Let’s dive deep into the rune Uruz, its different meanings, and how we can gain strength from and persistence. In this episode, I talk about Audhumla, the Norse creation myths, and the meeting of fire and ice.
Bonus: If you want to learn runes with me, I’ve got a class coming up on August 18th, 2020! Intro To Runes will give you a quick overview of the full futhark, the history of the runes, and other important info. You can sign up here: https://thefuturempls.com/collections/events/products/august-18-intro-to-runes-online
On with the show!
The second rune of the futhark is our gateway into wild energy, the primal strength we can gain in working with the runes. Uruz represents, at the bare minimum, an ox – but not just any ox. The wild Aurochs, now extinct in Europe, holds a special place in the Norse mythic landscape.
The most famous Aurochs in Norse mythology is Audhumla. She is a primal being, and the mythology around her shifts much the same way as the mythology of Uruz shifts. Some say that she was the first being to be released from the ice – created when the primal fires met the ice, Audhumla stepped forward to bring other beings into the world. Other myths say that she was the first being, but don’t necessarily give her an origin. She is said to have licked the first God, Buri, from the ice. Buri is the Grandfather of Odin, Vili, and Ve. Audhumla is also said to have fed and nourished the giant Ymir, whose body makes the earth we walk upon.
In this way, this ancient cow is an active creator and matronly figure. You could even argue that she is the beginning of nourishment in Norse myth. Audhumla springs from the stubborn elements of fire and ice, the clash of Muspelheim and Niflheim. She finds a middle way, not too warm and not too cold, and brings life from the ice without burning it.
Uruz sits at the crux of these opposites in more ways than one. Kari Tauring refers to Uruz as the gateway between the domestic and the wild. In the Fehu episode, I didn’t talk about this particular correspondence too much, but Fehu does represent cattle. So Fehu is therefore a sense of cultivated wealth, of things that you work hard for, of daily routine that leads to abundance. Fehu is the energy of wealth, of having enough to build off of. Uruz is the energy of stubborn being, of transformation of the self through hard work.
There is a wildness to these creatures, but they are not completely separate from us.
What do the rune poems have to say about Uruz?
Norwegian Rune Poem:
Dross comes from bad iron;
the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.
Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem:
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.
The Icelandic rune poem actually uses a totally different image to represent Uruz, which I will talk about in a little bit. Here is a taste of it:
lamentation of the clouds
and ruin of the hay-harvest
and abomination of the shepherd.
So the Norwegian rune poem, with the image of the reindeer racing over frozen snow, evokes to me a sense of hunting. It is beautiful, light, and swift. The hunter would have had a deep reverence for the reindeer. There is a cultural tension to this stanza of the poem: The Germanic peoples/Norse tribes had a different relationship to the reindeer than the Sami people. The Sami moved with the herds of Reindeer, whereas the Norse/Germanic people hunted Reindeer but didn’t migrate with them. This is an important distinction culturally, especially as we think about untangling colonization from our ancestry. Scandinavia wasn’t only made up of the Germanic tribes – there were several other groups living there.
This is another topic that I’ll be talking about on the podcast in greater detail later. Needless to say: It’s important to understand the complexities of our ancestry.
It is in the Norwegian rune poem, and the vision of a Reindeer (or Aurochs) racing over the ice and snow, that the primal hunt is evoked. Uruz is the wild Aurochs, the one you hunt every once in a while. It means waiting, coiled, ready to spring. The Aurochs is related, however distantly, to the oxen that farmers work with to pull their plows, to the cattle we milk for sustenance.
Joseph Campbell wrote that “The hunt is a rite of sacrifice.” The idea of sacrifice comes up over and over again throughout the futhark – which only makes sense, because we have the runes because of Odin’s personal sacrifice of himself to himself. But Uruz isn’t about sacrifice – it’s about fighting for what you believe in. If anything, this rune is about the opposite of sacrifice: Knowing when to take a stand, knowing when you’re right and need to keep pushing. If there is a sacrifice here, it’s more about focus. What can you give up in order to go after what you truly desire? What is holding you back and how can you break free from it?
For years, the Icelandic rune poem’s interpretation and association with Uruz mystified me. To remind you, here’s the verse in English:
lamentation of the clouds
and ruin of the hay-harvest
and abomination of the shepherd
How do you go from an Aurochs to … a little drizzle?
Diana Paxson writes in “Taking Up the Runes” that slag and drizzle can represent the constant process of patterning, cleansing, and reshaping. This is the real work of strength. Looking at drizzle and rain from an ecological perspective, it makes absolute sense that the Icelanders would view rain as a source of change and strength. When it gets warm enough to rain, the rain melts the snow. Here we see a mimic of Audhumla’s role as melting the ice. The actual, physical rock of Iceland is formed and changed through volcanic eruption and the drizzle and precipitation. It is a land made from extremes, and the people noticed how something as seemingly small as drizzle could have such a great impact.
This particular interpretation also connects Uruz and Hagalaz. Hagalaz, which we will get to in a while, is chaotic change. It is the hailstorm, destruction in order to create. I often think of Hagalaz as connected with the Tower energy. Hagalaz breaks shit so we can rebuild. Uruz is the strength that you need to get through that intense period of breaking. Uruz is the personal strength and guide you need to radically change your life.
The runes do speak to each other. This is an iterative process – there is always a conversation, always a reference to another part of the futhark. They aren’t actually linear. Unlike the tarot, the runes aren’t numbered. Yes, they have an order, but they don’t always show up in that order. We’re only going through each rune in futhark order because it helps us to learn them.
The more you work with the runes, the more you’ll discover ways that they reference one another. Finding pairs, similarities, and other facets of the runes will help you to unlock different meanings in them.
I’m going to talk a little bit about using Uruz in a rune altar, but first, let’s take a quick break for our sponsors.
Uruz is a powerful rune to use in magical workings – especially when you need to increase the strength of the readings.
This is a natural rune to call upon to bring more and greater energy to your magickal workings. If you aren’t feeling confident, but you know that you need to put energy and force behind your magic, chant Uruz three times in circle. Call upon or carry Uruz with you anytime you need to go into negotiations, when you need courage to have a difficult conversation, or when you need to stick up for yourself.
You can also use Uruz when you need to smash through barriers.
Create an altar to strength. Pull Uruz from your rune set, and place it prominently on the altar.
To create a rune altar specifically for Uruz, put the rune in the center. Then, grab items from your home that remind you of this rune. Pull the Strength card from your tarot deck, place your favorite herbs (or caffeine source!) on your altar, river rocks, anything to represent primal earth energy. You may also want to incorporate elements of both fire + ice. Fire can obviously take the form of a candle. Ice is, of course, hard to do, but you could take an ice cube out of the freezer each morning and allow it to slowly melt. Or you can use a clear quartz crystal to represent an icicle. Get creative! That’s the fun part of creating altars.
Come to your altar regularly, perhaps once a day, and meditate on the strength you need to do what is necessary. See yourself as the gentle giant Audhumla, providing sustenance while maintaining your own strength.
The point of creating these altars is not to buy more things, but to work with items that you already have in your home. Remember, our ancestors didn’t have access to the kinds of markets we do now! They repurposed things and used them as necessary. Part of the excitement of creating these altars is in getting creative with what you already have.
That’s it for today’s analysis of Uruz. This is an iterative process, so we will absolutely be returning to this rune as we move through the futhark.
If you have been loving this podcast, and you’d like to learn more about runes with me, I’ve got great news for you! I’m teaching an Intro to Runes class online on Tuesday, August 18th at 6pm CST. I’ve included a link to register in the shownotes. In this class, we go over the basics of what the runes are, move through the full futhark, and talk a bit about their history.
Later this fall I will also be teaching a 12-week course on Radical Runes – specifically, learning runes from a queer perspective and working with them in a contemporary, apocalyptic context. I will absolutely let you all know when registration for that opens up.
Until then, stay wyrd!
The Poetic Edda (translated by Carolyne Larrington). Oxford University Press. 1996.
The Prose Edda. (edited by Anthony Faulkes).
Aswynn, Freyja. Northern Mysteries and Magick: Runes and Feminine Powers. Llewellyn Worldwide, 1998.
Murphey, Bradley. Othil: Norse Ancestral Traditions. Thrymheim Publishing. 2006.
Paxson, Diana. Taking Up The Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic. Weiser Books, 2005.
Plouff, Abbie. Heathen’s Journey Column on Little Red Tarot. First published in 2017.
Rhys-Mountfort, Paul. Nordic Runes. Versa Press, 2003.
Tauring, Kari. The Runes: A Deeper Journey. Self published, © 2007