Approaching the Runes

January 26, 2015 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

For the last week of each month, the Pagan Experience prompt follows the format of Pagan Blog Project, writing an entry for each letter of the alphabet. I’ve decided to instead focus on a different alphabet- the Elder Futhark Runes, the oldest known Germanic writing system. We actually don’t know if it was used for divination in ancient times, but the runes are found carved into jewelry, weapons, stones and other items. They were used to indicate ownership, commemorate events and accomplishments on rune-stones and perhaps imbue objects with magic power and luck.

Personally I am not that into divination or magic- though that may change! However, I do find the runes to be a useful way to understand concepts that were important to the ancient Norse and immerse myself in their cultural worldview. The runes can also be used to add a different perspective to choices and problems that we face in our own modern lives.

Questions people have when approaching the runes-

Do you need to be Heathen/Asatru/Northern Tradition (etc.) to study/work with or use the runes?

Well, you certainly don’t need to be a medieval Christian to read Tarot, and that’s who invented it. Some Heathens think that you need to be, but I don’t believe this is the case. However, I do think you will get a lot more out of the runes if you make an effort to learn about Norse mythology, the Rune Poems, and Norse history and culture.

Do I need to worship/honor/believe in the Norse gods to work with runes?

(This is actually a different though related question, as there is theological diversity among Heathens)

Not necessarily, studying the myths and learning from them does not require worship or belief. If you are a Pagan or polytheist who focuses on another pantheon, but wants to study runes, I would recommend paying your respects to Odin in particular, and other deities associated with specific runes. If you have a spiritual problem/issue with Odin, then I would recommend not studying the runes too deeply. Being the Wander, he does “get around” and I hear of many Hellenic polytheists and folks of other traditions who honor Odin.

Is this a Nazi thing?

The runes were (mis) used by Nazis for political purposes, but this was not because they or Hitler in particular was Heathen. They were promoting a sense of pan-Germanic identity, and so they took symbolism, myths and ideas throughout various Germanic cultures and distorted them for their own purposes. In particular, Sowilo (used for the letters SS) Othala and Algiz tend to be used by Neo-Nazis, so you might want to avoid wearing those as necklaces or other obvious ornamentation.

Ref: How to Spot a Racist/White Supremacist in the Heathen Community 101

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