Examples of various alphabets of the world. By examining some of these we can begin to see the influences which may have led to development of the Germanic/Norse rune alphabets. It is commonly thought that the Etruscan and Latin alphabets were sources, but as you will see below, there may have been others, also. All of the data that follows are from the information and graphics from the Omniglot website.

First, let’s look at the major runic alphabets (called “futharks” based upon the first six symbols). There are many other variants, but the Elder, Anglo-Saxon, and Younger Futharks are the most well-known.

Runes were used to write many languages including, Gothic, German, Frisian, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Russian, Hebrew and other Semitic languages (due to trade relations with the Khazars, a Semitic tribe of traders of the Silk Road).

The runes might be read from left to right or from right to left, even on the same artifact. Translation of runic inscriptions is therefore extremely difficult, and complicated by the fact that rune masters sometimes wrote cryptic puzzles or in secret script.