Friday, June 25, 2010


Pre-Columbian Central Americans paid homage to Quetzacoatl, the great feathered snake who marked the boundary between earth and sky. Vedic Hindus speak of Vritra, the great drought-serpent who swallowed all the world's rivers until being slain by Indra (some say Sarasvati). Chinese mythology credits Nü Gua, a snake with the head of a woman, with creating mankind and the institution of marriage. Haitian Vodou pays homage to the great white serpent Damballah whose scales are the Milky Way, while Christian mythology blames the fall of man on the snake, "the most subtle of the beasts of the field." Be they present as friends or enemies, snakes are often found in creation mythologies. The many different roles they play can all be reflected in Ior, the Futhorc Serpent-Rune.

One common thread is the role of the serpent in creating boundaries. Both Quetzacoatl and Damballah keep the heavens and the earth separated: Jormungandr coils around Midgard, marking its borders and serving as a barrier which holds the world together and protects it from outside attack. Ior can be a powerful shielding rune, both on its own or combined in a bind-rune with other boundary-markers like Othila. It can be used to distinguish between that which is and is not yours: this can be very helpful for those who are codependent or who frequently take on responsibilities (and blame) for burdens they need not carry. Ior can also help you to determine the line between truth and falsehood or between valuable and useless: any distinction between one thing and another involves the creation of a boundary. Because they are tremendously flexible, snakes can mark these divisions with great precision.

But that same flexibility also allows the snake to transcend boundaries. Snakes can climb walls and squeeze themselves through tiny cracks: they can be found nesting in the highest branches and beneath the deepest roots.  Ior can be used to overcome barriers as well as create them. Where Thurisaz blows apart things that stand in your way, Ior lets you continue on your path in a more peaceful manner: it does not destroy obstacles so much as provide you with a way of avoiding them. This is often the best course of action for all concerned: combat generally requires a great expenditure of time and resources and snakes (like other cold-blooded animals) know that energy is best conserved whenever possible. Combined with Ansuz, Ior can help to establish lines of communication with a stubbornly hostile colleague: it can also be used as a delivery mechanism to allow other runes to get past defenses.

Ior can also be a deadly attack rune. The great pythons can constrict with devastating force: the venomous snakes can deliver a painful or fatal bite. Anyone who has seen a serpent strike at its meal knows how fast they can move when quick and decisive action is required. Combining Ior with Uruz or Isa can give you a bind-rune which will leave your opponents enmeshed in crushing coils: bound with Wunjo or Laguz, it can inject them with a lethal dose of poison. Yet once again Ior moves past boundaries and easy definition: not only can it harm but it can work powerful healing magic. Much as the snake sheds its skin, Ior can help you to slough off disease or chronic conditions. Combined with Dagaz, it can lead you to a spiritual rebirth: combined with Jera, it can lead you to the satisfactory conclusion of a long and arduous cycle.