Ariosophy and the Runes

Armanism and Ariosophy are the names of ideological systems of an esoteric nature, pioneered by two völkisch occultists & scholars, Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels respectively, in Austria between 1890 and 1930.
List also used the name Wotanism for his studies and ideology, whereas Lanz also used the names Theozoology and Ario-Christianity.
The two authors inspired numerous others and a variety of organizations in Germany and Austria of that time.
They were part of a general occult revival in Austria and Germany of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, (see Introduction – the Occult), loosely inspired by historical Germanic paganism and traditional concepts of occultism, and related to German romanticism.
The connection of this Germanic mysticism with historical Germanic culture, though tenuous, is evident in the mystics’ fascination with runes, in the form of List’s Armanen runes and Nordic Mythology.

The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes thereafter.
Runes are equivalent to the Roman, Greek, Cyrillic, or Hebrew alphabets. But they are much more than an alphabet. “Rune” means “secret”, “mystery”, or “hidden”, and is related to the German raunen, meaning “to whisper”, and the Irish run, meaning “a secret.”

To a certain extent, even the Chinese hieroglyphs resemble the runic variations. The same applies to some characters of Turk written languages which were believed to have developed independently from European languages.
 According to a theory, even the Cyrillic alphabet in its earlier form is a runic system. The art of the runes was in use up till the end of 19th century.
Germany was the first European country that started to restore the knowledge of the runes back in the 19th century. A number of secret societies emerged.
For example, Hitler and Himmler were the members of the Thule Gesellschaft.
The Swastika, a runic symbol of the Sun, became the official emblem of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich.
Up until 1940, every SS commissioned officer was to take a special course in the runic magic. The emblem “SS” is a double rune Sigel which is well known as a victory symbol.
The mystics say that it was the runic magic that paved the way for Nazism.
But all the magi were prevented from practising in 1940, and Hitler was doomed from that time onward.


The Scandinavian variants are also known as futhark (or fuþark, derived from their first six letters of the alphabet: F, U, Þ, A, R, and K); the Anglo-Saxon variant is futhorc (due to sound changes undergone in Old English by the same six letters).
Runology is the study of the runic alphabets, runic inscriptions, runestones, and their history. Runology forms a specialized branch of Germanic linguistics.
The earliest runic inscriptions date from around AD 150.
The characters were generally replaced by the Latin alphabet as the cultures that had used runes underwent Christianization by around AD 700 in central Europe and by around AD 1100 in Northern Europe. However, the use of runes persisted for specialized purposes in Northern Europe.
Until the early 20th century runes were used in rural Sweden for decoration purposes in Dalarna and on Runic calendars.
The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around 150 to 800 AD), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400 to 1100 AD), and the Younger Futhark (800–1100).
The Younger Futhark is further divided into the long-branch runes (also called Danish, although they were also used in Norway and Sweden), short-branch or Rök runes (also called Swedish-Norwegian, although they were also used in Denmark), and the stavesyle or Hälsinge runes (staveless runes).
The Younger Futhark developed further into the Marcomannic runes, the Medieval runes (1100 AD to 1500 AD), and the Dalecarlian runes (around 1500 to 1800 AD).
The origins of the runic alphabet are uncertain.
Many characters of the Elder Futhark bear a close resemblance to characters from the Latin alphabet. Other candidates are the 5th to 1st century BC Northern Italic alphabets: Lepontic, Rhaetic and Venetic, all of which are closely related to each other and descend from the Old Italic alphabet.
In Norse mythology, the runic alphabet is attested to a divine origin (Old Norse: reginkunnr). This is attested as early as on the Noleby Runestone from around 600 AD that reads “I prepare the suitable divine rune …” and in an attestation from the 9th century on the Sparlösa Runestone which reads “And interpret the runes of divine origin”.
More notably, in the Poetic Edda poem Hávamál, Stanza 80, the runes are also described as reginkunnr:

‘That is now proved,
what you asked of the runes,
of the potent famous ones,
which the great gods made,
and the mighty sage stained,
that it is best for him if he stays silent.’

The poem Hávamál explains that the originator of the runes was the major god Odin. Stanza 138 describes how Odin received the runes through self-sacrifice:

‘I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.’

In stanza 139, Odin continues:

‘No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.’

This passage has been interpreted as a mythical representation of shamanic initial ritual in which the initiate must undergo a physical trial in order to receive mystic widsom.
In the Poetic Edda poem Rígsþula another origin is related of how the runic alphabet became known to man. The poem relates how Ríg, identified as Heimdall in the introduction, sired three sons (Thrall (slave), Churl (freeman) and Jarl (noble)) on human women. These sons became the ancestors of the three classes of men indicated by their names.
When Jarl reached an age when he began to handle weapons and show other signs of nobility, Rig returned and, having claimed him as a son, taught him the runes.
In 1555, the exiled Swedish archbishop Olaus Magnus recorded a tradition that a man named Kettil Runske had stolen three rune staffs from Odin and learned the runes and their magic.

The pioneer of the Armanist branch of Ariosophy and one of the more important figures in esotericism in Germany and Austria in the late 19th and early 20th century was the Austrian occultist, mysticist and völkisch author Guido von List.

In 1908, he published in ‘Das Geheimnis der Runen’ (“The Secret of the Runes”) a set of 18 so-called “Armanen runes”, based on the Younger Futhark and runes of List’s own introduction, which were allegedly revealed to him in a state of temporary blindness after a cataract operation on both eyes in 1902.

It should be observed that the interest towards runology so characteristic of early 20th century occult circles was introduced by the works of Guido von List (see above), occult runic revivalist.
Von List created his own version of the Futhark known as Armanen runes, allegedly revealed to his “inner eye”.
Later Karl Maria Willigut was responsible for their use during the Third Reich.
Armanen Futhark derives from historic runes but does not belong to the Norse runelore.


Tyr (Tiwaz, Teiwaz) Rune

Týr is the Norse god of war, portrayed as one-handed warrior. Týr’s symbol is sword. Once he played a very important role in the Germanic pantheon. Tuesday is actually Týr’s day (Anglo-Saxons called him Tiw). By the Viking Age Týr was somewhat overshadowed by Thor and Odin. The Icelandic rune poem associates the rune with the god of the same name:
God with one hand
and leavings of the wolf
and prince of temples.

The Anglo-Saxon rune poem explains the meaning of the rune tir using the imagery of a star that had the same name (probably the North Star):

Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes;
it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.

In Nazi Germany the Tyr rune was also known as Kampf-Rune (Battle rune) or Pfeil-Rune (Arrow rune) and was symbolic of leadership in battle. It was widely used by various youth organizations after World War I, and later by Hitlerjugend and SA.
Worn on the upper left arm, it indicated the graduation from the SA-Reichsführerschule.
It was also used as the badge of the SS Recruiting and Training Department, as well as the emblem of the Waffen-SS division “30 Januar”.
The Tyr rune also marked the graves of SS men, thus replacing the Christian cross.

S Sig Rune

Sig is the Armanen name of that rune.
In the ancient Norse and Germanic runelore that rune always designated sun: its Elder Futhark reconstructed name is *sowilo, ’sun’, Younger Futhark name is sól, ’sun’, Anglo-Saxon Futhorc name is sigel, ’sun’.
Guido von List changed the name to mean ‘victory’ (Sieg in German).
The sequence of runes Sig and Tyr in his version of the Futhark together constitute Sigtýr, one of Odin’s names. 
In Nazi Germany Sig or Siegesrune (Rune of victory) was the most recognizable and popular symbol after Hakenkreuz (swastika).
SS-runes insignia with two oblique Sig runes were created in 1933 by graphic designer Walter Heck. 

It is a series of sig runes that make up the circular, swirling symbol of the Schwarze Sonne or Sonnenrad to be found at the Wewelsburg.

Hagall Rune

The star form of this rune is characteristic for the Younger Futhark, whereas its Elder Futhark form looks altogether different. Hagall means ‘hail’. The Icelandic rune poem describes it as follows:
Cold grain
and shower of sleet
and sickness of serpents.

In the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc this sign is called iar with the following explanation:
Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land;
it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.

The meaning of the word iar is obscure. It is usually interpreted as ‘eel’ or ‘newt’. Note that the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc also has the rune hægl, ‘hail’ corresponding to the Elder Futhark *hagall and used for the same sound, but unlike the Younger Futhark and Armanen runes it does not have the star form.

The use of the Hagall rune in the design of the SS-Ehrenring (SS honor ring, also called deaths head ring) was explained by Himmler as follows: “The swastika and the Hagall-Rune represent our unshakable faith in the ultimate victory of our philosophy.
In Nazi Germany it was also used as an element of the SS wedding ceremony. In the Armanen rune row the name of this rune is Hagal.

O Odal Rune

The Elder Futhark reconstructed name for this rune is *oþila, ‘inherited possession’. The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc name is eþel, ‘land, landed property’. It is not present either in the Younger Futhark or the Armanen rune row. The Anglo-Saxon rune poems explains its meaning as follows:
An estate is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.

In Nazi Germany Odal rune was symbolic of the Blut und Boden (“Blood and Soil”) ideology, focusing on a concept of ethnicity based on descent and homeland.
It was also the emblem of the Waffen-SS division “Prinz Eugen”, recruited from the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) community in Croatia. It was also used by Reichsbauernschaft and Hitlerjugend.

Leben Rune (Life Rune)

The Elder Futhark reconstructed name for this rune is *algiz, ‘protection’.
It denoted the common Germanic sound *z, which corresponds to ON *-R in final position. In the Younger Futhark the same sign designated the sound m and was called maðr, ‘man’:
Delight of man
and augmentation of the earth
and adorner of ships.

In the Armanen rune row it is the 15th rune, which bears the name Man.
This symbol was adopted by the SS Lebensborn Society and Ahnenerbe.
In the SS documents and grave markers it showed the date of birth.

Toten Rune (Death Rune)

In the Younger Futhark this rune had the name ýr, ‘yew’:
Bent bow
and brittle iron
and giant of the arrow.

In the Third Reich it was understood as the turned over Life rune thus designating death.
It showed the date of death in documents and on grave markers.

Eif Rune (Zeal Rune)

In the Third Reich it represented enthusiasm.
The Eif rune was the early emblem of the SS adjutants assigned personally to Hitler.
Origin unclear. Possibly a variation of the Elder Futhark *eihwaz rune.

 Opfer Rune (Offering Rune)

In the Third Reich it represented self-sacrifice.
Used by Stahlhelm war veterans’ association, as well as a badge commemorating the Nazis who perished during the 1923 Munich Putsch. Origin unclear. Possibly a variation of the Elder Futhark *eihwaz rune.

NGer Rune

In Nazi Germany it was a symbol of communal spirit and a variant sign of the Waffen-SS division “Nordland”. This symbol’s origin and its relation to the Anglo-Saxon ger rune remain unclear to me.

Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook)

Wolfsangel was a device to trap wolves.
The symbol representing it was believed to have the magical power to ward off werewolves.
The Wolfsangel sign does not belong to any runic tradition.
In the 15th century it was adopted as an emblem of the German peasants’ revolt. Ever since it was regarded as symbolic of liberty and independence.
In Nazi Germany it was an early emblem of NSDAP and later the emblem of the Waffen-SS division “Das Reich”.
A squat version of the Wolfsangel was used as a badge of the Weer Afdeelingen, Dutch equivalent of the German SA.


Ideology regarding the Aryan race (in the sense of Indo-Europeans, though with Germanic peoples being viewed as their purest representatives), runic symbols, the swastika, and occultism are important elements in Ariosophy.
From around 1900 onwards, these ariosophic ideas (together with, and influenced by, Theosophy) contributed significantly to an occult counterculture in Germany and Austria.

see also The Lord of the Harvest


Guido Karl Anton List was born in Vienna in the Austrian Empire to Karl Anton List, a prosperous middle class leather goods dealer, and Maria List (née Killian).
His father was a prosperous dealer in leather goods.
He grew up in the Leopoldstadt bezirke of Vienna
Like the majority of his fellow Austrians at that time, his family was Roman Catholic, and he was christened as an infant in St Peter’s Church in Vienna.
In 1862 a visit to the catacombs beneath the Cathedral of Saint Stephan made a deep impression, and List regarded the catacombs as a pagan shrine.
As an adult he claimed he had then sworn to build a temple to Wotan when he grew up.
On June 24, 1875 he was camping with four friends near the ruins of Carnuntum (see left & right).
As the 1500th anniversary of the Germanic tribes defeat over this Roman garrison in 375, the evening carried a lot of weight for List.’Carnuntum’ became the title of
List’s first full-length novel, published in two volumes in 1888.
After its success, it was followed by two more books set in tribal Germany; Jung Diether’s Heimkehr (Young Diether’s Homecoming, 1894) and Pipara (1895).
These books led to List being celebrated by the pan-German movement. Around the turn of the century, he continued with several plays. Between 1903 and 1907 he began using the noble title von on occasion, before finally settling on it permanently in 1907. As this was only permitted for members of the aristocracy, he was put before an official enquiry. Here he produced spurious evidence supporting his tenuous claim, which was accepted by the officials heading the inquiry, however, there is no extant evidence demonstrating independently verifiable proof of direct lineal descent from a noble family for the Lists.
During the final stages of World War I the naval blockade of the Central Powers created food shortages in Vienna.
This caused poor health in the now seventy year old von List.
In the spring of 1919 he set off to recuperate in Brandenburg, Germany, but his health deteriorated quickly and he died of pneumonia in Berlin on May 17th within a few months after the end of WW1 whilst on a visit to his followers in Berlin.
He was cremated in Leipzig and his urn then buried in Vienna Central Cemetery, Zentralfriedhof, on the 8th of October 1919 in the gravesite KNLH 413 – Vienna’s largest and most famous cemetery (including the graves of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Strauss.) in Vienna’s 11th district of Simmering.
Philipp Stauff wrote an obituary which appeared in the Münchener Beobachter.


‘Das Geheimnis der Runen’ was originally first published in 1908 and the Guido von list society was founded chiefly by the Wannieck family.

‘The Secret of the Runes’ is a unique work which borrowed from the Theosophy of Madame H. P. Blavatsky as well as ancient Aryan (Teutonic and Indian) legend to create a unique system of rune magic.

Taking his inspiration from early Germanic religion (Wotanism, or Wuotanism) including references from Tacitus and the Eddas, neoromanticism, and later incorporating elements from Theosophy, Guido List developed a system of Armanenism which was supposedly the earliest belief system of the Germanic (Aryan) tribes.
In ‘Das Geheimnis der Runen’ Guido List explains the role of the runes in uncovering early Germanic belief.
An important substructure underlying von List’s conceptions is his baptism into Roman Catholicism, which he believes serves as a cover for more ancient pagan beliefs which have been subsumed by Christianity.
List shows the importance of the runes and the unique meaning of each of the runic elements. Subsequently he shows how the runes were incorporated into such systems as heraldry, freemasonry, folk tradition and belief, and even into baked goods and pastries, as well as holidays. List notes that early Germanic (Aryan) society consisted of individuals who served as farmers with three principal classes (castes), that of the peasantry, the military, and the nobility/intellegentsia (Armanen).
List defines an occult doctrine in which he outlines the “biune-bifidic-dyad”, the “triune-trifidic-triad”, and the “multifidic multiune-multiplicity”.
List shows how each of these relates to God and the need for man to conform his will (his ego) to that of God.
List also presents a system of reincarnation in which Aryan individuals fallen in battle are taken up into Walhalla.
In fact, List himself was to write another important novel named ‘Carnuntum’ dealing with the Germans under the Roman empire as well as encounter an individual named Tarnhari who was a supposed reincarnation of an Aryan chieftain.
List incorporated racial notions of Aryan supremacy into his writings and of course was politically aligned with Pan German nationalists who wanted to see Austria united with the other Germanies. List’s ideas were used to found a Masonic society, which later was to embrace National Socialism. Subsequently, many indidividuals associated with National Socialism and the NSDAP were to examine List’s ideas and writings and find them interesting in furthering their own political agendas.


Guido’s Armanen Futharkh

Guido’s self created row of 18 so-called “Armanen Runes” then became what we know today as the “Armanen Futharkh”.
His followers claim that a secret vision came to List during an 11 month state of temporary blindness after a cataract operation on both eyes in 1902.
This miraculous vision in 1902 allegedly opened what List referred to as his “inner eye”, via which he claimed the “Secret of the Runes” was revealed to him.
List claimed that his Armanen Futharkh were encrypted in the Hávamál Poetic Edda, specifically in stanzas 147 through 165 reported as being the ‘song’ of the 18 runes.


As a follow-up to the classic and seminal work ‘Das Geheimnis der Runen’ Guido von List published: ‘Die Religion der Ario-Germenen in ihrer Esoterik und Exoterik’, first published in 1910.
This text, next to that of ‘The Secret of the Runes’ provides an in-depth look at the ideological world of the turn of the century Viennese master.
Perhaps no other text so precisely sums up List’s religious world-view.
In these pages he describes an esoteric, theosophical, cosmology in terms of Germanic mythology and addresses questions of astrology and the purpose and destiny of the human soul.
Guido von List elaborated a racial religion premised on the concept of renouncing the imposed foreign creed of Christianity and returning to the pagan religions of the ancient Indo-Europeans (List preferred the equivalent term Ario-Germanen, or ‘Aryo-Germans’).
List recognised the theoretical distinction between the Indo-European (‘Aryan’) protolanguage and the derivative Germanic protolanguage but frequently obscured it by his tendency to treat them as a single long-lived entity.
In this, he became strongly influenced by the Theosophical thought of Madame Blavatsky, which he blended however with his own highly original beliefs, founded upon Germanic paganism.
Before he turned to occultism, Guido List had written articles for German nationalist newspapers in Austria, as well as four historical novels and three plays, some of which were “set in tribal Germany” before the advent of Christianity.
He also had written an anti-semitic essay in 1895.
List called his doctrine Armanism after the Armanen, supposedly a body of priest-kings in the ancient Ario-Germanic nation.

He claimed that this German name had been Latinized into the tribal name Herminones mentioned in Tacitus and that it actually meant the heirs of the sun-king: an estate of intellectuals who were organised into a priesthood called the Armanenschaft.
His conception of the original religion of the Germanic tribes was a form of sun worship, with its priest-kings (similar to the Icelandic goði) as legendary rulers of ancient Germany.
Religious instruction was imparted on two levels. The esoteric doctrine (Armanism) was concerned with the secret mysteries of the gnosis, reserved for the initiated elite, while the exoteric doctrine (Wotanism) took the form of popular myths intended for the lower social classes.

List believed that the transition from Wotanism to Christianity had proceeded smoothly under the direction of the skalds, so that native customs, festivals and names were preserved under a Christian veneer and only needed to be ‘decoded’ back into their heathen forms.
This peaceful merging of the two religions had been disrupted by the forcible conversions under “bloody Charlemagne — the Slaughterer of the Saxons”.
List claimed that the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria-Hungary constituted a continuing occupation of the Germanic tribes by the Roman empire, albeit now in a religious form, and a continuing persecution of the ancient religion of the Germanic peoples and Celts.
He also believed in the magical powers of the old runes.
From 1891 onwards he claimed that heraldry was based on a system of encoded runes, so that heraldic devices conveyed a secret heritage in cryptic form.
see The Art of Heraldry
In April 1903, he submitted an article concerning the alleged Aryan proto-language to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Its highlight was a mystical and occult interpretation of the runic alphabet, which became the cornerstone of his ideology. Although the article was rejected by the academy, it would later be expanded by List and grew into his final masterpiece, a comprehensive treatment of his linguistic and historical theories published in 1914 as ‘Die Ursprache der Ario-Germanen und ihre Mysteriensprache’ – (The Proto-Language of the Aryo-Germans and their Mystery Language).
List’s doctrine has been described as gnostic, pantheist and deist.
At its core is the mystical union of God, man and nature.
Wotanism teaches that God dwells within the individual human spirit as an inner source of magical power, but is also immanent within nature through the primal laws which govern the cycles of growth, decay and renewal.
List explicitly rejects a dualism of spirit versus matter or of God over against nature.
Humanity is therefore one with the universe, which entails an obligation to live in accordance with nature. But the individual human ego does not seek to merge with the cosmos.
“Man is a separate agent, necessary to the completion or perfection of ‘God’s work’”.
Being immortal, the ego passes through successive reincarnations until it overcomes all obstacles to its purpose.
List foresaw the eventual consequences of this in a future utopia on earth, which he identified with the promised Valhalla, a world of victorious heroes:

Thus in the course of uncounted generations all men will become Einherjar, and that state — willed and preordained by the godhead — of general liberty, equality, and fraternity will be reached. This is that state which sociologists long for and which socialists want to bring about by false means, for they are not able to comprehend the esoteric concept that lies hidden in the triad: liberty, equality, fraternity, a concept which must first ripen and mature in order that someday it can be picked like a fruit from the World Tree.’

List was familiar with the cyclical notion of time, which he encountered in Norse mythology and in the theosophical adaptation of the Hindu time cycles.
He had already made use of cosmic rhythms in his early journalism on natural landscapes.
In his later works List combined the cyclical concept of time with the “dualistic and linear time scheme” of western apocalyptic which counterposes a pessimism about the present world with an ultimate optimism regarding the future one.
In ‘Das Geheimnis der Runen’, List addresses the seeming contradiction by explaining the final redemption of the linear time frame as an exoteric parable which stands for the esoteric truth of renewal in many future cycles and incarnations.

Already in 1893 Guido List, together with Fanny Wschiansky, had founded the Literarische Donaugesellschaft, a literary society.
In 1908 the Guido von List Society (Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft) was founded primarily by the Wannieck family (Friedrich Wannieck and his son Friedrich Oskar Wannieck being prominent and enthusiastic Armanists) as an occult völkisch organisation, with the purpose of financing and publishing List’s research.
The List Society was supported by many leading figures in Austrian and German politics, publishing, and occultism.
Although one might suspect a völkisch organisation to be antisemitic, the society included at least two Jews among its members: Moritz Altschüler, a rabbinical scholar (Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 99), and Ernst Wachler.
The List Society published List’s works under the series ‘Guido-List-Büchere’.
List had established exoteric and esoteric circles in his organisation.
The High Armanen Order (Hoher Armanen Orden) was the inner circle of the Guido von List Society.
Founded in midsummer 1911, it was set up as a magical order or lodge to support List’s deeper and more practical work.
The HAO conducted pilgrimages to what its members considered “holy Armanic sites”, Stephansdom in Vienna, Carnuntum etc. They also had occasional meetings between 1911 and 1918, but the exact nature of these remains unknown.

List died on 17 May 1919, a few months before Adolf Hitler joined a minor Bavarian political party – the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (part of the Thule Gesellschaft) – and formed it into the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – NSDAP (see left).
After the Nazis had come to power, several advocates of Armanism fell victim to the suppression of esotericism in Nazi Germany.

The fascination that runes exerted on many members of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei and the SS can be traced to Guido von List.
His rune row, however, was subsequently rejected by the Nazis in favor of the Wiligut runes created by the official Nazi Runologist Karl Maria Wiligut.


Irminenschaft (or, Irminism, Irminenreligion) is a current of Ariosophy based on a hypothetical Germanic deity Irmin (a backformation from Irminsul “great pillar” and informed by Tacitus’ Hermiones; The Old Saxon adjective irmin “great, strong” may also have been an epithet of Ziu (Týr) or Wodan (Odin)).
Stronger scientific evidence stems from the occurrence of the word “Irmingot”, as found in the Old High German “Hildebrandslied”.
Notably the Nazi occultist Karl Maria Wiligut claimed a historical Irminism, established in 12,500 BC, later ousted by Wotanism.

Karl Maria Wiligut was baptised as a Roman Catholic in Vienna.
At the age of 14, he joined the Kadettenschule there.
Aged 17, he was conscripted to the k.u.k. infantry regiment of Milan I king of Serbia.
On 17 December 1883 he was appointed as an infantry man, four days later he became a gefreiter.
In 1888, he was promoted to lieutenant.
In 1906 he married Malwine Leuts von Teuringen of Bozen, with whom he had two daughters, Gertrud and Lotte.
A twin brother of one of the girls died as an infant, a devastating tragedy for Wiligut, who was desperate for a male heir to which he could pass on his “secret knowledge”, which estranged him from his wife.
In 1889, he joined the quasi-masonic “Schlaraffia-Loge”.
He published his first book, ‘Seyfrieds Runen’, in 1903, under the pseudonym of “Lobesam”. 1908 followed the Neun Gebote Gots, where Wiligut first claimed to be heir to an ancient tradition of Irminism. Both List and Wiligut were influenced by Friedrich Fischbach’s 1900 Die Buchstaben Gutenbergs.
During World War I, Wiligut served at the southern and eastern fronts. On 1 August 1917, he was promoted to colonel. In May 1918, he was retired from the front and commanded a convalescents’ camp near Lviv.
After almost forty years in military service, he retired on 1 January 1919 with an impeccable record, and moved to Morzg near Salzburg and dedicated his time to occult studies.
He renewed his acquaintance with Theodor Czepl of the Ordo Novi Templi, who in winter 1920/21 spent seven weeks in Wiligut’s house.
Czepl compiled a report for the archive of the O.N.T., where he describes Wiligut as “a man martial in aspect, who revealed himself as bearer of a secret line of German kingship”.
Wiligut founded the postwar newspaper ‘Der Eiserne Besen’, where he disseminated anti-Judaistic, anti-Masonic and anti-Christian pamphlets, expressing his conviction of a worldwide conspiracy of these “dark forces”.

Shortly after being introduced to Reichsführer-SS Himmler in September 1933 at a conference of the Nordische Gesellschaft, Wiligut was inducted into the SS (under the pseudonym “Karl Maria Weisthor”) to head a Department for Pre- and Early History which was created for him within the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA).

In April 1934 he was promoted to the rank of Standartenführer (colonel), and then made head of Section VIII (Archives) for RuSHA in October 1934. In November 1934 a promotion followed to the rank of Oberführer (lieutenant-brigadier), and then in Spring 1935 Wiligut was transferred to Berlin to serve on Himmler’s personal staff.

He was promoted to the rank of Brigadeführer in September 1936.
In Berlin, where he worked in the office of Karl Wolff, chief adjutant of the SS, Wiligut developed his plans for the rebuilding of the Wewelsburg
into an allegorical “center of the world”.
Most significantly the Great Hall of the Wewelsburg had a marble inlaid floor representing the most secret and occult occult symbol of the Thule Gesellschaft – the ‘Schwartze Sonne‘ (the Black Sun – see left & right).
Wiligut’s friend Manfred von Knobelsdorff attempted to practise Wiligut’s Irminism by performing various rituals on the Wewelsburg.
These included a baptismal ceremony for Karl Wolff’s eldest son on 4 January 1937, attended by SS dignitaries Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Diebitsch.
In summer 1936, Gunther Kirchhoff and Wiligut, on behalf of the Ahnenerbe, undertook a 22 day expedition to the Murg Valley in the Black Forest where there was a settlement described as consisting of old half-timbered houses, architectural ornament, crosses, inscriptions, and natural and man-made rock formations in the forest, which, they claimed, showed it to be an ancient Krist settlement.

Wiligut identified Schloss Eberstein as a center of Irminism.
In Saxony, he discovered another “Irminist complex”, identifying Einum as “spirit point”, Bodenburg as “will point”, Gandersheim as “central awareness point”, Engelade as “force hand point”, Calefeld as “heart point” of the crucified Balder, Brunstein as “generative point”, Naensen as “material hand point” and Ebergötzen as “skould point”.
Wiligut identified Irminism as the true German ancestral religion, claiming that Guido von List’s Wotanism and Armanen runic row was a schismatic false religion.
Himmler, on Wiligut’s recommendation, had many of List’s followers and non-official Nazi occultists imprisoned in concentration camps.
Wiligut contributed significantly to the development of Wewelsburg as the order-castle and ceremonial center of SS pseudo-religious practice.

He officiated in the role of priest at weddings of SS men and their brides.

He designed the Totenkopfring, which Himmler personally awarded to prestigious SS officers.

Herman Wirth, first president of the Ahnenerbe, was less than impressed with Wiligut, and in a letter to Rudolf J. Mund describes him as a senile alcoholic plagiarizing Guido List. But Wirth himself was dropped by Himmler after his forgery of a “Fossum calendar disk” he had alleged to have found in a 1937 Ahnenerbe expedition to Sweden was uncovered.

Karl Maria Wiligut died on 3 January 1946.His gravestone is inscribed with “UNSER LEBEN GEHT DAHIN WIE EIN GESCHWÄTZ” (“Our Life Passes Away Like Idle Chatter”).

Occult involvement

In 1889 Wiligut joined the Schlaraffia, a quasi-masonic lodge.
When he left the lodge in 1909, he held the rank of knight and the office of chancellor.
His first book, Seyfrieds Runen, was published in 1903 under the pseudomym of Lobesam. “Seyfrieds Runen” was a collection of poems about the Rabenstein at Znaim on the Austrian-Moravian border.
In 1908 followed the Neun Gebote Gots, where Wiligut first claimed to be heir to an ancient tradition of Irminism.
Both List and Wiligut were influenced by Friedrich Fischbach’s 1900 ‘Die Buchstaben Gutenbergs’.
Wiligut claimed to be in the tradition of a long line of Germanic mystic teachers, reaching back into prehistoric times.
He also claimed to have spiritual powers that allowed him direct access to genetic memories of his ancestors thousands of years previously.
From 1908, Wiligut was in contact with the occultist Ordo Novi Templi in Vienna. Wiligut claimed that the Bible had originally been written in Germanic, and testified to an “Irminic” religion – Irminenreligion or Irminism – that contrasted with Wotanism. He claimed to worship a Germanic god whom Christianity was supposed later to have appropriated as their own saviour Christ.
Germanic culture and history, according to Wiligut, reached back to 228,000 BC.
At this time, there were three suns, and Earth was inhabited by giants, dwarfs and other mythical creatures.
Wiligut claimed that his ancestors, the Adler-Wiligoten, ended a long period of war. By 12,500 BC, the Irminic religion of Krist was revealed and from that time became the religion of all Germanic peoples, until the schismatic adherents of Wotanism gained the upper hand.
In 1200 BC, the Wotanists succeeded in destroying the Irminic religious center at Goslar, following which the Irminists erected a new temple at the Externsteine, which was in turn appropriated by the Wotanists in AD 460.

The Externsteine is a distinctive rock formation is situated in the Teutoburger Wald, not far from Detmold.
This series of tall, narrow rock columns rise from the wooded hills and appear to be the only such stone formations in the entire area, though on the hills on either side of the formation, the Knickenhagen and Bärenstein, similar rocks are hidden, only visible as perpendicular ribs along their northern flanks. But it’s what is visible that counts, and hence, the Externsteine are a unique series of four sandstone columns up to forty meters tall, forming a wall several hundreds of meters long.
The Ahnernebe, following the theories of Wilhelm Teudt, found ancient Germanic “star temples” where sightlines supposedly radiated out towards important positions of sun, moon, and stars.
Wilhelm Teudt (7 December 1860, Bergkirchen – 5 January 1942) was a völkisch lay archaeologist searching for an ancient Germanic civilization.
His 1929 work Germanische Heiligtümer continues to have currency in esoteric and neopagan communities to this day.
He trusted in his paranormal faculty of picking up the “vibrations” of his ancestors helping him visualize ancient sceneries of the sites he was researching.
Teudt was particularly interested in the Externsteine.

According to Teudt this was where the sacred pillar of the Saxons, Irminsul, stood until toppled by Charlemagne and a carving of a “weeping Irminsul” is supposed to be on one of the pillars of rock.
The Externsteine was at the centre of alignments and was supposed to have been a sacred centre before Stonehenge.
In 1933 Teudt joined the Nazi Party and proposed to turn the Externsteine into a “sacred grove” for the commemoration of the ancestors.
Hence, it should be he, not Wiligut, who was responsible for making the Externsteine part of the Nazi doctrine. 
Heinrich Himmler was open to the idea, and in 1933 initiated and then presided over the “Externstein Foundation”, though it was actively run by SS-Standartenführer Wolfram Sievers.
He led the German excavations at the site until 1940 when it was turned over to the Ahnenerbe’s control.

Wiligut’s own ancestors were supposedly protagonists in this setting: the Wiligotis were Ueiskunings (“Ice kings”) descending from a union of Aesir and Vanir.
They founded the city of Vilna as the center of their Germanic empire and always remained true to their Irminic faith.
During the 1920s, Wiligut wrote down 38 verses (out of a number purportedly exceeding 1,000), the so-called Halgarita Sprüche, that he claimed to have memorized as a child, taught by his father.
Wiligut had designed his own “runic alphabet” for this purpose (see right).
Werner von Bülow and Emil Rüdiger of the Edda-Gesellschaft (Edda Society) translated and annotated these verses.
They claimed that numbers 27 and 1818 are connected with the Black Sun (see right).
Verse number 27 according to Willigut is a 20,000 year old “solar blessing”:
‘Sunur saga santur toe Syntir peri fuir sprueh Wilugoti haga tharn Halga fuir santur toe’
Werner von Bülow translates this as follows:

Legend tells, that two Suns, two wholesome in change-rule UR and SUN, alike to the hourglass which turned upside down ever gives one of these the victory
The meaning of the divine errant wandering way
dross star in fire’s sphere became in fire-tongue revealed to the Earth-I-course of the race of Paradise
godwilling leaders lead to the weal through their care in universal course, what is visible and soon hidden, whence they led the imagination of mankind
polar in change-play, from UR to SUN in sacrifical service of waxing and waning, in holy fire Santur is ambiguously spent in sparks, but turns victorious to blessing“.

Santur is interpreted as a burnt-out sun that was still visible at the time of Homer.
Rüdiger speculates that this was the center of the solar system hundreds of millennia ago, and he imagines a fight between the new and the old Suns that was decided 330,000 years ago. Santur is seen as the source of power of the Hyperboreans.


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