Jonas Lau Markussen

ᚦ Þurisaz



In the later Nordic poems, the rune name is Thurs, meaning Jotun or troll. The Jotnar plays an ambiguous role in the mythology. While generally portrayed as malicious, they also hold wisdom, magic and power and take on roles of female marital partners to the Æsir. In the Nordic rune poems, the negative aspects of Thurs are emphasised, consistently describing it as tormenting women. The Icelandic poem adds other typical aspects of Thursar, such as characterising them as mound dwellers and coming out at night.


In the English poem, however, the rune’s name is Thorn. This might be due to its Christian context, which seeks to weed out heathen qualities. However, the negative characteristics endure, although its target seems to be men rather than women.


The Jotnar typically opposes the Æsir, often working as forces of nature, magic and otherworldly power and wisdom. Although in opposition to them, the Æsir largely depend on the Jotnar and repeatedly seek them out to gain knowledge or power through various interactions, usually by tricking or outright killing them.


Though Jotnar can be of all genders, their realm of magic, supernatural wisdom, and the afterlife is generally connected to the sphere of womanhood. Thus, it’s usually women, like the staff bearing Völur, who are the mediums and keepers of this magic and otherworldly wisdom.


The image is composed of a female figure riding a wolf with a viper as reins. She’s holding a vǫlur staff in her right hand, and her sharp tongue pokes out of her mouth. She’s the Jotun Hyrrokkin. A similar image of her can be seen in the carvings of the runestone monument at Hunnestad, Skåne, Sweden (now Kulturen, Lund). Her red garments connect her to Ymir, the ancestor to the Jotnar, in the ᚢ Ūruz image.


Her name is a compound formed by the root hyr- (EN: ‘fire’) attached to hrokkin (EN: ‘curly; wrinkle’), possibly meaning ‘fire-withered’, ‘fire-steamer’ or ‘fire-smoked’.


The best description of her is from Snorri Sturluson’s Edda in the chapter Gylfaginning. In the story, the gods call on her to help them launch Balder’s giant funeral ship, Hringhorni (EN: ‘Ring-stem’), as none of the Æsir could move it into the sea. Hyrrokkin arrives at Balder’s funeral riding a giant wolf with vipers as reins. The combined force of four of Odin’s berserkers is required to hold down the beast after she dismounts. She set the ship afloat in her first push with so much force that fire shot from the rollers, and the whole world shook.


According to Snorri, Thor was furious that a Jotun woman managed to do what he, the strongest of the gods, lacked the strength to do. In his rage, he almost bashed her skull with his hammer Mjölnir (EN: ‘Grinder’), was it not for the interference of the other gods. Although, in a poem by Þorbjörn Disarskáld, she is mentioned as one of several Jötnar killed by Thor at Balder’s funeral.





Attestations of Hyrrokkin:

  • Snorri’s Edda. Balder’s funeral, Gylfaginning.
  • A poem by Þorbjörn Disarskáld (late 10th century).
  • The poem Húsdrápa by Úlfr Uggason (c. 950).
  • DR 284, Hunnestad, Skåne, Sweden (now Kulturen, Lund).



English Rune Poem


Thorn — is terribly sharp, an awful torment
for intrepid knights to experience,
resting in their midst is miserable.


Original language:
Ðorn — byþ ðearle scearp, ðegna gehwylcum
anfengys yfyl, ungemetun rēþe
manna gehwylcum ðe him mid resteð.



Icelandic Rune Poem


Thurs — is girls’ grave grief,
and ground dweller
and Valrün’s wedding. / and darkness drifter.


Original language:
Þurs — er kvenna kvöl
ok kletta búi
ok varðrúnar verr. / ok sidfaurull seggr.



Norwegian Rune Poem


Thurs — causes women’s pain.
Few from misfortune joy will gain.


Original language:
Þurs — uælldr kuenna kvillu.
kater uærda faar af illu.



Swedish Rune Poem


Thurs — woman’s pain


Original language:
Þors — kvinnä-kval


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