How to do a Rune Reading — Part 5

We’ll continue on over the course of the next few posts with the process of turning over the “subtle Runes” in this Rune-cast.  You’ll hopefully recall from earlier in the series that this is the term I’ve given to those Runes that land face-down in a scatter, as I believe they signify forces whose effects will be…well, subtle (as compared to the face-up Runes, which point toward forces that should be much more obvious in their impact).

So far, we know that the lone face-up Rune was Nauthiz, which means “Need,” and the first of the face-down, subtle Runes was Tiwaz, which references the valiant Norse God named Tyr.  Here’s what we land on next:

Rune-cast, pic 4: Please welcome Ehwaz!  This is the
Rune-cast, pic 4: Please welcome Ehwaz! This is the “E”-Rune, and its literal meaning is…”Horse.”

Here, we meet the Rune known as “Ehwaz.”  This Rune served the ancient Germanic peoples as their version of what we now call the letter “E.”  Admittedly, it looks just like the capitalized version of our own letter M, which it does not correspond with in the slightest — there are a few Runes that follow this same confusing scheme of looking like one of our modern letters but sounding like an entirely different one.  The budding Rune enthusiast has to simply accept that a few of these tricky Runes exist, memorize the specifics, and then try to release the need for certain shapes to always, always mean the same exact thing (that is, it helps, for example, to allow for the idea that the same symbol can mean the sounds and functions of the letter M in one context, but it can serve as an analog for the letter E in another…).

Beyond the sounds that it represents, and the fact that it’s one of the Futhark’s vowels (so, it will crop up a lot for you if, like me, you enjoy nerdishly converting names, words, and phrases from our own modern alphabet into Runic equivalents…), Ehwaz also literally means “Horse.”  When it appears in a reading, then, it’s always important to really consider all the things that the horse can symbolize.  It’s worth the time to spend a few minutes with this Rune, pondering what the horse can mean to humanity, and what traits and functions it’s associated with across multiple cultures…

Twin examples of the noble horse commune with ancient stone beings on mystical Easter Island...  Who's teaching whom here...??
Twin examples of the noble horse commune with ancient stone beings on mystical Easter Island… Who’s teaching whom here…??

Just by itself, the horse exhibits a certain set of characteristics that can generally be applied to the species as a whole.  For one thing, they can be used as shorthand symbols for both physical strength and great speed.  For another, they provide massive amounts of energy that can be harnessed to accomplish a multitude of difficult tasks, many of which would be impossible for humans to tackle alone (think about things like construction, communication, and distribution of resources, especially in lower-tech areas).  Horses are also usually seen as exhibiting or embodying such traits as nobility, loyalty, friendliness, freedom, travel, endurance, commitment, and natural beauty.  Finally, given their long-standing familiarity with humans, and the working relationship that’s been an ongoing reality for centuries, the horse can arguably be seen as a symbol for a symbiotic partnership…

And it’s maybe this last attribute that feels like the most fitting within the context of this reading.  I mentioned at the end of the previous post that I had what I call an intuitive hit on this Rune scatter: I became convinced that the four subtle Runes in the array here are capturing qualities that the most worthy Rune readers will cultivate within themselves.  If Tiwaz suggested bringing forth Tyr-like qualities into our readings (which qualities would include bravery, self-sacrifice, altruism, integrity, and justice), then Ehwaz in like fashion indicates that the best Rune readers will also draw upon their own innate characteristics that echo the energy of the Horse: that would include the aforementioned endurance, commitment, willingness to work, energy, strength, nobility, and mobility.  Beyond those traits, though, the message here may also be the idea that the Rune reader enters into a symbiotic relationship with the Runes like that so often forged by humans and horses together.

The big question that crops up at this point, though, is this: is it a case of the reader acting as the human in this dynamic, while the Runes serve as the horse…or is it the other way around?  I believe it’s a bit of both, all at the same time.  The reader does set the agenda at the outset, much like a human would in leading a horse on some project or journey, and the reader does seem to call the shots, care for the Runes, and use the Runes for “travel” and “work” that she or he couldn’t accomplish on their own.  Looked at in another way, though, there’s an argument to be made that the Runes are the humans in this tableau, riding the efforts of the reader (= Horse!) into the reality of the physical world.  Is either party truly “in charge,” then?  Maybe the reader/Runes relationship is every bit as symbiotic as the human/horse one…  But also, what do you think?  Your take here is as valid as mine, and determining what Ehwaz (and each of the other Runes) truly means to you is a process that will unfold over time…and it’s one that will advance as you consider these types of definitional questions…

And to wrap things up for the moment, as we start to flip over the face-down Runes so as to get a look at them, it’s important to start taking note of how the Runes are oriented once they’re all turned face-up.  That is, do they all seem to face in the same direction, more or less, or are they pointing all over the place, like stairways in an Escher painting?

“Relativity,” by the great M.C. Escher: are your Runes facing every which way, like these staircases? Or are they more harmoniously aligned…?

I’ll keep circling back to this question of the Runes’ orientations as we keep uncovering more of them.  Meanwhile, for now, it will help to just note the fact that up to this point, all three Runes are facing in roughly the same direction (Ehwaz may be slightly askew from the facings of the previous two, but you can still imagine a pretty uniform and agreeable flow coursing through all three of them at once, starting from the same point of origin, and heading generally toward the same ultimate destination…which you probably can’t convincingly say about the stairways in that Escher work!).

Next time, we’ll turn over the next of the subtle Runes.  Meanwhile, you can marvel at the fact that Escher — the artist whose work has supported the latter portion of this post — has a last name that, if written in Runes…would start with Ehwaz…

Intrigued by the Runes?  Purchase a Rune reading with me here!

2 comments

  1. I pulled Ehwaz in my own daily rune drawing this week. The “M” is like the bit and reins that you would use to ride a horse. That’s how I remember that rune is the horse rune.

    • That bit/reins thing is a great memory device! When I was first starting out, I learned this Rune by reminding myself that if I turn Ehwaz 90 degrees in the counter-clockwise direction, it then strongly resembles our own capital letter “E” (an oddly proportioned rendering of it, I freely admit, but…). I think your mnemonic device might be better, though!

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