Runic History Study

  Runes: A magical language from Pre-Christian Europe.

  The issue of a magical language for the Neo/Pagan community

has been debated for some time by the memebers of the Wiccoid Pan
Paganites. Some feel quite comfortable using the Quaballistic
system of the Judaic peoples. While others feel that this system
is infused with thousands of years of patriarchy which taints it
in the minds of those who do not desire to use it.

  There have been a number of languages that have been uncovered
in the past century. Ogham, the Celtic written language is one
choice, but using this system is problematic because the
tradition it came from (as with many of that time) was oral and
the Druids (teachers of the Ogham alphabet) were destroyed along
with the Library at Tara by the overzelous St. Patrick. The
information surviving to this day on the Ogham alphabet is mostly
recreated by people who do the most with what they have...but the
inner knowledge of the Ogham system has been lost.

 The runic language, however, was created by the Teutonic
peoples of the Continent and Scandinavia was able to last as a
magical system alive and intact because the Christian influence
came at a later time and those people were not destroyed but rather
were converted.

  The Teutonic Runic system was used by the Goths, the
Visigoths, the Vandals and many other Teutonic Tribes of the era
of the fall of the Roman Empire, the Norse/Vikings of the 10th
through the 12th century, the Saxons who invaded the isle of Great
Brittan, and many tribes of Teutons not known to history
for their military expeditions. By this we see that the runic
system was in use from approximately 500 c.e. until at least
1,200 c.e. and there are many examples of runic talismans from
which to investigate.

  Other examples which aid in a good understanding of what the
rune system was and how the magical archetypes were fused both in
the minds of the Vitki (the name of a runic magician {Thorrson1})
and in the shapes of the runic staves are a wealth of writings
from those who used the system (the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda)
and from some of the Roman historians Tacitus, Virgil and others.
These two main sources give an perspective to the study of the
runic system. That of the participant and that of the
observer. One who is interested in working with the any magical
system is both of these a participant and an observer.

  There have been a number of revivals of the runic system in
modern times. Both occured in Germany, the center of the Teutonic
tribes. The first was an intellectual/magical revival in which a
number of occultists worked with the system and added to the
available knowledge though innovation and study of folklore and
history. The second was a manipulation of the archetypes of the
runes to control a population, popularly known as Nazi Germany.
The Nazis used ideas, archetypes, and the pride of the Teutonic
peoples to control them magically. This is not to say that the
German people are no responsible for their actions is not the point
I offer. Rather that some of the runes that were used by the Nazis
will be seen in the runic system and that one should
attempt to disinherit the short and horrid imposition from the
beauty and power of Nature that is inherant in the symbols and
has been for hundreds of years.

  The last of the runic revivals is the current one. The
interest in the runes has increased vastly in the last ten years.
One of the reasons is the writings of Edred Thorrson, and the
institution by him of the Rune Guild. The books written by this
man are heavily researched and relatively easy to read and follow.
There are other writers on the runic system, but they are
all different, using different runic alphabets, and seem to be
a mish-mosh of the four different runic alphabets. The amount
of work to be done on the runic system is great, but the rewards
of working with the system are as great, enlivening, and exciting.

  There are four basic runic alphabets. The Elder Futhark,
Younger Futhark, Anglo-Saxon Fothark, and the Frisian Futhark.
The most complete of the forms is the Elder Futhark, of twenty-four
staves. The other forms either are missing staves or have
staves that are mixtures of two staves. Think of the scientific
Table of the Elements. The form that has the greatest number of
the most basic forms is the best place to start because you can
make as many combination from these with great understaning of what
forces are at work in the compilation.

 The Elder Futhark also is the oldest form known as being a
complete alphabet. There are some earlier examples of the use of
the runic symbols, but 500 c.e. is the earliest compiled,complete

  The studying this author has done on the runic system has been

with the Elder Futhark, using Edred Thorrsons's books. They
are a great beginning although being a bit on the patriarchal side
for my taste. He offers a wealth of information which any
user of magical formuli can combine and find further understanding
of the runes. I recommend his books highly as a resource from which to do one's own research. I also recommend reading the Edda's and writings by Virgil, Tacitus and other Roman historian on the subject of German/Teuton society.

 The amount of information available about the runes for the

pagan who is seeking a magical alphabet with which to scribe,
cypher, or to expand consciousness is exceptional for an ancient
lettering. Unlike the Quaballah it is not connected with the
Judeo/Christian reality, but unfortunately is connected with

  The breakdown of the dieties in the Teutonic/Norse tradition

is reflective of the history that is shared by almost all of the
religions in Europe. The earliest god/desses of the region were
originally thought to be from the Lake Van in Anatolia (where
modern day Turkey is). The pantheon of dieties was known as the
Vanic dieties. This was basically a Nature based religion common
in Europe before the patriarchal era began. Many of the goddess
and god names are recognizible as being a part of the Aesir.
Goddesses like Freya, Iduna, Sif, Hella; and the god Frey are all
names I had heard before I read my first book on runes.

  The group of dieties usually attributed to the Norse/Teutonic
people are the Aesir. The well known pantheon of Odhinn, Thor,
Tyr, Loki, The Fenris Wolf, the Giants (thurs'),
and many more.
The accepted historical explination of the change
is the invasion
of the Scandinavian areas by the Teutonic Tribes
of the Continent.
Many of the god/desses were eliminated from
popular practice and
relegated to less visible and less important
realms of influence. The
most powerfull god/desses were married
into the pahtheon of the
Aesir, Freya (meaning "Lady"), Hella,
Iduna, Frigga (an alternate
personality of Freya), Frey (meaning,
"Lord"), and others.

  The historical change from a Goddess based nature religion

to a martial God based religion had very a very strong impact
on the region. The change in concepts aided in the justification
of the raiding and invading of various Teutonic tribes throughout
the first and second centuries of the Common Era (C.E.). It also
spread the runic system throughout Northern Europe and England.
The negative side of this warlike attitude is the desire of many
Pagans to use a system for the spreading of peace and of
healing of the Earth Mother. Much of the information in the
available deal with the battles and conquests of the
Teutons and
their God/desses, not quite the place for a peace-
loving pagan to
find power and solace. However the main battle
in the runic sagas
(Eddas) is the battle between conscious action
and non-conscious

 The Aesir and Vanir in alliance against
the Thurses or forces of chaos.
The law and chaos dealt with are
not the social "law" and anarchy
that most of the status-quo fear,
but rather the law of the natural order
and the chaos
of non-natural or artificial destruction of the natural law
for reasons with no wisdom.

  It seems to this author that the "battle" engaged in the
realm of the Norse/Teutonic multiverse is closely alligned
with the
battle that we face today against the wholesale
corporate destruction
of the ecology of the planet which I think
we can all agree is a
plan without wisdom.

  With a good deal of hard work and perseverence with the runic

system, it seems that the Vanic God/desses can be reintegrated into
the system. A rebalancing of the pantheon to allow for the modern
view that the god and the goddess influence
should be in perspective...

Reprinted From the Winter Solstace Will and Word 1990 EV