Contemporary Runic Revival - Historical Lore

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

Contemporary Runic Revival
Historical Lore


In the aftermath of World War II, interest in Germanic religion and in the runes was frowned upon in Germany, and to a certain extent even in academic circles, which had not gone untouched by “NS-runology.” Although German esoteric runology within the context of Germanic religion had been virtually eliminated, it did find a new home in the more eclectic branches of Western occultism and in that most prestigious lodge of German occultism, the Fraternitas Saturni (Brotherhood of Saturn). Runic work based on the theories and practices of Guido von List, Friedrich Bernhard Marby, and Siegfried Adolf Kummer became a part of the magical curriculum of the Fratenitus Saturni chiefly under the guidance of Frater Eratus (Karl Spiesberger). Spiesberger's efforts, largely outlined in his two books Runenmagie (1955) and Runenexerzitienfür Jedermann (1958), led esoteric runology in the direction of universalism and away from the völkisch interpretations. There is also a heavy admixture of Hermetic-Gnostic ideas, a trend already evident to a lesser extent with earlier rune magicians.

F. B. Marby, after his release from Dachau at the end of the war, again became active. But he was never able to gain the same level of achievement as he had during the earlier part of the century.

Runology in the context of a general Germanic revival began slowly. Around 1969 Adolf and Sigrun Schleipfer reactivated the Armanen Orden. They also took over the leadership of the Guido von List Gesellschaft, which also had been dormant since the war. The new Grand Masters set about making the Armanen Orden a real working magical order with a foundation in Germanic mysticism. Other Neo-Germanic groups active in Germany do not show practical interest in rune magic. Through the 1970s and 1980s there developed in Germany a sort of dichotomized universalist or semi-universalist esoteric runology (represented by Karl Spiesberger, Werner Kosbab, and others) and a tribalist-nationalist esoteric runology (represented by the Armanen). All of the groups in Germany use the eighteen-rune Futhork.

The runes have always held a special mystique for those interested in the Germanic way. As a general Germanic Renaissance again began to spread (apparently almost spontaneously from around 1970) in Europe and North America, the runes often figured prominently in the imagery and symbolism of the various groups; for example, the ritual of the Discovery of the Runes used by the Odinic Rite in England, or the name of the journal published by the Ásatrú Free Assembly, The Runestone, with its runic masthead. However, no in-depth esoteric runology was undertaken in the early years by any of these organizations.

In the summer of 1974 I came across the book Runenmagie by K. Spiesberger1 in the university library. This occurred after I had received a flash of illumination that consisted of one “audible” word, RUNA, just a few days before. From that day forward I worked in the runes. My studies in magic, after having begun well in daimonic splendor, had taken a philosophically uninspiring turn into the morass of Neo-Kabbalism. The runes, and the Way of Woden that is shown through their might, were to set me back on the road to that great power. At the time I was ignorant of the contemporary Germanic revival and remained so until 1978. By the summer following the discovery of Spiesberger's book, after I had worked intensively with the philosophy and practice of the Armanen Futhork, I produced a text of my own that was largely a compilation of material from concepts contained in the books of such authorities as K. Spiesberger, Guido von List, and R. J. Gorsleben. This is the unpublished Runic Magic of the Armanen finished in August of 1975. This esoteric activity simultaneously led me to a deep academic interest in Germanic religion and magic. By the next year I was a graduate student learning Old Norse and investigating the Way of Woden on an intellectual level as well.

This interest in things Germanic had not begun suddenly in 1974, however. The year before, the book The Spear of Destiny2 had sparked my imagination. It also fired my investigative zeal, and I set out to find the original texts on which its edifice was built. Later I found that many of these texts had been misused, or interpreted incorrectly. Still earlier, the words “The ravens of night have flown forth . . .” had rung in my mind as well.

I continued to develop my hidden path in solitude until the summer of 1978, when I made contact with the Ásatrú Free Assembly and began a period of close cooperation with Neo-Germanic groups. At the same time I was completing work on the restoration of the esoteric system of the Elder Futhark of twenty-four runes, which in 1979 resulted in the text of Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic.3 Intellectual studies had led me to the realization that in order to know the runes as they truly are, one must work with the ancient archetypal system as it truly was.

During this same time, but unknown to me, a fellow traveler, David Bragwin James, was working in similar directions in a similar personal situation in New Haven, Connecticut.

It was soon apparent that no group in the English-speaking world was privy to any deep-level runelore, and therefore the burden fell to me to quicken the knowledge of our folk mysteries in a coherent and communicable fashion—no easy task. This work eventually led to the independent formation of the Rune-Gild for the practice and teaching of runework and runecraft. This institution was originally conceived of as an organic part of certain Neo-Germanic religious groups, but this proved quite impossible. It seems the runemasters are in some ways a Gild of Outsiders, and as such they remain largely outside other natural, organic structures. It is the purpose of the Rune-Gild to expand the level of knowledge and interest in the genuine Germanic Way and to carry out runework systematically, providing a reliable stream of basic rune skill and rune wisdom to all and giving a way of entry into the Gild Hall to the few. Subsequent to these early developments, the Rune-Gild matured to a viable organization with a published curriculum of runic instruction known as The Nine Doors of Midgard (The Rune-Gild, 2016, 5th edition).