Supporting Meanings: Happiness, Bliss, Security, Wishes, Desires, Dreams
Ancient Meanings: According to Diana Paxson, Wunjo is not present in the Scandinavian rune poems, but it does appear in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. There, it portrays the Old English ideal of happiness–the absence of trouble, adequate resources (buildings good enough) and all the power to protect them. Etymologically, it is also associated with the word wunsch in thirteenth-century German poetry, where it nominally means ‘wish’. However, the poems personify wunsch “as the agency by whom God creates.” In Teutonic Mythology, Jacob Grimm elaborates: “We see Wish provided with hands, power, looks, diligence, art, blossom, fruit; he creates, shapes, produces master-pieces, etc.” Grimm also concludes that wunjo and all its associated words (collectively nodding to perfection in any kind) could all be applied to Wodan, whose Norse names include “Oski” or the Fulfiller of Desires.
Modern Meanings: Paxson makes an excellent point when she says that interpretation of wunjo seems hampered by its apparent straightforwardness: joy, happiness, bliss. And yet, these qualities are almost impossible to define.
Edred Thorsson says wunjo represents “a harmonization of diverse elements, joining, blending, binding; fellowship and union within the clan for the common good.” James Peterson thinks it the happiness of spiritual ecstasy. Marijane Osborn and Stella Longland think it the innocent joy of a child, or the ideal pushing forth in a hard world. Thorolf Wardle connects it with the Old High German word wunna, or a meadow, as well as the modern German wonne or bliss. He interprets it as a billowing grassland upon which the important herds of Germanic peoples could flourish. He has a point: happily grazing animals certainly represents the bliss of satiation and security. Freya Aswynn interprets wunjo as “the power or realization of the true will” that brings the energy of thurisaz (protection, power, security) into consciousness. Kveldúlf Gundarsson also believes wunjo is a rune of will, but views it as the determination that maintains a worker’s enthusiasm of magical attainment in the face of all discouragement. He also notes that happiness is to be found in the security of the stronghold–a safe place where one is surrounded by family and friends. He also figures it as a healing rune, especially for emotional problems or interpersonal conflict.
My Take-Away of the Meanings: Wunjo’s happiness and bliss comes from feeling secure and strong in life–healthfully surrounded by friends and family. It’s the happiness of a constructive social setting and the joy of relationships and community. It connects us with our innermost wishes and desires (our true will) and lets us attain them…especially for the good of all.
Paxson’s Interpretation and Use: In readings, wunjo suggests a positive interpretation for the surrounding runes. Therefore, it can refer to success in love relationships or happiness in any shared activity, especially work. Spiritually, it indicates an integration of personality or forces. Generally, it indicates joy and happiness, a good outcome, pleasure in the work of one’s own hands. It can indicate or promote harmony, joy, prosperity, and friendship and can be used as a general purpose luck rune. It can be drawn on ones forehead to lift a depression. In negative positions, its hazards are stagnation, strife, and alienation.
Paxson’s Practice for Living Gebo: It’s difficult to prescribe a ritual that will enable you to experience joy, but the regular practice of meditation is a good way to get the practice and experience in. Choose a place where you will be uninterrupted and comfortable. Light a candle and set it before you. Identify and relax each muscle group in turn, then regularize your breathing (try couting in for four beats, hold for two, out for four, hold for two, etc.) Repeat until your mind is centered and focused. When you are able to relax at will, focus your attention on the candle flame. Contemplate and appreciate it, and let any other thoughts that come to mind simply float away. When the flame fills both your inner and outer vision, close your eyes and imagine that the flame forms itself into the figure of wunjo. Let it grow large until you can walk into it. Feel its warmth and brilliance surround and permeate you until you are conscious of nothing except its Light. Allow the experience to conclude naturally. Take your time coming back to ordinary reality. Breathe deeply and quickly, thank the powers that have protected you, and stretch.