Surtr shall ride first,
and both before and after him burning fire;
his sword is exceeding good;
from it radiance shines brighter than the sun.

In Rökkr kozmology, the planetary sphere of Mars, and the element of spirit is ruled by Surt the Black. The origins of Surt seem to date back to the very beginning of the kozmos, amongst the first primeval fires of Muspelheim. This primacy has been interpreted as signifying that, in the pre-Æsir and pre-Vanir pantheons, Surt was originally a god of some great importance, perhaps in partnership with Hela. He was the very embodiment of the fires of Muspelheim, just as Hela embodied the ice of her world of Nifelheim.

In later mythology, we find Surt as the ruler of Muspelheim and its deep dales. He also acts as the sentinel of this home of dry earth, standing outside its gate and brandishing his fiery sword, the light of which outshines even the sun goddess. "Great Surtur, with his burning sword, Southward at Muspel's gate kept ward, And flashes of celestial flame, Life-giving, from the fire-world came." (Julia Clinton Jones, Valhalla).

Muspelheim is the realm of creation and destruction, out of which emerged the sparks that were set in the sky as the stars, and two fire-disks that were harnessed to a twin set of chariots and travelled across the sky as sun and moon. As such, Surt also possesses this creative potency, his is the fire of invention, but more importantly, he is the spirit of such creation. In Rökkr kozmology, Loki is identified with the element of fire, and thus while Surt is a potently fiery being, it is the spirit that underlies this existence which is better appreciated as his element. Surt is the summation of the Rökkr spirit; his very essence is one of creation and destruction. He exists from the beginning of time, it is his realm that brings forth the stars and the sun and moon. It is from his realm that the primeval fire arose to meld with the primeval ice of Nifelheim in the void of Ginungugap, but it is he who finally destroys all that Nature has created. At the end of the battle of Ragnarok on the field of Vigrid, Surt throws his fiery brands throughout the heavens, earth, and the nine worlds, setting the entire kozmos alight. "Fire's breath assails The all-nourishing tree, Towering fire plays Against heaven itself." All life is destroyed, except for those few who are hidden within the hollows of the World Tree, and those other beings that are the purest expressions of Wyrd. Surt also survives, for as fire he cannot be destroyed by fire, and the Rökkr spirit of creation and destruction must continue into the new world as a manifestation of kozmic law.

The fiery brands of Surt, and Surt himself, have been seen by some as signifying a comet. In the Gylfaginning, there is a description of Ragnarok which says: "In this din shall the heaven be cloven, and the sons of Muspell ride thence: Surtr shall ride first, and both before and after him burning fire; his sword is exceeding good; from it radiance shines brighter than the sun" This vivid image does seem to suggest a blazing comet. Like Surt, a comet is both a destructive, and creative force. Surt is also linked to volcanoes, so much so that one of the world's most recently-formed volcanic islands off the coast of Iceland is called Surtsey.

Astrally, Surt is represented by the constellation of Bootes, and notably also by its brightest star, Arcturus. Appositely, Pliny referred to it as "horridum sidus," while Hippocrates claimed that its rising had a detrimental effect on anyone unfortunate enough to have a disease at the time. This inauspicious character carries over into Lappish mythology, where Arcturus performs a similar role to that of Surt at Ragnarok. It was believed that "when Arcturus shoots down the North Nail with his arrow on the last day, the heaven will fall crushing the earth and setting fire to everything." This prophecy recalls a common motif in astral mythology, in which bows and arrows perform an important role as the tools of kozmic change. But what is truly remarkable about this prophecy and the role of Arcturus is how closely it resembles the Norse account of Ragnarok, and the role of Surt. Astrologically, too, the constellation of Bootes, is said to have the same characteristics as Mars, the planet of Surt.

Surt and his many children, the sons of Muspel, were in a constant state of tension with the Æsir gods. Understandable given the premise that they were of the old gods who became superseded, and subsequently demonized, by the Æsir; as is often the case with emerging mythologies and religious systems. This difference in matters spiritual may be highlighted by the matriarchal interpretation of the names Muspel and Muspelheim. One interpretation has the name as Mut-spell, the mother's-curse, where the land and its inhabitants carry out the wyrd of the goddess in destroying, and thereby renewing, the world. The mother's curse can be found in Greek mythology in the form of the Furies, who personified matriarchal law and the punishment of those who broke it. It was believed that the spilling of a family member's blood, particularly that of ones mother, attracted the Furies, who would pursue the perpetrator with a vengence. The Furies, called the Children of Eternal Night by Aeschylus, and the Daughters of Earth and Shadow by Sophocles, were a remnant of the matriarchal religion that preceded that of the gods of Olympus; just as Surt is a pivotal part of the matricentric Rökkr who preceded the Æsir and the Vanir. The connection of the Furies with blood is interesting if one considers not only the red colouring associated with Surt and Muspelheim, but also the sanguine symbolism of Mars, the red planet.

There is a story from Norse mythology which illustrates all of these elements: the association of Surt and Muspelheim with the blood of the goddess, and with the mother's curse. The lunar mead was kept in a mountain fortress in Muspelheim, whose only entrance was in a vast abyss, guarded by a fierce dwarf. The mead had been brought to Muspelheim by the elf Ivalde, and had been given to Suttung, who, in turn, gave it to his daughter Gunlod to guard. In return for the lunar mead, Ivalde was given the hand of Gunlod in marriage. This was an example of what is known in alchemy as the hiera gamos, or sacred marriage; a magickal rite which can be traced in one form or another back into prehistory. This is contrasted, however, by the actions of Odin, who sneaked into Suttung's realm to try and steal the mead. Assuming the guise of Ivalde, Odin tried to discover the location of the mead by, to use a polite euphemism, "seducing" Gunlod. Once he had used Gunlod and found the lunar mead, Odin fled from Muspelheim with it, and for this was known as Bolverkin, or Evil-Doer.

In this tale we see how Ivalde approaches the hiera gamos with respect and honour, whereas Odin uses deceit with the only motivation being his self-satisfaction. In this way, Odin spills the blood of the goddess, and the result is what occurs on the field of Vigrid in the battle of Ragnarok, where the children of Muspel enact the mother-curse upon him. The ancient laws of the Furies applied not only to those who spilt the blood of the goddess, but to those who assisted or abetted them. We find this too in Ragnarok, where it is all of the Æsir who pay the prize for Odin's actions.

Because he instigates and oversees the destruction of the Æsir's order, Surt is also important in establishing the reborn and regenerated world. This role has been willfully ignored by Æsir-centric authors from Odinic times up to the present, but a trace of it can be found in Snorri Sturlusson's Elder Edda, but only in the version known as the Uppsala Codex. In this, it tells how "there are many good abodes and many bad; best is to be in Gimle with Surt." Gimle is a hall, thatched with gold and fairer than the sun, as the Voluspa describes it, which lies at the southern end of heaven. It is from here that the new kozmic order arises, where human life is reborn through the new primal parents Lif and Lifthrasir. The ruler of Gimle is Surt, who is described as the king of eternal bliss, at the southern end of the sky. There has even been a suggestion that it is Surt who is implied in references about a mysterious great one who comes following Ragnarok. This is usually assumed though to be a late Christian interpolation if the messiah myth.

Another important aspect of Surt is his role as a Norse form of Satan. The figure of Satan has endured much ill will, not only from Christianity (who understandingly, do not like him), but from modern pagans, who, in an attempt to distance themselves from allegations of Satanism, refer to Satan as a Christian invention, who is absent from pagan mythology. However, the satanic archetype appears in almost all mythological forms, and to ignore it is to create a world view that is as unhealthy as the starkly polarized Christian one. To deny the role of Satan, simply because of the way Christianity depicts him, is equivalent to ignoring the archetype of the sacrificial king because Christianity has a Jewish version of him in Jesus.

Satan can be divided into two distinct entities. The first is Lucifer, or Phosphoros as the Greeks knew him. Lucifer is the lightbearer: a youthful, and ambisexual, being who gives humankind the spark of divine intelligence and wisdom. Under his other names he is Prometheus, and a variety of trickster gods, while in a northern context he is Loki. Satan's second aspect is Satan proper, and while Lucifer-Loki is a bright, sophisticated, intelligent, and relatively comprehendable entity, Satan is more primal, dark, and unknowable. It is fair to say that Lucifer is the feminine aspect of Satan, whilst Satan proper is the masculine. Though the reverse could also be true, as the brightness of Lucifer-Loki suggests the powers of light, which are associated with the masculine right hand path, and Satan-Surt's darkness is the darkness of the earth mother.

Traditionally, Satan is called the lord of the earth, just as Surt is the ruler of Muspelheim, which is known as the world of dry earth. But this is only the first of many links between the two. Both share a symbolic affiliation with the colour red, but more important is a simultaneous connection with the colour black. Black is often associated, even at the level of mere cliche, with Satan, while Surt carries the epithet of The Black. Similarly, the name of the Egyptian god Set (who is the Egyptian form of the Satan archetype, and some even say the prototype of Satan), means the black, or burnt, one. Like Surt, Set was also associated with volcanoes, having amongst his many titles one of God of Volcanoes. This provides a meaning to Surt/Set's epithet of black, because, when the bright red magma and lava of a volcano cools and hardens, it turns a striking jet black. It is interesting to note in connection to the identifications of the fires of Muspelheim as a creative, life-giving force that, according to Marija Gimbutas, the colour black symbolised life in Old Europe. Black was the colour of the fertile soul, whereas white was the colour of death; a link which is confirmed by Hela consistently appearing in visions garbed in white. The black of Surt and dried lava can be seen as a symbol of life, just as the red-fire of Surt can be read as a representation of the fertile blood of the goddess. Surt, and indeed Satan when seen in his true context, can be understood, then, as a manifestation of the creative life-force of the goddess.

Similar black associations are found in Indian mythology, in the destructive kozmic serpent Sankarsana, or Ananta. The serpent also destroys the world with fire, and like Surt, is called tamasi (dark). While Surt is never explicitly seen as a serpent, his symbolic niece is, of course, Iormungand, the world serpent. Set, however, was associated with the serpent Sata, who was an aspect of him. Sata, consort of the archer-goddess Satis, who we already encountered aboard the ship of the dead, was called the great serpent of the earth. He was reborn everyday within the womb of the goddess, and a human could aspire to this ability by reciting a prayer that read: "I am the serpent Sata, whose years are infinte. I lie down dead. I am born daily. I am the serpent Sata, the dweller in the uttermost parts of the earth. I lie down in death. I am born. I become new, I renew my youth every day." The serpent Sata is, of course, synonomous with the serpent Apophis (who can be identified with either Iormungand or Nidhogg) , and with Typhon, the Greek name given to Set. Just as the picture of Surt flaming across the heavens has been associated with a comet, so also has Set as the serpent. With the titles of the Ice God, and Lord of the Desert Wastes, Set has been identified as a comet that hit, or will eventually hit, Earth, and which has been variously named Typhon, Phaeton, Tiamat, Ta-vi, Tistrya, and Wormwood, depending upon the mythological preference of any individual author.

Rune: Sowilho
Herb: Mistletoe
Tree: Juniper
Stone: Bloodstone
Animal: Bear
Colour: Orange
Element: Spirit
Planet: Mars
Direction: Within
Body Point: Heart
Constellations: Bootes