The Runes

Rune Descriptions

Adapted from ‘Northern Mysteries and Magick’

Here, I offer you my insights and interpretations of the Runes, as explored in my book “Northern Mysteries & Magick,” guiding you through the symbolic and powerful landscape of Rune wisdom.


Germanic name: FEHU
Anglo-Saxon: FEOH
Old Norse: FE
Phonetic value: F

Traditional meaning: cattle, wealth

This is the first rune of the first aett. The runes are divided into groups of eight (called aettir), which reflect the ancient mystical numerological tradition of Northern Europe. The classical meaning of Fehu as handed down through various sources is cattle or wealth, in particular, movable wealth. In a so-called primitive society such as existed in Northern Europe when the runes were first developed, cattle represented wealth. The status of the chieftain was usually measured by the number of cattle which he or she owned.

In those days, cattle provided both a livelihood and a barter medium used in much the same way as money is used nowadays. Hence the present-day association with the modern English word “fee,” by which name this rune is also known. Fehu is therefore currency in all its forms. It is mobile wealth and is meant to circulate through the system, much like a blood circulation or the food chain.

The ultimate meaning of Fehu is food.


Germanic name: URUZ
Anglo-Saxon: UR
Old Norse: UR
Phonetic value: U

Traditional meaning: aurochs

The aurochs was a ferocious native species of wild ox which is now extinct. The energy behind this rune is the life force of the masculine polarity, the unconscious drive for manifestation. While the energy of Fehu is the active element in creation, the fire of Muspelheim, the fire of Fehu interacts with the energy of Uruz, which is the element of ice, and life is generated.

Uruz contains a primal Earth energy – the inextinguishable impulse to be, the energy behind the forms of nature which survives all attempts at destruction, re-forming itself in new patterns when the old ones are outworn. So the energy of Uruz is indestructible, raw, primitive and unbelievably strong. Uruz symbolizes strength, persistence, durability and adaptability to environmental changes. On a higher plane, Uruz represents healing energy-a strong, restorative recuperative physical process. This is the energy which manifests itself along ley-Iines. Fehu and Uruz are closely interlinked, both relating to cattle. They are a pair, and operate together in a process of creating and sustaining the life-forms on this plane.


Germanic name: THURISAZ
Anglo-Saxon: THORN
Old Norse: FHURS
Phonetic value: TH

Traditional meaning: cattle, giant

Thurisaz is the third rune in the first aett, and its element is fire. The traditional name of this rune is Thurisaz, which is a very ancient name for Thor and appears in literature alongside the names Wodenaz and Teiwaz. Thurisaz also means “giant.” This has been preserved in present-day Icelandic, in which the word thurs still means “giant.”

Early Christians chose to translate this as “demon,” which was their stock method of propaganda against anything which they wished to eliminate. Thurisaz represents both Thor and the giants. Thor has some characteristics in common with the giants and is certainly the only one of the Aesir who matches the giants in physical strength. In Northern mythology, the giants represent the forces of chaos, and Thor is the one who keeps these forces under control. hursiaz is mostly representative of evil, and while this is true it is a double-edged blade that can easily be turnedon the one who invokes it for evil purposes.


Germanic name: ANSUZ
Anglo-Saxon: OS
Old Norse: ASS
Phonetic value: A

Traditional meaning: cattle, a god

This is the fourth rune of the futhark. Whereas Thurisaz represents the forces of chaos, Ansuz represents order, the defenders of which in our mythology are the Aesir. In Norse cosmology, after the creation of the giant Y mir (chaos ), another being was created, Buri, who was the ancestor of the Aesir (order). Buri fathered Borr, although it is not mentioned who was Borr’s mother. Borr married Bestla, who was also of the giant race. From this we see that there is a certain amount of integration and cooperation between the two opposing forces of chaos (giants) and order (Aesir).

The integration of the forces of order and chaos explains why Odin, albeit a god of order, has an element of chaos within him and tends to use unconventional means to achieve his ends. Ansuz represents consciousness, intelligence, communication, eloquence reason, and above all the god Odin.


Germanic name: RAIDO
Anglo-Saxon: RAD
Old Norse: REID
Phonetic value: R

Traditional meaning: riding

“Riding” or “journey ,” has been the accepted interpretation in runic circles as the meaning of this rune. Riding has the more symbolic connotations of creating movement, generating motion, taking charge of situations, being in control, taking the initiative, starting a new venture, decision-making or directing a course of action. Rad, the Anglo-Saxon name of the rune, is correlated with the German word “rat” and Dutch “raad”, both meaning “counsel” or “advice,” which is one of the meanings of Raido. It gives sound advice in a reading.

There is another word of Gothic origin, “raiht” which in my opinion is closely related to rad or Raido. This word means “right,” or in Dutch recht, and the verb “rechten” meaning in English “to do right, to dispense judgment, to litigate.” Thus we can clearly establish that the Raido rune is a rune that speaks to us of leadership and nobility.


Germanic name: KENAZ
Anglo-Saxon: CEN
Old Norse: KAUNO
Phonetic value: K or hard C

Traditional meaning: torch, light

Most rune-workers interpret the meaning of the Kenaz rune as “torch,” which has always been regarded as a symbol of knowledge, consciousness and intellect. Kenaz means “to know” ; the English dialect verb ken and the Dutch and German kennen all mean “to know, to be familiar with” Furthermore, it means not only “to know” but “to be able to.” Another Dutch word related to Kenaz is kunst, which can be translated as “art” or “craft” and to which the English word “cunning” corresponds.

Kenaz indicates the ability to seek, gain, apply and recognize. It also indicates the learning and teaching process. The primary aspect of Kenaz is the torch, that is, the torch of knowledge which is to be passed on to the next generation of kin or cyn (both these words are of Anglo-Saxon origin and related to Kenaz). The basic meaning of the word “kin” indicates members of the same family or blood-relatives. However, “kin” may also be interpreted in a wider concept as like-minded people of the same tribal origins.


Germanic name: GEBO
Anglo-Saxon: GIFU
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: G

Traditional meaning: gift

The god primarily associated with this rune is Odin, although some people allocate this rune to Thor. In fact, there are certain aspects of Gebo connected with marriage contracts and boundary-markers which are indeed attributes of Thor. The element of this rune is air. Giving, as well as receiving, has always been an important part of Northern European customs, as is well documented in the Havamal. The implication is that a gift was given on the understanding that a gift was to be received in return. It is therefore not only a matter of giving, but also of receiving.

Everything points to balance and equilibrium. The shape of the rune confirms this: two crossed bars, their arms of equal length.


Germanic name: WUNJO
Anglo-Saxon: WYNN
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: W, V

Traditional meaning: perfection

The god primarily associated with this rune is [[Odin]]. But there is an Anglo-Saxon magical tradition connecting this rune with the god Uller. The name of this rune is usually translated by other rune-workers as “joy” or “pasture.” This association with joy is evidently derived from the rune-name’s similarity to the modem German word Wonne.

Although this interpretation is not altogether wrong, more light will be shed on our understanding of this rune if we concentrate on the original meaning of the word, i.e. “perfection,” according to the philologist Jacob Grim. In all pagan traditions, gods are seen as being partly good and partly bad, just like us – except that these characteristics are portrayed in the gods on a grander scale. The Odinic aspects of Wunjo are more beneficial than is implied by the writers of the Eddas, in which Odin is usually depicted as a warmonger, or an evil sorcerer. Wunjo contains all that is beautiful and lovable in Odin who after all is the fulfiller of wishes.


Germanic name: HAGALAZ
Anglo-Saxon: HAEGL
Old Norse: HAGALL
Phonetic value: H

Traditional meaning: hall

This is the first rune of the second aett. Most of the runes in this aett are concerned with the goddesses, in particular the Noms. The first aett deals with the emergence of order from chaos and the establishment of the cosmic routine. In the second aett, we shall investigate those antagonistic forces which attempt to disrupt this order, thereby creating necessary change and evolution. Even on the most superficial level it can be seen that the meaning of Hagalaz is negative. Hagalaz means “hail” and every farmer knows what hail can do to the crops: it is a destructive natural force.

In order to understand the more esoteric meaning of Hagalaz it is necessary to discuss it in conjunction with two other runes, Isa and Nauthiz. These three runes, which are the first three in the second aett, are related magically and semantically/. More discussion of this aspect can be found in “Northern Mysteries and Magick” available for sale on this site.


Germanic name: NAUTHIZ
Anglo-Saxon: NEED
Old Norse: NAUDR
Phonetic value: N

Traditional meaning: need

Nauthiz is another rune closely associated with one of the three Noms, in this case Skuld, who rules the future. The word Skuld relates to the Dutch and German word Schuld, meaning “debt,” i.e. that which is owed. It can mean in traditional Nordic terms wergild. Wer is Old Germanic for “man ” and gild means both money and guilt; hence, man-guilt.

These associations combine to form a Norse version of what is commonly known as karma. The actions in the past (Hagalaz) create the conditions prevailing in the future (Nauthiz = need). Skuld is the youngest of the three Noms. She cuts the thread of life when it comes to its end. The fate created during that life will be meted out accordingly. This shows that the future is in the hands of fate and Nauthiz reflects this in its meaning.


Germanic name: ISA
Anglo-Saxon: IS
Old Norse: IS
Phonetic value: I

Traditional meaning: ice

Like the first two runes in the second aett, lsa is also associated with an element – ice. Ice is water in its densest frozen state. Water is fluid; ice is solid and static. Isa therefore represents the principle of preservation and resistance to change. It is the counter-force to evolution, slowing down change; as such it performs a function equivalent to the principle expressed in occult terminology as “The ring pass not.” Isa is a necessarily antagonistic force whose controlling effect is essential in order to prevent evolution from running riot in unrestrained and random growth.

Our ancestors saw ice as a challenge, and not only succeeded in the struggle for survival in unfavourable conditions, but were also spurred on by Isa to evolve faster than others. Thus necessity proved to be the mother of invention. Our ancestors also had to develop as a sturdy warrior race.


Germanic name: JERA
Anglo-Saxon: GOLD
Old Norse: AR
Phonetic value: J or Y

Traditional meaning: year, harvest

This rune is the fourth in the aett of Hagalaz and the twelfth in the futhark. Since there are twelve months in the year and twice twelve hours in a day this seems appropriate. The name of this rune indicates that it has an important bearing on time and the divisions of time.

This rune, following immediately after the three Norn-related runes, represents time itself. The two halves of the Jera rune clearly portray two halves of a year circling around each other in perpetual swirling motion from light to darkness and back again. The Jera rune is associated, in particular, with the turning of the year at Yuletide, when the Sun returns. Jera also contains the mystery of Baldur and Hodur, who are killed and reborn.


Germanic name: EIHAZ
Anglo-Saxon: EOH
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: E, Y

Traditional meaning: yew

Eihwaz represents Yggdrasil. However, it also resembles the human spine or backbone, which supports the rest of the body. Eihwaz is the psychic equivalent of the backbone, as Yggdrasil, supporting creation, resembles a cosmic spine. The spine has 24 vertebrae and this could be a correspondence with the futhark.

Eihwaz is traditionally associated with hunting, especially by means of a bow, for bows used to be made of yew, and hunting requires daring, especially so in olden days. The power of this rune is a strong and assertive power. It can give you the necessary impetus to take a headlong plunge into the deep end. It is an outgoing rune of action, striving, persistence and endurance. On the magical path, Eihwaz is a testing force. Eihwaz invariably advises that a risk should be taken. It says, “Go for it!”


Germanic name: PERTHO
Anglo-Saxon: PEORTH
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: P

Traditional meaning: birth?

The traditional meaning of this rune has not been established, but various suggestions have been made, including “secret” and “chess piece.” This is the fourteenth rune of the second aett and it is one of the most obscure runes in the futhark. Often it has been left unexplained and described as a secret by uninformed authors. Yet it really should not be that difficult to tune into the mysteries of this rune.

Thanks to the book “Runelore” by Thorolf Wardle, I found the exact information explaining why this is a birth-rune and I explain this more fully in “Northern Mysteries and Magick”. I made an exception to my general rule of not quoting from other authors, because this information is too valuable not to be shared. Thorolf Wardle puts forward the suggestion that the Anglo-Saxon rune-poem has been inaccurately edited in the past and that the fourteenth verse dealing with Pertho actually relates to birth, life and destiny. I do not subscribe to the “secret” meaning, but the “chance” or “gamble” interpretations are supportable in the context of destiny.


Germanic name: ALGIZ
Anglo-Saxon: EOLH
Old Norse: YR
Phonetic value: Z

Traditional meaning: protection

The primary meaning of the Algiz rune is protection. The sign itself looks like a splayed hand, and is reminiscent of Tyr’s hand, which he sacrificed in order to bind Fenris the wolf. The Old Germanic word alhs means temple or sanctuary. Because all the magical accoutrements and ritual equipment were kept in the alhs, these sacred places of worship had to be strongly defended.

Alcis, according to Tacitus, was the name of the divine twins worshiped by Germanic people. Although no one has yet been able to identify these twins, suggestions have been put forward that they were the Northern equivalent of Castor and Pollux. Some workers have suggested that the twins were in fact Baldur and Hodur. My research indicates that since Algiz has a female and male form, the twins also may be male and female. The assumption that these twins are male is probably due to the fact that most serious rune-workers have been male. They have overlooked the possibility that the twins could be Frey and Freya. Alternatively, as this sign is one of the oldest of all the extant runes, it may even represent the original twin divinity, from which all others have been extrapolated. Other twin deities include Niord and Nerthus, and Ziu and Zisa.


Germanic name: SOWULO
Anglo-Saxon: SIGIL
Old Norse: SOL
Phonetic value: S

Traditional meaning: sun

The ancient Northern people, like all primitive peoples, regarded the Sun as a life-giving force. It should, however, be emphasized that they regarded the Sun as feminine. Even in modern German the grammatical gender of Sonne is feminine. The idea that the Sun is feminine is evidently very old and may well stem from a more ancient matriarchal magical tradition.

Sowulo represents the higher will or intent as well as the sense of self and self-worth. It is the highest force in the self, directing the individual’s evolution along a specific path. Sowulo is associated with spiritual guidance and leadership. It can direct a course of action or state a positive purpose.


Germanic name: TEIWAZ
Anglo-Saxon: TYR
Old Norse: TYR
Phonetic value: T

Traditional meaning: the god TYR

This is the first rune of the third aett, which is named after it. Teiwaz is the oldest name known for the god Tyr; its origin is contemporaneous with Wodenaz and Thurisaz. The shape of the Teiwaz rune is like a spear. It also resembles the traditional astrological sign of the planet Mars, identified with the Roman god of war. Tyr resembles this god in some respects. Both are associated with war and battle. Tyr was the original god of battle in the Northern pantheon, although this attribute was later assumed by Odin.

Tyr is a warrior motivated by a sense of justice. He is more of a god of law and order, governing social values, legal contracts and oaths. The Teiwaz rune should be used in workings to gain justice or to win victory in a conflict. Tyr is a god of valour and bravery and in divination Teiwaz reflects these qualities along with that of selfless sacrifice for the common good.


Germanic name: BERKANA
Anglo-Saxon: BEORK
Old Norse: BJARKAN
Phonetic value: B

Traditional meaning: birch

In most of the Germanic languages this rune has the meaning of “birch.” First and foremost this is a goddess-rune and especially relates to the goddess Berchta, who is the patron of mothers and children. Berchta has some aspects in common with Frigga and might indeed be a different form of the same goddess. The Berkana rune, in particular, refers to the processes of gestation and birth. Pertho looks like an opened-up Berkana, which suggests that what remains a hidden promise in Berkana will be brought into the open by Pertho. Frigga, the goddess who more than any other is associated with the Pertho rune, consequently also governs Berkana.

Frigga and the Berkana rune have the qualities of secretiveness and protectiveness in common. The Berkana rune is very beneficial for women and especially for women’s problems. It has a pronounced healing effect when applied to female troubles. It also has a rejuvenating effect and promoters fertility as witnessed by many old customs and traditions.


Germanic name: EHWAZ
Anglo-Saxon: EOH
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: E

Traditional meaning: horse

Most runologists agree that this rune indicates a pair of horses. The most obvious meaning of Ehwaz implies vehicles and control of vehicles. In the olden days a horse and chariot were common vehicles. In modern days this rune could refer to a car or, more probably, a motorbike. Ehwaz also represents the physical vehicle and may be incorporated in a healing working.

On a deeper level, the Ehwaz rune represents the vehicle, or in psychological terms the persona, which is used to relate the external world to one’s own emotional attitudes. In other words, it stands for one’s ability to adjust to various situations. Ehwaz, moreover, emphatically relates to Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse.


Germanic name: MANNAZ
Anglo-Saxon: MAN
Old Norse: MADR
Phonetic value: M

Traditional meaning: man

The term men in old Germanic languages, as for example in Anglo-Saxon, denoted not just the male section of the folk. The words for man and woman were “weapmen” and “weavemen” respectively; clearly the former means men with weapons, and the latter translates literally as “men who weave,” i.e., women. Thus the word-ending “-men” was used for both sexes and it is in this context that the Mannaz rune should be viewed.

This rune not only means “man ” or “mankind,” it is also the name of mankind’s ancestor and progenitor. It signifies relationships between people sharing the same environment and should therefore be taken to mean people, legal affairs, and mutual cooperation in general in divination.


Germanic name: LAGUZ
Anglo-Saxon: LAGU
Old Norse: LOGR
Phonetic value: L

Traditional meaning: lake or water

Most likely the sea, or a large lake. Some of the Germanic tribes lived near the sea and some more inland. The goddess I associate with this rune is Nerthus. A goddess not much heard of in the Norse mythos but who in Germany and Holland, according to the Roman historian Tacitus, was once held in similar regard as Isis. This rune, therefore is predominantly feminine.

The goddess Nerthus is probably the oldest goddess known from Germanic sources and she was worshipped on an island in a lake, in Frisia. She was supposed to bestow blessings wherever she visited. Once a year, everyone laid down their weapons while her wagon was ritually driven around the mainland, a remnant of this was observed in medieval Holland, where a decorated ship was used in processions. Laguz was also probably connected with the custom of ship-burial and Odin as the Ferry man.

In Holland we know of a native goddess named Nehelennia. Statues dating from the first century has been found in Walcheren, one of the islands of the Dutch province of Zealand. Once also Frisian. She is portrayed with a dog and a basket of apples, and she was sometimes described as holding a horn of plenty. She may be a localised form of Nerthus. Laguz represents the waters of life without which we would not be, but it also represents death, as many of our people, especially those from the lowlands, lost their lives at sea.

Laguz is nevertheless one of the runes of healing, and initiation. In many traditions water is used to ‘initiate’ a newborn into the clan. In modern magical work water plays a major role. Water hold memory, hence the idea of the Well of Wyrd and the Well of Mimir.


Germanic name: INGUZ
Anglo-Saxon: ING
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: NG

Traditional meaning: the god Frey

The name of this rune refers primarily to the god Yngvi Frey. The position of the Inguz rune in the futhark ties in with the preceding runes. Just as Mannaz relates to Heimdal and Laguz to Nerthus and Niord, so Inguz signifies Niord’s children, Frey and Freya. Frey is the son of Niord; “son of” is one of the meanings of this rune. In Anglo-Saxon and Frisian patronomic names were formed by adding “-ing” after the father’s forename; this is the usual significance of the “-ing” in names like Bunting and Harding which are found throughout modern Britain and the Netherlands.

In divination Inguz often denotes the completion of a situation and the progression to the next stage of one’s affairs. It can mean a transformation or even a dark night of the soul, or indeed a light and harmonious conclusion, depending on the surrounding runes.


Germanic name: OTHILA
Anglo-Saxon: ETHEL
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: O

Traditional meaning: inherited land

The oldest literal meaning of this rune passed down to us from the continental Germanic source is “noble.” In this sense it is directly related to the Anglo-Saxon word atheling, meaning “prince” or “noble.” The German word adel and the Dutch word edel also mean “noble.” Both derive from the same root. The god who is most obviously related to this rune is Odin.

The shape of Othila is a combination of Inguz and Gebo, and Othila can be interpreted as the “gift of Ing,” which probably explains why Othila has been related to the concept of inheritance by some modem commentators. By comparing the concept of inheritance to the Inguz rune, the previous rune in the futhark, it can be established that it is genetic material that is being inherited on an esoteric level. On a material level Othila implies inherited land and the rights to its possession.


Germanic name: DAGAZ
Anglo-Saxon: DAEG
Old Norse: none
Phonetic value: D

Traditional meaning: day

This rune has been accepted by most rune-workers as being the last rune in the futhark. Nevertheless, the oldest complete futhark, known from the Gotland stone in Sweden ( 425 C.E.), places Othila as the last rune. However, examination of the structure of the futhark persuades us that the rune should be placed at position 24.

The meaning of the name of this rune is quite clear: daeg, dag, Tag, “day”. All these words are derived from the name Dagaz. The associations of this rune are primarily with either the dawning of the new day or with the mid-point of the day, when the Sun is at its zenith. Dagaz can be considered the counterpart of Jera, since both runes refer to time. Jera relates to the division of the year and Dagaz relates to the division of the day. Dagaz is placed exactly opposite Jera in a futhark circle. Whereas Jera is connected with Yuletide or midwinter, Dagaz is connected with mid-summer, when the Sun is at its highest point. Thus Dagaz is a rune of change, but unlike Jera it heralds dramatic change – the end of an era and the beginning of the next. It acts as a catalyst initiating change without changing itself.