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Working with the Runes: Notes on Engaging with the First Aett

This is less a post and more random thoughts and insights as I work yet again through the first  runic aett. Each time I approach a rune spirit, I discover new things. Each time I approach a rune spirit, I’m taken more deeply into that rune’s mysteries. Each time I approach a rune spirit, new worlds open – at least a little – to my understanding, or at least to my awe. 

They are such potent gifts of Odin and it is Odin and Loki Who have inspired me in their use. It’s not just that they are powerful forces in and of themselves, forces that can provide glimpses into the wyrd and the architecture of the worlds, but the runes reflect the mysteries of our Gods and working with them, if one is called to such work, has the potential to open up pathways to the Gods as well, especially Odin. 

Writing this, with a blistering migraine so bad that focusing my eyes on words hurts and makes me nauseous (we’re being buffeted by Tropical Storm Henri right now as I write this, and with my migraine issues and chronic pain I’ve spent most of the day in agony), I can’t help but reflect that this is one of the key differences between working in the esoteric traditions of the Northern Tradition, and something like ceremonial magic. Working with the runes reinforces our understanding of divine hierarchy (1). I am grateful, so immensely grateful to be steeped in these mysteries, and this tradition. I am grateful to know about our Gods, to be able to honor Them, to touch – for however long or short a time – the echo of Their presence. Every moment of rune working is a reification of Their glory, Their power, the architecture of creation that They set carefully into place – every single moment. 

I am, more and more, coming to think that the runes themselves are worked into that architecture, moving, living pieces of it brought forth from the Gap. They move and flow along its threads and angles and keep creation alive, vital, ever changing. They provide keyholes through which we can tap into that vital creative power. They provide doorways to all that lies behind creation.  For this reason alone, the way they interact with each other is an important thing to consider in one’s work with them. 

That first aett: fehu, uruz, thurisaz, ansuz, raido, kenaz, gebo, wunjo is filled with life. It’s force and fire, the raw force of vitality that in Greek, I’d term Βιος. It bubbles up and fills every world with wonder and more importantly with luck and power. It’s a bright aett in many ways, the energy of it is bright but it ends in the darkness of mystery just as it began with the promise of a luck drenched hamingja. It’s probably my favorite aett with which to work. I find it surprisingly accessible on the surface (though wunjo can be problematic to access at first) just as I find the third aett, more concerned as it is with concrete manifestation, to be the most difficult (and of course, any definitive statement made about these aetts needs to be viewed as a part of the whole, not definitive, but reflective of my own experience with them. They’re complex, multi-layered beings and what they choose to show is dependent on the relationship the runester has with them, and *that* is a very individual thing). 

The runes pair off in interesting ways. This is particularly evident with that first aett. This aett is sometimes called “Freya’s aett” by rune workers of the generation preceding mine and while the runes are part of the Odinic retinue (2), that appellation makes sense to me. It’s not just that I think this generation latched onto the phonetic use of Fehu as the first letter in Freya’s name, but that this entire aett contains the kind of life and vitality so strongly part of the mysteries of the Vanir (3).

Fehu and uruz work extremely well together. I never really thought about this until recently. I’ve just started going through this aett with one of my students and doing it in a systematic order has been very revealing in terms of patterns and relationships that might otherwise not stand out or that might be taken for granted. Thurisaz and ansuz do the same, likewise raido and kenaz, and the sacrifice of gebo leads to the mystery and power of wunjo. Kenaz pairs well with all of them, elevating and opening the way. Raido I haven’t quite figured out yet in this capacity. It contains such an intense forward focused momentum that I feel like it aids the other runes in moving over and past (or through) blockages. It and kenaz are the outliers in these pairings for me in a way that bears further exploration. I’d add that when I say pairings, these are special relationships within this aett. They don’t preclude other working partnerships (thurisaz works extremely well with uruz for instance, or wunjo with fehu, and so forth), but I think these are particularly important in teasing out the overall power and mystery of this particular aett. The order of the runes is important on some level. How do these runes choose to interact with each other and what does that accomplish? 

Working through the aett this time, I’ve realized how much Wunjo is a bitch of a rune. All the rune books talk about how it means joy or perfection (and it can). That is only on its surface. It’s also raw, ecstatic inspiration, frenzy, ekstasis. This is the rune of Bolverk when He won Óðrœrir. It’s crafty, clever, and sometimes cruel. Sometimes the force of inspiration really, really hurts. Sometimes, it demands a sacrifice of one’s preconceptions of morality, of right/wrong, one’s comfort. Sometimes it fills the space left by those sacrifices with glory.  It’s the wand-rune of a God that doesn’t mind a body count, that doesn’t mind the consequences of necessary sacrifice. It’s far, far more vicious than thurisaz, which is clean and upfront in its hungers. The two of them have … a perplexing relationship that I’ve only begun exploring. Wunjo and dagaz have a similar working relationship with each other.

Notes: 

  1. It’s not that ceremonial magic can’t do that too, it’s that the way it’s so often taught is unbalanced by lack of attention devotion. Then you get ceremonial magicians who think they are God instead of competent practitioners rooted in the divine hierarchy from which the structures they are wielding flow. 
  2. The Runes are Odin’s mysteries. Other Gods may use them (and DO!) but they are specifically Odinic mysteries and thus part of Odin’s retinue of spirits, just like the Valkyries.  
  3. This just briefly discusses the relationship between the runes of the first aett with each other – and even there, only in brief. It should not be taken to imply that the runes of this aett don’t interact with the runes of the other aettir. They do. 

Rune Working Notes: Thurisaz

Friday August 20, 2021

Tonight I was teaching my assistant how to work with thurisaz. She is slowly working through the runes again, this time really drilling down into each one. We did things a little differently than we usually do, and I think this is the way we shall go into these rune sessions from here on out. 

We began with our household evening prayers. I lit a candle and sang a fire blessing song that calls on Thor to hallow the space. Then I verbally prayed to Thor, Heimdallr, and all our ancestors to protect us as we prayed. Prior to going into prayer space, we’d been discussing a client who is suffering deeply physically, mentally, and emotionally (yes, I have recommended therapy. She’s being treated on a three-fold front: medical, therapeutic, and spiritual). Her ancestral presence, i.e. the presence of her ancestors was strong and through their guidance, I realized there was an element of spiritual attack happening with her too. Often illness and depression will attract bottom feeding spirits that like to revel in the negative crap. Add to that the fact that this person has a deep and rich prayer and spiritual practice and that can sometimes attract more focused evil spirits too – anything to distract us from the holy and fill our souls with despair. I had been praying about her a lot because she is suffering so, and is floundering, and this was a piece I had not considered but which fit precisely with how these things work. I should have seen it sooner. Anyway…this becomes relevant when we get to the rune calling because I needed a reason to call a rune. I didn’t want to just waste its time.

Before that, we did our regular household prayers and it was lovely. Afterwards, instead of closing with Sigdrifa’s Prayer as is our wont, we left the space open and decided to transition into discussing the rune. Thurisaz is one of my favorite runic allies but his energy can be very, very kinetic and if, like my student, one hasn’t engaged with him before, it can be overwhelming. I figured staying in sacred space would help her feel at ease and also help ground out some of the awesome kinetic force of this rune. 

I decided to give a demonstration of actually galdring thurisaz. I really like him and I knew my student was nervous. Thurisaz does have a reputation for being brutal and difficult. He’s actually quite cheerful, very focused, and completely, gleefully bloodthirsty. I grounded and centered myself (with galdr in general and thurisaz in particular, one must be much, much more grounded and centered than for one’s day to day activities. It’s just a lot more force and power pouring through one’s channels), then, since I hadn’t offered to the runes in awhile, I took a lancet and drew blood and made my offering (and received, totally unexpectedly, some really amazing new tech in return (1)). All the while I was prepping and doing this, I was explaining to the rune what I wanted. (In this case, I wanted it to drive away some of the bottom feeding spirits from my client, so she would no longer be harassed on that level). He came strongly, so incredibly present, and before I began to galdr, had eagerly agreed and gone (he and I have worked together a long time and this particular spirit is one of my best allies). I think the speed with which he came and went shocked my student. 

Because I still needed to demo galdr for her, I asked him to let some of his army of spirits linger and began to galdr. He game as an eagle with razor sharp beak, bloody talons, soaring over a high walled city looking for enemy prey. He came as a siege engine, a flight of arrows, a sleek, searingly sharp spear, weapons beyond number, a laser scalpel, a raucous laugh. At one point, I saw the ancestors gathered around – mine and my client’s – and thurisaz flew into their hands, and they each raised him up a hatchet in their hands and soared forth to conquer their foes. 

He was cold and focused, kinetic and gleeful. The sharp focus surprised my student. She’d thought thurisaz was all about out-of-control energy (partly because of the kinetic presence he brings). He’s not. He’s very, very focused. He can help the mind to focus too. He’s about focus and focused will. He spoke, in response to the healing my client requires, about the importance of good fathers. He said that when a father is absent nor hurtful – for whatever reason—it is like the wall of a city under siege has fallen and damage will happen to the child’s hamingja, to their maegen, to other parts of their soul. The mother protects too and between the two of them it is an interlocking set of protective wards around the children, the home, and all that creates. It is crucial (and around the parents are the grandparents, the extended family) and it is from these units a community is made. When one-part falls, someone must step in or that wall will be breached even more. He can heal some of this damage, but when a father is absent there is always damage on a soul deep level. I never expected a lesson on the importance of family from this rune. 

My student wrote down what thurisaz said about it and allowed me to share it here, “A good father is a ward and a shield for the entire family and the mother is within that shield, they are concentric circles.  When the father for whatever reason is absent, it is as if the walls of the city have fallen down.” 

Because my student is more focused on healing work than protective work, thurisaz spoke to her of his ability to heal blockages, to root out disease, of how he can work with uruz to restore proper flow of life energy (litr). 

It was a long session. At the end, I thanked all the Gods and spirits who had been called, thanked thurisaz, and prayed Sigdrifa’s Prayer. Then I realized that the rune had been in me strongly enough that had it been a Deity, I’d have called it Deity possession. This confirms something that I have long considered, namely that with a good galdr-master, there is a union of rune spirit and rune worker that is very similar to Deity possession. I was ravenous and thankfully had organic hamburgers at hand. I cooked up a passel of them and scarfed down two almost immediately. 

The rune terrified my poor cat when he arrived (though he was quite cheerful and wouldn’t have hurt her). His presence was just so strong. Poor Elena ran upstairs and hid under a bag that holds part of my husband’s portable Dionysos shrine. She fled to Dionysos! Don’t worry, she got lots of yummy treats afterwards and is now snoozing happily in her cat tree with a full little belly. 

Notes: 

  1. As a rune worker, I long ago realized that runes require feeding. A relationship is established by giving a drop or two of one’s own blood to begin. This is an identifier, a link to one’s entire ancestral line. It is life and power. I use alcohol wipes, diabetic lancets and maintain proper sterile standards.