Rune Dictionary

written by Professor Wessex

An introduction to the interpretation and usage of Germanic runes.

Last Updated






Chapter 4: Heimdall's Aett

Chapter 6
The second group of runes, from the ninth rune, Hagalaz, to the sixteenth rune, Sowilo, is ruled over by the guardian god Heimdall. For this reason this set is sometimes referred to as Heimdall’s aett. This aett begins with three forces of delay and disruption: Hagalaz, Naudhiz, and Isa. After these runes come the runes of promise and protection: Jera, Eihwaz, Perthro, and Algiz. The aett then finishes with the rune of victory, Sowilo. Interestingly, only four of the eight runes of the second aett are considered to have a inverted meaning, as compared to the other two aettir which each have six or seven runes with an inverted meaning. Of course, some of the runes without inverted meanings do still have merkstave meanings in divination.

Rune 9-Hagalaz
ᚺ ᚻ
Phonetic value: /h/, as in the English high, the French hotte and the Spanish ojo

Proto-Germanic meaning: Hailstone
Schreiber’s corrections: Weather, natural forces, disruption, trials, crisis
Maxim:Into every life a little rain must fall.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard(Upright): transformation, delay due to natural forces, the unconscious mind
Merkstave (Inverted): None, but Hagalaz may lie in opposition to another rune to mean catastrophe, natural disaster, pain, and hardship

General Overview:
Hagalaz, as the violent and icy winter precipitation, represents weather, forces of nature, and sometimes the unconscious mind. As the first of the three runes of delay, Hagalaz represents limitations due to natural forces. This can mean weather, but it can also mean birth, illness, death, or any force beyond human power to control. Hagalaz is said to be ruled by Urd, the Norn of the past, and by Heimdall, the guardian of the roads between the worlds. Hagalaz can also represent crystallized magical power. In magic, Hagalaz can be used to encourage transformation, as the hailstone melts once upon the Earth, to control the weather, or to curse another with natural disaster.

Hagalaz, being the ninth rune, is especially important. The number nine holds meaning in the Elder Futhark as it is seen as the ending of a perfect pattern. As such, Hagalaz is also seen as a protective rune, and can be used to help find fortitude and sanctuary after a difficult situation.

Notable Conjunctions:
When used with other runes, Hagalaz can propose limitation, interruption, or delay, and it can also signify an entire shift in direction. Specifically, when used with Fehu, the two in combination assist in balancing atmospheric charms. They are particularly interesting because Hagalaz is rotated onto its side for this combination, which is not a usual way to pair runes. Using Hagalaz with Fehu or Jera will produce successes, but only after a lot of work has been put in. When used with a reversed Naudhiz, the effect could be that your future is put into someone else’s control. This person is usually someone that is unfamiliar to you, so extreme caution should be taken in these circumstances.

Rune 10-Naudhiz

Phonetic value: /n/, as in the English month, the French connexion, the Spanish cantar
Proto-Germanic meaning: Need
Schreiber’s corrections: Willpower, survival, necessity, delay, resistance, needs, self-reliance
Maxim: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard(Upright): Delay due to necessity, survival, need, sacrifice, personal transformation
Merkstave (Inverted): Deprivation, emotional hunger, drudgery

General Overview:
The crossed lines of Naudhiz represent the two bales of wood traditionally used for the need-fire, a powerful magical ritual used only in times of dire need and disaster. As such, Naudhiz represents necessity, both as resistance and as part of survival. Our needs restrict and constrain us, but they are essential for life and success. Naudhiz is the second rune of delay, but it contains the potential to be used to overcome difficulty and is therefore also a rune of change and self-improvement. Skuld, the Norn of the future, is said to rule over this rune, as fulfillment of needs allows for the future to come to be. In magic, Naudhiz can be used for the development of magical will and power, and for protection through basic survival. It can also be used in love magic through causing need or emotional hunger.

Notable Conjunctions:
When used with Ingwaz, a problem Naudhiz might create would be overcome by Ingwaz. Naudhiz combined with Laguz in a positive position signals that you should defeat and challenges by trusting your gut feelings, but combined with Laguz in a negative position, it relays that you should not be so trusting of your gut feelings. The combination of Othala and Naudhiz is capable of creating potent curses that could create animosity within a community. Paired with Jera, Naudhiz could cause legal or financial issues.

Rune 11-Isa

Phonetic value: /i/, as in the English east and free, the French fini, and the Spanish tipo
Proto-Germanic meaning: Ice
Schreiber’s corrections: Halt, stagnation, challenges, blocks, grievances
Maxim: All things come to those who wait OR All is not lost that is delayed.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): delay due to obstacles, stagnation, mental befuddlement
Merkstave (Inverted): None, but Isa may be placed in opposition to another rune to mean ego-mania,
deceit, plots, and treachery

General Overview:
Isa, as the icicle, represents complete cessation of activity. This final rune of delay represents paralysis through the form of ice, blockages through the form of the unstoppable force of the glacier, and challenges through the form of the unsuspected implications of the iceberg. As such, Isa can be used in magic to halt unwanted dynamic forces. The goddess that rules over Isa is Verdandi, the Norn of the present, showing the present moment as a frozen, immoveable thing. Isa can represent mental blocks, either negatively as a grudge held or positively as taking time to stop and reflect.

Notable Conjunctions:
Combined with Berkano, it could cause fertility problems. Ehwaz and Isa appearing in conjunction with one another signifies difficulties, and Mannaz appearing with Isa signifies that you are getting in your own way. A more powerful combination is that of Isa and Kaunan. It has been discovered that it is possible to create a curse with this combination that causes an all-encompassing cold.

Rune 12-Jera

Phonetic value: /j/, as in the English you and yes, the French yeaux, and the Spanish ayer
Proto-Germanic meaning: Harvest
Schreiber’s corrections: Fruitfulness, fertility, peace, prosperity, life cycles
Maxim: For everything there is a season.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard(Upright): Natural cycles,growth, life and harvest
Merkstave (Inverted): None, but Jera may lie in opposition with another rune to mean repetition, sudden setback, conflict, and decay.

General Overview:
Jera, as the rune of the harvest, represents fruitfulness and the reward for hard work and good deeds. Jera also represents the cycles of existence which cannot be changed but are beneficial when cooperated with. Jera, therefore, is cosmic fertility, the natural reward that comes to be when effort is combined with knowledge of and respect for the natural workings of the universe. In magic, Jera can be used for fertility spells, for prosperity through accompanying labor, and to bring about peace and harmony. The god associated with Jera is Loki because of his persistence when working to defeat Baldur.

Notable Conjunctions:
When paired with Isa, it signifies you may soon be paying for some of your wrongdoings. If cast alongside either Hagalaz or Naudhiz, it signifies that you are not on the right path for you. Hagalaz and Jera also could produce some successes, but only in conjunction with some hard work, and Naudhiz and Jera could cause issues financially or legally. Jera with Berkano can aid in fertility for newlyweds.

Rune 13-Eihwaz

Phonetic value: unsure, but some possibilities include:
/æ/, as in the English cat and the French bain
[eo], as in the English Romeo and stereo
[ei], which has many pronunciations
Proto-Germanic meaning: Yew tree
Schreiber’s corrections: Defense, life and death, resilience, strength
Maxim: I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): cycle of life and death, protection, strength
Merkstave (Inverted): destruction, weakness

General Overview:
The yew tree, an integral symbol in Norse tradition, can represent both life and death. The yew tree is evergreen and can live to be 2,000 years old; it represents strength and life-giving force. There are also cases in which a yew tree will partially die and daughter trees will grow in the decaying interior, representing regeneration and life’s continuity. However, the bark, leaves, roots, fruit, and resin of the yew tree are all incredibly poisonous, and the yew tree was commonly used as the wood for weapons or wands. Therefore, the yew also represents defense and death. Eihwaz, encompassing both of these mysteries, is used in magic as defense in protection of one’s own life, but, as a result, can bring about the cessation of life as well. Eihwaz unifies life and death.

Notable Conjunctions:
Eihwaz with Ansuz or Jera means that complications that seemed did not have a resolution would be soon resolved. Eihwaz with Isa signifies difficulties. With a reversed Uruz, Eihwaz shows that a lack of desire will keep you from pursuing a good change. If paired with Thurisaz, is signifies that luck is on your side. When paired with Wunjo, it signals a fortuitous and safe journey, while it foretells a more treacherous journey when paired with a reversed Wunjo.

Rune 14 -Perthro

Phonetic value: /p/, as in the English Patronus, the French pomme, and the Spanish peso
Proto-Germanic meaning: Dice cup or feminine
Schreiber’s corrections: Fate, luck, creative force, femininity, fertility
Maxim: Opportunity never knocks twice at any man's door.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): fate, birth, life, fortune, initiation, destiny
Merkstave (Inverted): loneliness, malaise

General Overview:
Perthro has two distinct interpretations: fate and cosmic becoming. As fate, Perthro represents the secrets of cause and effect in the universe and the inner workings of nature. In this form, Perthro can be used in magic to improve a person’s orlog (a fundamental Norse concept similar to both fate and karma). Perthro can also be used to improve luck. As cosmic becoming, Perthro represents the womb that brings all life to existence. Perthro turns potential into physical reality, and can be used in this way to evolve magical ideas, events, spells, and potions. All three Norns -- mythical beings that decided destinies of gods and men -- rule over Perthro, as it is the rune of fate.

Notable Conjunctions:
Paired with Thurisaz, Gebo, or Hagalaz, Perthro signifies an influx of money that was not necessarily deserved. Perthro with Berkano will create a blessing of fertility upon a woman. If Mannaz appears with both Thurisaz and Perthro, you may need to consider seeing a therapist in order to deal with some overwhelming emotional issues. If seen in conjunction with Dagaz, it signals that you are not able to see a puzzle clearly because you have not yet acquired all of the pieces. Othala and Perthro used together can often create a deep understanding that can pull a community closer together.

Rune 15 -Algiz

Phonetic value: /z/, as in magizoologist
Proto-Germanic meaning: Elk
Schreiber’s corrections: Protection, instincts, shield, guardian
Maxim: Whom the gods love die young.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Protection
Merkstave (Inverted): Danger

General Overview:
Algiz is a powerful rune of protection. As the elk has antlers that shield its body, so Algiz shields the witch or wizard who utilizes it in magic. Algiz repels evil, so this power can provide a potent shield against physical or psychological attack around the body when visualized. Algiz can also be used to guard property, and any protective spell or enchantment will be strengthened by the use of Algiz. This rune is appropriately ruled over by Heimdall, the guardian god. Valkyries, the warrior shape-shifting women who protected men in battle, are also associated with Algiz.

Notable Conjunctions:
Algiz paired with Thurisaz signifies luck and protection, much like Thurisaz paired with Eihwaz. Raido and a reversed Algiz can signify that someone is trying to take advantage of you in some way. When paired with Kenaz, Algiz represents the formation of an idea, usually something that is creative or inspired. With Tiwaz, Algiz would usually be placed on a sword, much like as can be seen on Excalibur, although this will only help you if you are on the moral side of a situation. Lastly, if you are trying to figure out what kind of professional help you may need and Mannaz and Algiz appear, you should seek out the help of a social worker or police officer.

Rune 16 -Sowilo

Phonetic value: /s/, as in the English serpent, the French façade, and the Spanish saltador
Proto-Germanic meaning: Sun
Schreiber’s corrections: Willpower,victory, daylight, health, power, fire
Maxim: Out of the flames and into the fire.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Willpower, conquering internal and external forces, health, clarity
Merkstave (Inverted): Darkness, defeat, weakness

General Overview: 
Sowilo is the rune of victory, honor, and glory. The energy of the Sun illuminates goals, empowers achievement, and grants clear vision and strong will. Sowilo resists death and creates triumph of light over darkness. This rune shows good health, success, and the counterforce to the runes of delay. In magic, Sowilo is used to bring victory to a witch or wizard, to promote health, and to increase magical willpower and strength. Thor, the god of justice, presides over this rune. Sowilo, in essence, is true power used in a straightforward way to achieve great success and is therefore a very powerful tool in magic.

Notable Conjunctions:
If it appears with Raido, Wunjo, Othala, or Fehu, it means that you are working too much. When Sowilo is shown with Hagalaz, Isa, Naudhiz, or Thurisaz, it may mean that you want to be in total control over every area of your life, and if that is not a viable possibility, you will feel apprehensive and forlorn. When with Othala, Sowilo signifies someone who has worked hard for what they have. When Sowilo appears with Tiwaz, it signals success.
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