Ran, Goddess of the Sea
Although the Norse claimed descent from Askr and Embla, the first man and woman transformed by All-Father Odin from a pair of trees, their earliest home as a people was on Atland, after which the Atlantic Ocean was named. The island was known for its great mountain, At, the “Up-Holder of the Heavens,” appearing thus when overcast skies obscured the summit. Atland was rich in forest timber with which to build the first ships. The soil was so rich that two crops could be harvested each year, and the air was always mild and temperate. For many years, the Norse forefathers lived in peace and plenty.
But one day, the Mountain of At, tired of supporting its celestial burden for so long, exploded under geologic pressures and collapsed into the sea, dragging Atland down to the bottom with most of its inhabitants. A relatively few survivors of the catastrophe took to their ships, narrowly escaping with their lives and little else. Once out upon the now vacant ocean, they prayed for mercy and guidance to Ran who, being Aegir’s queen, was goddess of the sea (Aegir was god of the sea).She took pity on them and appeared in the dreams of their leaders, the brothers Nefthuns and Inka. “Go toward the direction you feel is right,” she told them, “and you will find a happy destiny.”
After they awoke from sleep, they were surprised to learn they shared the same dream but could not agree on the “right direction.” Nefthuns wanted to sail eastward, toward the European Continent, which seemed the only sensible thing to do. But Inka thought they should follow the sun westward across uncharted seas, “to honor the goddess with our bravery, rather than seek safety with less boldness.”
Unable to agree between themselves, the surviving Atlanders were allowed to choose for themselves. Somewhat more than half sided with Nefthuns, and they soon reached that narrow passage where the tips of Africa and Europe almost meet. Sailing into the Mediterranean, they reestablished their worship of Fasta, the Earth Mother, with her perpetual flame, at the Roman Temple of Vesta. Voyaging farther eastward, a princess from the old religion of Atland, Min-erva, founded Athens. After her death, she was worshipped as the Greek goddess, Minerva. Nefthuns steered along the shores of North Africa, settling at what became Tunisia in his honor. Following his death, the Etruscans named their sea god after him--Nefthuns, which later became the Roman Neptune.
His brother, with a smaller contingent, sailed to the west and was never heard of again. But his name--Inka--suggests he, like Nefthuns, was a culture-founder who bequeathed his name to subsequent generations, this time in South America, where they became the Incas of Peru and Bolivia. In either case, Ran had blessed the survivors of drowned Atland with fortuitous voyages that ended in long-lasting prosperity.
Just so, Ran’s rune signifies positive movement or travel. It speaks of a journey we will soon undertake. However, as Horik Svensson points out in his book The Runes, such travels may not be limited to physical relocation from place to place, but instead imply an inner journey of illumination. Caution should be thrown to the winds. Be brave, have some guts, and “follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell exhorted his students. The time has come to move on and get on with one’s life. Ran’s upright sign is a good portent for change. It is not for nothing that the word, “revolution” begins with the first letter of the goddess’s name. It stands, as McVan insists, for right action and order.
According to George Frederick Kunz, Ph.D., in his book The Mythical Lore of Precious Stones, Ran’s gemstone is the jacinth, “especially recommended as an amulet for travelers.” Its reputation--to grant whoever wears it a cordial reception anywhere as a welcome guest--echoes Ran’s hospitality of those who die at sea. This transparent jewel of the zircon family is likewise associated with the prudent conduct of business affairs. In addition to these common qualities, jacinth is Ran’s glyph because both are red in color. Her rune belongs to Sokkvabekk, August 29 to September 30, within the zodiacal sign of Virgo.
Paralleling the story of Nefthuns and Inka, Svensson asserts that Ran signals a “time to leave behind the ‘I’m in two minds’ scenario and make a decision.” Her energies are propitious for reasonable discussions or amicable negotiations from which everyone may benefit, in much the same way Nefthuns and Inka settled their disagreement about the proper interpretation of their common dream. In terms of business, the appearance of Ran’s symbol declares that the optimum moment has arrived, or is soon in coming, to buy or sell. Critical information or an important message is either on its way or has just been received.
Ran owns a magic net of far-flung powers. In it, she can gather the natural abundance of the sea (i.e., “networking”), or, should her rune be reversed, drown persons who risk their fortunes on the wave-tossed surface of her vast realm. An old Viking belief held that if the ghost of a drowning victim appeared at his or her funeral, they were thought to have been given a good welcome and handsome banquet by Ran in her underwater palace among the sunken ruins of Atland. Failure to take proper countermeasures to her upside-down rune, however, could lead to misunderstandings, disagreements, arguments, ensnaring contracts better left unsigned, “hell rides,” unpleasant voyages or journeys, and shipwreck in every sense of the word.
Like the sea personified by the goddess, she is equally capable of carrying us toward good fortune and happiness, or drowning our chances for success. Fishermen may earn a good living from the catches they make, but sailors who ignore the signs of bad weather ahead do so at their peril.