The runic system was in use by the Nordic and Germanic tribes of Northern Europe for both secular and religious purposes. There is some debate among scholars, but the first examples of the runes to phonetically represent language appear to date from around the second century B.C.E. The development of the rune alaphabet was a fairly recent occurrence, brought about by the increased trading activity with Mediterranean neighbors who already possessed a fully developed alphabet. Before this time, the runes were primarily a magickal system of pictographs representing the forces and objects in Nature. It was believed that by calling upon the appropriate rune one could thereby make contact with the force in Nature the symbol represented. There were several different runic alphabets in use throughout Northern Europe over the centuries, but the most common is the Germanic or Elder FUTHARK. This alphabet received its name from its first six letters - F, V, TH, A, R and K. It was the system most widely in use between 200 B.C.E. and the late eighth century and the one we shall be concerned with in this book. This alphabet contains 24 letters and is divided up into three groups of eight called Freya's Eight, Hagall's Eight, and Tir's Eight. It must be remembered that the runes were MYSTERIES to these people, in every sense of the word. They were FORCES, secret allies that the knowlegable could use for many purposes. Their magickal use was entrusted to the few, and the knowledge was never written down for the eyes of the (perhaps) unworthy. All information was transmitted by mouth and earned by heart. Through diligent study and proper use, the runes could help you become closer to the gods and aid you in ordinary day-to-day living. There were runes to influence the weather, aid the crops and to heal the sick.
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