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ANSUZ: THE CALL

Óss er algingautr

ok ásgarðs jöfurr,

ok valhallar vísi.

[Óðinn] is aged Gautr

and prince of Asgard,

and lord of Valhalla.

Characterised in younger rune poems as being representative of the estuary, *Ansuz can perhaps be best understood by this analogy. Traditionally thought of in more ancient iterations of the futhark to be a symbol of godhead, of various deities (sometimes equated directly with the god Óðinn), the “estuary” can be seen to wind its meandering course from its origin in the earthly realm that we inhabit, forking up into a variety of tributaries that end in the halls of so many gods. 

It must be noted that this is not a rune that represents man’s reciprocal connection with divinity necessarily, as this is an aspect of the rune *Algiz that will be discussed at length in its own article. Whereas *Algiz, with its shape like that of a man, hands outstretched, can be seen as a rune representing the alternating current between the realm of the unseen and that of the material, *Ansuz is, on the other hand, a symbol of the direct current: it is instead self-referential, a depiction of divinity-as-it-stands, without the polar aspect that connects man to the immaterial. This is a symbol of what man looks to, the suprahuman, the personification of the ideal. 

While the rune *Þurisaz, discussed in detail in the article found here is a rune of chaos, of the disorderly energies that, unpredictably, might assist and hinder man, both within and without, the rune *Ansuz is a rune of order and stability. The Æsir, the Old Norse term for the gods of the ancient Germanic peoples, were generally Apollonian in character, unlike the Dionysian and lunar elements of the Jǫtnar with whom they often found themselves at odds. Showing an affinity for destructiveness, and the often seemingly angry elements that govern the unpredictable natural world, the Jǫtnar and their association with *Þurisaz can be seen as a chthonic counterpoint to the same relationship that mankind has with *Ansuz and its associated energy. As man is able to harness the spirit of a rockfall through the emulation of *Þurisaz, so too is he able to embody the greater potential found in *Ansuz and its Æsir-symbolism.

A woodcut of the golden temple at Old Uppsala in Sweden, based on a description by Adam of Bremen.

With the very shape of the arching, upward-pointing glyph, the orientation skyward is clear. This is not a rune of relation between the material and immaterial, but a personification of what to imitate: it is a summary of the transcendent power of the divine beings that the ancient Germanic peoples believed inhabit loftier realms, and interceded in our own when they were so inclined. It is a blueprint of what to look to, an image of what the judicious man might aspire to be, could be inclined through the force of willpower to imitate. This is the symbol that drew men from trackless wastes to temples at Uppsala, to roadside hofs, that forced the hand of the culturally-related Uralic Sámi peoples to raise idols to their “Horagalles” (c.f. the Germanic Þórr). *Ansuz, while not a rune of reciprocity, is a symbol that draws the attention and, by proxy, the energies of man. Quite simply, it is the call: the call to worship, the call to transcendence, and ultimately the call to emulation.

The mysteries of the unknown, the mysteries of the faculties of mortals that cannot be brought out other than through the laborious action of ritual, of the casting into the immaterial, the knowing of the divine and the acceptance of the suprahuman, is the soul of this rune. While *Þurisaz as the ravaging power of fire or wind storm can be understood materially and at face value, the nature of *Ansuz is far more subtle, and requires the conscious disconnection from the world at large for those who wish to know the potential that comes from contact with the divine. The capacities of the Æsir, the apparently effortless prowess that comes from their elevation above our earthly peers, are the values and the tendencies that keep men of gravitas dreaming during the day, and lying awake at night. When we listen to the voices that speak within our blood, the voices that beget the movement of our spirits, we are drawn naturally toward the transformative and transcendent power of this rune, the unseen altar, by which way we might engender a transformation closer and closer to the ideals for which the ancient Germanic people raised the roofs of temples and shrines. 

*Ansuz is the compulsion to idolise that which exceeds our capabilities: not on earth, but in the image of that which is apart from the mundane. It is the wolfish desire to make jealous the forces beyond our kenning, through imitation of their orderly and Apollonian natures reorder our lives to commit acts and maintain reputations hitherto thought to be beyond our wildest abilities. It is the  rumbling charge of Elfland’s horns, that Lord Dunsany wrote of so eloquently in his novel “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” 

 […]Unheeding any words of Orion then, he held on with the brief tale that he had come to tell, and told how Elfland was gone.

“But that cannot be,” said Orion, “for I hear the horns of Elfland every day.”

“You can hear them?” Alveric said.

And the boy replied, “I hear them blowing at evening.”

The dichotomy exists, and is far older than the gods and runes discussed herein: to see the deeds of the gods, in practice or in metaphor, and transform ourselves in the image of those who exceed us through dedication and devoted emulation, or to ignore our will to power, silence our roiling blood, and blot out the sound of Elfland’s horns. The choice is yours.

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