Come on in… sit a spell. | Esoteknix

Kenn Kitchen
4 min readJun 13, 2023
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The history of the English word “spell” is long and interesting. It has two main uses in modern English. As a verb, it means “to name or write the letters of a word in order,” and as a noun, it means “a charm or incantation.” The roots of these two meanings of the word are different.

“Spell” as a verb, means to write or say a word’s letters in order. This use of the word comes from the Old English “spellian,” which means “to tell, speak.” Around the end of the 14th century, the word’s meaning changed to what it means today. This may be because in the Middle Ages, people usually read out loud, and saying the words was thought to be the same as “telling” or “speaking” them.

“Spell” as a noun, meaning a charm or incantation, has a different root. It also comes from Old English, but it comes from a different word, “spell,” which meant “story or message.” By the early 14th century, it had come to mean a magic spell or charm. This was possibly because the folklore of the time linked stories and messages to magic and foretelling the future.

The Runes

Runes are the letters in a set of alphabets called the “runic alphabets.” The Germanic peoples used these alphabets before they switched to the Latin alphabet. Around 150 AD, the first runes were written down. Different Germanic languages in Northern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland all used runic alphabets.

Runes were not just a way to write; they were also often used for magic or to find out about the future. This is where the idea of a “spell” comes in. In the Elder Futhark, each rune had a name that was a common noun or an idea, like “fehu” for cattle/wealth. People thought that the runes were the essence of the things they were named after.

Runes could be used to cast spells in a magical setting. They could be written on amulets or other items to give them special powers, or they could be used in spells. Some evidence also shows that the act of writing was seen as magical and powerful in and of itself. So, in this way, to “spell” a word-that is, to write it out using runes-could be seen as a magical act.

Rune Magic

“Galdr” is an Old Norse term for a type of magic that was closely associated with the runes. It…



Kenn Kitchen

Cat lover, coder, server nerd, autodidactic polymath, free thinker.