How Edred Heard the Word

How Edred Heard the Word

The following is an excerpt from the History of the Rune-Gild (Arcana Europa / Gilded Books) by Edred Thorsson:

The “Wicca-world” of Austin, Texas circa 1973 was typical of the Wicca-world in general. There was the lay scholar who ran the Nexalist Collegium—a man with many books. He believed in things such as the identity between the Semites and the Welsh. The coven N— belonged to was run by his on-again, off-again girlfriend. There were all the usual irregularities, most of which slip my mind now, but the upshot of it all was that the things which seemed out of step with verifiable historical tradition were explained in terms of the group’s own special, secret knowledge—much of which was preserved in the leader’s “Family Book.” This was of course stored away deep in the basement of his father’s country home. None of it seemed quite right, yet I was still too inexperienced to realize just how clichéd it all was. 

During that year I continued to be involved with the theories and practices of magic(k) and to explore an eclectic path generally of my own making. I couldn’t give much credence to the Wiccan form of “magic” at this point because it emphasized—in accordance with its essentially religious worldview—a harmonizing of the will of the individual with the patterns of nature. I had made the essentially magical and individualistic philosophy I had experienced earlier too much a part of myself to find this very attractive. 

In the summer of 1974, N— and I were persuaded by a rather zany member of the Wiccan coven—actually its “high priestess”—to drive down near Houston to the home of a magician using the supposedly Tibetan stage name “Norbu Chen.” Some months before we had all witnessed him perform an act of stage magic dressed up to look like a Tibetan miracle-working (a Fate magazine cover story from around this time also hyped “Norbu’s” alleged powers; see Appendix 2). The high priestess “just knew” that she was in psychic contact with the lama through dreams and was sure she would be welcomed with open arms when she arrived on his doorstep. When we pulled up to his run-down, ranch-style house in the middle of an oil field with broken-down sports cars all around it, I began to get the feeling that I’d been “had” on some level. The priestess rang the doorbell and the rinpoche came to the door. He was a far cry from the way he had looked on stage at the psychic fair in Dallas. Now he was in blue jeans, a too-small T-shirt, and he had a brewski in his hand—an occultizoid icon for the masses, to be sure. The most venerable lama sent the group packing with little explanation and the trip back to Austin was a quiet one indeed. 

That afternoon, as I sat in the back seat of the car mulling over the ridiculous experience that had just occurred and wondering what the immediate future would hold, I suddenly and unexpectedly heard a voice audibly whisper the sound: roonah. I immediately understood that this word, or sound, had something to do with the “runes”—the old pre-Christian writing system used by the Germanic peoples. These signs were, up to that point, only a vague notion in my mind. 

That summer my only coursework at the university was an introduction to linguistics. As I recall, instead of going to class the day I got back from my “Sunday in Tibet,” I went straight to the University of Texas Main Library. At that time, the library was located in the infamous tower where Charles Whitman had carried out his murderous rampage in the summer eight years before. As I looked through the card catalog, preparing to order the books from the stacks (in those days the stacks were closed to all but graduate students and faculty), a wave of numinous significance swept over me. After a couple of hours, I had a two-foot-high pile of books on runes and runic writing. Most were academic books in German, such as Helmut Arntz’s Handbuch der Runenkunde or Wolfgang Krause’s Was man in Runen ritzte. But there was also a book entitled Runenmagie by Karl Spiesberger. It is somewhat of a minor miracle that such an overtly occult book would be found in an academic library at the University of Texas. 

Right away I began to study the text by Spiesberger and tried to put the magic in it to practical use. During the summer of 1975 I did many daily workings, called “Mead-Rites,” in a special chamber dedicated exclusively to this purpose in the duplex at 1606-A Hartford Road. The point of these workings was to spread the might of the runes over the world and to give me the inspiration and wisdom necessary for this work. Throughout the summer, I also composed a complete manuscript of rune magic in the Armanen system. This was originally entitled A Primer of Runic Magic—but has, to date, never been formally published. Although several major publishers were interested in it at the time, all ultimately rejected it because they thought “runes wouldn’t sell.” 

This apparent setback can now be clearly seen as the “hand of Woden” at work. The system of A Primer of Runic Magic was immature and the time was coming to move the tradition a step back toward the truer roots of the runes. The eighteen-rune Armanic Futhork is to some extent a pseudo-runic system, and despite whatever inspiration, wisdom, and power I may have gained from it in those early months, it became clear over time that my work was to be the restoration of the traditional and authentic system of the twenty-four runes…

Photo: Edred Thorsson in 1989. By Clair Laveye © 2019, courtesy of S. E. Flowers.