The first and most common writing system that the Vikings used in their time was the runic alphabet. The Viking rune might function as letters but they were not simply letters. Each rune was a symbol of some cosmological power and principle. And to write a rune was to invoke a divine power. Indeed, there were two ways to interpret the word runes: the letter and the secret. Moreover, the original meaning of it, according to many people claimed, was the message.
The rune alphabet was the Futhark which came from the first six runes (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kaunan). Commonly, there were 24 rune letters and they were divided into three Aett (“Families”). However, the meaning of such a division was unknown. Runes were often carved in the stones, bones, and some hard surface rather than written by ink and pen. This made many historical runestones stand the test of time to this day and age. The Vikings did not use the runes to simply communicate in their Viking Daily Life. Rather, they used runes to foster their communication between them and their gods.
Odin Discovery of Viking Rune
Legend had it that no one “invented” but it just simply existed in the cosmos. Runes were eternal and even pre-existent before Odin first discovered them. The tale of Odin discovering the Viking rune has come down to us through the poem Hávamál (The Sayings of the High One).
Odin hung himself on the Great Tree of Life Yggdrasil which stood in the middle of the cosmos. There were three Norns that lived under the Yggdrasil. The Norns were very wise and they knew the destiny of all beings in the cosmos. Runes were believed to have been carved on the tree trunk by the Norns. Maybe that reasoned why runes carried within itself the destiny of all beings for which Odin wanted to know. Odin made a sacrifice by hanging himself on the tree without eating or drinking anything for nine days and nights. His body was even stabbed by his own Gungnir spear. After the sacrifice, Odin gained the ability to decipher the runes.