Florida is hosting this weekend the Conservative Political Action Conference, which appeals to sections of the Republican GOP Party. Look at the veritable who’s who of political leaders speaking at the event, including controversial figures like Trump and Ted Cruz.
|Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Mike Lee, Former governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker, Senator James Lankford, Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Sen.Ted Cruz, Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Donald Trump Jr.||Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, Former acting director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Bill Hagerty, Trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Rep. Devin Nunes, Senator Cynthia Lummis, Rep. Burgess Owens, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Lauren Boebert, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, and South Dakota governor Kristi Noem.||Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, and Former US president Trump.|
This year there is a rune, specifically the othala rune, at the heart of the CPAC 2021 conference. The rune forms the shape of the stage made specifically for this event where all the headliners–including former president Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz–will speak.
The othala rune ᛟ originates as a letter in alphabets related to Germanic languages found in parts of Europe. Eventually it (and the other runic letters) fell out of use as Latin-based alphabets were adopted and used. There are multiple examples in the archaeological record of it inscribed on rune stones, jewelry, artifacts, and later in historical manuscripts as we enter into the early part of the Medieval period.
The Anglo-Saxon Rune poem gives us an idea of what the runic letter represented. It represents concepts of home and inheritance, and the phonetic ‘o’ sound.
|Anglo Saxon Rune Poem||English Translation|
|ᛟ byþ oferleof æghƿylcum men,|
gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on
brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.
|[An estate] is very dear to every man,|
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.
Usually, it was used in surviving examples from the archaeological record as a more prosaic letter, but it also has some magico-religious connotations too. There is evidence pointing to its use in both runemal, and seemingly divination as well.
In more recent history we see a resurgence in the mystical and magical, and the old gods of pre-Christian Europe slowly start to simmer in the later 1800s. Runes come once again into prominence thanks to the writings of Guido von List who was a popular darling for those yearning for German nationalism. His writings combined some explorations into Germanic religion, and the occultism of the runes would be picked up by some aspects of the Nazi Party. The othala rune becomes used as a symbol for two different nazi groups during World War II. One version with serif (feet or wings) attached to the rune was the insignia for the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, the other version used by the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland had arrows extending from the othala rune.
Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s we begin to see a big resurgence of pagan and polytheistic belief that has continued through to the present day. For modern pagans and polytheists the runes are sometimes just magical and divinatory symbols, but can also be a symbol of the sacred used to profess religious faith by modern pagans and polytheists. Runes sometimes in more modern times are used as a symbolical representation of certain Gods too. Othala ᛟ is sometimes used for Odin, when spelling out the name of the God Odin in runes, the first runic letter for his name used would be Othala. There are other runes associated with deities as well (for one reason or another) including the rune tiwaz ᛏ is sometimes used for Tyr, the rune sowilo ᛋ as a representation of the solar goddess Sunna, the runic letter thurisaz ᚦ for Thor, etc.
The othala rune has a range of context in the modern era, and understanding what it stands for in any instance can sometimes be quite nuanced. Sometimes it is a magico-religious symbol used by modern polytheists and pagans in profession of religious faith to the Norse Gods and Goddesses, or merely as a magical symbol for divination. But the variation of the othala rune with serif (feet or wings) has been adopted due to its historical Nazi SS past, as a symbol by many Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups as a unifying symbol for a whites only homeland. To confuse matters, some modern pagan and polytheists don’t understand the Nazi origins of that serifed version of the symbol, and think of it only as a different design on othala and might use the symbol in ignorance of the Nazi connection, and for these persons they may only be using it in support of one of a range of Northern Tradition polytheisms: Asatru, Heathenry, etc.
So when I see a stage at a political conference using a rune, I immediately disregard the prospects that it was used for religious or magical signifiers. If this had occurred a decade ago I would have merely thought it some odd coincidence. But now, I pause and wonder: was this intentionally used to signify to white nationalists?
While Huffington Post is a somewhat biased news outlet, they wrote recently that “every year CPAC does a delicate public relations dance to determine which white nationalists and conspiracy theorists are forbidden from attending the event, and which ones will be given coveted spots speaking on panels or even from the main stage.” When you combine that with the very present white nationalist groups and iconography spotted during the recent January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol (including the so-called Q Anon Shaman), the fact Nazi iconography was used in Trump’s re-election presidential campaign, and so many other incidences especially in these last few years casts doubt upon this being a mere coincidence.