I first became interested in runes, and Stonehenge for that matter, after viewing the film, Curse of the Demon sometime during childhood. The film concerns a highly skeptical scientist portrayed by Dana Andrews who specializes in debunking claims of the supernatural who ironically finds himself confronted by a demonic death curse passed to him by an adept occultist on a parchment containing runic symbols.
The black and white film Curse of the Demon is a British production released in 1958 in the U.S. but was released in the U.K. in its original longer runtime in 1957 as Night of the Demon. This film may seem quaint to modern audiences who have been jaded after being exposed to years of TV watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Vampire Diaries, and of course Supernatural but I think this film is worth watching if for nothing else than to get a glimpse into the hidden risks associated with necromancy and demonolatry.
As might have been expected, none of the references I’ve chosen to use for this writing have even come close to mentioning the use of runes in offensive or demonic ways. To the contrary, Evelyn Green in hir Runes for Beginners book, promotes the “ethical and safe magic”1 that can be derived from runic practices while at the same time acknowledging that runes “were believed to be a good method to help communicate between us here on earth and the supernatural, and many times they were used in spells to provide success or protection.”2 And so, if there are ethical and safe rune uses, then it stands to reason that there are unethical and harmful uses as well.
The ethical and safe uses of runic divination and magic that Evelyn Green and other writers have advocated are to provide the [rune] reader or some other person with guidance or help in navigating life’s path, that is, to “gain insight into a situation or an answer to their questions.”3 Runes don’t provide direct answers to questions put to them, they merely provide hints leaving the reader holding the bag so to speak.4 In other words, runes aren’t used for fortune telling or predicting the future since the “future isn’t really fixed”5 or as it was carved on a wooden table, “No Fate.” The following excerpts from Green’s book explain it best:
Before you start to use these runes to help with divination, it is important to understand that what rune readings present to us is not going to be a prediction of fate that we can’t change at all. Instead, a successful type of divination, no matter what kind you use, will be able to provide us with a snapshot at the present moment. It will show us what unseen factors are going on in our situation and can point to the most likely outcome based on the course of action that we are currently on.
This makes them unique. They do not control your destiny, and you can always choose the path that you want to take rather than following this. There is still an element of free will that comes with these. And they are not seen as a form of fortune telling, so they are different from some of the other options that are out there.6
Occasionally though, the writers reveal, however subtly, what is really going on with runic divination practices when they make claims such as, “you can easily override any information about that rune if there is intuition that tells you the meaning should be something different. This is the other realm talking to you and trying to get your attention about what is right and what is not for your own experience.”7
In the context of the runes, the Norse concept of free will allows for actions in the present to affect outcomes in the future, that is, there is no hard and fast concept of a pre-determined destiny since people are capable of changing certain aspects of their fate.8 Do I detect a strain of Norse mythology hypocrisy? Doesn’t the Norse belief in the mythological Ragnarök contradict any notion of free will since not even the gods will be able to prevent it from happening?
On the other hand, Iva Kenaz writes that Odin’s wife Frigg “was naturally clairvoyant, could see beyond the surface of things, and foretell the future.”9 I believe Chamberlain may be incorrect in her assertion about free will and the Norse concept of fate since even the Roman historian Tacitus wrote that “the ancient Germanic peoples believed that there was something sacred in women and that they had a gift to foresee future events.”10
So, based on Norse mythology and Tacitus’ writings, are women more inclined to be adept runemasters? Well, according to Iva Kenaz, “women seem to access their unconscious better”11 which may coincide with the intuition that Green referenced. Chamberlain adds that in addition to having a “special aptitude for magical work,”12 the practitioner is required to dedicate themselves to a certain amount of “study and discipline.”13 Or, it may just be that women have been so predisposed since creation. (Gen. 3:6)
Free will and fortunetelling are mutually exclusive concepts because how can you foresee something that may or may not actually happen? The ability to foresee the future is only possible if that future is already pre-determined. Free will is the fortuneteller’s malpractice insurance. As Chamberlain has written, “when it comes to reading the runes—if there were no way to have any affect [sic] on future outcomes, then why bother with divination, or any other form of magic, in the first place?”14 I agree, why bother?
Divination is not exclusively relegated to the domain of the occult. A form of divination was used by the apostles when they cast lots to determine who would replace Judas. (Acts 1:26) The casting of lots is synonymous with the casting of runes according to Vivienne Grant’s book.15 As it was, the apostles called upon the name of the Lord before they cast lots. (Acts 1:24-25 NASB) I wonder who runemasters call upon?
While the exact origins of the runes are the subject of debate, the Norse people have no doubt as to their origin, they were a gift from the gods16 to “Alfadir, Alfadir, or Allfather, Odin.”17 Chamberlain even goes so far to say that “the runes are eternal—they have always existed.”18
On the other hand, historians seem to lean towards the theory that the runes originated with the “Goths, a race of East-Germanic people.”19
The common thread that runs through the translations of our English word rune in all cultures are the words: “secret,” “whisper,” and “mystery.”20 21 Chamberlain adds the words: “magic,” and even “spells or incantations” to the list of definitions.22
The occult nature of the runes precluded their use as a general writing system for communications in the vernacular but were instead used as “magical signs”23 and eventually as a “tool of divination.”24 Runes were used for magical purposes long before they were used as a writing system.25
The runes are a cipher and would be useless to anyone who didn’t possess the necessary decryption key.
Some scholars trace the word ‘rune’ back even further to the prehistoric Proto-Indo-European language, which is believed to be the ancestor of many later ancient languages. These linguistic roots pre-date the use of runic characters for writing, which tells us that runes belonged to the world of mystery and magic well before they became a system of writing. Indeed, as we will see throughout this guide, their role as a means of ordinary communication barely scratches the surface of what these ancient symbols were—and still are—capable of.26
While most people in today’s popular culture would associate the Celts or Celtic culture with Ireland, the Celts as a people occupied a significant portion of Western Europe including northern Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and France (Gaul) along with the United Kingdom. In fact, the Gallic people, as they were known to the Romans, actually referred to themselves as Celts according to Julius Caesar’s writings as early as the 1st century BC.27 According to scholars, what unified the “disparate ancestral tribal cultures”28 together was their written language—the Lepontic runes.29
We will see that it is language that reveals the modern notion of a uniquely characterized, fleshed out, and identifiable Celtic cultural identity, defined by shared similarities among languages, classical texts, works of art, tangible historic artifacts, and even social organization and mythology.30
According to various sources on Celtic spirituality, more than 700 Celtic gods have been identified from Gaul, and while these were local gods, they were not part of an official pantheon.31
As I discussed in my earlier post on the Celts, many of the gods and goddesses such as the Scottish goddess Brighid could “shift between various animal forms, such as snakes and cattle.”32 In addition, the theme of “triplicity”33 was prevalent in Celtic spirituality as some important deities would appear in sets of three.34
According to Thompson, “the earliest records of runes date back to 150AD”35 Thompson also claims that the runic alphabets were originally derived from “Old Italic”36 alphabets since their existence can be traced back several hundred years before the establishment of the Germanic runic alphabet.37
Runic script is composed of 24 letters divided into three groups of eight called aettir or families. The oldest script called the Elder Futhark was derived from the old Germanic alphabet.38 The first six letters of the alphabet “sounded like f, u, th, a, r, and k, giving the alphabet its distinct name: futhark.”39
Contrary to conventional wisdom, “Germanic tribes were peaceful, lived in harmony with nature, and had a special relationship with the dense, dark forests” according to the Roman historian Tacitus.40 The Germanic tribes connected with or worshiped local nature deities who were considered kindred spirits with the people unlike the Roman gods and goddesses who were part of an official ascendant pantheon.41
Kenaz writes that the runes belong to the geometry of creation:
The runic characters are made from crossing and triangular shapes, and they can all be derived from the six-fold pattern of the hexagon, hexagram, and the six-pointed star, also known as the snowflake pattern, which has actually been a common depiction of the Tree of Life throughout ancient history.42
Kenaz continues with hir claim that the Germanic and Norse peoples probably represented the Yggdrasil or Tree of Life as a six-pointed star which is derived from the Flower of Life—the blueprint of creation.43
Kenaz in hir book, Runes: Magical Codes of Nature provides a lengthy discussion of how the runes, frozen water molecules, DNA and other phenomenon are related to the Flower of Life geometrical pattern. An in-depth study of Sacred Geometry is beyond the scope of this post; however, I tried a simple experiment using the snowflake pattern in Figures 2 and 3. Note that I followed the rules for Germanic runes in that there are no horizonal lines, only vertical and diagonal strokes.44
A final thought concerning runes. Was Jesus writing on the ground in cipher when the scribes and Pharisees challenged Him to condemn the woman taken in adultery? (John 8:1-11) The Scripture doesn’t give us an explanation as to what Jesus was writing, to whom He was writing, or why He was writing what He was writing. Could it have been some form of ancient runic script? We just don’t know.
As the Scripture teaches, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God.” (Deut. 29:29)
Green, Evelyn. Runes for Beginners: The Complete and Practical Guide to Read and Interpret Runes in Divination and Magic, and Discover the Meaning and Secrets of the Elder Futhark Alphabet. Kindle Edition. ↩
Chamberlain, Lisa. Runes for Beginners: A Guide to Reading Runes in Divination, Rune Magic, and the Meaning of the Elder Futhark Runes (p. 16). Chamberlain Publications. Kindle Edition. ↩
Kenaz, Iva. Runes: Magical Codes of Nature (p. 58). Kindle Edition. ↩
Ibid., 66. ↩
Ibid., 58. ↩
Chamberlain, Runes for Beginners, 19. ↩
Ibid., 16. ↩
Grant, Vivienne. Runes for Beginners: Your Complete Beginner’s Guide to Reading Runes in Magic and Divination. Kindle Edition. ↩
Thompson, Sarah. Runes: Learn Everything about: Runes, Celtic Religions and Celtic History (Viking History, Norse Mythology, Celtic, Wicca, Divination, Fortune Telling, Celtic Religions) (p. 14). Kindle Edition. ↩
Grant, Runes for Beginners. ↩
Chamberlain, Runes for Beginners, 14. ↩
Grant, Runes for Beginners. ↩
Thompson, Runes: Learn Everything about, 14. ↩
Chamberlain, Runes for Beginners, 5. ↩
Green, Runes for Beginners. ↩
Chamberlain, Runes for Beginners, 1. ↩
Ibid., 5-6. ↩
Thompson, Runes: Learn Everything about, 79. ↩
Ibid., 80. ↩
Ibid., 81. ↩
Ibid., 123. ↩
Ibid., 121. ↩
Ibid., 117. ↩
Ibid., 8. ↩
Ibid., 15. ↩
Green, Runes for Beginners. ↩
Grant, Runes for Beginners. ↩
Kenaz, Runes: Magical Codes of Nature, 14. ↩
Ibid., 31. ↩
Ibid., 34. ↩
Thompson, Runes: Learn Everything about, 15-16. ↩