Rune Study-Group: Fehu


More analysis of Fehu

Most of my posts are going to be written with a certain audience in mind. This is the person who is deeply interested in the Runes and whose interest goes well beyond the modern reinterpretations or use in divination (though one should learn to read before trying to write).

In general, there are several different sources that people look to for information on the runes: The Rune Poems (Old English/OERP, Old Norwegian/ONRR, and Old Icelandic/OIRP), the etymology/linguistic work (most of which is extremely technical/scholarly, and much is written in foreign languages, most notably German and French), and the modern Armanen tradition formed by Guido von List (based on his vision while blindfolded after cataract surgery in the early 20th century). List died near the end of WWI.

The idea that Fehu's primary significance is fire goes back to the Armanen tradition but no further. The Proto-Germanic *fehu simply means "livestock" (or possibly cattle in a specific sense) and is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *peku meaning "livestock" (or likely sheep in a specific sense). Livestock were probably used as a standard currency among the early Indo-Europeans and even the early Germanics, so it is no wonder that the word became associated with gold and money.

The following words (probably) trace their roots to *fehu: Fee (via French to Frankish roots), the New High German Vieh (meaning "cow").

Now, there is an association between fire and gold, as the story of Gullveig illustrates. The story is that the Aesir were visited by a witch from the Vanir named Gullveig ("Gold-Drunkenness"-- maybe a kenning for "greed"). Thrice they throw her into the fire, and thrice she returns unharmed. The third time, she is transformed into Heidh (the "Shining One"). The mistreatment of Gullveig by the Aesir is the main reason for the First War. There is reason to associate Gullveig/Heidh with Freya, who, after the First War travels with her brother to live among the Aesir.

Finally you have the image in the OIRP of Fehu being the :"Fire of the Flood Tide."

I tend to associate Fehu with primal energy, which can exist as the "Path of the Serpent" mentioned in the OIRP (sexual energy),. money, fire, and the like. But it also represents fertility and potential. The primary meaning of the rune, in my view is still best represented as the Cow in part because the cow embodied all these things to the early Germanic peoples.


I also see close parallels between the following in Havamal and the various Rune-Poems (update to normalize the Old Norse):

Deyr fe,
deyia fraendr,
deyr sjalfr it sama;
ek veit einn
at aldri deýr:
domr um dauþan hvern.

The cow dies
The kinsmen die
The self dies too
I know one
That never dies:
The doom* on the dead man.

*domr probably is better translated as "glory" or "judgement."

This strikes me as being remarkably close in construction to the first line of the Norse rune poems (Fe veldr fraenda rogi or Fe er fraenda rog), and the connection between good deeds and judgement is found in the Old English Rune Poem.


Rune intensive study group- Fehu

There have been many who have written on Fehu- so I will keep my posting brief on "definitions" and more focused on the personal gnosis given to me upon journeying to learn this spirit/rune. For any rune that does not have the old poems listed, I will add them in as well.

Anglo Saxon rune poem:
Wealth is a comfort to all men;
yet must every man bestow it freely,
if he wish to gain honor in the sight of the Lord.

Wealth is a source of discord among kinsmen;
the wolf lives in the forest.

Wealth is a
source of discord among kinsmen
and fire of the sea
and path of the serpent.

When you look at the above poems, you see two very different view points which can emerge into what is the traditional axis of the rune (which is formulated here in the Anglo Saxon poem) versus the woe-working aspect as seen in the Norwegian and Icelandic variants. How you determine in readings which aspect is being accounted for is outside the realm of this thread- but is always something to keep in mind when working with the runes. But learning the rune, speaking with it and understanding its full nature- that involves the incorporation of both. Just as you can easily see your positive aspects and shadow self as one whole, that is how the runes work as well. They are their own spirits/entities, and understanding and approaching them with respect and dignity goes a long way.

Triad aett associations:

Fehu- force; Hagalaz- form; Tiwaz- force directed by form

So- I prayed, and I journeyed, and I asked for guidance in the way of this rune. And Freya was there to guide me. When I came upon her, she was sitting on a seidhr stool, her cloak and gloves removed- we have met in this spot before. She was sitting with an odd looking instrument that had a strumming sound between a harp and acoustic guitar- nothing that I have seen before. She was strumming the instrument and singing a song I know well- one of love recognized only right before death. It is a beautifully poignant song, though I really didn't understand how it had any bearing in the understanding of Fehu. The lady laughed, and stopped playing her music. And then she sat and told me, and then Fehu came to me, filled my soul and I understood. And I asked her how I could explain such mystery and feeling, and she smiled softly and told me to do the best that I can. So forgive me if it doesn't make sense, but I am giving what I have as words that are hard to put to such deep mystery.

***The Journey***

The force came slowly, but swiftly. I have heard one of my heathen friends describe it as a meteorite shower of gold- that is as close as I can come. It isn't like fire- but like gold sweeping through you, filling your soul with a joy and inspiration that feeds you like nothing before. And from this force comes poetry, beauty, song, dance, life-loving, sexual splendor in a bubbling spring of gold creative fire. And it lifts you, and moves you and allows you to see the worth of yourself and all of that around you. And I danced, and I sang- and it was joyous, and tears of happiness flowed.

Then, it changed- and amazingly- it wasn't a drastic, or violent change, just a quick slip, a sly turning, a transition of smooth decay that changed the force around me. And I was filled with cockiness, greed, a delicious malice of lazy and deadly contemplation, feeding on sex, serpentile dance, with macabre poetry and song filling my eyes with a dark-edged beauty. And in this, I saw the woeful side of Fehu.

And then they merged, and blended- the triumph with the tragedy, the beauty and decay and the song was playing softly in the background. And as I looked at Freya- I understood the meaning of that poignant song. I bid her farewell and thank you. And as I left, the tears flowed again, and it was this gift I fed to my rune- a thank you for the gift of knowing. And so I know Fehu in all it's parts, and have seen it sit within the web of Wyrd- and when we meet again, it will be as an old friend.


Very interesting, Penthasilia! Some parts are a bit hard to understand for those of us whose mothertongue isn't English ;-) But I really liked it!

I've been reading about this rune and this is what I understood and now summarize:

Fehu talks about fulfillment (possessions, ambitions, love). Receiving what we need in our life, which may not be material.

It also reminds us of all the responsibilities that come with this moment of good fortune, such as the importance of sharing, beign prudent, ect. This relates with another important aspect of Fehu: being able to keep what we've accomplished.


I am a little late in this but I would also like to contribute... I am also thanking Malachite and the others for the inputs... I never realized that the Runes has such deep insights and merged with literature and poetry.

Here's something I picked up from a book entitled "The Complete Illustrated Guide to Runes" by Nigel Pennick. "Fehu is one of the few runes still present in the English language, in the word "fee", meaning a payment. It can also be found in the Jack and the Beanstalk where thee wealth-loving giant begins his well-known refrain -'Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!" with the runic "fee" referring to his riches."

My own insight from the readings in the thread is this: Abundance is the main universal law or principle which Fehu operates from, as opposed to Scarcity. If I integrate other aspects of principles to the Fehu, people in the world operate on two mindsets when it comes to generation of wealth - the Abundance mentality which carries the mindset that there is more than in enough in the universe, and therefore, people should not operate or function as if there is so much less that they will deny others the capacity to have wealth or to produce it. Scarcity mentality on the other hand is carrying the belief system that because there is so much less, I might as well get as much as I could and keep it, and even prevent others from getting as much as I have. It's carrying the thinking that resources are so few and so, I better get as much of it, regardless of the others.

The interesting thing about Fehu is that while it talks of wealth and prosperity, it also talks of responsibility. Fehu tells us that we need to work, to exert effort in order to gain wealth - wealth is a reward of hard work. The universe provides for as long as we exert effort. We reap the rewards of our endeavors.

However, together with reward is also a fair warning of the need to take precautions:

a) taking precautions that we do not become overcome with greed that we would use rash means to get so much more (at the expense of others), and

b) taking precautions to also protect what we have because there are others who will surely be interested to have what we own and may use duplicitous or evil means to get it away from us.

I also guess we can look at Fehu as control of ourselves (that greed does not tempt us to take advantage of others so that we gain more at their expense), control of resources and wealth (wise use so that we do not end up losing them through unnecessary or whimsical spending, falling into deep debt that we go bankrupt), and control of others which means that we may need to be careful that we do not flaunt it too much that others become envious and decide to take the wealth away from us.


Chanting this rune bought with it feelings of forest and elves which suggests a connection to Vanaheim and the Vanir. As my chant continued, I felt a golden light build around me and the rune I was visualising in front of me, also turned to gold. There was a warmth and blessing in the energy present.

I saw myself in a forest and on either side of me were the dead, my ancestors. One side were shining brightly, almost golden, while the other side seemed dark and shrunken. They wanted to grasp the light in me. I think this symbolises the more destructive aspect of Fehu - the brighter something is, the more others will start to crave it. The voices of my shining ancestors joined mine and gradually the dark ones disappeared. As I sang, I was transformed into a golden stag. Freya appeared and I began to feel like there was something stuck in my throat. I coughed and gold coins fell out of my mouth onto the ground. She turned to me and said, 'Your words are golden. Share your words and watch the web around you turn to gold.'

This rune bought feelings of wealth on many levels - physical wealth, spiritual wealth and inner wealth.


Fehu as fearn the alder

Ancient alphabets (especially the Elder Futhark) are my special sphere of expertise, so I shall add my two cents here, just in case anyone happens to be interested.

Fehu's meaning of 'cattle' or 'wealth', its shape (trunk with up-turned branches), and the general close kinship (despite what 'experts' have said) between the Elder Futhark and the tree-alphabet tradition preserved in Irish bardic lore dictate that the true core meaning of this rune is the spirit of vegetation, the fruitfulness of the earth—the concept of 'plenty'. For the corresponding tree-letter is fearn the alder, tree of Bran or Vran, almost certainly cognate with Germanic Vron, whence the name of the god Fro (Freyr). Alder enriches the nitrogen in soils and thus is sacred to the Corn Spirit, the spirit of vegetation, which Fro represents. (As Fro's totem is the boar, this according to Jacob Grimm because man learned to plow from watching boars root up the ground with their snouts, the corresponding line in the ancient Song of Amairgin would be "I am a boar.")

The placement of this letter on the wheel of the year was the fourth month (of thirteen, starting at winter solstice), which encompasses the sign or point aries, that is, the head or top of the year or zodiac. The interesting thing about this is that the zodiac of the seated torso (where aries the head is spring when things spring up, cancer the breasts where summer blossoms out, and so on) sits in the bottom half of another wheel representing the surroundings; and in bardic tradition (close kin to Judaic Kabbalah and Merkavah, whence derive placement of the stops or 'doubles' on the Cauldron) the surroundings form a Cauldron extending from horizon without (cancer) to the horizon within (capricorn), whose rim or lip originally held the labials B and P, and at whose 'gullet' are the palatals G and K, between which (at libra) originally stood guttural R. Thus the Cauldron represented the mouth and the zodiac within it the tongue. Yet F occurs out beyond the tongue (on upper teeth and lower lip), and in this resides its magical significance: it is the Corn Spirit that sprouts out beyond the seed or tongue to produce the wealth of the soil.

In the Hebrew alef-bet, the letter at this station (aries) was originally samekh (shaped like the head aries), an S sound, which is on the tongue's tip, this indicating a probable schism in the bardic corpus wherein pagans of the West expressed aries by the letter-sound sprouting out beyond the tongue (to represent the Corn Spirit), while Semites expressed it by samekh, a sound on the tongue. In the ogham form of the alphabet, F was the only relic of the letter peh or P; but in the tree-alphabet there was also P (whitten, which stood in place of ogham Ng, reed): the Elder Futharc preserves both Ng and P, in order to be all-inclusive.

How F got placed at aries is interesting. The original phonetic placement of the stops (called in Hebrew tradition 'double' letters, both because they divide time in two and because they have both hard and soft pronunciation) about the Cauldron was obviously P-T-K-R-G-D-B (R here the guttural R of Hebrew, which, being rolled, is a repeated stop), with P on the outer horizon or lip (the horizon ahead). But the tree-alphabet has D-T-K-M-G-P-B (R being the thirteenth month and thus banished to the center of the twelve-sign zodiac), R now rolled on the tongue's tip (seeking higher station) and P and D having traded places. This makes perfect sense once one understands the meanings of the signs on the Cauldron: sagittary or D is thought—the approach to straight back towards self (or self-knowledge)—which in us becomes fixated on external things (straight out or ahead), causing P, as outer horizon, to be internalized and made sovereign over thought—in other words, as the Buddha taught us, we mistake what is 'out there' for self. And in passing from outer horizon to sagittary, P leaves its residue at aries (through which it passes) in the form of F (feh sofit or final P in Hebrew, which is shaped much like our F).

I will leave it at that for now (unless someone query further).