Do you resist resistance?
If you’re trying to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together or using what's called a bow drill, then you can’t oil the sticks. Not everything in life is about flow and ease and the law of attraction. Sometimes there has to be friction, resistance and persistent, determined effort.
This is the story I often tell when Nauthiz appears.
It’s cold, damp, dark and you’re hungry. You need to build a fire and all you have is the bow drill, a primitive wooden tool used to create the spark that’s needed to start the fire.
You have a need. You have an intention. You have a tool. You are determined to persist. But what you also need is friction and resistance. Without them the wood will never heat up enough to create the spark. This is not the time to oil the wood. You would oil the hub of a wagon wheel to keep it from catching on fire but never the wood of a bow drill. This is not the time for frictionless movement or ease. Rather, it’s a situation that calls for effort and resistance. If you resist the resistance or stop too soon your need will not be satisfied.
There’s something else you must remember. Once the fire starts, you don’t need to keep using the tool.
Fire is alive and each individual fire that comes into being is an offspring of Surt, the great Fire Jotun of Muspelheim. In your efforts to make fire of any sort do you ever think to call upon the gods or do you just take for things for granted and assume fire will always be there for you?
Many of us in this so-called modern world have lost our connection with the sacredness of fire. All we need to do is strike a match, flick a lighter or flip a switch, turn a knob or press a button.
Your very life depends upon fire and imagine that the only way to start one is to know how to do it yourself. How different would your relationship with fire be if that was the case? Would you call upon the great fire giants to support you? Would you take for granted that you could do it alone, without their help? Would you show appreciation? The Nauthiz rune holds all of these questions.
Nauthiz is a hungry rune. It can only be satisfied when the need is met and the solution exists in the need.
It’s a sexual rune. The desire, the friction, the passion, the necessity to reproduce. Sex is part of the hunger for life.
It’s a creative rune. The urge, the longing, the effort, the potential. Creativity is the need to make something new.
Nauthiz binds us to our ancestors and their need to have fire in order to live. It binds us to giants of fire, to Muspelheim and hence to creation. It reminds us that our spirituality cannot be only in the mind. We cannot transcend the physical or material but rather we use our bodies to participate in the necessity of life.
Our Northern European ancestors lived in a harsh, unforgiving world where it was dark and cold almost half the year. They revered the gods and spirits of the land. They honored and respected fire because it was essential for survival. And in fact it still is, even if we in modern times have forgotten that. We are arrogantly disconnected from it, perhaps even forgetting about the necessity of its presence.
When was the last time you honored the spirits of fire when you flipped on the light switch, adjusted your heater's thermostat or enjoyed a bowl of steaming soup?
Fire is never still. It creates through destruction and in that destruction smoke is released. The earth breaks things down slowly through rot and decay. Fire breaks things down rapidly to the smallest of particles.
Some ancient cultures have stories about how humans stole fire from the gods. Not so for us of the Northern Traditions. Fire was always a part of our world. In fact it is part of our creation story.
Fire is alive; we can never master or contain it. And just like the ocean, we must never turn our back on fire nor take it for granted.
Two runes that are intimately connected with fire are Nauthiz and Cweorth.
Here are the poems I wrote for them. They are part of the collection of my 33 original rune poems found in my book the (un) familiar.
'summoned by need
gaunt from starvation
from the cave
you are a hungry rune
fueled by bitter necessity
fierce with determination
sparks ancestral memory
ancient fires ignite'
it is you
fire of Surt
who consumes the gods
in the end
your concern is
what must be
burn my flesh away
leaving only ash'
A great resource of information about Spirit Work In The Norse Tradition is the book Neolithic Shamanism by Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova. Chapter 7 The Red World is about the spirits of Fire.