On the surface, this rune pertains to gifts. Kenaz is associated with Mars and the spring equinox, when the arrival of new life, rebirth and renewal was traditionally celebrated by people of ancient times. One can make the leap then that Kenaz symbolizes fertility and can portend the arrival of a baby or child.
Kenaz is a masculine gendered rune and relates to the dominant person in the situation for which the reading is occurring. If the person being read is asking about business, then Kenaz implies that the dominant person will be calling the shots or making the offers. If the dominant person is the one being read, the rune cast will show whether the offer should be accepted.
The same applies to personal relationships, as Kenaz signals that the dominant person in the relationship will be soon offering a gift. Any surrounding runes in the casting show the motive behind the gift and whether it should be accepted or not.
The torch aspect of Kenaz represents knowledge and spiritual enlightenment to “light the way.” One may be required to use their own inner knowledge to help light the way for someone less fortunate than themselves.
Kenaz signifies loss when drawn reversed. A potentially rewarding business deal will fall apart. If it is a child one is hoping for, Kenaz reversed signals they are false hopes, false alarms, and infertility. Kenaz may also signal the loss of an employment situation or relationship. Never fear however. Kenaz isn’t just about gloom and doom. The loss shall be only temporary or altered by the surrounding runes on the field, indicating any loss could be temporary.
One will always find when reading the runes, that none of them is one-dimensional; especially Raidho. This rune, like Ansur, is also connected with the planet Mercury and is thus associated with communication. The communication associated with Raidho is especially directed toward travel. This rune causes an opposition between the ideas of travel and communication. Travel may be interpreted quite literally with this rune showing that for the person for whom we are reading a trip or physical journey may be expected. On the other hand, as travel in the ancient Germanic lands was treacherous and much longer in duration in the extreme, Raidho may be signaling that the person is ready to embark on a journey of personal growth; an inner journey that will bring enlightenment and yield new levels of understanding and knowledge.
Unlike Ansur, which counsels caution, forethought and advice before taking action, Raidho signals a need to move now. The outlook is good, as it is time for the person being read to shirk the “I can’t decide one way or the other” scenario and make a decision. The planet Mercury rules trade and as a result, Raidho can signal that there is some significant form of a business transaction in the near future. Recalling that the central meaning behind the rune Raidho is communication and travel, the person being read could receive some form of message that could skew the entire present situation in a most unexpected way.
When Raidho is drawn in the reversed position, obstacles and delays may be looming related to travel. If the person we are reading is planning a trip of some sort, there are sure to be any number of hindrances in the way of progress. Another sign of Raidho reversed is the message that a need for travel may present itself at a most inappropriate time, leaving one’s home or base, vulnerable. Lastly, this rune also may signal in the reversed position that one may expect a visit from a person that will result in unimaginable inconvenience.
When consulting the Runes, situations will occasionally arise when one’s “need-to-know” goes beyond the authority of a single stone or the Three Rune Spread. The Five Rune Spread can help to identify the distinctive components of a situation that might otherwise overwhelm with its complexity.
Begin by clearly formulating the issue. Draw five Runes from the bag, one at a time, and place them one below the other. In descending order, the Runes stand for:
- Overview of the Situation
- Course of Action Called for
- New Situation Evolving
The Five Rune Spread is absolutely personal and specific. If five Runes are drawn from the bag and placed down on the field, the odds against drawing this particular spread are 607,614 to 1. If however, a Rune is drawn, written down, returned to the bag making the next selection from a full bag of Runes, the odds against drawing this particular spread are now 312,500,500 to 1.
The fourth position, “Sacrifice” is intended as recognition that life offers choices and options that are often mutually exclusive. The concept of sacrifice has, over time, come to be associated with pain and loss. The application of sacrifice in the Five Rune Spread refers to that which has peeled away, shed or discarded, as is called for in the Rune Othila. Othila portends the emergence of new wholeness. Originally a boding of two Latin words, sacrificium and facere, one of the core meanings of sacrifice is “surrender to God.”
A Sample Reading
From my Rune Journal I will again make reference to the successful business I owned with my ex-partner. I was the creative impulse of the idea, and the slogging hard work of getting the company on its feet. The company was “my baby.” When it came time to allow a competitor to acquire the company, the competitor wanted my participation, but not my partner’s. All my fears regarding loyalty, abandonment, the risk to the long-term relationship with my partner and his self-esteem were brought to the surface by this situation. I decided to do a Five Rune Spread which is the spread used above.
Perth, the Rune of Initiation as the overview of the situation, immediately shifted my focus away from both my relationship with my partner and the business. “Nothing external matters here, except as it shows you its inner reflection” – these words were key for me. I realized this was another crossroad on the path of self-change.
Uruz, the Rune of Strength Reversed, indicated the need to respond consciously to “the demands of such a creative time.” It was clear the correct decision would encourage my growth at all levels – corporate as well as personal.
Wunjo reversed speaks of the process of birth being long and arduous as well as the fears which arise for the safety of the child within. The Runes were reminding me that I was going through a test.
Nauthiz, the Rune of Constraint Reversed, in the Sacrifice position conveyed the great teacher in the guise of pain and limitation. I was able to more clearly see that it was time to take a new kind of responsibility for what I had created, to own and honor it and to do what was right for the company.
Dagaz, the Rune of Breakthrough addressed the New Situation Evolving. This Rune offers the assurance that, “because the timing is right, the outcome is assured, although not, from the present vantage point, predictable.” My partner went on to become a success with his considerable talent with a prescription drug company.
The Three Rune Spread does the job for all but the most demanding or challenging situations. With an issue clearly in mind, select three Runes, one at a time of course. Place them from right to left in the order each Rune was selected. So that one doesn’t make a conscious effort changing the direction of the stones, especially as one becomes familiar with the symbols, it is good practice to place each Rune blank side up, and the turn them over.
With the selection complete, the Runes will be before you as in the diagram above. Reading from the right, the first Rune reveals the Situation; the second or center Rune identifies the Action; and the third Rune (the one on the left) indicates the New Situation. The way in which one happens to turn the Runes may have some effect and alter the direction of the symbols to either an upright or reversed position, but remember, this too is all part of the process. Since only nine Runes read the same upright and reversed, the readings for the remaining Runes will be determined on how the Runes have been placed or turned.
When I was faced with the end of a long term relationship, experiencing emotional pain and grieving over the loss, I turned to the Runes and did a Three Rune Spread. My issue I felt at the time was, “What am I to be learning from this separation?”
From my journal I am able to recall the Runes I drew: Reading from the right, the first Rune was Algiz, the Rune of protection reversed addressed my sense of being totally vulnerable, and unprotected. This was the first time in my adult life I would really be on my own; without a partner. Only right action and correct conduct provide protection in a time such as I was facing. I would have to grow and learn from the loss of the relationship.
The second Rune drawn was Kano, the Rune of opening. I was encouraged to trust the process and consider what aspects of my old conditioning would be best if changed.
Third drawn was Nauthiz, the Rune of constraint and pain. The new growth would not free me from anguish over the situation. The end of that relationship caused me to begin on my path of personal growth. For the first time as an adult, I was working on me. I also came away from this reading knowing that I was being called upon to be mindful of the fact that rectification must come before progress.
Though I was feeling vulnerable and “exposed,” I was made aware that with pain comes the necessary clarity to get on my path of personal growth and change. As I began to move along that path, I was often reminded to consider the positive uses of adversity.
I begin most days with a reading from the Runes, asking what my course of right action is for the day ahead of me. Before I draw a Rune from my special sack, I recite to myself “The Prayer of St. Francis.” If I anticipate a situation before me that could be intense or turbulent, I may meditate or pray for specific strength, wisdom or guidance. With a clear mind, and a strong will, openness and the intention to know my direction for the day, I then draw one stone. My Runes are made of rose quartz and I found them in a metaphysical shop in Sedona Arizona. I feel that because they come from Sedona, which has a special energy from the vortex’s there, my Runes are highly charged.
Like me, there are many who set aside that special time of day to consult the Runes. Some light candles or incense. It is important to compose one’s self through meditation or a focus on breathing. It is important to free the mind of all cares and concerns. To the beginner, even to have the mind cleared for just one moment will be helpful. The key here is focus and to control one’s mind. Life happens however; the Runes can be consulted or read without the more formal preparation I’ve described. One’s need is what brings forth the energy of the Runes.
The consultation of the Runes is referred to as “casting” and is considered “play.” This however is a very sacred form of play. I find that a particularly good time to consult the Runes is when one is faced with a decision. Especially situations one is facing where one’s own resources are exhausted or one possesses little or incomplete information. For me, the Runes serve as a decision making tool. Focus the issue clearly in the mind. Reach into the sack of Runes, making contact with the stones. Each time I reach my hand into my bag of Runes, some of the stones feel cold while others feel hot. Intuitively I know, without looking into the bag of course, which Rune is the “right” Rune. The individual that introduced me to the Runes said to me, “The right Rune always sticks to my fingers.”
When Runes are being cast for someone else, this person should be asked to put together their question or concern in their mind, but not say it out loud. By keeping the matter to themselves, any unconscious personal bias is removed from the reading. Rune readings for others don’t have to be face-to-face. A connection through the Internet or telephone works just as well. What is required is the individual’s focus on their issue.
Let’s say that one wishes to consult the Runes on behalf of another person, but their permission to do so can’t be obtained. This is when the Runes should be consulted for “the course of right action.” The Runes can be asked whether such action is timely or correct. “Yes” or “No” questions may be asked. If the Rune is drawn in its upright position the response is “yes”. The reversed position indicates “no.” Nine of the Runes have no upright or reversed position. When I consult the Runes regarding an issue that requires a “yes” or “no” response and I draw a Rune that has no reversed position, I continue drawing Runes until I reach one that does.
I have made reference a number of times to “the course of right action.” This form of request is very appropriate for the Runes. I have consulted the Runes for myself and many others regarding issues such as career moves, real estate sales, investment opportunities, business dealings, relationships and much more. My preference is to use the word “issue” as opposed to “question” when consulting the Runes for myself or others. Often, someone will ask, “Should I quit this job?” As an issue, one would say, “The issue is my work.” It may seem trivial but re-framing a question into an issue is a crucial distinction. If a question is asked and the Runes provide an answer, the role of the individual facilitating the reading is a passive one. If an issue is addressed, and the Runes comment on that issue, one is able to extract one’s own answer and determine for one’s self what the course of right action should be.
If there is no specific issue at all in mind, and one still feels drawn to consult the Runes, ask, “What is it that I need to know for my life right now?” The response from the Runes will always be just what is necessary at that moment.
Understanding the Runes
Above all, the runes are steeped in nature and symbolize the power exhibited by different elements of nature—the wind, the sun, ice and rain for example. Therefore it is impossible to understand the runes by adopting an intellectual approach. The peoples of northern Europe led lives that were extremely close to nature and dominated by these elemental forces. As in many other ancient cultures, nature and the gods were considered to be one and the same thing. Each god symbolized a different element of the natural world and was believed to be responsible for the creation and continuation of his or her natural phenomenon. For example, to the Germanic peoples, thunder was believed to be an action of the god Thor.
This can be quite a hard concept for the modern mind that is trained in logical, empirical thing to grasp, but it is essential for understanding and using the runes effectively. In ancient times, the runes, by symbolizing these elemental forces, allowed the user to make direct contact with the forces of nature, and thus perhaps to gain some insight into how the patterns of life were unfolding, so that they could take the necessary steps to ensure survival. Life at that time was an extremely tenuous affair, and natural forces could cause death and disaster to those who were unprepared. To a certain extent, this still holds true today, witness the large scale destruction caused by hurricane Katrina, but we have such a sophisticated social system that, to a great extent we are protected from the real chaos that nature can cause. Early peasant cultures were not; they were at nature’s mercy.
One of the most important things to remember about the runes is that the wisdom which the tradition contained was handed down from one generation to another orally – largely in the form of poetry to make it easier to remember. In ancient times, this sort of knowledge was not considered to be for everyone’s eyes so it was never committed to writing.
The shaman, who had been initiated into the knowledge of the runes, played a hugely important role in those times. He or she was the spiritual member of the community who gave each rune character its symbolic meaning and thereby it’s mystical power. The shaman was the most powerful figure in the tribal community as it was he, or she, who could determine and cure illness, foster fertility, ensure a good harvest, and solve many other concerns that were essential to everyday life, perhaps and most notably protecting the tribe from its enemies – both the human and the animal kind.
For many cultures and many thousands of years, the shaman was the person who could bridge the gap between the world of the gods and that of ordinary humans and use their psychic ability to communicate with the sprit world. In that sense, they were conduits for nature itself, considering the gods and the elemental forces of nature as one and the same thing. In many parts of the world, shamans made a connection with the other world when they were in a trancelike state induced by drugs – especially those with hallucinogenic powers – or by dancing, fasting or conducting rituals.
Shamans were an integral part of the culture of the runes, yet they were especially selected, trained, and set apart from other people in the community. Both physical and mental powers had to be well above average in order to perform many of the rites and ceremonies involved. Although revered for their knowledge, shamans also inspired considerable awe through their apparently supernatural powers. In many parts of the world shamanism still exists, and shamans still live in self-imposed isolation living on a separate plane, wrapped in their magical universe.
It was not uncommon for shamans to be in some way physically impaired at a time when it was almost impossible for anyone else to be crippled or survive. For ordinary people, disability was socially unacceptable. On a practical level, it was almost certain to lead to an early death and there was no form of social welfare in existence to make life more manageable. If you could not hunt or gather crops for the community, you were an outcast. The only possible existence for a disabled person was to become a shaman – if he or she had the strength for such a demanding position. Even so, they would never be accepted into the day-to-day affairs of the community, regardless of their hugely influential role in community life.
The role of shaman was kept in the family, passed down from generation to generation – from mother to daughter and from father to son.
The runes are derived from natural forces, which the observant can see everywhere they look: in the shape of a stream as it flows through a field, at the point where the branch of a tree forks, or the random shape of stones on a beach. It is as if nature talks to us directly in the shapes of the runes. The knowledge they impart is also all around us, as long as we have the eyes to see and the mind to understand.
The runes have no history of being used in fantastic or magical enterprises; their powers are grounded firmly in the natural world. They do not give political dominance or unearthly powers on the battlefield. Like nature itself, they are pragmatic and down to earth.
To this day, our language has a number of little sayings that express the underlying philosophy of the runes – such as “nothing comes for free” and “what goes around comes around”. If a king wished to win a battle and gain more territory, this desire would bring greatly increased responsibilities; if a peasant wished for more cattle he would know that this would create considerably more work for him. The people who used runes realized that there is always a price to pay for any gain in life. Because of this they took a less demanding approach to life than many people do in today’s world.
Meditating on the Runes
The main source of information on the Runes is the Anglo-Saxon poem which was translated by the monks from Old English into Latin. It would appear that this translation was not completely unbiased and that many Christian-style references found their way into the translation. However, the core essence of the message is still quite clear. The poem included in this blog was translated by Thomas Howard.
To understand the runes, all one needs to do is look at each rune in turn and read the correct verse of the poem. Then, meditate on the symbol and words. In time the meaning will come to you. This may sound too simplistic to you, but understanding the symbols and words is a process of meditation which requires deep concentration, considerable effort and consistent practice.
Included with the translated poem is the symbol along any associated translation of the symbols’ name and meaning.
Feoh ~ Fehu ~ Cattle
Wealth is a comfort to everyone,
Yet each must give freely,
If he will glory in Heaven.
The wild ox is fierce,
With horns above,
A bold fighter who steps the moor,
A mighty creature.
Th ~ Thurisaz ~ Thorn
Thorn is very sharp to everyone,
Bad to take hold of;
Severe to those who rest among them.
Ansur ~ Ansuz ~ Mouth
Mouth is the origin or speech,
The support of wisdom;
And for everyone a blessing.
Rad ~ Raidho ~ Raido ~ Cartwheel
Riding in the hall is very pleasant,
It is more strenuous.
Sitting on a strong horse covering
The mile paths.
Ken ~ Kenaz ~Torch
Torch to all living is pale and bright.
It burns brightest
Where noble folk rest.
Gift is for everyone;
Glory and exaltation, and for the needy;
A help and sustenance.
Joy is needed not
By those that hath
Little want and sorrow
And hath increase and bliss.
Hagall ~ Hagalaz ~ Hail
Hail is the whitest of grains,
It sweeps from the sky,
Is whirled by the wind,
and turns to water.
Need is narrow in the breast,
But can often be a help,
If attended to early.
Is ~ Isa ~ Ice
Ice is cold and slippery,
It glistens like glass,
Is as bright as gems,
The field wrought with frost,
is fair to the sight.
Jara ~ Jera ~ Harvest
Year of fruitfulness,
Is the hope of everyone,
When the Gods allow the earth,
To give her bright increase
to rich and poor.
Yew is outwardly
A smooth tree,
Hard and fast in the earth,
The Shepherd of fire,
twisted beneath with roots,
a pleasure on the land.
Peorth ~ Pertho ~ Perth
Chess is ever play and laughter
To the proud,
Where the warriors sit
In the beer hall,
Eolh ~ Algiz ~ Protection
Sedge grows in the fen,
Flourishing in water,
Burning the blood
Of anyone who touches it.
Sigel ~ Sowilo ~ Sowhelu~ Sun
Sun to the seafarer,
Is always confidence of nobles,
It is ever-moving
And in the darkness
Of night never rests.
Tir ~ Tiwaz ~ Creator
Tir is a token
Which has a confidence
It is ever-moving
And in the darkness
of night never rests.
Birch is fruitless
But bears twigs without increase,
It is beautiful in its branches,
Is laden with leaves,
Heavy in the air.
Eoh ~ Ehwasz ~ Horse
Horse is the joy of nobles,
Where heroes wealthy on
Their horses exchange words,
To be restless is a comfort.
Mann ~ Manaz ~ Man
Folk in their happiness
And dear to their kindred,
Yet all must depart
From each other,
Because the gods commit
The body to the earth.
Water to the landfolk,
If they venture forth in an unsteady boat,
The sea waves will foam,
And the seahorse heeds
Not the bridle.
Ing ~ Ingwaz ~ Fertility
Ing was first seen among
The eastern Danes,
Departing over the waves,
His wagon ran behind,
Thus the warriors named him.
Day is the gods’ messenger,
The light of the gods,
Is happiness and consolidation
To rich and poor.
Othel ~ Othala ~ Othello ~ Home
Home is beloved of everyone,
If they can enjoy their
Rights and labor
And prosper in peace.
- Interpreting the Runes XV ~ Algiz ~ Elk ~ Protection (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- Interpreting the Runes XIV ~ Perth~ Question Mark ? (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- Interpreting the Runes XIII ~ Eihwaz ~ Yew (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
Wealth is a comfort to everyone,
Yet each must give freely,
If he will glory in Heaven.
– Poem of Fehu
I’ve blogged about how I use the ancient Viking Runes; as a decision making tool to guide me toward the “course of right action” for the day or specific to a certain event, for insight into my destiny, and even for insight regarding past lives. The Runes were prevalent some two thousand years ago and are more relative to us today. Like the images of the Tarot deck and the hexagrams of the I Ching, Runes are profound keys to personal empowerment, self-development and spiritual awareness.
Runes are an ancient form of writing that was used widely for thousands of years across northern Europe. A great deal of mystery still surrounds their origins and use. According to Viking tradition, the word “rune” means a whispered secret.
Did you know that the days of the week are named after Norse gods and goddesses? Tuesday stands for Tiw’s day, Wednesday is so called after the great god Odin, Thursday is named after the powerful god Thor, and Friday takes its name from the goddess Freya.
It is from the Norse culture that the runes come, and it was in the old Teutonic world of northern Europe that the runes were venerated. They were the very soul of life for the ancient Teutonic people, and encapsulated their entire mystical and mythological beliefs.
To divine, in the original sense of the word, is literally to discover higher insight, the workings of fate, or the “will of the gods,” as it applies to our lives. Divination systems, like the Runes, are based upon sets of meaningful signs, omens that we “randomly” choose and interpret for their personal message to us. You are probably wondering, “How could this possibly work?” The traditional Norse answer would be that in the Web of Wyrd (fate, destiny), all things and events resonate in a profound and luminous way and that the Runes faithfully record the signature of the energy movements underlying our own unique fate path at the moment of consultation. The scientific rationalism of the West generally does not admit that events that are not causally related can have an underlying connection, but the idea is no longer disreputable, even in scientific terms, because the concept of randomness has been subject to scrutiny in modern times. From my college Psychology 101 I learned that in the 1950’s, Carl Jung introduced the concept of “synchronicity”, which he defined as “meaningful coincidence” and some quantum theorists have supported his conviction that “chance” events not physically or causally linked may nonetheless spring from a deeper ordering principle.
During ancient times, divination was of course attributed to the activity of gods and spirits. Whether we regard such entities as real or metaphorical, it is vitally important to know that in northern Europe the highest of all gods, Odin (Germanic translation Woden or Wotan and giving his name to Wednesday), was himself the discoverer and lord of the Runes. Odin in fact provides the model for master of the runic system. In Norse myth Odin goes on a quest for what is really a code for the process of looking within and attaining therein knowledge of all the worlds. The Runes are the physical tokens of his hard-won wisdom, offered to those “to whom they may avail.”
The Runes are said to embody the wisdom of Odin through the connections between the sign and the meaning associated with that sign, which come from three ancient “Rune poems.” In Norse myth, Odin was the god and patron of the oral tradition, so the wisdom of the Runes and the accumulated folk ways they represent can be seen as flowing from him and various guises of the Goddess, from whose springs of knowledge Odin drew. For example, the image of the first rune, Fehu, is cattle. The corresponding associations are assets, wealth and gain. In ancient Norse culture, you were worth only as much as your head of cattle. In a Rune reading, each rune is interpreted as an omen of personal significance – thus Fehu signifies material luck and gain and it is titled “Abundance” in most guide books of Rune translation. The appearance of Fehu during a Rune reading in the present or near future evokes at least a cheer of some sort. But fehu’s association with wealth, good fortune and greed evoke far deeper mythical and legendary themes in traditional rune lore, which I’ll be sharing in an upcoming blog.
For now, I leave you with hopefully a new understanding of how the Runes can teach us self-mastery. They are a guide to action, a remedy for misfortune, and a tool for promoting empowerment, fulfillment, prosperity and peace. This is at least the spirit in which the Runes function for me, today.