Introducing The Aetts
In the Elder Futhark, in other words the 24-plus-one runic set with which we are concerned here, there
are three divisions. These divisions contain eight runes each, the blank or 25th rune being a separate
item. This is similar to the Greek division of the alphabet into three ogdoads (groups of eight), said to
reflect the three parts of the universe. Each of these sets has its own name, and is called an aett, an
Icelandic word, with many meanings included in which are things connected with place, lineage and
It is interesting to note that the Scottish word airt is very similar, as is the Irish word aird meaning an
eighth of the horizon, and used as a means of direction. The number eight is said to have been a very
powerful number to the Vikings and each set of eight runes forms its own ‘family’, and is assigned to a
There are three sets of aetts, three being another particularly powerful number to the Vikings. The first
set is called Freyr’s aett, the second set Haegl’s aett (the ninth rune itself is called Haegl), and the third
set Tyr’s aett (the 17th rune itself is called Tyr or Tiw). You may also see the word aettir used instead
of aett. It is important to realise that, whilst each runic set has its god, the overall ruler of the runes
remains Odin, rather than those mentioned above.
Freyr’s set is said to represent growth, increase and unfolding, Haegl’s set the elements, and Tyr’s set
courage in the face of adversity, Tyr being a warrior god. In addition to each set being assigned a
particular god, many of the individual runes were also assigned a god. These will be given when we
discuss each rune individually, along with details of the planet or zodiac sign connected with each
rune, and other connections, such as animal or nature associations. In this chapter, however, we will
go so far as to link four of the runes with the elements of earth, air, fire and water, considering how
other runes may also link with the elements, and also briefly consider a feminist connection.
I would point out at this stage that the Nordic races had little connection with the zodiac, and so
linking runes to zodiac signs is a relatively modern idea.
Each aett is set out in sequence, from right to left, with Freyr’s aett being the top row, and so on. Many
runemasters will lay out the runes in these lines before use, feeling that this imprints the runes with
their personal vibration, afterwards collecting them and putting them into their pouch.
Alphabetical And Language Links
We know already that each runic symbol represents a mnemonic. Each symbol also represents a letter.
Each symbol can be shown in modern English lettering, Old English lettering or German lettering, as
well as in Norwegian and Icelandic symbols. It is not vital to know all these connections, but it is
important to be able to see that there are other symbols for the runes, as you may well buy or wish to
make a set with slightly different symbols from the modern English with which we will principally
deal here, especially if you have an interest in personalising your own runes or have a particular
historical interest. In addition to each symbol in the languages mentioned, each rune has a name in
that language, which will be given in a separate list.
Please note that some runemasters transpose the 23rd and 24th rune. In other words, you will
sometimes find that Dagaz comes before Othila, rather than as shown here, which is considered by
many to be the traditional order.
The Germanic letterings given will correspond to the runic symbol normally used.