Jonas Lau Markussen

ᚠ Fehu

Livestock (i.e. wealth)


The rune name ‘fehu’ translates to ‘livestock’ (i.e. sheep or cattle), indicating one’s wealth. Thus, the general meaning of the rune is wealth in the sense of assets or resources.


The English rune poem touches on wealth from the Christian ethic of sharing one’s means to gain salvation. The later Icelandic and Norwegian poems have a more sombre view of wealth, describing it as a source of discord among relatives. The worm in the Icelandic poem likely references Fafnir, a serpent or dragon in the Völsunga saga guarding a treasure containing the cursed ring Andvaranaut. Fafnir is killed by the legendary hero Sigurd, who obtains the treasure and thus, with it, the curse. The line about the wolf in the Norwegian poem gives a similar disturbing connotation of looming danger. However, depending on the translation, the Swedish poem conveys a far more positive idea of wealth giving kinsmen peace.


The meaning of the rune as wealth is evident. However, the implication of wealth is ambiguous. Its potential is both to do harm and good, depending on how it is managed, and its inherent promise of prosperity can be deceitful.


The image presented here is composed of a ram with a sheep in front of him and a wolf behind him biting his foot. The thumb of his right hand, placed in the centre of the image, is poking out from his crotch towards the sheep, indicating his virile capacity. The sheep and the wolf move around him, creating a continuous centrifugal energetic motion. The reproductive potential is limitless for the ram and the sheep, but it can easily be impeded by the wolf lurking behind his back.



English Rune Poem


Wealth — to all folks is favourable;
yet disperse it freely everyone must do,
if they desire to gain divine honour.


Original language:
Feoh — byþ frōfur fīra gehwylcum;
sceal ðēah manna gehwylc | miclum hyt dǣlan,
gyf hē wile for Drihtne | dōmes hlēotan.



Icelandic Rune Poem


Wealth — is family strife
and sign of falsehood
and the grim worm’s groove


Original language:
Fé — er frænda róg
ok flæðar viti
ok grafseiðs gata



Norwegian Rune Poem


Wealth — is family conflicts’ seed,
the wolf in woodlands breed.


Original language:
Fé — vældr frenda roge,
fœdezt ulfuer i skoghe.



Swedish Rune Poem


Wealth — kinsmen’s peace.


Original language:
Fä — frändä ro




Senra Silva, Inmaculada, 2003. ‘The significance of the rune-names evidence: from the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic sources’. Universidad de Sevilla. Departamento de Filología Inglesa.


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