I’ve been studying, reading about and working with the Runes for only about six years or so, and I have no scholarly knowledge about them other than what I’ve read in the works of others. I first read of them, I suppose, when my interest in Asatru quickened, seemingly but not really out of nowhere, somewhere in 2009. Fortunately I was quickly led to the works of Edred Thorsson aka Stephen Flowers, and though I no longer take his works as the gospel I once did, I gained from them a sense of the history and authenticity of the Runes and have constantly been able to use his history and rather thorough fleshing-out of the interpretations and working uses, and most of all the personalities of the Runes, as a template against which to examine them. And I thank him for this. At this point I’ve probably read about ten of his books, but for a general introduction to Runes, I recommend Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic.
A few of you may even be asking, What are Runes? It’s amazing how little some of us or European descent know so little about our own deeper heritage. Again I refer you to Thorsson, but let me summarize so you can make it through this brief article. What Runes are, in fact, is something I have just begun to know after years of study. My contention is that they are in fact, personalities which inhabit a deeper, or higher, level of existence. However they have been held out as either (1)letter of a primitive alphabet, or (2) mystic symbols to be used for fortune-telling games. I hold that they are neither, and that they should never be taken so lightly.
The age of the Runes is not truly known, but historical sources place their existence and derivation in the early first millenium A.D, surviving into the second. That’s rather vague, I know, but it’s not only because I’m referring you to to other sources; it’s that “they” don’t know. Early Runes are found all over old Europe, and arguably in other continents, dating back millenia; they are first found to be used as an alphabet somewhere around 200 A.D., and that use persists in part of Sweden until I think the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although for the most part their use was terminated in favor of the Roman alphabet at the point of a sword as the plague of Christianity spread across Europe with Charlemagne and Boniface. I would argue that all of our written signs, as soon as they became symbols, are in some form attempts to express the Runes. Because the Runes are not letters. They are, as Edred says, mysteries.
The Runes have, since at least the time of Guido von List, been expressed as Futharks. The word “Futhark”, like the world “alphabet”, is derived from pronunciation of the first few “letters: in what is known as the Elder Futhark, those are Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, and Kaun. This works great as a system for studying them, but I would argue that ultimately it works against understanding them. Nevertheless, Edred argues that the “original” Futhark was one called the elder, which was a creature of the first millenium A.D. It was not really used for writing words, except at the end. Next came the younger Futhark, of course, which came to used as an alphabet for expressing the Germanic languages as opposed to the Roman ones used for Latin. This branched into a great many others, including the Anglo-Frisian. I agree that of those historical Futharks, the elder is best analyzed for deeper and original meanings. The others are in fact best viewed as alphabets, although some meaningful new symbols were introduced (i.e. the Yr Rune) which can be studied separately.
Edred largely discounts von List’s Armanen Futhark, because it is not a tradition which predates von List himself, from the late nineteenth century. I think this is a mistake. For one thing, we may not know of the Runes, or at least not as more than an early system of writing, if not for von List. The Armanen Runes are Runes which came to von List during a period of literal blindness. They came to him gnostically, as revelation, not as historical study (although obviously he had done some of that, as a precursor). As such, they emerged as a wholly evolved system, as expressed in the consciousness of an evolved master. Which is how Thorsson’s Rune systems came to him, really.
Quite fortunately in some respects, I came to know the Runes, personally through a systemic study which I will quite openly acknowledge came from Thorsson’s Nine Doors of Midgaard, a system of study Thorsson “made up” (actually seems to have cribbed from Franz Bardon), but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. It does. It also borrow from the system of student of von List like Marby and Kummer, and I also found Runic Yoga to be somewhat ridiculous. And bear in mind that I came to the Nine Doors course of study after many years of meditation, bringing those skills with me. I was ready for the Runes to speak to me, and they did.
In my experience, Runes are not an alphabet. Nor are they a parlor game nor a method of divination. They are ancient, non human personalites which have a lot to teach us. Their meanings lie at the root of our existence. Or at least some of us. And it here I get into troubled waters.
One of the truths of my earlier life which I have recovered at a relatively advanced age is that most of the world’s religions are “true” for the ethnic peoples in whom they arose. It is the universalist, what I would call the “overlay” religions, which get us into trouble. This is only a partial understanding, but all I need to set out here, to make my point that the Runes as we know them are an artifact of the peoples we know as Indo-European. The term “Aryan” has fallen into disuse and slander due to a modern and by no means accidental perversion of its meaning by the proponents of false history, but it really expresses the idea of the root of which I speak. Because I would contend that the Runes, themselves, are not a system of expression at all, but entities themselves, which are in turn expressed by the shapes we see as Runic letters. This is why it doesn’t bother me that their shapes vary; they often not only vary but invert and can be written top to bottom or bottom to top, left to right or vice versa. If one goes past von List into other “revealed” systems, especially in the writings of Miguel Serrano, whom I am studying now with rapt attention, one finds Runes which have no pronunciation values. Many Runes have expressed themselves as symbols in rock or on paper as symbols only. Indeed, I would argue that the age of the written Runes is limited primarily by the fragility of the media, and that the true Runes are existentially larger than, and prior to Man.
Following Edred’s system, I spent time each morning for months meditating on, chanting and memorizing the Rune poems for individual Runes. It is a practice, and actually a system I would highly recommend, though I quit doing it years ago. There is one of me that always chants and visualizes the Runes, just as there is one of me who always prays, and always one who sits and meditates. But if you do this, you will get to know the Runes not as symbols, but as mystic guides and eventually as friends. Then you will be beyond the Futhark.
If anyone wants to discuss Runes, or even particular Runes, with me, I’ll be glad to; I see no reason to elucidate their particular meanings here, both because that’s been done elsewhere to satisfaction by others, and because I think the ultimate knowledge come of a Rune comes from your guided but “individual” acquaintance.
I will tell you that in early 2013, with I think less Rune knowledge than I have now, I was guided to place on my father’s tombstone two Runes: the Rune known alternately as Elhaz, or Algiz, but in the Armanen and as I meant it, Mann, in lieu of the dates of birth and death. My father knew nothing of the Runes, and was in fact baptized a Methodist or some such, only a few years before his death. But my subsequent revelation and experience leads me to be thankful for this inspiration, and to believe that I was right.
And that is why I also believe that if for some reason you been inspired to read this to this point, the Runes have something to say to you, and I would recommend that before you complete your journey or struggle here, you find out what that is.