From our Tumblr feed, a conversation with @thorraborinn about tracing the missing links between known ethnic-nationalist rune users in 1920s Germany and Austria and the rune revival starting in 1980. (Update: this was followed by a series of tumblr posts by @obligate-rebel, @thorraborinn, and myself… when I get a chance I’ll add those links to this blog as well.)
TL:DR, fleshed out with the help of Open Library and Nigel Pennick’s bibliography in his The Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes (1999), the timeline from 1900 onward currently looks something like this:
- Viennese mystic Guido “von” List (1902) plagiarizes/adapts the Younger Futhark and popularizes it as the supposedly-primordial-and-channelled-to-him Armanen Runes. Das Geheimnis der Runen is published in 1908, and his ideas are spread by members of the Armanen Orden.
- German gnostic Ernst Tristan Kurtzahn publishes Die Runen als Heilszeichen und Schicksalslose in 1924.
- The Armanen Orden’s half-baked half-faked runelore is used as Nazi propaganda and imagery by the Third Reich, then is banned following World War II. This may include rune books from the period by Rudolf John Gorsleben (1930), Siegfried Adolf Kummer (1932), Hermann Wirth (1931-36), Wolfgang Krause (1935), Oskar von Zaborsky (1936), Walther Blachetta (1941), Edmund Weber (1941), Helmut Arntz (1935, 1944), and Friedrich Bernhard Marby (1931, 1933, 1955, 1957) — although some of these authors would have been academics of the period forced to work with the regime.
- Kurt Spiesburger (Runenmagie, 1955) attempts to remove Nazi racism from Armanen runes. Also during this post-war period, rune books are also published by Anders Baeksted (in Danish, 1952), Franz Altheìm (a German historian, 1948), Sven Birger Fredrik Jansson (in Swedish, 1940 & 1966), and Jorgen Glahder (in Danish, 1952).
- 1960s-70s scholarly works by runologists and historians in English include Ralph W. V. Eliot Runes: An Introduction (1959), Sven B.F. Janssen The Runes of Sweden (1962, translated by Peter G. Foote), R.I. Page An Introduction to English Runes (1973), and J.M. Kemble Anglo-Saxon Runes (1976). Non-English-language books are released by scholars Klaus Duwel (1968) and Wolfgang Krause (1970) .
- 1960s or 1970s Californian rune tiles (per Pennick, p159 of Complete Illustrated Book of Runes) and (presumably) magazine articles by Athene Williams eventually lead first to a chapter on runes by Williams in a 1975 mass-market book titled The Fortune Tellers, followed by celebrity clairvoyant Kim Tracey’s mass-market 25-rune divination set (including a blank!), published 1979 and sold in the UK & Commonwealth.
- Meanwhile, somewhat-more-scholarly esoteric rune books are published by The Caudron magazine editor Michael Howard (The Runes and other Magical Alphabets, 1978), Nigel Pennick (Ogham and Runic Magical Writing of Old Britain and Northern Europe, 1978), and tarot author Carlyle A. Pushong (Rune Magic, 1978, compares Elder Futhark and Armanen runes and plagiarizes Spiesburger per a Goodreads reviewer). Otto Zeller’s German-language divination book of 1977 may have inspired this group of authors. 9Nov2021 edit: both Pennick and Howard spill much ink discussing the swastika’s history, and Pennick appears to be uncritically reading and citing pre-WW2 German mystics for their “practical esoteric knowledge” during this period. Y i k e s.
- Ralph Blum’s first rune book with tiles is published 1980 in US, widely considered the watershed point that leads to more books by Howard and Pennick, Flowers-Thorsson and many other popular rune authors. The Rune Guild is founded in 1980 in Austin TX by Stephen Flowers, aka Edred Thorsson, whose first book (1980) is focussed on Armanen runes. Rune cards first appear in the 1980s as well, Tricia Bramwell’s The Phoenix Runes (1983) being the earliest I’ve found a reference to.