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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

runes A general term applied to a form of sticklike writing found on stones in Germany, Denmark and Southern Sweden, and to some degree Iceland, the regions where the inscriptions gained the greatest importance and where most are found. The oldest runic inscription found in Denmark dates from around 400 AD.
      Probably because of the primitive flavor of the symbols, magical qualities have been ascribed to them. However, runes were used for many practical purposes by warriors and merchants. Some were written on large standing stones to commemorate the death of a son, erected in honor of the dead person who, according to the same inscription, might have been buried in a foreign country. It seems that the most important function of such a stone was to inform the world that the person who erected it, would inherit the position of the deceased.
      Runes are often used by today's mystics in performing divination. The letters are inscribed on wooden blocks, which are then thrown like dice to come up with random words that can then be “interpreted.” Students of runes, about fifty years ago, wrote and published books on the subject that could easily compete with the weirdest kabala weirdo's output, but today no serious student believes such nonsense. One reason for this return to sanity is that the runologists found they had to discover more and more “sacred” numbers, and if the number wasn't “holy,” perhaps if you split it——for instance eleven into four and seven——so you'd get at least one holy number. In the end, it all became ludicrous and few runologists today can talk about their science without blushing when “holy runes” are mentioned.
      Runic writing has reportedly been found in the New World, though it is highly doubtful that any of this material is genuine.

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