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Nightside Of The Runes – Thomas Karlsson (2019)

Karlsson’s books have the habit of going out of print and becoming very expensive. His first book from 2002 Uthark, Nightside Of The Runes is one such work. The German translation Uthark, Schattenreich der Runen from 2004 is more affordable, but it appears that the author wanted to make the English text available again. This makes the first part of this book.

The second part is Karlsson’s book about Johannes Bureus which has been published in Swedish (2005), German (2007) and Italian (2007). Now finally, this book has been made available for people who do not master these languages. That also means that this is the most extensive information available about Bureus in English.

“Uthark” refers to the theories of Sigurd Agrell (1881-1937) who theorized that there was an exoteric and an esoteric rune row. The first stats with the F-rune, in the second, this F-rune is placed at the end. To this he connected numerological and esoteric explanations that Karlsson finds convincing enough to create a magical handbook based on the system. This has a bit too much of a ‘Flowers-feeling’ to me.

Then we continue to the part about Bureus, his “Adulruna” and “Gothicism” before and after Bureus. I have spoken about that in my review of the German translation of the book.

Karlsson’s latest makes a nice read. There is a bit too much of Runegild / Dragon Rouge contemporary magic in it for my liking, but it is great that there is finally descent information in English on the esoteric rune systems of two little-known Swedes. Also Karlsson shows Bureus’ path as an individual path of progress and describes the initiatory system of the Manhemsförbundet, so you get ‘old an new’ practical Runosophy.

2019 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620557746

Adulruna Und Die Gotische Kabbala * Thomas Karlsson (2007)

It has been quite a while since I investigated the interesting Swede Johannes Bureus. There seems to be quite an interest in the man, since my articles and book reviews are relatively popular and I even got two comments in a few days time on an article speaking about Bureus. One of these comments notified me about this book. I guess I missed it, otherwise I would have bought it earlier, but if I remember correctly this is the dissertation of Karlsson and was only available in Swedish in the time I wrote my articles. Karlsson is one of the founders of the Dragon Rouge order and this German translation is published by the Edition Roter Drache. It is good that this little book has been translated to a language that is mastered by more people. First of all Karlsson is more extensive and in-depth than Stephen Flowers, but mostly, Karlsson has visited all the libraries that have writings of Bureus, so the information about for example Adalruna is not based on one version, but on all seven. Then, of course, there is quite a lot of material about Bureus and his system available in Swedish and Karlsson used all these sources too, so now we have more insight in what has been investigated already than when a non-Swedish author picks up the subject. Having written this book on college, Karlsson dived into the current scholarly field of the investigation of Western esotericism, of course including our Amsterdam chair and the Sarbonne in France.
Karlsson wanted to put Bureus in a larger perspective and therefor he starts with information about Western esotericism and the scholars in this field and he continues with a rather long chapter about gothicism and what is meant and what it means. There is little information about the life of Bureus himself, but all the more about his Kabbalistic use of his runes and his shady figures such as the cubic stone and the rune cross. What I mostly enjoy about the larger perspective is that Karlsson says a thing or two about Bureus’ predecessors and how and why his system had such little influence on later generations. Indeed, Karlsson’s book definately adds something to the subject and I would suggest an English edition to expand the readership a bit more.
2007 Edition Roter Drache, isbn 9783939459040
See here for my Bureus articles.

Johannes Bureus and Adalruna * Stephen E. Flowers (1998 Rûna Raven Press)

I had never (consciously) heard of Johan Bure until he was mentioned in the second volume of the Tyr magazine (reviewed elsewhere) where also an add for a book about this Swede was present. The man seems to combine two interests of mine: Renaissance esotericism and Norse religion/mythology. Searching the internet didn’t result in much valuable information, so I decided to see if I could get the anounced book. Amazon doesn’t have it, the American publisher asks very much money for postage and shipping and in the end I have been able to get a copy (along with some other material) from “Chaos International”, a UK publisher in which Ian Read of the Tyr magazine (and the band Fire + Ice) is involved.

The book under review is a small A5 photocopied booklet of about 30 pages. It contains the elemental information about Johan Bure (1568-1652) and the booklet itself focusses mainly on the man’s “grand opus” about the Adal Runa. Bure proves to be a highly interesting person from a highly interesting time. Johannes Thomæ Agrivillensis Bureus (as his complete Latinsed name is) was born and raised in in Lutheran environment Sweden. Being part of the Renaissance of Northern Europe, he first found himself learning a variety of languages (such as Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabian), being introduced to medieval magic, Kabbala, the early Rosicrucian movement and the theology of his time. He was born in no other place than Uppsala which we of course know for having been the primal place for religious practises in Northern Europe in antiquity. Bureus was therefor very familiar with the past of his region and eventually was caught by one of the many runestones in his surroundings. He started to focus on the ‘pagan past’ of his ancestors and eventually develloped (or ‘discovered’ as he would have called it) the system of the “Adalruna”.

Before the time the Eddas where officially discovered (however they may be circulated as manuscripts before), Bureus was one of the first people to investigate and write about the religion and mythology of our ancestors and the runes. About the runes Bureus said that there were the ‘normal’ runes that we are quite familiar with, but also a system of “noble” runes (“Adalruna”) which were their magical counterparts. The knowledge of the Adalruna has faded, but Bureus has tried to reconstruct the system.

This system is a strange mixture between Kabbalistic practises, a minor drop of Hermeticism, some medieval magic, but most of all the Christianity of his time. Flowers gives the basis of the system of the Adalruna, but this I can’t describe in a few words. Bureus makes figures with the runes and interprets these esoterically.

By far most of the work of Bureus is unpublished or even unknown. Much is left to investigate and the man is interesting enough for a serious study. It seems that a person called Susanna Í…kerman is going to be the person for this task. She is not yet in the bibliography of this 1998 booklet, but in the latest “Rûna magazine” she is mentioned in the bibliography of an article about Bureus’ system. She has written a book called Rose Cross over the Baltic: the spread of Rosicrucianism in Northern Europe (1998) and the text of her lecture at the IAHR conference in Durban, South-Africa, 2000 would have the title The use of Kabbalah and Dee’s Monas in Johannes Bureus’s Rosicrucian papers and be published by two heads of the only two Hermetic university chairs in the world: Antoine Faivre (Paris) and Wouter Hanegraaff (Amsterdam) in the conference booklet. As far as I know Í…kerman’s lecture was about the midnight-lion of the North in Bureus’ Rosicrucian papers. -9/1/05-
For articles about Bureus see here.

Rose Cross Over The Baltic * Susanna Åkerman (9004110305 * 1998)

Brill is a Dutch publisher that mostly publishes scholarly books in low editions. A book like this costs about $ 100,-. You can understand that I didn’t buy it. These kinds of books are mostly meant to be bought by university libraries and the like. Still these kinds of books are essential when you want to seriously investigate certain subjects. I lent the copy of the University of Amterdam. When you have a way of finding out where you can find this kind of literature they can usually be ordered through your local library, but a way into the scholarly milieu is also very helpfull.

Anyway, the subtitle for this book is clearer than the main title: “The spread of Rosicrucianism in Northern Europe”. Åkerman is a Swedish investigator and with “Baltic” she means the Baltic of the 17th century, the countries around the Baltic Sea. The book is mostly about Scandinavia, but also the Netherlands, Denmark and a little bit of England and Germany is written about.

Åkerman is part of the ‘new’ school of scientists investigating esotericism. Like most of them, Åkerman is very critical towards the groundbreaking (but old and therefor sometimes flawed) investigation of Frances Yates. However popular the books of Yates still are, recent findings sometimes prove her wrong and of course new facts came up. Still the serious recent scholarly works are not available for the common man and like this one, you have to either reach deep into your wallet or look for a copy to lend. Åkerman roughly gives a more recent version of the history of early Rosicrucianism. After this she focusses on her own environment and much pages are dedicated to Johannes Bureus (who was the reason for me reading this book). Scandinavia seems to have been active in the early Rosicrucian history and Åkerman also has some information that was new to me about my own country in these times. Of course this book is about the Rosicrucians, so I did not exactly find the information I was looking for, but a few nice hints and suggestions. And I am always interested to read of recent findings of that time, because the Renaissance keeps me interested. Sometimes I think that Åkerman is a bit rapid with her conclusions and here and there I believe her to be a bit sloppy and of course the book is seven years old and there are even more recent findings, but this book is good read, especially because there is not that much information about Scandinavia in the Renaissance. And about Bureus, his diary was (I believe) in Swedish and some of his works are too, so we need a Swede to investigate him. Hopefully Åkerman will continue to do so and especially: keep writing in English!
For articles about Bureus see here.