On the Question of Russian Runes
Runology according to Herman Wirth
There exist several points of view as to what runes are. Some believe that runes are an altered version of the Latin alphabet that appeared in the 5th-6th centuries among the Scandinavians and Northern European Germanic peoples. Others suggest that runes were the ancient characters used for divination and recording texts which emerged only at a later stage and under the influence of Latin writing. These two points of view on the nature and origin of runes are considered to be the “scholarly” and “orthodox” ones.
But there is another theory of runes proposed by the German scholar, Professor Herman Wirth. We should mention from the outset that this theory is not recognized by broader scholarly circles. The reason for this neglect of Wirth is not so much his paleo-epigraphic and runological works as his assessment of the text famously known as the Oera Linda Chronicle, the story behind which resembles that of the Book of Veles. The Oera Linda Chronicle was discovered at the beginning of the 19th century and allegedly presented the most ancient history of the Germanic peoples (the Frisians) stretching back centuries to many millennia. The text was written in a special quasi-runic script and contained tales of pre-Christian mythology and the sacred history of the Germanic people. The Book of Veles (discovered only at the beginning of the 20th century) represented a precise analogue of the Oera Linda Chronicle, only applied to the Slavs.
Scholars immediately assessed the Oera Linda Chronicle to be an outright forgery dating back to the era of the Dutch Renaissance when some encyclopedist, shifting the mythological and geographical knowledge of the epoch to distant times, created a pseudo-mythological outline. Supporters of the authenticity of the Oera Linda Chronicle were recognized as marginals, charlatans, and subjected to mockery. The parallel with the history of the Book of Veles is obvious in this aspect. Herman Wirth, however, did not assert that we are dealing with an original. He merely suggested that the matter at hand is a very ancient version of a pre-Christian mythological tradition processed and stylized much later by a Dutch humanist. Wirth, being an expert in hundreds of ancient and modern languages, an archaeologist, a linguist, and a historian, accomplished a colossal feat in analyzing the content of this entire “antique” and separating it into temporally different layers – most ancient, later, and altogether recent. The result of his reconstruction was the publication of the Oera Linda Chronicle with detailed commentary, something that made Wirth into an outcast among official historians who believed that the forgery of the Oera Linda Chronicle itself automatically discredited the author. For this reason, his other writings and even the major works of Herman Wirth, such as The Origin of Mankind and The Sacred Protolanguage of Humanity  which contain his runological theory and don’t even mention the Oera Linda Chronicle, were left without attention from the wider scholarly community. Yet these works contained stunning paleo-epigraphical material which fully deserves to become a sensation in the history of human proto-culture. Many of Wirth’s intuitions anticipated the so-called “nostratic” linguistic theories that appeared much later than the first works of this German professor. But this is only one side of his fantastic discoveries. The most important have been hitherto left aside.
And so, Wirth suggested the following explanation of runic characters. From his point of view, Scandinavian and ancient Germanic runes and runic circles represent traces of the most ancient symbolic model which lies at the heart of all types of languages, mythologies, cultures, rituals, sacred doctrines, calendar systems, astrological observations, etc. At one time, runes were known to all the peoples of the earth who descended from a single ancestral home, the northern country of Hyperborea. Wirth, as a supporter of the archeological theory of “cultural circles,” called this primordial proto-culture Thulekulturkreise, i.e. “the cultural circle of Thule.” Originally, runic circles were ritually applied only to wooden surfaces, since in the “cultural circle of Thule” wood was believed to be a sacred element, the physical embodiment of the World Axis. For this reason, it is impossible to trace the chronological development of fully-fledged runic writing in ancient epochs. The mere fragmentary inscriptions on cave walls, ceramics, stones and later on bronze and iron are most likely anomalies rather than the norm of ancient culture that only allow one to judge the evolutionary steps (or, more precisely, involution) of runic writing. Historical runes as they authentically appeared in the 5th-6th centuries are but the inertial traces of a forgotten ancient system which, in order to avoid confusion, can be called proto-runic.
According to Wirth, such a proto-runic system lies at the origin of all systems, including the Phoenician, Indian, Sumerian, Chinese, Egyptian, etc. Moreover, proto-runes and their system represent a key to the deciphering of absolutely all mythological stories and sacred doctrines, both monotheistic and developed and pagan and primitive. The runic circle is unmistakably evident in the phonemes, characters, mythological tales, customs, rituals, superstitions, associations, and ceremonies of all peoples of the earth. One merely needs to know the code in order for the deciphering of any system of symbols to not present any difficulty.
In his works, Herman Wirth accomplished the colossal labor of isolating series of tales and characters that compose the primordial ensemble of symbols of the “culture of Thule,” which can be traced from cave drawings to the most developed and modern theological constructions. Each volume of Wirth’s works consists of around 1,000 pages, including atlases and albums cataloguing his discoveries in the fields of archaeology (he actively participated in excavations), paleo-epigraphy, comparative linguistics, and the history of religions. It is impossible, of course, to give even a brief presentation of these unique studies in a few pages and, what’s more, his works are so rare that they are sometimes even absent in the fullest of European libraries. This circumstance is explained by political considerations. The point is that Herman Wirth was the founder of the scientific research organization, Ancestors Heritage (Ahnenerbe), during the Third Reich, and although he was found completely innocent of the crimes of Hitler’s regime, a certain shadow fell upon him as upon other famous German scholars and thinkers of a patriotic orientation, such as Martin Heidegger, Ernst Junger, Arthur Mueller van den Bruck, Karl Haushofer, etc. However, Wirth suffered even more than them, since the subjects he examined did not arouse the interest of European scholars (unlike Junger and Heidegger who were defended by their French supporters as spotless from the point of view of “anti-fascism”). Together with this, perhaps, is the fact that Wirth’s discoveries are incomparably more important to our understanding of the origins of the human spirit than the works of many other authors…
Wirth lived until 1982, but for the entire remainder of his life, he and his works were met with a silence so thorough that the impression arises that this involves some kind of sinister secret, some kind of “conspiracy.” One episode in particular is indeed very strange. Herman Wirth’s last book, Palestinabuch, in which he collected all the results of his research on the “Hyperborean” origins of the Old Testament tradition on the basis of a systematization and research of the archaic layers of Middle Eastern culture, was mysteriously abducted from his house on the eve of its sending to the printer. If Wirth’s studies were simple charlatanism, then it is hardly believable that someone simply came up with the idea of stealing this manuscript of many thousands of pages.
But this mystery has yet to be unraveled.
What interests us here is not simply the history of this German professor, but the way in which his concepts can aid us in studying Slavic antiquity and explain many of the mysteries of the ancient pre-Christian culture of our distant ancestors. Today, this topic is exciting a growing number of people, hence the interest in the Book of Veles and the reconstruction of pre-Cyrillic writing, etc.
If Wirth’s view is accepted, then we know that the northern peoples of Eurasia who lived in close proximity to the primordial Arctic homeland of Hyperborea preserved proto-runic systems much longer than others, albeit their full meaning, ritual use, and alphabetical and calendar understandings were distorted and forgotten. The runes found among these peoples are thus in fragmented form, as a legacy of ancient knowledge, the key to which has been irrevocably lost. Nevertheless, starting with the 5th century, such late runes appeared in Northern Eurasia. Wirth thus attentively studied the Germanic-Scandinavian regions and pointed out the exact correlation between runic signs and the Orkhon inscriptions of the ancient Turks. Such Turkic runes appeared at almost the same time as the Germanic ones, which means that it is difficult to assume that they directly borrowed from each other. From the standpoint of simple geographical symmetry, what is immediately striking is that the ancient Slavs, mixed with Urgic tribes, were distributed between the settled areas of the Germano-Scandinavian tribes and the Turks of Siberia. Chernorizets Hrabrar wrote that these Slavs “wrote with lines and cuts.” Later runic writing was characterized by the fact that it was indented into wood or stones whereas, according to Wirth, the characters of original proto-runes were rounded. Thus, it is most likely of all that these “lines and cuts” were the symbolic system of “Slavic runes” which existed as a sort of intermediate layer between the Germanic and Turkic systems. Hrabrar’s pointing out that the ancient Slavs “pondered” such cuts indicates that the Slavs used their own runes as did the Germanic tribes, i.e. they served both as an alphabet and a method for sacred rituals (in its lowest form, for divination).
It is indeed astonishing how similar the characters of the Hymn of Boyan and the Book of Veles are to Germanic runes. Moreover, it cannot be excluded that Sulakadzaev, by means of his Masonic contacts to which all the threads of the history of the Book of Veles converge, might have been aware of the Oera Linda Chronicle similarly styled in runic writing. In such a case (which cannot be entirely discounted), the value of these documents is lost. It similarly cannot be discounted that, as in the case of the Oera Linda Chronicle, we are dealing with a later re-working of some kind of genuine ancient document. What is important is at least approaching the issue objectively and impartially without falling into premature enthusiasm or deliberate prejudice.
If the fragments of Sulakadzaev’s collection are authentic, then the Slavs must have had runic-type systems, the fragments of which we can unmistakably encounter in traditional Slavic embroidery, mythological tales, ornaments, rituals, and beliefs. Consequently, the question at hand is initiating a thorough and large-scale deciphering of the ancient Slavic heritage without expecting that history will grant us any reliable material of a textual character. This would be all too easy. However, it also cannot be completed excluded that sooner or later the same testimony will be found. At the present moment, we can now proceed to decipher Slavic antiquity on a global scale given that we have the opportunity to utilize the invaluable scholarly framework developed by the genius German professor.
If we can explain the system of the Slavic runic circle, the problem will be solved, and all that will remain is to compare this model to the Germanic runes and writing system and the calendar signs of the ancient Turks. We will gradually reach the next level in getting ever closer to deciphering the ancient mysteries of Eurasia and grasping its proto-culture and secret, forgotten language as not merely a means of transmitting information (as technocrats and pragmatists today mistakenly understand language to be) but as information itself of the most important, the most significant, and sacred form.
The Mystery of the Apple: the Mystery of the North
Before we take the first steps in our study of Slavic runes, let us denote in the most general terms Herman Wirth’s concept in regards to the meaning of runic or proto-runic writing.
Wirth asserts that the primordial cultural model on the basis of which writing, phonemes, calendars, rituals, legal institutions, arts, and occupations developed, i.e., all of human culture in its primordial, nascent state, was the annual observation of the natural yearly phenomenon of the Arctic North . Many traditions say that it is from the North that humanity’s ancestors descended to the middle and southern latitudes at which the ancient civilizations arose as reflections of the ancient homeland, as its reflections, reconstructions, and simulations. This is affirmed by the Iranian tradition which speaks of Airyana Vaeja, the homeland of the ancient Iranians’ ancestors. The same legend is contained in the Vedas where it is said that the first people lived in a place where day and night lasted a whole year, i..e, the Arctic. The Greeks also knew of the Northern country of Hyperborea, the home of solar Apollo .
The Hindus possess a traditional theory of cosmic cycles which they associate with the dynamics of continents. Each cycle has a corresponding continent, or dvipa. Our cycle corresponds to the so-called Jambudvipa, or “land of apple trees.” Rene Guenon showed  that such a theory does not concern India itself, but rather all relevant, existing continents and especially their synthesis in the form of the Northern Land, Arctogaia, or Hyperborea. This symbolic point is important. In many myths, the apple tree or apple are associated with paradise or the Garden of Eden, the place where mankind dwelt in primordial times. The very root of the word yabloko is etymologically linked to the Hindi jambu and German Appfel, or English apple, etc., which Wirth considers to be a kindred name of Apollo, the Hyperborean god of the Sun and Light. If one considers this “Arctic,” polar point, then the meaning of the many tales involving apples is brought to light, such as the rejuvenating apples of the Scandinavian sagas, the apples of Hesperides, the forbidden apple from the tree of knowledge which caused the ancestors to abandon paradise, etc. In addition, there is yet another expressive detail: if one cuts an apple crosswise, we have a five-pointed star in the middle , and this symbol was also a primordial image of the pole, the North, paradise.
Wirth explains the polar symbolism of the star in the following way. The ancient calendar was represented by a six-pointed star marking the six key positions of the sun. The summer sun (the top line), the winter sun (the lower line), the point of sunrise and winter sunset (the winter solstice – two slanted slashed on the top) or the summer solstice (two slanted slashes on the bottom). Sometimes a horizontal line was marked which corresponded to the points of the equinoxes, thereby yielding an eight-pointed star . In the Arctic, the sixth, lower line is absent since in winter the sun does not rise at all and, consequently, the six-pointed star becomes a five-pointed one. Arctogaia is thus the land of apples and apple trees. Proceeding from this understanding, one can easily deduce the role of apples in Russian and Slavic folklore .
Let us return to the proto-runic circle. Observing annual events outside of the Arctic, Northern polar circle allows one to render visible the following characters which are essential to proto-runes. The circle depicts the daily sun over the head of the observer as if expanding the roundness of the sun to a comic scale. Perhaps the most ancient phoneme of this sign was the consonant R (with the variant of L since “fluid” consonants are often interchangeable when moved from language to language). The circle is sometimes adorned with a vertical bar at the bottom , from which comes the Greek ro – .
This closed circle is broken in the Arctic autumn and spring periods when the sun makes short arcs over the southern point . These arcs are the most ancient proto-runic character in Scandinavian circles, UR . Its vocalization, the vowel “u”, is the only sound which can be made with a closed mouth. Symbolically, this corresponds to the sun’s descent into the darkness of night based on the symbolic identification of the mouth and and voice with the cosmos. Compare the Russian word nyebo, the upper point of the mouth, the palate, and nyebo, or sky.
In the beginning of the year, the same sign UR was probably pronounced like “a”, since the vowel “a” is sounded by a fully opened mouth, a symbol of a new beginning. The sun comes out from under the earth, from the darkness of a cave. The New Day, or New Year thus begins.
This sector is further associated with the sign KA representing the symbol of lifting, upraised hands, horns, etc. This sound was used to identify everything relevant to upwards movement, hence it often means spirit or fire. Above KA rises R (or RE or RI, since the vocalization of consonants in transition from the post-New Year A moves to the intermedia E and further to the I, which is the main sign of the summer solstice, the highest point of the year).
After the summer solstice pronounced as I, and depicted by the vertical bar , the highest sign, the spirit, or regal dignity, the sun begins to slope downwards towards winter and the Arctic night, from the top point to the bottom. The connection between them is maintained in the hieroglyph S,, and the proto-rune SOL, ,which represents a descending fire, sun, sunset, together with lighting. This is also the falling apple bringing autumn down to the Earth.
Further follows the hieroglyph TU or TO, . This is the autumn descent, lowered hands, branches (willow, spruce, pine, yew, etc.). The vowel O represents the middle point between I (sounded with a half-closed mouth and stretched lips) and U (produced by closing the mouth).
In addition, there are the two nasal consonants N and M, () which, according to Wirth, denote the horizontal, water, the Earth, the womb, stone, the bottom, night, darkness, etc. This is a consonant which has not acquired clear form. Therefore, the first cry of a child, MA, expresses the ancient Hyperborean cult formula “from the depths of the night is born new life, new light, a new cosmos.”
Historical runes have several intermediate markers: THURS , the sign of the axe (or thorn) cuts the umbilical cord of the New Year from the Old. The axe and thorn, as well as the verb “to prick” are linked through the word “hack,” i.e axe. It is thus possible that the Slavs called this rune “kolo” or something similar. AS and FEON are the two parts of the World Tree, the Spruce, Birch, or Apple Tree, etc. From FEON comes Russian BOG, god. From AS comes Russian az’, the first person singular of “I.”
The consonant N, initially depicted by a horizontal line was later combined with NYT , hence Russian ne, nyet, and noch’. The vocalization of the springtime KA (KEN in later circles) yields GYFU , a rune similar to KA, the uplifted hand and horizontal bar. A variation of I was the rune IEH which indicates the change in the trajectory of the sun’s path during the summer solstice.
At the point of the autumnal equinox was fixed the composite rune BEORG or , i.e., “two mountains” which converge from the winter solstice in more ancient versions. From this phoneme is formed the Russian word for “birch”, bereza, the sacred tree of the Slavs. All other runes belong to the pre-New Year period, the autumn-winter season.
Next comes LAGU, a hook which means water or lake. The Russian word for meadow, lug, carries both proto-meanings, i.e., something crooked, a bow, or bent (the appearance of this ideogram, the hook, or the handle of a stick) and a space filled with water in spring. This is close to the German root meaning lake. Hence the Russian word for puddle, luzhka.
The rune MADR fell from the spring to the autumn, where it portrayed M (and sounded the same), the surging of water in contrast to the stagnant water of autumn, N .
The rune EOH resembles the ideogram of a horse, hence all the mythological tales of “water horses” or “sea stallions.” The rune ING is the rune of marriage, the union of the sky (the upwards triangle ) and land (the downwards triangle ), or the male and feminine elements. It is also two entwined serpents phonetically pronounced by the gliding vowel NG (sometimes with a nasal N). In the ancient Russian language, “n” was nasal, but gradually disappeared. Such modern Russian words as ugol (angle), ugr’ (eel), kryuk (hook), ruka (arm), lyagushka (frog), etc. once had nasal “n” in front of “g” or “k.” Perhaps the Slavic name of the rune ING was ugol or kryuk.
ODIL represents a node, loop, or drop. It means spirit, seed, and sometimes fish due to hieroglyphic similarities and the fact that fish live in water while the pre-New Year sector of the sacred year corresponds to water. In ancient Russian, the real name for fish, zva, was taboo. It is possible that the Russian ODIL was called none other than zva or “spirit.”
The important rune DAG means day, light, a double axe, or bowl, vessel, or pot for ritual celebrations. This rune yielded the name of the Celtic god Dagda who in Irish mythology was associated with a magic cauldron in which food never expires. This is none other than the New Year rune. From this root evolved the Indo-European names for the celestial god, the Hindus’ Dyaus, Latin Deos, the Greek Qeoj. To this same basis dates back German Tag and Russian den’ (“day”).
Now all that remains is attempting to discover the Slavic roots, patterns, legends, and mythological tales, etc. which correlate with this set of sacred ideograms. Thereby, we will near the restoration of our ancestors’ sacred picture of the world and clarify the sacred models underlying our ancient culture, language, ceremonies, our psychology, etc.
Translator: Jafe Arnold
Chapter 9 of Mysteries of Eurasia (Moscow, Arktogeya: 1999)