An ancient Norse and Germanic alphabet, to the symbols of which were ascribed magical properties and which were used mainly for charms and inscriptions on stone, wood, metal or bone. In legend, the runes come from the Volsung, a Nordic people who were the guardians of the forests as they grew again after the last Ice Age. Perhaps derived ultimately from the Etruscan alphabet, the runic alphabet was spread throughout Europe, Russia and Britain by Viking invaders and travellers, from Norway to
Constantinople, and rune usage was at its height during the Dark Ages.
There were several different systems of runes. In Britain the earliest alphabet had twenty-four letters divided into three groups of eight. The groups were named after Norse deities: Freyja, Hagal and Tiu. Runes were carved on stone, bone or wood and were cast in a form of Divination.
The use of runes had died out by the 15th Century as the Roman Catholic Church eclipsed paganism. In the late 19th Century German occultists revived interest in runes, which became associated with Teutonic racial superiority. The Nazi Swastika is the runic symbol for Thor's hammer and also a symbol of the Earth Mother, and the runic S symbol was used by the SS.
see also FUTHARC; NINE WORLDS OF CREATION; NORSE PAGANISM; NAZI MYSTICISM.
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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