Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wunjo

In France the orgasm is la petit mort, the Little Death. Indian Yogis spend decades in search of samadhi, the experience of the self dissolving into union with something else. Much as we may crow about our uniqueness and individuality, it seems that our greatest moments of happiness come when we forget ourselves. Wunjo is that blissful moment of forgetting, that instant when we escape the boundaries of our life, our body and our situation and surrender to joy.

One of Wunjo's highest and holiest manifestations is the mystic's ecstatic union with the Divine.  If you are willing to ascend to the heights and offer up all you have as a dowry, you may be found worthy of this mystical marriage. If Chalc is the Holy Grail, Wunjo is the draught contained therein, the wine which heals us so that we are fit to stand before the Gods. Those who have drank of it claim that it brings a bliss beyond any temporal treasures.

But even those who are not ready for a visit to the Castle Perilous can experience Wunjo. In fact, it's difficult to escape pleasure. Poverty, sickness, misfortune: none of these can stop you from finding moments of happiness amidst the gloom. The beauty of a sunrise, the enjoyment of a witty conversation, the pleasure of a good meal or a favorite radio program -- all these are Wunjo shining its light in the darkness.  Modern philosophers have spoken at length of existential angst and dread. They might do well to consider our equally strong tendency toward existential joy. Wunjo reminds us that feasting can be as sacred as asceticism and silk as holy as sackcloth.

Wunjo takes us outside ourselves. The joy we feel in the arms of a lover or the company of friends, the breathless wonder we experience before a magnificent waterfall or a glorious sunset, the happiness a chosen activity brings us - all those point to our relationship with our society and our world. Wunjo reminds us that we do not exist in isolation or a vacuum.It teaches us that we must look outside ourselves to find joy and that we must make ourselves ready to welcome it in.

Another clue to Wunjo's nature comes in its form: it is very similar to Thurisaz. At first glance it would seem that this happy rune shares little in common with the harsh and unforgiving Thorn. But both Wunjo and Thuirsaz represent an irresistible penetrating power that breaks down boundaries. Wunjo burns through all the dross that separates the soul from the Divine. The uplifting feeling of transcendence we experience in the presence of beauty is the recognition that we are in the presence of the Gods, the presence before which all else is absent. When Wunjo is in play there is no room for anything else: past and future melt away into the eternal Here and Now. Do not let its pleasures fool you: Wunjo is a demanding and unforgiving rune.

Those who have let themselves get caught up in pleasure have learned this lesson all too well. Earthly pleasures can devour the Self as surely as divine ones. But where the experience of the Gods can heal the barren land, intoxication and gluttony can only wound the king. Wunjo can provide us with a light that keeps us going when all hope seems futile: it can also become a will-o'-wisp that leads us astray. The slave to pleasure may wear golden fetters, but they are fetters nonetheless. As with all the runes, Wunjo is neither inherently good nor evil. It is the bringer of happiness, and it is up to us to determine whether that happiness leads us to wisdom or folly.