Interregnum, the Runes of Greyhawk: Part 2

Continuing from Part 1 of This Series I present the next set of runes as they are given in the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio Edition, pp. 29-32, the 1983 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, p. 17, From the Ashes, p. 18, and the Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, p. 17. As said in Part 1, most of them appear to have been drawn from The Book of Signs by Rudolph Koch. Further research on my part seems to indicate these runes were compiled by Gary Gygax for the Folio Edition though I could not find definitively if that was the case. One other source I have used to reinforce the meaning given by Koch and to find the meaning for some runes that do not appear in The Book of Signs is Medicinisch-Chymisch und Alchemistisches Oraculum by August Lebrecht Stettin. What Gygax's sources were for the runes that do not appear in either of those sources we often cannot know and are left only to speculate.

Evil, Evil Pursuer.
 This rune maintains its form throughout all Greyhawk publications in which the table of runes appears. According to The Book of Signs, p. 94-95 this symbol is called the Eye of Fire and is from early Germanic peoples and not much else is known about it. Searching on my own the only other reference I can find about it is its appearance in “Apocalypse Nowish”, Episode 7 from Season 4 of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff TV series, Angel. The only other thing notable about this rune as it appears in Greyhawk lore is that while the other runes are mostly given in alphabetical order, this rune appears between the runes for “Demoniac, Demon Power” and “Dragon, Evil Watcher”.

Dragon, Evil Watcher
. This rune's appearance changes from one Greyhawk source to another. In the Folio Edition (left) it is identical to what according to The Book of Signs, p. 94-95 is the early Germanic symbol known as the Dragon’s Eye. It appears fairly widely, its meaning in Carl G. Liungman's Dictionary of Symbols is said to be interpreted by its combination of the inverted triangle, symbolizing a threat (not the meaning given by Koch) and the Y which Liungman, in agreement with Koch gives the meaning of a choice between good and evil. In subsequent publications (right) it is not found in this exact form in The Book of Signs or any other source I could find. The only symbol it closely resembles in that source is in the section on House and Holdings Marks, where it is shown on p. 90 as the house mark for someone named Peter Discher. In that same section Koch identifies the two joined elements that can be seen in it, although one is inverted, as the “sign of Hermes” (The Book of Signs, p. 84). Why the symbol was changed in subsequent publications is unknown. As an additiona note the first version from the Folio Edition made an unfortunate recent high-profile appearance at the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in the logo for the neo-Nazi, white-supremacist organization, Identity Evropa. That group rebranded in 2019 as the American Identity Movement, dropping the Dragon’s Eye as their symbol. This is the only such group I've been able to find using that symbol although 
early Germanic symbols and runes have a long history of being used by groups of that type. Regardless, it's doubtful the change was made for such reasons or that Gygax would have even been aware of their use in this manner.

Both versions of the rune as it appears in the Folio Edition (left) and that appearing in subsequent sources (right) are in The Book of Signs. The former is among the traditional Western astronomical signs and appears on p. 53 as the sign for Earth. The description notes its symbolism as being solar (represented by the circle) and dominated by the elements (represented by the cross), as opposed to Venus, which is the inverse of this sign in form and symbolism, being solar and dominating the elements. The simple horizontal stroke that makes up the rune in subsequent editions appears on p. 1 of 
The Book of Signs, described as “…the Earth, in which life flows evenly and everything moves on the same plane.”

This rune also changes its appearance between the Folio Edition (left) and subsequent publications (right). The former rune does not appear in any of the regular sources I consulted nor was I able to find it anywhere else, which in this day of easily obtainable information is kind of suprising. Maybe Gygax made it up himself, although the rune is notably similar to the rune for Gold in the Folio (see below). This makes sense with electrum being an alloy of gold and silver and being called "white gold" by the Ancient Greeks and there may be a source I was just unable to find. The rune as it appears in subsequent sources is found on p. 75 in The Book of Signs in the section on Chemical Signs. However it does not stand for Electrum but rather for the process of annealing, which is a heat treatment that changes the physical and sometimes chemical properties of a material and is often used in metal-working. Like some other runes it is possible the change made between editions may have been aesthetic since stylistically this rune appears jarringly different in style from the other runes in the table.

 Appearing very similar to the rune for Danger (see Part 1), this rune is the same in all the Greyhawk publications that include the table of runes and somewhat matches the symbolism given in The Book of Signs, p. 94. It is described as “An oriental symbol of the soul’s pilgrimage through life: the soul climbs up through the four belts of the world, or element, to its purification, and wins through from darkness to light”. Oriental is a very dated and imprecise term considering the enormous variety of philosophical and mystic traditions in Asia. Given the symbolism and focus on a tradition of four elements it's not unreasonable to assume it might be derived from the Buddhist Mahābhūta system.

Elemental Planes.
This rune is another that does not change throughout the Greyhawk sources. It exactly matches a symbol on p. 93 of The Book of Signs which is noted as a Gnostic talisman representing the four elements. It's especially easy to see why this symbol was chosen given its close resemblance to the conception of the elemental Inner Planes as they exist in Greyhawk and basic D&D cosmology.

Evil Power, Destructive Power.
Another rune whose appearance is consistent throughout Greyhawk lore, it is found on p. 13 of The Book of Signs. It is described there as representing “… destruction, or disorder, in which all concord disappears, and confusion takes the place of harmony.” This matches almost exactly the meaning of the rune as it exists in Greyhawk.

Evil Serving, Evil Servant.
This is another rune whose appearance changes notably between the Folio (left) and later sources (right). As it appears in the Folio there is no corresponding symbol in The Book of Signs. It is similar to the fylfot symbol, which was popular in Anglo-Saxon England, though turned 45 degrees and the extensions from the ends of the arms are pennant-like, being more similar to those on the Balto-Slavic ladanets or kolovrat, though the latter symbol has eight arms instead of four. It was changed in subsequent Greyhawk sources to a symbol that appears in The Book of Signs, p. 71 as the alchemical sign for Urine. This symbolism is confirmed in Medicinisch-Chymisch und Alchemistisches Oraculum. What Gygax could have possibly been thinking of choosing an alchemical symbol for Urine to represent
Evil Serving, Evil Servant can only be guessed at.

This rune consisting of a horizontally halved circle has three meanings in The Book of Signs. On p. 50, it appears among symbols for the four classical elements as Water. On p. 66 it is the alchemical symbol for Salt. It's on p. 2 in the section on General Signs that we find its meaning given as "The passive female element; what has been there from the beginning of all things
." The description goes on, quoting from Genesis 1:7 in the Bible, "And God divided the waters which were above the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament." 

This rune differs between its appearance in the Folio (left) and other Greyhawk sources (right). Its appearance as a double-walled triangle somewhat matches one of the symbols for the classical element of Fire on p. 49 of The Book of Signs though that symbol lacks the double walls. In the same source on the following page (p. 50) is another symbol for Fire which exactly matches the rune as it appears in the subsequent Greyhawk sources.

 This rune appears the same in all of the Greyhawk sources and matches a set of symbols in The Book of Signs “illustrating the vicissitudes of family life.” On p. 10 it is the symbol that represents “…friendship between men”, which matches almost exactly with its meaning as a rune in Greyhawk. It is also notable as being similar in form to the rune for Anger, Quarrel though the two component Algiz runes do not lean into each other, and seem to me to be joined in a manner not evoking conflict.

Giant, Huge.
This rune appears with only a very slight variation from the Folio (left) and later editions (right). Essentially they both match the Germanic rune Laguz, whose meaning is Water or Ocean. It appears on p.103 of 
The Book of Signs as Lagu with the same meaning. The interpretation ascribed by Gygax is open to speculation. He doubtless was aware of the Norse giant Aegir whose name in Old Norse means Sea and it would be a logical step to assign the meaning of Giant to the rune that stood for his name.

This rune contains many elements similar to a number of symbols appearing in 
The Book of Signs though none come close to its meaning. It appears different in the Folio (left) and other editions (right). In the former it does almost exactly match the Hobo Sign for This Way although the extension of the line of the arrow through the circle and a 180 degree turn would match the Hobo Sign for No Use Going This Direction. However its reduction to a simple arrow pointing right in later editions is a symbol those in most societies are familiar with and its meaning is not hard to grasp. Further speculation is not really necessary.

This rune varies in form from that in the 
Folio (left) and later editions (right) though both symbols appear in The Book of Signs with the same meaning. The Folio version appears on p. 100 as the Germanic rune Unsur or Usa, though the name given to it elsewhere is Ansuz or Os, or Oss. In either case the meaning is that of God or Diety. In the case of the rune as shown in subsequent Greyhawk sources it appears on p. 1 of The Book of Signs in the section of General Signs as representing "... the one-ness of God, or the Godhead in general. It also symbolizes power descending on mankind from above, or, in the opposite direction, the yearning of mankind towards higher things." There is an interesting coincidence in this change in that in From the Ashes its meaning is Power, which matches the change in terminology TSR began using to refer to divine beings beginning with 2nd Edition, as I mentioned in the introduction to Part 1. Whether this shift was part of the rejection of the words Demon and Devil and the traditional term of Hell for the lair of the latter in response to the moral panic over the Dungeons & Dragons in the 80s is unknown. The 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide does not fully shy away from the word gods but it does describe the rulers of the Outer Planes as, "Powerful beings (self-proclaimed gods, goddesses and demi-gods)". With the change in the term came a corresponding shift of the rune's place in alphabetical order in the table. 

This rune varies in form from that in the Folio (left) and later editions (right). In neither does it appear in the The Book of Signs but both forms appear in Medicinisch-Chymisch und Alchemistisches Oraculum. The version in the Folio appears to possibly be a monogram of the French word Or, which is derived from the Latin word Aurum, both of which mean Gold in those languages. In Medicinisch-Chymisch und Alchemistisches Oraculum this monogram is one of the symbols for Aurum, Sol aka Gold of the Sun. The diamond-shaped rune in later editions also appears as a symbol for Aurichalcum, also called Orichalcum. This was a metal described in Ancient Greek writings as a metal rated second in value to gold whose main source was the mythical island of Atlantis. In Roman times it was used to refer to a gold-colored alloy of bronze.

This rune varies in form from that in the Folio (left) and later editions (right) and both versions appear as symbols in The Book of Signs.  The Folio version is identical to a symbol with several meanings. On p. 23 it appears a "The double Cross in a circle" with the same meaning as a six-spoked pagan Sun wheel, interpreted by Christians as a symbol of Jesus Christ. It's no great leap to see the use in Greyhawk as a rune representing good. The rune as it appears in later editions is on p. 96 as a symbol described as "Three arrows bound together; the sign of unity." This is less easy interpret as the rune for Good. 


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