Six months ago I started a thorough initial study of the Elder Futhark. Each week I would focus on a new rune, reading the rune poems and a number of published interpretations. While these posts are old (originally posted to my Tumblr), I want to move them over here for easy reference.
Week 13: Eihwaz
Basic meaning: Yew tree
Further meanings: Strength, reliability, dependability, trustworthiness. Enlightenment, endurance. Defense, protection. The driving force to acquire, providing motivation and a sense of purpose. Yggdrasil, the World Tree.
Divinatory meanings: Indicates that you have set your sights on a reasonable target and can achieve your goals. Can point to an honest person who can be relied upon. Mysteries of life, death, and in between. This is the rune of endurance and initiation, pivotal point on which everything turns, the cosmic axis, so when Eihwaz accompanies other runes, it is strengthening their meanings. The possibility of attaining temporary cosmic consciousness. Can point to inner power of stability needed to overcome external circumstances. Rune of action, striving, and persistence – can urge one forward with an action in a reading.
Merkstave/Reversed meanings: Confusion, destruction, dissatisfaction, weakness, lack of attention, hysteria.
Magical uses: Gives cosmic wisdom, knowledge of the World Tree. Realization of the death/life mystery and liberation from the fear of death. Development of spiritual and emotional endurance and hard will. Spiritual creativity and vision. Protection from detrimental forces. General increase in personal power. Communication between levels of reality. Memories of former existences in the ancestral stream. Crossing, traveling, communicating with other realms. It’s daring nature can provide you the strength to take the plunge into something new but beneficial.
Personal thoughts on and associations with Eihwaz
So I learned something this week. I always thought Yggdrasil was an ash tree, but it isn’t! It’s a yew as supported by descriptions of its needles and the fact that it’s evergreen.
The confusion probably came from the word barraskr which means literally “needle ash”.
Not only was it a symbol of longevity as they can live up to 2,000 years, but also of crossing into the realms of the dead as toxins from its berries could be used for trancing and journeying (also fatal if you don’t know what you’re doing, so please don’t go picking pieces off a yew tree and trying this out…). Even sitting under a yew tree on a hot day could induce hallucinations.
But what is most amazing about this tree is its strength. It was used to make weapons. And of course, it was also the backbone of the entire world, hence the name World Tree.
The kind of strength of the yew tree (and many trees in general) was driven home to me this week by the tragedy that occurred in Moore when much of the town was leveled in a F5 tornado that reached about 2 miles wide. This is only about 45 minutes away from where I live.
When watching the footage of rescue efforts, there were so many shots of houses that had absolutely nothing left. Buildings made out of extremely strong materials were thrown down like they were legos. A semi was thrown into what was left of someone’s house.
And then there were pictures like this. Note the trees.
There is nothing left standing but the trees. There isn’t a single leaf on them, they are stripped of most of their branches, but they are standing, and in some cases are standing despite having debris wrapped around them.
It is a powerful symbol of endurance and will. Whenever I don’t think that I have the strength to go through something, I will always remember these trees. They are the most suitable guardians one could ask for to look over a town that, despite the destruction, pulls together and supports one another.
One tree in Oklahoma City also has this reputation, an elm called the Survivor Tree. It survived the blast from the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and became the heart and soul of the memorial that was built on the site of the bombing. I have been to the memorial a few times now, and I still feel overwhelmed by the spirit of that tree every time I am there.
Images of these trees will always be my connection to Eihwaz when I need this rune’s strength. I hope some of their stories will give you strength as well.
Sources for meanings:
- Runelore by Edred Thorsson
- Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson
- Principles of Runes by Freya Aswynn
- Northern Mysteries and Magick by Freya Aswynn