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?
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.
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.
|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”.
|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?|
|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.
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.
|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:
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.)
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.
Affiliation - Institute of Geomantic Research
Isaac Bonewits (Philip Emmons Bonnewitz)
Affiliation - Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), Church of Satan, Hasidic Druids of North America, Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)
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.
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, "Rokkatru", "Northern Tradition Paganism"
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" as a postmodern, anti-nature torture club 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 or "Northern Tradition" 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 either 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!