Archive for February 24, 2015

Fehu- It’s the Cows!

The first rune of the first Aett is Fehu, meaning cow.

In Norse mythology, a great cow called Audhumla began licking the salt in the great chasm of Ginunagap. Eventually she uncovered Ymir, the first frost giant and nursed him with her milk.
In Neolithic Europe, cattle were considered a basic form of wealth. Be careful, because oftentimes people interpret Fehu with wishful thinking, “Ooh, free money!” But owning a cow also means having the responsibility of milking it several times a day. Not owning a cow meant you were poor, but it also meant being free of this responsibility, so you could go on journeys. A wandering skald (bard) or craftsperson would likely not own cattle for this reason.

In a northern climate with little sunlight, milk is a way to get vitamin D. Likewise, people who moved north evolved to have lighter skin, so they could absorb more vitamin D from the sun. Oddly enough, the term “lactose intolerance” is actually a rather Eurocentric one, as people who can process milk after infancy are actually a global minority- mostly people of European, Middle Eastern descent, as well as some people in India. I remember when my cousin was studying abroad in Denmark while trying to follow a vegan diet. He found it impossible- eggs and dairy products were in everything! He had to compromise and switch to a vegetarian diet instead.


Most of us of course do not own cattle, but have wealth in more easily movable forms. We can think about managing our finances as herding our cattle, and even keep spare change in a cow-shaped bank! You can draw a Fehu rune on your checkbook, or other financial files (just not the documents themselves) We still have some words and phrases in our language that reflect the cow = money association. The word chattel (like chattel slavery) is another form of cattle. A cash cow is an important money-maker for a person, company or country. When the stock market is doing well, we call it a bull market.


I know for myself, sorting out my feelings surrounding money and careers has been difficult. I tend to have a lot of resistance towards the hyper-individualism and cruel competition of American capitalism, and this has led me to feel depressed, discouraged and alienated from society. I’ve internalized a sort of bohemian disdain for working for “The Man” and whatever jobs I consider “beneath” my intelligence and values, but all those attitudes hold me back from success. I need to compromise and find work, even if it’s not my idea of “the right job” for a while. It’s OK to be a milkmaid, I need to eat after all, and maybe some day after some hard work, I will be able to sell the cow and do something more adventurous.

Cattle as wealth in Neolithic Europe- Where’s the Beef? Nerissa Russell


February 24, 2015 at 8:49 am 5 comments


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