Runes Are More Than an Alphabet

Rune comes from the word runo, meaning letter and mystery. Early Germanic systems were runic alphabets. Although the runes—often made by sticks, carved onto stone, wood, bone and metal—represented letters, they were ideographic or pictographic symbols of some cosmological principle or power. To use the runic language meant invoking the force for which it stood.

For example the Týr rune is the Norse god of war, portrayed as a one-handed warrior. Týr’s symbol is the sword. Once he played a very important role in the Germanic pantheon. Tuesday is actually Týr’s day (Anglo-Saxons called him Tiw). By the Viking Age, Týr was somewhat overshadowed by Thor and Odin.

 

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Twentieth-century German Nazi adoption of runes (i.e., the SS runes) was influenced by the works of occultist Guido von List, who saw the runes as a link to Nordic/Germanic greatness. He developed his own version of the Futhark known as Armanen runes, allegedly revealed to his “inner eye.” The Armanen Order was one of the cornerstones of early Nazism. Rather than Hitler, Karl Maria Willigut was responsible for invoking the runes as symbolic design elements during the Third Reich. Armanen Futhark derives from historic runes but does not belong to the Norse rune history.

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You might see similarity between the peace symbol and the Toten (or Death Rune). It is ironic that the sign of peace in the 20th century was also the symbol of death in Nazi Germany. This rune, the upside-down fork, is a “gesture of despair” that derives from the story of Saint Peter, who was crucified upside down in Rome in AD 67 on a cross designed by Emperor Nero, known thereafter as the “Nero Cross” or the “sign of the broken Jew.” The right-side-up fork is a symbol of life beginning, used in Nazi kultur signifying the Lebensborn baby factory movement—women received these as badges for bringing baby Nazis into the world.

 

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