The Rune EIHWAZ: and your Hamingja

How to find your  ancestral identity in an ever changing culture of personal rebirth. This Runic contemplation on the Eihwaz Rune will guide you into the archetype of Odin's mystic quest for self realization. A deep meditation of the principals that will lead you to an understanding of the  age of 
Pisces and the Bifröst bridge to Aquarius.

"Since then I go 
I follow the pathways 
the pathways and roads 
beyond the sea and even farther, 
beyond the sea and beyond the beyond;
And whenever I approach the wicked, 
the Men with black hearts, 
whenever I approach the envious, 
the Men with black hearts 
before me moves the Breath of the Ancestors." 

(By: Birago Diop from 'Viaticum')



Eihwaz signifies Yggdrasil, the "world tree" on which it is said Odin sacrificed himself to himself.  This event manifests itself on the mental plane as a symbolic death of the old self to the new self.  Unlike the Christian rebirth, this is not a surrender of the self to the power of a god.  It is not the abdication of responsibility of one's past or present actions, or lack thereof.  It is an intense, honest evaluation of who you have become, and an absolute commitment to the death of any part of your person you find lacking in honor, integrity and dignity. Lacking in any of these fundamental qualities is a cancer that rots the soul and undermines the value of life. The measure on which this sacrifice is made can't be found in a book, it must be sought out within the heart of the seeker. This is not a sacrifice in the religious sense, it is a sacrifice of the self to the self.  Inspiration can be drawn from the old vanguard of both gods and men, but in the end you must do it for yourself, no one can do it for you. What Odin reveals to us in this myth of the mighty is that the gods are guides to a deep naturally flowing well at the root of our own inner being. We see that it was in this state of self searching that Odin discovered the runes and it is in this same state that he calls us to discover them with him. 

Eihwaz is the rune that describes this journey. It carries in itself the death and transformation from one state into another. This is the rune of facing oneself; the symbolic descent into the unconscious realm. The heroic life is found in living an authentic, individual manifestation.  The death of the old is also the birth of the new and yes, it can be a  frightening place, this stepping into undiscovered country, but this is a vast continent of the potential-self and is rich in historical resources. We see a correlation in the iconography of the story of Odin's ordeal on Yggdrasil with The Hanged Man of the Tarot. Like Odin, The Hanged Man is hung upside down; this is how it always is at these times of change in our lives. Our worlds feel as if they have been turned upside down as we hang in the the balance, suspended between the new and the old, what has gone before and what is yet to come. 

In the image of The Hanged Man, we see some coinage scattered on the ground. This is a medium of exchange; coins are capital and like all capital it represents the power to achieve an end. These coins are not there by chance, they have been earned. This is the price that has been paid.This is the sweat, blood and tears of hard labor, the work that goes into the  everyday struggles of life.   In the case of Odin we see that the coins are the runes and they, too, are a medium of exchange. The blood of  every battle, of every victory, of every defeat. The passion of romance and the heart ache of  both love and lost love. This is the multiplex experience that bleeds from the body of the slain god. Cycling back into the roots of the tree. All the life blood of the icon is poored back into it self.  Odin is the archetype of the wise one, and he seeks out this wisdom through experience. The runes are tools of self discovery and their true power is found in their ability to exchange ignorance for knowledge. 

Eihwaz is closely aligned with the idea of the fylgja and in particular the hamingja. There are two way to look at hamingja one is the shape shifting character of an individual and the other is the shifting fortune of a family or clan. The most basic meaning of hamingja is luck.  Luck can be described in various ways.  For example, you might hear a phrase like "luck of the dice" or "luck of the cards."  This is the idea that there is luck either in the object or in your relationship to that object. That same idea is also seen in tarot cards which are perceived as having their own brand of hamingja. Objects are conceived to be empowered with a resonance of the owner's hamingja. However, the phrase "luck of the Irish" would be closer to the definition we are seeking here, as in this sense the hamingja is related not only to the person, but also extends to the family of the individual.  Such great significance is placed on the fylgja that in ancient times midwives would actually read the placenta and divine the shape that one's hamingja would take throughout one's life.The placenta was thought to be the berthing body of the the hamingja and was often spoken of as simply "That which follows." 

This circulatory motion is seen in the shape of Eihwaz, The straight line is the Rune Isa rune. rigid, frozen immovable. The two ends are the bifurcation of the Kenaz, fiery, energetic, fluid. This dichotomy shows the working of the runes primal forces.  Understanding how these forces shape shift through the runes will open need doors of perception to you. 

Discerning the shape of your personal  luck is a part of what is meant by hamingja. In parsing the word hamingja, we see the term ham in ham-ingja,  meaning  "shape," or "hide."  The ham as a concept occupies a place somewhere between the "physical" and the "spiritual."  The existence of an astral body is a concept found in a number of systems of occultism.  In this way we see that the astral body has a physical reality in the actual fleshly body and a spiritual reality in the energy body, who's shape is predetermined by the focused practitioner. Hence we say the astral body is a controlled projection. In this sense, the hamingja is said to be akin to shape shifting because we are determining our destiny as much as destiny is impinging on us. It is here in this extent that the individual meets the world and what we call our life; that we once again see the symbol of Eihwaz drawing our attention to the space between what is and what is becoming.  Eihwaz is a rune that focuses the mind on this space, teaching us who we are by directing our mind first to our historical selves then drawing us to compare our currant self image. It calls us to look at our roots, our personal tree, drawing our attention here to this point were the past and the present converge to meet the future. This is were Odin can be found hanging in the balance. It is here, on your personal Yggdrasil, that you find the runes that define you.  

It has been suggested that the Hamengja is akin to the Raven Miunin, and this makes a good allegory in any event as Miunin means memory. The lower arm of the Eihwaz rune is a metaphor of memory.  The great black raven travels the world of the shadows and illusions, of partial truths, stories, legends and myths. This mystical bird is a totem of wisdom and second sight. Our history is distorted and so are our own memories. What we remember is our version of the events.  This memory can be deceptive at times, as can be seen in the case of deep trauma and also in many forms of denial. It is important to keep this in mind as we follow our hamingja down into the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree. Looking into our deeper selves and our deeper history; traveling back into to a time beyond time, we follow our hamingja into the deep roots of Yggdrasil. We suffer in this life if we fail to meet the challenge of self knowledge. We literally live in a perpetual identity crisis seeking every new fad, bouncing from one religion to the next. We see these kids, they go to extremes to be differant with their nose rings and purple hair. All this to be accepted into the out crowd. Only to find them selves to once again be like everyone else and longing again for a sense of individuality. We can't find our uniqueness by attempting to be different, we fine our unique qualities when we look at our similarity to those in our collective. It is in this deep concept of Eihwaz that we not only discover who we are now, but also who we have always been, and it is in this knowledge that we find the power of resurrection. This is our sociological mirror, it is the well of self and it is where we will ultimately find our way home.

 How can Hugin and Munin lead us to a deeper understanding of the Eihwaz Rune?  In the iconography of Odin we find these two great ravens who served as Odin's familiars Hugin; thought and Munin.: memory. It is Odin's ravens, who give us a glimpse into the answer.   Like the two hooked ends of Eihwaz, these two birds represent two worlds that are interdependent. Ravens are carrion-eaters and are dependent on the death and misfortune of others.  They are skilled scavengers, noted as amongst the smartest of the winged world. They could always be found on the battlefield feeding on the corpses of the fallen. In this grim imagery is were we see how Hugin and Munin pick through the dead and forgotten valleys of the mind. In our society there is a lot of false bravado given to the accomplishment of individuals while disregarding that others had struggled to make small inroads yet had devastating  failures. There is nothing wrong in honoring the winners, and they deserve their praise, but all these fallen in battle served to pave the way for those who have succeeded. Hugin and Munin scavenge these forgotten bones of the fallen; picking over them for missed insights, lost or incomplete ideas, undiscovered revaluations.. In the following poem we see that Odin fears the loss of Munin even more then the loss of Hugin.

Benjamin Thorpe translation:

Hugin and Munin fly each day 
   over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,
   yet more anxious am I for Munin.

Odin sees that the preservation of our story is more intagrel to the self identity, then is the capacity to ad to that story with new layers of meaning.When we have lost sight of our personal Munin (memory) we also lose sight of our historical self, the personal story becomes disconnected and the emotional psyche breaks down; devolving into fragmented impulses and disjointed obsessions. Feelings of  loss. Loss of purpose, loss of soul, loss of destiny. we develop low self-esteem and suffer from an identity crisis. With no guide, Hugin (thought) is left with no direction. It is Munin that seeks out and finds the right shape and projecting it into the outer world of self expression. 

These two modes of contemplation can be seen in  inductive and deductive reasoning. Like Munin  the process of inductive reasoning is moving from specific observations to broader set of generalizations and theories. In inductive reasoning, we begin with a set of specific observations and measures and then  begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories. Memory seen as a form of history,  fallows this form of reasoning. In this way Munin is seen as akin with the hamingja. 

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Comment by Kristen Krascek on March 6, 2011 at 2:31am

It's funny, I thought the Tarot more meaningful than a bunch of stick like symbols when I first got into the divination side of things.  Yet, when you combine the meanings and the mythology of the Runes, it is far richer and conjures up more images than the Tarot could ever do.  


As for knowing yourself and the thought and memory of the self and historical self, this is a very difficult path and not many people actually complete it successfully in my opinion.  It is not easy faces yourself, warts and all.  Also, sometimes our memory tends to be a little selective.  Still, as treacherous a path as it all seems, I believe it to be a worthwhile journey.  I somehow feel I have a long way to go.

Comment by Loclynn on March 6, 2011 at 4:38am

The runes are much deeper then Tarot.

When you think about individualization, it is at first a process  of separating your self from your mother and father ( adolescent rebellion) and then culture. In many ways culture is the most difficult to deconstruct. We often feel like we are our selves, but often we are more like a composite. 

Not all of it is bad, but not seeing were things come from or how they fit, leads to emotional confusion.

The Isa rune is in many ways like the NOW it is permanently fixed it never changes, it is the only place we actually live. In the Hebrew tradition Moses asked "who should I say sent me?"  the answer "I am that I am" in other words the Right Now, all of it everything that IS.

But look at the shape of Eihwaz note how the Kenaz is bifurcated. Your past is the foundation of your Now. It is the combined force of the past and present that is manifesting your future.


Its ok to have a selective memory :)  its even better to have a mythological one. Imagine this at one point in history you and I were related in one clan, one family and even one body. What this means is that you can pick from the whole worlds cultural palette. 

Comment by Kjolig on March 6, 2011 at 5:20pm
Very well said, I am reminded of some parallel concepts of Eihwaz found in Buddhism. As a rune of sacrifice and self knowledge, I find Eihwaz also coveys the Buddha's sacrifice under a tree (although he took the easy route and just sat comfortably). The difference being that instead of facing down and releasing the parts of his "self" that lacked honor and held back his growth, he released his entire concept of self, having seen that all things are unique extensions of the same all-encompassing energy/oneness. This got me thinking about what you said about how our hamingja becomes apart of the objects we use (the extent of how who we are effects our surroundings), and what "self" can really be defined as. In the northern tradition there are so many components that can be considered part of one's self, hamingja (as luck energy and as the fylgja) mind, memory, body, and astral body etc. It brings to mind the question of where the limit of our identity truly is drawn, especially when getting into inheriting hamingja from our ancestors or giving the hamingja to another, and seeing how parts of ourself are transferable and shared with our kin. Somewhere within the mysteries of Eihwaz lies the true perhaps infinite definition of self.
Comment by Tyriel [Rune Secrets Admin] on March 6, 2011 at 6:22pm


"Odin sees that the preservation of our story is more intagrel to the self identity, then is the capacity to ad to that story with new layers of meaning."

I don't interpret this the same way, Loclynn.

I think what he means is that he fears he may lose his mind, but what makes him more worried is that he shall not be able to forget/free himself from his past.

Something to think about, though! I wonder sometimes if phrases like this are deliberate in being able to be interpreted as seeming opposites.


Comment by Loclynn on March 6, 2011 at 7:32pm


I had considered that to and I think it could be seen as you suggest. I tried to extrapolate the meaning from the names of the two ravens. And the deep ideal of Sleipnir. Odin rides the tree it's eight legs like the eight like the points in a ritual year, as you say locked in a pattern is one way of seeing it, but as a spiral our fractal; the emerging shift is ever changing. Slepnirs mother is Loki, this shift in gender births the Terrible horse the wheel of time. Braking the cycle and escaping the karmic wheel might be one idea. But to my mind the goal is not to escape but rather to live fully activated.

I did not add a section here on Kundalini and Kabballah but I should have. 

Comment by Tyriel [Rune Secrets Admin] on March 6, 2011 at 8:01pm
No need to confuse it with Kundalini and Kabballah quite yet, better to invest your energies on another rune :) This post was awesome.
Comment by Kristen Krascek on March 7, 2011 at 3:34am

Wow, so many deep, well thought out responses! Puts mine to shame.  Oh well, I can but learn from the scholars here.  Great stuff, you guys are teaching me heaps already! 


"I think what he means is that he fears he may lose his mind, but what makes him more worried is that he shall not be able to forget/free himself from his past."


Yes! This is always the way I have interpreted this - even the gods are fallible and prone to the same pitfalls as humans, including becoming stuck in a pattern or rut if you will.  It is heartening to know that Odin even had self doubt.  So much easier to feel as though there is something in common with a being who has the same issues as yourself! 

Comment by Manos on March 7, 2011 at 9:02am

I was totally amazed by the image you used. It seems to be the thirsty crow, an Aesop myth.

Water is unreachable and needs to be heavily disturbed so that a part of it can reach a level, where the crow can consume it.

We can’t wait to comprehend (both understand and embrace) our deeper inside if we are not prepared to ruffle it.


About the two interpretations by Tyriel and Loclynn I still can’t decide which is more appropriate. I feel that a lot of Tru resides on both of them.

Tyriel is more related to Yggdrasil myth. Certain parts of one’s self should die. This is painfull and, for sure, they will resist.

Loclynn, though, reveals another aspect. Quite recently I was wondering about the mechanism below memory and I was about to seek it. I wanted to understand why we remember this and that and whatever shapes our personality . What held me back is my worry that if I ruffled this mechanism in this time of my life, I could possibly ruin upredectable parts of myself. And I was certainly not prepared for something like that yet. That thought came back to me again when I read about Odin’s worries.

Comment by Loclynn on March 7, 2011 at 2:17pm


I think both are valid. The imagery of  Slepnirs and that of Yggdrasil give us two ways of  viewing time and space. Slepnirs with his eight legs and the associated myth of Odin's night ride at Yule point to the wheel of the year and in this way the karmic cycle could be looked at as reoccurring patterns. Were Yggdrasil can be viewed as the world tree, each new branch emerging out of the source.

Also this need to escape our selves or rather confront our selves is a part of individualization.  


I fear for Hugin (thought), that he come not back,
   yet more anxious am I for Munin (memory).
 Collectively memory is our human history individually it is our story, the sum total of what animates our Now. It is what gives us a sense of presence. Identity crises starts with a disconnection from that elf animating past. But to Tyriel's  point the loss of memory would leave you trapped with no access to a meaningful map or string to guide you out of the labyrinth 

Comment by KoolcaT on May 11, 2011 at 4:22pm

Hmmm You are all right. I can add my thoughts on this too, though I am still to learn and embrace the way of the runes, from my point of view I see this like:

When you die and completely free yourself  and come back to Earth to say it like that, you are not concerned so much about the reason of your own mind and contemplation of this that took place, your fear is greater that you don`t forget what happened and lose track of the events.This happens when one beholds an enlightenment in often what it seams to be a violent, turbulent and a bit morbid way maybe.

Also, in this life you have certain paterns that work "hidden" in subconcious and manage things on your behalf :) This patterns and memories are left overs from previous lives, or ancestors etc. and to be completely free you need to clean it.

So this is like a contrast that tells us the secret of two major perceptions of oneself, individual self awareness and reason, and thoughts, and "godly" which is a bigger perspective in which a man resides, like a wave in the ocean, and is part of one big unity. Limitless memory. 

Also, it is like everything is a bit distorted regarding our known existence. When a man is coming back to life after leaving this world you are upside down, Earth beneath like it is said for that card, or in a Odin story. You see that, understand what it is and start to fall down , screaming.

This text helped me a lot on certain matters, thank you Loclynn. I hope this has some sense and helps someone.


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