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Swedish Culture

A Journey through runes: ASI Member Awarded Pedagogical Prize

January 24, 2023 By Darby Johnson

On November 6, 2022, American Swedish Institute member Loraine Jensen was awarded the Royal Gustav Adolfs Academy’s Pedagogical Prize from the Royal Gustav Adolfs Academy for Swedish Folk Culture for her valuable efforts in spreading scientifically based knowledge about runic inscriptions to an interested public throughout North America.  

“As founder and president of the American Association for Runic Studies (AARS), Loraine has been a prominent and influential voice for the authentic scholarly study and research of runic writing.  I am pleased that this award recognizes the significant role she has played in highlighting the historic and cultural value of runes,” said Myrna Smith (AARS board member). 

This journey for Loraine began when she first learned about the Kensington Runestone near her hometown of Alexandria, MN. She was hired as a consultant to write a report for the Douglas County commissioners to provide input into the development of a master concept plan to enhance Kensington Runestone Park. As her knowledge of runestones grew, so too did her concern about the way media portrays the meaning and cultural significance of artifacts. 

Eventually, this led to her becoming the founder and President of the American Association for Runic Studies. Their mission is to promote academic and scholarly research regarding runes and runic-like letters in Europe and North America and to counter unscientific claims. As an ASI member for over a decade, she is part of a sponsored club who lovingly refers to themselves as the “Runatics” which meet regularly at ASI.  

She has developed extensive networks on runic research, including with Uppsala University in Sweden and the Smithsonian Institution. Those relationships and her expertise as a professional educator resulted in her selection for two prestigious Fulbright Specialist appointments to study at Uppsala University with Professor Henrik Williams.  

“Loraine Jensen has for over 15 years been intensively active in spreading accurate information about runes and runic inscriptions in North America and in counteracting rogue actors in this field,” said Professor Williams. 

It was early in the development of AARS that Loraine was introduced to Professor Henrik Williams of Uppsala University in Sweden. After only communicating through email for over a year, he agreed in 2010 to headline a U.S. Runic tour and Loraine traveled to Uppsala, Sweden in May of that year.  

“It was then I first learned about runestones in Sweden. I became fascinated and wanted to learn more, said Loraine. “This became a turning point for the development of our mission and goals.” 

For Loraine, this award is only the beginning of her journey with North American and Scandinavian runes. Her presentations and field work bring this research to life to educate others.  

Loraine has personally given several dozen presentations in the U.S. and internationally on runic studies, such as the Västerbotton Museum in Sweden, the International Runic Symposium in Sweden in 2014 and 2022 in Germany, and even a Harry Potter book club. 

“I’m retired but I’m just now getting started! I’m really interested in doing this for the remainder of my years.”