Reprinted from "Rainbow Wind" Magazine
Our rune for this month is known in reconstructed Common Germanic as *Wunjo, and is used for the sound represented by the English letter W. After the Anglo-Saxons began to write with a modified form of Roman Script (the letters being used to write this article), they still kept on using the rune Wunjo, which they called Wynn, and made it a part of their version of our usual alphabet. The modern letter W ("double-u", since u and v were long the same letter) is of relatively recent origin.
Wunjo is appropriately situated within the Futhark. The previous rune is Gebo = gift, and gifts bring joy. Wunjo is the last rune of the first aett (just two more aettir to go!) It is heartening that these two rather cheer-inspiring runes come just before the first three runes of the Second Aett, which are of a far grimmer nature: Hagalaz ( = hail or indistriminate destructive force), Nauthiz ( = need or poverty), and Isa ( = ice or standstill). These particular runes are just as necessary and important as any others, since the Runes show life as it is, not as we might wish it to be, but Gebo and Wunjo are a lot more fun, in my opinion!
Wunjo is not present in the Younger Futhark(s), (however, the corresponding names Old Norse would be "Vend" or "Von"), so the only verse we have for it is found in the Old English Rune Poem. It stresses both negative and positive expressions of Wunjo/Wyn: absence of pain and suffering on one hand, and presence of happiness and life's necessities on the other. The Gothic name for this rune, "Winja" may refer to pasture (some say that the "Vin," which would be the Old Norse cognate to Winja, in "Vinland" = North America originally refered to rich pastures rather than to wine and grapes). According to Tacitus, the Germanic Peoples were originally more pastoral than agricultural, living off their flocks and herds, and it occurs to me that rich pastures would indeed have been a "joy" to them!
Meanings of Wunjo include happiness, its more intense siblings joy and extasy, harmony, unity, good news (a great bringer of joy), peace, good fellowship, and the attaining of what one desires. Magickally, it can be used to promote harmony and to uplift, as well as to restore good fellowship and add a pleasant overtone to any undertaking. It can also help those who are grieving or depressed.
The Sheils and Edred Thorsson both mention Loki in connection with this rune. Loki after all took great joy in his sometimes ultimately useful pranks! Wunjo can be quiet and contemplative, but also pranksterish or even wild and extatic. The Sheils say that Wunjo reflects the joy that the Gods and Goddesses bring, and that each Deity has his or her own flavor, so to speak, of Wunjo! This is one of the many good things about Polytheism. Who wants to eat white bread every day? Variety is, indeed, the spice of the spiritual life.
Wunjo lives in the here and now, so children and animals often understand and embody it better than do adults. The proverbs "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," "take time to smell the roses," and "count your blessings" all embody the principle of Wunjo. While Fehu properly appreciated can help bring Wunjo into your life, very often the excessive greedy persuit of future Fehu blocks the Wunjo that is here to be experienced now. While prudent planning for the future is good, moderation is called for. Those who neglect their spouses, children, friends, and spiritual life in order to focus all their time and energy into getting rich generally wind up regreting it bitterly. However, living in the past is also to be avoided.
To Thor Sheil, the rune-stave (letter-shape) for Wunjo looks like a banner, pennant or flag, being proudly raised high and waved by a person secure in who s/he is! Wunjo relates to a healthy individualism and a good self-image (something I'm still working on). Most of us would agree that while obnoxious braggarts are a bore, false modesty (which many Christian sects definitely do foster) is no good at all! Blowing one's own horn or hoisting one's own banner in moderation, especially at Sumbel, is great.
We're not "sinners saved by grace" or "worms" as Christian fundamentalists often declare. The Gods think that we are good enough to enjoy their friendship and join in their work, and their opinion is the one that counts the most when all is said and done. The "we're not worthy" crap has GOT to go. We ARE worthy, although sometimes we may not act like it! There is a spark of Divinity in each of us, and we should joyfully fan it into flame. Our theology begins with "original blessing," not "original sin." Interestingly, one of the things the Old English Rune Poem verse for Wunjo/Wyn mentions as necessary for Wunjo is "power." The "unworthy" servant of a Slave-God has no power. Heathens are in no such predicament!
Our Gods loathe self-abasement, and in words from Heathen pioneer Steve McNallen's blots, we offer our sacrifices to the Gods and Goddesses of our religion "not as from slaves, for we have no master; nor as an appeasement, for we stand in good stead with (the Deity in question)," but rather as a sign of our kinship with the Gods and our commitment to work with them, and as a means to deepen our ties to them.
Science is becoming continually more aware of the ties between all things. Traditional Pagan religions were intuitively aware of this millenia ago. Unlike Fundamentalists of the Monotheistic religions, we Heathens need not fear science as a threat to our faith. This "rhythm of the spheres" or cosmic harmony in the Multiverse can be felt religiously, and partakes of Wunjo.
As far back as Plato, "divine madness," frenzy, intuition, or inspiration was seen as another way to Truth, along with logic and rational thinking. This "wodh" or "odhr" (the root of Woden/Odin's name), is one aspect of Wunjo. It may not be a coincidence that if you write "Wodh" out in runes, the first rune used is Wunjo! The union with the Divine experienced through wodh/odhr is, according to the Sheils, experienced as joy (Wunjo!) by those who accept it, but as madness by those who reject it! I particularly like this interpretation of the two sides of wodh/odhr.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life in a necessarily imperfect Multiverse (a term used by some Heathens to emphasize the many levels of the Universe, or the probable existence of many Universes). The Gods did the best they could with the "Jotunish" raw materials available to put together their Creation and help it to evolve. Suffering is NOT the defining quality of life. Wunjo is there too! Despite their often difficult life circumstances (imagine watching your family slowly starve with food, in the form of the seed grain necessary for long-term survival, right there under your noses), our Heathens ancestors were able to understand this, overcome depression and fatalism, and live vibrant lives that still shine in glory a millenium later. We well-fed Moderns need to ditch our existential Angst and imitate them. I can tell you from personal experience that it's a lot more fun than whining! Since we Moderns have so much more going for us, living lives which embody Wunjo should be far easier than it was for the old-time Heathens. Unlike some Eastern religions, most of us Heathens see the multiple lifetimes that most of us believe in as more of a chance for us to evolve and help other beings and things to evolve than as a way of cleaning up our Wyrd or ditching bad karma, although that can be there too. The "stop the world and let me off" attitude embodied in a search for Nirvana is not a part of Heathen philosophy.
While there is more to life than having fun, the asceticism promoted by the Western Monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), as well as by many Hindu and Buddhist sects, needs to be set aside by a healthy Heathen realization that pleasure and joy are holy in and of themselves! Contemplation of your life's "little pleasures" may help you become more aware of and experience to a greater degree the presence of Wunjo (I just corrected my spelling after inadvertently typing "Wunjoy," which might be a good memory aid to remember the essentials of Wunjo!)
Works consulted: The Road to Bifrost vol. III: the Runes and Holy Signs, by Thor and Audrey Sheil, $24 postpaid in the USA, overseas postage somewhat higher. At the Well of Wyrd A Handbook of Runic Divination by Edred Thorsson, published by Samuel Weiser, Inc. I heartily recommend the purchase of both these books, plus any others by these authors.
Comments on Wunjo from Ingeborg Norden, my friend and linguistic consultant: I want to remind everyone that the following is information that I have gathered from this email list and a couple of others, along with a few web sites and books about the Runes. I want to thank every one who has contributed to my knowledge of the runes and have recommended sites and books. So, without further ado.... The Rune pick of the week is ....
Old English: Wynn
Old Norse: none
Speaking of Wunjo, I'm reminded of a comment which a Swedish friend made when we were browsing through a New Age store in a shopping mall. He had spotted some rune pendants which came with short descriptions of each symbol. Holding up a pendant engraved with Wunjo, my friend grinned at me and asked: "Ar det har mysrunan?" (Is this the "nice and cozy" rune?)
I couldn't have thought of a better description myself: Wunjo *is* about friendship, comfort and security. Even the words for "friend" in the modern Scandinavian languages are distantly related to the name of that rune: the basic idea is "someone who makes another person feel good".
Suggested News Resources
- The Weekly Rune -- Wunjo Reversed
- We're upended lately, and Wunjo reversed sustains that up-in-the-air sense of efforts not coming to fruition. Read right to left in the image is Laguz to the right, then Wunjo reversed to the left. Laguz remains the half-month rune through 14 May.
- Stokr è stato eliminato in Corea. Pronto per Verona?
- Beh, wunjo: ritroverebbe Stoytchev e si giocherebbe lo scudetto … come dargli torto, se scegliesse Trento? Stokr potrebbe essere il ripiego di Trento se non arriva KK.
- The Weekly Rune -- Dagaz
- Gebo remains the half-month rune through 13 October, followed by Wunjo. Read right to left is Gebo above, Dagaz below, then Dagaz. Following is a summary of The Weekly Rune.
- The Weekly Rune -- Jera
- Wunjo holds as the half-month rune through 28 October. Read right to left is Jera above, then Wunjo below. Following is a summary of The Weekly Rune.