The Armanen rune set, like other sets, has a difficult history to pin-point where and when it was established. Some will say that this set was originally developed by Guido List, while others will tell you that List followed the previous works of a scholar named Johannes Bureus. However, either way you look at it List’s work varies enough from previous scholar’s work to make the Armanen rune set one worth having a look at.
Gudio List (1848-1919) was the founder of a school of German rune work. The contributions to the study and preservation of the runes may be one of the reasons that we know as much about the runes as we do today. That’s not to say that all that List had taught was to be held as truth. In fact List claimed that his Armanen rune set was not only older than the Elder Futhark but that his set had laid the groundwork for the Elder Futhark as well as other rune sets.
It is said that the Armanen rune set came to List in a vision one day after he had become temporarily blind from an eye surgery. He envisioned 18 runes that were said to be the original rune set and the most ancient script for the Aryan race. However, if we look closely at the 18 runes we’ll notice that List simply took various Scandinavian rune sets, used from those sets various rune staves and then added 2 more to get a total of 18 rune staves for his set – which incidentally is the number of runes talked about in the Hávamál (Sayings of the High One – Part of the Elder Edda).
As far as the divinatory meanings for List’s runes we can see a close connection to the meanings of the Younger Futhork. However, with List’s set there are different meanings for daemoniums (reversed runes) as well as different names1. The use of this set among Germans and people in German speaking countries seems to be very widespread. However, since this set has ties to Socialist German, the Nazi party and in some aspects even to Hitler, we see this set being used less by modern day rune casters.
The Elder Edda is a book of mythological stories of the Norse gods and goddesses and it is in here where we first see Odin learn about the runes. A story called Havamal1 or “Sayings of the High One2” tells us just how Odin first learned the runes.
I know that I hung on a high windy tree
for nine long nights;
pierced by a spear -Odin’s pledge-
given myself to myself.
No one can tell about that tree,
from what deep roots it rises.
They brought me no bread, no horn to drink from,
I gazed toward the ground.
Crying aloud, I caught up the runes;
finally I fell.
We see that Odin, in a shaman-like self-sacrificing ritual, deprives himself of food and drink as he hangs upside down on a tree. In some translations we are told that this tree is Yggdrasil, the Norse World Tree. As the days drag out longer and longer for him, nine nights pass and it is then when Odin sees the shapes of the runes. Crying out, he catches up the runes and falls from the tree.
The poem goes on talking about the runes and how Odin knows how to carve them for magickal uses. There are a total of eighteen runes that are listed but we never are told the names nor hinted at what they may look like. However if you believe the stories and tales of Guido List then you would tend to accept the Armanen Runes to be the runes that Odin discovered. Of course there is no evidence to even come close to supporting List’s claim as his rune set being the very first and original rune set.
If you are looking for the section in the Hávamál where it talks about Odin and the runes, it starts on the 138th stanza in the poem. Or if your poem doesn’t tell you the stanza number look for the section “The Lay of Loaddfafnir” (which starts on the 111th stanza). Skim a little ahead and you should see it.
An important part of runic knowledge can be learned by examining the mythology, sagas, and folklore of the people of Northern Europe, Iceland and even Greenland. By doing so we start to get an understanding of where the runes may have come from, how there were used and even some of the mystery and magick behind them.
For this section I have broken down the stories or myths and have given my input on how the runes come into play in that story or myth. A good place to start is to take a look at how the runes are said to have come into existence in Norse mythology. After we examine the runes in mythology we can begin to learn and understand more about how the runes were used by the people in the saga tales.