The Elder Futhark is the oldest form of runic alphabets that we know of, dating back to as early as 160AD. It was most commonly used by Germanic tribes and whilst it has its challenges as a language, it was easy to carve into wood or stone and therefore was effective at the time.
Futhark obtained its name from the first 6 rune names (F, U, Þ, A, R, and K) and is made up of 26 different letters (normally broken down into 3 groups of 8 called aettir.) The Futhark somewhat represents letters as we know today in the English language but was also used to represent more complex sounds and words gesturing specific animals, elements, gods or emotions.
A combination of different lettering may form a sentence or story just as we do today, though there are many limitations to how these letters or sounds can be used. Many experts suggest the Elder Futhark whilst spanning such a large period of time, was more-so used as a marketing tactic by merchants for aesthetic reasons, rather than offering any real functionality in day to day communication.
Some of the complications of the language included it being able to be read both left to right and right to left, and that the letters had different meanings if placed in specific orders or next to specific runic symbols. Some scriptures involve runic symbols written in reverse (mirror image) where the remainder reads normally or even a combination of both left to right and right to left. Complicated stuff.
For this reason, it may be difficult to read them as we would a language today, and therefore over 2000 years, there has been little agreeance to many scriptures that have stood the test of time.
Whilst used in basic communication, it was also inscribed on jewelry, tools, weapons, clothing & just about anything worth communicating a message on.
Given that the Elder Futhark before advancing into the Younger Futhark was subpar as a means of communicating complex ideas or thoughts, it was more commonly used in trade and war. A sword might appear more visually appealing, or it might send a specific message to those they are up against in combat. Some used specific symbols to worship gods or deities to provide them the luck, or more commonly strength, to fight their foes.
The Elder Futhark was later simplified to other variations such as the Younger Futhark (also known as Scandinavian Runes) which bears some resemblance but were used by completely different peoples starting shortly after 900AD. The Futhark was forced to adapt as a language and people developed, requiring more elaborate and effective means of communicating in text. Old Norse & Old English scriptures e.g. the Viking Sagas were written in Younger Futhark.
Written by: Jax Ryan