I know that this is supposed to be a primer just to get you "started", but this is pretty much the only book I use anymore, outside of historical books/writings such as the Poetic Edda, RI Page's anthropological study on the Runes, and Tacitus' Germania.
It is a welcome relief compared to all of the wild speculation and liberties that other writers on runes have taken with regard to their esoteric meaning, and the new edition is even nicer than the 2002 release, because it adds several sections on debunking myths as well as additional discussions. (Especially concerning whether or not there is any true evidence runes were used for divination by the Germanic people at all.)
If you need to look beyond the rune poems to get a better grasp on their meanings, this is the book to get. I've found that if the esoteric description in a book about any given rune is longer than maybe about five sentences, it's because the author is starting to make stuff up. The rune poems were 2 to 4 lines. How do people come up with three pages worth of information on what this rune supposedly means? Sweyn's descriptions are clear, concise, and written with proper historical context.
However, this book is much more than simply about the esoteric aspect of the runes. That's just a small part of a very comprehensive, plain-spoken, book about runic history. And like other people have said, it lists other recommended reading materials which are also important.
I made a set of Elder Futhark runes for a friend not too long ago. (Unsolicited gift.) She knows nothing about runes, as far as I know. I knew exactly which book to get her. This one.
I wish this had been around decades ago when I started working with the runes myself. It's much easier to learn the appropriate thing from the beginning instead of having to unlearn a whole bunch of trash.
,,,I'd had access to this unique, comprehensive introduction to the runes when I began learning, I could have saved myself a great deal of time and money. This book is in plain English, and it covers (for its size) lots of information and history. If you or someone you know is interested in the runes, whether for linguistics, history, or as a gate to learning more about a spiritual path, you can't do any better than this nifty, reader-friendly volume. Even those who are well versed in the language and history of the runes will find this a useful reference book, presented clearly and without any axes to grind.
Highly, highly recommended. Sweyn, thank you for writing this book and making it available.
This little gem of a book boast 8 Chapters but contains therein, a wealth of useful information about the fuÞark runes that is aimed at the rune novice. It contrasts strongly against many other popular New Ageist themed rune works but in doing so, "The Rune Primer" is different because it dares to directly challenge the many false and deliberately created myths surrounding the very fabric and nature of the runes. Written by an intelligent heathen author and attested with researched information, the author voices his opinions in an objective fashion as he attempts to put the record straight on so much of the misinformation existing out there today on these enigmatic symbols.
If you are caught up in the confusing dogma surrounding the runes or have no idea just why so much postmodernist nonsense came about on ancient runes and runic matters, than this book is certainly a very good starting place to separate the wheat from the chaff. A lot of misinformed ideas are given about the fuÞark runes from various sources and those who propagate such nonsense are clearly identified. This newer edition contains 175 pages of printed material, that's 90 more pages than the author's original submission "Runic Primer".
Furthermore the author benchmarks 1970s as a transitional period when the runes found a renewed interest, a sort of postmodernist renaissance of all things considered magical and in particular divinatory tools, the runes falling into this category. Key figures cited by the author in this chronology of runic contributors stemming from the 70s are JRR Tolkien, Michael Howard, Ralph Blum and off course Edred Thorsson is known as Dr. Stephen Edred Flowers. Freya Aswynn and Kveldulf Gundarsson are also discussed. I knew both of them during the early 90s, Kveldulf briefly on two occasions and at a reconstructed Seidr session I took part in with him and therefore can verify that the author's subjective observations of these two Ring of Troth characters are indeed very accurate!
This revised edition has Three Rune Poems and the Runatal, original text and new translation with notes, the Gothic Alphabet plus useful websites and a more books for further studies list. In conclusion, allow me to quote a passage from stanza 27 of Voluspo also known as The Wise-Woman's Prophecy. Here the WÖlwa turns from her memories of the past to a statement of some of Othin's own secrets in his eternal search for knowledge (stanzas 27-29)
I know of the horn of Heimdall, hidden
Under the high-reaching holy tree;
On it there pours from Valfather's pledge
A mighty stream: would you know yet more?
Read this book and you will! A boon to any new student of runes and it does what it says on the title, "A Down-to-Earth Guide to the Runes".
My heartfelt congratulations therefore goes out to Sweyn Plowright and I highly recommend this book to all those who search for truth devoid of the glossy New Ageism so prevalent runes today!
The author, Sweyn Plowright, has done a tremendous service in this writing. Cogent and compact, the work outlines, in the clearest terms I've ever seen, the essential philology of rune study. Where Plowright has offered opinion, it is lucidly argued and solidly supported. Where he's commented on the works and opinions of others, including nearly every seminal rune author of the past century, his tone has been both civil and forthright. The entire volume resounds with integrity.
In the end, it really is a book about academic honesty; and what true seeker would not want this? Back to basics, yes, because the basics are our common ground. When, as students of the runes, we familiarize ourselves with the verified written and archaeologic records, we're returning to a place where we can all agree. It's from that point that we can have a perfectly diacritical and scholarly discussion about runecraft, and begin to fill in the blanks, even as it must be with intuition and hypothesis.
Of course, it all depends on one's aims whether s/he wishes to honor the history of the runes and the culture from which they emerged. _The Rune Primer_ is a powerful call to do just that, but abandons the parochial effort of some rune writers to claim the cultural heritage of the runes for themselves and other of their "folk," and thereby present themselves as the modern voice of ancient traditions that never truly existed. Plowright ably and in plain language dismantles powerful myths that have built up around runecraft and its practice, taking this current head-on.
This is not a book about rune magic. It is a book about the foundations of all runecraft. Plowright even goes back to the old texts and offers new, more etymologically exact translations of certain sections of manuscript. The effort throughout is to bring the reader to their own, unmediated experience of runelore. Hardly a page can be turned without an invitation to consult the historical records.
As a student of the runes for over fifteen years, _The Rune Primer_ is the first book that I would give to any neophyte; and it is one of the few modern books on the runes that I would say is indispensable in my library.
This book is probably the best plain English introduction to the Runes, the historical background, translations and the original historical Northern references that I have ever come across.
To have available a reference book like this as a learner is invaluable. Some of the other so called "academic" experts waffle on so much and are so dry that they put you to sleep or turn you off the Runes forever!
I admire the work involved in going back to the original resources and doing new translations that are actually based on history is wonderful and opens new insights into the past.
It is also refreshing to see an author who is secure enough in their own knowledge and skills who is willing to take other authors to task for their blatant use of the Runes and Northern history for their own agendas or twist the existing material to fit their own ideas and systems. Loved the mythbusting section!!
To the author - Sweyn thank you for writing a book like this and risking the wrath of the "glitteratti" mystical authors who have made so much money peddling outright speculation and personal agendas.
As a last note:
To R.Goodson - you review is the worst kind of rubbish!! To slander an author this way without obviously having read the material and then go public like this is intolerable!
Next time do your research!!