Reading the Runes
Mannaz : M
Human, mankind The Old English Rune Poem says: (Mann) is, in his mirth, dear to his kinsman; although each shall depart from the other. It is a rune of the human existence, of which life and death are both part. It is the rune of mortality. It also represents interdependence and support, as well as duty and responsibility. No individual is independent of others, each is part of a larger pattern. We are individuals, but in a society.. for all there are roles which, whether we realize it or not, all effect.
Gebo : G
Exchanged gifts Gebo represents hospitality, generosity and giving. It is the joining of giver and the one who receives. As Thorsson points out in "Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic" it also has the meaning of a gift from the Deities, particularly through union. He relates the gift to the wisdom received by the hero from the valkyrja.
Ansuz : A
Windblown cloak of Odhinn, giver inspired speech (Ond) This is the rune of inspired speech and incantation as a creative expression. It is linked with the ancestors, the magic of speech which passes along knowledge with the breath of life, the passing of knowledge through the spoken word, as differentiated from the written. It is the rune of the poet, the saga, the seer, those of inspired speech. It thus represents the ecstasy of inspiration, the "swan song" chanting out one's life as he or she prepares to meet death, the first cry of a newborn baby. It is whistling in the dark to banish fear. It encompasses the power of suggestion and sublimation.
Othala : O
Ancestral property Othala is the rune of the sacred enclosure, the homeland, the village, the homestead. It is the family group, its customs, lands and language as well as the duties and responsibilities that go along with maintaining family ties. Its the concept of ones ancestry, not only of the immediate and extend family, but also that of long bloodlines.. the root of one's birth. It can be used to invoke a solid and peaceful family or group life, and to continual growth and prosperity. It is the "inherited" wealth that comes from one's ancestors, the customs as well as property or physical attributes. It represents the wise management of family assets or one's family or kin.
Uruz : U
Primal force, strength. Audhumla, the great cow (primal force) which was formed from the dripping rime produced from the meeting of the fires of Muspilheim and the yeast laden ice of Neiflheim. She was the "shaping force" that licked the ice into the form of the primal giant Ymir, and was the source of sustenance for him. The auroch is the wild ox, large and fierce. It is protective when in defense of its territory or young. Though controllable, the Ox is undomesticable and can be dangerous. Uruz is associated with the primal creative force, primitive, earliest or original.
Perthro : P
Dice cup or Lot cup Perthro is one of the mysteries of the runes. As a container with the lots of life, Perthro represents the opportunities of chance which can not be controlled. However the pieces fall, the player must move boldly taking what is cast and make up for in skill and wisdom any lack in luck itself. It contains the mystery of the Nornic runes. It is the rune of the vitki, the one who seeks the mysteries of the cosmos through the understanding of synchronicity. It is the rune of the warrior who constantly tests himself against chance and luck, even to that of Fate.
Nauthiz : N
Need Naudhiz is another of the cosmic forces which is recognized as being a "shaping" power which form the fates of the world and mankind. It is associated with the Nornir who are the "shapers." In the rune poems it represents the layered concept of necessity providing the friction that leads to transformation. It represents the fire bow which engenders the "need-fire." It is the cause of the spark that leads to the fire. The friction that begets the raging flames.
Ingwaz : Ng
The god Ing / Freyer Ingwaz is associated with Nerthus as well as Ing, and thus also Freyer. It is primarily a rune of fertility and growth. The circuit of the wagon that was associated with their respective worship, represented the "king's circuit", the walking of the bounds, or the circuit of the sacred wagon which insured fertility to the land. It is a rune of ritual embodying action on behalf of the earth and mankind. Just as the greening of the earth follows the northerly progression of the sun, and retreats in it's wake, the rune is one of movement as well as action and reaction. It is a rune of invocation and action, as well as responsibility. It is a rune of warmth and inner fire. It can be used to stimulate the growth of slumbering abilities into full growth. It is the container of energies to be relased to promote growth. Ing is closely related to Jera, as well that of the respective runes for male and female fertility. The seed from which things will grow and be transformed.
Eiwaz : EI / I
Yew tree Eiwaz represents the spinning World Tree, Yggdrasil. It is the axis about which all else revolves and spins out of. It contains the mystery of life and death. It is a life giving force which has its roots in the Underworld, and death. The yew is a powerful stave of protection and banishing, not only because of its association with the forces of life and death, but because of its association with the bow made of yew wood. The yew bow was an extremely powerful weapon, thus associating itself with the power of active defense, and death. The spinning Yggdrasil, from which all else revolves, is also thus the sustainer of thing. In it is the both creation and destruction.. the process of Birth, Evolution, and Entropy.
Elhaz or Algiz: E
Protection, the antlers of the Elk, the splayed hand thrust forward The Old English name, "elk-sedge" is a kenning for sword, and thus may represent a two-edged blade. It can be seen as the godhi or gydhja ( priest or priestess) in the attitude of addressing or invoking the gods. Thorsson gives the esoteric interpretation of the name as the protective foces, valkyrijur. It can represent the splayed hand, the horns of the elk, a swan in flight, the branches or a tree, a divergence or convergence of paths or forces. It is a sign used to promote victory and protection. The Gothic word "alhs" or sanctuary is also closely related. If you look at the rune, and were to enclose it with a circle, you would also have the commonly displayed "peace" symbol. In this instance, the peace is found within the containing circle, protected.
Fehu : F
Property, wealth (cattle, gold, material gain) The basic meaning is wealth in the sense of material gain, whether via money or possessions. In their time, cattle was a measuring of one's wealth. Fee, or payment, comes from this root of this stave. It may also be interpreted as an increase of fellowship and friendship, a wealth of another kind.
Happiness and joy, glory. The battle well-fought and won. A wand. Prosperity and good fellowship. Peacefulness. There is a term in Anglo-Saxon, "wuldortanas", which is "glory twigs." which many experts associate with the rune.
Jera : J / Y
The (good) year, harvest It is the completion of a cycle, a season, or a year, representing the dynamic rotation and changes of the cycles. It is the fruitful completion of a cycle, or the eternal contrast of opposites which provide a whole. It is invoked for a good season (or harvest) and is associated with fertility. The name is similar to "Ari" which is another OldNorse word for eagle, a solar symbol. In either case it is the energy which brings to fruition our efforts.
Kenaz : K
Torch, the of bearing illumination It is the flame of transformation and regeneration. It is associated with kin and the sacred fires of sexual generation as well as the "kith and kin" who gather around the hearth. It is the flame of the forge, the volcano and deep earth energies. It is the controlled flame of the artist and craftsman. It "breaks out" in unexpected ways, and holds the power to create and/or destroy. It is a primal force of creation, in the myths it is fire and ice that produce the life force.
Tiwaz : T
The god Tyr -- A spear point, or arrow. A guiding star. The T-rune is primarily one of justice since Tyr is the Norse god who presided at the "thing", (the Germanic general judiciary assembly). Judgment was not always arrived at by discussion, judgment by arms was a common concept to the Norse/Germanic cultures. It is associated with the idea that "justice will prevail." The Old English Rune Poem, says Tir is a star, it keeps its faith well. It is always on its course over the mists of night. It is represents the guiding principles which are steadfast and can be relied on to judge one's position.
Berkano : B
Birch, the birch goddess, birch twigs The B-rune is related to the Great Mother, the Earth Goddess. It is the mother of manifestation and of birth and rebirth. The birch tree was often planted before a home to protect it in Scandinavian countries, and the custom continued to be observed in America where settlers built new homes. It is used in "birthing" new ideas, bringing them to life. The birch is frequently the wood from which many a wand was also carved, thus the striking of an object or magickally charged item with the wand is thought to be the releasing action of energies applied before. It can represent or bring about a rebirth in spirit, as well as the renewal of spring after a period of winter. It is representative of the Feminine energies at work. Nurturing, frequently subtle, and thus thought to be the counterpart to the energies found in Tiwaz.
Ehwaz : E
Horse, or ehwo: the "two" horses Ehwaz is associated with "twin" gods or heroes, the divine twins, or two horses. The Saxon conquers of Britain were Hengist and Horsa (stallion and horse). It is the harmonious relationship between two forces. With its close connection to the horse it is also a symbol of fertility, and partnerships. These partnerships thus act as one, although from two or more distinctly different parts. The Ehwaz was connected closely to the concept of a man's fetch, the spiritual "horse" that carries one on the journey between worlds. It is the rune of Sleipnir, Odhinn's eight legged horse which bore him on journeys across both Asgard and Midgard. Also, it was upon Sleipnir that Hermod rode to the netherworld to Hella's domain to request that Balder be returned to the living gods. It facilitates "soul travel" or the shaman's journey. As such it can be used to obtained hidden knowledge or knowledge from a distance. The term "nightmare" is closely related, the spiritual horse we ride during the night as we sleep. It can represent a journey in consciousness, a swifter travel then that of Raido, and one that is protected or guided. Either deeper within or in the Astral. Although the fetch is in many ways symbolized by the horse, the fetch may be of man, woman, or any spirit form. Any sprit guide you work with closely may be one's fetch.
Laguz : L
A body of water (or laukaz: leek) The sea and other bodies of water, like the earth, were considered a source of wealth and fertility and an expression of the unconscious and undiscovered mysteries of life and death. The Aegir, the gods and goddesses of the sea, both gave and took life and offered fertility and wealth. They were the brewers and the Norse looked at the foaming vat of beer and related it to froth of the ocean. Mead brewed during the full moon was often given as a gift to newly-weds .. thus the term Honey-Moon. It represents ebb and flow, and dark currents. Those currents may be soft and trickling, or sweeping and forceful. It can carve through rock and yet be moved by one's hand. Laguz can be the water in a well, bubbling up from secret depths, or dark and still, reflecting and yet revealing nothing beneath the surface. It seeks its own level, taking the path of least resistance at times, at other times sinking into the earth to rise in a distant place. The ship burials, and stone "boat" graves reveal the association of water with the journey of death, a rite of passage.
Hagalaz : H
Hagalaz hail, egg (?) The Anglo-Saxon rune poem refers to "hail" as being "grain" which falls and turns into water after being tossed about by wind. The layered nature of a hailstone was recognized, as well as the potential for destruction and the transformative qualities. The concepts that surround Hagalaz recognize that the destructive potential for hail out of season is balanced by the potential for transformation that will bring new fertility and growth as it thaws.
Raido : R
A cosmic chariot, solar chariot. A chariot of a god or goddess; The Ecstatic journey Rhythm and movement are important to the concept of Raido. The sound and dance of the ecstatic traveler who is carried on a circular journey. The spiral journey of the sun on it's annual course from North to South and back, as in the journey of Nerthus and Freyr's processions. It is the wheeling of stars around the cosmic axis. It can be thought of as the chariot of Thor or Freyja or any other cosmic "transportation." As the chariot is primal forces controlled by conscious thought.
Thurisaz : Th
Thor, the enemy of unfriendly forces; The thorn on brambles. Thurisaz is a force of defense and destruction. "Bramble" or thorny bushes were used to "fence" and protect boundaries. One form of Norse/Germanic execution was to throw criminals "into thorns", pikes which were stuck into the earth.
Dagaz : D
Day or Twilight (the border of the new day) Dagaz refers to the a day, a period of darkness and light, since the Norse counted their days from evening to evening, with the mid-point being dawn and the rising of the sun. It is the rune of awakening, and metaphorically, of rebirth. It represents a time that cannot be defined, a place between places that are yet still interdependent of the other. It is a rune of paradox, the balancing of opposites and movement, not as contradictions and opposition, but as counterbalances and compliments. It represents light, paradox. It is the rune of "clear vision" and "enlightenment." It represents time and space, and the weaving movement of the loom of life. One can also liken this rune to that of the symbol of Yin-Yang. In this we also see the theory of Dynamic energies, as well as that of the living counterpart.
Isa : I Ice
It is the primal ice, the icy stream (or glacier) that flows from Niflheimr. Is an "elemental" rune. It's form can be seen in nearly all of the other runes. It is associated with the rime-giants, the hrimthursar, and the wisdom of age. Ice can be considered "static" as many do, however, ice whether one is speaking of the rune or of actual ice is a mysterious substance. Isa can bring things to a halt, or place something in suspension. But the mysterious flow of the glacier is also inherent in Isa, as it is related to the primal stream. Ice can also be an expansive force, or one that crushes anything caught in its grasp.
Sowilo : S / Z Sol / Sun
The S-rune is that of the sun, part of the solar wheel. Both the words "sol" and "sunna" for the sun in Old Norse are feminine in nature as were the cosmic forces represented by the sun. It is the counter-force to Isa, or the cosmic ice. The S-rune is often connected to the lightning bolt, or a flash of inspiration or ecstasy. It strengthens the spiritual and psychic powers and abilities, increasing spiritual might. It provides "enlightenment" and success through individual will. It is a rune of education and understanding, as well as one that transforms ice to water, a transformative force. It can represent high achievements, honor and obtained goals. It is power radiating, from the source and lighting all it touches. It can be healing as well as a cleansing energy or light. Also, this can be the persistence of an influence or energy to which things may flourish, or be steadily weathered away.