Sunday, September 21, 2014

Exposing the modern "Rune Experts"

It seems almost every new book you find on runes these days is about ever fancier and more complicated ways to do runic divination, i.e. rune-casting. One term I particularly hate seeing bandied about is “rune spreads” - as if runic divination is somehow in any way related to the “spreads” in Tarot cards or other such neo-Hermetic foppery.

However ancient Indo-European peoples used divination tools - whether runes, lots, magick staves, sticks carved with symbols, etc. for divination (and yes, I said Indo-European, not just Germanic – Herodotus records the Scythians doing the same thing) - we can know for sure that this had nothing whatsoever to do with post-Christian Renaissance inventions such as Tarot or reformed Hermetica. So no “spreads” please.

But whatever you call them - “casts”, “methods”, or something else, the means of runic divination are essentially modern interpretations of alleged ancient practices of the Germanic tribes. Because at the end of the day, we simply have to take Tacitus, Herodotus, Pliny, etc. at their word – and they weren't particularly honest fellows from what we know. Herodotus is even nicknamed the “father of lies” since there is so much dishonest and divisive micro-racist propaganda in his writings, most of which were meant to indicate how Greeks were “superior” and to denigrate “barbarians” (i.e. the other 99% of Aryan-descended peoples – Persians, Scythians, Dahae, Getae, Guti, Celts, Hyperboreans/Germanics) as stammering vermin only fit to be slaves. The very tolerance of slavery itself as “acceptable” in the minds of Tacitus and Herodotus was in fact the antithesis of all genuine Arya-derived culture, but that is a long and complicated matter for another day.


So what do we really know about the usage of runes in ancient times, from sources other than old Greco-Roman propaganda writers, the rather cryptic Lore of the Eddas, surviving linguistic rune-cognates and root-words, or the (sometimes reliable) visions of modern mystics?

While Tacitus in Germania records the use by Teutonic peoples of branches cut into segments, with symbols carved upon them, for divination, it is still debated whether these were Runes as we understand them today (i.e. Futhark Runes). There are no proper historical texts (at least not by modern definitions of the word 'historical') regarding how the runes (i.e. specifically the symbols known as Futhark) were used, other than the clearly altered and partially Christianized rune poems of the 8th-13th centuries CE. The only mentions of runes in the Eddas are either used to mean 'secrets' (the literal meaning of rune) or the cryptic carved symbols encoding them (which we call “runes” today). The Eddas and even the more “down to earth” Sagas, which refer to family histories and more worldly events including the use of magick by known historical figures, still do not make mention of runes being carved on pocket-sized stones or wood “lots” and thrown or drawn from a bag for divination. The 18 rune-verses of the Havamal describe “songs” and do not literally refer to these magickal spells or devices as “runes”, though the preceding verses are all about the origin of the Odinic runes, and thus it is usually understood that the 18 spells are a reference to these same runes that Odin discovered through his self-sacrifice on the World Tree Yggdrasil. Does that mean that they must refer to the Futhark or letter-runes that we commonly know as “runes” today? No, but it's the best we have to go on.

The historical uses of runes that we do have surviving physical evidence for are from archaeological finds such as large standing rune-stones, weapons and household items carved with runes, a few rare wooden inscriptions, votive metal objects buried with the dead, etc.



So where does the idea of neat little wooden rune-tiles or portable “rune-stones” come from? And where do we get the idea of using them as tools for divination? The answer may surprise you – modern authors.

Writers like Edred Thorrson (Stephen Flowers), Freya Aswynn, Diana L. Paxson, Nigel Pennick and (*cringe*) Ralph Blum, have written many books about rune divination, consulting the runes to resolver personal dilemmas, and all manner of questions.

Did they base their methods on historical works? Unfortunately, no. Could they have done so in the first place? Again, sadly, no. There just isn't any ancient text offering a detailed explanation of portable rune sets being used in these ways. When Tacitus talks about the Germanic tribes cutting branches into lots inscribed with symbols, or when Herodotus mentions the Scythians (whom we can tie in with the origins of proto-Celtic, Cossack, Gothic, and some Indo-Iranian groups) using “linden tree branches” as lots for divination – we really do not have any proof, in a literal sense, that these were “rune sets” as we understand them today. The symbols are never described in these accounts, nor are their meanings.

So with these Greco-Roman accounts (which, even discounting the agendas and bigotries of their authors, were still based on third-hand hearsay in most cases), what we are seeing might be observations of runic divination similar to modern methods – or it may be something else, some other symbolic system or practice entirely. And the Greco-Roman sources are notoriously vague with the details. You could almost imagine Tacitus and Herodotus like modern border guards spying on their “barbarian” foes with binoculars, or playing a game of “telephone” with a long string of underground contacts, trying to figure out what the “barbarians” are actually doing without having seen any of it personally!

So of course the current batch of “rune experts” writing books have to look to more recent sources for their ideas.

The basic idea of specifically using Futhark runes, i.e. letter-runes, as a magickal medium for divining the flow of Wyrd, and what may be coming in the future, is a concept that comes from early 20th century writers like Guido von List, who claimed to have received the divinatory meanings of the runes, and at least part of Odin's secret esoteric rune wisdom, in a series of dreams and visions. It was largely List and his early followers (such as Kummer, Marby, and Gorsleben) who developed the idea of rune-casting as an actual magickal practice using the 18 Armanen runes promoted by List as a survival of the original 18 Odinic “rune-spells” of the Havamal.


The most basic concepts of modern rune divination, such as splitting the runes into three “aetts”, carving them on small tiles of wood (or bone, or even stone), interpreting upside-down or sideways positions as “murk-stave”, “merkstave”, or “negative” meanings, and even the idea of the three-rune “Norns' cast” symbolizing the past, present, and future of a particular problem or matter, are all derived from the writings and practices of the early 20th century Armanists. Even if more recent authors and books using these concepts don't mention the Armanen rune row at all (and often they don't, preferring to only work with the “Elder” Futhark despite their meanings being far more vague), they still copy many Armanen ideas.


Really, if one wants to understand how modern German rune-masters understood the Runes in the context of their own Germanic culture and language and its ancient roots, these early 20th-century authors would be the ones to read – not the watered-down books of far more recent writers like Paxson or Pennick, or even the far more scholarly books of Thorsson. Though this isn't a guarantee that you're 100% accurate to how the ancient Teutons used runes, and even though one could perhaps arrive at other divination methods by looking at runes from a Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, or Frisian cultural context, one can still argue that the “Armanists” of the Guido von List society at least had that cultural awareness, and in some cases secret family connections with the old ways, which many of the eclectic pop-paganism “rune experts” of today (predominantly British and American) lack entirely, and worse yet, make no effort to research and respect.

Thus what you get with Pennick, Paxson, and even Kvedulf Gundarsson in regards to runic divination, is a bit of a mishmash of ideas diluted many times over from ripoffs of modern Swedish or Norwegian reconstructionists, and a big dollop of still more recent (and far less culturally informed) “neo-pagan” sources, which are sometimes in open contradiction to one another. And in those instances the recent authors seem to just pick and choose as they see fit – and then call it “Viking” or “ancient” divination. Sure it is... if you think a photocopy of a photocopy is equal to an original!

And in many cases they do far more than photocopy - they promote an artificial, mutilated Post-modernist lifestyle which goes AGAINST everything natural and cultural that ancient Heathens and Pagans actually stood for and practiced.

Then we have the “every rune does everything” attitude of even lower-quality authors of “Wiccan” or “Druid” leanings. I have seen so many of these self-proclaimed “experts” make statements that are so far off-base regarding the history and meanings of the runes, with such assertiveness, that I could have easily puked every time I saw one of them in a video “lecturing” on their totally false suppositions about runes. I can't even count how many self-proclaimed “Druid shamans” or “wolf spirit shamans” I have seen, claiming to know the true uses of runes, inventing all sorts of New Age nonsense about “Celtic runes” or Druids having used runes (different culture, different symbols, no runes - how hard is that to understand?). And many of these pop-pagan “experts” even try to mix in Native American and Siberian concepts and motifs into their rune-casting techniques, and then claim this is “authentic rune magick”.

Mein arsch it is. It's about as authentic as claiming Taco Bell is real Mexican food. Or claiming that real Italians make pizza just like Domino's. Not that there's anything “wrong” or “bad” about Native American spirituality per se – what's bad is when people copy bits and pieces of it and call it something else entirely, usually for profit. What's bad is when people claim it's for “everyone” and then try to market it in over 200 countries by mixing it with whatever culture they think will sell in those countries. It's not “cultural appropriation” when you sincerely practice a culture in its context and respect the customs and interpretations of its native people, even if it's not your ancestors' culture. It is cultural appropriation when you recklessly rip off parts of it for a quick buck – when you steal Native American myths and claim they are Germanic, or when you stick runes on a Navajo medicine wheel or an Aztec calendar and claim that this is a “Nordic wheel of fate” or some other such syncretistic psycho-babble. And that's precisely what many of these “neopagan” cranks dumping worthless misleading “rune books” on the market are up to.

Notice how these (often stoned) clowns also love to invent "hippie" names for themselves that rip off Native American culture - and very poorly at that. And why are they so obsessed with the moon? 
And then just when you think things can't get any sillier, you have the complete pop-spirituality conmen like Ralph Blum – who are on a whole different level of crazy. For these people, no amount of rampant syncretism and dilution of cultures and practices is off limits. Inventing fanciful rune “spreads” based directly on complicated Tarot card layouts? Acceptable! Imagining totally new and baseless rune meanings based on a random selection of quotes from the I-Ching? Encouraged! Inventing your own extra “blank rune” and cannibalizing the meanings of Ansuz, Uruz and Perthro in the process? You can be the first! Ripping off Christian prayers and even the Alcoholics Anonymous “serenity prayer” and claiming they are somehow runic or even compatible with rune-casting and a (Heathen) runic spirituality? Hey, why not claim that Odin wrote the Ten Commandments while you're at it! No lie or cultural travesty is off-limits, right?


Blum claimed he completely changed the modern reconstructed meanings and even the order of the “Elder” Futhark (which in turn are based on a mix of List's cultural theories and a lot of more recent speculations) to suit his own feelings and whims, because he felt that the runes “resembled” the I-Ching and its workings and were thus an expression of the same ideas (a concept which has no basis in List, rune poems, or any Indo-European source!)

Other pop-spirituality hacks have reinterpreted the runes as a “Nordic Tarot” and mostly copied off the work of Blum and modern Hermetic and quasi-Masonic orders. Some of these writers even throw in zodiac horoscopes, Voudou, Santeria, Kabbalah, UFOs, “ancient astronaut theory” and Nostradamus, and at the end you are left scratching your head and wondering what any of this has to do with runes, Odinism, or Germanic spirituality! Thus what you get with most modern self=proclaimed “rune-experts” is pure speculation and frivolous window-shopping from all sorts of non-runic and non-Indo-European sources. But of course they claim it's all legit since they all use the “Elder” Futhark (as if any one runic system is some sort of gospel – ironically a very Christian and un-runic perspective).

Some scam "runic" authors even rip off the quasi-Christian "Serenity Prayer" from Alcoholics Anonymous!
This has NOTHING to do with real Runic practices or ancient Germanic cultures!

Now just to make things clear, despite all the BS that is written about runic divination, I do not believe that runic divination per se is invalid. Not at all! I don't claim that the runes cannot be used for divination or that they never have been – indeed it's always possible that Tacitus was referring to some sort of carved Futhark runes in his account of wooden divination lots – the key word being possible. It's just that the idea of using runes for divination may also be a purely modern one, no older than Guido von List, and not, as some authors would have you believe, a well-established ancient tradition. And to truly be an honest practitioner of runic divination, you have to be comfortable with this fact.

That said, you can still honor the ancient Lore and customs while using a modern magickal practice or format. Indeed this is what the Armanen system was meant to do – the work of List and the other early 20th century Armanists is positively ancient and “traditional” in content compared to all of the eclectic super-syncretic “rune books” of aimless psychedelic new-age authors flooding today's bookstores! List and his followers, whatever else they did, were at least culturally conscious about the runes, tying in everything they could find in runic root-word etymology with the Eddas and other Germanic Lore, and keeping their extra-Germanic mystical inferences limited to Indo-European sources only.

What the Eddas, Sagas, and other ancient sources say regarding Germanic divination, mentions the consultation of Volvar (clairvoyant women in touch with the flow of Wyrd), the use of Seiðr (channeling the spirits of other beings to gain hidden knowledge of the past or future), and the reading of omens or signs in nature itself – from the movements of a flock of birds after an inquiry to the Gods or wights, to the behavior of nearby wild animals, to the direction in which harnessed horses would run when given no directions or prodding from a charioteer. There are many methods of divination described in these ancient texts and none of them explicitly mention the casting of runes in the sense of Futhark runes. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, or that the Sagas include everything there was to know about Norse divination, let alone all of Germanic divination – just that divination may not have been the primary purpose of the runes. The runes are mentioned in the Eddas and Sagas as being used for some very different purposes.


Divination and augury is, at its very heart, a personal experience. So long as there is a sufficient cultural basis for you to relate to, some sort of context that on a mystical level helps you tap into the experiences, archetypes, and ideals of an ancient path, so that at least it does not feel totally made-up and contrived, there does not need to be a 100% historical background for it to work for you. But I wonder if this realization is too painful for some people to wake up to. Or if people using “mainstream” modern “Elder” Futhark divination practices are aware that at best they are copied from methods developed only about a century ago by the Armanen masters – and often times they are not even that old or culturally informed.

It always annoys me when people refuse to do divination with the Armanen Runes or call them “less real” simply because they were first made known to the public in modern times, yet continue to fanatically claim that “Elder” Futhark divination is somehow an established historical practice dating to the dawn of man. We don't have any proof that the "Elder" Futhark were used for divination at all! We don't know if the Germans described by Tacitus (from third-hand testimony!) were using them, or some totally different system. There is no evidence for any of the casting methods known today, having been historically used for "Elder" Futhark runes. In other words, even the modern, attested part of Armanen history, is actually stronger in terms of proof for divination than the ancient "Elder" Futhark record.


If anything, it's the Armanen runes that were actually designed for divination, while still preserving the essence of ancient Germanic Lore and revealing a great deal about the esoteric underpinnings of rune meanings that only survive in fragments in the Eddas, Sagas and rune-poems. The Armanen system draws heavily on the Havamal, the skaldic works, the tripartite Germanic (and indeed, pan-Aryan) cosmology, and the multi-layered linguistics of the Germanic tongues themselves, and concentrates all this knowledge into a simple and powerful magickal system which does not even need to borrow from any eclectic or non-Indo-European system. In many ways the Armanen meanings are far less speculative, in a cultural sense, than the cobbled-together modern “meanings” attributed by so-called historical purists to the “Elder” Futhark, for which no lore or poems survive at all.

Indeed, the fact that no historical runelore survives for the “Elder” Futhark is precisely what makes it such a tempting target for all these two-bit pop-spirituality hucksters. They can stick any meanings or divination methods they want on it, no matter how fraudulent or plagiarized from other cultures, and nobody can ever logically disprove them because “you don't know that the runes couldn't have meant this!

Nevertheless the only truly ancient mythology in the Germanic tradition which actually numbers a set of runes, or rune-spells, or even anything approximating runes, in verse, mentions 18 of them, which would, esoterically at least, make the 24 runes of the “elder” Futhark a redundant later expansion. This was also apparently the view of the Viking-age skalds themselves, who only produced the “Younger” Futhark out of concern that the “Elder” Futhark was not the Eldest, and needed to be refined back to its original and simpler Odinic/Eddic form to avoid a decay of the magickal language and a dilution of Odinic spirituality itself, as had long since happened with the Christianized Anglo-Saxons they conquered. Interestingly the 16-rune “Younger” Futhark is almost as ignored by “mainstream” rune-casters as the 18-rune Armanen system, which is simply its modern Lore-based completion.

So there you have it. Once you can sort out the culturally-based methods from the totally nonsensical paperback-profiteer-made ones, runic divination is a perfectly fine practice for someone who wants to honor the old ways. Especially if you use a runic system that actually channels Eddic, skaldic, and linguistic strands of meaning in a culturally valid way – even if it's not "academically attested" in surviving ancient inscriptions (i.e. those that survive, only because the Church didn't deem enough of a threat to destroy). The concept of runic divination is basically a modern practice anyway, so bashing a recently published rune row, regardless of its actual age, simply because it's not "attested" from "ancient sources" (while totally ignoring the deep cultural validity and ancient roots of its meanings and literature) is pointless.

And then there's the awkward issue (for academics) of many historical runes looking identical to Armanen Runes!

Obviously there were other methods of divination with far more historical documentation, but so long as you don't fool yourself that you're doing exactly the same thing as the Vikings, Saxons or Goths did centuries ago, culturally informed runic divination (such as that of the Armanen system) is just fine. And it's a heck of a lot better than the misleading and confused “every rune means everything” BS that pop-spirituality charlatans try to pass off as “ancient and authentic” by hiding behind the “Elder” Futhark and using it as a cover to justify nearly anything their whims can cook up.

WHO ARE YOU TRUSTING AS AUTHORITIES?

Some of the most popular authors on Runes and even Ásatrú /Heathenry are in fact rather misleading, and do not promote a culturally grounded Heathenry. I'm not even talking "reconstructionist" - just at least culturally grounded! Yet they cannot even do that, instead we get a rootless eclectic mishmash of unrelated traditions, and outright anti-tradition New-Age-ism. But they are all over the bookshelves and selling millions of books. Most of their readers have never come across authentic Heathenry or Runic practices, and so blindly trust these people; co-incidentally, few readers have actually seen these people in person and watched their habits in action. What agenda do they promote? Lets meet them face to face:

Diana Paxson (Affiliation: Fellowship of the Spiral Path, Covenant of the Goddess, The Troth)


Paxson is a fantasy author, eclectic dabbler, and now claims to be an expert on Runes, Seidhr, and all sorts of Nordic spirituality; she is a bestselling author on runes. The problem is, she's also a high-ranking wiccan priestess and promotes all sorts of new-age ideas in her books which are stolen from non-Indo-European cultures. Her true loyalty, is not to what the Vikings or Teutons practiced. A protege of radical feminist and noted child-abuser Marion Zimmer Bradley, she tends to dilute the cultural context of Heathenry to the point that it is no longer recognizable, and tends to promote a misandrist and anti-cultural view of Norse paganism. She has also appears (like most Wiccans) to take any opportunity to make Indo-European traditions subordinate to Semitic ones, or 'qualified' in terms of them; she claims in her book "Taking up the Runes" that Runes are very much "like Hebrew letters" in divinatory terms without any sort of evidence. (In reality, Hebrew had no divinatory or esoteric value at all to its origins - biblical hebrew script was actually copied from Imperial Aramaic, a purely utilitarian language of trade and diplomacy, during the Babylonian Exile; it had no divinatory or occult meaning at all until Medieval times when Kabbalah came into being, largely as a reaction to Greco-Roman occultism; the earlier Paleo-Hebrew script was also ripped off, but from Phonecian script.)


Patricia Lefayllve (Affiliation: The Troth/Independent)


Patricia Lefayllve is, like Paxson, a "dual-trad" fantasy author who tries to mix Wicca and Heathenry. Strangely, her book on Ásatrú is highly rated on Amazon.com.... or maybe that isn't so strange, given that mega-corporation's increasing adventurism in the media. The general tone of her work is also very eclectic and hippie-ish (which may explain the lack of informed criticism from most of her fans, who are in fact "recovering hippies" and "wiccatru") and tends to minimize the role of Gods and exaggerate that of Goddesses. Even ignoring that, her work is often disjointed and poorly organized.



Stephan Grundy ("Kvedulf Gundarsson" - don't be fooled, he's not really Icelandic)
Affiliation - the Troth


The foppish and awkward Grundy is one of the main authors of The Troth - a group which began in the 1980s as a non-political response to the infiltration of some Heathen organizations by identitarian political groups. Like Paxson, he got his start as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. Unfortunately, The Troth itself has become highly political in the ensuing years - extremely emblematic of the self-hating extreme Left. Grundy is one of the driving forces behind The Troth's feverish and neurotic descent into cultural Trotskyism, pathological dilution of the Nordic practices with unrelated traditions, the politicization of sexuality, and hyper-reactive victimhood mentality. All this despite a massive penchant for compiling hundreds of pages worth of ancient material on Viking archaeology and academic source material from the Sagas. Grundy is still an enigmatic figure despite the fame of his name; an evangelist of the identity politics of guilt, allegedly light in the loafers, and extremely defensive about it all. If you want to spend absolutely zero time actually practicing Germanic Runic traditions, and instead just looking at them through an academic telescope while pontificating about how awful the martial Drengr warrior culture of ancient Heathenry was... Grundy is your man... or she-man... or "male-identifier"... or whatever theyz callz themselvz now.


Nigel Pennick


Just. Don't. Ask.



Isaac Bonewits (Philip Emmons Bonnewitz)


 


The now-deceased Bonewits (a highly appropriate name change) was never actually a self-identified Runer or Heathen - he was by turns, a hippie, an eclectic "neopagan" who scammed UC Berkeley into allowing him to invent his own Major in Magic (new-age of course), a Satanist, an ex-Satanist, an erstwhile persecuting anti-Satanist, a "Celtic" or "Druid" neopagan (who never learned a Celtic language apart from a handful of words), and finally, after his death, was exposed (like his long-time host, Marion Zimmer Bradley) as a chronic pedophile and child-abuser. Despite that, Bonewits acted as a sort of "Pagan Inquisition" in the 80s and 90s, using his fame as an author and connections as a Berkeley activist to scare, shame, and finger-point various neopagan organizations "into line" with his solipsistic agenda. And yes, this creep has written Forewords for Diana Paxson's books on Ásatrú, despite having no vested interest in Ásatrú or Runes to speak of. The two go a long way back. He also referenced his own very non-Celtic and non-IE heritage by founding (in the 1970s) a group called "Hasidic Druids of North America". Yes, really.



Ralph Blum:

 

He is notorious for fake rune meanings, the "blank rune", the wrong order to the Elder Futhark, ripping off the Bible, the I-Ching, and Alcoholics Anonymous, among many others, and trying to connect it all to Germanic Runes. He has demonstrated no respect for any culture or tradition's wholeness, and is not approved of or endorsed by the masters of any of the religions and spiritual paths he copies. Blum also was recently alleged (but never proven) to be connected to the bizarre fringe ideas of extremist black-supremacist cult leader (and convicted child-molester) Dwight "Malachi" York.



Galina Krasskova and "Raven Kaldera" (Affiliation: Asphodel Press/Cauldron Farm)



Where to begin with these two... the former is a neurotic self-mutilating foe of all natural femininity, and sado-masochistic promoter of herder/sheep slave morality - basically substituting the name "Odin" as a replacement for "Yahweh" in ritual work, but with absolutely NONE of the attributes of Odin. The latter, is as follows by his/hers/its own description:

"Raven Kaldera is a queer FTM transgendered intersexual shaman, as well as a pervert and slave-owner. He is the author of too many books to list here, including Dark Moon Rising: Pagan BDSM And The Ordeal Path and Power Circuits: Polyamory In A Power Dynamic. He and his beautiful and useful slaveboy Joshua have been teaching and presenting workshops regularly for many years to the BDSM, Neo-Pagan, Sex/Spirituality, transgender, and a few other communities. He sees his physical challenges as just another obstacle to overcome in his quest to change the world whenever possible. His slaveboy Joshua refers to himself as "a wholly owned subsidiary of the vast enterprise that is Raven Kaldera."

What in Midgard this freak show of deluded "do what thou wilts" has to do with Viking-Age Ásatrú is simply beyond my savage barbarian ability to comprehend. Slaveboys and BDSM? Why is it that one after another, these mass-produced "mainstream" books and authors turn out to be, one and all, merely a vehicle for promoting extremely degenerate and distorted anti-culture and anti-nature agendas, or simply an inversion of the Christian morality ("every desire is sinful") into a Sabbatean one ("every unhygenic and disgusting paraphilia and evolutionarily abnormal desire is good") with only a veneer of Heathenry. What a person's sexual proclivities are is their own business. But if you define yourself purely by that, and foist onto it a postmodernist fringe "identity" defined by rebellion against everything and anything (translation: NOT Indo-European!), and you claim a Runic or Heathen mantle for all this, to re-define "Northern Tradition" based on your own abnormal and media-influenced desires, and demand to be granted privileged victim status, immune from all criticism, censoring our voices, then you are no better than the Christian supremacists that mass-murdered Heathens in the Middle Ages and sought to stamp out Indo-European culture. Those nithlings, following Saul of Tarsus, called us devil-worshippers; these nithlings of the modern age, following his tribal kin Saul Alinsky and Allan Ginsberg, call us "bigots" while systematically denigrating and destroying our cultures into an amorphous degenerate blob of "everything and nothing". Of course, these people are completely ignorant of the meanings of Runes in a historical AND cultural sense.

Again, WHAT do these people have to do with ancient Runic practices? Anything? Anything at all? They seem to jump from one "activist community" to another every 5 minutes, none of which are Runic or Heathen under the surface, and none of which have any relation to traditional Indo-European cultures! These people are NOT genuine Runic practitioners, they are political agitators with a rectal addiction, stealing the trappings of a culture for their own ignoble ends.

If they openly admit to being new-age, postmodernists, honest and open anti-culturalists and political agitators, who believe they are the only way, and everyone who dissents from their party line is evil (sound familiar?) then at least they could be taken credibly at face value as being what they say they are.

But they don't do that. They LIE. They pretend to be "Northern Tradition" and "Rune Masters" and so forth, instead of what they really are. And because they lie, they are a burden, not a blessing. They deserve no more respect than it would take them to hang themselves with their own bondage rope. 

On the one hand many of these mass-market authors make false accusations against the Armanen and other culturally grounded Runic traditions, or ignore them outright - and on the other hand they invent their own systems of divination and "practices" based on every entropic, rootless and meaningless new-age fad, and bastardize the "Elder" Futhark to frankenstein it onto them, in any way shape or form, to support any agenda that is anti-traditional, anti-rational, and anti-nature (one second  it's "I was born this way!", the next second, "my body my choice!"), without any regard for the Indo-European ideal or what Germanic culture is actually about.

And what was authentic ancient Germanic culture really about?

Germanic culture was proudly - and unapologetically - martial.




Germanic culture glorified masculine strength. There was NO ambiguity here.




Germanic culture was agricultural and tied to the soil - and NOT interchangeable with "anything and everything".




Germanic culture had no problem with hierarchy. Jarls, Erilaz, Mannerbund, Vehm, and so on.




Germanic culture was about traditional family values, and natural feminine beauty.


 


In other words... it was very "old school" by the standards of wayward postmodernist mercenary writers. But they persist in their idiocy by denying this, and equating all traditional values with "Christian patriarchs" and suchlike bogeymen. Germanic culture was in reality both "old-school" AND very non-Christian. It was both agrarian (not pastoral) and patriarchal (not "genderless"), as well as having a strong sense of military discipline, long before the puritanical extremism of Christianity invaded its lands. Indeed, nearly all ancient Indo-European cultures were like this.




What makes it radically different from Christian or Jewish "hierarchy" and "family values" is that with Germanic and Indo-European culture, the entire thing was based on honor, nobility, and courage - and NOT based on guilt, shame, fear, celibacy, neurotic commandments, glorification of poverty, and the masochistic attitude of "I am not worthy". Germanic Heathenry was heavily invested with a real hierarchy, warrior-ethic, and traditional family values. The same can be said for REAL Celtic culture (not the new-age farce of Bonewits and his ilk), Slavic pagan culture, Hittite culture, Persian and Parthian culture, Indo-Aryan culture, etc. All Indo-European cultures had martialism, hierarchy, love of natural beauty, and a noble, responsible and compassionate patriarchy (the exact opposite of the puritanical, castrated, coercive and shame-ridden pseudo-patriarchy found in Judeo-Christianity, which is the only thing our eclectic friends ever seem to see through their "problem glasses").

Indo-European cultures were NOT hippie communes, they were NOT nests of self-ashamed, soy-drenched waifs, they were not sterile convents of man-hating bigotry, and they were NOT cesspools of unsanitary paraphilias that politicized every person's sexual preference into an "identity". The Immanence behind the various cultural traditions of Indo-European peoples had no time to waste pandering to ignoble agitators or the cult of victimhood, artificial ugliness, and futile sterility.

If you miss this understanding... you're not really practicing authentic Runic traditions or meanings - or any form of authentic paganism. You're not a Heathen, and you're not a Rune-Master. Sorry, not sorry. The cultural values surrounding Runes and Runic practices cannot be divorced from them without losing the very basic foundations of Rune meanings and understanding. The precise wording of rituals and Rune Magick formulas evolved over time, but the core ethics, values, cognizancies and spiritual archetypes of Germanic cultures stayed defiantly the same in the face of conquest after conquest, slave raid after slave raid, massacre after massacre. The Runic cultures refused to give in, refused to surrender their culture to apathetic relativism. And it is thanks to their resilience, that we even have the Runes and the Lore of Runic poems to study and learn from today!



If you're not practicing the Runes in a culturally grounded context, please stop wasting your time - without accepting the cultural context, you will lack even a trace of a hope of absorbing their primal consciousness and meanings into your own mind - the consciousness and wisdom-path that the Cheruski, the Teutones, and the Vikings fought and died to defend. Yet today so many writers ignore, suppress, or bastardize this cultural legacy, while trying to force Runes to fit their own social agenda or political check-box. If this is you, then you are trying to open a door to Odin's Runic Wisdom without having the right key. And most of these popular authors have long since flushed that key down the toilet. Most of them have written off the entire meta-culture of ancient Runic peoples - who after all, understood Runes far better than we do today - as "politically incorrect" and "inappropriate for modern times" - while still trying to sell the promise of the wisdom of the same meta-culture, that lies just beyond that door. These authors are claiming to sell what they have never learned, and never earned - so in truth, they are selling nothing more than smoke, mirrors, and snake oil.

There's a lesson to take away from all this; the contrast we should be looking at, if we are wise, is not between "surviving ancient sources" and "modern concepts", but rather, between what is culturally grounded in Germanic and Indo-European archetypes and Lore, versus what is completely copied (with hardly any alteration) from unrelated traditions and systems, or worse yet, from modern artificial and anti-cultural postmodernist propaganda invented by the wayward sheep of global non-Indo-European financial and political elites. Only when a substantial percentage of those interested in the Runes realize that, will we finally see a demand from the public that authors quit fixating so obsessively over what is archaeologically "elder" based on what few artifacts were allowed to survive (while at the same time forcibly divorcing them from Germanic culture to serve a contrived agenda) - and only then will those authors have any incentive to finally take the archetypes and Immanence of Germanic culture seriously as an integral part of the Runes in their ancestral context, and preserve the core of Runic consciousness, rather than pilfering the husk and filling it with solipsistic nonsense - regardless of which Futhark they write about.

Traditions and customs evolve. The Immanence behind them is timeless. Heilir Ansiwiz!


The Younger Futhark

Okay, last time we covered the "Elder" Futhark and their (heavily) reconstructed meanings. Those runes were in common use in the age between the Indo-European migration period and the Viking Age (5th-8th centuries CE). As this period passed (characterized by increased exploration) the Elder Futhark was gradually replaced in Scandinavia by the Younger Futhark (16 runes), and in Germany, England and the Low Countries by the Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Frisian Futhorc (from 29-33 runes).

The Younger Futhark (or Futhork) is a result of Scandinavian runic scholars shortening the Elder Futhark by 8 staves. This happened around the 7th and 8th centuries when the Anglo-Saxons were expanding their Futhark to consist of as many as 33 total runes. Paradoxically at the same time the Old Norse language was also expanding in complexity as it came into contact with new peoples and words through exploration and conquest, just as its futhark was being reduced in complexity!


The Younger Futhark was in this sense the first deliberate attempt by Germanic peoples at linguistic revivalism - to return their runic system back to its shorter original form in accordance with Odin's rune poem in the Hávamál. The skalds of the time apparently recognized only the first 16 rune-verses in the Hávamál, and their corresponding runes, as original Odinic runes. The Armanen system of Guido von List, which recognizes all 18 rune verses in the poem as original, is the only other such attempt.


The Old Norse and Icelandic rune poems associated with the Younger Futhark are from preserved medieval texts, whose final forms were recorded in the 13th century or later, though likely based on older 8th century poems similar to the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. Whether the meanings in these poems are entirely divinatory meanings used by Viking age peoples or more like a combination of meanings and mnemonic teaching devices is still a mystery. In their current form both rune poems are probably no older than 13th century and thus may have changed considerably from their earlier forms. Because of this muddled history - albeit better than the total lack of lore for the Elder Futhark - these poems have likely lost much of their magickal symbolism. References to Christianity are peppered in with the original pagan lore, just as in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, a sign that these poems had undergone many changes by the time they were written down. These poems were likely were being used by parents and village teachers to preserve ancient traditions for future generations amid a rapidly changing world.

The following is a basic breakdown of the Younger Futhark runes, in their more common long-stem "Danish" form, along with the rune poemsIn casting the Younger Futhark runes, modern Rune-Masters may use a system of readings that employs reversed and merkstave (horizontal) positions, either one or both horizonts being "murk" depending on whether the rune can be reversed or not, though there is no evidence that Vikings used such a system. They may have had other means of determining whether a rune cast was positive or negative, such as proximity to other runes in a free-cast of the whole set. Many of the runes seem purely negative but this should be taken with a huge pinch of salt - it may be due to many garblings and bowdlerizations of the rune poems through the ages.



Sound: “f”
Stands for: Cattle (or Money, specifically gold and silver). 
Derived from Fehu (in the Elder Futhark).
Casting meaning: Like other similar runes of different sets, represents cattle and money – a wealth. However it is slightly different because in this wealth we take into account actually monetary pieces such as gold. is not all good, however, for it warns us how unbalanced wealth can cause problems even between family members.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Wealth is a source of discord among kinsmen; the wolf lives in the forest.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Source of discord among kinsmen - and fire of the sea - and path of the serpent.

Ur

Sound: “u”, “o”, “y”, “w”
Stands for: Drizzle (or Slurry). 
Derived from Uruz.
Casting meaning: This rune represents how some things can develop from apparent nothingness and desolation. Like the fertile soil that can be created from volcanic ash which in turn with a slight amount of water and sunlight can spawn growth. Conversely, it can also imply how something as seemingly harmless as rain can cause major problems, causing mold to grow and ruining harvested grains.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Dross comes from bad iron; the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Lamentation of the clouds - and ruin of the hay-harvest - and abomination of the shepherd.

Thurs

Sound: “th”, “dh”
Stands for: Giants, or the god Thor, who often fought them. 
Derived from Thurisaz
Casting meaning: Brute force, the crusher. Like Thor and the the giants, Thurs contains a lot of power and strength - like its corresponding forms in all the other Futharks, it may even be a symbolic representation of Thor's hammer. It was often used in bind-runes or magic staves to bring extra power to the staves or bind-rune. Like many other runes, this can have a dual meaning: Thor uses his power to protect mankind, yet the Thurses or frost-giants - who were apparently more often associated with this rune during the late Viking age - are purely harmful and destructive.

Old Norse Rune Poem: The Giant causes anguish to women; misfortune makes few men cheerful.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Torturer of women - and cliff-dweller - and husband of a giantess.

Óss/Aoss

Sound: “o” as in “oh” or "au" as in "Austria" but with more throat resonance. 
Stands for: God and also Mouth/speech. Essentially Odin's rune of divine speech and charisma, but "mouth" may also have metaphorical meanings apart from speech. 
Derived from Ansuz. This rune has a number of alternate variants.
Casting meaning: This rune represents the power of communication, oral bonds, and the commanding force of well-crafted word and song.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Estuary (river-mouth) is the way of most journeys; but a scabbard is [that] of swords.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Aged Gautr - and prince of Ásgardr - and lord of Vallhalla. [These are all titles of Odin.]

Raeidh

Sound: “r”
Stands for: Riding (as well as the means – Horse, Cart, etc.). Also represents the rider as a symbol of right and justice - akin to the German ritter or knight symbolizing order and law. 
Derived from Raidho
Casting meaning: Since this rune stands for the act of riding its symbolic meaning is one of a journey. A trip or adventure that we must undertake in order to fulfill/dominate a path or goal we have set out on.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Riding is said to be the worst thing for horses; Reginn forged the finest sword.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Joy of the horsemen - and speedy journey - and toil of the steed.

Kaun

Sound: “k”, “g”
Stands for: Wound (Sore or Ulcer/burn). 
Derived from Kenaz (torch).
Casting meaning: Although this rune stands for a wound or a burn, we must understand that it is through the suffering of such a wound that we gain new insight. This rune represents just that, the new insight that we gain from an illness or wound (physical or emotional), and the experience to prevent or deflect another such injury in the future.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Ulcer is fatal to children; death makes a corpse pale.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Disease fatal to children - and painful spot - and abode of mortification.

Hagall

Sound: “h”
Stands for: Hail, storms. 
Derived from Hagalaz.
Casting meaning: Just like hail will eventually transform into water we need to see that situations in our lives will do just the same. They will make a transformation from something restricting to something that flows more readily for us. This is what Hagall represents, a transformation of a situation into something more simple.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Hail is the coldest of grain; Christ created the world of old. [This is clearly a Christian interpolation added in late medieval times.]
Icelandic Rune Poem: Cold grain - and shower of sleet - and sickness of serpents. [Hail is known to paralyze and kill snakes, and thus make the fields safe to till for planting some not-so-cold grains.]

Naudhr

Sound: “n”
Stands for: Need (or Distress). 
Derived from Naudhiz.
Casting meaning: The rune Naudhr represents not only need but also the effect of how we deal with it on one's fate or Wyrd. As well as the bondage we may fall into if we let the need of something overtake our lives.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Constraint gives scant choice; a naked man is chilled by the frost.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Grief of the bond-maid - and state of oppression - and toilsome work. [Debt/neediness is slavery?]

Is

Sound: “i”, “e”, “j” as in the “y” in “year”
Stands for: Ice
Derived from Isa. Also pronounced in place of Jera, though in magickal usage, Ar is substituted for Jera.
Casting meaning: Ice is unchanging and restricting and like ice this rune embodies the resistant power that tries to prevent change - while it keeps disturbances and chaos locked up, it may also trap the blind and unwary.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Ice we call the broad bridge; the blind man must be led.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Bark of rivers - and roof of the wave - and destruction of the doomed.

Ar

Sound: “a” as in “ah”
Stands for: A good year, abundance,  sun-like bounty, harvest
Derived from Jera (primarily), with both chevrons passed over each other and joined at the pinch points into an oblique cross. This rune has a number of alternate variants.
Casting meaning: Ar is a rune of good results that come from the application of using our skills and knowledge at the proper time. Like the lush crops of a fall harvest resulting from the fertile soil and well timed planting season.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Plenty is a boon to men; I say that Frodi was generous. [Ironically, Frodi was a semi-mythical Danish king - circa 1st century B.C. according to Snorri - whose legendary greed and avarice led to his destruction by his giantess slave girls Fenja and Menja.]
Icelandic Rune Poem: Boon to men - and good summer - and thriving crops.

Sól

Sound: “s”
Stands for: Sól – the Goddess of the Sun
Derived from Sowilo.
Casting meaning: This rune stands for the Sun Goddess called Sól in Scandinavia and Barbet in Germany and the Netherlands. It is a rune that signifies victory, success, and focused action under spiritual control.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Sun is the light of the world; I bow to the divine decree.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Shield of the clouds - and shining ray - and destroyer of ice.

Týr

Sound: “t”, “d”, “nt”, “nd”
Stands for: Tyr the swordsman, god of justice, honor, and self-sacrifice
Derived from Tiwaz.
Casting meaning: In the world of the cosmos this rune represents orderliness. In the physical world this rune signifies law and order.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Tyr is a one-handed god; often does the smith have to blow. [Perhaps a reference to a swordsmith forging Tyr's sword?]
Icelandic Rune Poem: God with one hand - and leavings of the wolf - and prince of temples. [A reference to Tyr's pledge and sacrifice of his right hand to bind the giant wolf-demon Fenrir, thus being forever renowned as a god of unflinching bravery and honor, a prince of temples].

Bjarkan

Sound: “b”, “p”, “v”, “mb”, “mp”
Stands for: Birch tree and birch twigs, birth, but also the bier or funeral platform, signifying re-birth after death.
Derived from Berkana.
Casting meaning: The birch tree represents protective birth, 
rebirth and purification through its fast-regenerating, shedding paper-like skin, as does the rune Bjarkan. It is also a woman’s rune symbolizing gestation and birth.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Birch has the greenest leaves of any shrub; Loki was fortunate in his deceit. [This use of Loki's name may be a reference to the Logr rune due to the use of the L-sound. In an earlier form of the rune poem, and hence the Futhark itself, this rune may have come just after Bjarkan. The Armanen equivalent, Laf, is placed just after Bar/Bjarkan likely for this very reason. Conversely, Loki's deceit - the means by which he caused the death of Baldur, the god most associated with Bjarkan - may serve obliquely to reference Baldur as a mnemonic device for this rune.]
Icelandic Rune Poem: Leafy twig - and little tree - and fresh young shrub. [A reference to both birch trees and birth.]

Madhr

Sound: “m”
Stands for: Man, mankind
Derived from Mannaz with the upper angles removed and the remaining mirrored halves superimposed on top of each other.
Casting meaning: This rune stands not only for humankind but also represents the mythical “first man,” Mannus (or Mannaz), the Germanic root of  the word "man" in English (just as "Adam" means man in semitic languages). Since it represents humankind it symbolizes the continuity of the family and clan.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Man is an augmentation of the dust; great is the claw of the hawk. [Visually the secondary reference to hawk claws is clear to see - this may be a form of visual mnemonics rather than any sort of esoteric meaning.]
Icelandic Rune Poem: Delight of man - and augmentation of the earth - and adorner of ships.

Logr/Laukr

Sound: “l”
Stands for: Power of water (or a leek - the authenticity of this alternate meaning is disputed however).
Derived from Laguz.
Casting meaning: Unlike other “water runes” this rune concentrates on the power of water – waterfalls, ocean wave, flowing rivers. It is a purification or washing away of unwanted or unneeded thing, a way to cleanse oneself by knowing the powers or tendencies of helpful things from those of harmful ones.

Old Norse Rune Poem: A waterfall is a River which hangs from (adorns) a mountain-side; but [human] ornaments are of gold.
Icelandic Rune Poem: Eddying stream - and broad geysir - and land of the fish. [Listing various forms of water.]

Yr

Sound: “z”, “r”
Stands for:  Yew tree, bow made from Yew wood.
Derived from Eihwaz and Algiz.
Casting meaning: This rune may be related to the Anglo-Saxon rune Yr, itself a derivative of Ur. It is also the entrance to the underworld and chaos, and in this form is sometimes seen as a death rune, though historically the basis for this reading is very weak before the medieval period, and von List rejects it in favor or more positive interpretations for Yr in his Armanen system.

Old Norse Rune Poem: Yew is the greenest of trees in winter; it is wont to crackle when it burns. [Seems to symbolize survival rather than death.]
Icelandic Rune Poem: Bent bow - and brittle iron - and giant of the arrow. [Sounds more like death.]