Thornmark: Symbol of the Thornish Nation

It was during the winter season of 1958 – on the yuletide – that three Thornish brothers went off into the woods to seek solitude. They had only very recently established the Thornish tradition with several other men of tribal heart and were eager to deepen the new aspects of this new yet old pagan way. The deep woods had always held great power for these men and it was for this reason that they ventured into the lands at the base of the mountains.

The three brothers camped at the edge of a forest of Douglas fir, cedar and pine. They spent three days and three nights near the base of these great trees, and in close proximity to a partly frozen creek.  While there they engaged in philosophical talks, sang songs and spent time in silent contemplation.

On the second morning the three brothers awoke, each with an interesting tale to tell. Each wished to speak about a vivid dream he had experienced and so taking turns they each described the dreams they had been given.

The first of the brothers, who went by his Thornish tribal name of Vala, described how he had been wandering in a deep wood of pine. He told of how he had eventually found his way to a clearing at the middle of that wood and how there a single sapling tree grew from the ground in its center. The sapling was a thorn tree.

The second of the brothers, who was known as Agnarr or more simply Bear, spoke of his own dream. He told of how he too had been walking in a forest and how he eventually came upon a stout hall made of logs and stone. He wandered around the building looking for a way in and he eventually found it when he discovered a large, rounded door carved richly with leaves and symbols. In the center of the door was the thorn rune, set in a circle and aligned in such a way that its point was down. When Bear entered the hall he saw that it was beautiful and had carven benches along a great central lodge-fire. An old woman approached him in the dream and told him that it would be up to him and his brothers to find people worthy to enter the Hall-of-Thorns.

The third brother, whose name was Raven and who was incidentally the youngest of the three by a considerable margin, took his turn speaking. He told of how he too had seen a thorn rune but in his case he had seen it in a very obvious pattern of coals at the bottom of a fire pit.

In the end the three brothers realized that there had been a common thread in the dreams: The symbol of the thorn and indeed in two of the dreams the thorn rune. They discussed the meaning of the symbolism in the dreams at great length. In the end a design incorporating the elements of the dreams was created; a thorn rune with its tip pointing down, partly enclosed in a circle. The Thornish interpretation of the tip-down orientation of the thorn rune is that this is in deference to the sacred Earth and the ground from which we all originally sprang. The thorn rune itself is considered to be a symbol of primal force; reactive or directed force in the manifold universe. This is in keeping with the ideas behind the creation of the Thornish tradition in that it is a reaction of nature herself in creating implements of balance and preservation.

Colors were added to this symbol as well, with the thorn rune being represented in black in a red circle on a deep green field. The space at the center of the thorn rune was colored yellow, for this was to represent the hearth fire of the hall-of-the-Thornwood which would one day be built – -and as a representation of the fire-of-the-heart which all Thornish people share.

The red circle behind the thorn rune represents the circle of blood and oaths which bind the Thornish people together.  The dark green field often seen behind this symbol is representative of the deep green Earth and of live and the life force itself.

The dream of these Thornish Elders, back in the day, was to continue the work of the original Black Talon Society, which was to create and nurture new generations of warrior-stewards. Unlike the older lodges however, the Thornish tradition was more outwardly focused in keeping with the idea that such ways should not be kept secret but shared with the worthy.

The Thornish tradition continues today with the dream held by these original founders and others who helped them build our deep tribal way. It was desired then as it is now, that one day the Thornish tradition would exist on a larger scale; that one day it would see an interconnected alliance of tribal Thornish lodges that would comprise a larger body of those dedicated to the sacred balance. This concept was known as the Thornish Nation. The Thornmark as discussed above is then, not only the symbol of the Thornish tradition itself but also of our fledgling Thornish Nation.


About Jack Wolf

Canadian author Jack Wolf has been a practicing Pagan for over 30 years, walking a path that encompasses both his Northern European and Native American heritage. He counts the late Heathen Goði and writer E. Max Hyatt, Professor Mark Mirabello, Dakota tribal Chief William Hoff and American author Allan Cole among his mentors. An avid outdoorsman, Jack has spent a considerable portion of his life exploring the deep wilds of British Columbia, a vast province on Canada’s west coast. He brings a great deal of his wilderness experience to his spiritual path. Over the past 15 years Jack has studied and written about a number of northern pagan traditions, having published for the most part independently or in small journals, blogs or websites. His recent works for Mandrake of Oxford Have certainly opened up his writing to a larger audience. Jack is also the author of several other books, including Circle of Bones (2012), The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (2013), Blood and Stone (2014) co-author of Tales from the Red Moon Lodge (2014) and co-editor of A Voice from the Thornwood (winter 2014). Forthcoming works include The Thornish Path, Ullr’s Road and The Urban Tribalist, all of which are planned for a mid-2015 and early 2016 release respectively. Spiritually, Jack identifies himself generally as a Deep Tribalist and more specifically as Thornish. He is a member of a primal pagan tradition whose spiritual path involves questing for the First Knowledge – that held by our most ancient ancestors whose hearts and spirits were deeply connected to the land. The Thornish path is the way of the warrior-steward; a Deep Tribal tradition which Jack has practiced since the late 1980’s Jack holds a degree in anthropology from the world renowned University of British Columbia and has long held an avid interest in history, tribal peoples, spirituality and the reawakening of pagan peoples worldwide. He currently resides with his wife and co-author Cassandra Wolf and their daughter, in Squamish, British Columbia.
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