male)/witch (female). These magicians attended school abroad and were known in Iceland as geldermann. It is believed that the magicians would create the runes by carving the symbols on them while practicing some sort of a ritual. 

Start Your Journey with Rent.is

Explore the mysteries of Iceland as you delve into the history of the magic runes. If you are traveling to Iceland and are ready to discover the magic of their culture and this beautiful country’s heritage, contact Rent.is to plan your trip. We make it easy for you to rent a camper van in Iceland, so you can discover this amazing island on your own terms.