The Rune Poems

The Rune Poems were a recitation of the names and kennings (associations) of the runes. They were presumably used as an aid in memorizing and transmitting the lore. There are three of the old poems known; the Icelandic, the Norwegian, and the Anglo-Saxon. The Anglo-Saxon shows considerable influence from Christianity. There was probably a poem for the Elder Futhark, but it has not come down to us. The Elder Futhark consisted of twenty four runes. Around 800 CE or so the Scandinavians reduced the number to sixteen, while the Anglo Saxons increased the number to accomode different sounds in their language.

The Abecedarium Nordmannicum, (~825CE) might be considered a fourth Old Saxon verson, but is quite fragmentory.

The versions cited, with their English translation, were taken from the book "Runic and Heroic Poems" by Bruce Dickins. The book was published in 1915, and I believe that it has passed into public domain. If you can find a copy, do so. It's excellent.

The most traditional is probably the Icelandic Rune Poem, and it's English translation. The stanzas in the Norwegian Rune Poem are each links to the corresponding stanza in its English translation. The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem with its English translation.

Most who have written on the meanings of the runes recently have a background and interest in New Age mysticism, Mediterranean style magick, or some other belief structure not part of the historical Nordic mentality. This affects their interpretation. Most mainstream scholars avoid the subject entirely because of the New Age taint. This means that if you are interested in how the Vikings saw the runes (rather than the New Age, or modern Asatru folks), you should go the original sources as much as possible, and not rely on someone else's interpretation. Read the runic poems, the eddas, the sagas, and other period sources for yourself. I did find a discussion in Finland that might serve as a good starting point on the traditional meanings of the runes.

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