Revival of the Runes: The Modern Rediscovery and Reinvention of the Germanic Runes - Stephen E. Flowers Ph.D. 2021
The Esoteric Runology of Bureus’S Adulrunor
From the Renaissance to the Baroque
Exoteric runology is concerned with the inner meanings of the runestaves used for writing ordinary language, but it is seen that this is a reflection of the esoteric runology of the adulrunor. So, the adulrunor, as delineated by Bure, are not identical in form to the uppenbara runor (evident or ordinary runes).
The fifteen adulrunor are said to be inscribed on a cubical stone that fell from heaven as a sign of the powerful divinity of the mediator between God and Man (fig. 3.7 shows Bure’s own illustration of this stone). On three of the sides of the cube there are groups of five staves organized in the form of a cross.
Again we see the typical Burean system of 3 × 5. The forms of the staves of the adulrunor are often quite different from ordinary versions of the staves. The difference is often a matter of rotating the stave ninety degrees, or the use of the rare Hälsinga rune-forms for ᚢ and ᚱ, which are and , respectively. In the first quintet the five signs appear:
Fig. 3.7. The cubical runic stone
The three central runes (t, o, f) refer to the triune divinities of Thor—Odin—Frey. According to sixteenth-century “tradition,” these gods were inherited in Sweden from Noah and his son Japheth. Bure insists that only later did Asiatic masters of magic (Sw. sejd) and wizards (Sw. tollare) arrive, pretending to be incarnations of the true Gods. But the true religion of the ancients held sway for a much longer time in the North than in southern Europe. Bure, like many other mythologists of his time and earlier, used the Old Testament as a text for basic data, which in Bure’s case was then coupled with a primitive understanding of Saxo Grammaticus and perhaps of Snorri’s Edda, copies of which had surfaced in the mid-1500s.
One of the innovations of the religion instituted by the wizards was that instead of a triune godhead, the people should worship Thor in life, Frigg at birth, and Odin in death. Here Bure wishes to maintain the primal monotheism of the ancestors and ascribe pantheism to a later, decadent, phase of history. This decadence represents the beginning of the dimming of the knowledge inherent in the adulruna.
Bure then proceeds to interpret the individual adulruna-staves of the first quintet, which as a whole signify birth, or the beginning of things.
is the freest and functions everywhere and in everything. This is the highest and most powerful force, and it is equated with the Norse god Thor. This force is actually androgynous. Bure points to an image of Thor found in Uppsala that is masculine in the upper body, feminine below. (Later commentators have identified this image as a badly damaged early depiction of Christ.) Thor is linked with Jove, and hence to Jehovah. The icon shows the door of a lodge at the horizon. It is flanked by and , Odin and Frigg, who with outstretched arms show the way to the door.
is the adulruna of Odin, the son of Thor, according to Bure. This interpretation of Odin as Thor’s son was common in the early studies of Norse myths, which were heavily influenced by comparisons with classical mythology. To Odin belongs all property and estate and all offices of state. The name Odin is equated with Latin fatum, “divine foresight,” due to the similarity between the god’s name and the Swedish word öde, “fate.”*4 This fatum is seen as the origin of all created things. The originators of the runes concealed Odem, or the “blood-red one,” Ådam, behind the image of Odin—or Mars, the destroyer. Of this Ådam it is said that in his wrath all the power of the enemy shall be destroyed by his blood.
is on the left side of Thor, and hence on the day after his day. This signifies Frigg (or Fröja), the daughter of Thor and wife of Odin. Bure identifies Freyja (Fröja) with Frigg and says that the Swedish ancestors worshipped the true breath of holiness under the name of Fröja. This is further identified with the spirit that “moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). This is the one who distributes all good gifts.
Below the horizon and outside the door are the twins (u, r), which appear as ram’s horns . They indicate the password to the whole divine work, which emanates from above and is in perpetual motion and expansion. Bure indicates that everything emerges from the one, and returns to the one, and cites a comparison of three biblical passages—Daniel 7:10 and Matthew 13:41 and 22:30—as a key.
But above the horizon the twins (r, u) are paired inside the door thusly: . This is a password to eternal rest and union with the highest God. Bure cites the “Egyptian Trismegistus”:
Those chosen by God are of two kinds,
the one are those who migrate,
the other those who are still,
and these are the highest holiness of souls.
The second quintet of adulrunor appears:
This is the quintet of birth or generation, as the first had been that of the progenitor (the progenitor = father, birth—the process that the father initiates, but not identical with the father). The central triad of this group of five is NotAriKon—those who bear the governments of the three realms signified by the three crowns in the Swedish national symbol. The ᚾ on the right side signifies grace/mercy, while the ᛅ on the left side means glory in the Promised Land. is the ruling governance of the kyn (kin) of the realm, which is invisible. Kyn is split in two at the top like two branches of a tree. This indicates that the tree of life stands on both banks of the river that emanates from God’s throne.
The adulrunor of this quintet create a progressive sequence that demonstrates the interrelationship of the three kingdoms:
One emerges from the valley of grace/mercy (ᚾ) over the narrow passage of repentance (ider) into the plain of honor (ärevidden). From there one must pass through a torrent of hail (hagelfors) to ascend to the summit of character (kynnahöjder). Bure compares this progress to the migration of Israel from Egypt over the Red Sea and through the wilderness into the “redemptive land of peace.” Further, he equates this process to the movement of the High Priest at the Israelite Temple from the outer court (1), before the brazen altar (2), into the holy temple (3), before the holy golden altar (4), and from there into the Holy of Holies (5). Only the one who understands these progressions can understand this quintet of adulrunor. He will understand the office of the mediator priest (ᚾ), the lying stone (ᛁ), the royal government (ᛅ), the falling stone (ᚼ), and the office of judges ().
The third quintet is that of the offspring:
This quintet can be observed from two distinct angles: either (1) horizontally () or (2) vertically ().
In the first arrangement, a password is formed by the three-forked office of mediation here in this world—of mediating between sun () and man (ᛉ) through the central lord (drotten) and king (), flanked by the priests (tidemän) on the right and judges (lägmän) on the left. All three—king, priest, and magistrate—act as mediators between the sun (sol) of righteousness and his servants.
In the second vertical view a column is created between sol—the most excellent of all visible things, which here has the high seat (seat of honor)—and the moon (ᛉ, månen), which illuminates the night. The former is likened by Moses to Eden (Genesis 2:8) and by Solomon to the “heaven of heavens” (II Chronicles 2:6), while John likens it to the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), which requires no sun because it has itself become a sun, and no moonlight because it is its own reflected light. This new world is called Paradise by the Lord and an enclosure in Eden by Moses. However, in the midst of this is the present dungeon (fjätterhyddan: the “fetter-hut”). For this reason, we must await salvation. The twins and remind us that everything has its time and place (tid och lag).
These two interpretations of this quintet point to the strongly ambiguous and even apparently paradoxical meaning of the adulruna: in the one instance it is the mediator (king and lord); in the other, the mortal clay of the body. The reconciliation of these two meanings reveals a profound understanding of the role of the material universe in the cosmology of the ancient Goths as well as in the modern world newly emerging in Bure’s time.