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21 Sep 2007

Threshold Warding

By Juleigh Howard Hobson

Our folk have long recognized the inherent spirituality of all things. From the godly strength of thunder to the holiness of bodies of water, from the sacred festivals that marked the turning of the seasons to the recognition of, and respect for, the magical qualities of the trees and rocks; nothing of our world was taken for granted, and nothing of deeper worth was disregarded. Even something as seemingly mundane as a doorway, held and continues to hold, deep significance to our ancestors and in our own lives.

Our thresholds have a strong bearing, spiritually speaking, on our entire house. What we do at this entry to our InnanGarth, our private sanctuary, is of vital importance to the strength of both ourselves and our surroundings.

Warding our thresholds, like so many aspects of the Northern Way, is both straightforward and multilayered. It can be as simple as driving an iron nail into a door post and asking for Thor’s protection, or it can be as complex as designing an entire dwelling upon the leylines that run across this world.

Most ways, however, fall somewhere in between.

One of the most common methods of warding a home entry is to hang an iron horseshoe above the doorway. This horseshoe represents Odin’s horse Sleipnir, thus invoking his protection for all within the threshold. It also recalls the shape and strength of Uruz, the second rune, bringing those qualities to the quality of the door itself. Iron also has the special ability to keep evil spirits away.

A nail driven into the door frame will protect the home from fire and unwanted entry. Because it is shaped like the rune Isa it instills a stillness and peaceful quality into the space it protects, and because it is Thor who wields the mighty hammer, the nail symbolizes the power to ward and protect against chaos and giant problems.

Dagaz, the rune of opening and closing, when either painted, scratched, carved, or placed by a threshold has long been a traditional good luck icon for a doorway. It is usually painted blue and white. Other runes such as Ing, Gebo, and Othila are also effective protectors, although they are more likely to be painted on walls or placed in windows than in doorways. The patterns in old timber-framed buildings and in old lattices (windows as well as walls) are examples of these runic devices still extant today.

Certain plants are very beneficial for spiritual protection of threshold. Honeysuckle placed above the doorway at Walpurgis lends protection; St. John’s Wort placed above the doorway on the Summer Solstice not only protects but clears the home of negative and harmful energies.

Rowan, a tree connected with the protective properties of Thor, is a very good thing to have planted in/near a pathway that leads up to your front door. Not only does it protect, but like Thor, it deflects evil and malevolence from passing the threshold. If you cannot plant a Rowan tree, a small bundle of its twigs, tied with red cotton or wool thread and placed by your doorway, can offer much of the same protection. Likewise, oak (another tree connected with Thor) branches or acorns will stop ill will from crossing into your home.

Birch sticks (associated with the rune Berkana, and regenerative properties), placed by the doorway (preferably above it) will manifest positive energies while blocking negative ones.

Yarrow placed right in the doorway of a home has traditionally been used to bar entry to those who would disrupt the InnanGarth with malevolence. Because it can be somewhat hard to explain why you have long shaggy stems of yarrow sitting right there in your doorway, it is fine to snip dried yarrow into very tiny pieces, and scatter them across the threshold. This makes the herb unobtrusive, but still completely present and effective.

Hex signs, from the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, are in reality old protective sigils of our folk. While there are many designs, the most appropriate ones for threshold warding incorporate a 6-pointed star or flower. This flower/star is a stylized version of the snowflake form of the rune Hagal, which brings continuity and preservation to the structure where it is placed (hail drives deep into the ground, saving the water it contains from running off when it thaws, thus hydrating the land and preserving in it the ability to grow another harvest).

An image of a rooster, which could represent Heimdall, on the hex sign brings watchful spiritual guardianship to your threshold.

Look, if you can, for a hex sign with a jagged circle as well as a 6-pointed flower or rooster. The jagged circle represents the power of the rune Thurisaz (the thorn) to drive away evil and disruptive powers from the home.

There is an old saying that a building with seven hex signs hung around it is fully and completely protected, but, if you cannot manage that, a threshold hex will bring plenty of luck and protection. And, importantly, it will also bring a daily pleasant reminder that our folkways are still very much alive and displayable, even if they are slightly hidden to most eyes.

The high and holy power of the Sunwheel, or Hook Cross / Fyrfos, (either scratched, painted, or hung somewhere on your threshold) will give great protection to your home from all unholy visitors and influences.

Such threshold warding does not have to be visible to all. Magical symbols are often secretly placed or incorporated cunningly into more visible elements of design (think of the green man in all those mediaeval churches). A 6-spoked wheel placed near the doorway will bring the same beneficial effect as a Hag/hex sign. A series of jagged lines, which include repeated Sowilo ‘S’ runes, placed unobtrusively above the doorway, will ward the threshold as well as a more prominent Sunwheel will.

If you are completely unable to alter your threshold in any visible way, due to landlords, roommates, neighborhood associations, etc., trace the rune Dagaz or Othila with saliva on your door, using your right hand. This will work as an effective protective measure. Saliva has always been used by our folk for magical purposes, especially protective ones. When combined with runic magic, this method of doorway warding is quite strong…and utterly undetectable.

Every threshold is unique; every person who crosses a threshold has his own luck which affects both his life and the luck of the contents of the home. Your own instincts will guide you in choosing which symbols to use, and how to use them for your own self and home.

There is great holiness in our thresholds. These places contain more than mere doorways that deter intruders with locks and peepholes. Our thresholds are gateways that mark a divide between this mundane world and the spiritual world, here and there, the ordinary and the sacred, our own selves and the rest of humanity. It is important that we are aware, each and every time we pass through them, of exactly what influences and energies are being allowed to pass as well. It does not benefit ourselves, our homes, or our folkway, to let negative and detrimental influences and energies enter our thresholds. Nurturing the ways that bring positive and helpful energies to these gateways benefits not only ourselves, but ultimately all kindred, all over Midgard.

The steadfast dedication of each of us to incorporating our ancient customs into our daily lives brings strength and vitality to our folkway and our folk. The reawakening of the Northern Way is done action by action, person by person…threshold by threshold.

I tell you, Loddfáfner, heed you the counsel:
Abuse no guest nor turn any away;
the poor do you well receive.

It takes a strong hinge to keep the door open to all;
yet give of your alms lest one wish you ill.

(Havamal 134; 135, Translation by E.B. Titchenell)

Hail the Folkways!
Hail the Folk!
Hail the Reawakening!

In a slightly altered form, this article has previously appeared in the Asatru Folk Assembly Voice.

Source Literature and Further Reading:

Chisholm, James. True Hearth: A Practical Guide To Traditional Householding. Texas: Runa Raven Press, 1993

Coulter, James Hjuka. Germanic Heathenry, A Practical Guide. New Jersey: First Books, 2003

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe. New York: Barnes and Noble (through arrangement with Routledge), 1993

Flowers, Stephen. The Galdrabok: An Icelandic Grimoire. York Beach: Weiser, 1989

Guerber, H. A. The Norsemen (Myths and Legends Series). New York: Avenel, 1986

Pennick, Nigel. Practical Magic in the Northern Tradition. Leicestershire: Thoth, 1989

Thorsson, Edred. Northern Magic. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2002

Thorsson, Edred. A Book of Troth. (Runa Raven Yrmin Edition) Texas: Runa Raven, 2003

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