Friday, April 23, 2010


The Gospel of John begins with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Egyptians believed that Ptah dreamed creation in his heart, then spoke it into being. The Hopi believed that Tawa and Spider Woman brought the world into existence by singing their Creation Song. We embody our thoughts when we mold them into words and symbols: our speech, our singing, our communication is a reflection of the Great Shaping which brought order out of chaos and form out of formlessness.

Ansuz governs speech and communications: it holds the key to the relations between the worlds of the Sacred and Profane, and to the forces which enabled us to shape civilization and to transmit our knowledge to our community and our heirs. Ansuz is the rune which allows us to put our wisdom to use: we cannot learn without listening and we cannot teach without speaking. And in its highest form, Ansuz is also the Rune which contains the secret of all the other Runes.

When he hung on Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights, Odin gained knowledge of the primal forces which shaped the universe.  He also gained a way by which he could create bodies for them and speak with them directly. These bodies were the symbols which we call the Runes: by drawing them and reddening them with blood, we give form to the force. Much as Vodouisants will "tie a paket," a bundle of herbs and sacred objects which contains a spirit, the rune contains a living and sentient force which can allow us both to read the world and to make changes within it.  By his sacrifice Odin established communication between us and the formless forces of the Runes. Our use of language is a reflection in the lower realms of that holy sacrifice.

Ansuz reminds us that our words are sacred: they give life to our ideas and allow us to change the world.  Words can bring down empires and defeat armies: those who doubt this need only consider Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" and "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speeches. But words can also work powerful evil. The politician who deflects honest criticism with convincing lies; the priest raising an Easter pogrom against his congregation's Jewish neighbors; the smooth-talking pimp corrupting an innocent - all these draw upon the power of Ansuz.  Ansuz gives us the power to communicate and persuade: it also gives us the responsibility to choose our speech wisely.

Much as Odin spoke with the Runes, Ansuz allows us to speak with - and for - the Gods.  If Wunjo is the rune of the Mystic, Ansuz is the rune of the Prophet.  It allows us to act as the vessel by which the Divine speaks to mortals. (This is no easy path to follow: history shows that many a seer came to an unpleasant end and many hard prophecies were rejected in favor of soothing lies until they could no longer be ignored). Writers and artists can call on Ansuz for access to the Sacred Wisdom and the truths which elevate work from merely competent into divinely inspired.

On a more mundane level, Ansuz can help us to establish a connection with those we wish to persuade.  It can be called upon to alleviate misunderstandings and to find a diplomatic way to convey difficult information.  Those who work on computers may find it a useful ally in making sure bits and bytes are transmitted clearly: it can help you to find and fix the flaws in your network. And if you are being targeted by slander or gossip, Ansuz can help to ensure that both truth and lies are revealed.