Pagan Journeys > Paths and Traditions

Taking Up the Runes


I started upon the Pagan path 9 years ago and have followed a winding road thus far, my attention being drawn this way and that based on my interests and the leading of spirit.  During these years, I have learned a lot.  I learned about having a real relationship with Divinity and I learned a lot about myself.  I learned to recognize my intuition and to interpret my senses more effectively, becoming an decent intuitive Tarot reader in the process. 

So, when my husband and I decided to investigate our connection with the Heathen path, I realized that I needed to do some studying and that I would need to learn something about the runes.  To tell the truth, I was reluctant about the runes and was feeling a bit out of my comfort zone considering the progress I have made with Tarot.  In mid-February, I had major surgery and decided to earnestly take up my study of the runes during my convalescence. My earlier reluctance faded quickly when I felt a primal connection to the symbols at the beginning of my study. 

I was somewhat familiar with the runes as a divination tool, but discovered they are so much more than that.  They are an alphabet used to communicate, both consciously and unconsciously.  They are symbols which represent metaphysical and spiritual concepts common to the Northern European peoples.  They represent a spiritual journey very similar to the Major Arcana in Tarot.  They are magical tools with esoteric and sonic properties useful in the practice of Galdr (verbal rune magic) and Seidr (Norse shamanism and witchcraft). 

The sources I have used thus far in my studies include “Exploring the Northern Tradition” by Galina Krasskova, “The Runes Workbook” by Leon D. Wild, and “Northern Mysteries & Magick” by Freya Aswynn  which is a revised edition of “Leaves of Yggdrasil”.  I have also found interesting interpretations on several websites including (but not limited to): and  This paper is the compilation of my notes and observations thus far.  I am a novice on the runes and still have a lot of work to do but I thought it would be good to invite comment and discussion on my notes.

Note:  The numbers listed here are based on Sigurd Agrell’s theory on the charms listed in  the Havamal.  This interpretation is not widely accepted among modern runic scholars.  A more widely accepted spell list corresponding to the Havamal can be found here:

ETA: I decided to drop the Sigurd Agrell's numerology - it just isn't working for me now.

Freyr/Freyja’s Aett  - 1st degree initiation – The Nurturer
This aettir relates to the creation process whereby the cosmic and material world comes about. The opposing forces Fehu (fire) combined with Uruz (frost) and created the cosmic cow (Audhumla) and the giant (Ymir) who produced both male and female descendants represented by Thurisaz.  Audhumla licked the ice and created the first of the Aesir represented by Ansuz.  The cycles of time created by the Aesir are represented by Raidho and the illumination of the Aesir (Sun and Moon) is represented by Kenaz. Kenaz may also reflect the entrance of the Vanic Gods.  Gebo represents the gift of life and soul given to mankind.  Wunjo represents the completion of the creation process – Midgard as paradise.
Fehu  - F - (fay-who) - Cattle
Energy, portable wealth, and new endeavors
Associated with Niord, Freyr and Freyja, Fire/Earth, creative fire element from Muspellheim, female polarity
Rune poems – need a responsible attitude towards wealth, avoid greed and envy

Uruz – U - (ooo-rooze) – Aurochs
Strength and vitality, health, organic transformation
Associated with Thor, the Thunderer aspect, creative ice element from Niflheim, Earth, male polarity
Rune poems – primal impulse to live

Thurisaz – TH - (thoor-ee-saw) – Thurs (giant)
Unfettered will, resistance, opposition, impulsiveness
Thurisaz is an ancient name for Thor and represents chaotic fire (Giants), Fire, male polarity
Rune poems – warn that this is a dangerous rune and unpredictable

Ansuz – A - (awn-sooze) – Ancestral God
Intelligence, reason, communication, self-conciousness, rune work
Associated with Odin, Air, “vital breath”
Rune poems – refer to speech and releasing fetters, gifts from the Allfather aspect of Odin

Raidho – R - (rye-though) – Ride
Doing right, order, progress, being in control of your life
Associated with regular rhythmic action such as ritual and the cycles of the seasons, Thor, Air, male polarity
Rune poems – obscure meanings, indicate that order is good in the home

Kenaz – K - (kane-awz) – Torch
Creativity, artistry, craftsmanship, inspiration, to ken
Associated with Heimdal’s Shining Axe aspect and Freyja’s seidr aspect, Fire  (in its contained form which is the torch of enlightenment), female polarity
Rune poems – warn of becoming unbalanced - magical thinking, obsessive behavior, etc.

Gebo – G - (gay-boe) – Gift
Hospitality, sharing, sacrifice, bonding, agreements
Associated with Odin, Air, Asgard realm, neutral polarity
Rune poems – both giving and receiving, balance and equilibrium

Wunjo –W - (woon-yo) – Joy
Harmony, joy, well-being, social cohesion, perfection, realization of the true will
Associated with Odin in the fulfiller of wishes aspect, Earth, male polarity
Rune poems – indicate that spiritual growth is the path to joy

Hagal/Heimdall’s Aett – 2nd degree initiation – The Warrior
This aettir relates to disruptive forces that cause great changes to the order and energy of the first aett.  It relates to the inner journey which leads to evolution of the soul. Through disruption (Hagalaz), need (Nauthiz), and contemplation (Isa) this spiritual evolution culminates in a turning point at Jera.  Making the choice of personal sacrifice (Eihwaz), the soul learns the mysteries (Pertho) and successfully discovers its higher will (Sowilo).

Hagalaz - H – (haw-gaw-laws) – Hail (stone)
Crisis, sudden changes, chaos, condensation of power, disruptive effects of unresolved issues from the past
Associated with the Hel realm and the Norn Urd (past), Water/Air, dark female polarity
Rune poems – indicate the disruptive (but sometimes necessary) power of sudden change

Nauthiz –  N - (now-these) – Need
Resistance, testing, focus on what needs to be done versus wants, need-fire
Note:  Runes following this one may indicate what is needed or required for the question at hand
Associated with Niflheim realm, the dragon Nighogg, and Skuld (future), Fire, female polarity
Rune poems – indicate a primal need aspect that can be helpful or harmful depending on whether it is acknowledged.

Isa – I - (ee-saw) – Ice
Contraction, concentration, stillness, silence, what is
Associated with Jotunheim realm, Skadi, Verdandi (present), Water, female polarity
Rune poems – indicate that the beauty of ice is deceptive, warn against excessive materialism

Jera – J - (yare-awe) – Year
Good harvest, right use of resources, rewards, productive cycles, a turning point
Associated with Midgard realm, Freyr and Freyja, Baldur (rebirth aspect), Yule, Earth, male and female polarity
Rune poems – indicate the rewards of hard work and gifts from the Gods as the result of doing right

Eihwaz/Ihwaz – Ei - (eye-wawz) – Yew
Travelling on Yggdrasil (World Tree), spiritual enlightenment and experiences, life/death mysteries, daring and taking risks, making a choice between opposing forces
Associated with Svartalfheim realm, Yggdrasil , Odin, and Uller (hunter), All elements, male polarity
Rune poems – indicate potential for enlightenment, a strung bow

Perthro – P - (perth-row) – Lot Box
Change, meaningful coincidences, cause and effect, chance, Well of Wyrd, birth or death, hidden aspects of the self, mystery
Associated with Frigga (weaving fate), the Well of Mimir (akashic records), Nerthus, Water, female polarity
Rune poems – the poems for this are obscure or non-existent which indicate mystery.

Algiz (all-yeese) or Elhaz –- (el-hawz) - Z or final R– Elk
Protection, shielding, guardian spirits, divine communication
Associated with Heimdall, Valkyries, divine twin archetypes, marriage of the divine feminine and masculine, Air, either polarity
Rune poems – warn of the dangers inherent in divine communication for the unprepared

Sowilo/Sowlio – S - (so-wee-low) – Sun
Individual victory, good counsel, honor, the higher will, self-esteem
Associated with Lossalfheim realm, Sunna and the Sun Wheel, Baldur, Air, male polarity
Rune poems – clearly a favorable rune indicating victory.

Tyr’s Aett – 3rd Degree Initiation – The Priest
This aettir gives an overview human transformation by utilizing our connections to the Gods.  This transformation begins with the willingness to keep troth with the Gods and Folk (Tyr).  Following this we receive the blessings of a spiritual rebirth (Berkano) and form an effective partnership with divinity (Ehwaz) and realize our own divine heritage (Mannaz).  We accept the challenges placed before us and grow (Laguz).  Internal growth will be required to overcome a crisis of faith (Ingwaz).  Successful transformation through this challenge will bring illumination (Dagaz) and secure a place with the Gods (Othala).

Tiwaz – T - (tea-wawz) – Tyr (God)
Balance, self-sacrifice, faithfulness (keeping the Troth), victory, conflict and confrontation
Associated with Tyr as Skyfather, the axis of Yggdrassil, Air, male polarity
Rune poems – stress the price of not keeping troth – breaking troth, Tyr sacrificed his hand for the good of all

Berkano – B - (bear-kawn-ho) – Birch (goddess)
Release of energy and creativity, liberation, birth and rebirth, maternal influences
Associated with Freyja and Frigga, Berta/Holda, Earthmother, Earth, female polarity
Rune poems – stress the fertility and protective aspects of the rune

Ehwaz – E - (ay-wawz) – Horse
Teamwork and partnership, trust and loyalty, vehicles, adjusting to situations
Associated with Sleipnir (Odin’s 8 legged horse who could travel along Yggdrasil), Frey/Freyja, Earth, both polarities
Rune poems – seem to indicate receiving comfort during confrontation

Mannaz – M – (mawn-nawz) – Man
Human potential, self-confidence, self-reliance, indicates a person
Associated with Heimdall as progenitor of the tribes, Mannaz (tribal ancestor God), Air, male polarity
Rune poems – seem to stress the mortality of mankind

Laguz – L – (law-gooze) – Lake
Life-force (waters of life), acceptance of the challenges we were born to, vital growth, love, astral substance
Associated with Nerthus and Niord (parents of Freyr and Freyja), Water, female polarity
Rune poems – stress  the appearance of water as unending and churning but beneficial

Ingwaz – NG – (eeeng-wawz) – Ing (God Freyr)
Isolation and separation, storing of energy, internal growth, transformation, dark night of the soul, completion of a situation
Associated with Vanaheim realm, Primary association with Freyr, secondary with Freyja, Water/Earth, both polarities
Rune poems – single poem indicates the divine hero archetype

Dagaz – D – (thaw-gauze) – Day
Sythesizing opposing ideas, deeper understanding, Odinic consciousness (wisdom), initiation, sudden change or transformation
Associated with the Muspellheim realm, Rainbow Bridge, third eye consciousness, the place between the worlds, midsummer, Fire, male polarity
Rune poems – single poem indicates messages and blessings from the Gods

Othala – O – (oath-awe-law) – Ancestral Property, homeland
Sanctuary at the end of a journey, well-being, ancestral heritage, nobility
Associated with Odin, the sacrificial king, sacred sanctuaries, Earth, male polarity
Runes poems – single poem indicates a sense of being secure and content in one’s home

This great and concise information! :)
As much as I love reading it straight from the Havamal, a go-to list is good to have.


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