Letter: K, hard C
"Torch is to every living person / known by its fire / it is clear and bright / it usually burns / when the athlings / rest inside the hall"
(Anglo-Saxon Rune Poetry)
"Sore is the curse of children / grif makes a man pale"
(Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme)
"Sore is the bale of children / and a scourge / and the house of rotten flesh"
(Old Icelandic Rune Poem)
"I know a sixth. If some thane attacks me / will the wood of a young root / he who says he hates me will get hurt / but will be unharmed"
The source of the meaning behind kenaz is one of the most deeply shrouded in
the runic system. The rune´s two names, torch and sore, boil or swelling,
seem utterly unrelated to each other. The answer to this seeming dichotomy may
be found in the changing burial practices of the early Germanic peoples. At
first, a corpse was kept in an unsealed mound and left to rot until the flesh
had disintegrated to the point where it could easily be separated from the bones
and possibly used in the burial rites. This is the house of rotting flesh referred
to in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem. The Anglo-Saxon poem, on the other hand,
tells of the later time when fire had largely replaced decay as a means of freeing
the bones from the flesh. Both meanings of kenaz speak of the readying of the
corpse for mound-burial.
On the esoteric level, this readying delas with the initiation inside the mound, an initiation written forth in the image of a smith flaying the candidate to pieces and reforging his bones. The alfish smith as initiation-mater is a well-known Germanic figure. Echoes of this dismemberment/initiation ritual can be seen faintly in the lay of Volundr (Wayland) in which, however, the ritual usage is only mistily remembered among the details of the smith´s revenge. The initiation by fire is an initiation on different levels for both king and shaman, as may be seen in outline in the Volundr tale andmore clearly in the Eddic poem Grimnismal, in which Odin, tortured by fire for nine nights, chants the ritual knowledge which empowers himself and raises his bearer, the young prince Agnarr, to the kingship.
Kenaz governs the primal craft of the smith and all works of knowledge crafted
into action. Its work is that of cleansing followed by transformation, as the
verse of the Havamal writes forth, telling how the energy of a woe-working spell
can be reshaped to work woe to one´s foeman and weal to oneself.
Although the smith/king initiation seems to be a work of males, the workings of the mound belong to the necklace-adorned earth goddess, who was originally called Nerthus and later became Freya, or Lady. This goddess ruled the twin workings of death and fruitfulness, as will be spoken of later under Berkano. The rune kenaz shows the power of Freya´s sexuality (fehu) given shape by the wit and craft of the smith. This relationship is better shown forth in the tale of Freya´s buying of the necklace/girdle Brisingamen (Firenecklace), center of much of her might. Freya saw four dwarves forging the necklace of gold and bought it from them at the price of four nights of her love, which is to say that she gave them the fiery insight in the form of sexual power with which they were able to bring forth the necklace to its final being.
Kenaz is the power of fehu controlled and used for shaping. It is the rune of unmaking for the sake of remaking. It is used for all acts of artistic shaping, in which the vision, or fire, must break down the raw gold of the earthly material and reshape it into the vision-image set forth in earthly being. Used by the experienced magician, kenaz is the rune which releases the spirit into the realms of power, as written forth in the lay of Volundr and Grimnismal. Kenaz is used for mastery over the sexual energies, often in conjunction with the other fire-runes. It may also be called upon for guiding emotional power to achieve a goal and to shape the feelings of others.
Being closely tied to the inherited right of kingship and the mound in which the dead ancestors dwell, kenaz is one of the runes useful in testing and bringing forth those powers which have passed down to you either from the ancestors of your body or from earlier life-times. This use is written in the story of Ottar, in which Freya makes the cave-dwelling witch Hyndla tell all the names of Ottar´s line so that her lover may gain his rightful might. Kenaz is the source of the bright charisma burning like a torch within the true leader, the rune of the king.
As the rune of fire within the mound, kenaz is also associated with the dragon
or wyrm, the coiling wight of Wyrd´s hidden workings.
The woe-working side of kenaz´s being is disintegration without reintegration, or unguided shaping, shown forth as rotting sickness or as tumors and cancer. In ritual workings, kenaz may be seen as the torch or candle which is a sign of the controlled fire of the vitki´s will through all the realms in which s/he is working. Used with other runes, kenaz aids the vitki in shaping their power and selecting the sides of their being on which she/he wants to call.
The stones associated with kenaz are flint, the primal source of human craftmanship and mastery over fire, fire agate and fire opal, which aid the control and use of seuxal power and raise creativity, and smoky quartz, also used with eihwaz.
The cave that you saw yourself in the following Journey was as dark as moonless
night. You sigh deeply. You sigh. This stage of the Journey is dedicated to
the rune Kenaz, the Torch of the Path, and instead you had found only darkness.
No matter what, you know you should not give up, that sooner or later the Everlasting
Spirit would send you a Test and a Sign so that you could attempt to grasp within
the powers of kenaz.
The scent of rotting flesh was the difference as you reached the first chamber of the cave. Looking down you see a lion already dead, and you ask yourself "who and where is the hunter then?" As if in reply to your mental question, a trail of blood and the whispers of agony and pain shows you the injured and very unlucky hunter.
With a mix of horror, anxiety and pity you lean over the body which is all scars, blood and sores. A man, you know he is, but in a very bad shape. Will you be able to bring comfort to him or will he die on you soon?
You refuse to contemplate the worse of fates the disformed hunter may have to face without lending a hand first. Even if the hunter is to die, you can always prepare for him a clean burial space, because the cave is both a mound and a place where treasures can be found, shaped by the smith or the Earth Mother Nerthus-Freya we all worship with our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. But first it is necessary to clean the hunter´s wounds and to do so you need water.
A further examination of the fourth and smaller chamber of the cave shows a spring of crystaline water. You smile inwardly and remember a favorite alchemical quote: "Wisdom built herself a house on a rock, and from this rock flow the Waters of Life". You tear up the sleeves of your tunic and soak them unto the water. Then, you get back to the side of the hunter and fighting any feeling of discomfort or inadequacy, with immense care, you start cleaning the right arm, which seems to be the most bruised.
As you do your healing job, you think of the powers of kenaz, the facet of
it you are experiencing. A sob chokes in your throat. The experience of death
and the mound is a first, especially for the ever cheerful you. All of a sudden
you gain years of experience, you are fighting a battle for life for someone
you don´t know and may be far beyond any concern or care.
Your tears flow hot down your cheek and you think of the time you have not spent investing in your own creativity. For kenaz rules also the fire of inspiration and creativity, as well as sexual energy, and somehow you contemplate your sexual life or lack thereof. How much have you neglected the needs of your body that also reflect the desires of your soul for deep committment and connection?
And all of a sudden roles are reversed. It is your body that lays on the cave, your arms and legs and chest that explode in sores. For a moment, terror seems to paralise you, but then you remember the meaning of kenaz, the power to reshape oneself, the Light of the Path along the Mysteries, and your mind starts chanting the name of the rune Kenaz.
You think then of your unfulfilled desires, of the mound of broken dreams and deeds, of rage, and, since time immemorial, you recall the bond that binds you to your physical and soul ancestors because you are in a cave that is also a mound. And you ask the Justified Men and Women of your blood and soul-line to come in your aid. For their sake and your own you want to reshape yourself, to re-integrate and cleanse what needs to be cleansed within and without you.
A crippled dwarf hobbles in your direction and it is his touch that you feel
over the bruises and sores of your body. You brace yourself not to scream of
pain and agony, but you keep firm in your resolve to withstand your ground.
"What do you have to say to me?", asks the dwarf, and you know your answer will release you or bind you forever.
"Through fire to light, even through the deepest darkness, always heading towards the Source of of all That Is, again and again. Always, if I can, aiming at a higher level of experience, this is my desire, how my life has always shaped the power of kenaz."
You receive no answer, but a sudden surge of energy, swift and effective, makes you examine your whole body in wonder and awe. You are healed! Better still, a Torch is now shining bright, making the cave look like a place of treasures and inner magicks. You blow a kiss to the skies wherever Freya and Nerthus are and know that the power of kenaz is shining brith within and without your very heart.
The Flame of the Everlasting Spirit shines bright and true within and without
your heart, mind, body and soul
You bring neverending Inspiration and Energy to everything you do
You cherish and protect your body, and the sensual energy that connects you to everything there is
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