This episode of the Heathen’s Journey Podcast has us diving deep into the runes. In this episode, Siri talks about Ansuz and communication. They also discuss Odin at length – as it’s nearly impossible to study the runes without also studying Odin.
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Here is a transcription of the episode:
Welcome back to the Heathen’s Journey Podcast! I hope that these last days of January find you well – or at least, as well as possible right now.
I’m really excited for some of the interviews that I’ve got coming up on the podcast, but I do think that it’s important to keep some of these shorter, perhaps more personal, episodes out there. At the beginning of this podcast, I set out to create an audio deep dive into the runes and my own practices as a heathen. But I recognize that I am still learning.
That beginner’s mind is kind of at the heart of this podcast.
Yes, I am a professional witch and rune reader, but I am also always learning. Building your relationship with the runes is an iterative process. You get to know them, and the layers unfold before you.
I recently started Johannes Gardback’s class on Nordic Magic, and in the first session he talked about sometimes choosing not to share certain associations with runes. Basically, some people will say “well that’s wrong.” But if it’s your *personal* association, it can’t be wrong.
This is a little spooky, but I like to think of the runes as spirits that take a specific shape. They have 24 different perspectives, and I work with them methodically. The runes are also clues to how Nordic magic was passed down through generations, and how Nordic ancestors lived. When I pull Ehwaz, I think about the potential relationship that my ancestors had to horses, and it transports me back to that time.
That’s one of those moments of personal gnosis that might make other people say “wow, Siri doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” But that’s the thing – it’s personal gnosis. What I can say is that this works for me, and that working with runes in this way works for me.
It might not be your understanding of the runes. And that’s ok!
So, where did we leave off?
Way back on September 2, 2020, I went in depth and spoke about Thurisaz. Next on our personal tour of the runes is Ansuz.
Ansuz represents the breath, connection to a God, and order. It comes to us in the beginning.
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.
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.
One of the things I work on the most often with my own teacher in Norse heathenry is impeccability of word. This is incredibly important within Norse practice. The Havamal (Sayings of the High One) is filled with verses about how important it is to mind your word, and make sure that you are speaking the truth.
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 then represents two things above all: A connection to Odin and your personal guiding spirits, as well as communication of ideas. When this rune comes up, it is often urging us to go further in our intellectual and spiritual courses. It is an expansion of ideas, with the knowledge that our ideas are in alignment with our own highest good. So we move forward, pressing harder. Things bend and move easily, as the path is laid clear.
Odin is the god most deeply associated with Ansuz. Sometimes, when this rune comes up for me, it is a clear statement that I am in fact having a communication with Odin. This rune is associated with Odin because he is the one that gave us the runes. The primary meaning of Ansuz is communication, and as a written system they are a means of communication in and of themselves.
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.
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 heathen 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 representations of Thought and Memory in our soul bodies. 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. Odin is, after all, a trickster god. It’s very strange that the All-Father of the Aesir is a trickster god; I don’t know many other pantheons who have this kind of set up.
Loki is another honey-tongued god in the pantheon, though Loki does not share Odin’s high seat and is even chained and imprisoned before Ragnarok. Loki uses their words for their own means – and is constantly battling between the chaos of Utgard and the community of the Ingard.
One of the reasons Loki makes a perfect “villain” in this culture is because of their constant lies and misdirection. If speaking the truth is central to your culture, the trickster god has the ability to break that culture down.
The other thing Loki teaches us is to break things that don’t work. Loki is constantly getting the Gods into a mess, and then fixing it through their cunning. Loki also shifts gender consistently throughout the myth cycle, making them difficult to pin down and interpret from a heterosexual lens. During Ragnarok, Loki literally breaks free from their fetters and sails to oppose the Gods. Loki breaks shit, like the queer as fuck goddex they are. I would argue that this happens in large part because the Aesir get too comfortable.
As queer readers, then, we see the necessity of learning the proper words for things, but also breaking through to the real truth. Ansuz rises up above it all and shows us that core of truth, so we can better articulate it. Ansuz is using they/them or neopronouns, of speaking your truth, of standing behind the truth of our trans queer relatives. It is using words to eviscerate our enemies, to assert our existence and our rightness.
As queer people, we know that they matter. We use them carefully. We change our own lexicon to better match our senses of self, we create words to describe our queer lives in a heteronormative society. Work with Ansuz to build a relationship not just with your words, but with yourself.