Runes are ancient characters used in Teutonic, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian inscriptions, probably first used by the early German group called Ostrogoths. They may have gotten them from Hellenic-Italian writing. Adapted to carving,they consisted of perpendicular, oblique, and a few curved lines. They were used extensively in Northern Europe, Iceland, and the British Isles before Christianity. Runes were used consistently in Scandinavia and well into the Middle Ages.
There were no limits to the format that the runes were craved in. The runes could be written (a blade or axehead was used in the early days) in all kinds of directions and used almost any kind of common material such as rocks, wood or large stones to make beautiful decorations or as a hidden, magic formulas. When runes were carved in stone, carving many points close to each other created the runes, until the rune master had a complete line.
Not surprisingly given their mythological origin, the runes were first and foremost regarded as magical and had a ritual function. They were used for divination as well as other "magical" purposes. Runes could control the weather, the tides, crops as well as most other facets of daily life. Runes were carved on amulets, drinking cups, spears and ships to provide protectionor to enhance the power of the object.
Over time however, although the magical power of the runes was still respected, they began to be used more and more as a method of communication and by the end of the Viking period ordinary people commonly used them. Runes were used to leave messages as well as mark property and belongings.(text permission of Sigurd Towrie)
The factual appearance of the runes is quite different from people's beliefs on how they first were done. In the Norse religion, the father of all gods and men is a powerful god named Odin. This is used from the even older name Woden (where Wednesday comes from). Odin ruled in Valhalla.
According to Norse mythology, the god Odin, in an effort to learn the secrets of life and death sacrificed himself, hanging upside-down from the world-ashtree Yggdrasi, impaled by his own spear. For nine days and nine nights he hung there gazing down into the depths of Nifl-heim. During this ordeal andtormented by pain, hunger and thirst, he won the knowledge he sought. When hehad fully mastered this knowledge he cut magical runes on his spear, Gungnir,upon the teeth of his horse, Sleipnir, upon the claws of the bear and upon anumber of other animate and inanimate things. (text permission of SigurdTowrie).