060208 Stockholm Rinkeby T futhark, originally uploaded by xjyxjy.

Love the colours and the splendour of the golden mosaic here in the underground station of the poorest district in the whole of Sweden. The characters are the letters of the Old Runic Series. The runic alphabet is called “futhark” after the first six letters. TH is the single one letter “thorn”.

What are Runes?

“The Vikings are often portrayed as illiterate, uncultured barbarians who evinced more interest in plunder than in poetry. In fact, the Vikings left behind a great number of documents in stone, wood and metal, all written in the enigmatic symbols known as runes. They relied on these symbols not only for writing but also to tell fortunes, cast spells, and provide protection. Early Germanic tribes of northern Europe were first to develop runes, but the Scandinavians soon adopted the symbols for their own use. When the seafaring Vikings traveled to faraway lands, they brought their system of writing with them, leaving runic inscriptions in places as distant as Greenland. Wherever they went, Vikings turned to runes to express both the poetic (“Listen, ring-bearers, while I speak/Of the glories in war of Harald, most wealthy”) and the prosaic (“Rannvieg owns this box”), inscribing them on everything from great stone monuments to common household items.

The runic alphabet, or Futhark, gets its name from its first six sounds (f, u, th, a, r, k), much like the word ‘alphabet’ derives from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. Each rune not only represents a phonetic sound but also has its own distinct meaning often connected with Norse mythology (see clickable alphabet at left). Scholars believe that early peoples used the runes originally as a means of communication and only later for magical purposes.”

NOVA Online | The Vikings | Write Your Name in Runes