Welcome to the Rune-of-the-Month Club! Ingwaz is the sixth rune of the third aett, and the twenty-second rune of the Elder Futhark as a whole. Its sound is that of the English “ng.” Like Thurisaz, it represents a sound written by two letters in the Roman alphabet used to write modern English.
As Ingwaz did not carry over into the Younger Futhark, only the Old English Rune Poem has a verse for Ingwaz. In Anglo-Saxon, its name became “Ing,” and it describes how Ing was first seen by the East Danes, implying to me that his boat was headed West, a direction associated both with the Vanir and the Dead (the latter, to my knowledge, not directly in Germanic lore). After death, his folk put his richly-laden body back in the ship and sent it over the waves whence he came, and his “wagon followed after,” as the Rune Poem reminds us. Alternatively, Ing was buried at Gamla Upsala in Sweden.
Ing, of course, is none other than my patron God, the Norse nature God Ingvi Freyr. Thus, Ingwaz, like Tiwaz, is attached to a specific God, and this article, like the one on Tiwaz, is also a theological treatise. The rune poem contains allusions to myths known today only in a fragmentary way. Ing was said to have come to the people as a infant alone on a boat. He reigned as a king, and his body after death was sent out again over the waves. The myth of Sceaf Scylding (Sheaf Shield’s-son) is similar.
Ing was known as a God of peace and plenty (Peace-Frodhi), but has his warrior aspect as well. He traded his self-propelled sword for his Jotun-bride Gerd, so he fights with an antler at Ragnarok. Some have attempted to equate him with Cernunnos, the horned Celtic God of Wiccan fame. While there are ties, methinks this has been overdone on the Wiccan’s part. Some represent Ing as the Green Man or Foliate Mask seen in medieval churches. These carvings have been given both Christian and Pagan interpretations by modern scholars, but the one or two which have written labels are identified as Pagan nature Gods. The idea that Ing = the Green Man is by no means proven, but strikes a chord with many and I myself have a Green Man carving with an Anglo-Saxon Ing rune on his forehead. The surviving lore ascribes to Ing the fertility of fields and flocks, but he is not depicted as a wildwood God. However, if not Ing, then who takes that role? He does not seem to mind the additional duties today!
We know from surviving writings that Frey was commonly depicted with an erect phallus. Two such images have survived, one in metal and the other, a slightly modified three-forked branch, can be seen in Glob’s The Bog People. I found such a piece of wood and had it carved into Ing’s likeness.
Herne the Hunter is an Anglo-Saxon folklore survival. He has similarities both to Odin and Ing, and his name is cognate with Cernunnos, with the “C” becoming an “H” via the first Germanic sound shift. Heathens view Herne in various ways. He rides with the Wild Hunt like Odin, but I tend to look at him as a different side of Freyr than the peace and fertility hypostasis which stands out in contemporary Heathenism. This makes sense, since death is necessary to nourish new fertility. In winter, many of the animals born in spring must die.
While Ing is not a “Sun God,” he IS a Deity with Solar aspects, as is Freya. Their golden boars are dead give-aways. By the way, there were evidently swine-warriors (Svinfylking?) similar to the Berserkers (bear-warriors) and wolf-warriors (Ulfhednar). The swine-warriors wore helmets with the image of a boar as their crest, a number of which have been found. Tacitus mentions these helmets in Germania, by the way. The warriors who wore them were evidently dedicated to Frey, Freya and/or Nerthus.
Ingvi Freyr is tutelary God of the Swedish people and divine ancestor of their old royal family, the Ynglinar. Note that Odin is the usual divine ancestor of Germanic royalty. The current British royal family still traces its genealogy to Woden! The story of the Ynglings is told in the Ynglinga Saga, a part of Snorri’s Heimskringla, but beware of Christian tampering. There now are links to both to all of Heimskringla and to the Ynglinga Saga in particular from my webpage’s links page. My webpage is at http://members.aol.com/jordsvin/kindred/kindred.htm and I suggest that you also read my article “On Being a Freysgodhi,” which is found in the articles section toward the end of the main page, just above the link to the links page.
Ingvi Freyr is Njordhr’s son. His mother was said to be his sister, who did not move to Asgard from Vanaheim when her husband, son and daughter did. Nerthus gets my vote for Ing’s mother, and this seems to be the modern Heathen consensus as well. Magickal and divinatory meanings for Ingwaz (I will use this reconstructed Common Germanic name for the rune and Ing or Ingvi and/or Freyr for the God) include: good luck, protection, a man or men, husband, well-being, hearth (and home), male sexuality, fatherhood, a happy surprise, and a happy home.
Ingwaz has links to several other runes. The phallic God is full of “seed,” as it were. Hence, he gives increase of herds and flocks. The very best is kept for seed grain and breeding stock, and the rest becomes Fehu. Money can be both seed grain (if invested) or Fehu (if spent). Like an offspring emerging from its mother’s womb or a seed sprouting from the soil, Ingwaz bursts into the open. It has its own inner glow, which is at first hidden in Laguz. Later, when it becomes manifest, it ties into Sowilo. Berkano is the feminine counterpart to Ingwaz. Ingwaz is also the treasure hidden in the well of Perthro. Handle Ingwaz, like all runes, with care. It tends toward pregnancy. If you are looking for a significant other but not to start a family, at least not right off, it is best to invoke Freya rather than Freyr. Ingwaz requires careful handling here.
Ingwaz can, however, bring out things other than literal, biological fertility. It improves everything in its range. Ingwaz can help uncover “fruits” of the inner life such as inspiration, Magickal ability, mystical insight, and great idea. These can be wisely employed for practical results in many cases. Starting a business or a degree program is like sowing seed. Ingwaz is helpful in all of these!
In the search for religious/spiritual understanding, Ingwaz can be a great help. It supports life and health. Ingwaz wards off illness. Ingwaz is orderly and gently motivates. In this, it contrasts markedly with Tiwaz, which includes an element of force. Ingwaz is a remedy for entropy and apathy. It can help re-instill the will to live. Here, Wunjo can also be of help.
One of the Laws of Magick (I use this spelling to distinguish it from parlor-tricks) is that Like draws Like. Unlike tends to repel. Since Ingwaz is so sane, healthy and happy in its effects, it tends to repel insanity, crazy folks, and anything tending toward destruction, chaos and deception. This is good to know, since there are plenty of seriously disturbed folks in Pagandom and unfortunately Heathendom has its share! Ingwaz facilitates healthy male sexuality, both in attitude and in physical function. Ingwaz has protective overtones, although it works differently than Elhaz in this aspect and very differently than Thurisaz when it is so employed. According to the Sheils, Kenaz/Kaunaz and Ehwaz have ties to Ingwaz, although they do not elaborate. However, this would be worth your further exploration.
This is a very GOOD rune. “Good sex,” as Dr. Ruth would put it, as well as good food, good friends, and a good home life all fall under Ingwaz in some way. Notice all of these but food don’t cost money.
At the Well of Wyrd by Edred Thorsson (for the translations of the Rune Poems).
The Road to Bifrost volume III: the Runes and Holy Signs by Thor and Audrey Sheil.
From my friend and linguistic consultant, Ingeborg S. Norden:
Hail Jordsvin (and my other friends who get this)!
Although I haven't commented on the last two runes (you pretty much covered everything I would have said!), I can't resist chiming in for Ingwaz--being a fellow devotee of Freyr myself.
Many Heathens have asked me if my first name was connected with this rune. They're actually right: "Ingeborg" does mean "Freyr's help" or "Freyr's protection" in Old Norse. Other Scandinavian names preserve the Ing- element as well; though they aren't as common as the Thor-names, enough still exist to show that Freyr's cult had some serious followers in ancient times!
As far as that verse in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem: I've seen other Anglo-Saxon texts which used "Dane" generically to mean "Norseman". (When those church historians were writing about Vikings looting their monasteries, they really didn't care which country the raiders came from! *LOL*) Given that the Ynglingasaga already associates Freyr with Sweden, and that the Swedes live the farthest east of all Scandinavians...well, you figure it out. (Yes, Anglo-Saxon had a separate word for Swedes; but the poet did have to watch his alliteration!) There are also a lot of runic inscriptions *by* Swedes, raised to commemorate people who died "in the east with Yngvarr". Now, this Yngvarr may have been a flesh-and-blood sea captain (the stones that mention his name were raised at the time when Swedes were sailing out to Russia and Byzantium). But if he wasn't, then comparing that line with the Anglo-Saxon verse DOES make you go "hmmm"!
Some rune books, BTW, try to make Ingwaz into a "castration" rune--reading Freudian symbolism into the myth where Freyr sacrifices his magic sword to gain a wife. I see at least THREE things wrong with that interpretation: (1) Castrating yourself in order to get married, makes about as much sense as cutting off your feet to enter a marathon! (2) The groom giving the bride an ancestral sword seems to be a regular Norse marriage custom; if phallic symbolism *is* involved, I'd associate it with offering the woman his manhood to use normally. (3) The conventional image of Freyr (judging by the lore and religious art) is anything BUT castrated! Believe it or not, one feminist rune book (Susan Emmett's _Lady of the Northern Lights_) even claims that Freyr was originally a "Great Mother Goddess" whom Norsemen later changed into a castrated male. There is NO evidence in the lore for this kind of sex-change, however. If all Emmett wanted to do was eliminate a male reference, she could have simply re-assigned Ingwaz to Freyja... ;-)
Even though I am both single and childless by choice, Freyr occasionally reminds me that his sexual aspect is still very real. Here's a rather graphic example: I work as a rune-reader on the market square each weekend. One of my clients, who turned out to have Swedish ancestors, said that he was looking for someone to teach him more about Asatru and the runes. After he had left, I asked my runes whether Freyr had sent this man to me--and the Ingwaz rune was the first one out of the bag! Now for the X-rated part: on my way home, I noticed that someone had left a rubber "marital aid" (quite realistic-looking, too!) leaning against a tree. If THAT wasn't a divine calling card, I don't know what would qualify. *ROFL*
Ingwaz as a seed-rune in general: I agree with that interpretation 100%. Seeds in the earth or in the body are both alive, but have not grown yet; their potential energy is still hidden. I also see a connection with the dead here: the spirit living on in the grave until its time for rebirth comes. Again, I'm reminded of that passage in Ynglingasaga-- "When it became known to the Swedes that Frey was dead, and yet peace and good seasons continued, they believed that it must be so as long as Frey remained in Sweden; and therefore they would not burn his remains, but called him the god of this world, and afterwards offered continually blood-sacrifices to him, principally for peace and good seasons."
In the original Old Norse, BTW, two particular words are worth noticing. First, the word for "Sweden" (_Svíþjóð_) literally means the Swedish PEOPLE, not the place they inhabit. I don't believe in a folk-soul per se, nor do I believe that Freyr is as strictly attached to one place as a landwight would be. I don't necessarily believe that Freyr was buried in that mound at Gamla Uppsala either (if he was, any evidence is long gone by now). BUT...the Swedish *people* acknowledged that their peace and prosperity depended on Freyr's staying among them, even in death.
Second, the word for "world" in that passage does NOT mean the earth or the environment. (If that were what Snorri had meant, the Old Norse would have called Freyr _heimsins goð_, not _veraldar goð_!) The word _veröld_ literally translates as "man-age" or "human lifetime". ("God of everyday life" or "god of the here and now" would be more accurate, though less formal, translations!) Those tie in with your comments: "This is a very GOOD rune. 'Good sex', as Dr. Ruth would put it, as well as good food, good friends, and a good home life all fall under Ingwaz in some way. " Very appropriate for a god of everyday life at its best!
I disagree that Ing is identical to Freyr. I think rather that he was a Continental deity in the same role, who was subsumed into Freyr. Afterall, as I know you know, Freyr is not a name, but rather a title: "Lord".
As such, I would like to see you address the connection between Ingwaz and Mannaz. According to Tacitus, the South Germans, at least, said that Nerthus was the mother of Tuisco (Tyr), who was the father of Mannus (Heimdall, Rig), who was in turn the father of Ing, Irmin, and Isto. While also addressing the connection of Heimdall to the Vanir, through his grandmother Nerthus, this story also maintains the connections among the various Germanic peoples, rather than giving an imbalanced weight to the Scandinavians.
Confederation of Independent Asatru Kindreds
To which my consultant Ingiborg Norden replies:
Read your comments on the Ingwaz rune and on Freyr today--to be honest, I've seen the same title used only for the Christian God, not for pagan gods other than Yngvi, in continental Germanic sources. (Gothic and Anglo-Saxon texts both use cognates of "Freyr" to refer to Jesus.) As for the theory that he is Tyr's descendant...that doesn't seem to mesh with Freyr as one of the Vanir, since Tyr is definitely and consistently identified as Aesir in the lore.
I'm saying this not because of some Scandinavian-centered prejudice, but because even the little non-Nordic lore that exists about Freyr doesn't seem to measure up.
Ingeborg S. Nordén
Finally, back from Boden:
You are correct about Ingvi Freyr. Also Ingunar Freyr, as well as "ing" as a component of the name of many Freyr's-men in the sagas. It's complicated. I suspect that an originally separate deity was merged into a Freyr conglomerate. I would refer you to Ellis-Davidson's "Gods and Myths of Northern Europe". The chapter on fertility deities deals with this question.
last modified 08/11/2004