Rune Dictionary

written by Professor Wessex

An introduction to the interpretation and usage of Germanic runes.

Last Updated

05/31/21

Chapters

16

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Chapter 5: Tyr's Aett

Chapter 7
The final aett is that of Tyr, the Norse god of law and order. Tyr is the Norse name for the Germanic god Tiwaz (see the rune below), who we celebrate once a week on Tuesday (Tiw’s Day). While the Romans often equated him with Mars (hence French Mardi, Spanish martes, standing for the same day of the week), only the heroic aspect is truly shared between the two. The name is cognate with Zeus, Jupiter, and other leaders of pantheons. In the Elder Futhark, Tyr’s aett is the realm of the priest-king. All of the runes in this section refer to abstract concepts and ideas, and should be viewed in such a way. This helps account for the complexity of many of the runes in this aett.

Rune 17-Tiwaz

Phonetic Value: /t/, as in English table, French tête, or Spanish tomar
Proto-Germanic Meaning: The god Tir/Tiw
Schreiber’s corrections: Justice, authority, triumph of reason
Maxim: Fair exchange is no robbery.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Honor, justice, leadership
Merkstave (Inverted): Imbalance, conflict, separation, injustice

General Overview:
As Tyr symbolizes the highest of the gods, giving his name to this set of runes, Tiwaz is a powerful symbol. Yet many people fail to recognize that the primary meaning of this rune is “justice,” not “success.” Unlike Sowilo, which stands for success of any kind, Tiwaz strictly indicates that what is right will prevail.

Thus, Tiwaz is popular among judges and lawmakers as an assurance that the right thing is done.
Tiwaz is particularly a favorite of many Ravenclaws and Gryffindors, but Ravenclaws should be aware that justice may not always be strictly based on the truth, and Gryffindors should remember that justice and winning are two separate ideas. Some scholars also claim that Tiwaz may stand for a male figure, particularly a father, priest, king, or other male in leadership. Loretta Lamphire argues that this interpretation is sexist, and that any female in the same position as a man would also be represented by Tiwaz (all agree that a mother would most likely be represented with Laguz or Berkano).

Tiwaz is most commonly used in charms designed to ensure the proper course of justice or rational action. It is found in nearly every place of justice, from the infamous Tyburn Tree in London to the Ministry of Magic’s Wizengamot. Because of its reputation as a masculine sign, it is exceptionally common in male jewelry, such as rings and watches, and is particularly present in jewelry worn by men in positions of power and authority. It is said that Dumbledore designed a wand holder based on Tiwaz that helped him win support to bring justice.

Notable Conjunctions:
Tiwaz does take well to combinations with other rune designs where it helps ensure a just outcome, but students must keep in mind that Tiwaz is always objective in its justice. A sword with a Tiwaz and Algiz combination (very popular for things like Excalibur) will only be useful if you are truly on the side of what is right. King Midas placed a gauntlet with a Tiwaz and Fehu pattern on his arm, only to find that anything he touched turned to gold — it was his poetic justice.

Rune 18-Berkano

Phonetic Value: /b/, as in the English book and the French/Spanish bien Proto-Germanic Meaning: Birch tree
Schreiber’s corrections: Fertility, birth, (re)generation
Maxim: Home is where the heart is.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Birth, growth, renewal
Merkstave (Inverted): Sterility, stagnation, domestic troubles

General Overview:
This is the rune of fertility and family, used to signify both literal and metaphorical beginnings. Unlike Jera, Berkano is not about the cycle life, but rather carries the connotation that things are made better this time around. This connection between Berkano and happiness distinguishes it from Thurisaz or Laguz, other runes signifying changes, but often in a less positive direction.

Nevertheless, Berkano is about things that are normal in the course of life; there is no Dagaz-like breakthrough or Ansuz divine intervention.
Berkano is most strongly associated with Hufflepuff particularly because of its associations with warmth and family. It also resonates strongly with Slytherins, who can often relate to the strong emotional connection between mother and child. Negatively, Berkano can indicate problems in a relationship. Emotional dependency, deceit, and family turmoil fall under Berkano. And, without Thurisaz’s cathartic release, Berkano is powerful enough to tear families apart.
Berkano is commonly seen in maternity wards, and any tool used by a midwife should be inscribed with this rune. It is also extensively used in herbology to help plants grow, particularly out of season, unlike Jera whose use is best suited for complementing the current season.

Berkano is surprisingly common in fake love potions, but it would make better potions for families working on their issues in therapy because, while Berkano can indicate romance, it is not the steamy, passionate kind of romance (see Uruz), but resembles more of a traditional courtship.

Notable Conjunctions:  
Berkano in combination generally refers to something beginning. For example, Berkano and Fehu or Gebo make a powerful blessing for a new business venture. Berkano with Mannaz or Wunjo can be used to trigger emotional — even psychedelic — experiences, while Berkano with Ingwaz and Perthro form a blessing of fertility upon a man and a woman, respectively (or Jera for a newly wedded couple). Combined with Isa or Hagalaz, however, it may lead to difficulties with fertility — wizarding legends tell of the woman who received a dagger for her wedding with Berkano and Isa inscribed and suffered six miscarriages before giving birth.

Rune 19-Ehwaz

Phonetic Value: /e/, as in the English hey, the French ête, and the Spanish bebe
Proto-Germanic Meaning: Horse
Schreiber’s corrections: Teamwork, gradual progress, transportation
Maxim: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Transportation, change, partnership, loyalty
Merkstave (Inverted): Recklessness, disharmony

General Overview:
Ehwaz is the rune of gradual development and steady progress, which captures its flavour well. Unlike Raido, which directly stands for “journeying,” Ehwaz is about progression and development over an extended period. Additionally, while Berkano is about new beginnings, Ehwaz reminds us that things do change, and not only cyclically as with Jera. Indeed, Ehwaz is one of the runes used throughout Hogwarts to encourage students to work together as they learn. In the negative sense, Ehwaz often symbolizes a desire for change, or dissatisfaction with the status quo. It may also indicate that the journey will be longer and tougher than expected.

Ehwaz, particularly in conjunction with Uruz, is a popular choice for saddles and other kit for means of transport. It is also a popular rune for team sports, as in the Norwegian Quidditch team’s jerseys. Ironically (to us), the Vikings would use Ehwaz in the rowing compartments to facilitate teamwork amongst the prisoners, much the way the Hogwarts Rowing Team uses it for its rowers.

Notable Conjunctions:
As a central rune, Ehwaz always means that one is on a journey and the supporting runes describe this journey. Positively, Gebo or Fehu signify prosperity, Sowilo and Tiwaz success, Berkano or Thurisaz growth, while on the other hand Isa or Hagalaz signify difficulties. In secondary positions, Ehwaz indicates that one has a journey to reach or overcome the central rune. For example, when Fehu is central and Ehwaz secondary, it means that wealth will only come after one works for it.

Rune 20-Mannaz

Phonetic Value: /m/, as in the English milk, the French même, and the Spanish mandar
Proto-Germanic Meaning: Man
Schreiber’s corrections: The self, mankind, humanity and its features
Maxim: No man is an island.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): The self, awareness, intelligence, human race
Merkstave (Inverted): Manipulation, delusion, depression, mortality

General Overview:
What is true of all men (and women)? What patterns do human beings endlessly repeat, and what does it say about human nature? What drives social connections, relationships between disparate people? Mannaz seeks the heart of all of this. It is more human than Ansuz, more analytical than Thurisaz, more introspective than Eihwaz. Yet, ultimately, Mannaz is mankind as understood by an objective observer, a social scientist studying people more than participating. It symbolizes humanity in all its general characteristics — intelligent yet impulsive, cooperative but selfish, creators and destroyers.

Therefore, it is not too surprising that Mannaz is popular among Ravenclaws above all, who use its insight into human relations to the extreme. But observation is only a stone’s throw from disengagement, which is the negative aspect to this rune. Sometimes those you expect to help are nowhere to be found; other times, it is you who should be prepared to jump in rather than remain distant. Mannaz emphasizes that we each have our own unique skills and talents, but oftentimes we fail to coordinate.

Magically, Mannaz is used to mean interdependence. It often appears on a multi-part artefact that must be put together to use. For example, Wendolyn the Wise created a puzzle using Mannaz in 1854, and it was not until 1901 that her grandchildren realized that they each had a piece of the puzzle. When all the pieces were combined, the rune activated, revealing the location of a priceless treasure and their heritage.


Notable Conjunctions: Mannaz as a central rune indicates that you need others to solve your problem, and look to the secondary runes to figure out who you need to help. For example, Mannaz and Algiz tells you to look for a police officer or social worker. With Tiwaz, find a lawyer, as soon as possible! Occasionally, Mannaz will be indicating you are your own enemy in the situation, such as when appearing with Isa. In a secondary position, Mannaz reminds you to think about who and what you need to solve the problem in the central rune. If Thurisaz is at the center, Mannaz may indicate that you cannot resolve your emotional distress yourself, but need to look for a professional — perhaps a priest if Ansuz appears or a therapist if you get Perthro or Laguz.

Rune 21-Laguz

Phonetic Value: /l/, as in the English lake, the French lac, and the Spanish lago
Proto-Germanic Meaning: Leek or water, lake
Schreiber’s corrections: Intuition, the unknown, the profound
Maxim: It is by logic we prove; it is by intuition we discover.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Creativity, imagination, travel through the unknown
Merkstave (Inverted): Fear, madness, poor judgement, suicide

General Overview:
What do we know? What can we know? Laguz, like Perthro, is about the mysteries of the human psyche. But while Perthro is something known, if not widely, Laguz represents what is unknown. Laguz is the unconscious, the world of dreams and the imagination. For wizards in particular, Laguz can also indicate that magic is part of the solution, even symbolizing a person’s magical talent when his or her talent is unknown.

Finally, Laguz also stands for the crone. It may not be your intuition, but that of another, most likely an older, wiser female figure.
Its association with the search for institutive knowledge makes it one of the most heavily Slytherin-used runes in the Elder Futhark. In fact, Laguz is also the rune for the element of water. This is evident in the negative associations with Laguz as well. In negative positions, Laguz means trusting emotion and intuition when inappropriate. It indicates a betrayal or being misled by others playing to your emotions. Lord Voldemort drew Laguz when plotting his revenge on Harry Potter, but chose to interpret it as that he should trust his instincts rather than as a warning that his emotion was too strong, and we all know what happened there.

Laguz is most heavily used in charms and amulets for ferreting out the truth. For example, Laguz lies at the heart of that Muggle toy, the “Magic Eight ball,” though they do not even realize. For Slytherins in particular, Laguz is common on pendants, talismans, and jewelry, and many Slytherins claim it gives them energy and helps them reach their potential. It is also common on religious and spiritual paraphernalia. Some psychologists even claim that Laguz-based charms can really help patients understand the source of their problems and overcome them.

Notable Conjunctions:
Laguz is not the most commonly found as the central rune, but when it is, it generally refers to a specific individual or location (generally on or in water). For example, an initial interpretation of Lagaz with Sowilo might be that your grandmother will successfully recover from her surgery. With Tiwaz, it may be telling you that a teacher or mentor will be honored soon. More likely is Laguz in secondary positions, where it tells you that you are relying too much or not enough on your emotional understanding of the situation. Laguz in a positive position backing Isa or Naudhiz, for example, means that you should rely on your intuition to overcome challenges; in negative, it suggests that your intuition may be faulty.

Rune 22-Ingwaz

Phonetic Value: /ŋ/, as in the English being, the French incroyable, and the Spanish incluir
Proto-Germanic Meaning: The earth god, Ingwaz
Schreiber’s corrections: Common sense, humility and caring, relaxation
Maxim: Slow and steady wins the race.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard
(Upright): Maleness, home, virtue
Merkstave (Inverted): Depending on context, Ingwaz may lie in opposition to another rune and indicate hard labor and impatience

General Overview:
Ingwaz is perhaps the purest expression of the classical element earth in the Elder Futhark. And as such, it should be interpreted dually as expressing the best and worst of the element’s properties. Positively, the rune stands for the idea that hard work and common sense pay off in the end, and despite all of the complications, we can relax at the end of the day knowing that we did all that we could. Ingwaz is connected with notions of fair play and that the decent win in the end, instead of the bold, the cunning, or the most clever. On the negative, Ingwaz can serve as a warning not to get caught up in details and a warning against pride and sloth.

With its connections to hearth and home, basic human decency, and not to mention elemental earth, it probably comes as no surprise that Helga Hufflepuff used this rune liberally in designing the Hufflepuff Common Room, and had Ingwaz inscribed not only above the hearth, but on her cup and many of her endless casks and barrels as well. When Ingwaz turns up unexpectedly, think about how you treat those around you, particularly your equals. One final caveat on Ingwaz: like Uruz, Ingwaz can represent a masculine figure in your life, generally someone equal to you, such as a spouse or business partner.

Ingwaz is a common motif on many tools used for labor to increase their power. Viking blacksmiths often inscribed Ingwaz into the molten metal and then etched it into the final blade as well before sealing the sign in blood to solidify the rune’s hold. Hufflepuffs often choose to use Ingwaz in times when Ravenclaws or Gryffindors would use Tiwaz or Sowilo such as in court rooms or offices.

Notable Conjunctions: When used in conjunction with other runes, Ingwaz generally indicates that patience and hard work will overcome whatever problem is suggested by the other rune. This is particularly true with Hagalaz, Isa, and Naudhiz. With other earth runes like Fehu or Gebo, Ingwaz may simply mean success in an economic venture or partnership. On the other hand, with air-tinted runes like Kenaz and Dagaz, Ingwaz in a secondary position may indicate that you are lost in irrelevant detail. Note that the reverse — central Ingwaz with secondary Kenaz also means the reverse: you need to look more at the facts before jumping to a conclusion.

Rune 23-Dagaz

Phonetic Value: /d/, as in the English day and the Spanish de
Proto-Germanic Meaning: Day
Schreiber’s corrections: Breakthrough, clarity of direction, balance
Maxim: It’s always darkestjust before dawn.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Willful change, daytime clarity, awareness, starting new ventures, balance
Merkstave (Inverted): Ending, completion, hopelessness, blindness

General Overview: Dagaz is a rune of growth, particularly sudden and unexpected clarity stemming from the effort one has put into the issue. It stands for things falling into place and understanding what one must do to move forward. Unlike Thurisaz, Dagaz is a positive rune; there is no need for catharsis. Unlike Berkano, Dagaz is introspective. You break through your barriers as a result of your own effort. In this sense, it has a good deal in common with Kenaz, though that rune implies that the development is a good deal steadier.

Dagaz was a personal favorite of Rowena Ravenclaw, who incorporated the rune into the charmed ceiling in the Ravenclaw Common Room. She also inscribed a Dagaz and Kenaz pattern into her diadem, which is still visible in her portrait on the first floor. Dagaz also has a more complex negative reading than many runes, which should not be taken to mean that it has no negative side. Dagaz warns that an ending is near, and that you may have no control over what happens. Remember that the consequence of sudden realization may be the sudden realization that you are powerless.

As seen in Rowena’s personal effects, Dagaz is commonly used in memory charms and spells to encourage creative thinking. Many laboratories and brainstorming sessions use a Dagaz-inspired charm or object such as an hourglass. Remember that Dagaz does not create knowledge (which would violate Gamp’s Laws), but rather brings out what was inside you all along.

Notable Conjunctions:
Dagaz combines easily with many runes, with its aspect of balance most important when Dagaz is the central rune. Dagaz with Fehu and Wunjo, for example, signifies the need to balance between practical (Fehu) and emotional (Wunjo) needs. In a secondary position, Dagaz can be a warning that something is out of balance, or even a notification that a breakthrough is just around the corner. When Othala is the central rune, Dagaz, especially in negative position, warns of intolerance, while with Perthro, Dagaz suggests that you don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle yet.

Rune 24-Othala

Phonetic Value: /o/, as in English home, French haut, or Spanish ojalá
Proto-Germanic Meaning: Birth place, heritage
Schreiber’s corrections: Homeland, ancestral property, community
Maxim: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Divinatory Interpretation:
Standard (Upright): Physical and spiritual heritage, home
Merkstave (Inverted): Poverty, homelessness, prejudice. slavery

General Overview: Often confused for Fehu or Gebo because of the property dimension and for Berkano or Ingwaz because of the association with home, Othala is one of the trickiest runes to understand in the Elder Futhark. Othala does denote property, particularly anything that is inherited or communal, but this is just one aspect to the rune’s central meaning of “heritage.” Indeed, Fehu’s luck or Gebo’s cooperation are both too immediate for Othala. For this rune, we have to think in a longer term and not only materially. Othala can reflect shared personality or physical traits passed from generation to generation, or those united by a common religion, belief, or purpose. Instead of Mannaz’s goal-oriented cooperation, Othala elevates the long-term, social connections between members of the group.

While many then compare it to runes governing home and family relations, Othala is far broader than Berkano’s family unit, encompassing the entire community. Also, compared to Ingwaz’s need for proper motivation, Othala is neutral. The community deserves protection because it is your community. This issue carries into its negative association. Othala’s negative side is clannishness, intolerance, unwillingness as a society to assist others.

Othala is a powerful rune of protection, although it has some strong limitations. Othala serves a community, never an individual because it is impossible to specify a single individual with Othala. This makes Othala very dangerous as well, and it serves as the core of many curses targeting entire families. Despite its dangers, Othala is commonly found on buildings, especially churches and meeting halls. Indeed, this rune was Salazar Slytherin’s favorite rune, and he integrated it into the design of Hogwarts in addition to using it in the school’s defenses. As Othala draws its energy from community spirit, it should ideally be placed in a well-used common area.

Noteable Conjunctions: Othala serves most commonly as the central rune, with additional runes extending Othala’s sense of community or shared fate. Most famous, perhaps, is the combination of Othala with Kenaz, which was used by Salazar Slytherin in setting up the defenses at Hogwarts. The Nimbus series of brooms are also engraved with an Othala-Uruz sigil that encourages teamwork. Othala with Naudhiz or Isa creates powerful curses—with Naudhiz, one can breed strife within a community, while with Isa, one can create stagnation and inability to adapt to changes. On the other hand, while Othala and Perthro may intuitively seem negative, they are often combined in marking a profound, inexplicable experience that draws a community together.

Othala is a powerful rune of protection, although it has some strong limitations. Othala serves a community, never an individual because it is impossible to specify a single individual with Othala. This makes Othala very dangerous as well, and it serves as the core of many curses targeting entire families. Despite its dangers, Othala is commonly found on buildings, especially churches and meeting halls. Indeed, this rune was Salazar Slytherin’s favorite rune, and he integrated it into the design of Hogwarts in addition to using it in the school’s defenses. As Othala draws its energy from community spirit, it should ideally be placed in a well-used common area.
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