Posts tagged ‘runes’

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

Approaching the Runes

For the last week of each month, the Pagan Experience prompt follows the format of Pagan Blog Project, writing an entry for each letter of the alphabet. I’ve decided to instead focus on a different alphabet- the Elder Futhark Runes, the oldest known Germanic writing system. We actually don’t know if it was used for divination in ancient times, but the runes are found carved into jewelry, weapons, stones and other items. They were used to indicate ownership, commemorate events and accomplishments on rune-stones and perhaps imbue objects with magic power and luck.

Personally I am not that into divination or magic- though that may change! However, I do find the runes to be a useful way to understand concepts that were important to the ancient Norse and immerse myself in their cultural worldview. The runes can also be used to add a different perspective to choices and problems that we face in our own modern lives.

Questions people have when approaching the runes-

Do you need to be Heathen/Asatru/Northern Tradition (etc.) to study/work with or use the runes?

Well, you certainly don’t need to be a medieval Christian to read Tarot, and that’s who invented it. Some Heathens think that you need to be, but I don’t believe this is the case. However, I do think you will get a lot more out of the runes if you make an effort to learn about Norse mythology, the Rune Poems, and Norse history and culture.

Do I need to worship/honor/believe in the Norse gods to work with runes?

(This is actually a different though related question, as there is theological diversity among Heathens)

Not necessarily, studying the myths and learning from them does not require worship or belief. If you are a Pagan or polytheist who focuses on another pantheon, but wants to study runes, I would recommend paying your respects to Odin in particular, and other deities associated with specific runes. If you have a spiritual problem/issue with Odin, then I would recommend not studying the runes too deeply. Being the Wander, he does “get around” and I hear of many Hellenic polytheists and folks of other traditions who honor Odin.

Is this a Nazi thing?

The runes were (mis) used by Nazis for political purposes, but this was not because they or Hitler in particular was Heathen. They were promoting a sense of pan-Germanic identity, and so they took symbolism, myths and ideas throughout various Germanic cultures and distorted them for their own purposes. In particular, Sowilo (used for the letters SS) Othala and Algiz tend to be used by Neo-Nazis, so you might want to avoid wearing those as necklaces or other obvious ornamentation.

Ref: How to Spot a Racist/White Supremacist in the Heathen Community 101

January 26, 2015 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

X- Gebo- Gift Economy

I’m taking a little creative license here- X is the shape of the rune Gebo, which means gift, and I thought with the upcoming gift-giving season it would be a good one to talk about. In ancient Norse and Irish societies, gifts served a very different and more central role in society’s social and economic structure.

Wealth was not to be hoarded, but excess was given away, both as a show of generosity and as a tribute to loyal followers and supporters. Stinginess was considered one of the worst attributes of a king or lord, and hospitality and generosity were considered the greatest of virtues. If the king behaved well, the Gods would be pleased, and the land and people would prosper, but if the king was cruel and stingy, the people would suffer, the crops would fail, and surely the people, and the Gods would not allow him to rule long!

A similar relationship exists between humanity and the Gods- offerings given to Them are expected to be returned with blessings.

Analysis of Stanza 39 of Havamal (the next 2 stanzas further explain the “gift for a gift” concept)

Birthing Justice- the Link to Humanity- Gift Economics (examples in Mali, a West African country)

The Gift Economy: A Model For Collaborative Community– Tikkun magazine, progressive Jewish magazine

December 20, 2014 at 12:16 am 1 comment

Favorite “F” PBP Posts

Failure- Conor Warren,

Fate/Free WillMistress of the Hearth points out that it isn’t either/or- ones choices determine ones’ later fate. Reminds me a bit of the Heathen concept of Wyrd.

FehuMusings of Huginn & Muninn

FetishAustralia Incognita defines and reflects on her use of fetishes- objects which have sacred significance- or actually contain a spirit, Urban Meliad muses on returning to the original magical/religious connotation of “fetish” in kinky subcultures

Feasting with the Dead– Hearth Moon Rising

Fionn Mac Cumhalat the Water’s Edge, New Pagan

Filling the Well– Land, Sea & Sky

Fire (Fire Dance) the Magickal Pen

Fisher King- at the Water’s Edge writes of a figure in Arthurian legend

Forgotten GodsLeithin Cluan shares a poem. Veggiewolf resolves to write a series of posts about lesser known/worshipped netjer (Egyptian gods)

Freyja/FreoAiwelin writes of Freo, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Freyja, New Pagan compares Frigg to Freya

April 2, 2014 at 2:21 am 3 comments

Favorite “E” PBP Posts

Eclectic(ism) Sulischild tries to balance an eclectic path while being aware of cultural appropriation, and also ponders views of disability in ancient Celtic cultures. Australis Incognita on using red brick dust (a tradition from New Orleans voodoo)

Ehwaz– Musings of Huginn & Muninn

Eithne– Caer writes about the mother of Lugh

EldersDonald Reese-Engstrom “I have noticed that we are of a variety of opinion on this topic. Therefore, I encourage us all to closely examine our own understandings of the roles of an ‘elder’ and then to engage in dialog with one another with clear eyes, open minds, and compassionate hearts.”

Elsewhere– Refreshing to see a skeptical (yet open) look at otherworldly/astral travel

Enheduanna– Mistress of the Hearth writes about a talented Sumerian priestess

Entitlement– Cave of Night (I considered writing about this myself!)

Eolas– Scathcraft shares insights on the pros and cons of oral and written tradition (in French, translation link on site)

Eostre– Aiwelin on the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and the dawn

Erlkonig– Cry of the Cicada writes of a German song by Schubert poem by Goethe based on Danish folklore of the Erlkonig (Elf/Alder King) a luring personification of Death

Eriu- Goddess of Ireland by New Pagan

Ethics: Beyond the Intersection of Non-Harm & Return– Ci Cyfarth challenges the assumption that all pagans believe in the Three-fold Law of Return (or karma or something similar) and proposes alternative ethical ideas.

Eye of the Needle– Magickal Pen uses the metaphor of sewing tips on maintaining a balanced spiritual practice

March 17, 2014 at 3:22 am Leave a comment

Favorite “B” PBP Posts

While I was writing about Being a Bastard, Jack-a-Dreams wrote about Being Respectable, in response to some declarations that were made on another blog. I commented on his post, and a related one at Adventures in Vanaheim.  I know I’m going to end up writing more on it myself. But back to the “favorite b posts”- as with the A’s I’m combining both weeks:

Belief– at the Crossroads Forest, Kaye comes up with a list describing her beliefs- one excerpt I like “To be frank, I often refer to myself as a “sleep number polytheist,” with the levels of hardness and softness being adjusted as the need arises. My personal belief is that all gods exist, though I only work with a few of them from a few pantheons, and that these deities are all made of the same “stuff” or divine energy.” Baphemetis’ post was simple but profound. one quote- “I believe in folklore and fairytales, because I believe there is always a grain of truth to something.” As a skeptic, I also related well to Grumpy Druid’s post “For me, my beliefs are a working model, a theory to serve as a starting point for working out all the other stuff in my life, like love and taxes and the platypus.” (not sure where the platypus fits in…) Prairies & Pyramid writes on how a harrowing experience in her life impacted her spiritual development. In “Bars & Bond’s- Believing When There’s No Light“,  Stumbling Through Faith writes of leaving Christianity, but finding healing from her hurtful past in a church.

Bees and Bulls– insights on symbolism from Sulischild

Beowulf– Valkyrie in the Juniper Tree, writes of this importance of this saga to her as an Anglo-Saxon Heathen. “Modern heathenry owes a lot to Beowulf, even heathenry that has precious little to do with the Anglo-Saxons. In Beowulf we see a perfect outline of a drinking ritual, we see a right proper boast and challenge, and we see the social structure of such a rite. ”

BilingualCrafty Rose compares learning/exploring a new religion to learning a new language.

Binary- Rethinking the Ci Cyfarth on how Pagans need to re-evaluate our attitudes surrounding sex and gender

Birch is the one symbol that is shared by both the Irish Ogham and Norse runic systems. At Musings of Huginn & Muginn, Ravensong explains the basics of Berkano the Birch rune (earlier posts are on Ansuz and Algiz.)  Scathcraft wrote an excellent description of the birch with some analysis of what it symbolizes in Ogham. (in French, but there’s a link to Google translate) Looks like another good Celtic polytheist blog. As both a Gaelic & Saxon Heathen, Aiwelin discusses both systems.  Aromawitch also writes on this topic.

Brighid– is definitely the deity I feel closest to so I am always interested in learning of other people’s experiences with Her. Isleen gives a brief summary of info about Her, and another post with correspondences. Most of them I recognize, but there are a few (like associations with stones, the Empress tarot card) that I think are modern UPG.  Rocquelaire and NanLT both wrote about how the Irish goddess of healing & creativity helped them through difficult times.  Anonywitch writes about how she feels drawn to work as a midwife by Brighid.   At Shanda-ism the writer expresses a little confusion at an encounter with Brighid, as she follows a path that is nature-honoring but not deity-focused. At Walking in Beauty, Donald Engstrom writes of his experiences with Bridget’s Flames, and shares the artwork he has created to honor Her. More posts on Brighid: Philosophical Pagan,  Echtrai, Leithin Cluan

Book of Shadows– Abgeneth shares some cool crafty ideas on how to make hand-bound antique-y looking blank books.

Boudicca– the New Pagan writes of the British warrior queen- great synopsis of history with nice pictures!

Boundaries, Respect Them by Ravan Asteris  pulls no punches about about some basic rules of Playing Well with Others that are all too often ignored.

The Broom Closet– Kathleen writes on why its important to be out as a Pagan if you can, referencing arguments Dan Savage has made to the GLBT community. Related to this- That Baffled Look- Your Paganism is Showing– Kel writes on confusing people with the religious symbols she wears and her attempts at explaining her faith.

Business & Bragging by Kylara On the hang-ups Pagans have over charging money for spiritual services.  I’ve gotten so sick of this debate, while I agree we need to be careful of avoiding self-aggrandizing I think we have fallen too far on the Virtuous Pagan Poverty side of things.  It is nice to hear some common sense cutting thru the B.S.

Way more where that came from but I think that’s enough of a list.

January 26, 2014 at 12:49 am 1 comment


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