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WunjoToday’s rune is Wunjo. It’s commonly known as “joy,” but its meaning runs deeper than simple happiness on a personality level.

In his book Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, Edred Thorsson offers the simplest, most concise, and yet most profound explanation of this rune’s meaning I’ve ever seen:

When all members of the clan are harmoniously working together, while integrated into their environment in a syncretic manner, a true state of holiness exists. (34)

In this context syncretic means growing together by setting aside differences and working toward a common goal. It seems the Germanic tribes, with whom the Runes originated, knew the value of syncretism and what would happen without it. In the words of American writer, historian, and philosopher Will Durant,

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.

What was true for the tribes of the Migration Period is still true today, though in a broader context. If petty differences are set aside and all find and use their gifts for the greater good, the global tribe will continue to evolve. One way to experience the essence of Wunjo, the “true state of holiness” Thorsson spoke of, is to do anything that shifts our focus from our own wants and needs to those of others.

I look at this rune today and ask myself, “What is my role in the tribe?” As I commit to finding and living that role, I experience the joy of Wunjo.

Edit on 3/15/11: I came across this quote and thought it was appropriate:

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.

–Eleanor Roosevelt

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While meditating on the meaning of this rune a few years ago, the following imagery came to me:

A horse and rider are caught in the rain. The road has become muddy and too difficult to move on, leaving the rider little choice but to stop and wait out the storm. The wait is less bearable due to lack of fire for warmth and food. The rider feels defeated, but knows the only sensible choice is to wait.

According to Freya Aswynn in Northern Mysteries & Magick, one lesson offered by Ehwaz is how to adjust to changing circumstances (75-76). In its inverted form, difficulty adjusting to change seems implied. In my imagery above, the rider is certainly unhappy about (and having difficulty adjusting to) waiting out the storm.

In Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, Edred Thorsson says “Ehwaz is a combination of two sympathetic, yet dually arrayed forces or entities that work harmoniously together toward one goal” (59). With horse and rider, the latter’s progress is dependent on the former’s ability/willingness to move. Delving deeper into this duality, I begin to see the rider as mind and the horse as heart/emotion. The rider is less “in the moment” because he’s focused on the destination, and anxiety and restlessness arise from difficulty in adjusting to circumstances. The horse, a being of instinct and impulse that knows only the present, simply is regardless of whether it’s galloping down the road or standing motionless in the rain.

It’s a short leap to relate Ehwaz reversed to the challenges inherent in overcoming addictive behavior. Horse (body/instinct/impulse) has been trained by rider (mind) to a certain pattern of behavior. Anyone who’s spent any time around horses knows that getting them to take action contrary to their training or will is a difficult task. As someone who’s struggled with addictive behaviors, I can say that though I was keenly aware of (and very unhappy with) the destructive patterns I was engaging in, the impulse to follow through with those behaviors nearly always took precedence.

How are these patterns undone? I’m not entirely certain, though I do know that impulse and instinct must be retrained, and that takes time.

Other posts about Ehwaz reversed:

Ehwaz, reversed

The Birth of the Warrior, Part IV

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