Day 326: Freya’s Aett, Ansuz

As I’ve mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick’s book, but from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

As I’ve mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick’s book, but from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

ANSUZ
Pronunciation:  “AHN-sooz”
Meaning:  A God, Mouth
Supporting Meanings:  Mentally creative activity, spiritual development

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, the meanings ascribed to this rune in the old poems center around the communication, which is extended to include the god who gave us the runs.  In Old Norse, the word As, or “a god”, so resembled the Latin Os, or “mouth” that they’ve been conflated.  In the Anglo-Saxon, either makes sense; the Icelandic clearly means Odin; and the Norwegian uses it as “river mouth.”

Modern Meanings:  The general agreement among ansuz’s ancient meanings has led to a happy consensus of its modern meanings:  communication in general and Odin in particular.  This is the rune of the Word:  song, poetry and incantation.  It governs the power of oratory, speech, and poetry and through them is also a rune of wisdom, knowledge, advice, and teaching.  Freya Aswynn in particular says that ansuz represents consciousness, intelligence, and reason in addition to communication.  With all this in mind, it represents the organizing forces that balance the chaotic energies of the Jotnar.  In regards to Odin, ansuz especially reflects his aspect as a source of inspired, ecstatic poetry and his energies as a god of mental powers.  To tap into ansuz is to fall into a rich universe of relationships, symbolism, and perception.  To tap into ansuz is to tap into the meaning of language itself.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  It may be my English degrees talking here, but I think there’s a fine line between language and divinity even without the As/Os interplay.  The richness of our human communication is what has given us so much power.  We can describe to each other how to construct and use microscopes so powerful that we can ‘see’ individual atoms.  Our discussions have led us to casting machines into the far reaches of our solar system.  Our communication has given us a tremendous capacity and is what has allowed us to create such complicated civilizations.  It’s what’s made us gods among the animals.  Well, that and opposible thumbs.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  In readings, ansuz indicates mental or creative activity in general and verbal in particular; wisdom, the need for it, spiritual power as differentiated from physical or action/development on the spiritual plane.  On the physical plane, however, it may relate to problems with breathing, the lungs, or the action of the wind.  In a practical reading, Freya Aswynn interprets ansuz as communication and transmission, or an indication of something with sources in the past.  In a negative position, it can mean a separation from one’s true spirit, communication problems, or a spiritual imbalance.  When it appears in a spiritual context it may have to do with inspiration or ecstatic experience.

Paxson’s Ansuz Exercise:  To experience ansuz, exercises that sharpen the wits and train one in wordcraft or useful.  Play grames like Scrabble or do crossword puzzles.  The time when you are studying ansuz is also the time to go to a reading or play or practice writing poetry.  If you are working with a group, playing “free association” word games is fun.  Starting with a seed word, subsequent people offer a word they associate with it.  For example, with the word “home” one person might say warm, another security, and so forth.

Happy Autumn Equinox!

This equinox promises to have quite a turnout for Hartwood Grove’s celebration.  We keep the lesser Sabbats as ‘open circles’ where we can invite friends, family, and acquaintances that might have an interest in Wicca, and we turn them into potluck feasts.  Since we’ve got a strong outer court with lots of friendly family, it’s looking like this might be the first lesser Sabbat in a long time where there’s more than just a handful of us.  I love big gatherings!

I’ve been asked to bring a pasta salad, and I wracked my head trying to come up with a season-appropriate one.  Eventually, I turned to the Internet and very quickly found a fantastic butternut squash salad on the website Budget Bytes.  It’s so good, I’m sharing it here as well as with my circle tonight.

This is Budget Bite's photo of the salad.  Gorgeous!

This is Budget Byte’s photo of the salad. Gorgeous!

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

  • 1 (3 lb.) butternut squash
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 pound pasta (orecchiette or shells)
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • up to ½ cup raspberry vinaigrette (optional)
  • to taste salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the ends off of the squash to provide a flat, stable surface. Stand the squash on one end and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Slice a few rounds off of the small end to shorten the squash, and then cut down through the center of the thick end to expose the center. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and center pulp. Cut the remaining squash into small cubes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cubed squash, sage, salt & pepper (a generous sprinkle). Saute until the squash is tender (about 10-15 min). They will looks slightly translucent and will start to smash a little like a cooked potato. Taste a cube or two to make sure they’re cooked through. Turn the heat off.
  3. While the squash is cooking, cook the pasta. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a generous sprinkle of salt to the pasta water for flavor. Cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes or until al dente). Drain the pasta.
  4. Once the squash is tender and the pasta is drained, add the pasta, cranberries, and chopped parsley to the pot. Stir to combine.
  5. Drizzle the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil over everything and add salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, stir in the shredded Parmesan and the vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  6. Note:  if using the raspberry vinaigrette, the pasta will turn pink.

Day 325: Freya’s Aett, Thurisaz

As I've mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick's book, but from Diana L. Paxson's Taking Up the Runes.

As I’ve mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick’s book, but from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

THURISAZ
Pronunciation:  “THUR-ee-sahz”
Meaning:  Thurs, Thorn, Thor
Supporting Meanings:  Divine power on earth, responsibly wielded power, protection, pain, male potency, menstruation, childbirth.

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, the Norse and Icelandic rune poems agree that the rune’s name is thurs and are correlated with tormenting or causing illness in women and those who have sought protection, and generally being bad luck.  It essentially, then suggests a more immediate threat.  The Anglo-Saxon poem also treats this rune as dangerous, but calls it a thorn, which is certainly quite painful.  Thorns aren’t all bad, though.  Many thorny plants bear sweet berries or other beneficial plant parts, and thorn hedges were sometimes grown to create a protective barrier.  Thorns are also a common instrument by which one can scratch a runespell onto something, and so “inject” power.

Modern Meanings:  Thurisaz’s modern interpretation often figures it as Thor’s rune.  Thor is the son of Odin and the Earth, a primal elemental force.  He expresses raw physical power that defends against the chaotic energies of the Jotnar.  It is to be noted, though, that he does not slaughter all of them:  just enough that man can survive.  In this, he’s sort of the Norse embodiment of the Voltarian maxim:  “the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.”  With this in mind, Edred Thorsson says that thurisaz represents pure action, potency, raw power, and strength on the physical plane: the projectable form of applied power.  James Peterson holds that it represents chthonic forces, which Jane Sibley agrees with, stating that the rune represents divind power on the physical plane and unstructured, natural forces.  It is also a rune of protection, and Freya Aswynn feels it is the third dynamic of a fertility force shared by fehu and uruz.  It is a symbol of masculine potency which quickens the wombs of women.  This relates to Peterson’s belief that the “torment of women” referred to in the Norse and Icelandic poems is the menstrual cycle, and why Thorlf Wardle identifies it with the pains of childbirth.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Thurisaz is a powder keg.  It has so much potential for massive destruction and pain that it is quite frightening.  It is a power that will destroy all unless it is wielded responsibly.  If that is done, it is something like ecological forces:  on one level, it is horrible that a plague takes out half of a population, but on the other that culling allows other species to gain a foothold and the remaining population members grow stronger through the trial.  The key is responsible destruction, and in that it is actually global protection.  As women undergo great pain to rid their wombs either of new life or of the wasted potential for new life in order to prepare for a new cycle, so to does thurisaz cause pain to ensure the cycle continues productively for all.  In that, the rune is also the great fertilizer.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  Thurisaz has to be handled carefully:  it is a force that can heal or destroy, and it can at as a catalyst when combined with other runes, and so can empower a spell.  Drawing it on a sharp object enables it to be used as a focus for an exorcism, and can draw out evils.  It can be used in weather working to bring on storms.  It can be a buffer between us and the raw forces of nature.  In readings, Tony Willis feels it may mean good luck or it may be a warning to take stock and consolidated before moving further.  It could be a warning not to charge into things, but to enter them responsibly.  Freya Asynn suggests it indicates complexities involving aggression or psychological problems in an individuals strength of will and the wills that oppose him.  Therefore, it might also target areas of conflict, or the need to shake up an individual or situation and encounter destructive tendencies.

Paxson’s Meditation for Working with the Jotnar:  The Jotnar are the giants that Thor culled, and carefully working with them can give you an idea of the tremendous responsibility Thor carries, and–through that responsibility–his even greater power.  To work with the Jotnar, you have to find a wild place at night–at the very least, a place where there are growing things.  Go prepared with offerings of foodstuffs.  Find a secluded spot and set your offerings upon the ground.  Sit for a while in silence, listening to the night’s sounds.  Feel the solidity of the earth that supports you and make your prayer to the Earth Mother.  Send her energy through your palms.  One by one, honor the wild powers of the mountains and forests, the sky and sea.  Salute the Jotnar by name:  Ymir, from whose bones earth was made; Kári, who rides the winds; Löge, the elemental fire, and Aegir and Ran who rule the deeps.  Seek for the power that rules the region where you life, and see if it will send you an image and name.  Honor the smaller spirits as well.  Turn in each direction, and ask those beings who guard it to show themselves to you.  Usually, the shapes in which you perceive them will be those of local animals.  Whether or not you see them as such, you can honor them as landvaettir.  When you have finished, leave quietly, without looking behind you.  Honor the spirits of Utgard whenever you are moving between the worlds.

Day 324: Freya’s Aett, Uruz

uruz

As I’ve mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick’s book, but from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

URUZ
Pronunciation:  “OO-rooz”
Meaning:  Aurochs (Wild OX)
Supporting Meanings:  Creative force, destruction to create, courage, vitality, vigorous health, strength.

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, continental and Scandinavian sources differ on the meaning.  Most Germanic interpretations hold that uruz refers to a wild member of the cattle family.  A Norwegian rune poem, however, gives it the meaning “slag,” or the waste of a refining process and an Icelandic poem gives it the meaning of “rain” or “drizzle.”  The Anglo-Saxon rune poem associates the wild cattle with fearlessness, ferocity, and courage.  The Icelandic poem associates drizzle with destroying crops and making life difficult for herdsmen.  The Norwegian poem compares the rising of slag from molten iron to the movement of reindeer across snow.

Modern Meanings:  Modern interpretation of these three apparently disparate ancient meanings actually brings them into synthesis.  Edred Thorsson views the wild ox as Audhumla, the primal cow whose licking released the first being from ice and whose milk fed the giant from whose body the world was made.  Therefore, uruz is the archetype of the wild forces of creation or the creative pattern whose energy shapes matter.  Kveldulf Gundarsson relates the “slag” and “drizzle” meanings to the endless process of patterning, cleansing, and reshaping:  the power drawn up by the Worldtree only to be released back into the Well of Urdh.  Uruz is, then, the twin power of shaping and nourishment. Freya Aswynn interprets uruz as a source of primal earth energy, the creative force that breaks down old forms and erects new ones.  For her, this has implications of courage, endurance, and a positive application of aggressive energy.  Tony Willis similarly interprets the rune to indicate the use of energy and the courage to move into a new position or to make change.  Consequently, he identifies the rune as one of vitality, health, and fighting spirit.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Uruz is interesting.  I can see the strong cow who needs no herder and can birth, nourish, and protect her young on her own…but who is so strong she may pose a danger to her young.  I can also see it as the destroying rain that washes all away to create a new foundation for future growth.  I also see value in it as slag, for as slag floats upon molten iron, so too does the earth’s crust float upon its molten core.  (Or the life blood of a reindeer herd tread carefully on potentially unstable snow.)  Uruz is the combination of new creation and of the destruction necessary to create.  It is both foundation and wrecking ball.  In either case, it is strong: a foundation must be strong to hold a structure up, and a wrecking ball must be strong to bring that structure down.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  Uruz could be a rune of manifestation–resources becoming available, energy producing results, or organizing energy so that it will be usable.  It can also say something about the physical energy or health of the subject, or it could imply the need to take an active role in obtaining and protecting resources and taking risks and the willingness to change if necessary.  Negatively, it might mean there is difficulty in making that change or a need to get rid of the past.  In spellwork, uruz can increase energy or make potential available.  It can be drawn on the forehead, for instance, when one is tired.  It helps the powers of other runes to manifest on the physical plane.

Paxson’s Spell for Strengthening:  This working basically involves taking a healing bath.  At a time when you can be sure you will not be interrupted, purify your bathroom with the smoke of vervain, rosemary, or your favorite herbal incense.  Turn out the lights and light a few candles.  Run the bathwater warm but not overwhelmingly hot, and add a spoonful of salt for purification and a pint of a mugwort or mint infusion or a few drops of rosemary oil (all strengthening herbs).  As you lie in the bath, imagine that you are the primal ice being melted by the warmth of Muspel’s fires.  Let the scented water relax each limb.  As tension leaves each muscle, consciously release it.  Float, needing nothing, wanting nothing.  When the water cools, get out of the tub.  Draw uruz on your forehead, then take a rough towel and rub life back into your limbs.  As you do so, imagine that it is the rough tongue of Audhumla, licking you free from all that keeps you weak.  As you dry, say something like “This is my foot, strong to stand; by Audhumla freed, by Erda fed, by Lodhur led, thus I reclaim it.”  (Erda is the earth goddess and Lodhur one of the trinity who gave life to humankind.)  When all is dry, put on clean nightclothes, drink a cup of warm milk, and go to bed.

Day 323: Freya’s Aett, Fehu

fehu

As I’ve mentioned before, all the information below comes not from Roderick’s book, but from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.

FEHU
Pronunciation:  “FAY-hu”
Meaning:  Wealth (Cattle)
Supporting Meanings:  Marriage, Virility, Conception, Community prosperity.

Ancient Meanings:  According to Diana Paxson, “Wealth” is the most basic meaning of this rune in all the old rune poems.  However, it originally mean livestock, especially cattle, which makes sense given how integral dairy products were to the diet of early Germanic peoples.  It is important, however, to note that wealth is a double-edged sword.  Although it brings prosperity, several rune poems agree that “Wealth is trouble among relatives.”  If wealth is not treated as a gift of the gods and hoarded instead of being freely shared, it will lead to a spiritual poverty among you and your loved ones.

Modern Meanings:  Paxson reports that modern commentators ascribe meanings to fehu that range from the mystical to practical.  Tony Willis believes the wealth represented by cattle is that which grows when cared for and which can produce more money when wisely invested, but that the rune sometimes means the need to conserve resources.  Edred Thorsson, on the other hand, sees in the rune motion and expansion of power, mobility, luck, and fertility.  Paxson herself notes that wealth today is represented by money instead of cattle and that money is also a symbolic form of energy.  Money gives power, but it becomes useless if it is conserved too tightly.  For the community to prosper, money and energy have to move on.

My Take-Away of the Meanings:  Whether we’re talking cattle or community economics, I think it’s important to understand the importance of the collective in determining wealth.  If a man had a number of cattle but not enough workers to care for them, guard their safety, and responsibly slaughter them, milk them, and craft cheeses, butters, and yogurts from that milk, his wealth would become a mismanaged burden and eventually be his ruin.  So to does modern money only have value if it is in circulation.  If one hoards money like Scrooge McDuck, all one has is a vault with metal and paper.  It is the value the community ascribes to money as a symbol that translates it into a potential to obtain food and comfort.  If one does not reinforce that symbol by maintaining its constant circulation within a community, it will lose its power and eventually be the community’s downfall.

Paxson’s Interpretation and Use:  Fehu is always a rune of productivity, though its context may vary.  It can connect to spiritual or artistic creativity, physical fertility, or the ability to create or to maintain wealth, or it can mean an improvement in one’s finances or health.  In conjunction with runes of caution, it may indicate a need to conserve physical or emotional resources.  When using fehu in a spell, you need to be very specific about what kind of ‘fertility’ you mean, lest you find your cats proliferating instead of the dollars in your bank account.  Fehu can also be used in gardening (especially along with uruz, jera, and ingwaz), and it can be used in any work relating to the Vanir or with Freyr or Freyja.  IT can be inscribed on the forehead to increase attractiveness and sexual vigor (so long as you clearly intend this, or you may conceive).  As such, it can be used to invoke passion, productivity, and prosperity in a couple being married.  It’s generally considered a fortunate rune.

Paxson’s Ritual for Abundance:  For this working you will need a package of seeds and a pot of good soil.  The ritual should be done within sacred space.  Invoke Freyr and Freyja and offer them the seed.  State very clearly that as each seed in the bowl, once planted, has the potential to multiply, you desire your own work to be fruitful and bring you abundance.  Focus on the seeds and visualize them sprouting and flourishing, then visualize your own prosperity as customers, contracts, or some other appropriate form of prosperity increases.  Affirm that this will be so.  Sing the rune into the bowl and draw it through the seeds with your finger.  Then plant some of them (at least 9 seeds) in the pot.  When you have finished, deconstruct the sacred space.  Since true prosperity can only occur in the context of a prosperous community, package the remainder of the seeds to send to friends.  Carefully tend the pot you have planted, and each time you water it, repeat your visualization.  Collect seeds from the fruit/flowers that grow and save them for luck pieces or to plant in future rituals.

Day 322: Making Runes

Handmade runes around a horned skullcap...très witchy, non?

Handmade elder futhark runes around a horned skullcap…très witchy, non?

Roderick starts out his introduction to making runes by noting that there are very specific traditional methods for doing so.  However, I really think that should be taken with a grain of salt.  When it comes to rune studies, I look outside fluffy bunny sources and, indeed, all of Wicca for help.  Right now, I’m very comfortable with Diana L. Paxson’s work.  Paxson is currently the leader of Hrafnar, a heathen kindred in Berkeley, California who practice Ásatrú.  Among Paxon’s many literary efforts is a little volume called Taking Up the Runes, and its one of the best contemporary resources for rune studies.  In this volume, Paxson notes that most of what we know of the ancient German’s specific crafting of divinatory runes comes from the Roman writer Tacitus, who simply said they cast lots of fruitwood for divination.  These days, you can really make runes out of anything you like, just as long as they’re of small enough pieces to mix easily and to conveniently transport in a smallish pouch.

I’ve actually made rune sets from glass tiles, sea glass, polymer clay, ceramic clay, antler tiles, and wood.  My runaway preference is for wood.  The glass felt so artificial, and it was really hard to etch them cleanly and safely.  When I tried paint, the paint rubbed right off in just a couple uses.  The ceramic tile chipped and broke, the antlers were a little creepy and smelled really weird, and the polymer clay just felt plastic and fake.  To me, wood is warm and friendly and very forgiving of rough treatment.  Paint takes well to them, and it’s easy enough to etch into wood with an X-acto knife or a trusty boline.  I prefer to woodburn, but that involves finding a friend with the appropriate equipment for me.

g

An old runestone in Stockholm that was placed into a building’s foundation.

There is one caveat to runemaking.  Most Scandinavian runestones have the runes engraved into the rock and then painted red, as shown in the image above.  This red color is evocative of the lifeblood that flows through all, and reminds us that the runes are part of our lifeblood.  Indeed, in crafting your runes, you may find it beneficial to not only paint them in red, but to use blood in the process.  Paxson cautions against using any b;ppd but your own, as you know without a doubt that it was freely given for this purpose and will also link you more strongly with the runes.  Very little blood is needed for this, and even less if you mix it into red paint:  a couple drops would be all that would be needed in that case.

For this series of Roderick’s studies, I am abandoning his text and exercises (and, in some cases, even the order of the days) entirely.  This is because I have found this section to be very poorly researched and edited.  I do not know upon what foundation Roderick is building his information from since no sources pertaining to runes are listed in his bibliography.  However, I suspect he swiped some of his information from Ralph H. Blum’s The Book of Runes.  Blum does perplexing things things as ascribing ansuz to Loki (when every valued rune scholar says it is Odin’s special rune) or raidho with communication (when that is so prominently ansuz) that Roderick duplicates, and Blum’s idiosyncratic spellings for the runes are also duplicated here.  The exact wording (and omission of stanza 140) of the poem Roderick offers in day 321 is also given in Blum’s opening pages.

If Roderick did take his information from Blum, I find that troubling not only in the fact that he did so without credit but also because of the source itself.  Blum’s Book of Runes isn’t a historically researched text:  pretty much all of it’s detail was derived through his own meditations.  If grounded information is what you want, literally any other rune book is a better source.  Blum also greatly switched up the order of his runes, which might explain Roderick’s odd ordering.  Roderick put them back into aetts, but the order within the aetts is certainly nonstandard.

Worst of all, this section suffers from the lack of basic proofreading, which is inexcusable when the section pertains to sigils that are not familiar to an audience.  One misprint here can be damning:  the number that persists is obscene.  For example, the chart of runes given for today duplicates the sigils for othala (where it is both othala and ingwaz) and wunjo (where it is both wunjo and laguz).  This mistake is repeated in the chart given for Day 354 (Using the Runes in Magic).  In the sigils given at the start of each day, day 345 (Ingwaz) shows the sigil for othala and day 349 (Ehwaz) omits the sigil entirely.

In lieu of Roderick’s text, I will be taking all my information from Diana L. Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.  It is not a perfect text, but it nicely summarizes the work of other rune scholars, gives solid historical backing, and contains plenty of ideas for exercises, rituals, and the like.  Even though Paxson is primarily coming from an Ásatrú background, her ritual suggestions and magical practices are not unfamiliar to contemporary Wicca.

As I am using Paxson’s text, I will be using her spellings instead of Roderick’s as well as her images of the runes.  The Elder Futhark runes are in the order with the names I will be using below:

The Elder Futhark as Diana Paxson has them ordered along with her standardized spellings.

The Elder Futhark as Diana Paxson has them ordered along with her standardized spellings.  The only major differences from Paxon’s preferred forms is that her uruz has feet that meet on the same level, and her preferred eihwaz is the mirror image of this one.  She does offer this orientation as an alternate, however.

The Hávamál in the Prose Edda

Odin's Self-Sacrifice by W.G. Collingwood (1908).

Odin’s Self-Sacrifice by W.G. Collingwood (1908).

Roderick mentioned that the poem he included in yesterday’s meditative exercise came from the Poetic Edda.  I tracked it down to the Hávamál, which is presented as a single poem within the Edda.  It is a combination of different ones, and the Rúnatal (stanzas 138-146), or a series of stanzas describing how Odin won the runes, serves as a preface to a collection of charms termed the Ljóðatal.  The lines of the poem Roderick gave actually come from stanzas 138, 139, and 141 of the Rúnatal.

I show these stanzas below.  The text on the left is from Sophus Bugge’s 1867 edition, while the text on the right is from Benjamin Thorpe’s 1866 translation.

I chose to offer Thorpe’s translation here since Haukur Þorgeirsson and Óskar Guðlaugsson endorse it as the most accurate translation in their extensive comparison of translations on their Old Norse for Beginners website. I really can’t recommend this site enough.  If the text grabbed you in any way and you are curious about it, their translations and comparisons will bring you such a greater understanding of this section than many of us could otherwise have obtained.  They also have reconstructed pronunciations for the first three stanzas, which is amazing since I’m not sure any of us would have been able to hear a decent pronunciation otherwise.  Check out 138, 139, and 140.

Runatal