This writer would like to briefly touch on the topic of Germanic runes in the Wolf Age. Many new to Germanic heathenism often take a great interest in the study of runes and rightly so. However, this writer suggests that in the beginning most of one’s time should be spent studying the primary source materials about Germanic culture such as the Eddas, sagas, and historical writers to obtain an overall understanding of the culture in which the runes were used. The study of a Germanic language, other than English, is also encouraged. This writer has included several links to suggested reading lists in the blog roll for those interested.
Runes are a paradox, on the surface they are easy to understand simply as letters for writing a language. However, the energies that each of the letters represent are a mystery. The word rune roughly translates as mystery. Those mystical energies pre-date the gods and were not created by them. Odin sacrificed himself upon the tree Yggdrassil, so that he could take up the mysteries, or the runes, into himself and rise out of the chaos into godhood. This writer does not see Odin as a god of war, but as a god of death and transformation, which is required for the cycle to move forward.
This writer sees Tyr as the god of war and Thor as the protector of the gods. There is no doubt that Thor was the most popular god among the common warriors and Odin was much less popular among them. However, Odin did have a cult following among certain nobles. Other warriors followed deities such as Freya or Frey. There were regional differences in which gods were honored and how they were honored. The folk’s relationship with the gods was not so much an individual thing, but more of a group relationship. The folk did not envision themselves apart from their community; because to be removed from the protection of the law of the folk was to be an outlaw or accursed. Some tribes or blood lines were favored by certain gods and goddesses, because the gods had sired their noble blood lines and took a special interest in their well being. All of the folk can claim descent from the gods through the god Heimdallr, therefore the gods are our noble kinsmen.
Odin did not give the runes to men, that was done by the god Rig also known as Heimdallr. However, men must follow Odin’s example to understand the powers represented by the runes. It is also interesting to note that Heimdallr is associated by some with the world tree Yggdrassil. Men were fashioned by the gods out of trees and Odin hung on the tree to find the mysteries near the root of the tree. The runes are typically carved on wooden staves, not on small stones for rune casting. This writer is unaware of any source material which would lead one to believe that runes were historically used for divination. Although they can be and they are currently used for divination by some.
Magic aside or not, the primary use of runes for asatruar today is personal transformation or evolution. Personal evolution during the Wolf Age is a good idea, so the study of the runes is encouraged by this writer. The question for the beginner is where to start. This writer suggests one to contact the Rune Gild to begin the process. Or one could also contact Wodenson at NRR-Northern Runes Radio, who has an excellent series on runes. This writer is certain that there are other good sources as well, but simply buying a book will not be enough. Even buying several good books will not be enough. To understand the runes one must begin an organized study under a competent teacher that will take several years just to master the basics. As always, the teacher is more important than any organization that the teacher may be affiliated with.
All runes are facets of the primal or mother rune, which is Hagalaz. This writer has been noticing, as events have been escalating in the western world, that certain runic energies are recurring or are prominent enough that this writer has taken notice of them in daily life. This writer has noted a prominence of the runic energies of Fehu, Thurisaz, Tiwaz and Dagaz several times in the last several months. In this short essay the writer will address Thurisaz/Þurisaz.
The three oldest Germanic runic alphabets are: the Elder Futhark, the Younger Futhark and the Anglo-Saxon Futharc. Thurisaz holds the third position in all three of the above Futhark systems and is the third rune in the elder futhark in the first or Freyr’s Aett in the Elder Futhark. Thurisaz or Þurisaz in Proto-Germanic means Thor or Giant. Thurs/Þurs in Old Norse means Giant. In the Anglo-Saxon Futharc the rune Thurisaz is called þorn which means thorn. Some believe that thorn is a kenning or a metaphor for giant. Giants are primal, wild, uncontrolled, powerful energies that are generally hostile to the order established by the gods and they are especially hostile to man. Giants are not inherently evil; they are chaos opposed to order. The gods themselves were once giants who elevated themselves out of chaos. Loki is not evil in and of himself, but a necessary catalyst for change to take place allowing the cycle to move forward.
This writer has been planning on writing this article for at least one month. During that time, the writer has noted that his Rune Gild sib, Kalki Weisthor, published an article on Thurisaz entitled Meditation on the Thorn Rune at his blog. Wodenson at Northern Runes Radio, just did a podcast on the rune Thurisaz (and it was very good). Mere coincidence? Maybe, or are people picking up on something that is going on at a deeper level?
Descriptions of the runes included in the three alphabets are found in three historical poems, the Old English Rune Poem, the Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme, and the Icelandic Rune Poem.
Thurisaz is described in the Old English Rune Poem as follows:
“(Ðorn- thorn) is very sharp; for every thegn
Who grasps it, it is harmful and exceedingly cruel
to every man who lies up on it.”
Thurisaz is described in the Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme as follows:
“(Þurs- giant) causes the sickness of women;
Few are cheerful from misfortune.”
Thurisaz is described in the Icelandic Rune Poem as follows:
(Þurs- giant) is the torment of women and the dweller
in the rocks and husband of the etin-wife Varth-runa
Saturn. “ruler of the legal assembly.”
Thurisaz has been used in magical operations of offense and defense for centuries, and it appears to be a rune associated with life and death. It is a sharp piercing energy associated with pain and blood loss. But it appears to have other uses as well. In the Lay of Sigdrifa we discover that Odin pricked the shield maiden Sigdrifa (Brynhild) with a thorn or sleep rune (Svefnthorn) causing her to fall into a deep sleep; until she was to be awakened by the hero Sigurd, who she is supposed to marry. We find other references to the Svefnthorn in the Saga of the Volsungs, The Saga of King Kraki, and Gongu-Hrolf’s Saga. There are hints of the Svefnthorn in the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
In our time during the wolf age, we find our heroine Sigdrifa/Brynhild/Europa had been placed into a deep sleep; but she has been partially awakened. Our hero must slay the dragon Fafnir and prove himself worthy through his courage to wed the maiden. As our heroine awakes she says:
” I counsel you eleventh; there lurks evil
Round each bend of the road:
A long life you must not look to have,
So great are the hatreds grown. “
Our heroine warns the hero to always be on his guard against being bewitched (seduced through mind control), believing the words of his enemies (wolf’s kin) as truth, and avoiding brother’s quarrels. Our hero should only give his oath if he intents to fulfill it; and it would be better for him to perish on the battlefield than burned in his home. Our hero must succeed in his quest; if he is to wed the maiden returning peace and prosperity to the land and the folk. The thorn rune is in play; life, death, re-birth.