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NameProto-GermanicOld English
"heritage, estate"
ShapeElder FutharkFuthorc
Runic letter othalan.svg
Transcriptiono, ōœ, oe, ōe
IPA[o(ː)][eː], [ø(ː)]
Position in
23 or 24
Othala rune (left and centre). Symbol used by far-right groups derived from Othala, with feet added (right)

The Othala rune (), also known as the odal rune, represents the o sound in the Elder Futhark writing system during the 3rd to the 8th centuries. Its name is derived from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic *ōþala- "heritage; inheritance, inherited estate".In the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, its name is attested as ēðel and expressed the Old English œ phoneme during the 5th and 11th centuries. It is not continued in the Younger Futhark, disappearing from the Scandinavian record around the 8th century.

The rune continues to be used both in Heathenry and in wider cultural contexts such as the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Furthermore, as with other symbols used historically in Europe such as the swastika, Othala has been appropriated by Far-right groups such as the Nazi party and neo-Nazis. The symbol derived from Othala by adding serifs (feet) is exclusively associated with the Far-right and is banned in Germany under laws restricting Nazi symbolism, and other, similar organizations.

Name and etymology[edit]

The Common Germanic stem ōþala- or ōþila- "inherited estate" is an ablaut variant of the stem aþal-. It consists of a root aþ- and a suffix -ila- or -ala-. The suffix variant accounts for the umlauted form ēþel. Germanic aþal‑ had a meaning of (approximately) "nobility", and the derivation aþala‑ could express "lineage, (noble) race, descent, kind", and thus "nobleman, prince" (whence Old English ætheling), but also "inheritance, inherited estate, property, possession". Its etymology is not clear, but it is usually compared to atta "father" (cf. the name Attila, ultimately baby talk for "father").

There is an apparent, but debated, etymological connection of Odal to Adel (Old High German adal or edil), meaning nobility, noble family line, or exclusive group of superior social status; aristocracy, typically associated with major land holdings and fortifications.[1][self-published source?]

The term oþal (Old High German uodal) is a formative element in some Germanic names, notably Ulrich and variants; the stem aþal is more frequent, found in Gothic names such as Athalaric, Ataulf, etc. and in Old High German names such as Adalbert,[2] and Adel. Unrelated, but difficult to separate etymologically, is the root aud- "wealth, property, possession, prosperity";[3] from this root are names such as Edmund and other English names with the ed prefix (from Old English ead), German Otto and various Germanic names beginning with ed- or od-. Possibly related is euþa, euþu a word for "child, offspring" (attested in Old Norse jóð, and possibly in the name of the Iuthungi).

Odal was associated with the concept of inheritance in ancient Scandinavian property law. Some of these laws are still in effect today, and govern Norwegian property. These are the Åsetesrett (homestead right), and the Odelsrett (allodial right). The tradition of Udal law found in Shetland and Orkney in Scotland, and also in Manx law on the Isle of Man, is from the same origin.

Elder Futhark o-rune[edit]

Illustration of the Thorsberg chape showing the runic inscriptions on both sides

The o-rune is attested early, in inscriptions from the 3rd century, such as the Thorsberg chape (DR7) and the Vimose planer (Vimose-Høvelen, DR 206).[citation needed] The corresponding Gothic letter is 𐍉 (derived from Greek Ω), which had the name oþal.[citation needed]

Wolfgang Krause (1964) has speculated that the o rune is used as an ideograph denoting possession in the Thorsberg chape inscription. The inscription has owlþuþewaz, read by Krause as O[þila] - W[u]lþu-þewaz "inherited property - the servant of Wulþuz".[4]

The odal rune is found in some transitional inscriptions of the 6th or 7th century, such as the Gummarp, Björketorp and Stentoften runestones, but it disappears from the Scandinavian record by the 8th century. The Old Norse o phoneme is now written in Younger Futhark with the same letter as the u phoneme, the Ur rune.

Anglo-Saxon œ-rune[edit]

The left panel of the Franks Casket

The Anglo-Saxon runes preserve the full set of 24 Elder Futhark runes (besides introducing innovations), but in some cases these runes are given new sound values due to Anglo-Frisian sound changes. The odal rune is such a case: the o sound in the Anglo-Saxon system is now expressed by ōs ᚩ, a derivation of the old Ansuz rune; the odal rune is now known as ēðel (with umlaut due to the form ōþila-) and is used to express an œ sound, but is attested only rarely in epigraphy (outside of simply appearing in a futhark row). Epigraphical attestations include:

  • the Frisian Westeremden yew-stick, possibly as part of a given name Ƿimod (Ƿimœd)
  • the Harford (Norfolk) brooch, dated c. 650, in a finite verb form: luda:gibœtæsigilæ "Luda repaired the brooch"
  • the left panel of the Franks Casket, twice: tƿœgen gibroþær afœddæ hiæ ƿylif "two brothers (scil. Romulus and Remus), a she-wolf nourished them".

The Anglo-Saxon rune poem preserves the meaning "an inherited estate" for the rune name:

byþ oferleof æghƿylcum men,
gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on
brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.

[An estate] is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.

In some manuscripts and runic inscriptions, such as the Seax of Beagnoth, othala is written with a single vertical line instead of the two diagonal legs, which has been proposed as a simplified form of the rune.[5][6]

Modern use[edit]

Far-right groups[edit]

The symbol derived from Othala with wings or feet (serifs) was the badge of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office, which was responsible for maintaining the racial purity of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS).[7] It was also the emblem of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) of the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen operating during World War II in the Nazi Germany-sponsored Independent State of Croatia. This rendition has been used by the Neo-Nazi Wiking-Jugend in Germany, and in South Africa by the Anglo-Afrikaner Bond, the Boeremag, the Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging,[8] and the Italian neo-fascist group National Vanguard.[9]

It was used by the Afrikaner Student Federation and the far-right wing White Liberation Movement.[10][11][better source needed]

In November 2016, the leadership of the National Socialist Movement announced their intention to replace the Nazi-pattern swastika with the Odal rune on their uniforms and party regalia in an attempt to enter mainstream politics.[12][13]

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in Orlando, Florida, on February 25–28, 2021, the floor layout of the main stage resembled the odal rune with wings/feet, leading to speculation on social media as to why that design was chosen. CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp said comparisons were “outrageous and slanderous”.[14] Design firm Design Foundry later took responsibility for the design of the stage, saying that it "intended to provide the best use of space, given the constraints of the ballroom and social distancing requirements." Ian Walters, director of communications for the ACU and CPAC, said they would stop using Design Foundry.[15]

The symbol was used along with other symbols and slogans associated with Nazism and far-right extremism by the Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Harrison Tarrant.[16]

In April 2014, the British Topman clothing company apologised after using the Othala rune in one of their clothing lines, due to its usage by far-right groups.[17]


Othala, along with other runes more widely, often feature prominently in the practices of Heathens,[18][19][20] and are commonly used to decorate items and in tatoos.[21]

The use of runes such as Othala by far-right groups has been strongly condemned by some inclusive Heathen groups including Asatru UK which has released in a public statement that "[it] is categorically opposed to fascist movements, or any movements, using the symbols of our faith for hate".[22]


As with other historical runes, Othala is used by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit as seen on Thror's map of Erebor, and in the dwarvish Cirth writing system used in The Lord of the Rings and described in Tolkien's Legendarium.[23][24]

Othala is used as the symbol for the "Lore" resource in Northgard, released in 2018.[25]


  1. ^ de:Adel[self-published source]
  2. ^ Schönfeld, Wörterbuch der altgermanischen Personen- und Völkernamen, 1911, 1f. (Adalharius, Adalhildis, Adalwal, Adaric, Adica, Adila), 33ff. (Athala, Athalaricus, Athanagildus, Athanaricus, Athavulfus), Reichert, Lexikon der altgermanischen Namen 2, 1990, 469 (Adalhari, Adalhildis, Adulouuald, Adaluuial, Atala, Athala, Athalaric, Adaric, Alaric)
  3. ^ Pokorny (1959), p. 76
  4. ^ Krause, Wolfgang, 'Die Runendenkmäler und ihre Sprache' In: Von der Bronzezeit bis zur Völkerwanderungszeit, (ed.) Klose, Olaf. Neumünster 1964 [reprint 1979], 311-325. Krause, Wolfgang, Herbert Jankuhn. Die Runeninschriften im älteren Futhark, Göttingen, 1966. The interpretation by Krause follows an earlier suggestion by Helmut Arntz, Handbuch der Runenkunde, 2nd ed., Halle/Saale 1944. See also Spurkland, Terje (2005). Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions. Boydell Press. pp. 47–48. ISBN 1-84383-186-4.
  5. ^ Thorsson, Edred (1987). Runelore : a handbook of esoteric runology. York Beach, Me.: S. Weiser. p. 23. ISBN 9780877286677.
  6. ^ Page, R. I. (2003). An introduction to English runes (2nd ed.). Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. p. 40. ISBN 085115946X.
  7. ^ Lumsden, Robin (1995). SS Regalia. Edison, NJ: Book Sales, Inc. p. 35. ISBN 9780785802280.
  8. ^ Schönteich, Martin and Boshoff, Henri Volk, faith and fatherland: the security threat posed by the white right Institute for Security Studies (South Africa)(2003) p48
  9. ^ Colborne, Michael (22 January 2020). "Ukraine's Far Right Is Boosting A Pro-Putin Fascist". bellingcat. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  10. ^ "Neo-Nazi flag symbolism". flagspot.net. Retrieved 2015-09-02.
  11. ^ Visser, Myda Marista Die Ideologiese Grondslae En Ontwikkeling Van Die Blanke Fascistiese Bewegings In Suid-Afrika, 1945- 1995 (The ideological foundations and development of white fascist movements in South Africa, 1945-1999) M.A. thesis University of Pretoria (1999) p. 164
  12. ^ Smith, Rohan (15 November 2016). "Bizarre, bold reason America's white supremacists just banned swastika". News.com.au — Australia's Leading News Site. Archived from the original on 2016-11-16. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  13. ^ Schoep, Jeff (4 November 2016). "National Socialist Movement: Announcement". Press Release. National Socialist Movement (US). Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  14. ^ Walters, Joanna (1 March 2021). "CPAC: Hyatt Hotels says stage design resembling Nazi rune is 'abhorrent'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  15. ^ Design firm takes responsibility for CPAC stage controversy, The Forward
  16. ^ "White Supremacist Terrorist Attack at Mosques in New Zealand". March 15, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  17. ^ Hayward, Stephen (2014-04-13). "Fascism disaster: Topman withdraws 'Nazi' clothing line after online shopper points out SS insignia". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  18. ^ Blain, Jenny (2005). Modern paganism in world cultures : comparative perspectives. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. pp. 181–208. ISBN 9781851096084.
  19. ^ Harvey, Graham (1997). Listening people, speaking earth : contemporary paganism. London: Hurst & Co. p. 61. ISBN 978185065-2724.
  20. ^ Calico, Jefferson F. (2018). Being Viking : heathenism in contemporary America. Bristol. p. 118. ISBN 9781781792230.
  21. ^ Calico, Jefferson F. (2018). Being Viking : heathenism in contemporary America. Bristol. pp. 391–392. ISBN 9781781792230.
  22. ^ "Asatru UK, In response to the Daily Telegraph article". Facebook. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  23. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937). The Hobbit. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  24. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955). The Return of the King – Being the Third Part of The Lord of the Rings; Appendix E. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  25. ^ "Northgard - Balancing Patch 7 - July 2021 - Steam News". store.steampowered.com. 20 July 2021. Retrieved 14 May 2022.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary