The Origin of Ur

As with many of the Runes, I’m not convinced that the majority of scholars have properly interpreted Ur. Depending on the Rune Poem, Ur either refers to an archaic breed of cattle or to drizzle. For various reasons I have lately had cause to meditate upon the fullness of Ur‘s meaning and here are my thoughts…

In Stephen Pollington’s ‘Rudiments of Runelore’ he features and discusses several Anglo-Saxon poems which include Runes. Generally, wherever Ur appears, he translates it to mean “our”. This seems such a simple likeness – “Ur” and “our” – but I sense it may be legitimate and it had me thinking about other etymological connections.

The French word “origin” ultimately derives from the Latin stem oriri”, whose definition is given by etymonline.com as:

“arise, rise, get up; appear above the horizon, become visible; be born, be descended, receive life;” figuratively “come forth, take origin, proceed, start”

Furthermore, Proto Indo-European “heri” means “to rise”, and Sanskrit iyarti means “to set in motion, move,”.

“Ur”, also, was the name of a Sumerian city, dating to around 3800BC. Whether the Sumerians were truly an Aryan people or not is still debated, but we have to take into consideration the significance of this city’s name in relation to the topic of Germanic lore, as a direct lineage between the two is not beyond the realms of possibility.

All of this considered, we have the Rune which appears in second position within all of the Futharks and Futhorc (which we can be sure is no coincidence), referring to “our” (we, us), related etymologically to the Latin word “origin” and to one of the oldest known cities of civilised man, Ur. Via the same etymological trail, “Ur” could mean “to rise”, “be born” or “set in motion”. This may be where the drizzle connection comes in, as drizzle would always be seen among agrarian man as something which precipitates crop growth or, indeed, increasingly strong rain and thus flow.

As for the Aurochs connection, I would postulate that this signifies the origin of farming. For a Hunter-Gatherer tribe to make the transition to static settlement and farming, it is reasonable to assume that wild cattle would not to be caught, wrestled and domesticated in order for this new order of society to come into being. In fact, in writing this I have reason to suspect that one of the overriding stories told by the Runes could be the rise of agrarian society, or more generally the evolution of human social structures; but this I’ll have to reserve for another article.

Ur, I believe, is the Rune of origin. It signifies the establishment of settled living and culture; of something stable. If what precedes Ur is moveable wealth (Feoh), and what follows it is protection (Thorn), then this only affirms the possibility that Ur is the establishment of an Innangard and the origin of a stable system of culture and law.

Guido Von List agrees, describing Ur with such words and phrases as “primal”, “primordial”, “permanent”, “original cause”, “root of all material and cosmic phenomena“. He also calls it the Creative Mother Principle, which ties in with the home-making nature of permanent settlement and stability. I will write in another article about how Feoh is the force of will and creation in a more masculine sense.

The Secrets of ALU

Those who’ve attended national Woden’s Folk moots, or read our Folkwarder’s more recent blog posts, will have encountered the ‘ALU’ runic formula. Its known significance may not be entirely clear to everyone, and I believe there is much yet to learn. I took some time one evening to meditate upon the runes which make up the ALU formula – Ansuz, Laguz and Uruz – and some things were revealed to me. I’d like to share these revelations in this article; but first, some background to the popular understanding of ALU, and how we’ve come to use it in Wodenism.

ALU in Wodenism

The word ‘ALU’ has been identified on a number of pre-Christian runestones, potteries* and bracteates (ornate pendants) – mostly in Scandinavia, and some in England (interestingly, in some instances the runes are reversed (mirrored) – this is significant and we’ll come back to that later). The official interpretation of ALU tends to be linguistic rather than magical. ‘Academics’ fall over one another to establish whether those who carved or molded the inscriptions were writing ‘ale’, ‘temple’, ‘protect’ or ‘amulet’. As is usually the case with professional historians, they struggle to identify any undocumented esoteric meaning in such things; so it is left to us to think in these terms, to truly makes sense of pre-Christian practices and concepts.

Wulf Ingessunu had already identified ALU as a three-stage spiritual principle and exercise which is designed to spiritualise matter, and ULA as a complimentary principle which draws matter up to the spiritual realm. It works like this:

Ansuz – the ‘god’ rune, Woden’s rune, the rune of breath (spirit). Strictly speaking, in the English rune-row the god-rune is ‘Os’ and has a slightly different shape, but in the Younger Futhark of Scandinavia it looks like this. Ansuz represents the spiritual heights we might wish to reach, and is linked with the higher chakra/cauldron of the energy body.

Laguz – the rune of water and, specifically, moving water. In physics, as we all know, liquid is a state of matter between solidity and gas (matter and spirit). Ice is solid, and when heated becomes liquid. When heated further it evaporates into a gas. Laguz is connected to the chakra at the heart/solar-plexus region. It is no coincidence that the heart is the organ which deals with the most important flowing liquid in the body. Edred Thorsson, in his book ‘ALU’ (which, frustratingly, does not go into the ALU concept, despite its name), declares that Laguz specifically refers to the original, primordial creative waters that were thawed from the clash of fire and ice in Ginnungagap. This reinforces the ideas I’m putting forward in this article – about the Laguz part of the ALU formula representing creation and growth through change. Laguz is specifically representative of turbulent or changeable waters (the Old Icelandic rune poem speaks of a boiling kettle, the Old English of seas, the Old Norwegian of a waterfall).

Uruz – The rune of primal origin, matter, manifestation, groundedness and physical strength. If we look at the rune rows as representing some kind of cosmological progression, as many rune-workers do, Uruz is 2nd for a reason. It is the origin of things, preceded only by Fehu, the rune of movable wealth (though I believe Fehu may be open to re-examination, and may actually represent current rather than currency; though the two are actually the same in essence – this is something I may touch upon in a separate article). Uruz is connected to the base chakra, near the genitals. The genitals are what allows us to reproduce matter, and are thus the origin of the material human being.

The principle is simple: To spiritualise ourselves we bring the focussed energy down from our crown chakra, to our heart chakra, to our base chakra. To raise our material selves spiritually we move that focussed energy in the opposite direction. This is the practice as given to us by Wulf.

In an example of synchronicity, around about the time of Wulf’s teaching, the ex-leader of the Asatru Folk Assembly, Stephen McNallen released a small ebook detailing a very similar practice. I brought this to Wulf and so in Wodenism we combined aspects of the two. McNallen, like Wulf, had identified Ratatosk – the squirrel who relays message up and down the World Tree – with this energy that we move up and down our spine. However, McNallen had discovered an Irish poem called ‘The Cauldron of Poesy’, which describes three cauldrons within the body. McNallen drew comparisons to the story from the Eddas of Odin’s ‘mead theft’, which also features three cauldrons (though does not place them within the human body). McNallen rightly combined the Irish and Norse myths and created a system of practice whereby we visualise these cauldrons within us:

Bodn (“vessel”) – Pictured as black, in the region of our genitalia. Associated with the rune Berkano.
Son (“blood”) – Pictured as red, in the region of the heart. Associated with the rune Sowilo.
Odroerir (“the one that stimulates to ecstacy”) – Pictured as white, in the region of our crown. Associated with the rune Othala.

I began to practice McNallen‘s technique daily, but after learning about ALU from Wulf, I substituted McNallen’s runes for Uruz, Laguz and Ansuz consecutively. McNallen uncovered something profound here, but I do believe his runes are wrong, or less fitting than ours. He is absolutely right about the colours though – black, red and white have an ancient significance to the Aryans (to the extent that the three pyramids of Giza were once clad in an outer stone – one pyramid in black, one in red, one in white – which has since been lost). These three colours are synonymous with the castes/functions of Aryan societies: Black for the farmer/producer, red for the warrior, white for the priest-class. As you can see, this transplants well onto both ALU and McNallen‘s working: black for the producer (genitals), red for the warrior (blood, expansion), white for the priest (spirit).

McNallen‘s ideas are invaluable. Anyone who would like a copy of his instructional ebook in PDF format, feel free to contact me and I’ll gladly send a copy. In Wodenism, we combined McNallen‘s three cauldrons practice with the ancient ALU formula to create something which I believe is the ultimate synthesis of a practice which can facilitate spiritual development. Briefly, here is what I have concluded as the most effective technique:

Sit or stand with your eyes closed, your back strong and straight.
1) In as low a voice as you can, chant “Uruz” slowly nine times whilst picturing a vibrating black energy in the pit of your abdomen. You can visualise this as an upturned cauldron or the shape of an Uruz rune (this may in fact be what Uruz pictorially represents – an upturned cauldron). Elongating the ‘z’ sound at the end of the rune will help you to vibrate the energy.
2) In a middle tone, chant “Laguz” slowly nine times whilst picturing a vibrating red energy in the centre of your chest. You can visualise this as a sideways cauldron or the shape of a Laguz rune. Again, elongating the ‘z’ sound at the end of the rune will help you to vibrate the energy.
3) In as high a voice as you comfortably can, chant “Ansuz” slowly nine times whilst picturing a vibrating white energy at the crown of your head. You can visualise this as an upturned cauldron or the shape of an Ansuz rune. Again, elongating the ‘z’ sound at the end of the rune will help you to vibrate the energy.
Repeat if necessary, until you feel as though you successfully targetted each of the energy points.

In each instance, you may find that you need to ‘tune’ the pitch of your galdr in order to home in on the precise point within your body. I personally find that this helps immensely.

Additional Interpretations

Now I’d like to briefly share some of the personal revelations I’ve had about the ALU formula, which only serve to support the power and wisdom of the above connections and practices:

Whilst meditating on these runes, I was shown the above image in my mind: ULA – Uruz, Laguz, Ansuz. As you can see, if we use the form of Uruz (which is often used in old inscriptions) where instead of there being two upright ‘trunks’, there is simply one diagonal reaching to the ‘ground’, we end up with a runic progression much like a plant growing out of the ground. Imagine, for a moment, the vertical part of the rune as the trunk or stem; now:

Uruz has a branch or extension which touches the ground and is thus not free to move. This branch represents 1st growth – energetic potential. It is the rune of stagnation, and cannot ‘turn’ – still very much connected with the ground; matter and origin.
Laguz has now grown so it is free from the ground. It can turn and waver (such is the risk involved in leaving the sanctity of one’s original place in life).
Ansuz is a level above Laguz, as represented by its 2nd branch. This 2nd branch could also represent the newly-founded ‘higher self’.

Though the charm is popularly known in its ALU format, I believe that its reverse form – ULA – is equally vital, if not moreso. And actually, if we look at some of the artefacts on which the ALU sequence has been identified, some of them actually show the runes in reverse. One of the Swedish bracteates, for example, shows ULA (with a two-lined Uruz rune such as the one I’ve recreated above), yet it seems to be assumed that this mirror imagery is accidental – perhaps an oversight in the molding of the piece. I contest this, and say that the maker fully intended to write ‘ULA’ in this order. Simply put, the formula is important in both its forwards and backwards sequence.

We can also see the ULA runic sequence working on a grander scale. Most heroic myths depict an ordinary man living a mundane life (the stagnation of Uruz), who is then by circumstance thrust into a situation he has no control over (the movement and flow of Laguz), and ultimately rises to the challenge and succeeds in some kind of quest for the greater good (the spiritual realisation of Ansuz). I believe this is a path most of us can take, on however small a scale. The key to this is in moving from the ‘Uruz’ stage of our life (comfort, security, familiarity) to the ‘Laguz’ stage (where we are taken out of our comfort zone into ‘unknown’ waters – seas which move with no concern over those who sail upon them). The step from our ‘Laguz’ stage to our ‘Ansuz’ stage is less reliant upon conscious effort and more in our ability to manage the unfamiliar situation we have been thrust into; to harness it and rise above it. The step from ‘Uruz’ to ‘Laguz’ is a test of our conscious will, and the step from ‘Laguz’ to ‘Ansuz’ is a test of our unconscious will. I would therefore encourage everyone who seeks significant spiritual growth to find ways to throw themselves into uneasy situations without necessarily knowing how they are going to handle being in such a situation. We then allow our higher self to take over and prove to us our full potential. Once we have been shown what we are capable of, we become powerful beings, with a newfound, profound confidence to achieve new things – both for ourselves and our folk. I put it to you, my kin, that this is the key to our victory; for each of us to make powerful beings of ourselves through the methods outlined in this paragraph, and that ritualistic practice outlined earlier in this article. By doing so we will become formidable opponents to our enemy.

On yet another level we can see that for an adventurer to reach a destination (Ansuz) he must often literally cross a sea (Laguz) from his land of origin (Uruz). ALU may even represent the mythological crossing to Asgard, given that whilst most of the gods and goddesses reach Asgard by crossing the Bifrost bridge, Thunor must wade through the rivers.

What we can conclude from all of this is that ALU is a timeless and vital message to us that for any kind of growth – whether spiritual, physical, personal or tribal – we must throw ourselves into the testing waters of Laguz. We must take a leap of faith from our comfortable, familiar, stagnant existence into churning waters which we have no conscious control over. This phase of uncertainty is where we learn how favoured we are by the gods, fates and ancestors, and where we must quickly learn how to ‘navigate’ the waters as best we can to reach the ‘nirvana’ of Ansuz. By this I do not mean that we have to put our own life in jeopardy, but that our willingness to take risks in significant areas of our life is what allows for real success. I believe that ALU can essentially be summed up by the popular phrase ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’. ALU teaches us that, indeed, fortune really does favour the brave.

*It is worth noting how fitting it is that in England, the ALU runes were found on cremation pots – which also depicted withershins (anti-clockwise) fylfots, no less (as do some of the Scandinavian bracteates). The reason I say this is because the Italian philosopher Julius Evola identified two afterlife paths: The ‘Solar’ and the ‘Cthonic’. In his book Revolt Against the Modern World, he suggests that throughout time, human cults have varyingly favoured one of these two paths. Those tribes who practiced cremation were seeking the Solar Path (ascension of the individualised ego-soul, to seek godhood) by releasing the soul upwards into to the light and air. This is the essence of ALU-ULA. Conversely, those tribes who buried their dead were recycling the souls of their deceased back into the Earthly ‘ecosystem’. The Fylfot-swastika (particularly when positioned in a clockwise/withershins direction, against the flow and decay of time as embodied by the Eastern ‘Yugas’) also represents the ‘Solar Path’ concept. It is a symbol connected with Thunor, who is the antithesis of the Etins (giants), who eat the souls of the dead as a means of recycling us back into the ecosystem which they serve.

Steed (First written and privately published in November 2017)