THORN (TH) 3
The resistant qualities of the thorn tree and the defensive quality of the sacred hammer
The rune of thorn is now written as th- and -th. These are called the initial and terminal sounds. The terminal sound is a softer sound, probably related to the vowel sound(s) that precede it. These sound adaptions demonstrate a principle of thorn, that of proportional response. In nature, the thorn pushes back in response to how hard it is beset. Energies and forms are defined, in part, by what opposes them and this opposition does not have to be aggressive. THORN is symbolized by a thorn, a hammer, a judicial gavel, and by grinding stones, all of which are ways of defining, of setting limits. The lesson in all of them is proportioned action and proportionate response, whether wielding a shillelagh or a gavel or grinding grain. In English, TH- and -TH indicate a definitive statement as in the, this, that, them, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. ‘Oth’ used to be ‘second’.
This is one of the runes that was left in the language as the Latin alphabet had nothing comparable in sense or in sound. A letter that looked like a ‘y’ was used for a while, leaving us with strange fruit like ‘Ye olde coffee house’. Another symbol was used which is still in use, though not in English. That letter which looks like ð or Ð, is a cross between a ‘d’ and a ‘t’. That’s what it sounds like and that is what it is. This letter, called ‘eth’, is sometimes attributed to the Carolingian alphabet of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Whatever route it followed to get into English, I am certain that it came from the Irish Ogham. In Ogham the tinne (t) is to duir (d) as mistletoe is to oak. Mistletoe grows on oak so the physical image of this relationship is established. The tree ogham is compatible with the trees of the runes and the Irish monks were crafting the languages during the ‘dark ages’, so a definite Irish connection is again established.
The choice of ‘eth’ as a name for this compromise looks like someone’s sense of humor, as ‘eth’ is also the root element for ethnic, ethos, ætheling, and various solids that devolve from ancient “Greek” words for ‘strainer’ and ‘rarified atmosphere’. I’m pleased that English has maintained the ‘TH’ as it has a palpable sense even when broken down into the runes of TYR-HAGAL(positive regulation/ structure and transformation). ‘Positive regulation’ is a solid fundamental principle that supports the idea of ‘proportionate actions’. That is another way of expressing ‘The Golden Mean’(Moderation in all things, excess in nothing.), that ancient companion of ‘The Golden Rule’.
A lot of issue has been made over the sounds of TH, D and T
The many words I’ve given to the subject of relationships of ‘th, d, and t’ are warranted by dint of the dents given so many English speakers who have difficulty voicing these sounds distinctively. Not everyone can make the same sounds, nor should we have to. While we all have roughly the same speech organs, we are each playing a completely different instrument so none of us can can be expected to make identical sounds. It is like expecting flute music from an alto saxophone. The importance of the ‘th’ lies not in its sound but, rather in the element of sense which it represents. We have just covered that in the first paragraph. For the sake of memory, let’s reduce the sense to one succinct image. In our present time, the ideal mental image for this force would be the judicial gavel. When the gavel strikes the bench, the sound and context will differ; but, the message is definite and definitive.
The important difference between these letters (d, t, -th, and th-) is what they mean symbolically. Thorn (th-, -th) is symbolized not only by the thorn and the thorn tree but also by the grinding stone and the hammer of Thor and the judicial gavel. All four symbols are representative of definitive, measured, forces which are balanced against equal and opposing forces. These four symbols have a trait which I have been seeing in the other runes. So far, they have all been representing expressions of energy and of natural forces and configurations which we experience in the world about and within us.
The d/t relationship is expressed as a sort of parasitic or saprophytic relationship between mistletoe and the Oak, another example of equal and opposing forces, and the fundamental odylic relationship which we have with one another and with the earth. All life is interdependent in a host/parasite relationship. Dag (d) is the day-rune whose symbolic meaning is balance, and Tyr (t) is the justice-rune, the rune of positive regulation. While their /d/, / t/ sounds are similar to those of thorn, their senses are entirely distinct, so they will each be covered separately. As for our relationship with Earth and our fellow Earthlings, I prefer to visualize this in the image of Nyd/Gyfu, the relationship of Needing and Giving. There is more of choice in the latter relationship.
I’m certain that religion was at the root of all of the efforts to dispense with the rune of Thor/ Thorn. Blended together into Ð, ‘eth’ would have made a substitute for Þ ‘thorn’ and would have eliminated the pagan god (Thor) referent. Interestingly, the runic ‘eth’ has a similar sense to that of the Greek and the Semitic. The /e/ EHWAZ is brotherhood, sisterhood, so added to /th/ we have a people, a tribe, a ‘house of’, as in ethel, Bethel, ethnic, ethic, ethos. ‘Thor’ would still have been in the name, and be covered up.
Thor can’t ‘hold a candle’ to the demons in these words.
Whenever ‘th-‘ is written, it is definitive and therefore in opposition to another force. ‘The’ is the definite article, as distinguished from indefinite articles ‘a & an’. ‘They’, ‘them’ , & ‘these’ are also definitive (and contain the-). For these definitive words to mean anything, we need to know specifically ‘to whom or to what’ they are referring. The ‘th’ element in words like ‘the’, ‘they’ and ‘them’ also has an oppositional relationship to the ‘wh-‘ element and is the signal to listen intently for what and who are the referents which are being defined.
Words with the initial th- are those that move language along to consider the who, what, why, where, when and how that are the actual knowledge. Journalism students, in particular, are taught to ask the wh- questions which can elicit that information. The oppositional relationship of th- to wh- words has an energy which generates the question/answer conflict which has the potential to inform us. The downside of these words is in their very strength: words such as though, through, thorough, these, them, thing, think, thought, thanks, all sound as though something has actually been said. We really have to watch how we use these words: with them, it is possible to discover much that is unknown, or the contrary, write lengthy text without saying any thing, and yet convey the impression of definitive statements.
The accepted opinion about /wh-/ is that the letters were reversed at some time in order to reflect a more easily pronounced sound than /hw/. Since when have we English speakers allowed spelling to interfere with our pronunciation?
I am of a different opinion in that I see indications that wh- represents the presence of a question, either an inherent or an explicit question. The indications are in the words themselves, as well as in the subtle reversal of ‘hw’ to ‘wh’. That questioning is another type of natural energy, some of which used to be reflected in the instrumental case in AS. That is a grammatical structure that would offer more information than is usually offered in typical modern English, and was apparently removed when our language became ‘English’. What I see is the presence of a type of energy that we often do not consider. We can even equate it with a need, an appetite. This appetite for knowledge waslikely a major factor in causing English to become such a powerful language in such a short time. The great energy derived from ‘needs’ is specifically represented in the rune of NYD which I will discuss with GYFU ‘gifts’. That is a whole new story.
There will be more on the function of ‘wh-‘ when the subject is the effect of joining ‘h’ (HAGEL) to another symbol. Granted, there is some phonetic code in English; but, phonics is only one of the coding systems. Repeat patterns of combined letters represent an other and a different type of code, which I have been calling a sense code.
The terminal /-TH/ assumes different senses, definitive nevertheless.
The terminal /th/ is usually preceded by a vowel or two, -ath, -aith, -eth, -eath, -eith, -ith, -oth, -oath, -outh, -uth, and sometimes -yth, (myth) which modifies their meaning (sense). There are some really dynamic forms when RAD (transformative) or LAGU (fluidity, changeability) enters the picture as -arth, arth-, -earth, -ealth, -irth (girth),-orth (worth), -ealth, (health, wealth). Each of these sense elements has a meaning and all of them have the quality of being definitive and of defining a something or a someone. Oth is the AS. ordinal number for two which we now call ‘second’. Since everyone and everything is always the ‘other’ to someone or something else, ‘oth’ gets used a lot. ‘Oth’ is dealt with in the ODAL section with the other terminal -th elements. The terminal /-th/ is used after most ordinal numbers, -ord referring to ‘order’, as in third fourth, hundredth. Numbers one, two, three, four, and all consecutive numbers are called ‘cardinal’. In order to read we do not have to learn the meaning of each of these sense elements. What is important is that we recognize them as combinations that do have meaning as they are written and that cannot be sounded out as individual letters. We just come to recognize them like familiar faces, though it sure helps reading comprehension to know the meaning of the elements. /Th/ represents a distinct sound that resembles neither /t/ nor /h/ and has two sounds, an initial and a terminal. And, of course, different dialects and different people make their own music, sing their own song.
The rune of THORN is represented by the archetype, Thor god of Thunder. He is often thought of as a violent war god. I ranted on at great length about this subject before some useful ideas appeared on my ‘screen of ideation’. Thunder and lightning come in many forms and sounds. They are a natural energy with its’ own, built-in discipline. They are to nature as the discipline of a warrior code is to a warrior. Without discipline there is no definition to actions. If action is not definitive, it is not as effective. Excessive action is often ineffective, sometimes destructive. One thing that appeared on my ‘screen’ was a lesion on my upper right arm. It resulted from the recoil of an M-1 rifle when I was sixteen and too chesty to hold the rifle in the correct position. So, I rested the gun stock on my upper arm and the recoil caused a closed fracture. For every action there is an equal reaction. My action lacked the proper discipline and there was a resultant consequence. No major problem, fortunately just an educational reminder of which I bore the evidence. I’m not exactly a warrior and no one has any business putzing around with that much power and no applicable code of conduct. Nature has codes of conduct which we can benefit from if we pay attention to them. Seeing these codes at work in language enhances our awareness of them.
There is still much to be said and demonstrated about THORN, /eth/, /d/ and /t/. It is in separate sections which are appropriate for the content, the runes of ODAL, DAG and TYR. The sense of some of the common th- words, and their use in compound words, are addressed among “throw-away” words, those words which we learn ‘in context’ often before starting school. The words containing both TH and GH are in the rune of EOH.
Before closing, some words of courtesy
Symbolically, the thorn, grinding stone and the hammer are not difficult concepts to grasp. The difficult thing to master is the self when it comes to making these definitive, measured actions and responses, in language and elsewhere. Mindful, self-control is essential in using this language, or any language, both effectively and responsibly. We reflect the forces of nature in our language, both that nature around us and the nature within us. That is, in part, what the ‘Rebbe’meant when he referred to the “angels and demons” that we make with words.
When I start writing like this, about responsibility and self-control, my next impulse is to grab myself by the collar and say, “Judith, what is going on with you?? You sound like a jackleg, backwoods preacher. On and on about self restraint!” Then, I reread my 3x5s and find that this self-awareness is built into the language. There is definition to everything, including all the beasties of our unconscious life. This knowing did not get into our language by accident. There is no quaint coincidence here. These are a people who walked and rode with their own demons and angels and wrestled with them. We made our language and we are reflected in it. Our observations about nature are also reflected in it. When we come to see what our words mean, we will be better able to use our language and better able to resist having it used against us. When we allow ourselves to be worked up into a mindless rant, by anyone, we are not in control of ourselves or of our language.
It is likely that this state of affairs has come about because we have become distanced from the meaning of the words of our language. When we learn more about the source of our words and the referent images being expressed, we will likely be more careful with our language. I think that not knowing the origins of our language has left us without a code of conduct for using it carefully. We have eliminated most of the linguistic courtesies that kept our speech civil. Our language had its’ origins in a culture with a strong warrior code. When you remove the code of conduct from a warrior, you have a bully. The codes of conduct were alive and well in the Tenth Century but, they seem to be dozing of late. Many of us seem to be unhorsed by such simple, forthright courtesies as ‘Thank you’, ‘Good day’, ‘Good evening’, ‘Good morning’, and ‘You’re welcome’. The formality of a complete word or phrase is often interpreted as ‘unfriendly’. I frequently hear demands for a ‘thank you’, even in response to unsolicited services. We have been taught that ‘thank you ‘ is an expression of gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling and how can one rationalize demanding feelings from someone? These expressions need to be rethought. What they mean needs to be analyzed. Since most of the words in this matter contain ‘th’, now would be the time to address them. Think, thought, thank: just what do they mean and are they related etymologically. There is a place for etymology; though, sometimes it is just plain malarkey. If ‘think’ is a verb, it should be conjugated think, thank, thunk, and it isn’t. The root element for ‘think’ should be [ AS. inkle a hint] Apply the definitive force of thorn to a hint and that describes the act of ‘thinking’. ‘Thought’and ‘thoughtfully’ would be that force applied to the energy sense element of ‘ought’ (See the rune of EOH). The ‘ought’ is that inner compulsion, that no-thing which is an essential thing within all of us.
Now for ‘thank you’. The Oxford English says that this is a “grateful thought” which is “rarely plural” (not thanks). If it is a thought, what is the subject of the thought. All other th- words are definitive statements. The only roots or elements that I can find are ‘ank’ as in ankle which is AS and Sanskrit. It is the joint that connects the foot and the lower leg, a support without which we cannot stay upright. Ankles, however, are naturally plural. The other root is ‘ankh’ which is an emblem meaning life, soul. That is also essential to staying upright, so a pragmatic people might even consider them comparable images. ‘Thank you’ sounds like our version of ‘namaste’. ‘Life to you’ works for me. I won’t buy the idea that we just say “Thank you”, but it doesn’t mean anything’. Saying “Life to you” as a response to a kindness, sounds quite appropriate.
“Celtic Tree Mysteries” Blamires, Steve p. 37-42 There could also be a Semitic connection here, as it could have come from the Hebrew ‘daleth’. Possibly connected with the Babel Loth Ogham which looks like a Semitic-Irish blend. See the pages indicated. I, personally, am avoiding following that evidence.
“Dictionary of Archaic Words” Halliwell, James Orchard p. 930 “WHOUGH. How, (A.-S.)
“Anglo-Saxon Primer” Sweet, Henry p. 41 Mentions an “instrumental dative” with 13 lines given to the subject.
“An Introduction to Old English” Brook, G.L. p.86 “…dative (case) has two functions..represent the indirect object of a verb and to replace the instrumental, originally a separate case…”
National Geographic magazine did several informative articles about customs and practices in English Parliament which were observed to maintain peace and civility among the various disparate peoples who were represented. Weapons were one of the concerns.
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- Judith has written (and re-written) the pages below, initially for a book and now for this website. These files are still under revision, and should not be treated as stable documents.