ᚾ / N
The Nauthiz rune symbolizes friction, resistance, and the great metaphysical “need” that looms over mans’ existence; that which must be done if we wish to survive and rise above hardships. This word is where we get our modern English word need, meaning “a requirement for something.” Nauthiz is a force that puts pressure on us, a force that allows us to either conquer or fail, the “hard” choice that must be made if one is to “spark the fire” within oneself. This also pertains to the sacred creation of the new fire, the German notfeuer or “need-fire”. In Grimm’s “Teutonic Mythology”, he states:
“But for the most part there was a formal kindling of flame by the rubbing of wood, for which the name known from the oldest times was notfeuer (need-fire), and it’s ritual can with scarce doubt be traced back to Heathen times.”
Generally, this would be done as a type of “reset” when things in the village went wrong, reestablishing order, health, and prosperity. We can look at Nauthiz and clearly see the two friction sticks used in kindling fire, creating tension until flame is born of them. Formally, nauthiz means “need, distress, force, compulsion, difficulty,” leaving us with a concept of “pressure” or tension being applied to something. This is seen more potently in the Old Norse neyða meaning “to force” and the Old English nied which means the same, although, adding another layer with the meaning of “emergency.” I found it amusing to find this word still in use in the Norwegian nødtelefon meaning “emergency telephone.”
In the “Old English Rune Poem” in states:
“Need is tight in the chest,
though oft it will be,
for the bairns of men,
of help and of hale if ere they heed it.”
This poem gives us a good description of Nauthiz in Anglo-Saxon times; drawing a picture of lingering anxiety but also one of a choice that will need to be made by the “bairns” or children of men. This anxiety will help or “heed” them if closely analyzed and brought to awareness. With Nauthiz we return to the concept of Odin’s 9 once again, meaning this rune theoretically does not “reverse” or have alternative meaning based on its’ position in a reading. This rune symbolizes a key component of Odin in his form as Haptsǫnirî (fetter loosener) and Hrami (fetterer). This rune is the fetter, that which Odin controls, blessing or cursing those who he pleases by use of this power to “constrict.” This is reflected in the Gothic word naudibandi meaning “shackle, chain” and, “fetter.”
The “Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme” has a slightly different tone and reflects a different conceptual framework associated with the rune. In two line it states:
“Need makes for a narrow choice;
A naked man freezes in frost.”
This is the only Nauthiz poem that refers to death, reinforcing connection to words like the proto-Germanic nawiz or Gothic naus, both meaning “corpse.” We see this further connection to the dead in words like the Tocharian B naut- which means “to disappear, be destroyed,” an early form of what would later develop into the English word necromancer, generally referring to someone who practices sorcery involving the dead. Nauthiz can be associated with an initiatory death as well, representing a “nail in the coffin” of the old self. This is reflected in the Norwegian word nod which is a word associated with a bent nail. With Nauthiz, we see a path forking in two directions. One towards the Path of Fire, and the other toward the Path of Death.
The “Old Icelandic Rune Poem” takes a more apathetic and dreary approach to the rune, sounding more like a “drag” than a choice. It states:
“Need is a slave-girls sorrow,
And a cramped choice,
And wearisome work.”
Here we see an energy that resembles lethargy and annoyance; one of tiresome work and lack of choices. Nauthiz takes on the aspect here of a more “real” and immediate obstacle that must be met, otherwise, death will surely follow. This is seen in the Swedish word nöd which has an added meaning of “famine”. We can see how this rune, in its’ “darkest” or most harsh aspect, directly relates to our basic needs; those being food/water and fire. The Icelanders attached a more menacing or “dark” aspect to this rune, seen further in the word nauða which means “howling wind, whining, animal barking” denoting a general “unease” among life and landscape; a sense of unrest and ominous presence. This brings up an early runic inscription from the Hogganvik Runestone in Norway, a 4-line inscription with one referring to a Naudigastiz, a name meaning “need-guest”, which we can now see was probably a metaphor meaning “the guest of hardship” or “guest of obstacle/friction/resitence/”. I have added the original runic inscription here for anyone wanting to investigate it further.
With all of this information in current light, I believe we are seeing evidence of the ancient “Rune Cult” Edred Thorson has eluded to, as the runes, for the “initiated”, were used on the surface for writing but esoterically were used for the process of Self-development, as one must literally be “friend” or “guest” to “need” in order to ascend the ladder of obstacles preventing you from being your absolute best self; in line with the High One and personal dharma or purpose.
In conclusion, it is clear that Nauthiz must be approached very carefully and considerately, requiring one to cultivate a certain awareness in order to be conscious of its’ presence and beneficial “need”. We must recognize its potential for growth and generation of fire. The shortest of the traditional poems on this rune is the most clear and potent example of the power held within it. The “Early Modern Swedish Rune Poem” states in one simple and powerful sentence:
“Need is the only choice.”
Indeed, this is the case. As stated earlier, we must choose the Path of Fire, or we will inevitably fall victim to the frozen Path of Death. The choice, the “need”, is always ours to command, if approached with awareness and wisdom.