The Runes: Ōs

In this blog series , we will go through the runes as they are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem.

The fourth rune, Ōs has two different interpretations, yet which are linked. The first is that Ōs means god, or divinity, and usually Woden (Odin). The second is that Ōs means mouth, which again is related to Woden, who uses the breath of life and also the breath of inspiration. So it most likely that this rune relates to Woden directly, whichever way we look at it. Ōs is also known as Ansuz, which means a member of the gods’ family or tribe.[1] With the shape of the rune Ansuz, the ends of the branch do not turn upwards as they do with the Old English rune Ōs.

In the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem, the verse reads:

God [or mouth] is the origin of all language

Wisdom’s foundation and wise man’s comfort

And to every hero blessings and hope.[2]

Woden is the bringer of runes to humankind, who sacrificed himself on the tree for nine days and nine nights until, screaming, he took up the runes from the Well of Wyrd. This scream is again related to the mouth, breath and inspiration. It is all coming from the inside, to be expressed externally. As the god of frenzy and inspiration, this suits Woden very well. Woden also specialises in eloquence and poetry, let’s not forget.

Warriors and heroes were supposed to valiant in battle, but also eloquent afterwards. They had to know how to trade verses and come up with poetry, sometimes on the spot (though not while fighting!). This might relate to the hope and blessings aspect of the rune verse with regards to heroes, or perhaps that they will be remembered for their deeds after they have died with good words, poetry or song. Woden’s later incarnation as Odin in the Viking Age was both a boon and a bane to his chosen heroes, for he often betrayed them. And so, the blessings and hope we see in the rune poem make more sense in the remembrance of the hero, rather than a divine blessing or hope.

Albertsson states that Woden was much different for the Anglo Saxons as his later Viking counterpart was to his people: Woden was primarily the wise one connected to words and speech, the creator of spoken language, he who inspired the poets.[3] He ruled the wind, which included the breath that creates speech (æthem). This breath of life is also the final thing that we do upon death: we exhale for one last time, thus denoting Woden’s role in death as well as life. Thus, Ōs can also be seen as the rune of life and death, perhaps even rebirth.[4]

Ōs has a relation to the use of magic as well, as spoken words in charms were and still are very common. In the text, Hávamál, Odin claims to know galdor, to know how to use the words and spells against fire, sword edges, arrows, fetters and storms. He could also summon up the dead and speak to them to gain more knowledge.

In runic readings, Ōs means communication, inspiration, poetry and knowledge, usually of divine origin. If the querent is a devotee of Woden, it might have even more meanings. You can us Ōs magically to help increase eloquence, to find the inspiration to write that book or poem. Holding up the rune to your lips while concentrating on receiving inspiration can open up new pathways gifted by Woden. You can trace the rune on work surfaces and tools such as laptops, especially if you are a writer. And here’s hoping it brings wisdom, comfort, blessings and hope, even to the most stubborn writer’s block! Finally, you can use it to communicate with the dead, should you so wish, as this is one of the realms of Woden’s power.


[1] Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books, (2011), p.46

[2] Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books, (2011), p.46

[3] Albertsson, A. Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer, Llewellyn, (2011), p.186

[4] Wodening, S. Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times, Angleseaxisce Ealdriht, (2003), p. 185

Deer on the Heath (Part Two)

The rut is now over, and the heath is quiet. The deer are, of course, still there, but the stags are no longer calling in the twilight hours. The mists have crept in, the air is chill, and the days are short. And yet, there is beauty all around.

The Faery Tree

I had wanted to connect further with a very old Faery Tree that I found in the middle of a wood two years ago. For my birthday at the end of August, some friends came over and we went for a walk on the heath and in the woods, and I showed them this wonderful tree. Not long after, something happened to the tree. I had been in those woods since it happened, but didn’t visit the tree, as I was filming for a video in specific locations and so I had no idea what was going on.

I subsequently had the strangest experiences with the trees in the wood. For the first time ever, I felt anger, at me, and I didn’t know why. As I walked down a path I heard a sharp crack, and looked up to see a tree leaning over and about to fall on me, coming down, down… I jumped and began to run out of the way, and then stopped when there was nothing but silence. I looked back up and the tree was still there, standing tall, and not coming down. The trees were angry.

I left the wood, completely bewildered and wondering what I had done. Why were the trees angry with me? We’d always had a special, magical relationship. But then a week later when I went to visit the Faery Tree, it had been cut down. It had been slowly dying already, for it was an old tree, and the drought this summer and last summer did not do it any favours. But still, it was alive, still strong and not posing a threat.

And then, a week later, when I went to visit it, I saw it had been cut down by the landowner.

Numb, I continued on my way. I couldn’t deal with this just yet. It was too much. Two weeks later, I knew I had to make reparation, and so went out with my offering pouch and some mead. I circled the tree and gave my offerings, and I laid my hand upon the newly sawn wood. There, wood lice were crawling, and I knew that there was always life in different forms. Without death there cannot be life. But this death was still untimely, and a blow to the soul of the wood.

The trees were no longer angry with me. There were no more threats. Only sadness, a deep lingering loss of the magical opening between the worlds that this tree provided. But there are others in that wood, not as old, and not as deep within the wood. Not as hidden. Not as “special”. Perhaps one day one will be, taking over as a portal between the realms. Until then, I vowed to wait until the magic returned.

What was lost can be found again. After a horrific breakdown soon afterwards, I stood outside in the dark of night with the full moon hanging over the beech tree as I tried to gather up the pieces of my soul. A fox screamed into the night, and I wished that I too could scream into the dark shadows. I then heard the sound of trotting paws, and down the path to my right something was going down to the garden. I could see the shadow, dark in the moonlight, unilluminated. Snuffing, snuffing everywhere, around the pond, stopping, drinking, snuffing, under the beech tree, looking for nuts. Back to the pond, drinking, and then noticing I was standing there on the patio, watching. The fox came up to the bottom of the steps, and watched me. We stood there for a while, and then it left, through the hole in the hedge at the bottom of the garden, where all the creatures, magical and mundane, used to come through.

And the magic returned.

Reconnecting

This summer, as I recovered from major surgery, as soon as I was able I stood outside every morning and honoured my Lady and the day. I honoured and praised my Lady with her many associations, and I also used an adapted version of Sigdrifa’s Prayer that I came up with:

Hail to the Day, and Day’s sons

Farewell to Night and Her Daughters

With loving eyes look upon us here

And grant peace to those living here

All to the Gods, Hail to the Ancestors

Hail to the mighty fecund earth

Eloquence and native wit bestow upon us here

And healing hands while we live

But these last few weeks I haven’t said this prayer, and instead simply stood outside and felt the wind upon my skin, listening to the sounds and smelling the air. No words. My life is filled with words, and I guess I needed to stop with the words, for they were empty after a while. I needed to feel, from deep within, reaching for the silence first and then feeling the connection, rather than trying to state it as happening when it wasn’t. Too many words.

And so, now that I have my new seasonal altar set up, I sit and meditate at it every day and call to my Lady in my mind, feeling her inside my heart like a warm amber glow that spreads slowly into my awareness. I reach down with my energy into the earth and call to the earth, whose dark and rich energy comes up with my breath through my spine. I get out into the forest and onto the heath several times a week, with the action of walking as my prayer. And I am often blessed with wonderful sightings of the deer, the low-flying hawk, a falcon, a badger’s den or a robin in full song within arm’s length. Some of these moments I have captured on camera, but they will always reside deep within my heart.

I have changed, since my surgery. I had a hysterectomy at the end of June, due to a uterus full of fibroids and a very large ovarian cyst. I am only now coming to terms with the aftermath: living a mostly pain-free life is wonderful, but there is an emotional tsunami of pain and suffering that looms on the horizon every minute of the day. I call to my Lady to help me, woman to woman, for it seems that all the pain I’ve ever had in my life is now just below the surface of my skin, and the slightest bump sets it loose in a torrent of tears. I want to scream, to sob with abandon, to be held in the arms of my mother. I call to the earth, the Mother of All, and find myself supported on her green and dark bosom.

I found myself leaving all my old pathways of being, I floated for a couple of months, not doing anything except healing. I did not do full moon rituals, though I knew the cycles each and every day. I did a very short blot to Freyr at Lammas. I walked for the autumn equinox. Instead, I meditated, walked the land, and began to find my place within it once more, changed, different.

I felt like I was between the worlds, between a child and a middle-aged woman. I felt separated from myself. My detached self looked down with pity at the sad little girl, at the sad woman dealing with her life’s pain. Perhaps this was my Lady, taking me up to a higher point of view, to see myself from this other perspective, to keep me functioning in day to day business.

Are you having having a bad day? You are not. You are a Bad Bitch. Continue. Is your depression weighing you down? I know. Continue. You can keep going. You can do this. Continue. You are fighter. You are strong. You are smart. And you are wonderfully made. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Keep going. Keep going. Continue.

     – @playcheerleader on Instagram, sent to me very timely by an old friend

I have to let my Lady’s love of life fill my soul again. The earth supports me with warmth and strength, even as she turns colder and falls back into rest. With mind and body numbed from the trauma, I now have to dance in the woods with the elves once again. I remember that time. It was nearly thirty-odd years ago, and more in other lifetimes, but it is still there, they are there, waiting.

My Lady, fill my soul with your golden light, to guide me through the darkest night and find my way back to those woods, and back home to my soul.

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Audiobook of The Hedge Druid’s Craft

It’s finally complete: the entire audiobook of The Hedge Druid’s Craft. Thank you so much to my Bandcamp followers and subscribers for sticking with me throughout this one, as I had a couple months off due to surgery. I hope you enjoy this audiobook. Narrating is hard work, as is editing, maintaining the website, etc. But I’m proud that I’ve been able to do it, and of the finished work.

Now, to write another book!

New Video Series!

I’ve now got a new Druidry video series started up on my YouTube channel. I hope that you like it! We start with Samhain…