Modern Runic History - Historical Lore

The Big Book of Runes and Rune Magic: How to Interpret Runes, Rune Lore, and the Art of Runecasting - Edred Thorsson 2018

Modern Runic History
Historical Lore


This age is, in the beginning, historically closely connected with the Age of the Reformation. However, there was also a growing and more formal difference evolving between the knowledge of the scholar, who consciously attempted to rebuild the structure of older lore, and that of the folk, who in constantly changing form preserved the lore unconsciously. The distinction between revival on the one hand and survival on the other was growing. Each hold their advantages and disadvantages.

Revivalists, even in this early time, went back to material from the Elder and Viking Ages and thus could have come into contact with the “purest” and most traditional forms; whereas the folk tradition was (as the Galdrabók shows) always ready and willing to assimilate foreign features and thus lost sight of the original system (e.g., Latinization in the runic “alphabet”). But the folklore was directly bound, unconsciously and imperfectly as it might be, to the seed forms of the ancient worldview, an advantage not enjoyed by the revivalist scholars. The latter had been educated in the “classical” tradition, indoctrinated with Judeo-Christian ideas, and initiated into a largely Hermetic school of magic. Therefore, their attempts at revival of the old way were inevitably shaped by their backgrounds in the newly established traditions. But the potential for going beyond this, directly to the oldest levels, was eventually made possible by their efforts and groundbreaking work.

The first great homeland of runic revival, after it had been relegated to the most remote rural regions and deepest level of the cultural hoard, is Sweden. Around 1600 Sweden was an emerging world power with great pride in her past and great plans for her future. The combination of the intellectual freedom granted to the Swedish intelligentsia (but certainly not to the folk) by the Reformation and the growing nationalism led to the canonization of an ideology known as storgoticism (megleogothicism). This ideology is probably rooted in concepts that reach all the way back to ancient times, and it first raised its head in the late 1200s, within a century after the “Christianization” of the Swedes. Storgoticism is wrapped up with the almost mythic proportions attained by the people called Goths. This has continued in many ways as the word and concept Goth or Gothic have taken on many different meanings. The first documented reference to this latter-day “Gothic mythology” in Middle Ages occurs in the records of a Church Council held in Basel in 1434, where the Spanish claimed precedence in a matter over the English because they (the Spanish) were identical with the Goths and therefore the elder nation. To this the Swedish replied that in such case Sweden held precedence because they were the original Gothic people and the main stem of that nation.

Storgoticism was eventually codified by Johannes Magnus, who was the last Catholic Archbishop of Uppsala, in his book Historia de omnibus gothorum sveonumque regibus (1554). As Johannes Magnus formulated it, storgoticism was firmly bound to Hebraic mythology. It was thought that Sweden was the first land to be settled after the Deluge by the descendants of Japhet. This type of mythology was common in Great Britain at the same time. Essentially, Magnus's mythic history was a preconditioned fantasy in which, for purposes of prestige, he connected the Swedes to the Hebrews and claimed that all of the wisdom of ancient times (such as that possessed by the Greeks) was actually taught to the world by the Swedes. Also, it was believed that the runic “alphabet” was the oldest script in the world (with the possible exception of Hebrew).

This mythology influenced the next generation of storgoticists, which was contemporary with the Reformation in Sweden and the development of that nation into a world power. The great reformer of storgoticism was Johannes Bureus or Johan Bure (1568—1652), who was a tutor and advisor of King Gustavus Adolphus. Storgoticism had become a virtual religion by that time, and the historical aspects had been refined by Johannes Messenius in his Scandia lllustrata. But our main interest is with Bureus.

Bureus was the first great runic revivalist. His scholarship was considerable, and one of his most important tasks was the collection and recording of runic inscriptions from all over Sweden. By the end of his life he had transliterated about one-fourth of the then known inscriptions. Bureus was made Antiquary Royal in 1630, after having had the chair in history at the University in Uppsala. In 1620 it was declared that all future holders of this chair were bound to learn “runic” (i.e., the old language that the runes were used to represent) and how to interpret the signs. Between 1599 and 1611 Bureus wrote three books on runes, including a small illustrated edition of inscriptions, his Runarafst, and a runic primer. Although Bureus's scientific work was considerable, it was largely superseded in his own lifetime by the Dane Ole Worm. But this scholarly work was only part of the importance of the runes for Bureus.

Soon after 1600 Bureus began to develop a system of what he called “adulrunes.” In this system he began to use the runes for mysto-magical purposes. Although it is said that he originally learned of the runes from the peasants of remote Dalarna, Bureus evidently was not content with building on the folk tradition, and he began to apply runelore to the magical teachings with which he was already familiar—“Christian Kabbalism.” The adulrune system was simply developed by analogy with the Hebrew lore of the Seper Yetzirah (which we know he read). It is still unclear how much the indigenous Germanic traditions (such as runelore) influenced the shape of “mainstream” medieval magic, but in any case by this time there was a basic theoretical framework that must be described as Christian and that was to a large extent distinct from the folk traditions. Bureus's main sources were Paracelsus and pseudo-Paracelsian writings (e.g., the Liber Azoth and the Arbatel), early Rosicrucianism, and the works of Agrippa von Nettesheim. His principal runic technique was a variation of temura (a Kabbalistic procedure involving the permutations of letters in a word to give a new, “revealed” meaning). Bureus believed that all knowledge had originally been one, and since the lore of the Goths represented by the runes was the oldest of all lore, he could gain access to inner knowledge by acquiring the ability to grasp the adulrunes. Bureus did not, however, consider himself to be a neo-pagan. Quite to the contrary, he considered himself a “true” Christian, and he believed that the worship of God and the mastery of the power of prayer were essential to success in his system.

In 1613 Bureus became more deeply engrossed in the esoteric aspects of his studies and was especially enthralled by apocalyptic speculations. By the early 1620s the local church authorities began to look askance at Bureus's heretical theories, but his royal connections protected him from any prosecution by the Church. He believed in the approaching Judgment Day so strongly that he divided all of his property among the poor in 1647—the apocalyptic year according to his calculations—and lived five more years supported by royal aid.

Bureus's work is important in two areas: (1) it was the beginning of scientific runology, and (2) it again used runes in sophisticated magical and philosophical work. But the predictable and unfortunate shortcomings of his effort in the latter field are obvious.

The whole storgoticism movement had far-reaching political ramifications. On its tide of nationalism Gustavus Adolphus broke with the Catholics and began his nationalistic programs justified by the ideas of storgoticism. In the area of religion there seems to have been an elite gathered in high circles for whom the Reformation was a cover for the development of a “Gothic Faith.” The office of the Antiquary Royal was the center of this new national religion, headed by Bureus and supported by the king.

The runes played an important role in the inner workings of this system, but they also were being touted for more practical reasons. Bureus developed a cursive runic script with which he hoped to replace the Latin. During the Thirty Years' War a Swedish general, Jacob de la Gardie, wrote communications to his field commanders in runes as a kind of code.

As the power of Sweden waned and the Age of Enlightenment began, the doctrines of storgoticism and the theories of men such as Bureus lost favor with the establishment, and they again slumbered in darker and more remote corners.

The next breakthrough of runic investigation began in the European Romantic period began about one hundred years later, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Again its strongest representative, as far as genuine revivalism was concerned, was Sweden. There, in 1811, the Gotiska Förbundet (Gothic League) was formed by the poets and social reformers Erik Gustave Geijer and Per Henrik Ling. Their movement was essentially grounded in literature, although it was a serious attempt to quicken the ancient spirit.

On the other side of the coin, there was the continuing folk survival of runelore throughout Germania and her colonies. This was especially vigorous in Scandinavia, where runes and runic writing continued to be used for both everyday affairs as well as magical spells.

In Scandinavia and the North Atlantic isles, the runic alphabet survived as a writing system well into the twentieth century. This is especially true in remote regions such as Dalarna, Sweden, and Iceland. The runic alphabet remained purely runic until the middle of the eighteenth century, when Latin letters began replacing staves and it became a mixed script. Besides this writing system, the runes also were used in the construction of prim-staves or rim-stocks. These are perpetual calendars introduced into Scandinavia in the Middle Ages and were always carved into wood or bone. These calendars were a common form of time reckoning in the North well into the nineteenth century.

Knowledge of the runes was kept vigorous by folk traditions, and the lore and craft of the runes was preserved along with their more mundane uses. In more remote parts of the Scandinavian peninsula there were runesingers who could perform magical acts through galdr, or incantation, and in Iceland magical practice involving runes and galdrastafir (often runelike magical signs) continued at least into the seventeenth century. At this folk level, as well as at the scholarly level, as we have just seen, elements of “establishment magic” (i.e., Judeo-Christian) quickly spread throughout the system and was happily syncretized into it. But those who have studied the sixteenth century Galdrabók (which was used and added to in the seventeenth century as well) will know that the underlying methods remained virtually the same as in the native tradition. The text of the Galdrabók and many other examples of Icelandic magic are contained in The Galdrabók (Rûna-Raven, 2005) and in Icelandic Magic (Inner Traditions, 2016).

In the southern Germanic areas there is some hard evidence for a similar tradition of runic survival. One of the most interesting examples of this is found in the Black Forest region of Germany in the so-called Heidenhäuser (heathen houses!). These are very old farm buildings in which the threshing floor and other parts of the house are decorated with magical ideographs, some of which are of undoubted runic origin. Some of these are single runes, for example, Image whereas others are bind runes or holy signs, for example, Image. The buildings in which these signs appear mostly date from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. It is probable that the signs were carved by a certain group of “initiates” who still knew the symbols and how to work their magic. Similar magical signs have been found in the Harz region of Germany, and if we can believe some investigators, a wide range of medieval symbolism had its roots in runic shapes. But not only did the mere shapes survive—so did the essential lore surrounding them. However, as far as Germany and most of the rest of northern Europe are concerned, the events of 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945 destroyed much of the remainder through death and the rending of the social fabric. The darkest hour is before the dawn.

Not only do we find survivals of this type in Europe but America also is not without her runic heritage. Here we are not speaking of the highly controversial “American runestones” but rather of the living magical traditions of the Pennsylvania “Dutch” (Germans). In the eighteenth century these settlers brought a rich magical heritage, the major tool of which is the “hex sign.” This term is perhaps derived from an early misunderstanding of the German Sechszeichen (six sign), so called because the earliest and most common signs were designed around the sixfold star or cross in the form seen in figure 4.1.


Figure 4.1. Hex sign pattern.

The word hex could be just as old because this term comes from the old Germanic sacred vocabulary and originally had to do with the “sacred enclosure” and the people (especially women) who practiced their arts there.

Such hex signs are virtual Germanic yantras and are used for every possible magical purpose. The sign is painted in bright colors on a round disk (usually of wood) and placed in locations significant to the working—outside on a barn or house, inside a house, or even carried on the person as an amulet. Again we see an important social aspect to this tradition. Hex signs can be effectively made only by an initiated Hexenmeister, and the work must be accompanied by an incantational formula. One formula known in South Carolina even calls on Thor! There are indeed many dark and little-known comers of this aspect of American history that deserve more work in our field. Some practical hints about how to use and construct these signs are included in the book Northern Magic (Llewellyn, 1992, 1998).

Practitioners of the folk tradition remain unconscious of the historical details of their past and continually re-create the system according to their needs and conditions. This process is indeed the natural and healthy one; but when the folk tradition becomes “tainted” with an ideology hostile to it, this process becomes less effective as the life is slowly drained from it. Due to these circumstances it became necessary to develop new tools to dig out the lost life and lore of the elder heritage. The spirit necessary to this task was reborn in the early nineteenth century in northern Europe under the banners of literary Romanticism and academic philology.

When it was discovered in the late eighteenth century that the languages of India and Europe were somehow organically related, a great school of thought arose in northern Europe, especially in Germany, that sought to put the study of these languages and cultures on a scientific basis. This came in the Age of Romanticism—which in many respects is a misnomer because in northern “Romanticism” people generally were looking more to Germanic models and away from those of classical antiquity. Perhaps a better term would be “German-ticism.” In any event, serious interest in things Germanic, their origins, and their relationships to the greater Indo-European world grew rapidly. The greatest contribution to this area was made by Jacob Grimm, who, along with his brother Wilhelm, set about studying a wide range of manuscripts and collecting folk tales. In the process they virtually founded the disciplines of historical linguistics, comparative religion and mythology, and folklore. By means of what is now called “Grimm's Law” it was shown how Germanic was regularly derived from Indo-European, and its relationship to other dialects in that group (e.g., Sanskrit, Greek, Latin) was demonstrated.

Together with linguistics, the religions expressed in the texts being studied—the Eddas, the Vedas, Homer, Irish sagas—and the names of the gods were being compared; and schools of thought concerning the ways to interpret the mythologies were developing. As might be expected, many of those theories seem rather naive today, but the road to reconstruction is by its very nature fraught with pitfalls. The details of this historical process are much too complicated to go into here, but we must mention two theories held by older investigators. One was the tendency to go for “naturalistic” interpretations, to see mythology as a pure reflection of natural phenomena, which we now know to be only a part of the mythological function. The second tendency, or controversy, was the oscillation between considering mythology to be the creation of an ancient priesthood or sovereign class and the idea that it was essentially an outgrowth of the tales of the simpler folk tradition. The recognition of this dichotomy was astute, and it was later to become an important concept.

The importance of this pioneer work is that it put the investigation of such matters on a scientific basis, which has as its foundation the careful study of existing evidence of all kinds. If this work is carried out in an objective yet sympathetic manner, the veils of negative (Christian) psychological conditioning are lifted, and the possibility of penetrating to the most archaic levels of ideology is offered.

The Magical Revival

It was not until the first years of the twentieth century that a magical runic revival began, but this revival had manifold roots and was itself many-faceted. The late nineteenth century also saw the emergence of spiritualism and occultism in popular culture. The most influential branch of this phenomenon was Theosophy, as formulated by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and promoted through the Theosophical Society. Concurrent with this new interest in the occult was a strong revival of Germanicism, which also might be called Neo-Romanticism. This was coupled with the growth of political Pan-Germanicism following the unification of the German Empire in 1871.

All of these factors began to work together with the latest theories concerning mythology, religion, science (especially Darwinism), and philosophy. From this mighty mix emerged the heterogeneous Deutsch-Bewegung (Teutonic Movement). In every aspect the adherents of this movement had a practical bent. They were not out to philosophize from ivory towers, but rather it was their intention to alter the world in which they lived. They wanted to bring society back to its traditional (pre-Christian) roots—at least as they saw them. Even those who formally wished to think of themselves as “Christians” rejected most of what had traditionally been thought of as the Christian heritage and replaced it with Germanic mythology and folk tales. This branch of the movement generally went under the banner of the Deutsch-Christen (Teutonic Christians). But other, perhaps more honest, members of this social revolution rejected the Christian tradition and again took up the standard of the All-Father.

As far as our central purpose of runic revival is concerned, the great figure of the age was der Meister, Guido von List (1848—1919). List was born into a well-to-do Viennese family with business interests. Although young Guido had a deep interest in the mystical and natural world from an early age and wanted to be an artist and scholar, he followed in his father's footsteps. Partly out of a sense of duty, it seems, he entered a career in business. It is said that when he was a boy of fourteen, he stood before a ruined altar in the catacombs of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna and declared, “Wenn ich einmal gross bin, werde ich einen Wuotans-Tempel bauen!” (“When I get big, I will build a Temple to Wotan!”)

During those early years, in the time he had free from his professional duties, List explored the alpine regions from his native Lower Austria to Switzerland. But in 1877 his father died, and he began to pursue more intensely his work as an artist, mystic, poet, and prophet. The years between 1877 and 1889 were difficult and obscure ones for List, but in the last of these years his two-volume novel Carnuntum appeared. This is a historical novel depicting the struggle between the Germanic and Roman cultures along the Danubian frontier—a favorite theme in his works. It was both a critical and a popular success.

During the next period of his life (1889—1891) List apparently devoted himself to study and inner work, for in the last year of this period a new phase began that shows evidence of initiatory insight. In 1891 he published his two-volume Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftsbilder (Teutonic-Mythological Landscape Formations), which is a kind of geomantic investigation of the megalithic monuments, tumuli, earthworks, castles, and other sacred sites in Lower Austria; and a virtual catechism of his philosophy called Das Unbesiegbare: Ein Grundzug germanischer Weltanschauung (The Invincible: An Outline of Germanic Philosophy). Both of these works show signs of the elegance and ingenuity of his more systematic thought yet to come.

In German-speaking countries throughout these years the ideology expressed by Theosophy was quite influential, and although List's own relationship to the Theosophical Society itself is somewhat vague, he does seem to have been influenced in the direction of its philosophy and cosmology. Der Meister was, it seems fair to say, at least the equal of Madame Blavatsky in matters of this kind. It is a fact that many of the prominent Theosophists of the day were also followers of List.

Between 1891 and 1902 List's literary career was coming to a close—he had bigger things ahead of him—but this was his most successful period in literary endeavors. He produced several dramas and his second major novel, the two-volume Pipara.

The year 1902 was, however, the great turning point in the evolution of List's thought. In that year he underwent surgery for cataracts on both eyes. For eleven months he was virtually blind. During this time List seems to have undergone an initiatory experience, one that opened his inner eye to the secrets of the runes as expressed through the “Rúnatals tháttr Ódhins” in the “Hávamál” (see chapter 8). He began to investigate the Germanic past and its secrets with this newly won (or refined) ability. The years between 1902 and 1908, when the first book appeared in what was to become an encyclopedic series of works outlining his elegant system, were filled with great inner and outer activity. List was well connected with leading Pan-Germanic political figures and ideologies (e.g., Dr. Karl Lueger, the Bürgermeister of Vienna) as well as with many wealthy industrialists, all of whom supported his investigations into and actualization of the ancient Germanic mysteries. So in 1905, the Guido von List Gesellschaft (Society) was formed to underwrite the work of “the Master.” In conjunction with this exoteric branch an esoteric inner group called the Armanen Orden was planned for initiatory work and the teaching of more occult practices.

In 1908 List's first book in his investigation series appeared, entitled Das Geheimnis der Runen (The Secret of the Runes), in which he postulates that the primal futhork was an eighteen-rune row. The original row was made up of a series of staves to which certain formulaic “kernel words” were attached. These kernel words, and variations on them, could then be used to decode any other word, ancient or modern, to get back to their original meaning in the “primal language” (Ursprache) itself.

Although there was a whole magical system attached to List's runic revelations, it remained largely secret until after his death—and much of it remains so today.

The rune book was followed in that same year by a general two-volume work—Die Armanenschaft der Ario-Germanen (The Armanism of the Aryo-Germanic People)—that outlined the ancient social structure and religion and pointed the way to its rebirth. Also in that year Die Rita der Ario-Germanen (The Sacred Law of the Aryo-Germanic People) appeared. (Here, rita is a term borrowed from Sanskrit Imageta or rita, cosmic order, law.) With this work List attempted to reestablish, on a religio-cosmic foundation, a Germanic basis for law and political structure.

The next year, 1909, saw the publication of Die Namen der Völkerstämme Germaniens und deren Deutung (The Names of the Tribes of the People of Germania and Their Interpretation) in which List applied his theories concerning the investigation of hidden significance in names and words through an analysis of the kernel syllables.

In 1910 he published Die Bilderschrift der Ario-Germanen: Ario-Germanische Hieroglyphik (The Symbol Script of the Aryo-Germanic People: Aryo-Germanic Hieroglyphics), which concentrated on the investigation of the esoteric significance of a wide range of symbol forms, including runes, glyphs (holy signs), and especially coats of arms. This work was compared to Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine by the famous theosophist (and member of List's group) Franz Hartmann in his journal Neuen Lotusblüten with the words, “The author has lifted away the thick veil, which covered the history of Germanic antiquity, and has given us deep insight into the Secret Doctrine of the ancient Germans and the meaning of their symbology.”1

The most complex and comprehensive book in the series was Die Ursprache der Ario-Germanen und ihre Mysteriensprache (The Primal Language of the Aryo-Germanic People and Their Mystery Language). This did not appear in completed form until 1915, although sections of it had already been published as early as ten years before. The huge volume contains List's system of kala, of decoding words to reveal their hidden meanings. This system is a virtual science of folk etymology, which is very potent in magical practice but thoroughly disregards every rule of historical linguistics. The companion to this volume was to have been Armanismus und Kabbala. In this book List was to show the relationship between the two systems, and how the Kabbalah was actually Armanen wisdom that had been absorbed into Judeo-Christian thought and esoteric philosophy. However, in 1919, before the completed manuscript could be printed, List died, and the manuscript apparently was stolen—or kept secret by members of the Armanen Orden.

The grandiose ideology and religious philosophy expressed in List's works is far too complex to enter into in any detail here. But some of the principal ideas he articulated that have found their way into the runic revival in modern Vinland are (1) the “trifidic-triune triad,” (2) the “bifidic-biune dyad” (zweispältig-zweieinigen Zweiheit), and (3) the historical concept of concealment of ancient lore and even sacred systems in apparently Christian or secular literature and symbology. A general overview of List's ideas can be found in the introduction to The Secret of the Runes (Destiny, 1988).

The idea of the bifidic-biune dyad resulted in the concept of a balance between spirit and matter and the idea that matter was actually condensed spirit.

However, List's formulaic use of three is the most prominent feature of his system. In many ways it prefigures the theories of G. Dumézil concerning the Indo-European tripartite socioreligious structure (see chapter 13). The kernel concept of List's triadic thought is the archetypal pattern of arising (birth), becoming/being (life), and passing away to new arising (death/rebirth). This paradigm is applied to a number of concepts to form an elegant religio-magical philosophy. First of all, it is applied to cosmological principles. But perhaps one of the most interesting applications is to a system of tri-level interpretation of myths or of any concept or symbol. In this system a concept is seen on (1) a common level—a popularly understood form, (2) the level of exoteric symbolism, and (3) the esoteric level. This puts any word or concept through a spiral of semantic permutations to reveal inner truths and hidden relationships.

The Guido von List Gesellschaft continued to flourish after the death of der Meister, as did dozens of other Neo-Germanic groups (not all of them having anything to do with rune knowledge). In the years before 1933 other investigators, such as Friedrich Bernhard Marby and Siegfried Adolf Kummer, began to teach some of the more practical aspects of runecraft (especially the use of runic postures—so-called “runic yoga”—and talismanic magic).

In order to understand the National Socialists' relationship to runelore, one must first realize the level of popularity such things had reached in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Runes and runelike forms had again become symbols (but often very “common” ones) of Deutschtum. Runology was not only a beloved topic of academicians, it also became a topic in which the layman could immerse himself.

The idea of a non-Judaic religious revival was also strong, and it ran the gamut from the “Teutonic Christians” (who replaced the Old Testament with Germanic lore and “Aryanized” Jesus) to the largely pagan organizations such as the Guido von List Society.

The roots of National Socialism are manifold, and we cannot enter into them in too much depth here. However, we can point to some of the uses and misuses to which the Nazis put the runes. We must also preface these remarks with the statement that whether it is runes or religion of which we speak, the party-line Nazi doctrine is usually anathema to the essence of true Germanic concepts and often the antithesis of kernel pattern of Odian philosophy and practice. There were, however, secret cells within high levels of the Schutzstaffel (SS) gathered around Heinrich Himmler, especially at the Castle of Wewelsburg in Westphalia, in which more open experimentation was practiced. Some of the inner teachings of this world are explored in the book called The Secret King (Feral House, 2007).

There can be little doubt that certain elements within these cells had a genuine interest in the establishment of a Germanic religious worldview; however, the highest party leadership seems to have shown little real interest in this direction.


Table 4.1. Runic symbols used by National Socialists.

But they were all masters of the magical forms of mass manipulation that involves the stimulation and activation of popular images and engineering them in such a way as to work one's will on the mass population. (Today we call it advertising or branding, among other things.) One of the important steps one must take in using this process is the establishment of what might be called a meaning shift (or semantic shift) with regard to symbols. This is most effective when one takes an archetypally powerful symbol (e.g., Image or Image) and fills it with a personalized significance (Jesus and Hitler, respectively). Some of the more common runic symbols used in the National Socialist movement are shown in table 4.1.

Soon after 1933, when the Nazis came to power, the various groups involved in the Germanic Renaissance outside the structure of the Party itself were outlawed. All of the work done by dozens of organizations and individual leaders was either absorbed into official Party doctrine, liturgy, and symbology or was submerged. F. B. Marby himself spent ninety-nine months in the concentration camp at Dachau.

What had not been destroyed in the years of consolidation of Party power between 1933 and 1938 was subsequently further damaged by the war itself. Not only did the war destroy individuals of great knowledge—it also ripped apart the social fabric all over Europe. The mass displacement caused by the hostilities and the socioeconomic revolutions that followed in Western Europe were probably the final blow to any vestiges of the folk tradition in many rural areas.

Indeed, it always seems that the darkest hour is before the dawn, and that holds true for the rebirth of our traditional ways. After the willful destruction of the traditions by the Church, and the often misguided distortions of political movements, the way is hard to bring the runic secrets back into the fabric of our culture—but this is a heroic challenge of our time.