This is one-stop book shopping at its finest when it comes to rune lore. Thorssen has compiled the best and most popular pieces of his early work, updated and expanded his ideas, and collated them into a single volume that provides everything a person might want to know about the runes. As he writes in his introduction, it's a “distillation of essential knowledge.”
The book contains four sections: Historic Lore, Hidden Lore, Reading Runes, and Rune Magic. The historic segment covers development from Northern European prehistory to the present. It features new discoveries and various theories about how the runes were created and came into usage in northern lands. There are lots of illustrations of ancient inscriptions that demonstrate runic development, as well as the variations on the runic alphabet from different regions and times. Translations of old rune poems are presented in Chapter 8, an excellent primary resource not available in other books.
Part Two: Hidden Lore (Chapters 9 -13, pp 95-160) present the esoteric meanings of the runes, numerological and other metaphysical correspondences and mythological ties to the Nordic Pantheon.
Part Three: Reading the Runes: Runecasting and Runic Divination (Ch 14 – 19, pp 163-226) offers rune-by-rune descriptions with the overall dynamic of each figure, regional variations, positive and challenging divinatory meanings. A list of supplemental divination tools and reading rituals and methods are provided. Thorssen shows how to integrate “aett staves” for different styles of reading.
Part Four: Rune Magic (Chapters 20 – 21, pp 229 – 286) gives an overview of many different modes of rune magic. Illustrations of magical tools engraved with runes are presented along with rituals. Concepts and examples of bind rune work, a summary of color correspondences, and basics for constructing a tine (a rune-fueled talisman) are provided. Traditional multi-rune formulae for various effects are illustrated. Thorsson makes it clear that he's giving basic information here, since his book “Alu: An Advanced Guide to Operative Runology” (2012) covers this subject in depth. End matter includes Appendices with quick-reference tables, a glossary of terms, endnotes, and a bibliography that points toward worthwhile texts for supplemental studies.
Runes remain a subject surrounded with mystery because their foggy origin in the mists of time. The author is a contemporary authority on the subject of runes, and he's been a most prolific writer on the subject. More historic material continues to be discovered in libraries that contain old books and manuscripts, and Thorssen obviously expends effort to remain current on these historical clues and crumbs. This book doesn't just recycle old material to generate sales; it's a collation that unifies his most important writings on the subject with some updated thinking and new information on rune history.
This book is especially recommended for new readers seeking in an entry-level text on the subject. It provides keenly knowledgeable, thorough, and well-organized coverage of the subject and copious illustrations. Thorsson has a commanding, self-assured writing style. Readers may or may not follow all of his suggestions for practice, but he does provide readers with an excellent grounding in the basics and moves aspiring practitioners in the right direction for developing rune-skills.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Edred Thorsson
2018, Weiser Books
307 pages, $24.95