Fehu- It’s the Cows!

February 24, 2015 at 8:49 am 5 comments

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


Entry filed under: Heathenry. Tags: , , .

Is Nature-Based Paganism More “Mainstream”? Being Human

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. estherjoy  |  February 26, 2015 at 12:14 am

    I used to be left handed as a little girl until someone switched me to my right, telling me it’s a right handed person’s world. Now trying to switch back to being left handed is not so easy.

    With that being said, feel that work is a gift, wealth is a gift. Just need wisdom to know what work we were created for so we can make this world a more beautiful place.

  • 2. Amanda  |  February 27, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Something important to keep in mind when working with Fehu is that all three recorded rune poems warn about it’s dark side.

    Wealth is a source of discord amongst kin;
    the wolf lives in the forest.

    Wealth is a source of discord amongst kin
    and fire of the sea
    and path of the serpent.

    Wealth is a comfort to all;
    yet must everyone bestow it freely,
    if they wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

    Then look around at what American capitalism has done to society and to the environment. Makes a lot of sense. Only the AS version has anything good to say about wealth, and that’s only when everyone bestows it freely. Obviously we’re not doing that right now.

    • 3. caelesti  |  February 28, 2015 at 1:35 am

      Very true! I’d like to discuss the rune-poems more in another post- esp. when I can either get copy/pasting to work on this tablet or switch to another device. Not entirely satisfied with this one, but I puttered around with it for a couple weeks before posting. I decided to focus on the positive aspects of wealth because I get a lot of negative messages about money “working for The Man” and capitalism from other Pagans and while I definitely agree that there are major problems, focusing on those negative messages doesn’t help me get out of my depression and look for a job. The Anglo-Saxon one especially relates to the gift economy (as discussed in another post) and the rune Gebo. I also think poverty is a source of discord!

      • 4. Amanda  |  February 28, 2015 at 2:22 am

        Ah, that makes sense then. I mainly see people talking about the positive aspects of Fehu, “yay money!” etc. so I wanted to make sure its dark side was mentioned.

        When doing prosperity magic, I find it useful to combine Fehu with some other runes to make it clear I’m not searching for money for its own sake, but rather the peace of mind of having enough to pay the bills, or having money for some specific purpose, or things like that.

      • 5. caelesti  |  February 28, 2015 at 3:24 am

        If someone is not including the “dark side” in their understanding of the runes, it’s pretty clear that they have a more New Age take on it, rather than a Norse/Germanic cultural perspective.

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