fehu : cattle

Phonetic equivalent: f
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
prosperity, money, wealth, concern with physical and financial needs, goals, promotion, self-esteem, centredness, karma
MAGICAL USES:
for money, business, promotion, finding a job, achieving a goal, starting new enterprises
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
Freyr, Brisingamen, Gullveig, Dwarfs, Sigurd & the Otter's Gold

ANALYSIS:
Fehu is both the day-to-day reality of our lives and the catalyst that awakens us to what lies beyond. It is whatever we think we are seeking, which frequently bbears no resemblance to what we will eventually find. It is also our home, for after all our wanderings we will still need to attend to our physical needs and ground ourselves in the simple pleasures of home, family, and good work. Oz might be a fun place to visit, but after a while all you really want to do is go back to Kansas.

Fehu reminds us that we must be secure in our physical situation before embarking upon any spiritual journey. We all must begin with the mundane reality of our lives, although many people never get beyond this. In many ways, we have become as domesticated as the cattle, living our day to day existence without wanting or even being aware of anything more being possible. The first step in breaking away from this situation is to catch a glimpse of what is possible, without dwelling on what security we may lose to attain it.


uruz : aurochs

Phonetic equivalent: u
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
energy, passion, vitality, instinct, wildness, sexuality, fertility, the unconscious, primitive mind, irrationality, shamanic experience, rite of passage
MAGICAL USES:
to strengthen the will, increase sexual potency and energy; for hunting
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
Ullr, Loki, Odin (as shaman)

ANALYSIS:
The aurochs was a species of wild ox, similar to a longhorn bull, that was once found all over Europe, but which became extinct sometime in the 17th. century. They were said to be slightly smaller than elephants, and had horns as long as six feet, which were highly prized by the Germanii as drinking horns. This may or may not have been an exaggeration. Paintings of aurochs have been found in Neolithic caves, and it is believed that the aurochs hunt had some significance as a rite of passage for a boy entering manhood. The aurochs is the epitome of the wild animal, as opposed to the domesticated cattle represented by fehu.

Uruz is the rune of the God of the sacred hunt and his shaman/priest. Following the kind of mundane, day to day survival represented by fehu, it is the first recognition by mankind of the divine in nature, and his first attempt to control it through the use of sympathetic magic. It also represents an awareness of death and our own mortality, which may well be the only thing which truly distinguishes us from other animals. The energy of this rune is raw, powerful, and distinctly masculine, in the sense that it is pure, elemental fire. The boy who has killed the aurochs has just entered manhood, and has therefore been initiated into the first level of the mysteries - the awareness that the source of life is death.


þurisaz : giant

Phonetic equivalent: th (as in 'thing')
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
hardship, painful event, discipline, knowledge, introspection, focus
MAGICAL USES:
aid in study and meditation, self-discipline, clearing out a bad situation
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
the Frost Giants, Loki

ANALYSIS:
Þurisaz is the first of the 'obstacle' runes. These obstacles are not necessarily destructive things, but are placed in our path to strengthen and teach us. After all, you can't have a mythic hero without dragons to slay or giants to fight!

The lesson of this rune is 'to learn you must suffer', meaning not only literal suffering, but also in the biblical sense of 'allowing' - allowing one's destiny to unfold as it should, and allowing one's self to experience all that life offers us. What may at first appear to be a negative, destructive event, may well turn out to contain an important lesson. The Giants may seem to be evil and destructive to the Aesir, but they bring about change, and eventually clear the way for a new age.


ansuz : Odin

Phonetic equivalent: a (as in 'fall')
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
authority figure, leader, mind & body balance, justice, shaman, clairvoyant
MAGICAL USES:
for wise decisions, success, leadership; to help in divination and magic
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
Odin

ANALYSIS:
This rune represents the instinctive, primal energy of uruz tempered with the discipline and experience of þurisaz. These elements are combined in the personage of Odin, who exhibits the characteristics of both chieftain and shaman - a god of wisdom as well as war. Odin is also a shaman, travelling between the worlds on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.

Ansuz is a balanced rune. As with fehu, many people choose to remain at this point in their journey. It represents power, both secular and magical, and this power can be quite seductive. Odin has learned the lessons of the first three runes, thus gaining the wisdom to rule wisely, but this is really only another beginning. He has only gained temporal power, and has only a few of the tools he will need to perfect himself spiritually. There is a certain lack of compassion and perspective in this rune. Odin sits high above his world, looking down and making decisions, but he doesn't yet have the capacity to really care about or understand his people or himself. He still needs that emotional connection to become a truly great leader.


raiðo : journey

Phonetic equivalent: r
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
journey, pilgrimage, change, destiny, quest, progress, life lessons
MAGICAL USES:
protection for travellers, to ease or bring about change, to reconnect
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
the Norns, Sigurd's journey

ANALYSIS:
Raiðo represents the path of a person's life and how it intersects and interacts with other paths. In Norse mythology, these paths are seen as threads of fate, and are regulated by the Norns. The Norns are three sisters who live near the first root of Yggdrasil, which they tend with the water from the well of Wyrd. They also spin the fates of Gods and men, which is important when understanding the mechanism of runic divination and magic.

The complex network of relationships formed by these threads of fate can be thought of as a web. Every chance encounter forms another connection in the web, and by tugging on one thread you affect everything else in the system. Most people do this completely unconsciously, but by becoming aware of the pattern of the threads surrounding you, it becomes possible to recognize and follow up on the kind of catalytic events that seemed to happen to us randomly back at fehu. In this way, we can find our way more easily along the path of our own journey, thus deriving the greatest benefit from its lessons. Otherwise we tend to get distracted and end up on detours and dead ends.

Raiðo reminds us that, although it may seem that we have accomplished our goals at ansuz, life and change continue and we must always go on. We will eventually end up where we began, but on a higher level and with a better perspective. The journey never really ends.


kenaz : torch

Phonetic equivalent: k (can also be used as a hard 'c')
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
wisdom, insight, solution to a problem, creativity, inspiration, enlightenment
MAGICAL USES:
for creative inspiration, aid in study, fertility, dispelling anxiety and fear
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
Mimir, the Dwarfs, Muspellheim

ANALYSIS:
In modern usage, the Scottish 'ken' means to know or understand, and this is the sense in which the rune should interpreted. Today, light, inspiration and knowledge are often associated, as in 'gaining enlightenment' and 'shedding light on the problem', and even in the image of a lightbulb going on over someone's head when they get an idea. To bring light is to make the invisible visible.

Unlike the wisdom gained at þurisaz, kenaz only allows us to take bits and pieces of this knowledge away with us as we need it, usually at the discretion of the Gods. This knowledge will generally come in the form of a sudden inspiration, and we will be able to see clearly the answer that was once hidden from us. This form of wisdom is more closely associated with the right half of the brain than the left, since it does not come through conscious effort but rather through passively opening one's self to it. Thus, a more feminine element is added to our journeyer's experience.

The act of bringing light into the darkness is also a creative one. Again consider the image of the person carrying a torch , representing the masculine elements of fire and air, entering the cave and penetrating the feminine realm of earth and water. This joining of masculine and feminine elements results in the creation of new ideas. In physical terms, this can be correlated to the application of fire to mold and shape matter - the art of the smith.


gebo : gift

Phonetic equivalent: g (as in 'girl')
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
gift, offering, relationship, love, marriage, partnership, generosity, unexpected good fortune
MAGICAL USES:
to find or strengthen a relationship, for fertility, to mark a gift or offering, to bring luck
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
Sigurd & Brunhild; Aesir & Vanir treaty

ANALYSIS:
Gebo is a rune of connection, particularly the connections between people. Up until now, our journey has been a solitary one. This rune represents those places where our path intersects with others, and allows us to begin to form conscious relationships. Such relationships are strengthened and sanctified by the exchange of gifts.

The use of the gift as a symbol of an oath or a bond is an ancient one. When a lord wanted to ensure the loyalty of one of his subjects, he would give that person a gift. The gift would create a debt on the part of the person receiving it, and this debt would ensure his readiness to serve his lord. Similarly, a gift given between lovers, especially that of the ring, symbolizes the bond between them. Originally, only the man gave the ring in a marriage for much the same reason as the lord giving gifts to his vassals, but today the arrangement is usually more equitable. Gifts or offerings given to the Gods often carry the same meaning, representing the giver's love for or loyalty to their Gods. The giving of a gift implies the acceptance of a debt with the understanding that the debt will not be repaid. It is this imbalance which forms the bond.


wunjo : glory

Phonetic equivalent: w
DIVINATORY MEANINGS:
success, recognition of achievements, reward, joy, bliss, achievement of goals, contentment
MAGICAL USES:
for success in any endeavor, to motivate, to complete a task.
ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES:
Baldr, Asgard

ANALYSIS:
Wunjo is the last rune of the first aett, and thus represents both the end of one cycle and preparation for the next. It is a very positive, stable rune, and is another place where people tend to get stalled along their journey. Christian poets related it to heaven, but in fact it more closely resembles the Pagan Valhalla, since this particular paradise is not a permanent one.

Like the wealth of fehu, the glory of wunjo is only an illusion. We have achieved success on one level only, and there are many more lessons to be learned. It is, however, a welcome respite which allows us to rest, re-charge our batteries and prepare ourselves for the rest of the journey. It also gives us some perspective, allowing us to look back and reflect on the road thus far. Wunjo gives us a glimpse of what is possible, but if we try too soon to reach out and grab it, like the Grail it will disappear between our fingers.

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The information on this site is adapted from
'Raido: The Runic Journey'
by Jennifer Smith, copyright 1994.

Jennifer Smith

Created: January 6, 1996
Last Updated: Monday, December 16, 2002