Anglo-Saxon Runes (KS2) Explained

Anglo-Saxon runes written on small tiles.
Share
Tweet

Exploring old languages is a great way to delve into world history and these runes can be a great way to get your children thinking.

We have found the KS2 resources and summarised them to make teaching your children all about runes as easy as abc. We outline some facts about runes and some fun ways to teach this topic at home.

What Are Runes?

Runes are symbols just similar to the letters we use. Rune literally translates to 'secret' or 'mystery'.

Not all historians agree on where the runes came from. Some suggest that the runes were developed in Frisia (the Netherlands and Germany) then they were brought over to Britain. Other historians believe that the runes originated in Britain then were transported to Frisia.

The runes are known together as the futhorc.  You can explain this as the same as how we describe letters as making up the alphabet. They form the language often described as Old-English. The runes were used to write things like significant names, places, spells and religious rituals.

The runes within the Anglo-Saxon alphabet are made of combinations of straight lines so that they could easily be carved into wood or stone. Many runes have been found carved into stone, which are known as runestones.

Wooden pieces with Anglo-Saxon runes on them coming out a navy velvet pouch.
Image © GerDukes, under a Creative Commons license.

Why Did We Stop Using Runes?

The Roman alphabet consists of the letters you are reading right now. It's the most widely used alphabet system in the world.

When many Anglo-Saxons became Christian, more people began writing and speaking using the alphabet we use today. This meant that as more people used the Roman letters, fewer people used the runic symbols until there wasn't a single rune used in Britain.

Anglo-Saxon runes engraved on pieces of wood lying on the ground in the forest.w
Image © Alex-V, under a Creative Commons license.

How Many Anglo-Saxon Runes Are There?

Generally, historians believe there were 33 runes within the runic alphabet.

There are other runic forms of writing, some including 24 runes, or 33 runes. In the older forms of the runic language, there are 24 runes arranged into three groups of eight runes.

Almost all of our alphabet today can be expressed in runes. Some letters directly correlate, whereas others are denoted to sounds we don't have a specific letter for anymore. There may also be one rune to mean one word, for example, the word for "rushed".

Are Runes Religious?

Anglo-Saxons believed the runes were very special. They were often used in religious ceremonies.

Certain runes were believed to be magical, Anglo-Saxons believed specific runes in a special order could be used as spells or charms. Anglo-Saxon used to cast a spell to try and bring good luck, cause an enemy harm or bring about a good harvest.

The English verb "to spell" something and the noun meaning to cast a magical "spell" use the same English words because they come from the Anglo-Saxon runes.

Crystal stones, rings, candles and matches - items for Anglo-Saxon spells and charms.
Image © Dan Farrell, under a Creative Commons license.

How You Can Teach Runes To Your KS2 Children

Learning about runes can be a fun time because it can make history seem much closer to home! You can feel involved in the Anglo-Saxon culture by creating your own secret messages using the runes.

Year 3: You could play a game where your child has to write their own runes, using the Anglo-Saxons' as inspiration.

Year 4:You could explore the futhorc and find where there are similar runes to our letters we use today and where there are different ones. You could practice writing out their name, or write secret messages to each other.

Year 5: You could explore the origins and transportation of the futhorc between countries to explore why we write using the Roman alphabet today.

Year 6: This could be an opportunity to introduce the amazing work of J. R. R. Tolkien! Runes were used within the novels as an inspiration for some of the names and languages within the Lord of The Rings series.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.