Arisophy & the Runes

Armanism and Ariosophy are the names of ideological systems of an esoteric nature, pioneered by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels respectively, in Austria between 1890 and 1930.

List also used the name Wotanism, 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, 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.

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.

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.’

see ‘Yggdrasil – The Tree of Life’

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.


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 The Lord of the Harvest

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 and formed it into the NSDAP. 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 seem to have exerted on the Nazis 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”.
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 “Krist”, 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.

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.

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.

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

In esoteric currents of Neo-Nazism, and Neopaganism, Wiligut’s writings enjoyed a renewal of interest in the 1990s.


for more information see