Rune Study-Group: Fehu


Well, here comes the first installment of the actual runes themselves!
I'll post information on the rune, its meanings, actual and metaphorical, etc, etc, and then Kiama, Umbrae and I can field questions from the floor, and add anything left out in this post. Please, other interpretations, and questions are welcome. I'm used to talking about runes with other people who are used to talking about runes, so if I say something weird, just poke me...

oh, as a warning, I am likely to use the phrase 'karmic' quite often in many of these threads...although the old germanic peoples did not use the concept of 'karma' themselves, this being a philosophy of the East asian sphere, they did acknowledge similar concepts..just look at the number of old folk wisdoms that deal with the subject of moral feedback...

FEHU (Fay-hoo, or Fay-oo)

Fehu is essentially the representation of wealth and prosperity in the Futhark. Through different traditions, it has been seen as standing for wealth as a concept, directly as 'gold', or abstractly as 'cattle'. I have also seen this rune interpreted as 'hearth'.

Fehu as Energy returned
What all of these symbols have in common is a sense of tangible prosperity. To the ancient germanic peoples, cattle were essentially walking bank accounts. They provide milk, and , distasteful as it may be to us modern people, edible interest in the form of calves. As long as a family had a cow, and happened to know someone with a bull, they possessed an inexhaustible supply of sustenance, and one that could be taken with them wherever they needed to go.
In this way, prosperity can be seen as a possession. The person is not a slave to their wealth, it is theirs to take with them.
However, it must be nurtured, and tended. Cattle take time to rear, there is no such thing as a quick profit.
This rune implies a deal of hard work put into an enterprise, and its eventual fruition.
Fehu could apply to a situation where your/the querent's effort has been the driving force behind progress. Not allowing for the implications of any other runes drawn, Fehu would suggest almost a karmic feedback. The Querent has put their work in, and the reward is rightfully theirs. If they have not gained something, then they can perhaps be expected to feel somewhat miffed.

The Warning
However, continuing on the karmic line, wealth brings prosperity, and prosperity always has a darker side. Anyone who comes into wealth, through chance or hard graft will almost inevitably risk corruption.
Even if this is not the case, the feelings of other people can take a hand. The recognition of this by the early runemasters can be seen in several of the rune-poems that have survived.

" (money) causes strife among kinsmen,
The wolf grows up in the woods".

This seems a little obscure, but if rendered in Old Norwegian, it would alliterate, and make sense as a linguistic mnemonic poem...but I don't know much Old Norwegian, so I can't translate it...
The reference to the wolf can be seen as a metaphor for the 'have-nots'. For anything anyone can own, there will be someone who would like to have it. It is here that the stalking wolf of jealousy will grow up. From a harmless, blind puppy of innocent longing, can grow a monstrous, devouring beast.
The woods here are representative of the ancient forests of Northern Europe.. difficult, dark terrain, useless for any form of farming or herding, and a dangerous place of beasts. In addition, as with Celtic peoples, forests could be a sacred region, a place of magic and mystery, home to royal trees.

The strife caused by wealth therefore stands as a warning behind this rune, either internally, or diffusing any enmity from others around you.

Fehu as Gold
The change in interpretation of Fehu from Cattle to Gold almost represents a historical change in the nature of moveable wealth. Although a Cow has the merit of being able to walk itself, Gold is infinitly easier to carry around wherever you go. If nothing else, it fits into a wallet that much easier.
As the Rune tradition evolved into the historical era, new traditions made Gold the new symbolic representation.
Gold as an symbol is easier for us today to comprehend. Gold has thousands of years of associated greed that we can hark back to and understand better than livestock-thievery.
Gold made an early appearance in the Norse myths as 'Gullveig', the Gold-hungry, an old wise woman, who sparked war between the two camps of Norse deities, the Aesir and the Vanir.

Fehu and Freyja
Coincidentally enough, 'Gullveig' was an aspect of the Vanir goddess Freyja, who has several associations with this rune.
As part of the Norse 'triad' of goddesses, Freyja is associated with Birth, Fertility and increase, and this ties in smoothly with the more positive side to the rune.
It also brings in an aspect of love and romance to the rune. As the first rune in Freyja's Aett, Fehu can be read as heralding Romantic gain in the same way as financial gain.
However, Fehu is not one of the more traditional 'romantic' runes, and a certain cynical edge can be introduced into its interpretation.
One of the more famous stories about Freyja herself is her winning the shining necklace, the Brisingamen. In order to possess it, Freyja spent a night with each of the four dwarven smiths who made it.
Traditionally, this has been seen as selling out, and Freyja ridiculed a slut, and worse.
Romance in this sense may be a little more profiteering than emotional...
However, in her defence, the story is a little more complex.

Fehu in the modern world
Fehu is one of those persevering runes.
It may be the encouragement to take that new job opportunity,
or to do that extra bit of work over and above the minimum. The rewards will come to you, for anything that you put the effort into.
Fehu can symbolize saving, rather than splashing out, and moderation of money so as not to be subverted by it. That Ferrari would be nice, but maybe the Miles per Gallon aren't quite as flexible as you need.
If you have already been saving, however, then a drawing of Fehu could indicate that it is now the right time to savour the fruits of your effort, and spend some of it.

Obviously, the exact interpretation will depend on what kind of question the querent has asked!

Fehu, Keywords

Return of hardwork
Incoming Energy.

Fehu, Reversed
The ultimate reversal of Fehu is of financial ruin, or the strife brought in by misuse of wealth.
In reversal the rune can stand as a warning to look out for such things.
Above all, it must be remembered that it is work that will get you to your peak, not greed.


*image of rune* :


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Wow!! You don't mind if I print this out do you???


Thankyou Malachite! Very well explained ... and not at all weird! :)


Many of the modern writers stress the Old English and modern aspects of wealth. They are quick to point out the greed aspect, and that having wealth can cause strife among others in your group/tribe.

They stress that wealth must be circulated wisely…

Put this into modern context.

Money, wealth, cash, works best when it is invested. Stash the cash in the mattress, and it produces no return.

Loan it to another (buy bonds or equities) and they may build a new factory, to hire and pay new workers, to produce goods that others want. Investing produces both Karmic and physical paybacks.

Ethical behavior based on wisdom based on tradition is required (Do not allow your cattle to graze next to your water supply).

Fehu means more than cattle or gold…It is the responsibility not only to your self, but you your family unit that comes with the acquisition of wealth.


Thanks for that Malachite... can we print this info for ourselves?

I have the more simple interpretation of Fehu meaning "cattle" as for reaping what you sow. Income earned through effort whether that be material income or karmic energies. Getting back what you put into life for example.

Thanks again


i am afraid i have a readers vocabulary. could someone help by giving us the pronunciations of each rune as we study it. other rune related words too. thank you!


fehu has the "moving" in it, i like your interpretation umbrae.



zorya...change made!


thank you malachite!


Re: reaping what you sow

Actually MM, reaping what you sow comes much later in the Aetts.