Ansuz – Rune Meaning Analysis

Ansuz is another complex rune, and its energies and manifestations are very predominant in our time. The common interpretation is that this rune signifies “a god”, that is, one of the Aesir, particularly Odin. It refers to a personal ancestry that traces back to the old gods, and therefor our divine inheritance. It is also linked to the mouth, breath and speech, persuasion and inspiration.

Photo by Marsý

The Passing of Breath

It may be very useful to examine Ansuz as meaning “the passing of breath.” This short conceptual epigram links its communication aspects to its ancestral overtone, as well as to the idea that Odin gave us the original breath or “inspiration” to live as humans. “Inspiration” is etymologically linked to the breath, and further back to the word enthusiasm by the Ancient Greeks, who would use the word to signify “god-breathed”. It is entirely possible that this is a cross-cultural idea.

In terms of the ancestral lines, not only blood and genes are passed, but something less tangible — a breath passed from parent to child since the beginning.

The Passing of Breath also links this rune to communication: language, linguisitcs and the ordering effect that symbols have on human consciousness. The transmuting effects of symbols on the mind in undeniable — and herein lay a great magic to uncover.

Underlying all this is our basic need to “pass our breath”, that is: share meaning, communicate, persuade and order the universe symbolically. It is not only the gene that needs to survive, but the meme: the memory. The Name.

Giants Versus the Aesir

The gods of the Aesir represent order and consciousness (contrasted to the prior rune, Thurisaz, which represents unconscious and proto-conscious forces, the “giants”) so Ansuz’ chief magic is that of ordering and transmuting the unconscious into the conscious through symbols. This war between the giants and the gods, is actually a very perceptive metaphor for the pre-conscious, unawakened forces that struggle against the awakening consciousness in the universe. We can see this war play itself out everywhere, within us and without.

Ansuz represents the civilizing, ordering tendency that language, oral or written, brings to the otherwise wild and chaotic semi-conscious or totally unconscious intelligence that existed prior. Properly used, its power is meant to awaken, not impede, human potential toward godhood, that is, the expansion of the Aesir’s aims in the universe.

More of this war, which culminates in the ancient idea of Ragnarok will be understood by looking into the rune prior to this in the Aett, Thurisaz. I will also include much more about this idea in my upcoming book.

The Magic of Naming

Central to this rune is the magic of “Naming” which is so fundamental to our minds that it should be explored, in depth, by any serious seeker of human mysteries.

Naming includes the use of symbols, definitions, classifications, labels and all attempts at signifying something through words. It extends into the domain of sharing such symbols in a community (communication) and attempts at transforming the understanding of Others through persuasion. That we all do this, constantly, is what makes us human. The drive to make the process powerfully conscious is the quest of the magician, and done consciously, Naming has a supreme affect on the hearts and minds of those exposed to it.

Poetry and Word-Consciousness

It is no accident that our dreams use images in a highly subjective and poetic form, where certain images that may otherwise seem concrete tend to represent entirely different ideas. Cultivating an ability to decipher the symbols your unconscious uses to communicate with you through dreams and visions will also strengthen your ability to listen more deeply to the unconscious symbols others use while speaking. Indeed, this near-psychic ability has marveled people since the dawn of human history. A careful attention to people’s choice of words, whether intuitive or practiced, has likely long come across as mind-reading, prophecy, and clairvoyance.

Listening as a word-conscious being is a large part of mastering the magic of Naming. As Odin’s particular magic often revolves around his poetry (we could also call it spellsong), it is important to emphasize the study of poetry — the ability of those who understand poetry to use it as a kind of “divine cypher” cannot be underestimated. It is essential to probing the unconscious symbol-matrix of the Self and its Society and Culture.

This representative nature is key to understanding communications from other life forms (plants, animals) and higher beings who may not have an immediately understandable form, and must communicate with you indirectly. Much of the universe is like this. Therefor, human language must transcend itself if it hopes to communicate with the non-human intelligences in the surrounding world. Such communications sometimes come with a sort of divine protection, a gift of insight directly from the gods, or perhaps the god-within. Pursue Algiz to explore such possibilities further.


Our Western society is persuasion-obsessed. Though persuasion has always played a part in human interactions, our particular epoch is riddled with the pseudo-science of changing people’s beliefs on a mass scale through the use of words. There are volumes now written on the subject, and we may explore the idea very deeply.

The verbal art of persuasion falls squarely into the realm of Ansuz magic. Though so often twisted to the task of marketing, public relations, propaganda, persuasion itself is not a negative thing. Manipulative uses of Ansuz, however, can soon lead us into a blacker realm of magic and psychology. Remember: it is rare the individual who can deceive others without sooner or later deceiving him or her self. It is indeed the Truth that shall set us free.

Contemporary Exploration

All the modern language sciences would be useful to exploring this rune at extremely great depths. Linguistics is the study of the encoding of all languages. Etymology is the study of the ancestry of words and how language evolves over time. Memetics — ‘meme’ being a buzz word of the past decade — is the study of how symbols and ideas spread through complex human communities, horizontally through space and vertically through time. Finally, Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols, divided into three branches: Sematics, which is the relation between a sign and the things to which they refer; Syntactics, which is the relation among signs in formal structures (such as sentences) and Pragmatics, which is the relation between signs and their effects on those people who use them.

In an age of massive changes to communications, the way information is transmitted and the psychology of persuasion, Ansuz becomes a very important rune in understanding and reflecting upon these changes — as well as what has NOT changed. We have unparalleled access to the related sciences involved.

Murkstave: Ansuz Reversed

There are a host of limits and reversed energies — pitfalls to watch for when using Ansuz. What follows are two major ones.


Ansuz energies are very often twisted past the point of mere persuasion into the domain of bullshit and point-blank lying. We all, invariably, invent stories and lie to ourselves to one degree or another — we must be sure to study the virtue of honesty to self and others — dishonesty is very harmful to the spirit. Breaking one’s word was considered dishonorable, to the ancients.

Repeat a lie enough, and you will come to believe it. It is a weak magic that relies on illusion. Ansuz is most powerful when aligned as close as possible to reality. But therein lay another treacherous flaw inherent in over-dependence on this rune.

Over-Conceptualization and Duality

The word “tree” can be defined in many ways: as a plant with a hard bark, a source of wood, as growing leaves and forming a canopy, either deciduous or coniferous. But neither the word tree or its definition, or its visual image in our minds — however vivid — is an actual tree.

Here we approach the limit of Ansuz, and there is a very strong, unconscious tendency in Western society to believe too heavily in the name, too heavily in the idea, or theory, while neglecting the infinitely more complex, subtle and interconnected nature of the universe.

Naming and describing does not necessitate understanding. Yet, our minds have the unconscious habit of believing that if we can name, describe, theorize, explain, then we have true understanding. We mistake this layer of symbols, this ‘psychotopography’, as the real world all too easily. We often confuse the map for the actual territory.

Labels are always reductive. Classification always fragments and divides a universe which is not, in and of itself, divided. This can trap us in a mode of thinking that is out of alignment with the truth. Beware this veil of words: it may fool us into believing that just because we have a word for something, we know what it is, and needn’t investigate further. Words can expand understanding, there’s no arguing this. But it is wise to see that they can form walls as well.

And what about a thing that is real, but no word in our language exists for it? Or no word in any language? Can we think about such things, and experience them, regardless?


A word itself makes nothing more or less real, except in our minds, though this is not to understate the power and potential of our minds! Symbols shape and order consciousness. They can increase consciousness, but they can also lower it. Words affect people, and people affect the world. Words may inspire us to action, or mold the beliefs which guide our lives and shape the attitudes in our society. Remember though, that that ‘action’ is beyond the energy of Ansuz. Ansuz only inspires it.

You may talk the talk — but that is often a far cry from walking the walk — which may actually be why the rune Raidho (Ride, or Journey) follows Ansuz.

The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem: Remixed

A young woman named Claire Smith, of the Spider Tribe, has had the creativity and courage (and audacity? ;) to adapt the old Anglo-Saxon rune poem to something decidedly new, but true to form to the spirit and meaning of the old Anglo-Saxon rune poem. With her permission, I’m re-posting it on Rune Secrets to share with you this inspiring creative undertaking.

You can visit Claire and see some of her other poetry on her Spider Tribe website.

Wealth is a comfort to all men
But greater is the good of riches shared,
The barrow’s treasure is a dragon’s den
Of teetering gems ~ hoarder, be prepared
For the wolves that track the scent of gold,
Give to the living, for death lies cold.

The up~horned aurochs is fierce and proud,
Great girded warrior of the moor
With eyes of fire and spirit loud,
Savage and feared as a god of war
But the man who is brave, or the man who is wise
Might show the mettle for the beast’s demise.

The thorn is sharp to human flesh,
Push against it ~it will win the duel,
One thorn can hide a wicked mesh
Of thorns, demon company is cruel.
Best be vigilant or be easily caught
On the barbs of evil deed or thought.

The mouth gives shape and sound to words,
Is the comfort of councilors and Wisdom’s pillar,
On the palate of the ageless sky, the birds
Are blessed and confident; Woden is Healer,
Prophet and Sage and as Shaman he gave
More than his eye to cut the whisper on the stave.

The saddle is soft and the way is clear
In the journey of a hearth~dream, but the dreaming fire
Is no preparation for the hardships that will appear
On the mile~paths cruel with rock and mire.
The wise traveler and his horse are bold
When the ashes of dreams have long lain cold.

Torch is known to the living by its light
And heat of flame when the nobles are within,
When men of common purpose talk into the night,
When they are gathered together, kith and kin.
Its beacon is sure and true and courage
Is like oxygen, empowering its quiet rage.

Generosity is for men glory and exaltation,
A word of kindness can mean more than gold,
However small the gift, express appreciation ~
The grudging man pines, but he who is kind and bold
Seldom has cares, even the man who is broken
Can give or receive the simplest token.

Joyful is he who knows no sorrow,
Has little want and bears no pain,
Who thanks the day and does not fear tomorrow.
Sadness will come, but do not seek to attain
Its touch of grey ~ Wyrd has enough bliss
And woe for all ~ bittersweet, the parting kiss.

Hail is the whitest of grains, fleet
As the messenger with urgent news, cold mortar
Through the vaults of heaven, a sleet
Of arrows that sweetly melts to water
Having felled the golden legions of the field.
And so, in times of plenty, make good your yield.

Need is an aching in the breast, but then
Just as the medicine with the bitter taste
Can soothe, need is comfort to the sons of men.
Hardship, like guilt, is better faced ~
Be strong and certain of brighter days
And the gods will hold you in their gaze.

Ice is over~cold, a skater’s dream,
A walker’s nightmare, a floor of frost
Cold glass and gems, the faraway gleam
Of all we desire that is easily lost.
Crystals and opals and diamonds all,
Cruel and worthless when we fall.

Year is the hope and joy of men, She
Who is Earth and of the earth, who bears
The fruits of earth and flesh for all humanity,
Rich and poor alike, is all beauty when she wears
The green and blossoms as her gown, the sky
In her hair ~ and so shall be when we all die.

Yew is outwardly an unsmooth tree
Hard and fast in the earth, the shepherd
Of fire, roots earth~locked, tangled as mystery.
Its branches sky~reaching are, as the web of Wyrd,
Questing for the seven worlds, seen and unseen ~
Irminsul, a joy on the land and evergreen.

Hearth is to the proud the place of laughter,
Song and recreation, where the warriors in the mead hall
Sit now blithe and companionable after
The giants of flesh and mind and heart, all
Have been slain for the day; when battles are chessmen
And challenges are riddles, all is pleasure then.

Elksedge, waxing in the water of the marsh,
Has a hilt to suit the warrior’s grasp
But it meets the flesh with substance harsh ~
Hilt becomes blade, a living rasp
That sears the flesh and burns the blood.
Be strong, to clutch at straws will yield no good.

Sun, bright sail of the tranquil sky,
Is ever a joy to the farers of the sea,
When dreams are fish shoals and hopes fly high
With the sea birds and confidence and opportunity
Rise with the halyards, until the steed of brine and foam,
Courser of the deep, brings them gladly home.

Tiw is a guiding star, the warrior’s friend,
Ever moving over night’s mist and darkness.
First of the gods, ever burning to defend
The fields of men and the shining fortress,
Stronghold of the gods that we call heaven,
Keeping faith with princes and trust with all men.

Birch bears no fruit, yet brings forth shoots
Until its crown is splendid, laden with leaves,
Heavy in the air ~ and so it is that its fruits
Are those of healing and enchantment, such spells it weaves
Out of green and time as the creative fire communes
With the mind of man, is the flesh of wands and runes.

Horse, proud in its hooves, at the helm
Of warriors is a joy to princes and royal
In its mane, be it on the mile~paths of its realm
Granting a hero speed, or standing loyal
Where the rich men barter words and impress
With deeds. And is ever a comfort to the restless.

The man of laughter is dear to his friends,
Yet every kinsman will betray his fellow:
The time must come to all when laughter ends
And Sculd, by Her decree, lays flesh below
The living green and the solemn oaths of man
Are brought to nothing. Enjoy the laughter, while you can.

Water to men seems endless, when the rocking bark
Is fragile on the quake of sea, when the horse
Of the deep, thundering vast and dark
Defies the bridle. But still they plot a course
For new horizons, the reward of distant lands,
Seizing opportunity with trembling hands.

Ing was first among the East Danes
Seen by men, until he departed over the deep,
His wagon behind him and they with war in their veins
Named the hero. Rouse him from his winter sleep
When you burn the holly ~ he survives the snow
As the seed of life, with his corn~sheaf pillow.

Homeland, dear to man, won by the blood
And courage of the men of old, is the hearthlight
Of all that is safe and right and good,
The legacy for which we fought and still must fight.
It swells the blood with pride and sings
In the hearts of common men and kings.

Day, beloved of men, is the herald
Of Woden and the glorious skein of thread
Spun by Metod. Such comfort in that gold ~
Lightening the mind, the heart, the tread
Of rich and poor alike, of service to all
Is reason and understanding, fair and rational.

Oak is food for flesh, joy to the lips
Of man in the meat that grew sweet and succulent
Feasting on acorns. And oak is the faith of ships,
The trusted timber, stable on the torrent
Of the gannet’s bath and so we must ensure
That the acorns of our lifetime, as oaks endure.

Ash, much prized by man, is high
Steadfast and firm, swift when it grows,
Stout when it stands, straight when it streaks the sky
As a singing spear or a sleet of arrows.
Ash is ambush, attack, the power to advance
And yet is stockade, defence and vigilance.

The ax~hammer is a joy and an honour
To prince and warrior alike. It is bold
On the journey, intrinsic to the brave armour
Of war and fair on the horse, a sight to behold
As it hangs from the saddle, hellbent on battlefields,
The clang of war~gear and the walls of shields.

Ior is a river~fish and yet it feeds
Always on the land and lives a life
Of quiet joy, working hard to meet its own needs,
Building a home that is free from strife,
Encompassed by water. His is time well spent,
Is peace of mind and home~and~dry contentment.

Grave is the terror of all, even from birth
When life first warms the flesh, it is the only certainty
That flesh will cool and choose the pale earth
As its last companion. But thus shall we find equality
In that end ~ and a spur~ for the dead are dumb to speak
When the rich lie poor and the strong lie weak.

Othala – Rune Meaning Analysis

Othala is a complex rune, infamously misused by the Nazis in their attempt to promote ‘racial purity’ and expand their nation with totalitarian fury. The power of the rune will become clear, and a closer analysis of the rune will reveal how it could be properly used to potential global effect without any mass violence whatsoever.

Photo by Tracy Misso

Othala traces back to certain words in Anglo-Saxon and Norse whose oldest meaning is ‘noble‘ or nobility, and are associatively linked to property, estate, homeland and nation-building. Othala’s core power is the wise management of resources both physical and psychic. Not the ruthless efficiency that leads to totalitarian states or monopolies, but a more harmonious give and take that leads to peace and freedom amongst the people, a state of balance between order and chaos.

We have legends in every culture about this perfect, harmonious city or place. Asgard, Atlantis, Avalon. Shangri-la, Shambala and Eden. We use the word Utopia, which was an imaginary place that Thomas Moore described in his book of the same name. All of these represent the inate human understanding that we, as a species, have the potential to create a harmonious and peaceful society.

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Thoughts on Fehu

Some More Thoughts on Fehu and Connections with Uruz and the First Aett by Mahryan

Thanks to Tyriel and the thought-provoking comments people contribute to Rune Secrets I have recently spent time pondering Fehu. The following are just some thoughts going through my mind – they are offered to you for consideration, which some of you will hopefully share back again, so we can all learn more together. Some of my thoughts likely reflect things I said in my previous Fehu article or in comments I have posted, but Tyriel encouraged me to write up these latest reflections as an article. Hopefully they are not too rambling!

Photo by Andy Allen

Fehu and Uruz – the Primal Cow and Ox
First of all, some of the commentary on Fehu has raised questions about whether the energy is male or female. I think that, just as each rune contains positive and negative polarities, so both male and female energy is present in each. Runic teachings actually seem to really underline the necessity of combining those energies in order to achieve the spiritual wholeness for which we strive. The deities most associated with Fehu are the male and female twins Freya and Freyja.
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Rune Courses and Titles: A Caution

I’ve received a number of emails asking about the Courses in runes offered by Ragnar at the Denali Institute, and by Edred Thorsson. The question usually asks about the rune courses, and the titles gained through their completion. It is an important question, because it differentiates two divergent beliefs in how the runes should be used.

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Murk Staves: Is There a ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ Way Up?

Most welcome guest contributor to the site, Mahryan, addresses some frequent issues that newcomers to the runes have, in particular the idea of reversed runes, positive and negative interpretations, which are often called murk staves.

Some of us cast our runes, tipping out the whole set and letting them fall as they may. Others pull runes from our bag, usually one at a time. Either way, the runes do not always come out upright and face up. Some rune commentators see any reversal of a rune as negative, often describing it as ‘murk-stave’ (dark or at least gloomy) as opposed to ‘bright’ when in the upright position.

Others pay little or no attention to upright or reversed positions, reasoning that each rune always contains positive and negative energy anyway – the situation and our actions will determine how runic energy plays out. I agree with this.

Nevertheless, I do find the position of a rune helpful in developing my overall understanding. The importance of runic order and relationship within the Futhark is not disputed – the more we understand of the runes the more we recognize the intricacies of this. Given this, it seems to me that rune position – any aspect of position – in a reading must also have value. The following are some of my thoughts on this.

Some rune signs do not reverse or invert, but every rune when cast or drawn may come out face up or face down. There are very few in-depth discussions of face-up reversals and far less even consider what meaning, if any, may be attached to face-down positions.

I do not see any kind of positioning as simply a matter of ‘positive’ (upright) versus ‘negative’ (reversed/inverted) positions. Rather, the energies of each rune have many manifestations from the simple and mundane to the very depths of spiritual and cosmic understandings.

I pull (draw) rather than cast runes, and have thus always placed them face up, but preserving any reversed positions. It does occur to me, though, that when casting runes the fact some land face down might be of importance in understanding the manifestation of runic energy in that reading. I have only one source that deals with this. It is an out of print treasure I found second-hand called Using the Runes by D. Jason Cooper. For each rune he provides interpretation suggestions for face up, face down, both upright and reversed (as applicable). Regardless of the position runes are in my readings, I have found Cooper’s shades of meaning tremendously helpful in focussing and developing my understanding of how runic energies and relations may manifest in a situation.

I am going to use a recent experience with Tiwaz as an example. I was facing the work-related task of attempting to turn negative and adversarial criticism into an opportunity for an appreciative and respectful exchange of ideas. Instead of everyone feeling disappointed, wronged and under attack, the goal was to identify a course of action for mutual benefit.

An Example

When I am to undertake important tasks (especially sensitive ones), it is my practice to ask what runic energy I need to call upon/ bring with me. I was nonplussed on this occasion when I drew Tiwaz in the reversed position! What did this mean? As a simple reversal – not to be the spiritual warrior? To not go in fighting for what was fair and just?

Sources that do discuss reversals generally focus on the meaning in divinations. Tiwaz reversed is commonly assigned attributes of deception, waning energy, lack of courage, giving up. I have never found these satisfactory and it seemed clear to me that it would be unhelpful for me to bring along this kind of negative energy. I turned to Cooper’s little book. For Tiwaz face up but reversed he suggests:

Duel, struggle. You are going to have to fight for your honour and good name. Others will demand that you prove yourself, you cannot demand their respect without it.

Now this was a much better fit to the situation! Cooper’s other comments on different aspects of Tiwaz were helpful too, reminding me that Tyr sacrificed his hand to achieve a necessary outcome – a form of deception was involved in order to get to the greater good – it was a matter of tactics. As I considered the situation and my prospective role I began to understand that who had the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ of it was not the point to be made. The worth of our project had to be proven. The need was for tactics that moved our opponents into allies.

My scheduled meeting was successful. I have gained a much better understanding of Tiwaz in the reversed position and, that I think I will be able to apply to reversals in general. The key point I wished to illustrate is that a reversed rune is not necessarily what is often referred to as a ‘murk-stave’ – something negative to be feared. Sometimes it is a helpful guide to nuanced action.

I do think that a reversed rune is a signal for careful contemplation. The indication is that the runic energy involved will not apply in the most straightforward way. Or, perhaps, that the energy of this rune is one we need to control or sacrifice if we are to achieve the desired outcome.

Regaining full knowledge of the runes is a work in progress for all of us. We must think deeply about every rune in a reading or meditation, considering how its energies may apply in the situation at hand. A sincere ‘beginner’ can be given just as valuable an insight as someone who has studied the runes for years. Sincerity and openness to understanding are what the keys.

Some of you may find reversed/inverted rune positions an unnecessary prop and be able to intuitively see how each runic energy manifests in any situation. For me, these individual rune aspects are valuable contributors to my understanding, but I do not regard them as negative or ‘murky’ in any way.

I do hope that Rune Secrets visitors will find these few thoughts helpful. Please share thinking and experiences with reversed/inverted rune positions – we can all benefit through collective reflection.

— Mahryan


Nauthiz – Rune Meaning Analysis

Nauthiz (or Naudhiz) represents the need-fire, and in every way related to necessity, constraint and the inevitability of human suffering. The Nauthiz rune meaning has no reverse, but it is one of the runes whose positive and negative interpretations are closely intertwined. One doesn’t really seem to come without the other. As harsh a rune as this can be, Nauthiz also reveals to us the ways of transmuting our distress into greatness and success.

Photo by Blerina Berisha

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Ansuz and Othala – The Key to Asgard

Kaedrich Olson is the author of a popular new book entitled ‘Runes for Transformation: Using Ancient Symbols to Change Your Life‘, which has been reviewed positively by authorities such as Freya Aswynn, Ralph Blum and Diana Paxson, among others. His book is currently on sale at

Below is his first guest post with us, a Rune Secrets exclusive!

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Mannaz – Rune Meaning Analysis

Mannaz’ rune meaning has been eroded perhaps more than any rune by Christian revision and values, so it is important to me to clearly analyze this rune and to emphasize that you should think for yourself, and think hard. If any rune has locked within it the potential to help you think powerfully, it is MANNAZ.

Photo by INOC

Symbolism in Mannaz


Mannaz as a symbol can represent a number of things. Odin’s two ravens, Huginn, who represents mind (thinking) and Muninn, who represents memory, is a common theme here. The symbol could also be a representation of the arch at the top of an old well, implying the power of the mind to plumb the depths of Mimir’s Well: our collective unconscious or our ancestral memory.

It may represent a multiple of WUNJO, being the total of the human tribes, friend and enemy alike, and all the conflict inherent in our united, but divided world. Another possibility is that it is DAGAZ-on-two-legs, alluding to our potential to attain enlightenment. All of these ideas would make sense.

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