The Mystery of Runes

By: Carl Teichrib; ©2002
Runes are letters used in the earliest Germanic and Nordic alphabets. From a purely linguistic perspective, runes are simply a form of writing, but as this language form expanded, the meanings of many of the runes acquired a quasi-magical significance. Carl Teichrib explains.
…symbols form a visual shorthand for ideas—and yet their functions and meanings extend to something much more than that. — Jack Tresidder, Dictionary of Symbols, p. 6.
The crucial question, of course, is what kind of meaning is being conferred by the use of certain symbols—what stands to be gained, what lost, and by whom. — Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy, p. 136.

Before I begin, I need to explain upfront that while this particular article discusses “runes,” I am not an expert on ancient Nordic languages. However, there is enough information on the subject of runes within occult and New Age literature that one can draw some substantial conclu­sions.

In order to be properly understood, symbols must be examined within their context. Where are these symbols found? Who’s using them and for what reason? What other significant markings or texts can be linked to the symbol in question? What is the symbol’s spiritual history—does it have a religious or mystical background?

The world is full of signs, amulets, talisman, markings, and symbols. History is rife with symbol usage, being used to communicate ideas and concepts across both physical space and time. The American flag, planted during the first moon mission, is a prime example of such a communication. The American flag, planted on the surface of the moon, will remind generations that US astronauts were the first to have stepped on its rocky landscape.

Spiritually speaking, symbols have been employed to communicate hidden mystical messages. For practitioners of the occult, these symbols are tools specifically used in wielding supernatural powers and in communicating their various doctrines. These symbols can be many centuries old, yet their meanings have remained the same. In fact, as the public extension of ancient occult teachings, the New Age movement has placed mystical symbolism squarely in the face of our modern culture. What makes this especially disturb­ing is that while the “marks” of occultism can be found throughout society, we no longer recognize their spiritual implications. Conversely, just because the average person doesn’t know the meaning of occult symbols, it in no way negates their significance. Manly P. Hall, one of the most influential occultist of the last century, wrote this of symbols, “They are centers of a mighty force, figures pregnant with an awful power…” (Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, p. 356).

The Language of Runes

Runes are letters used in the earliest Germanic and Nordic alphabets. It’s a modification of Roman or Greek characters and was used from about the third century. From a purely linguistic perspective, runes are simply a form of writing, but as this writing expanded throughout Scandinavia and made its way to Britain, the meanings of many of the runes acquired a quasi-magical significance.

Jack Tresidder, author of the Dictionary of Symbols, wrote,

The linking of specific runes to the sun, moon and other sky gods, and the art of funerary rune carvings, led to the belief that runes embodied supernatural powers3/4to protect, to avenge and particularly to foretell the future. (p. 173)

Expanding this idea further, The Complete Book of Amulets and Talismans reports,

The runes of the Scandinavians were believed to possess great magical qualities, and they were used commonly in the preparation of spells…. Some of the runic letters and signs are so powerful, tradition warns the uninitiated against trying to perform any feat of magic with them.

Runes were spread throughout northern Europe, in parts of Russian, and throughout the British isles during the era of the Vikings. With the coming of the Roman Catholic Inquisi­tion, runes began disappearing from common usage as the Roman church slaughtered pagans and Anabaptist Christians alike. Because of the intensity of persecution, rune usage went underground.

A return of rune interest can be paralleled with the “revival” of Germanic occultism. From 1880 to 1910 (and during the Nazi era of the 1930’s and 40’s), an entire sub-culture of Germanic esoteric orders emerged. Indeed, occultism flourished throughout much of the west during that time. Theosophy, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, neo-templar orders, Hermetic orders, and a variety of other occult societies competed for membership and influence, each claiming that to hold the secrets of the universe. Austria and Germany were not immune to this surge of interest, and Vienna became a hotbed of mysticism.

Guido von List, a native of Vienna, was instrumental in advancing a Germanic-gnostic belief system founded, in large part, upon ancient Nordic myths and Madame Blavatsky’s theosophical doctrines. List’s religion was called Wotanism, named after the chief god of Germanic mythology, Wotan (in Scandinavia this was Odin, the “Father-God”). Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, in his scholarly work The Occult Roots of Nazism (New York University Press), describes List’s use of runes and their supernatural importance,

…[runes] were also used for their magical properties in divination, the casting of lots, invocations and the preparation of amulets and charms. Thus each individual rune possessed its own name and symbolism over and above its phonetic and literary value…List attributed a specific individual rune to each of Wotan’s verses, adding occult meaning and a summary motto of the spell. These occult meanings and mottoes were supposed to represent the doctrine and maxims of the rediscovered religion of Wotanism. Typical mottoes were: ‘Know yourself, then you know everything!’; ‘Embrace the universe in yourself, and you can master the universe!’; ‘Do not fear Death, he cannot kill you!’; ‘Your life rests in God’s hand, trust him in yourself!’; ‘Marriage is the root of the Aryan race!’; and ‘Man is one with God!’


The teachings of List and other Austrian/Germanic occultists planted the philosophical and mystical seeds of Germanic Aryanism, which reared its ugly head during the rule of Adolf Hitler. Runes, such as the Sig rune (sun rune), were evident throughout Nazi Germany. In fact, the double Sig rune, as seen here, was the emblem of the dreaded SS division. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, was entrenched in mystical Aryanism and Germanic-theoso­phy. (See article six in this series for more information on the double Sig.)

Today, runes are evident in New Age shops, occult books, movies, and television shows. J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive Lord of the Rings trilogy contains numerous references to magical runes. Mr. Tolkien was, however, a very real expert on ancient Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Nordic languages. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he incorporated runes and a variety other mythical elements into his literature.

The following chart is a runic alphabet. Each symbol and its runic name is listed, along with its commonly understood mystical attribute. In reviewing this chart, take note of the fact that the assigned magical element is almost always connected with a part of nature or life. It’s from these base meanings that the magic of runes is composed. It should also be noted that runic symbols and their meanings may vary from form to form and with those interpreting their significance.

As Christians, our power is not to come from mystical alphabets, markings, or magical symbolism. Our power and authority comes from the one true God, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the ruler of life and death3/4the giver of salvation. Jesus Christ broke the grip of sin and death, rendering Satan’s authority null and void to those who repent and put their faith in Christ. Why stay in bondage to darkness when the light of Jesus Christ is freely offered?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” — John 14:6

Carl Teichrib is a Canadian based researcher and writer on globalization and the occult. His work has been used by such authors as Gary Kah and Berit Kjos, among others. Carl may be reached by emailing: [email protected].



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