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.