The mouth is the source of all language,
a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,
a blessing and a joy to every knight.
Old English Rune Poem
One thing that is peculiar to Norse heathenry is the emphasis on the spoken word.
We all know words of power and know that often speaking words and incantations in circle brings a great deal of power to your working. There are examples of magickal incantations and chantings in most cultures – including speaking in tongues in certain Christian sects. There is great emphasis on speaking in Norse practice. It’s said that “seidh” or “seidr”, the Norse feminine shamanism, is a possible root word for “seethe” – often a synonym for rant or rave.
But the Norse texts, particularly the poems that outline appropriate social behavior, emphasize deep thought before you speak. Odin is just spiteful enough to make your foolish wishes come true, if you speak them to existence. Reading the old manners guide that is “Sayings of the High One”, you can really see how the stereotype of the ‘stoic Norseman’ was birthed. There was always a middle ground, between promising too much and saying too little. It’s a difficult balance to strike.
Ansuz is the rune of speech, of poetry, of focus and communication. This is the rune to call in when you are suffering from writer’s block, or inability to focus.
Ansuz is Odin’s rune, the rune of thought and memory.
Ansuz transforms our experiences from nameless things to stories we can tell. It puts words to actions, and translates the meaning behind what we do into a language that can be shared.
It’s finally time … let’s get to know the Allfather a bit.
Odin has many names.
In Old English he is known as Woden, Old Saxon as Wodan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wotan. Odin is not the first being, and is not the creator of the world. But he is the leader of the Aesir, the tribe of Gods that, in Norse mythology, won sovereignty after warring with the Vanir and the Giants.
Odin comes in many forms, but is often known as the wanderer. Throughout mythology he is depicted as wearing a wide-brimmed hat, cloaked, with a long beard. The film design for Gandalf the Grey could easily have been lifted from Norse mythology, and obviously the dwarvish runes were lifted straight from the Futhark.
It is damn near impossible to study the runes without also studying Odin. He is the God that brought the runes to earth, that has translated their meaning.
The story is that Odin knew there was a deeper magic, one that he didn’t know how to use. But there were beings older and wiser than Odin – the three Norns, who lived at the center of Yggdrasil, the world tree. The Norns represented Fate, they knew everything that would ever happen. Some believe that they represented Past, Present and Future, but I think it’s likely that they are the three faces of one Goddess of Mysteries.
When Odin came to them, they said he needed to make a sacrifice. He gave up an eye. He hung, dead, upon the great tree Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights. And on that last night, as dawn broke, the runes came to him. They floated out of Mimir’s well, the well of wyrd, and he was struck with a sudden inspiration and understanding.
Odin carried these secrets with him. He spoke of some secrets in Asgard, but bound others to himself. That is why each vitki must find their own relationship to each of the runes. The runes reveal their mysteries to you slowly, steadily, over time. You need to develop your own relationship with these energies.
Odin is the God of wisdom and logic. If Freyja is about wild instinct and mysteries, Odin is about translating the awe of those mysteries into a language we can understand. Communication and mental faculties are deeply important for this god. Two of his familiars, the ravens Huginn and Muninn, are the masters of Thought and Memory. They bring him information from all ends of the world, acting as his spies when he can’t wander from Asgard.
In my own workings with Odin, he has been peculiarly silent – but extremely good at getting ME to talk. And that’s an important part of communication, isn’t it? Making sure that the other person feels comfortable communicating, and being succinct enough that your meaning can’t be mistaken.
The paradox of Odin, and of Ansuz, is that they contain both order and chaos, knowledge and mystery.
Both Freyja Aswynn and Diana Paxson see the most powerful mind-rune, as a force for making order out of the world. Edred Thorsson, however, describes Ansuz as a “terrible mystery.” I do like his description of Ansuz as both the “receiver-container and transformer-expressor of spiritual power and numinous knowledge.” Ansuz is a rune for the alchemist, the one who needs to glean unwrap wisdom from base materials.
There is a certain level of hope that comes with Ansuz. The second vowel sound in the futhark, Ansuz is ecstasy over finally making the words work. It is that clever turn of phrase that worms its way into your head. It’s the sudden flash of inspiration, the wild language that spill from you in the middle of ritual.
Ansuz channels sacred poetry, raises your energy in circle and allows you to bring forward messages from the unconscious.
For me, ritual is always … noisy. I don’t know if this is true for other heathens, but there is always a lot of chanting and incantations. Stream-of-consciousness speaking helps me to get to the heart of the matter. I talk my way around the meaning, and then my mind starts to narrow. I invoke Ansuz, and the proper incantation comes to me. The word, the words, the tense, the timing.
Do you want abundance, or prosperity, or legacy, or do you need cash? Do you want safety, or security? These things are close to one another, but not the same. What meaning do the words have for you?
Ansuz helps us to redefine our relationship with our words. It helps us to find our own dimensions of meaning, to express feelings and concepts in a language we can understand.
If you work with words, this is a rune to keep close. I keep Ansuz on my desk, next to my computer, when I settle in for a deep writing session. When I have a meeting and need to be on point, I will trace Ansuz on my throat with clary sage essential oil, and I may carry the rune in my pocket. This rune helps me to connect very specifically with the Allfather: placing this rune on my altar when I want to speak with Odin will show good faith and understanding.
There is also a sense of mystery to this rune, an ability to make clear those things that are muddy. Perhaps you aren’t a rune reader, but you want to bring more mystery to your tarot practice. Trace Ansuz in the air over your tarot deck before shuffling, and you may open new channels of communication you hadn’t realized were there.
Ansuz is an aid in any rune working, because it will help you to clearly communicate your desires.
So: Sing now, the call of the runes! Sing Ansuz, sing to the Allfather! And let our poetry unfold around us.
GIF via: odinoski.tumblr.com
Abbie (she/her/hers) has been a practicing witch for almost 15 years, and has been studying and reading tarot for 12. When she’s not getting down with her witchy self, she is usually reading, checking out a new brewery, or listening to podcasts (her favorites: Lore, The Black Tapes, and Being Boss). She finds solace in story, and loves to connect one on one with clients. Abbie sees tarot and witchcraft as a way to make our lives better, to bring justice to the every day. She uses magical tools as a way to help people reach within themselves to find a new, beautiful way of being.
Abbie provides tarot readings and sells spell kits at her shop: northernlightswitch.org/shop.