In this episode, Siri comes out of the gender closet, and relate that back to Uruz. I also talk about the rune Thurisaz, an intense one that many people struggle to work with. This is the introduction of aggression into the futhark, but it is also one of the most powerful runes we can use for self protection.
You can listen to this episode on anchor.fm at: https://anchor.fm/heathens-journey
Hello, and welcome to the Heathen’s Journey Podcast! I’m your host, Siri Vincent Plouff, and I’m so glad you’re here. This is the show where I explore heathenry through a queer lens. We will be talking about traditional witchcraft, runes, folklore, and so much more. Join us, won’t you? As we journey to the ends of the nine realms and back.
Welcome back to another episode of the Heathen’s Journey Podcast!
You may have noticed a name change in the intro to this episode. 2020 has been a year of intense personal transformation for me. I have been feeling the pain of chrysalis, of my bones cracking and healing themselves, forming the butterfly. Or, in my case, the moth. I’ve been very quiet about it (until recently) for a reason. The chrysalis is a process no one sees, and I have been deep in my cocoon.
But now that I’m on the other side of that, I need to reintroduce myself.
Hello. My name is Siri Vincent Plouff. I’m non-binary and use they/them pronouns.
I wanted to let you all know what’s up, now that I’m living out of the gender binary. Tarot and runes have both been invaluable for me. Since the beginning of working with the runes, they have in some way been a reflection on gender for me. I’ve been rereading some of my oldest Heathen’s Journey articles at Little Red Tarot, and this piece on Uruz in particular strikes me. Uruz is more than a rune of masculine strength, I’ve come to see this rune as a balance of the divine masculine and divine feminine. I remember writing the column on Uruz and feeling as if something was cracking open within me.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from that piece:
“Because of this transformational energy, Uruz is a powerful rune for femmes to use to tap into the divine masculine and shed our habits of shyness. At the same time, it is a powerful rune for masculine folks to tap into because it shows that true masculinity is not, in fact, the Patriarchy, but something other. It is something we can create through our own stubbornness.
Uruz is not about trampling others; Uruz is about lighting that fire within so you are able to stand up for yourself and others.”
Reading that column now, knowing that I am non-binary, I see myself struggling with the concept of masculinity. I see the shame I felt at my own internal masculinity, but I also see the divinity shining through. I see the beginning of redefining masculinity. I’ve been working hard to heal that part of me that was deeply wounded by toxic masculinity, working to reclaim masculinity for myself. Something that I don’t need to be ashamed of anymore.
I am still very much a Hard Femme, but I can no longer deny my masculinity. I am not at either end of a gender binary, but have exploded that binary and reclaimed my very self.
Thank you for witnessing my transformation. May you also access deep transformation, and step into your own wholeness.
And now, we get into the heart of this week’s episode: the rune Thurisaz.
Thurisaz is the most aggressive rune we’ve looked at so far. It is the introduction of conflict and aggression into the rune cycle. It represents alternatively giants and thorns. “Thorn” is actually the word that is used to describe this letter when going through the Futhark, and to describe the letter as it is still used in Scandinavian languages today. It’s a pretty harsh awakening, coming third in the Futhark. Here is where we must remember that the order of the Futhark is more linguistic than it is occult. And yet – occultists make it make sense.
One of the earliest/most obvious meanings for Thurisaz is giant. The giants in Norse mythology are powerful beings, who often stand in opposition to the Gods. They are forces of nature, quite literally. They are also connected to our deepest impulses and instincts. Kari Tauring refers to Thurisaz as the connection with our deepest, animal brains. It is what gets us to run, or to fight, when we need to. These instincts are within all of us, and they are also a disruption of the order we’ve built so far with Fehu and Uruz.
Thurisaz is also connected to Thor. Of COURSE Thurisaz is connected to Thor! Even if we think about this rune on a simple, etymological level, the sounds of the rune are connected to Thor. Thurisaz – Thor – Thurses.
Thor is many things – god of strength, protector of the aesir, as well as the weather god. Many of us know Thor from the Marvel comics (which are in no way a real attempt at mythic telling – but they are fun). We think of him first and foremost as a warrior, a protector. He was worshipped most widely of the gods, and most likely worshipped as an aid to farmers. It makes sense: if you’re a largely agrarian society, the weather makes or breaks you. Pray to the god of thunder to bring rain that will nourish your crops, rather than harm them. Pray that you will not be buried in snow.
Many rune scholars think of Thurisaz as the first truly “weaponized” rune. Because of its association with Thor, we can think of this as the hammer. Mjolnir has many magical purposes, but its starring role is the primary weapon the gods could use against the giants. Thor’s mother was a giant, which meant that he had a connection to them that the other gods didn’t – and he had a certain level of physical prowess the other gods lacked. The Jotun were the primary enemies of the Aesir (after their war with the Vanir was settled).
Thurisaz is inextricably connected to not just Thor, but the Jotun themselves.
If the Gods represent order, the Jotun represent chaos. Aswynn talks about Thor as being the force that can control the chaos – and Thurisaz being the rune that is most helpful in that control. He keeps the giants in check, and in many instances is able to translate between the worlds of the giants and the Aesir. Thor was often brought into conflicts when the Gods couldn’t handle the giants in diplomatic ways.
This is partially because Thor himself is part giant, so he has the strength and fortitude to be able to fight them on their own terms.
Thor is the gateway between the Ingard – where you are safe – and the Utgard.
The Norse organized their homes and farms for the greatest level of protection, which is where these concepts of Ingard and Utgard come from. Farms were organized into the Ingard (the inner layer, where the family resided) and the Utgard (the outer layer, beyond the first fence but still an area the family would have known). You went hunting in the Utgard, but you raised cattle and sheep in the Ingard. On a metaphysical level the Ingard represented the layer of protection. You would be looked after and kept safe if you were within the Ingard. The Utgard is where you needed to be on your toes – to be able to defend yourself from harm.
This rune is our first introduction to the Utgard. It’s like that line from Game of Thrones: “Oh you sweet summer child.”
One glance at the rune shows how it could be seen as an almost literal depiction of a thorn. There is a substantial literature around plants with thorns being used in protective hedge magic, creating barriers and supporting boundaries. Protecting hearth and home – oftentimes from “witches”. I remember walking a hedge in England while a naturalist talked about the plants chosen for hedges, and about the importance of plants that could potentially be self-protective.
But beyond that, Thurisaz is still an uncomfortable rune to deal with.
There’s a reason some rune scholars refer to this rune as being “weaponized” – its energy is dark and menacing. Even the use of this rune for warding and protection suggests the need to protect yourself, that you call on this rune in dark times. What’s more – this is a protection that returns negative energy to the sender. It is both shield and weapon. Call in Thurisaz when you’re under attack, and any damage someone would do to you will return to them with added force.
Both Aswynn and Paxson warn against working with Thurisaz before you’re ready. Aswynn refers to the potential of this rune as akin to nuclear energy or nuclear weapons: epic in scale and not meant to be placed in the wrong hands. Thorsson thinks of this rune as the directed cosmic force of destruction – not something to be trifled with. And honestly, the only reason I’m writing about this rune now is because it is next in futhark order.
Thurisaz interacts with and combats chaos on both an internal and external level – it is an advanced energy that the experienced vitki can use in shadow work and setting boundaries.
Thurisaz would be an incredibly helpful rune to call when you are drawing boundaries with an abuser. When I’ve had to draw those boundaries in the past, I’ve had to do it multiple times. They don’t believe me the first time, or come out of the woodwork right when I’m doing better. Drawing upon the protection of Thurisaz during this boundary work would sting. Use Thurisaz to draw protective magick around yourself, to disrupt the patterns of abuse. Then, after you’ve had the conversation and drawn your boundary with your abuser, and they try to come back…they’ll feel that force. Thurisaz is active defense – and it would return the toxicity to your abuser, while at the same time protecting you.
When they get a taste of that energy pushed back at them, they will be far less likely to disrespect your boundaries again.
This is an example of using Thurisaz in your own life at a small scale.
My question is, how can we work with Thurisaz through the lens of anti-oppression?
The protection magic of Thurisaz works on multiple levels. Not only does it help to create boundaries between yourself and your enemies, but you can also use it internally. Aswynn discusses this rune as being particularly useful for drawing out evil. In the Norse shamanic system, you can perform an energetically complex cutaway ritual and use the Thurisaz rune to draw toxicity away from the spirit body.
This process is either internal or external – one that you do on yourself or one that you do with your most trusted coven members.
And drawing toxicity away from your spirit self? Well. That is both personal and collective liberation.
I have a theory that you could use Thurisaz to draw toxic messages inherited from the Overculture out of your subconscious. This rune is perfect for shadow working your negative beliefs, habits, all of those things that are unhealthy. You can isolate and begin to extract toxic messages about your body, the impacts of toxic masculinity, limiting beliefs, and also examine your own privileges.
I want to use Thurisaz to examine my white privilege.
Being white means that I need to interrogate the ways that racism and white privilege have been imprinted in my life. I grew up in a household that believed in racial equality, class justice, with two strongly feminist parents, but there are still messages that I take in every day from the Overculture, messages that seep into my unconscious.
I know what my values are: equity and justice for all. But a part of living up to these values is also understanding when I need to break the patterns of toxic whiteness that I’ve learned all my life.
White privilege has an impact on you no matter your intellectual understanding of equity, no matter how much you value racial justice. I’ve been thinking about a sort of psychic extraction process – to be able to look at the different parts of myself and magically reject those pieces that don’t mesh with my values.
This isn’t a ‘one and done’ ritual. This is something that needs to be tended to, a boundary that needs to be drawn over and over between my values and white privilege. Because the fact is: as much as I do this internal work on myself, I do still live in the ‘real world’. I am still going to be exposed to the toxic Overculture and will still need to extract the bits that stick. And using Thurisaz for this…well, it’s scary. This is a rune I need to coax into a relationship, one that I need to sit with and learn, gradually, how to work with. I encourage each of you to be careful as you approach this rune in particular.
As one of my friends once put it, Thurisaz has big “Mess Around and Find Out” energy. It’s a little chaotic, difficult to manage, and a little combative. So handle with care!
That’s it for today’s episode of the Heathen’s Journey podcast. As always you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more heathen content. Until next time, stay wyrd.