The runes are a challenging divination practice. They are one one hand fairly easy to pick up and the base meanings associated with them are simple, single words. At the same time, however, there is a subtle quality to them that makes the runes highly subjective. They are the foundation of the English alphabet (combined with the Latin alphabet) and most of the runes are still in use somewhere in the world, even if it is in some later generation rendering of the glyph.
While many people think of the runes as a shorthand for magical practice, they are actually a full alphabet and it is better to understand them as an alphabet, with the shorthand being treated as acronyms, much like how the individual letters of NASA are associated with separate words (and separate, discrete1 concepts). Many people start their study of the runes with the rune Fehu. I am beginning with the rune Ansuz. This choice is because it corresponds with the letter ‘A’ of the modern English alphabet and will be easier to remember if we follow the alphabetical order we are familiar with in studying this ancient system of letters.
Ansuz is written in a few different ways, depending upon which runic system you are looking at. The glyph is considered by many to be derived from the neo-Etruscian character that later became ‘A’ in the Roman alphabet, which is in turn believed to be derived from the Phonecian aleph. There is some debate as to the meaning of this rune. Different rune poems and different cultural perspectives gave rise to a series of different ways to interpret this rune, even though is most cases it was for the same letter in the alphabets of these peoples. The Norwegian rune poems indicate that Ansuz means estuary. The Anglo-Saxon rune poems indicate that it means either mouth, oak, or ash (presumably the tree) depending upon which particular variation of the Ansuz rune is used. Interestingly, in one of the Icelandic rune poems, Ansuz indicates one of the Aesir, more specifically Oðin.
Various ‘experts’ on runic divination have indicated that Ansuz can be a rune interpreted as signals from the gods, communication, or as an indication of the presence of the gods. In my personal experience, Ansuz can indicate communication on its own. When it comes up in a reading with Gebo, it suggests positive or beneficial communication for the querant. If it comes up with Haglaz, it suggests muddled communication at best, at worst arguments. If Ansuz shows up in a reading with the rune Isa, it is showing failed communication or a lack of communication.
I use the term ‘experts’ rather loosely here because the number of people who speak and use the ancient dialect is exceptionally small. And that number does not include anyone who learned it directly, as all is a careful reconstruction done with their best guesses. Thus, I have taken the liberty of going with what I can establish based on prevailing theories. My interpretations present above, however, are based upon my experience reading them for the better part of two decades. As the popular saying goes, your mileage may vary.
1. My use of the word ‘discrete’ here is in the sense of individual defined units, similar to how it is used in mathematics.
Originally Published: 6/13/17