This is the first day of the fortnight (August 13 – 28) governed by the rune As or Ansuz. Pronounced “aas,” its meaning is “a god,” probably Odin. It signifies the divine god-force in action.
It has its origin in the most archaic period of the Indo-European tradition. Its phonetic value is “A,” which is the Sanskrit “primal sound” that brought on the manifestation of the present cycle of the universe. In later Anglo-Saxon runes it came to mean “mouth,” and in Scandinavian runes, the “mouth of a river.” These later meanings accord well with the nature of Odin, who was the wise god of poetry and cunning speech.
Two stories about Odin reveal this part of his nature. To gain wisdom, Odin begged his uncle Mimir, a water demon whose name means “He who Thinks,” to allow him to drink from Mimir’s fountain from which all knowledge and knowledge flowed. Mimir agreed on the condition that Odin should tear out one of his eyes and hand it over as a pledge. So much did Odin want to obtain this wisdom that he agreed to this condition, and from then on was known as “The One-Eyed.”
Not content with wisdom, Odin sought skill in poetry. The giant Suttung possessed the hydromel, a drink made of blood and honey that caused anyone who sipped even a drop to become a great bard. Through craft and skill, Odin gained the confidence of Suttung’s daughter, who allowed him to sip the hydromel on three separate nights in return for his amorous favors. In three gulps Odin drank all the hydromel and carried it off, thus gaining sole possession of all poetry.
According to the Northern Tradition, that which distinguishes mankind from the beasts is reasoned speech. In Teutonic mythology, life springs from rivers and fountains which are analogous to the speaking mouth of God as sources of creative energy. One of the smartest friends I ever had, a writer and successful advertising executive, once told me that “writers rule the world.” When you think about it, this is true. Lawyers are writers, and the best writers among them certainly rule the courts.
And I will never forget a day when I was a boy and our house was being sold as a result of my parents’ divorce. The man who was buying it, an industrialist who had just stirred up enormous waves of attention in our city by buying and reopening the old Studebaker plant, was visiting our (now his) house while a speech by a statesman to the United Nations was being broadcast on the radio. It was a humiliating encounter to be meeting this rich man who was buying our home. I wasn’t paying the slightest attention to what the diplomat was saying; all I remember now is his English accent. “Young man,” said the industrialist, “you will be a wealthy man if you can ever speak as well as that.”
These, combined with the agreeable notion of following in my grandfather’s footsteps, are two of the memorable events in my life which helped guide me to my career as a writer. They inform my understanding of the rune As, the primary meaning of which is communication—and thus wisdom, knowledge, insight, and truth. This rune inspires speech, writing, song and poetry. It can invoke inspiration and understanding. As represents many related concepts, as well, including literacy, interpretive ability, intellect. Researchers have noted a marked increase in social problems within families that have limited vocabularies.
As is a rune of teaching and learning and is also of great influence when seeking to understand any mystery; it is often invoked for an interpretation of meanings, particularly the meanings of riddles. An effective practice for me as a writer—one that has helped me to remain motivated even when writing about the most “boring” subjects—has been the ability to turn any writing project into a puzzle. In this respect, I think it is significant that one of the names for As, Ansuz, is so closely related to the English word “answer.”
A fundamental element of effective writing and speaking is that it brings structure and order to disordered information and scattered facts. As therefore is the opposite of the forces of chaos. It is the embodiment of reason and law in nature, and the source of human laws which are in harmony with the Universal order.
As represents all that is kind, benevolent, and just, and the source of true happiness. As is the receiver-container/transformer-expressor of spiritual power and numinous knowledge. As, like Odin, thus embodies the divine power that oversees the maintenance of order and eternal stability in the Universe.
As is represented by the ash tree, one of the most sacred trees in the Northern Tradition. Its black buds and horseshoe-shaped leaf scars denote the tree’s dedication to the god Odin and Eostre, the goddess of spring. In Norse mythology, the world tree Yggdrasill, the cosmic axis, is an ash tree. In The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem it is said: The Ash, beloved of humans, stands high. It holds steadily to its place in a firm position, though many foes come forward to fight it.
As is magically a very favorable rune. It opens the way for sound judgment in difficult and confusing situations. It brings calm. It carries light into darkness. It gives knowledge and good speech, and acts as an avenue of divine revelation.
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