Tacitus “Germania”

To briefly paraphrase. In chapter ten of his book “Germania”  Roman historian Tacitus describes a ritual in which a priest takes strips of wood with symbols scratched on them, casts them on a white cloth, and gazing skyward randomly selects three. The priest then fortells events based on the symbols chooses. He then looks for omens in the flight of birds and behavior of sacred horses. This account comes to us from the first century CE. Is this the use of runes for the purpose of gazing into the future?  Or something else entirely?  Heathens take both the yay and nay side of this discussion. Let’s look at the arguments involved.

The nay side says it cannot be the runes. The word “rune” is not mentioned in the retelling. The use of runes for divination came about only after the Tarot made its debut. It is too inconclusive a report to know for certain what is being recounted.   Not enough information.

The yay side says “if it looks like a duck…”.  It’s a complete enough description. Something sacred was happening with pieces of wood from a fruit bearing tree that included sigils scratched onto them. It was a ritual for the purpose of foretelling future events. If not the runes as we know them today it was certainly some sort of protorunes.

Both sides are compelling. It’s a debate we can’t definitively finish till there’s a time machine we can travel in. One of the primary attributes of the runes is mystery. Perhaps this is a mystery that will never be solved.

I tend to fall into the yay camp. It’s a good enough description of something sacred occurring with symbols scratched on wood for the purposes of divination. If it doesn’t prove an unbroken line back in time it provides proof that something very similar to the Rune castings of today we’re going on. Something was happening. For me it was a use of the runes.

If we take the yay side we have a very early account of someone very much like a vitki doing something very similar to vitki stuff. If so that means our calling is an ancient one. Maybe I’m just deluding myself into believing there was an ancient form of our craft going on.   Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m not. The vote is still out…

Author: vitkimusings

A fifty-something Vitki living in the suburbs of Chicago. Follower of the Nordic Path for the last fifteen years. Student of runes for the last 23 years and seidr for the last seven years. Always learning and growing!

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