Why Pagans Need to Reclaim Runes from Nazis
I saw a lot of awful things watching the news during the Charlottesville “rally,” but one of the things I saw that got me thinking the most was how the Detroit Right Wings (based off of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team) had adjusted the Red Wings’ logo to have the Sonnenrad (a national socialist symbol based on Germanic mysticism) placed inside it. This got me thinking a lot about how white supremacists have been appropriating ancient esoteric traditions since the time of the Nazis in Germany.
Yes, I say “appropriating,” because these people have no occult intentions in mind when using these symbols and they are tarnishing their original meaning by using them in the way that they do. I am sure most of you are aware of how the swastika was originally a symbol used in Buddhism and Hinduism and then perverted by Nazis, but they did so to far more Nordic runes and symbols, and symbols inspired by Nordic runes.
Many nationalist socialists and Nazis see Nordic runes as symbols for Aryan purity – but to think this is to blatantly ignore their true purpose. According to the Poetic Edda (Old Norse myth poems), the runes were of divine origin to be interpreted by the reader. So, essentially, they were more messages from the gods than they were a true alphabet. Each rune had a distinct meaning and was supposed to convey something to you, or imbue you with its essence if you kept it with you in a meaningful way. The way Nazis parade around with runes attached to their own symbols to imply that they will keep their race “pure” is to spit on the Norse gods in a sickening way.
Nazis used the “Odal” rune, that originally had meanings of heritage, as a symbol of bringing together people of similar blood or race, and a division of the SS used it on their uniforms, in addition to its use by the Hitler Youth. They often used the “Algiz” rune (often associated with protection and defense) as a symbol of man, life, and health – a representation which had no association with the history of the rune or the traditional meaning. Perhaps most recognizably, other than the swastika, was their use of a variation of the traditional Sowilō rune on a badge on the SS’ uniforms.
Modern pagans and occultists will use Nordic runes in what they consider to be their original intention, but of course, because of the Nazi connotations and some Nazi-related occultists becoming involved in the rune scene in the past, most seem to do it quietly or choose to do something like tarot instead – but I think this is the wrong approach. I believe it is up to pagans and occultists to try and reclaim these symbols. Now is the time to step up and show the world the true powers and meanings of runes, especially since we are in such a culture war where these symbols are being bastardized. If we do not fight this, then white supremacists will continue to perpetuate the message that Nordic paganism is evil, no matter who is practicing it – which is simply not the case. Not to mention on a grander scale, people might even start associating the Norse gods with Nazis and white supremacy as well, which is an awful result to consider in all of this.
Some would argue that paganism has always had a bad rep, making it better to practice our art in secret, and normally I would agree with this; but we cannot let people like Nazis and white supremacists pervert our symbols and teachings to this degree all over again, without at least decrying their actions and showing that they do not speak for us as a vocal majority. Occultists rarely gather together for any one purpose, but I think now might be one of those times: to protect something important to our culture and keep it from being overtly perverted.