Saturday, April 10, 2010


It is easy to cast some runes as benevolent spirits of light and love. Thurisaz is not one of those runes. The Thorn has the personality of a rabid pit bull with a toothache. It will gladly tear into anything you send it after, and if you aren't careful it will turn around and chew you up as well.

This is not to say that Thurisaz is "evil."  Trying to classify runes using terms which are intended to apply to human behavior can only result in confusion.   Forest fires, dam breaks and volcanic eruptions have no malicious intent: the meteor which wiped out the dinosaurs and the plagues which reshaped European culture were neither kind nor cruel. Thurisaz is harsh and terrifying, but it is also a necessary part of the order of things. It is the predator which keeps the populations of deer and rabbits in check and the famine and disease which takes over that role when the predators are hunted to extinction.  We avoid it, or treat it with sentimentality, at our own peril.  If we understand its power and its place it can be a mighty ally: if we are careless, it can become a deadly, implacable foe.

A thorn can penetrate thick hide because it concentrates weight and force to a tiny point.  This is the lesson of Thurisaz: it is enormous energy brought to bear on a small area. The teeth that rend the throat, the keen sword-edge that slices through armor, the blast points that knock down granite hills all show the influence of Thurisaz. Thurisaz is a great breaker of obstacles: wielded wisely, it can blast away barriers (internal and external) which stand in our way. It is not wild and untamed savagery, but fierceness brought to bear on a specific target.

Thurisaz can also be used to weave a nearly impenetrable wall of thorns around the runecaster.  It is an aggressive and unrelenting defense, one that wears down attackers and can subject them to a "death by a thousand cuts."  It can entangle an enemy in the briars and slow them down, or it can get inside them and rip them to shreds. If your foes are not strong enough to stand against Thurisaz, the rune will happily treat them as prey and feast on them. (This is not a side of Thurisaz which should be invoked likely: once you've put it on the scent, it will be difficult if not impossible to turn it aside should you have second thoughts about the attack).

Thurisaz is also identified as "Thurse," an archaic term for the Jotuns or giants of Nordic and Germanic legend. This is another key to understanding its nature. The Jotuns are fierce, primal forces of nature, red in tooth and claw. They are terrifying enemies but can also be great friends to those they deem worthy.  Thurisaz is a rune which will not be wielded by the weak and it can find your faults like a predator sensing a wounded animal.  If you are strong enough to earn its respect, if you can raise your rage and passion and keep it in focus rather than letting it scatter,  if you can maintain your awareness and anger simultaneously, Thurisaz will be a powerful guardian. If you are willing to give it your weakness in exchange for its strength Thurisaz will be a wise if sometimes sadistic teacher: its lessons may be painful but they will be lasting. 

When working with any of the runes, it is advisable to "redden" them or give them a few drops of your blood. For Thurisaz it is damned near mandatory. This is a rune which likes the taste of blood and will respond best after being properly fed. It should be approached with caution, but if you are going to work with the runes it must be approached. It will teach you to be ruthless when pity would be weakness, and to hone your emotions to a point rather than letting them diffuse into impotent rage or meaningless posturing.  It is not a kind or a gentle rune, but it reminds us that the universe is not always a kind or a gentle place and that mercy is a luxury which must often be earned by force.