Runes : The Lies They Sell You

Runes : The Lies They Sell You

There’s sadly some creators in this space who will sell you lies about runes to get your money. Quite honestly, some of them have blatantly copied and pasted their knowledge from a Pinterest page and tried to pass it off as ancient wisdom.

Telling you this isn’t going to make me any friends, but watching this trickery and fraud happening every day is eating at my soul. I’ve never been one to back down from saying something controversial when it’s the right thing to do (Scottish women rarely do 😂). So despite the backlash I’m going to face, here’s the cold hard truth about some creators who work with runes – because you deserve to know it.

The intention of writing this post is to help you make an informed decision when you choose to work with someone in the rune space. And no, it doesn’t have to be me! There are plenty of other creators in this niche who are also filled with honesty and integrity, I’ve even included a wee list at the end of this post so you know what to look for when choosing.

Let me start by saying that I’m not here to criticize anyone’s hustle. We all need to pay our rent, keep the lights on or feed our kids. What I am here to criticise, is the lack of integrity.

When the surge in “Viking aesthetic” came around, half a step behind it was an influx of people who wanted to use this suddenly romanticised period in history for profit (the curse of capitalism, right?). Usually those who flocked to the Viking aesthetic like flies to shit, were those who held no interest in learning the facts.

(People study this at University for years, but yeah, Dan knows it all because he created a course after watching the Vikings TV show 😂)

Instead of taking the time to humble themselves with a period of research, learning and knowledge – many promoted themselves straight to teacher.

This can be put down to one of two reasons.

One, being the student and taking time to learn the facts doesn’t pay the bills. Two, ego wins and people believe they already know everything.

Perhaps I am the exception to the rule here. Before I started charging for my personal bindrunes, I’d already been working with the runes for years. I didn’t have to undergo this period of basic training because I already had a foundation to work off.

However, you should never stop learning. Placing ones ego aside and accepting that we’ll never know it all is incredibly important. Accepting that we’re always on a learning journey, in every aspect of our lives is paramount to being a good, decent human.

Sadly, a lot of these people are not good, decent humans. Let me give you an example…

In recent weeks, here’s some of the lies about runes that I’ve read on the internet:

“Runes and Sigils are the same things”
“Find your Viking birth runes”
“The astrological signs of the runes”
“You need to have Nordic ancestry to work with the runes”
“The Helm of Awe is the most powerful Viking Symbol”

the list goes on…

This is actually a bit of a horror story that happened to a client of mine (I hate to think what would’ve happened if this was tattooed!)

They went to a creator and got a phrase translated into what they believed to be Old Norse. Just to be sure before it was tattooed, they asked me to double check it.

Cutting to the chase, it wasn’t Old Norse, it was Old English that had been translated in to Younger Futhark runes and it was complete gibberish. Not one coherent sentence.

Sadly, these folks don’t care if you end up with a tattoo across your forehead that reads “soup“. All they care about is that you paid them. It’s actually quite a sad state of affairs, I can’t imagine running my business this way – with so little morality and integrity.

It’s because of this, that whenever I design a bindrune for a client, they always receive an illustration that details exactly where the runes are inside and what they mean. I do this because I want people to have the ability to go and double check the meanings of the runes if they want to. This piece is getting inked on your body forever, you need to be confident about it!

Keen to avoid getting the word “soup” tattooed on your forehead in runes? Here’s what to look out for…

Look deeper than the follower count. It’s really easy to get sucked in by the number of followers someone has. Follower number does not mean that someone knows what they’re talking about. Instead, explore how well they’re actually known. Have they written books? Have they written articles? Have they been referred to positively by other creators? Are they on podcasts? Do they speak about history? Can they show you genuine artefacts with runes? Can they tell you the differences between rune languages? Can they provide references? Etc..

The word Viking is a red flag (yes, seriously!). A lot of these folks who are out for pure profit with 0 integrity will throw the word Viking around to sound trendy. It’s a buzz word, it evokes cool images of Norsemen raiding shores with axes and honour. It plays off your emotions. The truth is, many of the things that are labelled and sold as “Viking“…. have no ties to the Viking-Age at all.

If they claim to know it all, they’re lying. Make no mistake. Every minute of every day, we are all students (yes, even me😋)

Someone who gets triggered. If you ask someone for their sources, are they getting triggered? If you ask them for more information about something, are they getting triggered? Chances are, if they’re retaliating with emotion, they don’t want you asking those questions – likely because they don’t know the answer without Googling it.

Look for creators who have consistency. Have they been posting about runes for years, or are they hopping on a bandwagon because it looks cool?

Are they creating their own content? If someone is constantly posting other people’s content, it’s likely that they’re (again) hopping on a bandwagon for likes, views and/or followers.

Honestly, this list could go on and on but the most important point that should be highlighted time and time again.. is when it comes to runes, please question everything.

The misinformation will continue to grow, so please, take everything that you read about runes online with a pinch of salt.

Don’t be afraid to ask creators for their references. If they have time, they should help you out. If they refuse to provide references and you can’t find any information elsewhere to back up what they’re telling you, chances are – it’s made up crap.

Was this helpful? Got another tip that others might find helpful? Let me know in the comments below 🥰

Yours,

Blair

The Vikings in Scotland

The Vikings in Scotland

Discover the violent, brutal history of the Vikings in Scotland, and how their legacy continues to influence our culture, language, and traditions.

Bloody Beginnings


The first Viking raid on Scottish soil took place in a picturesque wee island just off the west coast of the mainland. Above swells of waves lapping at the battered rocks, a crown jewel beaconed for the Norsemen’s attention. A sleepy Iona Abbey promised the seafaring Vikings a fat, easy payday.

After the attack on Lindisfarne in 793 C.E. the Norsemen had discovered that holy sites were a source of great wealth and little resistance.

As they settled on the shores of Iona Abbey and docked their longboats, we can only imagine the scene of violence that played out that day. The Vikings armed with axes, swords and shields, descended and unleashed chaos on the unsuspecting monks. Their opponents, unequipped to deal with the ferocious clash of steel and grotesque violence, were without weapons, protection or training.   

That day, the stone walls of the Abbey received their first lick of paint in the form of crimson splatters and bloodied entrails. The blood of innocent monks was spilled across flagstones, strewn up walls and soaked permanently into the ground below. The Norsemen mercilessly plundered all wealth that they could find, then they hopped back onto their longships and disappeared back to where they came from.

A similar attack was repeated again in 802 C.E. and 825 C.E – however, the most violent of Viking onslaughts to Iona Abbey came in 806 C.E. 

Iona Abbey (Image : Visit Scotland)

Sixty eight monks were brutally slaughtered (this number varies depending on which source you read). They became known as The Martyrs of Iona.

It was suggested that the Abbey, due to the recurring Viking incursions, had moved all sacred artefacts and was later abandoned for a period of almost 100 years. 

During WWII, a Norwegian soldier was stationed near the Abbey and was told stories of the Viking attacks. After the war ended, he returned home and collected donations from neighbours. They donated timbers to the Abbey as a form of penance for their ancestors’ brutal attacks.

It was not just small, defenceless coastal Abbeys that felt the bloody effects of the Norsemen.

Orkney and Shetland : Norðreyjar – Northern Islands 


At the beginning of the 8th century, the Norsemen strategically began establishing settlements on various islands across Scotland. Prior to that, they were Pictish Kingdoms. It’s said that the Norwegian King, Harald Hárfagri (more commonly referred to as King Harald Finehair) was the first Norseman to begin settling his people on these shores.

Unlike the monasteries, Orkney and Shetland were not ravaged, pillaged, then abandoned as blazing infernos. Frankly, it would’ve made little sense for the Norsemen to have shown a strategic gold mine such blatant disregard. Nor did they.

On their journeys further West to lands such as Greenland and Iceland, the archipelago of islands around Scotland provided a crucial stopping point. They were a place to rest, resupply and trade before continuing the next leg of the journey. They were also a fantastic place for a pit stop before going on to raid mainland Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. 

Essentially, these islands were the Viking Age equivalent of a petrol station (I apologise in advance to my Orcadian friends for this analogy!).

Orkney and Shetland were not only a stopping point though, they became one part of a new Kingdom; known as The Kingdom of the Islands

To the north was Norðreyjar (quite literally North Islands) which encompassed Orkney and Shetland. To the south was Suðreyjar (quite literally South Islands), this encompassed the Hebrides, Islands of the Clyde, the Isle of Man and every island in between.

Kingdom of the Islands circa. end of 11th Century (Image : Wikipedia Commons)

For hundreds of years these islands were passed from Jarl to Jarl, and as always, when we analyse humans throughout history, each of them had their own tragic events and moments of victory which we could write entire novels about.

As the Viking Age drew to a close in 1066, the Norsemen didn’t simply hop back on their ships and return home. These islands were now home to generations of people. The Picts and Norsemen had long since merged cultures and become one proud, tough new people – the Orcadians and the Shetlanders. Their identities, history, language and culture was (and remains to be) entirely individual from both mainland Scotland and Scandinavia. 

In the years that followed, Orkney and Shetland were used as a political football. Often they were at the heart of debates between various leaders, Chieftains, Jarls and/or Kings.

That was, until the 20th February 1472, when the islands were traded and absorbed into the Kingdom of Scotland.

King Christian I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden failed to pay a marriage dowry for his daughter’s betrothal to King James I of Scotland. Instead of finding another way to scrounge the money together (selling some of that gold his ancestors had stolen would’ve been a good start), he offered the islands up as payment.

This is an attitude that I find strange as it gives little regard for the people who live there. Lives, stories, identities, humans, languages and cultures were exchanged – as though they were no more than a scrunched up bank note.

The people of Orkney and Shetland had no say in their fates.

‘Dear friends, you know that you rightly belong under the crown of Norway, even though you are pawned to the king of Scotland. But we intend to redeem your land very soon for the crown of Norway, to remain under us and the King of Norway, as it ought to be by right.’

A letter written to the islanders by King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway in 1514

The Hebrides : Suðreyjar – Southern Islands


Another place in Scotland that felt the effects of Norse settlement was the Herbides.

Before the Norsemen arrived, these islands were predominantly home to the Celts who had already integrated with the indigenous Picts. Much like our neighbours on the Northern islands, Norse settlements began to emerge and a process of cultural exchange began. In coming years, a handful of Hebridean clans began to merge with the Norsemen. Through marriage, treaties and trade, bonds were solidified, families were formed and new allies were forged. Those who did merge became known as Gall-Goídil, who were some of the most ferocious and feared warriors of the time.

Much like Orkney, the Hebrides remained in the Kingdom of Islands and under the control of various different Jarls until 1249. That is, until various rulers of Scotland became increasingly uncomfortable with having Norsemen so close to their doorstep. 

Boldly assuming that the Hebrides were the rightful property of Scotland, Alexander II of Alba was the first King to make a move on the southern islands. He sailed to the coast of Kerrera (an island in the Inner Hebrides, not too far from Oban) and attempted to reclaim control of the islands. He never succeeded and died on the ship, but this brazen conquest was continued by his son, Alexander III. 

Chess pieces made from whale bone that originated from Norway, most notable is the berserkr rooks biting their shields. Discovered on the Isle of Lewis. (Image: National Museums Scotland)

King Haakon of Norway who ruled over the islands at the time, retaliated. He gathered a fleet of ships and sailed for mainland Scotland. 

Legend has it, that much of his his fleet was destroyed in a terrible storm and the survivors were washed ashore. The surviving Vikings journeyed inland, their numbers dramatically decreased from those comrades they’d lost at sea. Determined to still show a strong fist against the Scots, despite their misfortunes, the Norsemen came across a sleeping group of Scottish clansmen. Confident that their fates had taken a turn for better fortunes, the Norsemen kicked off their boots. They began creeping closer to the sleeping Scots, daring not to make a sound so they wouldn’t wake the enemy.

A huge roar of pain sounded through the night sky when one of the Norsemen stepped on a thistle. The incessant wailing alerted the Scotsmen to their presence and naturally, as all embellished folk tales insist, this thistle was the reason that the Scots went on to win the Battle of Largs. 

Defeated, the Norsemen retreated and later, King Haakon died of his wounds in Orkney. This devastating defeat to the Scots was an important and deciding factor when signing the Hebrides over to the Kingdom of Alba in 1266.


It’s worth noting that it’s not just the islands with rich ties to Norse history. Several Northern parts of the Scottish mainland were either ravaged by the Norsemen, or settled by them. For example, Thurso. A  beautiful coastal town on the mainland that is still steeped in Nordic history, it was once named Thjorsá which translates to Thor’s River.

Were Scottish Vikings a thing?


In a sense, yes. Once the cultures merged, many of those who were once Celtic or Pictish, began to adopt Norse ways of life – one of which was to go a Viking. As described in the Orkneyinga Saga: “These Vikings (in Norðreyjar) used to raid in Norway over the summer and had Shetland and Orkney as their winter base.”

How do the Norsemen continue to influence our culture, language and traditions today?


The places where we still feel the influence of the Norsemen is Orkney, Shetland and the North of Scotland. Once settlements, they have now transformed into strongholds for preserving Norse culture and traditions in Scotland.

Language

A sister language to Old Norse (called Norn) was spoken in Orkney and Shetland until around 1850 – although a Faroese linguist called Jakob Jakobbson suggest that this could’ve been spoken until much later. As with all languages, a whole group of people don’t wake up one morning and decide to stop speaking their native tongue. It was a gradual decline, this was also the case with Norn. There’s been a calling to reclaim and rebuild the language (called Nynorn or New Nyon) which you can now learn online. Whether the revival of Norn succeeds or not, there are many words and dialects on the islands which would sound foreign to the untrained ear.

We can also see evidence of Old Norse littered across our maps, there’s too many places across the country to list but here’s a few examples:

Orkneyjar (Orkney) : Seal Island, Kirkjuvagr (Kirkwall) : Church Bay, Þingvǫllr (Tingwall) : Parliament Field

The list goes on!

Traditions

In Shetland there is the Up-Helly-Aa festival which occurs every year on the last Tuesday in January. This is the ceremonial burning of a Viking longship. Prior to the longship being introduced, ceremonial tar barrels were set alight and rolled through the town. After several accidents involving the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, fiery tar barrels and shop windows (you can imagine!) the tradition evolved into an organised and more Norse-inspired longship burning. Now, people from all over the world come to watch the ceremonial event. Learn more about Up-Helly-Aa.

Another tradition that’s theorised to be rooted in Norse origins is the Kirkwall Ba’ which occurs every year in Kirkwall, Orkney. Imagine a huge mob football game with no rules, scrums, lots of blood and (in good ol’ Scottish fashion) violence. This game has been played for hundreds of years, since before records began and one theorized origin of the first ba’.. is that a particularly unfavoured Norse chieftain was beheaded by the people of Kirkwall. With a little imagination, you can figure out what was used as the Ba’.

Religion

Several parts of Scotland still celebrate Yule instead of Christmas (despite the fact both celebrations were illegal in Scotland until 1958). Throughout many Pagan communities, Norse deities are still worshipped. Our folk traditions, beliefs and mythology often draws close parallels to our Scandinavian neighbours.

For example, the story of the Stoor Worm tells us how Orkney, Shetland, and Iceland were formed. The Stoor Worm was a huge, ginormous sea monster that could wrap around the entire world. It was defeated by a hero in a boat.

Sound familiar? It should!

In Norse Mythology a similar beast exists. The sea serpent called Jörmungandr can wrap around the entire world and what’s more, Thor goes fishing for it in a boat.

Of course these are just a few examples, the list goes on!

Summary


By exploring the elements of Norse history in Scotland, we can see how our country remains a melting pot of various different people. Those who settled here all those years ago still influence our lives and we are part of these people who came before us.

We’re not just Celts. Nor are we just Picts, just Anglo-Saxons or just Norsemen.

We are all of the above.

Indigenous people, settlers and immigrants from each of these backgrounds all helped to form this beautiful land.

We’re a diverse stew of so many different beliefs, languages, histories, cultures and traditions.

Each one helps to make us who we are.

So let’s stop confining ourselves to this bland, tasteless dish by defining Scotland as solely ‘a Celtic country‘.

We’re so much more diverse than that.

References:

As I’m sure you can appreciate, it’s impossible to fit hundreds of years of history into one blog post. If you want to explore this topic more, I highly recommend reading the Orkneyinga Saga which details the events in much more detail. It’s worth noting that the Sagas are considered a secondary source as they were written a couple hundred years after the Viking Age ended. However as only small fragments of primary evidence about the Norsemen in Scotland remain, this is one of the most reliable sources we have.

https://coast.scot/stories/viking-attacks-on-iona/

https://www.mull-historical-society.co.uk/churches/churches-2/the-abbey-iona/

http://saintsandstones.net/saints-iona-stcolumbasbay-journey.htm

https://blog.nms.ac.uk/2020/07/21/looting-scotland-in-the-viking-age/#:~:text=In%20795%20AD%20one%20of,course%2C%20portable%20wealth%20by%20Vikings.

Vol. 48, No. 145, Apr., 1969, Part 1: Scotland and Scandinavia: Studies Commemorative of the Union of Orkney and Shetland with Scotland (Edinburgh University Press, 1969)

https://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/blog/550-years-ago-how-shetland-became-part-of-scotland-part-2#:~:text=Shetland%20and%20Orkney%20became%20part,equally%20intent%20on%20acquiring%20them.

https://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/en/professions/education/the-viking-age-geography/the-vikings-in-the-west/scotland

Orkneyinga Saga, The History of the Earls or Orkney, Penguin Classics, Translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards, ISBN: 987-0-140-44383

The Appropriation of Scotland’s Indigenous People

The Appropriation of Scotland’s Indigenous People

In recent weeks I’ve seen a surge in popularity among the diaspora claiming to be Picts. We need to talk about why this is incorrect, offensive and problematic.


First off, who were the Picts?

The Picts were the indigenous people of Scotland, they lived up and down this country until around 800 C.E. where they merged with the Celts under one banner. This new Kingdom was known as Alba and the Picts ceased to exist. 

The people of Scotland, c. 600 C.E.

Sadly, we have very little archaeological evidence left of the Picts which has made it almost impossible to reconstruct their daily lives, beliefs and culture. Most of the primary evidence we have, can be attributed to the Roman historians. This is an incredibly biased source as the Picts and Romans were stuck in a chronic war for hundreds of years. Often when documenting their enemies, the Romans used terms like “barbarian” which demonstrates these sources are rooted in a pro-legion narrative to bolster the war efforts and dehumanise the enemy.

Other fragments of primary evidence can be found in the form of ancient stone carvings. Many of our carvings are starting to wither (they’re almost 2,000 years old!!) but they showcase beautiful, mysterious beasts and elaborate swirls. Ultimately, we’re unsure of why they were carved, or what the symbology on them means. One can only speculate the purposes of these ancient stones and what they once meant to the people of Pictland.

Fundamentally, most of what we know about the Picts is rooted in theory. However, there are archaeologists still searching for additional evidence. A few weeks ago, another dig began at a place which was theorised to be settled by Druids. I could see the ongoing site from my window which made me excited that the hunt for evidence about the Picts has not been abandoned.

The search for evidence about their daily lives continues…

So who does have Pictish ancestry and what’s the problem?

There is no test that will tell you that you have Pictish DNA and not all people in Scotland are related to the Picts. In a recent study was done in April 2023 (Morez A, Britton K, Noble G, Günther T, Götherström A, Rodríguez-Varela, et al. 2023), a sample of DNA was taken from 1,000 Scottish people and the results revealed that only 10% of people who live in Scotland are potentially related to the Picts. Those 10% were not confined to one area, town or village.

Let’s look at some claims that I’ve found in comments online to highlight the problem that I’m addressing..

“I do claim to be a Pict” / “I’m Pictish” / “I have Pictish ancestry”

These are comments that have been left all over the internet, in particular, TikTok. One outstanding example can be found on an archaeologist’s page, where he rightly addressed that there was no such thing as a DNA test for Pictish ancestry. Outraged commenters ignored these facts, continued to argue with him and claimed they were Pictish (i.e. an indigenous person of Scotland who lived over 1,000 years ago). 

“I am a descendant of the Picts and in the process of getting covered in tattoos.”

Having tattoos does not make one a Pict. While it is theorised that they were covered in blue tattoos and the Latin word Pict comes from “Picti” which means “painted people“, this evidence was written by a Roman historian. As we’ve already explored the Romans were biased when writing about the Picts and their primary evidence should be taken with a pinch of salt. Thousands of cultures around the world partake in tattooing, having Scottish ancestry and being tattooed does not make one a Pict.

“Best DNA test for Scottish ethnicity?”

Quoted from a website that claims to help people choose which ancestry DNA test to choose. There is no such thing as Scottish ethnicity or Scottish blood and a website that states there is, usually wants your money. Essentially you would be “buying a piece of being Scottish”. 

What these websites do not realise is that being Scottish is a living culture and anyone who moves or lives here and contributes to that culture is Scottish. For example, my friend Ahmed’s parents moved here from Pakistan in the 80’s. He speaks with a Scottish accent, wears a kilt on special occasions, drinks Irn-Bru and is every bit as Scottish as I am. Ethnically I am Caucasian, ethnically he is Punjabi – but culturally and linguistically, we are both equal parts Scottish. Arguably, he is more Scottish than diaspora who have never stepped foot in Scotland; a shared belief of people in Scotland that tends to hurt some feelings.

“I have genetic markings that distinguish me as Pictish.”

There is no test to tell that you are a descendant of the Picts, and almost all of these ancestry DNA tests are corporations based in America. They do not have access to the Pictish DNA which is held in Scottish Universities. Thus, no ancestry test will tell you if you have “Pictish genetic markers” . The same goes for “Pictish blood” and “Pictish DNA”. Moreover, this is touching on a blood purity issue that is rooted in supremacy.  Scottish and Pictish are not interchangeable terms. A DNA test may tell you that you have genetic similarities to people who live in certain areas of present day Scotland, however that does not make you a Pict. As we explored earlier, not all Scottish people have Pictish ancestry.

Where does falsely claiming heritage (which appropriates indigenous people) come from? 

To my understanding, this has arisen for a few reasons: 

  1. Some people are confused about the Picts and believe the term is synonymous with the term Scottish. As shown above, not everyone in Scotland has Pictish DNA. 
  2. People want to claim something that is cool. The enigma of the Picts leaves a lot to be desired and it also gives people liberty to use their imagination and create (and sell) falsities. 
  3. Diaspora want to belong somewhere. As a native person, I cannot begin to understand how this feels nor would I insult or invalidate their feelings by pretending I do. However, I do implore the diaspora to listen to people who live there and the facts. If they say you’re not Pictish and it’s offensive to say so, listen to them. 
  4. Popular Culture. This one speaks for itself, with pop culture comes a surge in interest in the historical people, and thus, people claiming they are descended from them. Senua’s Sacrifice is a video game that has surged the interest in Pictavia, there are Picts in the Disney movie Brave, and I guarantee there will be more TV shows made about the Picts in future. The lack of historical evidence gives us room of creative liberty. However, with this also comes offence, capitalism and appropriation. Look at Outlander for example, the term Sassenach was used as a term of endearment in the show and now it’s lovingly thrown around by fans. In reality, this word in Scotland is incredibly offensive and a slur used to hatefully describe the English or lowland Scots. Sadly, I’ve even had tourists throw this word at friends of mine while visiting our lands, while having no respect for the gravity and offensive meaning behind it. As another example, barmen in Inverness had to stop wearing kilts to work because they were sexually assaulted every day by women trying to lift their kilts to see what was underneath. Unacceptable behaviour by any standard. 
  5. Popularity on the Internet. Some fantastic creators are speaking about our history, stories and culture. With that comes a surge in popularity, romanticisation and as shown in the “popular culture” examples, this can be harmful to native people.

In summary, please help us put an end to people claiming they’re Pictish or have “Pictish ancestry” through education. Anyone who claims this is participating in a gross appropriation of our indigenous people which is peddled by a supremacist “blood purity” trope. Listen to native people who are saying that this is unacceptable and listen to the facts. Ignoring our wishes is disrespectful and harmful to our lived cultures.

Additionally and most importantly, anyone who comes to Scotland and lives here can be Scottish. We have a living, breathing culture that is formed by hundreds of different subcultures. 

Scottish culture is Irn-Bru, it’s laughing on Burns night, it’s ceilidhs and moaning about the dreich weather. It’s sitting around a fire telling stories in the warmth of summer with friends, it’s a trip down to the chippy on a cold, dark November night. Scottish culture is Buckie at T in the Park, it’s “ya cannae shove yer granny aff a bus”, “jeely pieces” and singing “500 miles” at the top of your lungs. 

Scottish culture is not a DNA test. 

You are Scottish if you live here, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, colour, sex or religion.

Sincerely, 

Someone who lives in Modern-Day Pictland

Will Threads Survive?

Will Threads Survive?

I got 150 followers in 1 hour – but will Threads survive?

If you’re thinking…

“Oh great, another social media platform.”

You’re not alone, I had the same thoughts too.

But after trying Threads for myself, I see the allure.

We *do* already have an app like this in the world, so what’s the point in having another one that’s almost identical?

Rather than a separate app entirely, Threads seems like more of an add on to Instagram and honestly…

Threads has been *very* cleverly done.

The number on Instagram profiles is a GENIUS move.

When I first saw strange numbers popping up next to someone’s username I furrowed my brows and thought “what the hell is that?”

FOMO made me click on it (isn’t that the excuse of the century?) and I realised that the number represented which user you were to sign up to Threads.

I smirked with amusement.

GENIUS. FREAKING. MOVE.

Nobody wants to be last, right?

For this reason, the app has already soared in popularity.

In less than 24 hours and at the time of writing (according to Wikipedia), 21 million users have already joined.

If these are the numbers that Meta can conjure in less than 24 hours, Musk’s Twitter is a sinking ship.

Arguably, the most important feature of Threads is that unlike other social media platforms, you don’t need to start from scratch to grow your following.

You simply import your following from one platform (Instagram) to the next (Threads) with the click of a button.

So here’s the most important question if all…

To Thread or not to Thread? Should you bother with it?

In my humble opinion, this app has potential.

At this moment in time, there’s no harm in giving it a try.

Whether it survives or not is yet to be decided.

Should the Swastika be reclaimed from its horrific history?

Should the Swastika be reclaimed from its horrific history?

Let’s be brutally honest, this symbol is drenched in the blood of millions and if the conversation about reclaiming such a symbol makes you feel uncomfortable…

Good, it should make you uncomfortable.

It makes me uncomfortable too.

Yet, in recent months, this topic has surfaced several times and I often wonder if we can reclaim such a symbol and restore its original meaning. More importantly…

Should we? Is it too far gone? Does it harbour too much pain?

Truthfully, I don’t know the answer. Even several months into this emotional deliberation, I’m no further forward. 

When I look at the Swastika, it makes me feel sick. I cannot hold a gaze with the symbol for more than a few seconds before wanting to grit my teeth together, throw something across the room or burst into tears. 

It deeply offends me on so many levels and floods of images of the horrors it’s witnessed immediately come to mind.  Millions of people have been affected by this symbol, my own family included. 

Like many soldiers and civilians alike, my family was affected by WWII and for so many, that symbol was among the last things they saw. Each flag, armband, pin and uniform patch bore witness to horrors and a kind of suffering that people like me and you could never imagine.

With these emotions involved, it’s no surprise that this conversation often raises some eyebrows and causes a level of outrage that leads people to equal parts infuriated and sickened. 

Yet, time and time again my mind circles back to the question… 

Can an ancient symbol that once stood for peace, tolerance and acceptance ever be readopted after such a horrific history?

Before we start to answer that question, it’s important to observe the history of the Swastika pre-1940’s Germany. 

There’s varying timelines about the first evidence of the Swastika and finding an exact date has proved impossible thus far. Some articles indicate it could be 15,000 years old, while others insist it’s 3,000 years old. Regardless of the exact date, it’s clear from archaeological evidence and varying inscriptions that the symbol has ancient origins. Before the adoption and misappropriation by the third reich (I refuse to capitalise the first letters in their name), the Swastika had an entirely different meaning. 

Even the etymology of the word Swastika indicates its true meaning. It has Sanskrit roots and comes from the prefix su (good) and the suffix asti (to prevail). Quite literally, it means good prevails. This translation varies slightly depending on the source.

So how exactly did a “good prevails” symbol become a poster of hate, horror, pain and genocide?

We can attribute the adaptation of the symbol by the nazi party (another refusal to capitalise the first letters) to an amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann. In 1871 he discovered the ancient city of Troy in Hisarlik on the Aegean coast of Turkey. There, he discovered up to 1,800 variations of the symbol depicted across various surfaces and artefacts.

It’s worth noting here that Heinrich Schliemann was neither nazi nor sympathiser (that was a bit after his time, he died in 1890). He was simply a man obsessed with the Iliad and finding the City of Troy. 

 

Terracotta balls from Schliemann’s archaeological digs at Troy
Source : Smithsonian Magazine

It’s said that Heinrich Schliemann was unsure of the Swastika’s meaning and asked others to interpret the meaning for him. Those that did, came to the false conclusion that the Swastika was associated with some ancient societies who were deemed “aryan”;  thus the association between the Swastika and the “superiority of the aryan race” was born. 

Anti-semetic parties in Germany had adopted the symbol before the Second World War, both the reichshammerbund and freikorps began using the symbol around the 1920’s where they were painted on helmets and vehicles. 

By the time hitler rose to power in the 1930’s, the symbol had already been adopted and associated with “aryan superiority” and this ideal had generally been accepted into some parts of society. Naturally, under the continued misappropriation of the nazi’s, it spread much further and wider. 

This the perfect example of how any symbol can be misappropriated as a symbol for hate, all with a simple mistranslation and lack of understanding. 

So now we’ve looked at the history of the Swastika, let’s explore another important question.

Why would you even want to reclaim it?

DutchPagans said something very interesting to me and I’ve been sent into a tailspin ever since.

We shouldn’t allow this symbol to die in a bunker in Germany.”

I can’t shake the feeling that he’s got a point, after all, to this day the symbol is still sacred to several cultures. 

In Hinduism, the Swastika when facing right represents the sun deity Surya and represents good luck. When facing left it’s called the Sauwastika and represents the goddess Kalika

In Buddhism, the symbol is called Manji and it represents the footsteps of Buddha and is used to mark the location of Buddhist temples. 

However the symbol is not limited to these religions, the Navajo also use it and they know the symbol as The Whirling Log.

Additionally, I am of the belief that no symbol is evil, bad or harmful. It’s humans that use symbols to perpetuate hate that’s the problem. Remove the history, emotions and horrors from the symbol and all you’ve got is a few lines that form a shape. 

As a great example, if we sent a Swastika into space and someone (or something) from a foreign planet came across it, would they feel the same way that we do about it? No, because they haven’t been educated on the human horrors associated with it.  

In the very same breath, I hesitate and question myself. But, before I digress, let’s move onto the next question. Arguably, the most pertinent one to this post. 

How can we go about reclaiming a symbol from such hatred? Where would we even start?

Before even starting, there are parties that need to be at the centre of this conversation. The most important opinions on this subject should come from the people and communities that were (and continue to be) affected most by The Holocaust and this “aryan superiority” nazi narrative that sadly, still echoes in the warped minds of some extremists today. 

Without the opinions, thoughts and approval of these communities, you could be advocating for the recirculation of a symbol they feel should have died in that German bunker

That’s precisely why I suggest, if you are going to advocate for the reclaiming of this symbol, agreement and conversation needs to start with those most affected by it. 

It’s their opinions that matter most in this discussion and without that insight, there’s not much else I can (or should) add. 

I will leave you with a snippet of my swirling thoughts and the endless list of questions I have surrounding this topic.

Would we be eradicating the suffering of the past by reclaiming the Swastika? 

Would we be contributing to the fear that POC’s face, so long as extremists continue to hide under the banner of this symbol? 

On the other hand, this symbol is still used by certain hate groups to perpetuate their disgusting ideals.

So would reclaiming it erase some of their power? 

Would they be forced to accept that their disgusting idea of an “aryan superiority” did die in that German bunker and that there’s no place for such abhorrence in 2023?

This is a snippet of my constant dilemma, a cycling of thoughts and feelings about the Swastika. 

As I said at the beginning of this article, sadly I don’t have an answer for you, dear reader. 

All I have are many thoughts and a perpetual contemplation for both sides of the argument.  

Now, it’s your turn to share your thoughts.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Is this symbol too “far gone” to reclaim?

Should we even try?

p.s. if anyone is wondering what relevance the featured photo has, Stalag IX-C is the POW camp that my Great Grandfather died in.