*Trigger Warning* – This post contains a brief (and non-explicit) mention of sexual violence in the eighth paragraph.
Thurisaz [pronounced thur-ee-saws], meaning giant, is one of the most powerful and masculine coded runes. A frequent mistranslation of its meaning is ‘thorn’, following the lead of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem which links it to one of the most ambivalently powerful Celtic trees, the Blackthorn (of course, if this interpretation works for you, go with it!). Original Scandinavian sources however associate this rune to the Thurses, primordial giants of Norse mythology. The rune is also associated with the god Thor, known as a giant slayer who protects Asgard (the realm of the Æsir gods) and Midgard (the realm of humans) from their destructive force.
On an esoteric level the Thurses can be understood as raw unbridled power, natural active forces and potent libidinal energy; they are neither good nor evil, they are in fact a necessary energy, but they are primal and alien to human comprehension. Like the Ace of Wands, they have within them all of the explosive strength to create and obliterate; their power is non-logical, unthinking, distinctively phallic and representative of active and aggressive sexuality.
Equally powerful, but contained and directed towards a purpose, Thor’s representation in this rune can be seen as the Chariot. He masters these primeval energies, controls and harnesses them for the highest good, by directing his will and channelling his capacity for violence and domination into his role as protector of the realms.
On a more earthly or mundane level, Thurisaz can be understood as a powerful line of defence. As we see in the Seven of Wands, and also reflected in the Thor aspect of this rune, there are times when we are called upon to defend ourselves and all the things we hold dear. In this context, Thurisaz is a defensive position, yet it is the fiercely active defence we see in the steadfast resistance of dark and unruly forces.
Merkstave (reversed) or shadowed by other runes in a spread, this already challenging rune can also represent a time or environment of increased hostility and strife, where everyone is working at cross purposes, more concerned with one-upmanship than finding common ground. This aspect is reflected in the Five of Wands, where we see testosterone levels flying high and raw aggression being misdirected to infighting. There is no higher purpose, only self-interest and posturing.
In the Eight of Swords we can see yet another shadowed aspect of Thurisaz, the feeling of being trapped, vulnerable and completely defenceless, bound and unable to protect ourselves from a coming onslaught.
Much like the Tower it can also augur a cataclysmic event, one that rips down the very foundations of our life – imagine Thor’s hammer beating down the lightening that we see striking the structure in this card. However, in keeping with the theme of the Tower, the destruction implied with Thurisaz can be a necessary one: a strike of painful insight that shows us the truth, a razing of old ways to fertilise the ground and make way for a more viable future.
In the darkest aspect of the Seven of Swords, that of betrayal and having something taken from you without your consent, is the most difficult reading I associate with this rune. In the Norwegian rune poem, Thurisaz is called the “tormenter” or “bane” of women; there are a couple of different interpretations of this, including the suggestion that it represents menstruation or fraught relationships, however with the raw masculine libidinal power of Thurisaz, I also feel it can imply unwanted sexual attention or even sexual violence.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Thurisaz is considered one of the most powerful runes of the Elder Futhark, so as a final note, particularly if you are interested in runic magic, most runic practitioners advise caution when invoking this rune or using it as a talisman. The Thurses are a powerful force that do no mess around, nor do they care at all about your wellbeing, so make your intentions in calling for Thor very clear if you wish to use it outside of divination.
Smith Waite Centennial Tarot Deck property of U.S Games Systems, 2014