Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Runic Symbolism of Fire and Renewal

It is a new year, a new Yule has passed, and the Sun is once again on the Arising course.

Let's take a moment to honor our kinfolk and loved ones (whoever that may be for you) and also consider the symbolism of Yul-tag (or Yal-da for those of the Southern/Eastern lines) and its significance with Fire.

Yule and the New Year, symbolically the Re-birth of the Sun as well as the Earth, are symbolized by fire as well as by the sun-wheel, in its various incarnations as the Sonnenrad, the Fylfot (swastika), the Trifos (triskelion), the "Celtic Cross" (really a pan-Indo-European symbol) and the thunder-wheel (equivalent to the Slavic Kolovrat).

These symbols all refer to either thunder or fire, as a vessel of light, renewing light.

The Proto-Indo-European language, at least as currently reconstructed, gives us two roots for the word fire. *paewr- (payvar) is the origin of  'fire' in the physical or chemical sense. *egni- is the metaphysical spirit of the fire, fire as a living force or mystery. This is the origin of the word ignite.

From *egni we also get the name of the Primal Aryan Fire-God Agni, or Agna. His sacred sign is the swastika, which Guido von List also pointed out was known to Germanic peoples as the fyrfos or "fire-whisk" in one of its forms. In the Vedas, Agni's wife is Svaha (“well-spoken”), who decides the worthiness of all offerings and pyres. Many Hindus to this day believe that it is Svaha who gave her name to the swastika - Svaha (“well-spoken”) and asti, (“it is”) with the affirmative suffix ka. The symbol came to mean "well-offered and done!" and its name was spoken at the end of many rituals and offering in addition to the symbol itself being drawn in red ochre at their beginning. The use of red ochre also has many significances among Indo-European lore, which can be discussed for so long that they are better saved for another time. Among the Anglo-Saxons, Agni was rendered as Angi, and eventually as Ing or Ingwe (Yngvi in Old Norse). It is from this name we derive the Ingwaz rune, as well as Anglo- and Angliland (England).

In turn Ingwe is also known as Freyr in Old Norse. This is not actually a proper name, but a title meaning “Lord” or “Noble One”, cognate with the Old Persian Fravar, he who bestows the Farr or “divine Favor” on Kings. Though also associated with agriculture, the fire-symbolism of Agni/Ingwe remained significant throughout all these societies. The importance of Freyr in regards to fire and renewal is clear, in that he is associate with both agriculture and fire – the primal fire of new beginnings, sacred fire of temples used to burn away the dead wood of weeds and chaff in autumn, and the renewal of new life and new crops the following spring. His title Freyr is also represented by the Fa-rune, which symbolizes “Primal spark, Primal Fire”, renewal and and new changes in the Odinic (or Armanen) Futharkh. In the Armanen system of 18 runes, the first rune is Fa, signifying the beginning of a cycle, much as Freyr's rebirth at the winter solstice or Yule, marks the beginning of a new year and the return of the Sun and life to the land. In the Gothic or "Elder" Futhark, the first rune is also Fa/Fehu, and the first eight of the 24 runes within are known as "Freyr's Aett" since they begin with the Fa or Fehu rune.

Although the straight-armed swastika or “thunder cross” is a symbol of Thor or Thur-Agna (Vire-Thragna in Avestan), the one with curved, scythe-like arms is the symbol of Freyr or Ingwi (Agni or Agna in the Vedas – note that this name is the suffix of Thuragna/Virethragna as well). Thus the curved swastika, representing both the scythe of Freyr (and hence agriculture) as well as the curved flames of a fire, encapsulates the death and rebirth (or reaping and re-planting) that ends one year and begins another. Although the festival of Freyfaxi, set by modern Ásatrúars as August 1, is a time of harvest, the Yule-Tide is also significant for Freyr-oriented celebrations as it represents the end of shorter days and the beginning of longer ones, the Sun being vital to agriculture, and Freyr being as much a Solar Deity as Odin or Thor is, if not more so.

Thus Freyr sacrifices himself and is reborn. Yule-tide is celebrated with great fires and the curved swastika or "fire-whisk" (fyr-fos) was an ancient emblem of this rite, a wooden one being traditionally lit on fire to symbolize the turning and sparking-to-life of a new season. The Sun declines to its shortest daylight on Yule, and is then "reborn" and the days lengthen again 'til farming can resume in the new year.

The sacred fire or flame of the fyrfos is symbolic of the spirit or soul of the universe as mush as of the a person. This is the flame of being. It is integral to the existence of the human as a being. And yet, in a very real sense, it is only the central state of mankind - insomuch as man and woman, as the Gods and Goddesses and the cosmos itself, are constantly in a cycle of Arising, Being, and Passing Away towards a New Arising. Thus the flame of being is not eternally or constantly a flame of being, but was once a flame of arising, and will in turn smolder and pass away til it is rekindled. The Eddas and Sagas describe the first humans as a male and female called Ask and Embla. As in other Aryan mythology (such as Iran/Persia) they were formed from trees. The trees are Ash and Elm in the North, though in the South they were more likely the Plane Tree and the Sarv (spear-tip cypress).

It is especially poignant here to note that it was trees that the Aesir chose to form humans from, given the closeness of Indo-European cultures in general to forests and to nature, the reverence which ancient trees have been given in all such cultures, from Thor's Oak to the Irminsul to the Bodhi Tree to the Cypress of Kashmar. To some extent this idea was able to influence Assyria, Babylon and other semitic cultures which were acclimatized by Aryan contact to settle, irrigate the soil and plant fruit orchards. By contrast, nomadic "west semitic" cultures tended to view clay or dirt as the essence of man, and as desert herdsmen, tended to see trees as merely cash commodities with no environmental or spiritual value. Anders Hultgård observes what many of us have long known: "myths of the origin of mankind from trees or wood seem to be particularly connected with ancient Europe and Indo-Europe and Indo-European-speaking peoples of Asia Minor and Iran. By contrast the cultures of the Near East show almost exclusively the type of anthropogenic stories that derive man's origin from clay, earth or blood by means of a divine creation act".

The giant Cypress of Abar-Kuh in Yazd, which may be a descendant of the legendary Cypress of Kashmar.
As young trees these are spear-tip morphs, which bend but never break.
As they age several centuries they thicken and split into halves, symbolic of Ask (Mashya) and Embla (Mashyana). 
The Bundahishn recounts in its first section, the first assault of evil against the order of the Asuras or Aesir, and how their efforts to salvage their creation led to the formation of a World Tree, and from this, man and woman, and  still other mortal beings which could replicate themselves: The Lord of Wisdom's sixth creation is the primeval beast Gayumardh, who was neither male nor female. Ahriman (Angra Mainyu), the Spirit of Evil that dwelt in the Absolute Darkness, sought to destroy all that the Lord of Wisdom had created, and sent the deev (troll) Jeh to kill Gayumardh. In this she was successful, but the moon captured his seed before the animal died, from which all animal life then grew. From Gayumardh's corpse grew a tree, the seeds of which were the origin of all plant life (this tree may be the same as Harvisptokhm, the "Iranian Yggdrasil"), and from the branches of which grew the first man Mashya and the first woman Mashyana.

They promised to aid the Lord of Wisdom in his battle with Ahriman, and gave birth to fifteen sets of twins which scattered around the Earth and became the races of mankind. Some of these lines continued to honor the Asuras and practice their noble ethics of the Solar Farmer. Yet others who failed in their quest and were tempted by deevs and the lure of easy plunder, or depravity, became disfigured like unto crude and uncouth deevs by their own corruption.

This story, in various forms, was already known since the time of Grimm to be closely related to the Norse version. The trees were not simply sacred for the Aryan - they are flesh and blood as much as the soil is, if not more so. So this Ur-man and Ur-woman were of intertwining trees (or parts of one great tree) carved out.

The Eddas tell us that the Gods bestowed various gifts and abilities on Ask and Embla - specifically Odin, Hoenir and Lodurr (which may have meant Odin, Vili and Ve`) - these were gifts such as sense, thought, heat, blood, etc. Odin, however, surpassed the other Gods in generosity - he gave spirit to the man and woman - which he blew into them. This 'spirit' was the Fa, or Urfyr - the Primal Fire of being. That is yet another reason for the Fa-rune being at the beginning of the Runic Cycle. When Odin blew this spirit into them, he ignited their flame of arising and they became humans, not mere machines or automatons. Ask and Embla are often translated as "Ash" and "Elm" - but perhaps Ash and Embers would also make sense - for these carry the potential for fire (symbolized by Fa or life-spark), which can be rekindled by blowing into them, so long as the other components are there. Hence even if it passes away, it may Arise yet again, stronger than before. It was said in Armanist circles also that Wotan/Odin breathed life into Midgard through the Fire-Whisk, that the primal life-force of the Earth was "whisked" into rotation and stabilization by means of this multi-directional blast of Fa-energy that resulted in a spinning fire-whisk. And thus before Ask and Embla were, so was also their home made by means of the process of Svaha-asti-ka, with Ymir's flesh and bones being the burnt sacrifice for the soil of the Earth.

These are NOT Vili, Ve and Odin... but you get the idea.

A more detailed exploration of the swastika and its variants (such as the Sonnenrad) in its esoteric Germanic and pan-Aryan contexts is a subject for another time, but this much can be said in short. That which Freyr provided, Odin put within us as well. Those individuals who feel the impulse toward qualitative improvement of both themselves and their Folk-soul, regardless of what that may be, whatever its current "identity" or base-state, burn with the rare light of Ar-Yr (Arya) or Arising Creative-Passion, to burn off all that is wasteful and corrupt, and refine all that is noble, wise and honorable in our lives - we seek to re-whisk those Embers within us to new light, to reclaim the original form of our own internal flame, which Odin, Wotan, Vayu-Vata, gave us from Freyr's self-sacrifice to mark that first Yule so many eons ago, when the Aesir knew Midgard's first Sunrise. Hence we are not merely children of nature and the trees, but also children of the Sun.


Hultgård, Anders (2006). "The Askr and Embla Myth in a Comparative Perspective". In Andrén, Anders; Jennbert, Kristina; Raudvere, Catharina (editors). Old Norse Religion in Long-term Perspectives. Nordic Academic Press.  


  1. http://volkisch-runes.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/the-flame-within-pie-language-gives-us.html

  2. Thanks. I hope to keep these short now so they don't take so much time between posts.