The Road to Runes

June, 2019

The Road to Runes: Back to Basics

The Elder Futhark runes are a Germanic alphabet, a writing system and a divination tool. For the past few months, I’ve focused on a different rune or reading every month. I thought it might be useful to list each of the runes and their meaning as a point of reference. This month, I’m focusing on the first ætt, or set of eight of the 24 runes. This ætt is known as Freyr’s, Frey’s or Freyja’s ætt. Each ætt is dedicated to a deity or deities, or overseen by them, to match that ætt to the aspects of those deities.

Frey and Freyja are Vanir twins. They feature heavily in the mythology surrounding the war between Aesir and Vanir. They represent various, complex aspects of humanity and divinity, but at their simplest are associated with fertility, re-birth, wealth and expansion or increase. They are also often linked to emotional and physical happiness and compassion.

Each of the runes I’ve gone into in a bit more detail in past posts has a link to the relevant article.


The sound “F” as in “Fulsome.” The rune meaning is most often given as “cattle.” Fehu is associated with the colours green and brown. The ownership of cattle has frequently indicated wealth, so the rune Fehu is often associated with material possessions and financial success. It can also be a warning against greed or becoming a “slave to the wage”. Just as cattle can either be passive and calm, or a chargin, raging herd, Fehu can represent either abundance or destruction. With this in mind, Fehu is also associated with fertility and the creation of life, as well as the natural cycles of death and rebirth.


The sound “oo” as in “loose.” The rune means Aurochs, a wild ox. This rune can be associated with both the colours orange and dark green. Like Fehu, there is a link to cattle, and therefore it’s easy to think this rune also means wealth and power. However, the Aurochs is wild and untameable, so this is power we cannot control; a primal force. Uruz may mean that success is just around the corner, waiting to manifest. Uruz is also linked to physical and mental wellbeing, and a deeper understanding of one’s self.


The sound “th” as in “Thorn,” which is this rune’s meaning, although it also means “Giant.” Thurisaz may be associated with the colour white. Thurisaz is a rune of defense and protection. It is about directing a destructive force at one’s enemies- or dealing with conflict in the most direct way possible. This may mean remaining completely passive and avoiding a conflict, or it may mean taking immediate action. Thurisaz warns of a storm on the horizon and allows time to prepare. It is the protective hedge of hawthorn, a boundary between the reader and harm. Thurisaz is also linked to regeneration and the replenishment of things. Expect new beginnings and a fresh start or renewed motivation.


The sound “aah” as in “heart”. This rune means breath or mouth, and is often associated with the divine breath or sound of creation. It may be associated with the colour purple, often used to represent spirit in Wiccan practices. This is Woden’s or Odin’s rune, and represents the links between thought, word, and creativity. Ansuz can indicate that even in times of chaos, order can prevail to find a way through. It encourages the reader to find patterns within the madness and trust in the natural flow of things. Take a leap of faith.


The sound “R” as in “Riding.” This rune means wheel, and is associated with traveling and journeys. It can be associated with the colours blue and black. Raidho reminds the reader of the dangers of remaining stationary and lapsing into stagnation. In order to be in the right place at the right time, it’s important to keep moving. This may mean physically, metaphorically, or metaphysically. Is there a need to move house, travel, attend a reunion? Or is there another job that calls? Or perhaps a spiritual journey has reached an obstacle and needs to change path- or does the reader need to power on through? Raidho is encouragement to trust the inner compass, and to avoid becoming trapped. This may mean breaking free of the imprisonment of existing beliefs, ideals, or self-image.


The sound “k” as in “Ken”. Kenaz means torch, and is associated with the colour yellow. Like the torch, Kenaz shines a light into the darkest corners. This rune brings illumination to puzzling situations, lending knowledge, understanding and learning to one’s life. Kenaz is a fire rune and represents creation, sacrifice, and the use of fire as a hearth or forge in order to make the will and intellect manifest. Kenaz is often seen as the rune of the craftsperson or artist, particularly when looking for inspiration or the training and increasing of creative skills. Kenaz may also be associated with love and lust, and the combining of opposites to create something positive.


The sound “g” as in “giving.” Gebo literally means gift and its meaning is closely linked to the honour and respect shown between people when they willingly exchange gifts. Gebo may be associated with the colours gold, silver or red. As well as being the rune of giving and generosity, Gebo represents the connection between humans and the gods, and the forces and honour which are exchanged through this connection. A human is bound to their deity through respect, sacrifice, offerings and love. The God or Goddess is bound to the human through the exchange of divine favour or knowledge. Because of this, Gebo is often linked to positive partnerships, contracts, and even love. Love between siblings is sometimes indicated, or Gebo may refer to the partnership and attraction/connection between two (or more!) lovers.


The sound “w” or “v” as in “well-being” or “vitality.” This rune’s literal meaning is joy or delight, and it can either be associated with the colours pink or blue. The importance of happiness is recognised in Norse mythology, as an intrinsic part of courage and hope- crucial for the potential hero or warrior. Wunjo indicates that good things are coming. This could be the end of a long-running argument or conflict. It could be an increase in self-confidence. Wunjo is a reminder that if people are pleasant and good to be around, other people will be more likely to be nice to them! A simple message, but one that is easy to forget when times, or hearts, are hard. Wunjo is also associated with physical healing, and the healing of the heart and mind after emotional difficulties.

Which of these runes would you like me to focus on next? Let me know on Twitter via @Mabherick or by emailing us. Until next time!


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

The Road to Runes

August, 2018

The Road to Runes: Raidho, The Traveler’s Rune

The fifth rune in the Elder Futhark, Raidho is also the fifth rune in first ætt, or set of eight runes. These first eight runes are known as Freya’s ætt, and relate to physical and emotional happiness, nurturing and compassion. Raidho literally means riding or wagon, and as such is strongly associated with journeys, arrivals, departures, reunions, relocations, traveling and vehicles. The overriding theme is not remaining stationary. Of course, not all journeys are physical. Each one of us is a traveler, making our own winding way down life’s path. We are all on a spiritual journey as well as physical one. Our experiences and insights on our journeys shape us and create the individual soul and presence that makes us who we are.

For this reading, I followed up on a previous divination I did for myself, and asked what the next year held for me in terms of starting a freelance career in writing. I was focused solely on the future, rather than the here-and-now. Previously I pondered about whether I was making the right decision, and was basically told, “Get on with it!”. Now I’m wondering if the runes have any insights about what I might expect along the way, at least in the short-term future.

The traveler’s rune seems an apt response for this question as this is definitely an exciting journey I am on. Each day holds new challenges and new anxieties, yet many small triumphs that make it all worthwhile. Raidho is all about trusting your own inner compass, and not being still but having the courage to step away from where you are, towards where you need to be. I feel like I am doing that, one tiny step at a time, and this reading definitely encourages me to keep going.

When I initially asked about my change in career, I was given Ansuz, Odin’s rune, the breath of the universe and the rune of words. The message seemed to be to concentrate on the words, the power within them and trust in my leap of faith and not indulge in self-doubt. This next rune, focusing much more on what will happen next, and what the future holds, seems much more focused on the challenges this journey may hold. I feel as if the runes or the power channeled through them has recognised that this is, indeed, a new and significant journey I am taking. Though I have written for many (so many!) years, this is the first time I am relying solely on my own skills with words to feed and shelter my family. That’s a huge step, and the journey is very much based on my own determination and willingness not to give up when things get tough.

The Rune Secrets website tells us that one of the key concepts for Raidho is freedom from imprisonment, and in a way, my decision to work from home is just that. I felt trapped in my office job, even on good days. Feeling trapped makes everything about us smaller, until we remember the ultimate responsibility of every prisoner: to escape. But like anyone who has been in confinement for too long, adjusting to freedom will be difficult, and this rune tells me that the journey may be arduous, and I may have to let go of concepts about my life or my inner self that I have clung to for too long. I don’t even know what these might be at this time, but I am not surprised to be told this. I have formed serious work habits based on ‘having a boss’, deadlines, hierarchies and so forth. Breaking these habits will probably be the key to becoming a successful, full-time freelance writer.

I hope my journey with the traveling rune has bought you some insights about what this rune could mean for you in your own divination. Feel free to tweet me @Mabherick if you want me to choose a particular rune to study for next month’s Road to Runes. Take care!


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

The Road to Runes

May, 2018

The Road to Runes: Hagalaz, the Coming of Hail

So, it was the turn of a different friend to pull a rune this time, and I wasn’t expecting it. On the spot divination, she pulled out the polished, burnt piece of hazel and looked at me quizzically. I had to admit to her that my studies had not taken me this far, and thus, my latest article was born. Pictured is the rune she pulled: Hagalaz, also known as Haglaz or Hagala. This rune literally means ‘hail’, and by what I have learnt, is a pretty fierce and somewhat scary rune to see in any divination.

The Elder Futhark (the group of runes I am working with and believed to be the oldest Germanic runic alphabet) is split into 3 Aett, or groups of 8 runes. Hagalaz is the first rune of the second Aett, or Aettir. There are so many variants of the terms used to describe the runes and their alphabetic structure, and while I am still learning I am keeping myself open to all of these words, so forgive me if I chop and change. The second Aettir is sometimes known as Hel’s Aetirr, which sounds pretty ominous. Hel is the daughter of Loki, and therefore at least part giant, and she reigns over the realm of Hel, one of the dwelling places of the dead in Norse mythology. She is fairly indifferent to the trials and sufferings of humankind, if not actually cruel, and that aspect seems to be reflected in the hail rune. Hail is out of our control. It doesn’t care if we get cold, or wet, or stung. It has no pity for our misery; it simply is, and it is up to us to deal with it; get out of the cold or battle on through the storm.

Hail is the coldest of seeds… (Viking Rune Poem)

Hail is often described in runic inscriptions as a seed, and perhaps this is simply due to its appearance, as if someone high above was casting ice cold grain onto the earth, in the vain hope of it sprouting into some bizarre crop. However, there is more to the seed aspect than simple appearances. If we are tested, and we follow through with the test, whether we pass or fail, we grow as people. Each new challenge we face changes us in some way, usually for the better. Even bad experiences teach us something. Hagalaz is a seed rune because although hard times may be coming, there is the chance for great personal transformation; to be the sprouting wheat after the grain is cast.

Hail is whitest of grains. It whirls from the sky

whipped by the wind, then as water it trickles away. (Old English Rune Poem, translation Marijane Osborn)

This is a reminder that hard times don’t last forever; just as the icy hail turns to water and trickles away, so will our hardships eventually come to an end. We may be whipped into shape by the storms that buffet us, by the challenges that are sent to test us, but ultimately, calm will come, and a time to take stock and see what we have learnt, gained, or been left with. Also, it could be that we are about to lose something, but perhaps that is something we should have let go of long ago. Are we holding on to something that does not help us achieve our highest goals? Are we clinging to a relationship that prevents us being the best we can be? Hagalaz warns that it may be a tough time, but something different is coming, and it’s up to us to make the best of the new situation.

Hagala who breaks helmets… (Runic Inscription on the Kragehul Lance)

So far, I’ve concentrated on the more positive aspects of Hagalaz, but I can’t avoid the simple fact that this is a rune associated with destruction, turmoil, conflict and crisis. Hail is coming and you’re going to be caught out in the storm. If you’re already having a tough time, it’s possible it could get worse before it gets better. Are you ready to be tested? Be prepared, have your wits sharp, don’t be complacent about any potentially upsetting or risky situation and muster your inner strength. Yes, transformation and growth might be just around the corner, but you’re going to have to turn your face into the cold wind and really push hard before you feel the benefits.

The ninth rune in the Elder Futhark, just as Yggdrasil holds nine worlds, Hagalaz is a powerful and crucial rune in any reading. I think it’s important not to panic if you do pull this rune for a client. I’ll admit, when my friend pulled the rune and I read the meaning, I was startled and worried at first, but thinking about her personal situation (private, sorry!) it makes sense. She’s been through a tough time, it’s not over yet, and we’d already spoken about certain things probably not being resolved to satisfaction until Samhain. A gifted practitioner herself, it doesn’t surprise me that she pulled the rune that almost exactly describes the situation she is in and where she appears to be going. And it gave me the chance to learn about a formidable rune; one more step along the road.


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

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