Permanent Ink In Your Eye

“You have to look at the card for a few seconds before you see that the animals that pull the chariot have neither reigns nor bridles. It’s the Captain James T. Kirk card, the card of leaping before looking, of burned bridges and uncovered asses. The card of thinking you know what’s going on when you don’t. As a message for the reader, it was ambiguous.”

–Rosemary Edghill

If almost anyone in my social network sent me a text that said, “I just hit myself in the face!” I’d respond with something like, “Oh no! Are you okay? How did that happen?” However, when I receive the same message from my buddy Angelo, I’m usually like, “Good job, but you really don’t have to tell me every time you masturbate.”

To steal a turn of phrase from Co-Witch A., Angelo approaches the carnal arts like the rest of us eat dessert: Voraciously, and with gusto. And please know that if his vibrant enthusiasm for sex was causing unmanagability in other areas, I’d be the first to pack his ass off to convent school. Thing is, he has the same level enthusiasm for pretty much everything. Whereas most people experience a variety of preferential emotions, from aversion to apathy to appreciation to adoration, Angelo has two speeds: asleep, and “OH HOLY GOD, THIS CHICKEN SALAD IS LIFE-CHANGING.”

Most recently, Angelo launched himself on a mission to come up with a concept for his next tattoo, and it was with no little happy pride that he emailed me to show off the design he’d decided to have etched on his bicep:

thurisaz
Totes innocuous, yo.

“Isn’t it amazing?!” he wrote. “It’s simple, clean and meaningful. PERFECT.”

His glee is always infectious, but something about the rune he’d picked was niggling at me. The runes themselves are decidedly not my forte, as I tend to shy away from anything occult I can’t pronounce, but seeing as how I have the entire Internet at my disposal, I poked around and quickly found a name and description.

Thurisaz. “Thorn.” Conflict, destruction, violent aggression, raping and pillaging, generalized stabbiness and male sexuality. Or, as Angelo saw it, conflict, destruction, violent aggression, raping and pillaging, generalized stabbiness and MALE SEXUALITY (-ALITY -Ality -ality…).

In an attempt to distract him with metaphysics until I could figure out a nice way to throw rocks at his joy, I was all, “Hey, that reminds me of the geomantic figure Rubeus.” To which Angelo responded,”Dude! You should get that as a tattoo when I get mine!” While I appreciated his determination to include me in his escapades, I’m about as likely to get a tattoo of Rubeus as I am to have the word “republican” branded on my forehead. What I am likely to do is have a controlled meltdown over his identification with Thurisaz, but only because I fundamentally disagree with his interpretation, and I’m never, ever wrong about anything.

Call it a pet peeve or control issues or what have you, but I lose my damn mind when negative connotations are removed from divinatory archetypes. A friend of mine once purchased a Celtic-esque Tarot deck, in which the Devil card had been replaced with “The Green Man.” There was no Devil in Paganism, the deck’s creator explained in the little white book, so there was no need for such a card in the Tarot. The Green Man — symbolizing nature’s bounty and gentle, paternal guidance — was ever so much more appropriate. One wonders how the Green Man relates to the obessions and addictions foretold by the Devil, but one sincerely hopes it translates as, “You, alright?! I learned it by watching you!

Symbols have meanings, and those meanings have power, yet while we accept that ignoring symbolic warnings in the “real” world results in consequence (as anyone who’s run a red light in front of a cop can attest), we’ll toss out any portent with an “ick” factor when attempting to scry or divine. We won’t rework the meanings of standardized cultural motifs — which would be appropriation at best (“Why would you think I’m gay? This is the Pink Triangle of Imaginary Dietary Restriciton Awareness.”) and dangerous/idiotic at worst (“You guys are Crips? Neat! I’m a Scorpio, which is why I’m wearing this fetching red bandana.”) — but the logic that keeps us from doing so is nowhere to be found when we decide that the Tower means “invest in immoveables.”

Angelo is fascinated by the supernatural but has only cursory knowledge of it, which made it difficult to loudly condemn his decision to stamp the runic equivalent of a “Kick Me” sign on himself. Fortunately, he saved me the trouble by unwittingly pointing out what a dickhead I can be about these things.

Shortly after his first message, Angelo wrote back to express some newfound reservations. He’d been tooling around online, looking for good Thurisaz pics to show his tattoo artist, when he came across some explanations of the rune that were less than glowy.

“I want it to be the right symbol for me, but there are a lot of really dark meanings here,” he said, his disappointment palpable even in sans-serif font. “What do you think? Should I get it?”

Fuck.

Angelo may be a big, burly man-whore, but he’s also, without a doubt, the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life. He has no enemies — everyone is a friend until they prove otherwise, and if they do, he wishes them the best and moves on without grudge or resentment. He is trusting and honest, and he trusts me to always be honest with him.

So I responded to his question as honestly as I could:

“I think it’s awesome that you see the good in everything.”

In the end, Angelo got his Thurisaz, and I agreed to get a stylized Puer, which represents male sexuality in all its expessions (the phallus, the sword, the plough… the ink-filled needle) while being far less incindiary than Rubeus. Additionally, it’s the first of the geomantic forms in their proper order and signifies the beginning of the astrological year, making it the ideal start to an armband featuring all 16 figures.

But much like the Chariot, Puer also speaks of jumping to conclusions; of shooting first, asking questions later, and setting aside collected wisdom in favor of immaturity; of losing your shit over your best friend’s choice of body art without stopping to consider how capable he is of taking care of himself, or getting a tattoo on the spur of the moment, because hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And you know what? It was:

brothers in arms
Brothers in arms.

4 thoughts on “Permanent Ink In Your Eye

  1. Eh, too bad he didn’t look a bit further. Inguz would have been a far more appropriate rune to symbolize male sexuality, and without all the negative connotations of Thurisaz.

    • This is true. But I also just got him to stop calling the runes Celtic, so, y’know, picking my battles.

      Oh, and his dick is named Thor. Kida wish I didn’t know that, but regardless, the tattoo has multiple meanings for him.

  2. Every rune and tarot card have both positive and negative connotations, of course — the negative connotations can profitably be viewed as “cautionary messages,” things to guard against. I’m glad your friend went with his heart (or whatever organ he was thinking with) and got Thurisaz, the rune of Thor. And I’m glad you got a tat along with him! I just did a series of posts on my own blog about my pagan tattoo, which includes a Thor’s Hammer as a symbol honouring the Divine Masculine.

    Oh, and you know what? The Chariot is my life card, with the Tower as the hidden aspect. Hahahahaha!

  3. As a reader of the Anglo-Saxon runes, Thorn (this rune, which is Thurisaz in the Elder Futhark) is a rune of warning. It says “Look before you sit” (Literally – the rune poem says thorns are uncommonly severe to someone who sits on them). Perhaps, though a bit of an unconventional reading, it will serve as a guard for Angelo, and protect him a bit, so that his good naturedness can continue unabashed. It is Thor’s rune after all. 🙂

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