Nyd byþ nearu on breosten,
Need constricts the heart, (nearest to the breast),
Weorþeþ hi peah oft nipa baernum,
Yet often proves to children of men,
To helpe and to haele gehwaeþre,
A source of health and healing,
Gif hi his hlystaþ aeror,
If they attend to it in time
– Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem
Nauthiz, need-fire, rune of potential and action and making choices to get ourselves out of the direst of circumstances.
This is a rune of fire, but not in the way that a lot of people think about fire in magic. Yes, it is a rune of power – but all runes contain power. There is an urgency to Nauthiz that can be destabilizing. It is truly a fire born of friction, tension between things that need to come to a head. The rune itself even resembles two twigs or flintstones rubbing together – friction creates the fire.
The two rune poems quoted above show two very different sides of Nauthiz. In the Icelandic, the rune suggests a relationship between need and oppression. This is a beacon of light, but specifically a call to those who experience marginalization – to see the full extent of the oppression and to find a way out. The other side of Nauthiz is the healing that it promises – if you’re willing to do the work.
The first aett is all about learning the tools you need in your daily life, mastering them so that you’re at a stable point from which to deepen your practice. The second aett challenges your safety, and invites you to go deeper by waking you from sleepy acceptance. After the hail of Hagalaz, the sharp awakening into reality, the needfire is literally the fire under our ass to change our situation. Once you have realized the oppression and injustice of the world, you have a choice to make: look away, or do something about it.
Nauthiz can show up to help us reprioritize our needs over our wants. Up until this point, I’ve been talking about this rune as it relates to career and desires – and those things running smoothly are definitely needs. But there is another more basic aspect of the rune: Make sure that you get your needs met.
In this way Nauthiz has power in the most basic aspects of our lives: Where we live, what we eat, our relationships. It is shelter, nutrition, love.
I like to think of pairing this rune with Fehu from the first aett. If Fehu is having enough wealth and stability to delve deeper into our spiritual work, then Nauthiz reminds us to keep our bases covered. As we develop our needs change. As we move from childhood to adulthood, where we get our needs met changes greatly. And then as we meet different milestones in our personal growth (marriage, divorce, parenthood, chronic illness, grief, buying a home, etc.) we shift our focus. Our access to resources is constantly shifting, as is our place in community.
Nauthiz reminds us to keep checking in to ensure that we tend to our needs even as they shift.
This foundational aspect of the rune can also help us understand our future.
The first three runes of the second aett are all about time and fate. Hagalaz, Nauthiz, and Isa represent the three norns, masters of weaving the web and the collective ørlög. Hagalaz represents Urd, or the past. Isa represents Verdandi, or the present, and Nauthiz represents Skuld – the future. Together these three norns represent destiny.
But the really interesting thing about this is that the fate isn’t sealed.
While Nauthiz is undoubtedly tied to the future, there is a sense of individual determination. The Norns are conceived of as constantly weaving their web, changing things in response to the choices that people make. I see these women creating a sort of choose-your-own-adventure: they present the right questions at the right time.
Understanding the future is not only about surrendering to some sort of “fate.” It is also about understanding how your actions and your ethics align, and making the right choices.
There are actually many more norns throughout Norse mythology – and they serve good, evil, and neutral purposes. Fate and magic in the Norse world are not so easy to categorize into “light” and “dark.” There is a fierce self-determination in this heritage. YOU define honor, you need to live in grace with your community. The choices that you make now have consequences that ripple.
This effect is the shadow working of Nauthiz.
When you place these runes in progression, you must recognize the folly of your past in order to see the potential futures available to you. This helps to contextualize the present, and further define the futures that we actually want. Sometimes, Nauthiz shows up as a roadblock.
If you are continuously running into walls, you need to examine if the challenge is trying to teach you something. The set-back is a teacher, or a guide. It’s a sign that you need to rethink what you’re doing – because success might do more harm to the community around you than good.
In my own work with the Norse gods, I’ve found that they like to test you. Are you really sure that you want to design that class? Are you certain you want to write about the runes? I might go through months of writers’ block, or a lack of inspiration, but when I realign through meditation and work with the gods directly, inspiration strikes. I’ll wake up to a fully formed class schedule for the year-long program I’m designing. In the middle of a work session, the idea for an article will come to me – complete with outline, quotes, and key words. Working through the tension creates beautiful breakthroughs that can take you higher and higher.
Need is more foundational than want.
In a reading, anything that is read after this rune is an outline of what is needed in the situation. For example, if you are asking about how to handle a tricky work situation, any rune that you read after Nauthiz is a literal action step or resource that is necessary to resolution. In a reading about health, Nauthiz instructs us on how to best take care of ourselves in the healing process.
Nauthiz is also helpful in swift communication with the gods. The need-fire is a traditional prayer. You build a fire, and when it is huge and lighting your full circle, you send your prayers to the gods. Anything that you need the gods to hear, say it into the flames of the need fire and it will carry your prayers to their ears.
Altar items for Nauthiz:
A candle to represent the need-fire (probably yellow or orange or red, to better mimic a larger flame)
Anything that represents your home/safe shelter
Carve or paint Nauthiz on to your candle. Light the flame, and give thanks for all your needs that are being met. Then, ask what actions you need to take to move further on your journey. If there is a gap between where you are now and where you need to be (not making enough money at work, unstable housing, etc) whisper that tension to the candle. Light the needfire when you have something essential to communicate to the gods.
While working with Nauthiz, get clear about what it is that you want vs. what is foundational for your life. Be prepared to listen and to be gently redirected if your actions are not in alignment with your purpose.
Blessed be, y’all.