A cryptic or coded way to write runes is called "Lønnruner" in Norwegian, which means "secret runes". In English, "coded runes", might be a better expression. The reason for writing runes in this way could be to hide the inscription's meaning, or, for example, to hide taboo words. The method could also just be an another way to write runes - without any thought on magic or secrecy of the text.

If you look at what has been written in secret or coded runes, you may find it difficult to find a purpose for hiding the meaning of the text. Therefore, it is possible that the rune master's only intention was to show how clever he was in the art of writing runes.

When writing secret runes, one way is based counting the first rune in the Elder Futhark, Fehu, as the 1st rune. Uruz is counted as the 2nd rune, Thurisaz is the 3rd rune, Ansuz is counted as the 4th rune and so on. You find the right rune by counting the runes consecutive from the beginning to the end.

The upper row in the Elder Futhark, Freyr's aettir is counted as the 3rd aettir, the middle row, Hagall's aettir is counted as the 2nd aettir, and the lower row, Tyr's aettir, is counted as the 1st aettir.

In the table underneath you will see how the system is counted in the Elder Futhark. The system is equivalent if using the younger runes.

1. rune
2. rune
3. rune
4. rune
5. rune
6. rune
7. rune
8. rune
3. aettir
2. aettir
1. aettir

In the scientific literature secret runes are often written "2/3" or "23", which would mean the 3rd rune in the 2nd aettir = Isa, the i-rune.

However, as you later will see, some secret rune inscriptions place the aetirs in their normal ranking, i.e, count fuþarkgw as the 1st aettir.

Before you start to interpret inscriptions with coded runes, the first rule is to find the sign or twigs which never have a number higher than 3 - these signs or twigs represent the aettir.

The secret runes can be written in many ways.


Lønnruner The number of twigs on the left side of the stave indicate the aettir to which the rune belongs. The number of twigs on the right side of the stave indicates which rune it is in this aettir. The rune in this inscription will then be the 6th rune in the 2nd aettir. (However, in some cases may the reference to the rune and aettir be the other way round.)

Lønnruner This is how a Futhark with younger runes will be if you count the attirs in their natural ranking.


Lønnrner The long lines states in which aettir it's in. The short lines states in which succession the rune has in the prevailing aettir. The meaning of this inscription will then be the 3rd rune in the 1st aettir + the 2nd rune in the 2nd aettir + the 5th rune in the 3rd aettir.

This inscription is from the Rotbrunna stone. The coded runes says airikr, which is the name "Eirik". The 4 following runes say hiuk, which mean "trace, scratch, chop, hew (in stone with chisel)". This inscription is written with the younger runes and fuþark is counted as the 3. aettir. The runic text can be translated "Eric wrote (these runes)".

Lønnruner However, in some inscriptions the short lines is counted as the aettir and the long lines as the runes ranking in the aettir. The upper inscription
(hand-written manuscript - St. Ggallen - Cod. 270 4to) is written in the Elder Futhark and fuþarkgw is counted as the 1. atttir. The lower inscription is written with the younger runes and fuþark is counted as the 1st aettir.

Lønnruner The Vålsta stone's inscription, which is shown here, is more and less a summation of method 1 and 2, but principally the method is identical.

The inscription is written with younger runes and fuþark is counted as the 3. aettir.

LønnrunerThis inscription is written on the Rök stone. The system is principally equally to the methods 1, 2 and 3. fuþark is counted as the 3. aettir.
The inscription says [s]akumukmini.

Lønnruner Another method of writing secret runes uses signs to indicate the rune and aettir. The number of left-turned signs gives the aettir and the following number of right-turned signs gives the ranking of the rune in the aettir. fuþark is counted as the 3. aettir. The upper line says þu and the lower line says r.
The inscription is found on the Rök stone.

Lønnruner This way of writing secret runes is in principle equal to method 5.
The inscription is from the Norum baptismal font in Norum Church in Sweden.

Lønnruner At first sight this inscription may look like that they have used an "o-rune" from the Elder Futhark and a "s-rune" from the Younger Futhark. It looks like the inscription says oossoosss

But this would not happen, so therefore we have an inscription using secret runes. The system is equal to the method 5 and 6, which use signs or symbols to give the account of the rune and aettir. The number of "O-runes" gives the aettir and the number of "s-runes" gives the ranking of the rune in the aettir. The inscription says 2/2, 2/3 - i. e. 2. rune in 2. aettir + 3. rune in 2. aettir - i.e. ni.

Lønnruner Bergen 1 Found among several runic inscriptions from the Middle Age found at Bryggen in Bergen there was a secret rune inscription using a man's head as the stave. The system of counting the Furhark's aettir and the ranking of the runes is in this case equal to all other above described ways of writing secret runes. This is a "S-rune", i.e. the 5. rune in 2. aettir.

Picture of the inscription

Lønnruner Bergen 2 Also found among several runic inscriptions from the Middle Age at Bryggen in Bergen there is a secret runic inscription using a fish as the stave. The system of counting the Furhark's aettir and the ranking of the runes is in this case equal to all other above described ways of writing secret runes.

This inscription says 6. rune in 3. aettir (k) + 2. rune in 3. aettir (u) + 3. rune in 3. aettir (þ) + 6. rune in 3. aettir (k) + 3. rune in 2 aettir (i) + 1. rune in 3. aettir (f) + 3. rune in 2. aettir (i).


Binderune Be aware of that runes like this which were written on the Klyver stone, should not be read as secret runes.

This is a bindrune made up of 6 t-runes and 4 a-runes. The bindrune is interpreted as a 6 times call to the god Ty and a 4 times call to the Asa Gods. This bindrune illustrates "concept runes", i.e. instead of writing the words fully out with runes, the rune master has used the runes' names to express what he wanted to say.

Coded runic inscriptions


Bohuslen, Kareby kirkes døpefont raþe sa er kan namn orklaski
This inscription was written on the baptismal font in Kareby Church in Bohuslen in Sweden. In Norse the runic text says Ráði, sá er kann, nafn "orklaski", i.e. "Interpret you who can the name Orklaski"

In the "name" orklaski, if we replace the written runes with the runes which have the ranking in the aettir before the written runes in 16-rune Futhark, we will get Þorbiarn or "Þorbjorn", which is the man's name, Torbjørn.

This inscription is one of many in a group with a so called "ráð rétt rúnar"-inscriptions. One inscription in Gol Church was also written in "ordinary runes", it says raþ rett runar þessar, i.e. ráð rétt rúnar þessar which can be translated "Interpret these runes right".

On a lost stone cross from the farm Sele in Tangerhaug in Rogaland
(Sele II N237) ra[þ]rt was written. This is a contraction of "Ráð rétt".

A runic inscription found in Hopperstad Church
(Hopperstad kirke XIX N408) says rrrar which could be raþ ret runar.

Jonas Nordby has uncoded a secrete system which he call Jötunvillur code, which is about to change the rune you use with the sound af the last letter in the rune name. The Jötunvillur code will give this alfabet:

Name of the Rune
The Jötunvillur code´s rune

Name of the Rune
The Jötunvillur code´s rune

Name of the Rune
The Jötunvillur code´s rune

Other ways to change the runes places are known from several runic inscriptions, but they are most often interpreted as training or puzzles for learning the Futhark. One example is a wooden stick found in Iceland on the farm Stóraborg, Austur-Eyjafjallahreppur, Rangarvallasýsla. The fragment of the stick
(7,4 x 2,5 x 03 cm) had two inscriptions.
Stóraborg runer

The upper line is interpreted as a brain-twister to learn the Futhark
(rkhnias) based on counting two forward and one backward. The same system with the Latin alphabet would be -fegfhgihgj- etc.


This inscription is attached to the Galder song Buslubæn, i.e. Bula's curse, which is written in Bóse's saga.

The inscription is interpreted "ristil aistil þistil kistil mistil listil" by means of each of the 6 first runes - r.a.þ.k.m.u. - is attached one rune in each of the 5 groups with i s t i l.

A corresponding inscription is found in Nore Church
(Nore kirke II) which says:
Nore stavkirke 1
The inscription is composed by kutram surrounded by 9 runes on each sides. The 2 x 9 runes is 3 i-runes, 5 s-runes, 5 t-runes and 5 l-runes.

A corresponding inscription is found on a coffin in Lomen Stave Church, but the oldest inscriptions of this group are on the Grølev stone in Sjælland in Denmark and the Ledberg stone in Östergötland in Sweden, both of which were written when Scandinavia still was a heathen socity: þmk iii sss ttt iii lll, i.e. þistil mistil kistil.

How these runic inscriptions should be interpreted is uncertain, but the effect could be to hold demons away.

An another way to write secret runes is to hide the meaning of the inscription by adding more twigs
(lines) to the runes than there should be. Sometimes parts of a rune could also be omitted; for example the top of the rune. Another example is the "turn-left" inscription on The Tørvik B-stone. This inscription is written in the Elder Futhark.

The two rune stones, Tørvika A and Tørvika B, were found on the Tørvika farm at Kvam in Hardanger, Hordaland. Both rune stones had been part of the walls in a robbed tomb-chamber. In addition to the rune stones, fragments of a cinerary urn, horse teeth, remnants of iron tools and cremated bones were also found. The inscriptions are dated to the first half of the 400's AD and the language is nSl.

The Tørvika A inscription is written left turned on a stone of quartzslate
(2,34m X 0,70m X 0,08m):

Torvika A 11111111u

If we follow the writing rules of the runes, the text would be landawarijaR, which might be a man's name meaning "land protector, land occupier". What the Uruz-rune lookalike mark above the man's name means is uncertain. The runes are up to 15 cm high.

The Tørvika B inscription's runes are approximately 4-6 cm high and are written on a stone of micaslate
(2,70m X 0,68m X 0,09m). The inscription stand outs from other inscriptions because there are more twigs carved on the runes than there should be - what I call "irrelevant twigs". In addition, there are also parts of runes which have been left out - what I call "missing twigs". This makes the inscription very difficult to read. Probably was this done in order to hide the inscription's meaning. We have here what we in Norwegian call "lønnruner", which means "secret runes".

Torvika B lønnruner The runic inscription is approximately like this. The unbroken red lines are drawn as the twigs which are interpreted as "the irrelevant twigs". The broken red lines is drawn as the twigs which is interpreted as "the missing twigs". According to this theory we come to the following proposal to a left turned runic text:

Torvika B
111heþro dweno k

The inscription might be translated "Leave (here you will grow numb), Kenaz". The last k-rune has to be interpreted by its name and its symbol value. Kenaz stands for "boil, festering, blister". If the inscription is meant for the dead, the k-rune, i.e. the spirit the k-rune represents - Kenaz - should provide that this happen. But the runic text might also be meant that the evil spirit Kenaz who caused this is dead.

This inscription can, of course, never be certainly interpreted. For example, it could be that some of the "irrelevant twigs" are part of a bindrune. Then we would have a unknown number of interpretation possibilities.

Direct links to the other pages:
|.Index.| |.Norwegian.runes.| |.Swedish.runes.| |.Danish.runes.| |.Greenlandic.runes.| |.Germanic.runes.| |.Anglo-Saxon.runes.| |.Elder.Futhark.| |.Odin's.Galder.Songs.| |.Sigdrifumal.| |.Secret.runes.| |.History.of.the.runes.| |.Norwegian.runic.inscriptions.| |.Symbols.| || |.The.Thing.| |.Raids.| || |.Art.| || |.Download-links.|

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Created by Arild Hauge © Denmark, Aarhus 2002
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Opdateret d. 1.3.2014