Johannes Bureus: The Master of the Runes


Johannes Thomae Agrivillensis Bureus, enclosed by the Eagle on the upper left and the Man at the lower left, and the Lion on the upper right and the Ox on the lower right.

Our subject of today is a Renaissance man whom few knew of; even fewer Swedes know of his name. The life of Johannes Bureus is of that kind that makes History with a capital H come alive in ways that drab, Marxist high school curriculums fail to do. In this stage when Swedish history is being re-written á la Orwellian style, I find it to be important to shed a light (a brief one) on a fascinating figure from a forgotten time in this present-day, ahistorical, Modernist la-la land of the sleeping peoples that has become Sweden.

Birth, character and calling in life

Born to a vicar, Johan Bure, or Johannes Bureus as he went by, was born in March of 1568 (according to him on March 15th; according to others the 25th) in Åkerby in Uppland, widely known for its wide distribution of runes; also Uppsala being known for the Uppsala temple, once the largest Pagan temple in Scandinavia before it was destroyed in the Christianation.

After graduating, he went into service for duke Karl IX; Charles IX (later King Charles IX of Sweden). Being tasked with a great number of tasks like the proofreading of a new Bible printing, being an envoy with peace agreements for Denmark, and an attendant to the parliaments, he was also given the responsibility of tutoring the Duke’s son Gustav II Adolf; Gustavus Adolphus, who would later on play a decisive role in the Thirty Years’ War, fighting for for the Protestant side, and usher in Sweden’s period as a Great Power: Stormaktstiden (The Great Power Era), or as it’s now being taught in the school curriculum, Östersjöriket (The Kingdom of the Baltic Sea), following the lead of re-writing Swedish history.


Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, the Lion of the North, and in his youth, a pupil of Johannes Bureus.

He was also tasked with documenting runes and other ancient monuments. Thus, he traveled the country and documented the runestones in systematic order, giving his interpretation of each separate rune. Even more so, he was also given royal privilege of teaching how to read runes to school pupils. He wrote a booklet: Runa ABC; the first ever Swedish alphabet book printed with the intent of teaching runes, instructing how to translate Latin letters into runes. He even translated The Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.

Runa ABC

The Runa ABC by Johannes Bureus

He was later entrusted with the role of Royal Antiquarian (riksantikvarie) and promoted Royal Librarian (riksbibliotekarie), a privilege that never quenched his inquisitive nature.
Though prolific, his appointment brought in a meagre income, forcing him to rely on his artistic and technical talents. He was an accomplihed poet; writing folk poetry; clock repairer, alchemist, woodcarver and engraver.

Johannes the person was a paradoxical one. Gifted in many fields and knowledgeable on many subjects, yet petty in the face of adversity and criticism from his peers both domestic and abroad. A methodical man, observing not only the years and months, but even the weeks and days; he could pinpoint the exact minute when struck by a revelation or an idea. He was humble Christian, yet prone to grand claims of divine insight that put him at odds with the Lutheran orthodoxy.

Bureus the Prophet

Being a man of strong faith, he was deeply drawn into and influenced by the ideas of Millennialism, the notion of the arrival of a spiritual Golden age that would last for a thousand years before the final judgement. With the royal library at his disposal, he immersed himself in obscure scriptures, read into mysticism, neo-Platonism, kabbalism, hermeticism, theosophy and alchemy, devouring whatever scroll he happened to come across.

On a cold December morning in 1613, the 45 years, 36 weeks, 2 days, 7 hours and 33 minutes old Johannes Bureus underwent a spiritual transformation. While on his travels through Dalarna, together with the now nineteen year old King Gustav II Adolf and his escort, God had revealed (a sneaking quiet whisper in his ear) to Bureus apocalyptic dates for the end times and the fate of the world. After that, the alchemist, artist, inventor, rune scientist, aquarian, librarian, the man with many talents, took on the robe of a prophet with a mission to spread this message.

This put him into conflict with the Lutheran orthodoxy whom saw him as a fanatic and heretic, whilst he saw himself as being chosen and holy, tasked with an important mission at the brink of an eschatological event. His title and friendship with the king protected him though from worldly persecution, yet in his dreams, he could hear his enemies mutter: “burn him.” Yet Bureus perserved with his investigations.

In his golden years (1630-1640), he encapsulated his apocalyptic vision in his peculiar writing: Nordlandalejonsens rytande (The Roaring of the Northern Lion.) With the help of the Bible and Book of Revelation along with his studies of mystic and kabbalistic writings, he divides the history of Christianity into three separate ages.
The first age being a time of papal darkness brought to an end by the two heralds of the Apocalypse: the Cherubim and the Ox; represented by Jan Hus and Martin Luther respectively.
The second age commenced with the year before his birth; 1567. Burues identified himself as one of the four heralds of the Apocalypse. He was the Lion of Judah, who would open the seventh seals. (Rev 5:5)
He further proclaims 1666 to be the year that Christ would return to establish the new Jerusalem on earth, and after enduring six years (each day would be feel like a 1000 years), Bureus the Lion of Judah would fulfil the prophecy of the seven seals, resulting in the dead awaking from their slumbers and time coming to its end.

The Adulruna: The Kabballah of the Geats

Like most of his European contemporaries, Bureus sought to discover the Adamic language that Adam had spoken in the garden of Eden. Beyond the phonetic meanings of the runes, he saw them as a Nordic hieroglyph, a sacred writing, that could only have been interpreted by the priesthood and the wise in lost times of yore. Each rune possessing an esoteric significance. He therefore termed the runes as Adulrunor or sometimes as Adelrunor. Adel meaning noble and runa being rune or secret; also possibly related with röna (experience) and röja (reveal). In his studies, he recognized the Adulruna with the Logos or the Word, thus the language of the ancient Geats (Swedish) must have been the language of Adam.
Bureus observations followed in the spirit of Gothicism (Göticism), a movement in Sweden founded on the ideas of a Geathish golden age, linking Swedes with the Hyperboreans or with the lost city of Atlantis, projecting Sweden as the cradle of Western Civilization.

Further more, he laid out that the ancient Geats had hidden this primordial divine knowledge in their runic system. Knowledge of the True God. Proving that the Geats had been Christians way before the birth of Christ, but were turned away from the true path by the cunnings of a Seid-Master (Sejdmästare) or a “wizard from Asia”, and in exchange for worshiping wooden idols and wallowing in dark heathen days. Bureus also identified the major heathen Gods Odin, Thor and Freya, previously the three most noble Adulrunes, with the concept of the Holy Trinity, confirming the core of Geatish wisdom.
Going back to alchemy, Bureus noted parallels between the Philosopher’s stone and the Geathish Adulrunes. Possibly seeing the runes as a blurred memory of this sought after substance.

He was a pioneer in the field of runic science and a failed prophet. His esoteric ideas would leave no lasting impact during his lifetime. Being ridiculed behind his back at home and abroad as a false prophet and a fool. He died old and tired, giving up on his medication and choosing to lie down and fall into a deep slumber, never to wake up again. Does ends the life of a truly fascinating figure, Lion of Judah and Master of the runes.

Vid Tidens Ände by Håkan Håkansson
Svensk lärdomshistoriaStormaktstiden, pages 152-161, by Sven Lindroth

For the English readers, I can recommend: Håkan Håkansson’s Alchemy of the Ancient Goths: Johannes Bureus’ Search for the Lost Wisdom of Scandinavia.



3 responses to “Johannes Bureus: The Master of the Runes

  1. Freya is the deity most closely associated with the sejdr magics, and who taught it to Odin. Interesting that Bureus mapped a cosmology that overlaid these three heathen deities with the Holy Trinity, but excluded any connection to sejdr. But of course the map is not the terrain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Or was it just what he really wanted to believe about the Geats? Afterthought.


  3. He was very steadfast in his hypothesis regarding the Geats, so I’d imagine that he believed it to be the truth, not so much out of want but out of conviction. I haven’t delved into his original work myself, only read summaries of his cosmological, spiritual and runic work.


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