From Hávamál to racial hygiene : Guido List’s Das Geheimnis der Runen, ‘The Secret of the Runes’ (1908).
2014-11-11T12:19:57Z (GMT) by
The Austrian occultist Guido List (1848–1919) was a prominent figure in the völkisch movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whose influence on subsequent generations was far-reaching: much of the nationalist and racist mythography and esotericism of the twenties and thirties, as well as the iconography and cult practice of the SS, is rooted in List’s writings; and he is the ultimate source of the National Socialists’Sieg Heil!greeting. List’s chief contribution to the völkisch occult movement was his fantastical “reconstruction” of a secret history in which the German people represented the pinnacle of human evolution, and in which a hidden élite were the keepersof ancient wisdom encoded in the runes. His esoteric interpretation of the runes remains the basis of most, if not all, neo-pagan runic practice. Aside from those modern neo-pagan authors like Stephen Flowers (a.k.a. Edred Thorsson), who consciously disseminate his ideas within the occult/neo-pagan subculture, even the more popular works on rune-divination have at their heart the Listian conception of runes as hieroglyphs which encode profound mystical ideas in their names and forms. This paper focusses on just one aspect of List’s runic fantasy: his appropriation of part of the medieval Icelandic poem Hávamál(“Sayings of the High One”) in the service of his fictitious version of Germany’s past — a fiction which expresses his mystical conception of race as well as a deep-seated misogyny justified by appeal to the secret knowledge of the ancients. It would be a mistake to infer from List’s fondness for Germanic antiquity and for Eddic poetry in particular that he was in any sense a scholar of Old Norse, or indeed a scholar of any kind. He would be better characterised as an enthusiastic autodidact, whose engagement with the primary materials was through German translations; his selection and manipulation of his source material in furthering his own beliefs will become apparent in the following analysis. [Taken from Introduction]