Critical Review of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc: An Historically Accurate Universal Rune Set

23 September 2019, 09h50:

Spring Equinox for the Southern Hemisphere

Today is the spring equinox – where we experience the same number of daylight hours and night time hours in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

This spring equinox edition follows on both my Evolution of the Runic Alphabets and Critical Review of the Elder Futhark: An Historically Accurate Universal Rune Set. Spring is aligned with the element of earth from which new life sprouts and that which has already established continues to expand and grow. We notice that older established plants provide shelter and shade for new life, including animals and other plants. We also observe that older animals teach their young how to survive and where the best places for food and shelter are. In this context we see the expansion of the Elder Futhark into the related Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. Thus, for this spring equinox I will discuss the sister system of the Elder Futhark runic alphabet, the Anglo-Saxon (or Anglo Frisian) Futhorc.


The runic alphabets have become a prominent feature on my blog and my designs, mostly due to my fascination with this ancient writing script and how it can be utilized to gain wisdoms from the depth of our own souls.

I have written an critical review of the Elder Futhark as well as discussing the flow of the runic languages from both an historic and linguistic perspective. During my extensive research into the subject I have read countless literary works in an attempt to determine both the original form of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc as well as creating a standardized and universal set of runes. I have listed the most informative references I discovered during my research (Ref 1-10). My research has subsequently been converted into an Anglo-Saxon Futhorc Mini Oracle deck available for purchase from my MPC online store.

Here, I would like to focus on my research process for the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and how I came to choose the letter, rune script and meanings for each based on the most prominent and trustworthy information from hard-to-find expert runologist and runology sources. I will group the discussions around the potential origin of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, the basic alphabet structure and the sorting of conflicting rune meanings as well as the diversity of runic symbols.

Anglo-Saxon Runes

  • Second Oldest Runic Alphabet (400-1100 AD)
  • Derived from the Older Elder Futhark
  • Writing System for the Anglo-Saxon dialects (Anglo-Frisian, Old Saxon, Old Frisian and Old English)
  • A set of 33 letters
  • Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Frisian Poem (8-9th century) as reference point for the letters and their potential meanings.
Kylver Stone, Gotland, Sweden, Elder, Futhark, Runes, Viking, Germanic
The Anglo-Saxon futhorc (abecedarium anguliscum) as presented in Codex Sangallensis 878 (9th century). From Wikipedia

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc Origin and Expansion

The sister language and/or linguistic influence of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc is the Elder Futhark, which is a Proto Germanic/Norse runic alphabet. The Elder Futhark (400 – 800 AD) existed prior to the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and both co-existed for some time (300 years). During this time; new languages arose between the tribes, such as Anglo-Frisian, Old Saxon, Old Frisian and Old English.

Indo European Languages and the Runic Alphabets, Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, Younger Futhark, Lineage
Indo-European languages of the tribes and the development of the runic alphabets. Possible Elder Futhark lineage (linguistic evolution) in green, Younger Futhark lineage in red and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc lineage in Blue.

Due to changes in linguistic pronunciation and writing from Old Norse to Old English the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc almost seems to shift the Elder Futhark alphabetical order as well as introducing several new alphabet letters. This includes the switching, mixing and trading of original Elder Futhark letters, known as a linguistic chain shift. Compare the two tables below, where Table 1 is the Elder Futhark and Table 2 is the Anglo Saxon Futhorc. Notice not only the change in the writing symbols, but also the change in pronunciation, especially considering the vowels.

For example:

  • Letter 3; Ansuz become Os: a → o
  • Letter 13; Ihwaz becomes Eoh: æ → eo
  • Letter 23; Othila becomes Edel: o → eo
Elder Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
Elder Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
Anglo Saxon Futhorc Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
Anglo Saxon Futhorc Rune Symbols Names Transliterations Table

Furthermore, you observe the Christian and Roman missionaries interact with the Germanic tribes during this time. These religious scholars were prompted to attempt to align the Roman and Anglo-Saxon alphabets, because of the language/alphabet barrier between the Latin speaking and Anglo-Saxon speaking people. This heavily influenced the ‘language evolution’ of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, a process is known as the Anglo-Saxon Christianization. During this dynamic expansion of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc you see it increase from the 24 Elder Futhark letters to 26, later 28/29 and finally 33 letters. Thus, one finds a multitude of different Anglo-Saxon variants as well as somewhat familiar looking letters to our own alphabet within this Futhorc.

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc Alphabet Structure

The final set of Anglo-Saxon Fuhorc runes is made up of 33 letters. Similar to the Elder Futhark, its namesake is also derived from the sound values of its first 6 letters, i.e., “F U TH O R C”. Due to the vowel changes pointed out previously, the “F U TH A R K” became “F U TH O R C”.

The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem or Old English Rune Poem plays a pivotal role in the structure, lettering and meaning of the Anglo-Saxon runes. It provides meaning to each rune through stanzas, a grouped set of lines within a poem, which may or may not rhyme. However, there is much scholarly debate as to the translation of the poem and stanzas only exist for the first 29 of the 33 letters.

The first edition of the Rune Poem was contained in a historical manuscript, the Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archæologicus by George Hickes during 1703. The original manuscript (MS Cotton Otho B. X) perished in the Cottonian library fire of 1731, thus George Hickes’ edition became the only copy of the Rune Poem.

Old English Anglo Saxon Rune Poem Hickes Wikipedia
Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem

Similarities of the Thesaurus to the MS Cotton Domitian A. IX sparked scholarly debate as to whether the Rune Poem was even recorded in the original perished manuscript. Investigation into the inconsistencies between the old manuscripts revealed additional oddities, due to hand-copying, translation efforts and comparisons of the Elder Futhark with the reduced Younger Futhark (9th century, Scandinavian origin, 16 runes) and expanded Futhorc (5th century, Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Frisian origin, 33 runes). Therefore, it is postulated that both copying error and translation errors could have crept into the (re)documented versions of the Rune Poem. As such the both the translations and interpretation of the Rune Poem is very subjective and should be used with consideration.

Further difficulties of establishing a universal rune set for the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc is caused by the up to 39 variants of the 33 runes. However, the Domitian A. IX and the Galba A. I manuscripts have the closest runic similarities to the poem and to one another. Up to 28 runes from the Domitian A. IX version occur in more than 70% of other Anglo-Saxon rune material and 27 of these appear in the poem. Therefore, by comparing several different Anglo-Saxon variants and tracking the linguistic changes as described by runologists and linguists to find most common elements, you would have the following alphabet:

Anglo, Saxon, Futhorc, Mini, Oracle, Deck, Cards, Rune, Runes, Frisian, Old, English
Anglo Saxon Futhorc Mini Oracle Deck available from https://www.makeplayingcards.com/sell/marketplace/anglo-saxon-futhorc-mini-oracle-deck.html

Here the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc has variants of all 24 Elder Futhark letters, an additional 5 vowels (Ac, Æsc, Yr, Ior and Ear) and 4 new letters (Cweord, Calc, Stan and Gar).

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc Alphabet Meanings

The meaning of each letter is connected to animals, plants and events related to the people and livelihoods of that time. As mentioned before, many inconsistencies arise from the meaning of each of these letters, which are generally derived from the Old English Rune Poem which is of Anglo-Saxon origin (Ref 6), but it only provides meanings for the first 29 runes. The exact meaning of the runes are subjective depending on which English translation of the poem you refer to. Therefore, each letter may have different meanings – because language is not static and one word can have multiple sometimes unrelated meanings, which you use for your metaphysical practise is up to you.

Anglo-Saxon Futhorc Conclusion

After working through the runic literature I have created the following table below, it represents the most common Anglo-Saxon writing and name, the English transliteration as well as a comparison with the original Elder Futhark associated with of the letters.

Anglo Saxon Futhorc Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
PDF Version to go along with the Deck

I have not added the meanings to the table as they are even more variable that the alphabet structure including some entirely missing meanings. I have full meanings for each of the 24 Elder Futhark representatives in a separate post. I believe it is best for anyone interested in learning this system to acquire a translated version of the Rune Poem, which resonates with you and to interpret its exact meaning for yourself. You can use the ‘traditional’ interpretations as a rough guide (such as those in Ref 4 below are a good starting point), but you will find that some of your own interpretations start to deviate from the widely used norm. I would also recommend that you learn all the meanings and allow the surrounding runes from your rune cast to distinguish which meaning would be more appropriate for the given reading. After all, reading oracles from runes requires a bit of creativity and intuitive interpretation from your side.

The table above can be used in conjunction with my Anglo-Saxon Mini Oracle Deck, which is representative of the most accurate and universal Anglo-Saxon alphabet and can be purchased from Make Playing Cards!

Micro, Small, Germanic, Viking, Norse, Oracle, Spiritual, Divination, Anglo, Saxon, Frisian, Script, Travel, All Natural Spirit, Rune, Elder Futhark, Runes, Mini, Card, Deck, Oracle, Bind, Rune, Cards
Anglo Saxon Futhorc Mini Oracle Deck available from https://www.makeplayingcards.com/sell/marketplace/anglo-saxon-futhorc-mini-oracle-deck.html


“Oh how wonderfully exciting. I have just processed the order now. The kids are learning all about Norse Mythology at the moment and are so excited to have their own set of cards to learn the symbols and at that size… perfect.

Thanks so much for being so accommodating and for making such pretty cards.” – Elder Futhark Mini Deck

Customer Feedback

The next runic alphabet I will be discussing during the Summer Solstice is the Younger Futhark. It will include a very detailed discussion of the the 3 different Younger Futhark styles, provide the key differences between the Younger Futhark and the Elder Futhark as well as another table for the Younger Futhark similar to the one provided for the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc in this post!

Top 10 Most Informative References

  1. Page, R., I. (1987) Reading The Past: Runes. University of California Press.
  2. McKinnell, J., Simek R. and Düwel K. (2004) Runes, Magic and Religion: a Sourcebook. Wien: Fassbaender
  3. Page, R. I. (2005) Runes, The British Museum Press, ISBN 0-7141-8065-3.
  4. Oswald, B. (2008) Discovering Runes. Chartwell Books Inc.
  5. Robertson, J. S. (2012) How the Germanic Futhark Came from the Roman Alphabet Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies 2: 7-25.
  6. Van Renterghem, A. (2014) The Anglo-Saxon runic poem: a critical reassessment. Masters Dissertation, University of Glasgow.
  7. Daniels, B. (2015) Runes: Notes on Orthography and Pronunciation, as well as Some Thoughts on Using Runes to Write Modern English. http://www.yokoiscool.com
  8. Schulte, M. (2015) Runology and historical sociolinguistics: On runic writing and its social history in the first millennium. Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics. 1(1): 87-110
  9. Bong, J.C. (1996) Runes : Genealogy and Grammatology. Runes G&G til web 190303
  10. Antonsen, E. H. (2002) Runes and Germanic Linguistics. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

My Other Oracle Deck: The Celestial Rune Sigils – The Metaphysician’s Toolbox

Read more about this deck: An Elder Futhark Bindrune Oracle

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Celestial Rune Sigils – The Metaphysician’s Toolbox. Elder Futhark Bindrune Oracle Deck available from https://www.makeplayingcards.com/sell/All-Natural-Spirit

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