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Runes are characters within runic alphabets, used as early writing systems by Germanic peoples.

The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around 150–800 AD), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400–1100 AD), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100 AD).

There is some evidence that, in addition to being used for writing, runes historically were used for magical purposes. Some modern forms of occultism, esotericism, and/or mysticism have also used runes for magical purposes, sometimes using new runes.

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