The Rune Primer by Sweyn Plowright

This little gem of a book measures 13cm x 10cm with 8 Chapters but contains therein, a wealth of useful information about the fuÞark runes that is aimed at the rune novice. It contrasts strongly against many other popular New Ageist themed rune works but in doing so, “The Rune Primer” is different because it dares to directly challenge the many false and deliberately created myths surrounding the very fabric and nature of the runes. Written by an intelligent heathen author and attested with researched information, the author voices his opinions in an objective fashion as he attempts to put the record straight on so much of the misinformation existing out there today on these enigmatic symbols.

If you are caught up in the confusing dogma surrounding the runes or have no idea just why so much postmodernist nonsense came about on ancient runes and runic matters, than this book is certainly a very good starting place to separate the wheat from the chaff. A lot of misinformed ideas are given about the fuÞark runes from various sources and those who propagate such nonsense are clearly identified. This newer edition contains 175 pages of printed material, that’s 90 more pages than the author’s original submission “Runic Primer”.

Book Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Importance of Context
  3. Old Sources
  4. The Runic Revival
  5. Concepts
  6. Esoteric Runes
  7. Resources
  8. Myth Busting
Most runologists set the date for the beginning of fuÞark runes to around the year CE 175 but recent finds that lower this limit down to something like year CE50 (Meldorf fibula). The historical fact that runes were used as a means to write is not disputed but the author makes his point well that runic urban legends such as the so called existence of an ancient rune magicians cult or organization surviving in secret is extremely far fetched. This notion of racial elitism and rune cults loosely associated with Aryanism is a moot point. I seriously doubt if any of these bloodline pure Germanics only rune masters holds water when you consider the vast amount of runes that have been found or their displacements throughout the Viking Age.

The author also takes on Thorsson’s racial purity ideologies and associations with the runes advancing a compelling argument whilst tossing bigotry disguised as folkishness to one side. I agree with him that the misinterpretation of Metagenetics pseudo science to further the cause of the “ancestral memory” stored in the bloodline argument is utter nonsense. The author cites all human beings are unique in their makeup and that there are more genetic variations within ethnic groups than there is between them. McNallen is also discussed along with his biased notion that “Ancestral heritage” is not racism. This I find a very brave step on the part of the author to speak so plainly on what many rune authors ostracize as the racism in Asatru issue.

Consider also the fact that diverse and greater linguistic sources are available for the time span between the Migration Period and the end of the Viking Age but these varied sources cannot give us a complete synchronic and diachronic picture of the language because they are weighted with uncertainties regarding both their date and interpretation. There is no scholarly consensus or evidence about exactly when and where the runic alphabet originated, or even whether it was invented all at once, or evolved from other writing systems. Runic writing arose more likely from the contact the Germanic-speaking peoples had with other the cultures of the Mediterranean, where the idea of alphabetic writing originated.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s thesis concerning the Heruli-Runemaster argument in his Myth Busting Chapter 8 on page 171. The author shrugs off the conjecture put out by Wolfgang Krause1 who favoured magical explanations for rune inscriptions that seemed undecipherable. Krause for those who are not familiar with his works specialized in First Period FuÞark runes but it was Edred Thorsson who perpetuated this notion and helped set the standard amongst other’s rune authors concerning the Herulian Rune master (ERILAR) myth. Collectively an urban legend came into being that the term Ek Erilaz signifies *Me, rune-master.  However, the rune scholar E.A. Makaev2 does not translate erilaR, but proposes:I, the eril’.

The translation of ‘noble’ is clear since in Old English eorl means noble (‘earl’). Look up the Old English Rune Poem at rune Yr: ‘yr byþ æþelinga and eorla, etc.’

See also: W. Krause, “Die Sprache der urnordischen Runeninschriften”

Andersen (1948) on the other hand offers a different interpretation of erilar and suggests the presence of 3 distinct and separate lexemes (unit of linguistic analysis):

1)     erilar magician, priest, wizard

2)     erular (pl *erulor)-----The ethnic term Herul

3)     *erlar ‘man, warrior, earl

Of note is the fact that just about every neo-pagan rune website today presents the runemaster erilar thread as factual rather than conjectural? The author gives evidence to the contrary as to why “Ek Erilaz3” almost certainly meant “I the warrior” rather than the more popular belief of I the rune master.

Furthermore the author benchmarks 1970s as a transitional period when the runes found a renewed interest, a sort of postmodernist renaissance of all things considered magical and in particular divinatory tools, the runes falling into this category. Key figures cited by the author in this chronology of runic contributors stemming from the 70s are JRR Tolkien, Michael Howard, Ralph Blum and off course Edred Thorsson is known as Dr. Stephen Edred Flowers. Freya Aswynn and Kveldulf Gundarsson are also discussed. I knew both of them during the early 90s, Kveldulf briefly on two occasions and at a reconstructed Seidr session I took part in with him and therefore can verify that the author’s subjective observations of these two Ring of Troth characters are indeed very accurate!

Now very little is actually known by outsiders about the Temple of Set to which Edred Thorsson has had a long association with. I am not going to spoil the author’s comments but premise that this book is a must read if you wish to know more. Stephen E. Flowers is cited as Magister Templi IV* Temple of Set Grand Master, Order of the Trapezoid on internet lists and this boasts of a *Knighthood based order. The author takes apart the fantasia surrounding this elitist ancient cult of rune masters Thorsson calls the Elder Gild from which the idea of Rune Gild stems from. Thorsson’s Woodharrow Institute based in Texas is also given a mention.


Thorsson’s particular brand of the Odian esoteric ideal is discussed here with a view to clarify emulation rather than worship of Odin. Lets get something right here, this is an entirely modern invented magical system of *internalizing the runes using the so called rune gymnastics/rune Yoga stances. I would like to point out that rune yoga is not runelore but rather a fanciful myth of 1930s German Occultist Friedrich Bernhard Marby, Siegfried Adolf Kummer and Karl Spießberger without any historical basis relying heavily on the racially biased works of Guido List utilizing his invented non historical Armanen fuÞorc. F. B. Marby called this technology of internalizing the runes “runengymnastik” (rune gymnastics).

Both Kummer and Gorsleben began referring to this technology as “runenyoga” (“rune yoga”), although Kummer is credited with having coined the term. It was Kummer who combined the practices of Marby with the theories of Guido von List. Then during the 1950s Frater Eratus (Karl Spiesberger) of the Fraternitas Saturni began to be known for his work with rune yoga. Frater Eratus adapted the runes to ceremonial magic (sorcery), experimenting with group rune positions, practices of sex magic, etc. These stádhagaldr (rune stances) and rune chants have remained with many rune practitioners today.

For information on purchasing this book see:

This revised edition has Three Rune Poems and the Runatal, original text and new translation with notes, the Gothic Alphabet plus useful websites and a more books for further studies list. In conclusion, allow me to quote a passage from stanza 27 of Voluspo also known as The Wise-Woman's Prophecy. Here the WÖlwa turns from her memories of the past to a statement of some of Othin's own secrets in his eternal search for knowledge (stanzas 27-29)

I know of the horn of Heimdall, hidden
Under the high-reaching holy tree;
On it there pours from Valfather's pledge
A mighty stream: would you know yet more?

Read this book and you will! A boon to any new student of runes and it does what it says on the title, “A Down-to-Earth Guide to the Runes”.