The Meanings of Runes and their Interpretation
The 24 symbols from the Elder Futhark (or runic alphabet) are the most popular choice for rune readings. Every character in the Elder Futhark has its own meaning and correlates to different aspects of a life experience on the physical and spiritual planes. In addition, runes are divided into three groups called aettir to denote the three stages of a life experience. The first eight runes are referred to as Freya’s Aett. The next eight runes fall into Hamdall’s Aett with the last eight resting in Tyr’s Aett.
Runes do not predict the future. The compelling insight they provide has to do with filtering thoughts and ideas deep within the subconscious that reveal hidden truths. After taking time to meditate on a question or circumstance, runes are cast or spread in patterns to help reveal the unseen aspects influencing a situation. When used correctly, runes will shed light on possible outcomes and clarify aspects of the human condition. While the information runes provide can aid in making decisions, it is never their responsibility to decide anything for anyone.
Interestingly, there are no hard and fast rules for interpreting a spread. This means rune casters must rely on intuition and the ability to remain neutral in order to let the runes speak their magick. Otherwise, there is a risk of clouding the vital information that needs to get through.
The Meaning of the Runes
An explanation of all 24 runes of the Elder Futhark. The focus is on their spiritual interpretation. The esoteric meaning is deduced from the linguistic meaning of the runes and the entire historical background. This is essential in connection with these ancient symbols. After all, runes are very popular for divination, meditation, or other magical purposes.
The Rune Fehu
Fehu, the first rune of the Elder Futhark, stands for the cosmic energy of movement and creation. It unites the principles of creation and destruction and thus also the dynamic power of fertility and becoming, which arises from the harmonious interaction of these two poles.
In its more secular meaning, Fehu stands for cattle ownership and movable property, in a somewhat wider sense for money and power. In Fehu, however, profitable characteristics such as zest for action and ambition, as well as the associated responsibility towards oneself and others, are also expressed.
Interpretation of the Rune Fehu
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, Fehu confirms the correctness of our goals and plans, regardless of whether they are geared towards material prosperity or more towards intellectual property, willpower, and discipline. Fehu promises success and the overcoming of apparently hopeless situations, obstacles, and problems if we devote ourselves to our plans with a healthy level of persistence.
Reversed Meaning: Is Fehu upside down Fehu warns us of setbacks and failures, disappointment, and futile efforts. These failures are often accompanied by financial losses. In reverse, the Fehu-Rune exhorts us to check our attitude to the material, but also to the power: The careless handling of what we already have – regardless of whether it expresses itself in avarice or addiction to waste – damages the balance and healthy development of our self just as much as the selfish and immoderate pursuit of increasing our property. The reverse Fehu rune always indicates that we are in a rather dubious situation in which at least caution, and possibly even a certain degree of distrust, is required. Most of these situations are linked to the dark side of ownership.
The Rune Uruz
The rune Uruz symbolizes the original formative force of the cosmos and is therefore closely linked to Fehu and the principle on which it is based.
The energy that Uruz embodies is raw, untamable, and limitlessly vital. It works in all living beings as the ability to adapt to external circumstances and circumstances as best as possible, a talent that is sometimes essential for survival in the face of an environment that is not entirely harmless even in our present.
A healthy level of realism and the clear and unadulterated perception of the world are essential for harnessing the “down-to-earth” energy of Uruz.
In its immediate symbolic meaning, the Uruz rune stands for the mighty auroch, which was native to the forests and swamps of northern Europe until about the 16th century. This huge, powerful wild cattle with its mighty horns was considered almost invincible; the killing of a full-grown auroch gave a young Germanic a great reputation in its tribe.
Interpretation of the Rune Uruz
Upright Meaning: If the rune is an upright position, it predicts the endurance and drive that will ultimately help you to overcome all the upcoming challenges. It also stands for robust health. We are facing drastic changes. We could be forced to sacrifice something to get something new, better. The new achievements that we make thanks to Uruz dynamic energy will be permanent. Although we are in a phase of our life that involves a large number of decisions, some of which are quite difficult, we are bursting with vitality, courage, and self-confidence. The primal power emanating from the Uruz rune is also noticeable in our health. Mental and physical defenses are increasing, and the energetic upturn we are experiencing also helps us to overcome any weaknesses in health.
Reversed Meaning: In the reverse position, the rune indicates exaggerated stubbornness and intransigence, but also emotional overreactions, for example, particularly insensitivity and coldness, or the opposite, excessive sentimentality. The life-affirming and vital energy of Uruz expresses itself in the reversed position as self-indulgence and addiction to pleasure as well as blind materialism. This negative energy also affects our physical condition: Fatigue and a weakened immune system, possibly even illness, are to be feared. Our assertiveness and our will to finish things leave something to be desired. Sluggishness and stagnation, and consequently missed opportunities and disappointments, are the order of the day. Our general tolerance level is also low, and conflicts and disputes can easily get out of control and become violent. If the Uruz rune is reversed, caution is advised!
The Rune Thurisaz
Thurisaz is one of the particularly powerful runes of the Elder Futhark. It embodies the transformative powers of fire and lightning and thunder and is closely related to the mighty Germanic god of thunder Thor, whose mighty hammer reminds her of its shape. Similar to the fire, which combines positive and destructive powers, the Thurisaz rune also represents double-edged energy that can be completely reversed in just a brief moment of inattention.
So we encounter Thurisaz as a violent elemental force that mercilessly destroys everything that threatens to disrupt the cosmic order. In a somewhat broader meaning, the rune symbolizes the thorn, which can cause us to be extremely painful if we are careless. Last but not least, Thurisaz is, therefore, also a rune that embodies an awareness process. Through the sting of the thorn, it makes us rude, but it effectively draws attention to repressed or not yet noticed aspects of our situation.
Interpretation of the Rune Thurisaz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, Thurisaz promises us a positive turn in our current situation. At the same time, negative counterforces are shielded. However, this does not mean that we can sit back complacently and simply let our fate run its course. Because Thurisaz also stands for the active defense of one’s own values and possessions. We are asked not to sit passively, but to consciously and actively deal with the influences that seek to disrupt the microcosmic order of ourselves and our immediate surroundings.
In addition, Thurisaz asks us not to put off a decision that is long overdue but to take action. The power of this rune enables us to realize plans that we have so far disregarded for lack of courage or self-confidence.
Reversed Meaning: Is Thurisaz reversed it indicates to us that our natural creative energy is blocked by internal obstacles, for example, hidden fears, exaggerated intransigence, or personal vanity. At the same time, we should be careful not to act hastily and thoughtlessly, because the energy of Thurisaz is impulsive to explosive, especially when the rune is upside down.
In order to avoid an awful awakening, we should urgently try to think carefully about all the possibilities of our actions and the resulting consequences. If at all possible, we should not ignore the advice and help of others. Thor, the god of this rune, is a careless giant who, once angry, gives free rein to his destructive whims. In the negative position of this rune, there is an enormous potential for aggression. In the worst case, this could result in uncontrolled outbursts of anger, malice or compulsion, or even conscious abuse of power.
The Rune Ansuz
Ansuz is the rune of spiritual inspiration, a force that, according to Germanic mythology, was given directly by the gods. Odin himself breathed life into the first two people of the Nordic myth, Ask and Embla, after carving them out of two tree trunks. The breath of the father of the gods gave them the mind, creative inspiration, higher wisdom, and magical abilities at the same time. The Ansuz rune stands for all the gifts and talents in us that are directly connected to our minds.
Sober, rational intelligence and creative inspiration cannot be separated. They come from the same source and are two manifestations of the same divine energy.
Interpretation of the Rune Ansuz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, the Ansuz rune stands for prudence, intellect, honesty, a pronounced sense of language, a high level of expression, and artistic inspiration.
The linguistic aspect of Ansuz can indicate that an empathetic, honest conversation will clarify a difficult situation. The power of the rune gives us a high level of mental energy, which we should never leave unused. We may be able, thanks to the heightened sensitivity that is filling us at the moment, to get rid of inner blockages and self-doubts, but also inhibiting lies and fancies. It is not uncommon for the positive influence of Ansuz to have an impact on us from the outside, for example, in the form of helpful advice and well-thought-out solutions that we receive from good friends or family members. In any case, Ansuz advises us to be honest with ourselves and to trust in the harmonious interplay of intellect and inspiration, mind, and soul. If we succeed, we will make the right decision.
Reversed Meaning: Ansuz in the reversed position indicates that there is an atmosphere of insincerity and falsehood around us. This bad climate can come both from ourselves – maybe we are cheating ourselves or others right now without realizing it or even in full consciousness to avoid inevitable arguments – and from the dishonesty of others towards us.
Under such negative conditions, our expressiveness and speech skills can quickly turn into empty phrases thrashing, and the willingness to engage in constructive conversation suddenly becomes the unpleasant tendency to just talk.
If Ansuz is reversed, the rune also warns us not to use our intellectual strength, our current mental superiority to manipulate others. Overall, the reverse Ansuz rune indicates an imbalance and, thus, blockages in the mental and spiritual realm. These disorders can range from depression, on the one hand, to complete head control on the other.
The Rune Raidho
In its direct sense, Raidho means wagon or wheel. This already makes it clear that an essential aspect of this rune is movement. Raidho refers less to the linear progress from a starting point to a goal but rather to the sequence of cyclically recurring processes such as the daily running of the sun, the ups and downs of the tides, or the regularly recurring seasons.
In all-natural circular movements, Raidho makes it clear to us that development, growth, and evolution can only arise from constant change. The Raidho rune is also assigned to all rhythmic processes, including music, dance, and poetry. Another important area of influence for Raidho is that of law and order, without which no form of living together, from the family to the state, can function. Raidho also stands for how we deal with the diverse challenges of our fate.
Interpretation of the Rune Raidho
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, the Raidho rune advises us to deal responsibly and consciously with ourselves and our environment. It signals to us that the time has come for a change. Regardless of whether we are starting a new project or finally completing a long-standing situation, the opportunity is good.
When Raidho encounters a decision that needs to be made, it advises us to trust our inner voice. The rune helps us to see things clearly, to consciously control our fate, and to take the initiative at the right moment. The movement aspect of Raidho can indicate a trip. This does not necessarily have to be a real journey; the rune can just as well refer to a journey of discovery into yourself. But no matter where the journey goes, it will live up to our most hopeful expectations.
Reversed Meaning: In a reversed position, Raidho suggests that we should be patient with the implementation of overly large plans and challenging projects because the current time is anything but positive.
The reversal of Raidho shows us that our natural sense of the higher-order is disturbed. This fact is particularly noticeable through a poorly developed or even misguided intuition. We should be careful at the moment of so-called “gut decisions”. The dissonance between us and the laws and contexts of the cosmos can also lead us to intolerance and selfishness.
If we do not take seriously the warnings that the reverse Raidho rune gives us, we run the risk of going astray and losing ourselves in disorder and chaos. Overall, it would be advisable to question which areas of our lives are not currently running smoothly.
The Rune Kenaz
Kenaz symbolizes the torch and the light that comes from it. It stands for the controlled, beneficial fire that is useful to humans as a transforming and regenerating force – for example, also as a healing source of heat in the event of illness. From this basic meaning, there is another essential aspect of the Kenaz rune: It symbolizes the will and talent to create something and is therefore also considered the rune of the artist and the craftsman. But it also stands for exceptional expertise, that is, the knowledge that sensibly complements our practical skills. In addition, Kenaz refers to the fire that burns inside people; it is the rune of human passion, lust, and sexual love in the most positive sense. Kenaz means the proverbial light that leads us out of the dark and illuminates our path.
Interpretation of the Rune Kenaz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, Kenaz is a strong and benevolent rune. It announces a phase of vitality and success. Whatever we are doing at the moment, we will succeed, even if it initially seems difficult or even impossible. A powerful fire burns inside us, which enables us to overcome all obstacles. Creative people can look forward to a creative heyday, but even ordinary people benefit from the unrestrained creativity that Kenaz brings. If we are struggling with health problems, the Kenaz rune predicts that we will get better soon or even recover completely. Our sex life also receives new impulses under the influence of Kenaz. The fire rune fills us with a notable erotic charisma, glowing passion, hard to control desire, and infinite tenderness. However, we should be careful not to overwhelm our partner with the immense sexual energy that is currently working in us. If other fertility runes such as Berkano or Inguz occur in the area of Kenaz, this could indicate an imminent birth.
Reversed Meaning: Kenaz in der reversed position shows us a disturbance in the flow of our life energies. Delays, failures, and destroyed illusions can result. We have to prepare for a period of massive frustration and dissatisfaction. A fire smoldering inside us, the negative radiation of which can also affect our health. Psychosomatic illnesses such as stomach problems or sleep disorders are particularly typical of the influence of the reversed Kenaz rune. If at all possible, we should take the time to listen to our inner self and to research possible causes of the energy blockage. Often, recognizing the problem that literally burns our hearts is part of the solution.
The reversal of the creative aspect of Kenaz has a destructive potential that should not be underestimated, which often results in outbursts of anger and rage against others, but also against ourselves. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation can be useful here.
The Rune Gebo
Literally, Gebo, the seventh rune of the Elder Futhark, means gift. It embodies the gift giver as well as giving as an act, the gift itself, and the gift recipient. In expanding these meanings, it also stands for generosity and hospitality. In all respects, Gebo underlines the high value that voluntary giving and sharing has in human coexistence as well as within the cosmic order.
Gebo also represents the mystery of the psychological and physical union of two people. From this amalgamation of the individual forces, a new creative energy can arise that goes far beyond the sum of the two individual parts.
In a more general sense, Gebo stands for the positive and meaningful merging of two opposing poles into a higher whole. Beyond the level of sexual meaning, Gebo symbolizes the feeling of love and affection that guarantees security and harmony, as it prevails between close friends or family members. The rune makes it clear to us what force rests in the fusion and the simultaneous preservation of different, sometimes even opposite-pole elements. It is only from this fruitful interplay that life can develop its dynamism.
Interpretation of the Rune Gebo
Gebo is one of the nine irreversible runes of the Elder Futhark, which means that its effect is almost entirely positive. If we pull the Gebo-Rune, we can look forward to a highly successful and harmonious time. As long as we don’t put artificial barriers to our natural generosity and kindness, we will succeed in everything we touch. Our willingness to give and share will be greatly rewarded. Thanks to a carefully selected and wholehearted gift, a somewhat troubling situation can be clarified, the tensions between us and another person will dissolve in pleasure and harmony. Gebo also points out the harmonious interaction with one or more people. This can relate to both professional cooperation and the private life. The rune enables us to approach others and to make the most of their potential. Since Gebo influences the mental level as much as the physical-sexual level, we can look forward to a high phase of mutual trust and understanding in our partnership. The contradictions that otherwise often threaten to divide us with our partner can be brought together by Gebo to form an energetic-sensual connection.
The Rune Wunjo
Wunjo is the rune of joy, community, and pleasure. In general, this rune is the messenger of good news; it promises future happiness and interpersonal harmony. Wunjo embodies the deeply rooted emotional connection between like-minded people, but of course also between the members of a family. Therefore the rune stands for friendship, companionship, and brotherly love. In every form of society, from the Germanic tribes to relationships, families, or communities of the present day, the harmonious, unifying coexistence is an essential source of the highest happiness and true satisfaction. Wunjo also symbolizes the joy we feel when our wishes come true.
Interpretation of the Rune Wunjo
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, Wunjo is a very cheerful rune: in an upright position, it symbolizes great joy. This joy can be found in the quiet happiness of the family community as well as in the flourishing of business relationships and the associated success, also in financial terms. We are in for a time of fun and happiness. Nevertheless, we should not blindly rely on Wunjo to bring us this happiness without our intervention. The rune often points out to us that we have neglected valuable friends whose loyalty can be a source of strength and self-confidence and thus the joy of life. It is time to become active, and to reflect on your true wishes and needs; then there will be nothing standing in the way of our cheerfulness.
Reversed Meaning: When Wunjo is in a reversed position, we should be prepared for a difficult time. Disappointment, misfortune, and sadness cast their shadows ahead. The people in our immediate emotional and creative environment seem to be on a completely different wavelength; harmonious coexistence in the private sphere seems just as impossible as constructive cooperation in the workplace.
The most important thing now is not to blame the others for these inconsistencies. We are not at our best, we have lost our inner balance, so it is difficult for us to show our environment the necessary tolerance and openness. Our behavior is determined by inner restlessness and imbalance.
Problems appear insurmountable, breaches of trust, separations, and disappointments can occur. In such a mood, we should definitely avoid rushing important and far-reaching decisions.
The Rune Hagalaz
The second Aett of the Elder Futhark begins with the Hagalaz rune.
While the runes of the first Aett dealt with the elements and problems of a secure human life, the runic symbols from Hagalaz to Sowilo refer to the areas of the cosmos that are beyond human control and their destructive and fruitful powers of a higher order.
Hagalaz symbolizes the hailstone and, in a broader sense, the ice egg from which the world is created in Nordic mythology. Hagalaz contains the deep structure of the multi-universe; it symbolizes cosmic harmony. Nevertheless, the mighty Hagalaz rune is not only positive. As its relation to destructive natural phenomena like hail already shows, it stands for the opposites of the cosmos, so it conveys the essential insight that nothing in the world can be viewed from one side only. Light and dark are often next to each other, and one determines the other. As asymmetrical rune that is synonymous in both possible positions, Hagalaz often has a rather negative aftertaste, not least because its energies, positive and destructive, are usually undirected and moody. However, this interpretation is somewhat superficial because a favorable or negative result can also result from a negative or painful event.
Interpretation of the Rune Hagalaz
Hagalaz is the rune of uncontrollable events. It is a sign of unpredictable, sudden, and not seldom fundamental changes, which can be caused by strokes of fate as well as by unexpected luck. The Hagalaz rune always indicates a balance of power; Good and evil, joy and pain, success, and failure are always close together in their sphere of influence.
In Hagalaz’s work, there are always new possibilities, despite all the apparent destructiveness. In every loss and endpoint, there is already a new beginning.
So if Hagalaz tore us out of our sluggish everyday life through an unexpected caper, we should above all see it as an opportunity. However, painful the recent experience may have been, we should not feel sorry for ourselves, but try to find out what positive developments can lead us to.
The Rune Nauthiz
Like Hagalaz, Nauthiz is a rune that combines opposing aspects. On the one hand, it stands for misery and needs, but it also stands for resistance to this misery, consciously fighting back and the associated mobilization of positive energy. The darkness and cold of an emergency situation involuntarily creates the need for light and warmth, which strives to prevail. In addition, the common suffering of times of emergency brings the affected people closer together again. Sorrow sharpens the eye for the essentials and lets everything secondary take a back seat. And this is exactly where the positive potential of Nauthiz lies: If we manage not to break up with our suffering, but to accept the individual difficulties as a necessary part of our mental development, we will emerge from the deep with an expanded awareness and new vitality.
Interpretation of the Rune Nauthiz
Upright Meaning: In Nauthiz, there is always a warning in an upright position. The rune promises us imminent suffering, or at least massive difficulties. Still, Nauthiz doesn’t want us to give up or to despair. On the contrary, it asks us to consciously deal with our crises. They are the challenges we grow with. After times of deprivation, we can really appreciate the treasures that life has to offer. The emergency situation thus acts as a constructive force from which we mobilize unexpected forces. In the end, Nauthiz enables us to overcome the constraints and restrictions that determine our lives, to swing ourselves out of the abysses of our own strength, and finally to start new heights.
Reversed Meaning: Nauthiz, in a reversed position, indicates that we are facing a phase of limitations and shortages. This can be just as much a matter of material difficulties, for example, a lack of money, or an emotional crisis, such as lack of motivation, self-doubt, gloominess, lack of ideas, and the like. Depending on the nature, the crisis can even be of existential proportions, illness, disputes, separation, or even death can shake our surroundings. We should see these trials as a kind of sacrifice through which we can clean up a consciously or subconsciously caused disruption of the cosmic order. As unfair as we may feel treated by fate at the moment, the same applies here again: in every crisis, there is the possibility of reorientation and a new, better, and more conscious life. So it would be wrong to resign.
The Rune Isa
Isa means ice. Accordingly, the Isa rune primarily represents aspects of rigidity and standstill. Under its influence, the processes of constant change pause for a moment in order to gather new strength and to regenerate for a while after a long period of activity, just as nature after spring, summer, and autumn allows new energies to grow in the ice of winter.
We encounter the forces of Isa everywhere: in general gravity as well as in our very personal passivity, which often paralyzes the dynamic and productive course of our everyday life.
But in this calmness and passivity, there is also a deep, regenerative power hidden for us, which makes it possible to take a breath, to draw our attention away from the hectic pace of external events and to direct it to our innermost heart, as well as to realign our activity after the disintegration of the rigidity.
Interpretation of the Rune Isa
As an irreversible rune, Isa also symbolizes a principle that combines negative and positive aspects. On the one hand, the coldness of Isa freezes us and prevents us from continuing on the path we have chosen, on the other hand, the total “immobility and inability to act” also gives us an important time of rest. This phase of the inside look can give us important insights. Through critical and concentrated self-analysis, we are able to explore obstacles and problems and options that have not yet been thought through. We should not face the slowing influence Isa has on us with frustration or even withdraw in isolation and passivity. Rather, it is important to use the relaxation potential that the lack of activity brings with it in our favor. If Isa is drawn in connection with interpersonal relationships, it can indicate a sensory disturbance in the energy flow between the two partners, a kind of “emotional hypothermia”. In this situation, we should thoroughly question whether our ideas and wishes still match those of the partner and, if not, what the consequences are. But the single rune also signals to single people how important it is to correctly assess one’s own value and to, first of all, pull the emotional balance out of oneself.
The Rune Jera
The Jera rune is one of the central runes in the Elder Futhark. It symbolizes the cyclical principle of arising – passing away – new arising. In contrast to Raidho, which traces the daily path of the sun, Jera symbolizes the twelve-part annual course of the sun. Jera also stands for an abundant harvest, the reward for hard-working, honorable behavior that complies with natural law in the previous year. In the well-deserved harvest, Jera’s effects are manifested as a rune of fertility. As an irreversible rune, it combines opposing aspects.
On the one hand, it naturally combines the female and the male principle, without nothing new could be created, but in its emphasis on the cyclical, it also points out that all arising is always a harbinger of offense.
Interpretation of the Rune Isa
Overall, Jera is a very positive rune of success. It shows that it is time to take matters into your own hands. If our actions are in accordance with the laws of the cosmos and nature, the well-deserved harvest of our efforts will not be long in arriving. The principle of cause and effect also plays an important role in the Jera rune: our behavior in the past has an immediate impact – in both a positive and a negative way – on the events in the present, our actions today will bear fruit in the future or neither. Nevertheless, Jera must not be thoughtlessly seen as the starting signal for blind action. The rune challenges us to listen to the omnipresent vibrations and signs of nature and to let us in on their rhythm.
If we tackle our plans and projects at the wrong time, the result will surely not meet our expectations and expectations. Temporary failure should not discourage us. On the contrary: the cyclical aspect of Jura promises us a new chance with every setback.
As soon as the time is right, we and our project will be successful. Nothing can be forced in nature, only with the necessary patience and perseverance will Jera not withhold the reward we deserve.
The Rune Eihwaz
In its literal meaning, Eihwaz means yew. The thirteenth rune of the Elder Futhark is thus directly connected to the mythical world tree of the Germanic tribes, Yggdrasil, which is described in ancient written records as yew. Eihwaz is also known as the “axis of the gods”. It represents the vertical connection between heaven (Asgard), earth (Midgard), and the underworld (Hel) of the Germanic multi-universe. As a link between the realm of the gods and thus the idea of eternal life and the realm of the dead, the Eihwaz rune also symbolizes the Contrast between life and death. This meaning is reinforced by the ambiguous character of the yew tree: On the one hand, the yew belongs to the evergreen conifers, traditionally a symbol of eternal life, on the other hand, it produces a toxic secretion that affects the central nervous system of humans. As with the other irreversible runes, the Eihwaz rune focuses on the equal coexistence of apparent contradictory and incompatible aspects. Although Eihwaz is traditionally considered a death rune, it stands, especially for the life-giving powers of the cosmos.
Interpretation of the Rune Eihwaz
Despite its direct connection to death, Eihwaz is generally a positive sign. It promises us an increase in our vital strength, but also the opportunity to gain greater knowledge. However, these gifts come at a price. The mental growth and natural strength that emanate from the Eihwaz rune arise from the conscious perception of difficult situations and crises. In the rarest of cases, this is a death or personal experience of a life-threatening situation. Rather, borderline experiences can help our consciousness jump to a higher level, a new life. The difficulties we face in transitioning into this new life serve to test our endurance and inner strength.
If we engage in the cleansing and awareness-enhancing effects of the tests we are given, the vital side of Eihwaz will finally break through and enable us to start again.
The Rune Perthro
The rune already has the direct meaning of cup or dice cup in direct connection with the principle we call destiny. In Germanic mythology, this power is embodied by three old sisters, the so-called Norns. Day in and day out, the three sit on their spinning wheels in the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil and spin the threads of life of people and gods, so the fate of the world literally runs through their fingers.
The names of the three sisters, Urdhr, “what has become”, Verdhandi, “what is becoming,” and Skuld, “what is destined to be”, illustrate the important temporal aspect of the Germanic concept of destiny and thus the rune of fate Perthro. Not only the chronological sequence of events, the inseparable connection of past, present and future, plays a major role in the work of the Perthro rune, but also the relationship between cause and effect, causality.
Interpretation of the Rune Perthro
Upright Meaning: As a rune of fate, Perthro promises us happiness in an upright position, which presents itself almost without our intervention as a doom. Higher powers have taken the lead; we should be ready to let the current drift for a while. Fate means well with us if we only allow it. This is not the time to enforce anything or to drive events forward. With Perthro’s help, we will be able to intuitively take the right path.
We should consciously use the phase of relative passivity to explore our inner self and to investigate the deeper causes of our current state of mind. The Perthro rune enables us to look at our situation from a completely different perspective. This change of perspective can be more than helpful in difficult situations.
Reversed Meaning: Perthro, in a reversed position, warns us not to leave too much to chance or fate at the moment. Reversed, the rune of fate shows its inconstant side and shows us vividly where it can lead if we completely and purposelessly submit to our dictation: long-held plans are nullified, projects fail, security “dissolves”, we become the game ball of unpredictable forces. Extreme caution is particularly important in financial matters. We should definitely refrain from major investments, share speculation, or even gamble at the moment.
Even in interpersonal relationships, we should not expect any real stability at the moment. Unreliability, volatility, dishonesty, and moodiness determine the climate here. But don’t worry: Perthro’s positive basic orientation will soon gain the upper hand again, and our misfortune can make happiness and success quickly happen again.
The Rune Algiz
Algiz or Elhaz, in their complex symbolic meaning, is perhaps the most referential rune of them all. The original Germanic word algiz primarily means protection. As a symbol of protection, this rune is closely related to the mighty Valkyries, those legendary female beings who gave protection and strength to the brave warriors in Nordic mythology and mediated between Odin and the heroes he had chosen. The second name of the fifteenth rune, Elhaz, means something like elk.
The oldest form of the rune sign used here also reminds graphically of the respectful antler shovels of this giant animal. At the same time, however, the image of the tree with its branches and roots also stands out clearly. The combination of both aspects refers to the four cosmic deer that gnaw on the needles of the world tree Yggdrasil in the Nordic saga. In its symbolic connection with the world tree, Algiz shows itself as a rune of contact between humans and the gods. It symbolizes the energy through which human consciousness is connected to the gods. As a rune of awareness and consciousness, Algiz reminds us that by virtue of our inner voice, we are in constant dialogue with the higher levels of the cosmos.
Interpretation of the Rune Algiz
In its older, symmetrically mirrored variant, Algiz is one of the nine irreversible runes of the Elder Futhark. Despite the generally ambiguous effects of these special rune signs, we have every reason to be optimistic when we encounter Algiz. The rune protects us from negative influences and shields us against external resistance. This will make it almost child’s play to implement our plans and projects and bring them to a successful conclusion.
In addition, the Algiz rune clearly urges us to finally let our instincts, our over-conscious sense of doing the right thing, and make the decision that is appropriate to the situation, come into play. In the hectic pace of everyday life, we may have almost forgotten to notice the direct connection to higher insights and supra-individual truths, not to mention trusting this inner voice.
Algiz urges us to take the step to this higher level of consciousness and to remember that we, too, are part of the greater whole, whose immeasurable knowledge is also available to us. At the same time, the Algiz rune warns us urgently against using our increased mental and emotional potential to enrich ourselves or harm others for no reason. Before we act, we should definitely review our situation again carefully and carefully check the goals set for their meaningfulness and, above all, legality.
The protective, life-affirming power of Algiz has a positive effect on our interpersonal relationships. The positive vibrations that fly through us are transferred to our immediate surroundings. The partnership focuses on security and harmony. Above all, this has to do with the fact that the awareness-expanding energy of the Algiz rune enables us to open up to our partner, but also to grasp their needs more clearly.
The Rune Sowilo
The last rune of the second Aett, Sowilo, represents the sun as a body of light and warmth, but above all, as a source of spiritual energy. In Germanic mythology, the sun is considered a female principle; it gives life and strength. It is not uncommon for us to encounter the Sowilo rune in a double, crossed form. Then it symbolizes the sun wheel, which is at home in many cultures. The idea of the wheel as a carrier of spiritual energy in humans is widespread. In Indian tradition, for example, chakra is used in this context. A tremendous potential lies dormant in the energetic eddies that must be revealed and used. The sun rune Sowilo embodies this power, which enables us to pursue our goals with determination and willpower and finally to achieve them.
Interpretation of the Rune Sowilo
Sowilo is an unusually powerful rune. Like the warming rays of the sun after long months of winter, Sowilo exudes a zest for action, willpower, motivation, and determination. Whatever we touch now will be crowned with success. Destinations that until recently seemed unattainable are suddenly within reach thanks to the tremendous energy that the sun rune gives us. The illuminating influence that Sowilo has on our entire spiritual and spiritual system naturally also affects our mood. The well-known “sunny mind” inspires us, and our good mood and warm-heartedness, coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit and spontaneity that can hardly be stopped, make us a welcome guest and popular companion.
This, in turn, increases our self-confidence and our security. At the moment, we hardly seem to be able to do anything wrong, and we should definitely not let this phase on the sunny side of life pass unused. However, the sun rune Sowilo, like all irreversible runes, also has a dark side.
In the immense energy of the sun, there is, of course, the danger of the uncontrollable force of nature. For all our zest for life, we should always take great care not to burn our fingers or to be struck down by Sowilo’s strength like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. Let us beware of addiction, obsession, selfishness, and excessive complacency.
The Rune Tiwaz
Tiwaz, the rune of the Germanic god of war Tyr, opens the third and last Aett of the Elder Futhark. The group of the last eight runes is increasingly effective in areas related to the soul and spiritual growth of humans. In Nordic mythology, Tyr is not only the god of war and duels but above all the god among those responsible for law and justice. In addition, he also embodies the aspect of transformation into a higher level of being through a personal victim: The Germanic saga reports that Tyr offered his hand to the deadly Fenriswolf for feeding and thus enabled the gods to put the bloodthirsty animal on the chain. Above all, Tiwaz stands for justice and the power of the divine order, as it works in the cosmos and in humanity. Maintaining this order may require self-sacrifice or readiness to fight.
Interpretation of the Rune Tiwaz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, Tiwaz appears to us like an arrow pointing to the sky. That corresponds exactly to its meaning. In this position, Tiwaz promises us an insight into the higher cosmic order and thus the possibility of expanding consciousness.
If we open our minds and interpret the signs correctly, we have the chance to better understand ourselves and our environment and thereby emerge from the current situation as mature, wiser, and fairer people.
The Tiwaz rune confirms our goals as justified, we should, in any case, continue to pursue them, even if the realization of our wishes demands sacrifice. The warlike aspect of the rune gives us energy and the courage to master all the challenges that stand in our way.
In the interpersonal area, Tiwaz attests to our empathy, a sense of justice, reliability, and honesty: qualities that qualify us as a valuable friend and advisor. Despite all altruistic willingness to make sacrifices, we should avoid neglecting ourselves and endangering our mental balance.
Reversed Meaning: Tiwaz in the reversed position means that our sense of order, justice, and appropriate action is blocked. The reason for this can be the everyday stress and frustration over situations that give us the feeling of being treated unfairly. The knot in our connection to higher insights can also have its cause in more serious crises, such as the painful experience of infidelity or abuse of trust. These make us appear as a defenseless victim of circumstances. The most important thing now is to actively free yourself from the passive victim role. The cosmic order has not gone out of joint; we have only temporarily lost contact with it. It is up to us and our attitude to make ourselves receptive to their vibrations again.
The Rune Berkano
In the literal sense, Berkano means birch. This flexible and resilient tree has long been a symbol of fertility and life. This is how the primeval feminine principle of the great mother opens up to us in the Berkano rune. Above all, it stands for the miracle of birth, the origin of all life. As the embodiment of the motherly, Berkano is also a rune of protection and security. In the cyclical course of birth, life, death, and rebirth, however, it is also the merciless executor, because death is the prerequisite for every new beginning.
Interpretation of the Rune Berkano
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, the Berkano fertility rune always signals that we are on the threshold of a new beginning. The birth of a child can play a role in this context but does not have to. Rather, Berkano gently points out that: a phase of our life has reached its natural end, and we should now engage in something new.
We do not have to be afraid of too drastic or radical changes. Berkano’s maternal aspect will ensure that we survive all necessary developments without damage. So if we dare to take on the promising offers that Berkano offers us, our courage will be rewarded with a whole new quality of life. This applies to the private sector as well as to our careers. So we can look to the future with optimism.
Reversed Meaning: Berkano, in a reversed position, points to sterility and stagnation. Our natural urge for renewal and further development is overlaid by laziness and passivity, often paired with a debilitating fear of change. We literally stand in our way for fear that we will not be able to cope with the necessary changes.
If we do not face our problems and deliberately and on our own initiative plunge back into the steady flow of life and renewal, we run the risk of becoming bitter and lonely. Berkano is only too ready to receive us with its motherly care if we finally shake ourselves up and no longer lock out life. Certainly, change always means risk. But it is precisely this risk that makes life worth living.
The Rune Ehwaz
Ehwaz stands for the horse, one of the sacred animals of Nordic mythology and religion. It was considered the source and medium of divine wisdom and was even asked for advice in Germanic divination rituals. Ehwaz plays a particularly important role in the context of the runes of transformation, as the horse is able to carry its rider from one world to another. Horse sculptures were often placed in the grave with the dead to make it easier for them to get to the underworld.
The close relationship between horse and rider also illustrates the expanded meaning of Ehwaz as a rune of loyalty. In the connection of two beings, who work on the basis of mutual absolute trust towards a common goal, there is an enormous power potential that comes into play in the Ehwaz rune.
Interpretation of the Rune Ehwaz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, we can hope for a bright future in the interpersonal area. The connection to another person – regardless of whether on a partnership or friendship level – develops into a true source of life energy and security. The trust we put in these people will not be disappointed as long as we prove worthy of their loyalty. This should not be difficult for us under the influence of Ehwaz, because openness, honesty, and tolerance currently determine our self.
Under these conditions, we have a phase of constructive cooperation, harmony, and joy in our life.
Reversed Meaning: Ehwaz, in the reversed position, indicates a massive breach of loyalty and trust. A relationship with another person that is extraordinarily important for us could break. Crisis-like changes or conflicts that are difficult to resolve could also show us that supposed friends are actually pursuing completely different interests. Nevertheless, if Ehwaz is reversed, we shouldn’t be tempted to mistrust the people around us from the start. Disappointments are painful, but they always contribute to our spiritual and emotional growth. Through distance and misanthropy, we can apparently protect ourselves from hurt feelings, but we also deny ourselves the joy that intimate friendship and grown partnership have to offer.
The Rune Mannaz
Mannaz stands for the divine part in each one of us and in humanity in general. The rune represents the perfect human being as androgynous, that is, male and female alike, and thus illustrates the different sides in the character of humankind.
In a figurative sense, Mannaz is the rune of human intelligence, memory, and reason. As a symbol for the connection between gods and humans and thus between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and material world, the Mannaz rune reminds us that we are part of a larger whole.
Our actions draw more circles than we can see at first glance, we carry responsibility far beyond the limits of our own self.
Interpretation of the Rune Mannaz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, the rune Mannaz is also called the mirror rune, because one of its modes of action is to show us our true face that we need not fear the sight of it. We are at peace with ourselves, mind, body, and soul are in harmony with each other. Our behavior towards other people is also shaped by Mannaz. Openness, tolerance, and the awareness of being in a close spiritual relationship with the rest of humanity enable us to respect all people as equals.
Reversed Meaning: Mannaz, in a reversed position, underlines our current isolation. In our current situation, we are on our own, either at our own request or forced. However, this “recklessness” can be dangerous for us. If we do not manage to think outside the box, our perspective will give us the necessary insights for important decisions. The bigger picture will remain hidden from us. We should try at all costs to re-establish our connection with the people around us and with the higher forces.
A requirement for this is, of course, that we first investigate in critical self-analysis why we have withdrawn from the community. It is not uncommon for our break with the world to be caused by destructive self-esteem, excessive ambition, or resentment. As soon as we have recognized this, the way back is open again.
The Rune Laguz
Laguz is the Germanic word for water, and the Laguz rune symbolizes water as a secret source of all organic life. The cosmic primeval waters of Germanic mythology already contain the entire, if not yet fully developed potential of all life. The role of water in initiation rituals was derived from its role as a life-giving and life-giving element. The custom of sprinkling water on newborn children in order to symbolically welcome them into life, as we still do today in the Christian sacrament of baptism, goes back to pagan rituals from pre-Christian times.
Nevertheless, water is not only a positive element. Life-giving and fruitful on one hand, and on the other hand, it can grow into a destructive and deadly force. It is able to give life as well as to take life.
These opposites are also expressed in the Laguz rune. The unfathomable, dark and deep body of water that Laguz stands for also embodies that depth dimension of our personality that, well below the surface, often remains hidden even from ourselves. Our unconscious is located here as well as our uncontrollable instinctual life. Laguz is a mysterious rune. Changeable and unfathomable like water, it stands for all the unclear, blurred, irrational areas of ourselves: Feelings, dreams, desires, passions, moods.
Interpretation of the Rune Laguz
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, we should be prepared for a stream of creative energy, which we only have to direct into the right channels, comparable to an uncontrolled river, in order to get the maximum benefit from it. Laguz is an extremely creative rune. Our emotional life is inconstant too. We sway with exuberant enthusiasm for melancholic dreaminess, from gentle romance to rumbling high spirits. Laguz lets us experience the whole color-palette of our emotional being. We should savor this excursion into the uncontrollable, thoroughly life-affirming layers of ourselves as long as possible. However, we should avoid bothering other people too much with our sudden changes in mood.
Reversed Meaning: Laguz in the reversed position, signifies the natural flow of our life energies as being disturbed. This can affect us in several ways. Through external influences – for example, traumatic experiences that we do not process properly or painful experiences that we repress instead of dealing with them. Or, the hidden emotional flow within us can develop into a torrent, the destructive force of which we are defenseless are delivered. We should, therefore, not ignore the advice and help of outsiders. Our fear of the abyss of our own self can block us emotionally that we are hardly able to let go even in a positive sense. In this case, we should actively try to get to the bottom of our fears. Then we will be able to enjoy our unknown pages in amazement again.
The Rune Inguz
The twenty-second rune of the Elder Futhark, Inguz, is probably directly related to the Germanic-Danish earth god Ing. Inguz embodies the masculine aspect of fertility; the rune is considered a symbol of healthy sexuality and vitality. As a rune of earthly power, Inguz complements the effect of Laguz, the water rune. As in nature’s growth cycles, Inguz’s strength must first go through various phases of rest and slow development before the full energy potential of this rune can unfold. After this process of maturation, however, it can let all its powers work. As the eighth of the nine irreversible runes of the Elder Futhark, Inguz also combines contradictory aspects.
In its development from passivity to activity, from rest to growth, the Inguz rune naturally also embodies the contrast between death and life. Just as the seed initially remains dead in the earth for a long time and then awakened to life by the vital forces of nature, Inguz also overcomes the death-like phase of complete immobility and isolation in order to give new vitality. We encounter this motif of death and resurrection to new life in the mythology of various early cultures as well as in the Christian tradition.
Interpretation of the Rune Inguz
As already indicated, Inguz is a rune with great power potential. In order to be able to develop this energy, however, it first requires rest and reflection. Now is the time to withdraw and patiently wait for the right time to act. A positive development, a promising new beginning, is imminent. To get there, we have to put up with a phase of being alone. We may also have to say goodbye to something or someone, at least temporarily, to let go of people and things we love so that we can fully reflect on ourselves for a while.
It is certainly not easy to just fall back on yourself to this extent. But sometimes such phases of external immobility are essential for the concentration of our energies. Of course, we have to avoid falling into a permanent state of rigidity and self-chosen insulation at all costs. Rather, we should make sensible use of the “breather” that Inguz grants us by examining our current situation and tapping into possible opportunities for the future.
The Rune Dagaz
The original germanic word dagaz means day. To put it more precisely, the Dagaz rune stands for the first and last light of the day, for dawn and dusk. This already clearly shows the again unifying character of this last irreversible rune of the Elder Futhark: for a short time, day and night flow into each other at dusk, then combine their forces and then, gradually, replace each other. That is why Dagaz is also a rune of change and transition.
Dagaz embodies polarity even more than any other irreversible rune. In it, incompatible concepts merge into a harmonious whole, which lets us recognize the secret nature of the cosmos in the clearest clarity at the moment of flying together. It is no coincidence that the outer shape of the Dagaz rune corresponds to the sign of infinity. The opposites that fly together in a meaningful synthesis in Dagaz are all-encompassing: space and time, joy and pain, life and death, mind and matter, body and soul, light, and darkness.
In the connection of all these opposite poles, a tremendous force flows with which one should never be negligent. As a rune of the paradoxical amalgamation of the incompatible, Dagaz is associated with the mighty godfather Odin.
Interpretation of the Rune Dagaz
Dagaz is a rune of the sun and light and is, therefore, rather positive overall. It is a rune of transition, symbolizing an impending development for the better, but above all, for a deeper understanding of the true nature of the world. Strengthened by this knowledge, we can hope that our goals and wishes will become reality. Unbeatable obstacles, factors that absolutely opposed our ideas and ideals, can suddenly be integrated constructively, are more of a challenge than a hindrance to our projects. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that Dagaz not only marks the transition from night to day, but also the other way round as a bridge between day and night. The path Dagaz shows us can, too hastily or carelessly, lead us into the dark. The power of the Dagaz rune to merge opposites does not necessarily lead to the greatest possible harmony in synthesis, but may only blur the contours of aspects whose true differentiation would be important to us. Instead of gaining higher knowledge, we run the risk of slipping into disorientation.
The Rune Othala
Othala is the rune of heritage. Initially, it stands for an inherited property that has been passed on from generation to generation within the family, for land and other ancestral property. In its somewhat broader meaning, Othala also symbolizes the outer pivot points in which we are rooted as a person: Family, relatives, and home. The Othala rune stands for hereditary material, but also in the broader sense for spiritual and biological inheritance. The traits and characteristics that we have inherited from our ancestors and that keep us in constant contact with them are expressed in this rune.
All these attributes make Othala a rune of conscious and sensible handling of the foundations of your own life. The deep roots in the family and at home play an equally important role here as the preservation of individual freedoms and rights within the community. Othala, the last “real” rune of the Elder Futhark, also closes the circle of signs. In its central aspects, Fehu, the rune of movable property and livestock, ties in directly with the symbolic background of Othala.
Interpretation of the Rune Othala
Upright Meaning: In an upright position, Othala points out the invaluable value of our roots and our involvement in a social community. It banishes negative energies and, at the same time, magically attracts positive ones. If the rune lies upright, it promises us security and security within the family or our relationship. It is not uncommon for this rune to grant us freedom from worry and to help us gain material prosperity and the end of a financial shortage. The feeling of being safe in our environment naturally also has a positive effect on our self-confidence.
We feel at ease with ourselves and, not least because of this, can adequately appreciate the togetherness of the family community. This is a good time to finally get rid of disagreements and problems within the family.
Reversed Meaning: Othala, in a reversed position, shows us our self-inflicted isolation. For reasons that, given the necessary distance, would probably seem vain and insignificant to us. We have moved away from our reference points and thus from ourselves. The relationship with members of our family or even with our partner has displayed obvious cracks, our unsatisfied need for security and protection makes us react with bitterness and anger to everything that promises warmth and security. It is high time to resolve the disputes (often Othala even indicates inheritance disputes) with the people who should be closest to us. As long as we deny our roots and our need for belonging, we block the positive energies that Othala exudes in abundance.
The Blank Rune
The so-called blank or fate rune Wyrd does not actually belong to the Elder Futhark, even if its content is clearly linked to the philosophy of the Germanic tribes. As has already become clear in connection with the Perthro rune, the idea of fate in the Germanic world view is closely linked to the principle of causality and thus also temporality.
Whether you use the blank rune, or fate rune in your readings, or not, we want to include it in this article.
Wyrd, also called Odin’s Rune is, therefore, not a predetermined lot from which we cannot escape, but the cosmic reaction to our behavior in the past. While in Greek mythology, for example, man is completely defenseless and free of his fate, the concept of fate of the Teutons certainly allows the individual freedom of choice, but also responsibility for himself, his fellow man and his environment.
This concept is obviously very similar to the Buddhist teaching of karma, which states that all human deeds determine his fate in the present and future lives. Good things are rewarded; bad things fall back on the wrongdoer in some form sooner or later.
The History of Runes
Before adopting the modern Latin alphabet (the “ABCs”), ancient Germanic and Scandinavian civilizations used runes as a form of written communication. Inscriptions have been found on stones from as early as AD 150. It is generally accepted that runic letters are derived from Old Italic (Etruscan) letters. Some theorize that this is because the Germanic people served as mercenaries for Rome and adapted the letters used by their employers to their own spoken language.
As Christianity spread throughout Northern Europe, runes were largely replaced by the Latin alphabet. However, even up to the 20th century, runes were used for traditional and decorative purposes. Over time, the alphabet transformed and evolved. Elder Futhark is the oldest alphabet, used from the 2nd to the 8th century. Anglo-Frisian runes (also known as Anglo-Saxon runes) were used from the 5th to the 11th century. Marcomannic runes were used in the 8th and 9th centuries. Younger Futhark was used from the 9th to the 11th century. Medieval runes were used from the 12th to the 15th century, and Dalecarlian runes were used in rural Sweden from the 16th up to the 20th century.
Runes in Modern Times
Runes appear today in fantasy literature and video games. J.R.R. Tolkien used Anglo-Saxon runes on a map in The Hobbit and used them to develop his own runic alphabet, “Cirth,” which he often references in later novels. Runes also have a special significance to neo-pagans and those who study divination and the occult because of their connection to Norse mythology and magic.
It is thought that the earliest examples of runic writing were charms or curses. Therefore, the 24 letters of Elder Futhark alphabet hold special meaning. Some claim that they can be used to predict the future through prophecy. A common way to use runes is to inscribe them on amulets, talismans, and other magical objects. These amulets can be carried (usually in the form of a necklace or small stone) to protect one from evil or to bring good fortune.
How to Use Runes
Runes would often be used to invoke the protection and good favor from Nordic gods. In fact, the origin of runes is attributed to the gods in a famous Eddic poem titled “Havamal.” The author of this poem claims that the runes were created by Odin through an ancient act of self-sacrifice. Odin is best known for being the father of Thor and is associated with not only war and battle, but wisdom, magic, poetry, and prophecy.
Though the origins and uses of the Elder Futhark alphabet still remain largely a mystery, most discovered runes (of the later alphabets) have been found as inscriptions on large, angular slabs of rock known as runestones. These stones were often erected as memorials to important men.
Runic calendars have also been in use for many centuries. They are either written on parchment or carved into wood or bone. The calendar is “perpetual” and is based on a 19-year-long cycle of the moon. Weekdays are marked by specific Younger Futhark runes and special feast days and pagan holidays are indicated by additional symbols.
The mysteries surrounding runes and their potential magical influence make them an interesting area of study for many scholars and for those interested in the ancient power of divination. Rune reading is a popular form of divination and is similar in some ways to tarot reading. The 24 runes of Elder Futhark are inscribed on small stones, crystals or tiles and are drawn at random or dumped on a mat from a cloth bag for interpretation.
Ancient History Encyclopedia: https://www.ancient.eu/runes/
Chamberlain, Lisa. Runes for Beginners: A Guide to Reading Runes in Divination, Rune Magic, and the Meaning of the Elder Futhark Runes. Chamberlain Publications, 2018.
Dee, Jonathan. Runes: Reading, Casting, and Divination. Kerswell Farm Ltd., 2007.
Dean, Liz. The Ultimate Guide to Divination. Quatro Publishing Group USA Inc, 2018.
Sunnyway, the Meanings of Runes: http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/meanings.html