"From Runes to Ruins" Documentary - A review

- Paganism

I have to say I am not a big fan of documentary films. The ones broadcasted on TV often seem quite hollow to me : beautiful pictures but the scientific or historical content is usually pretty poor, which means that after watching them you cannot say much more on the subject than two hours before. Don't you ever feel like that ?

Luckily, some of them happen to be incredibly good and honest, and From Runes to Ruins happens to fall into this category, making it some kind of a rarity. Indeed, it is probably one of the best documentaries I have seen so far regarding what I would call historical paganism, or in other words the evolution of the heathen lore over the centuries.

I don't exactly remember how I stumbled upon this 50-minutes movie. Probably it was one of the various Facebook suggestions that I am daily confronted to. I vaguely remind watching a brief yet intriguing trailer on YouTube (the one above).

I forgot a bit about it, but a few days ago a new update on the film's Facebook page popped into my news feed : the full movie was now available for watching through a VOD system. I quickly ended up paying the three little bucks requested and accessed my video (take care, you only have 72 hours to watch it, which I think is a little bit short, as I'd love to watch it again and again).

From Runes to Ruins banner

In short, From Runes to Ruins is a 50-minutes documentary dealing with Anglo-Saxon paganism. Apparently, the first ever on this subject. Thomas Roswell, its director/writer/presenter, owns a Master's Degree in medieval history. Influenced by an obvious personal interest in legends and lore from the ancient world, he teamed up with James Roper and Anthony Leigh to give life to a quality documentary mixing magnificent and evocative landscapes, ancient sacred sites and precise historical knowledge.

As he puts it himself :

I hope that From Runes to Ruins sparks a new interest in the pagan religion of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors and also encourages people to look at the land itself as a beautiful, spiritual inheritance which brings us closer to nature, our ancestors and each other.
Thomas Rowsell
Thomas Roswell, director of the documentary
Thomas Roswell, director of the documentary From Runes to Ruins

The movie is truly far from New Age fantasy which one might expect when he sees the word “Runes” in the title. On the contrary, the author is trying to focus on telling us about the ancient lore and how it is perceptible in today's landscape in England. Starting from a sacred barrow now being a meeting place for teenagers, the film evolves and presents us more and more interesting items and areas, each time backed by serious etymological and historical information.

As the goal of the documentary is to highlight the existing links between the medieval world's traditions and our universe, it also includes some interviews of people doing reenactment or following the Asatru faith, or of sword-fighters. It might seem less interesting to some, but it does tend to show that the interest in the old customs and beliefs is still strong. As a consequence, it is absolutely pertinent to confront these testimonies with the historical reality of the pagan roots they refer to.

By the way, did you know that Thursday was coming from the name of Thunor (or Thor in the Nordic countries) ? It is one of the many little details that are peppered along the film.

In 50 minutes, Thomas Roswell brought me a lot of information, packed with beautiful landscape pictures and an absorbing story-telling. The whole documentary is really well-done, never boring, and accurate. It is truly giving the motivation to search for more details regarding the many subjects and places evoked.

Therefore, I can only but recommend you watching From Runes to Ruins if you're interested in Anglo-Saxon heathenism, or simply in paganism in general : it will feel fresh and truly informative.

Video Link : Watch From Runes to Ruins documentary

Website Link : From Runes to Ruins website

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