Runes and Whispers: FEHU

14px-runic_letter_fehu-svg

Proto- Germanic Reconstructed Name: FEHU
Meaning: “wealth, cattle”

Original Text in Poems:

Anglo-Saxon Poem
Feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;
sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan
gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

Norwegian Poem
Fé vældr frænda róge;
føðesk ulfr í skóge.

Icelandic Poem
Fé er frænda róg
ok flæðar viti
ok grafseiðs gata
aurum fylkir

Translation:

Anglo-Saxon  Poem
Wealth is a comfort to all men;
yet must every man bestow it freely,
if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

Norwegian Poem
Wealth is a source of discord among kinsmen;
the wolf lives in the forest.

Icelandic Poem
Wealth
source of discord among kinsmen
and fire of the sea
and path of the serpent.

Musings:

Fehu is the first rune of the Elder Futhark and represents the f sound within the alphabet. Conveniently, not only is fehu attested to in all three runic poems, it’s meaning is also agreed upon in all three poems: wealth. The Anglo-Saxon poem uses Christian imagery to encourage one to give away one’s wealth (a common theme in the Abrahamic faiths) while the Icelandic and Norwegian poems both contain a warning about the nature of wealth. Specifically, the latter two poems urge us to beware of the dividing power of wealth, citing wealth as a “source of discord among kinsmen.”

I encourage you to check out the runic poems yourself, but for me the Norwegian and Icelandic poems conjure images of war and betrayal. Wealth is power and all wars come down to power. Fehu is the wealth (not just monetary wealth, but knowledge and skills as well) and power that we can and should share with our communities. When throwing runes and fehu appears, I suggest assessing what runes are influencing it (so which runes are near fehu), because fehu rarely acts alone, before urging the querent to figure out what “wealth” they have to offer.

Note: More on the rune poems here.