The latest entry is now available at Wayfaring Woman on the Agora at Patheos. Check it out!
The latest entry is now available at Wayfaring Woman on the Agora at Patheos. Check it out!
Season’s Greetings! My newest post over on Daughters of Eve: Pagan Women of Color Speak is live. Check it out here!
The rune Ansuz is the fourth rune in the first aett of the Elder Futhark. The rune’s literal meaning is “god” or “mouth”. As a “god” rune, I associate it strongly with Odin. He is chief among the gods after all, and so I associate it with him in his many guises. Odin is a changing and changeable god with many forms and many functions across a wide number of domains. In addition he has influence across many realms. Due to its sympathy with his nature, the power of Ansuz can be harnessed to aid in connecting with Odin.
The might of Ansuz is also bound up with consciousness. This is a major part of Odin’s might and of Ansuz’s as well. Through the power of Ansuz, self-awareness emerges. Also, this rune stimulates knowledge and develops wisdom. Ansuz is the sweet breath of the god, Odin, awakening the mind, stimulating thought, seeding memory, and lifting us up on a whirling wind of possibility. Ansuz is our ability to give and receive inspiration as well. As our consciousness expands so too does our access to inspiration.
Because I associate Ansuz with expanding consciousness, it signifies the purpose of Odin’s sacrifice, self to self, upon the World Tree. Ansuz is the code for Odin’s Nine Nights of Sacrifice. He hung that he might extend his consciousness which meant growing in self-knowledge, personal power, and wisdom, all of which were necessary for his own enrichment and for the advancement of his creation. In my work, I use Ansuz for a similar purpose, scratched on the forehead with a fingernail (which I do a lot) or painted on in white, storm blue, or red. In addition to writing this rune on my flesh, I also use galdr. In my work, Ansuz is the quintessential rune of galdr magic, of consciousness manifested in breath and expressed in song. Through this rune I draw closer to Odin and the meaning of his sacrifice.
As a “mouth” rune, Ansuz is connected to expression in general. When I think of Ansuz as an expressive rune I think specifically of inspired creative expression. In this way, Ansuz is linked to the Mead of Poetry that Odin won and to the art of poetry as a divinely inspired endeavor intimately linked with Odin’s furious passion. I also consider Ansuz’s power to be an integral part of oracular work in which the gods and spirits open us up and use our breath, our voice to bring messages to the folk. In that work I expand my awareness and my consciousness so that I can access messages from the powers that be. On top of that, I then have to ensure that my mind is open and my tongue is loose so that the message is accurately expressed to those poised to here it. Ansuz is a magical rune for me. So much of my work includes spoken charms, singing, chanting, proclaiming, and prophesying. The might of Ansuz is bound up in that process.
I also associate Ansuz with communication in general; however, it opens not just the mouth but also the heart and mind so that what comes out of the mouth is worth the breath expended. As the Hávamál warns in verse 29 of the Auden & Taylor translation:
Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.
And so for me Ansuz is a rune of potent meaning. It is not simply the act of communicating but of speaking true and well. Ansuz allows us to say what we know and articulate what we understand, about our selves, about the world, about the gods, and more. In that way Ansuz is the rune of legend and lore and it is the stuff of Odin’s conversations with Sága in Sökkvabekkr as they consume draughts of blessed mead from golden cups. Simply put, Ansuz is in wise words well spoken, not idle chit-chat. Here’s a handy meme that captures the type of communication that I often associate with the power of the rune Ansuz:
With regard to other contexts in which the might of Ansuz may manifest, as an academic in the last leg of Ph.D. program I associate this rune with the academy, with research (i.e., generating knowledge) and dissertating (i.e., recording that knowledge for later intellectual consumption) as well as the academic conferences that I am expected to attend (i.e., orally presenting said knowledge). I am reminded as well of the Greek symposia filled with wine, entertainment, and debate. In addition, this rune conjures images of the Thing to my mind, an ancient annual Germanic assembly of freemen for the purposes of dispute resolution, political decision making, public religious practice, and commerce. In that form, Ansuz is about the kind of communication exchange needed to create and maintain a civilization.
The above are the ways in which Ansuz is exalted and well-manifested from my perspective, but runes are tremendous founts of power and their might has both light and dark aspects. I have seen Ansuz’s might corrupted in the form of gaslighting, mind games, and manipulation and where its might has been twisted Ansuz can be used in bindrunes and charms to help untwist the situation. With Algiz, it forms a quality ward against such foul play. With Thurisaz, Ansuz can help one to mount an active offense designed to detour future bullshit. Void where prohibited and all ethical taxes apply. With Laguz and Algiz, it can be used to ward one’s dreams against foul play of a manipulative nature. With Nauthiz and Algiz, you can give back exactly as foul as you get. Think of it as the Aikido of baleful magic. Contained in Ansuz’s power is the wisdom and savvy to know what manner of person you are dealing with, and to act accordingly. As the Hávamál counsels in verses 18 and 38 of the Auden & Taylor translation:
He who has seen and suffered much,
And knows the ways of the world,
Who has traveled, can tell what spirit
Governs the men he meets
A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.
The might of Ansuz is a howling wind carrying thought and memory, knowledge and wisdom, good communication and divine inspiration within its currents, and I am quite taken. Hail Ansuz and Hail Odin, Winner of the Runes!
Odin brought me, in corvid hame, to this place. This cosmic crossing is like Hlidskjalf and Yggdrasil itself rolled into one. I can feel the wind in my feathers and the warm sun pressing against me even as the chill of twilight sets in. I ponder this place in the dim glow of dusk, my left eye red as rowan berry, and my right hand still stinging with the brand burned there. The way is open and The Old Man’s many faces are visible in the fading light.
Many moons ago I met Odin among the stars. We sat at a large campfire set upon a great comet sailing through space near Earth. Sitting to Odin’s left, I stared into the fire then into his eye and confessed. At that time I felt lost but I was ready to find my way again. He smiled the most warm and still somehow wild smile, then he drew me close. I leaned into his warmth and chuckled with tears in my eyes. He whispered to me of the importance of storytelling and learning from the past in order to improve the future. The Earth turned, the comet sailed on, the stars pulsed around us, and the sun seemed to shine a little brighter at the edges of my awareness.
What I describe above, a bit of mystical experience from my recent history, was inspired by contemporary cinema, in this case the scene in Cloud Atlas at the end where Tom Hanks’ character is teaching the children history around the fire. Contemporary books and also movies are stories, modern tales told for the same reasons our ancestors told stories around their communal fires. The tales told in modern movies and books are contemporary sagas, present day chronicles of consciousness, being, community, and identity. And Odin and the other gods speak through them as easily as they speak through ancient myths. The mystical moments seeded and inspired by modern stories are no less valid than those that emerge from our readings of the Eddas and Sagas or other such ancient sources.
Odin used Cloud Atlas imagery to speak to me as that was the most clear and present symbol system rolling through my brain at the time.
For me, it was more than a scene with Tom Hanks and some cute kids among the stars. In my version, the children were me and Tom Hanks was Odin. At the time when I met Odin on that comet I needed to begin the process of re-membering myself. We humans do that through story. In the company of the stars I could see the constellations of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that were a part of me. I could interact with the vast array of experiences that were chapters in my story. With Odin’s help I began a journey through self and through the Worlds. The new narrative of my self is being written everyday in thought, in deed, and in story. I have committed to telling my own story, to weaving my own tale, drawing the lines that give form and function to the constellations in the sky of my experience.
Odin and I still meet on that comet. Each time we do, I sit at the fire there and tell my story. And he tells me how the Worlds began. Together we re-member the past, mark the present, and weave the future.