An ancient Norse and Germanic alphabet the symbols of which were ascribed magical properties and used mainly for charms and inscriptions, on stone, wood, metal, or bone.
Perhaps derived ultimately from the Etruscan alphabet, the runic alphabet was spread throughout Europe, Russia and Britain by Viking invaders, and Rune usage was at its height during the Dark Ages.
There were several different systems of runes. In Britain the earliest alphabet had 24 letters divided into three groups of eight. The groups were named after Norse deities: Freya, Hagal, and Tiu. The use of runes had died out by the fifteenth century as the Roman Catholic Church eclipsed paganism.
In the late nineteenth 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, also symbol of the Earth Mother, and the runic S symbol was used by the SS, the Nazi secret police.
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Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (3) Dunwich, Gerina, A Wiccan's Guide to Prophecy and Divination, Carol Publishing Group.
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