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Lesson 5) Runes 9-16: Heimdall's Aett

Can you believe that we are already at the halfway point? Where is the year going?! It has been a pleasure having you with me so far, and I look forward to the rest of the year. We’ve got some exciting things planned. This week we are covering runes 9-16.

As you prepare for your midterm at the end of this week, I urge you to practice your writing and transcription of the runes as well as studying their ideographic meanings.

The Second Aett – Heimdall’s Aett
The second family of runes, the second aett, is named after the god Heimdall. Heimdall is associated with the rune Hagalaz, which is the first rune in this aett. Your textbook notes that this aett “deals with conflict and change” (Rune Dictionary, Chapter Two). This is certainly one way of interpreting these runes, which more mundanely can be said to represent the forces of nature and the cycle of life.

In magic, the runes of this aett often have two-sided effects, and are generally more specific in their purpose than the runes of Freya’s aett.


Standard       Variants 

Hagalaz is the first rune of Heimdall’s aett, ruled by the Norse god Heimdall, guardian of the roads of the universe. As with Gebo, Hagalaz does not have a true merkstave position, though it may be read as such in divination. The literal Muggle interpretation is “hail,” and according to Schreiber, this is expanded to mean the forces of nature; be it weather, humankind or time. It can also be expanded to mean transformation and homeostasis, for the forces of nature are controlled by these.

Merkstave, Hagalaz represents natural disaster, a turbulent mind, and chaos. A witch or wizard with sufficient skill can use this rune to bring about devastation to the world around him or her.

Hagalaz is a rune most often used in weather magic, but due to the thousands of intricate threads associated with weather phenomena, summoning or dissipating weather events is best left to the most knowledgeable of witches and wizards. Playing with weather is a tricky thing as it often brings unintended effects along with it. Sometimes Hagalaz is combined with Fehu to provide protection during birth and natural illness.


Standard      Merkstave

Muggles interpret Naudiz as “need” while Schreiber expands that definition to include survival, physical needs, and necessity. The need signified by Naudiz is the need to endure and to survive, it represents the basic will to live common to all life. Using Naudiz is typically reserved for those moments when needs must be met, whether it summoning animals for the slaughter of food or casting a circle of protection. In fact, this rune was one of many that are placed around the school and were used during the Battle for Hogwarts.

Merkstave, Naudiz would represent the opposite: deprivation and death, both physically and emotionally.

Naudiz is associated with sacrificial ritual of our ancient past. In times of great need or matters of survival, animals were given up to the gods for protection, to end famine, and to curry favour when displeasure was perceived. These sacrifices were then burned on the “need-fire,” which Naudiz represents pictographically, thus bringing the magic into the corporeal realm. In translation, using Naudiz would represent this sacrifice and the following runes will typically detail the outcome of the ritual, either positive or negative.


Isa is, according to the Muggles, the rune of ice and blockage. As Schreiber interprets it, the idea of ice as a block is expanded upon to include obstruction, delay, challenge, and stagnation. While it can be thought of in more positive terms, Isa is largely used in writing in its negative context, usually representing the problems the writer has encountered. Isa can refer to mental blocks as well, such as biased and clouded thinking. In this context, Isa may be written to convey a warning to the user of a spell or potion about either the state of mind the user must be in or potential side effects or backfire effects of the spell or potion in question.

Isa has no merkstave meaning, although it can be placed in opposition to other runes in divination.

This rune is not inherently a “bad” rune, but one that encourages caution, a clear head, and some level of expertise in the subject matter at hand.

In a personal account composed by the Norse magi, Ingridr Sigurðardóttir, Isa is used to speak of obstacles put up by certain male members of the Magi Council who opposed her introduction.

This text is found in a longer work left to Rowena Ravenclaw during the 11th century, but in this particular section, Ingridr Sigurðardóttir names a Ragnarr as obstructing (Isa) a sort of ascension to the magi (Ansuz) that is a birth right (Othala). In the text, she refers to her father being on this council and herself being named to his seat after his death, most likely due to her extraordinary ability to not just use runes but to create them. Many of the ligatures we will see in future years are her creations.

Standard            Variants

Jera is the rune of the harvest, of the seasons, of the cycle of life and death. As such, Jera does not really have a positive or negative aspect as it encompasses both growth and decay, life and death, fertility and barrenness. One cannot be considered without another, and so Jera may be seen as a proverbial double-edged sword. It is unshakable and unchangeable in the course of all things. You may come across Jera in a whole host of situations while reading - as a record of the year’s crop harvest, on the graves of the dead (and thus their rebirth in Valhalla), to mark the changing of the seasons (particularly around the equinoxes), and so forth.

Like Isa, there is no merkstave version of Jera.

In runic magic, Jera has a special place. This rune enhances the effects of all life-giving and withering spells, particularly as they relate to plants. It can also be used in potion-making to make a fertility potion more potent. Some theories suggest that Jera was also carved on the Elder Wand, leaving the power of life and death in the hand of the wielder. At this point I would like to remind students that you should never attempt to carve runes into your own wands. Only experienced runologists who are also practiced in wandlore and wand creation may do so, and even then the runes will only be as effective as the bond between the wand and the wand holder.


 Standard        Merkstave

Eihwaz is another rune of life and death. It is associated with the “yew tree,” the timeless Norse symbol for death and rebirth. As your textbook notes, it concerns itself particularly with regeneration and death, as the components of the yew tree are incredibly poisonous, yet the tree is evergreen and can live for 2,000 years. Even new trees grow from the remains of a dead one. In texts, Eihwaz is another that may be used to notate the passing from one life into the next. It can be used when describing preparations for battle or represent the yew tree itself, as weapons were often created from the poisonous wood. This rune is fairly common in texts, but the reader must pay careful attention to context in order to decipher its exact meaning. Often Eihwaz lends itself to several possible interpretations, none of which can be 100% confirmed or denied.

In its merkstave form, Eihwaz signifies destruction and weakness. Although it is rarely done, it may be used offensively in this form to weaken defences.

When used magically, Eihwaz serves to protect one’s life, often at the expense of another. Therefore, protective magic would often require a sacrifice; the greater the sacrifice, the greater the protection. Eihwaz would most often be used in conjunction with Naudiz during ritual sacrifice. However, the rune would also be carved into the weapons of warriors (sometimes made of yew) and placed on homes around the villages to give strength and resilience. 


Standard         Merkstave     Variants

The literal translation of Perthro is “dice cup” or “womb”, leading the magical understanding of Perthro to be luck, femininity, and fate. Being associated with the feminine means this rune concerns itself specifically with life and birth as well as the typical concepts associated with “feminine mysteries” in days of old -- secrets, the Moon, twilight, and so forth. In texts, Perthro may be used to mark the birth of a child, the beginning of a new season, the full moon, or a female magi or priestess. It may also be used to connote magic that is powered by nighttime or moonlight and involve luck or fate. This magic largely takes the form of potions, including the popular Felix Felicis, or "liquid luck".

Perthro is a relatively benign rune, though when used merkstave, it can indicate dullness, degradation, bad luck, and ill-fortune.

By and large, however, Perthro is used positively to increase the efficacy of moonlight magic and magic involving luck and happiness. You can find Perthro-engraved phials at specialty potions stores to infuse a finished potion with the power of the rune.


Standard       Merkstave      Variants

 Algiz is a rune of protection. Translated literally, it means elk, and you can see that in the construction of the rune (the “antlers”) and in the associated meaning - strength and guardianship. Algiz has the power to protect a spell caster from harm, both physical and mental, as well as their property and possessions. Along with other aforementioned runes, Algiz was used during the Battle of Hogwarts to strengthen the shield summoned by the Hogwarts faculty.

Merkstave, it indicates danger and trouble.

When reading a text, Algiz is used exclusively to refer to some sort of protection or defence - whether it speaks of magical defences or soldiers, or protecting self or property. Any account of battle will include Algiz in some form or another. In older times (and in the modern world on occasion), the rune would be used to create a circle of protection around a caster, both to protect themselves from enemies and to diminish casualties in the case of a backfire. As we know from the robes of the magi left to Rowena Ravenclaw, they sewed Algiz along the hems to act as a protective circle. Algiz is often found paired with Sowilo, the victory rune, in invocations to the gods and the valkyries, where soldiers and magi prayed for protection from and victory over their enemies.



Standard  Merkstave  Variant

Sowilo at its core means “Sun,” and Schreiber extends this definition to include common associations: victory, power, masculinity, good health, and clarity of thought.

Merkstave, Sowilo would stand for its opposite: defeat and darkness, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. The phrase “dark days lie ahead” has often been attributed to merkstave Sowilo.

Success and well-being are the best-known understandings of this rune, and using them in magic significantly increases the rate of success of a particular spell or potion. It is particularly good to use for tricky or complicated magic, especially in the fields of charms and transfiguration.

Historically, Sowilo has been found inscribed on stones glorifying fallen comrades as well as giving praise to Thor, who watches over this rune. Magi would carve this rune into weapons to lend courage to their wielders. When the enemy was struck, their bodies would grow weak and their minds would succumb to dark thoughts of defeat and despair. Sowilo may be singularly responsible for the Viking invasion of England. 

The first assignment for today’s lesson is another quiz, covering the runes we have studied today. Once you have completed this quiz, you should then review all the material we have covered in the first five weeks for your midterm. Chapter Five: Tyr’s aett from the Rune Dictionary is included in the material that you should review.

There will be a section asking you to transcribe several inscriptions in the form of a short answer worksheet. Then there will be a multiple choice, true/false, and short answer quiz that will cover information from Lessons One through Five.

Heimdall: Norse god who guards the roads of the universe.
Ingridr Sigurðardóttir: a female Nordic magi, creator of many ligatures.

Original lesson written by Professor Genesis Starfight

Have you ever come across strange markings in old, worn books and wondered what they said? Do you have a love for languages and writing? Would you like to learn some of the world’s oldest magic? The study of Ancient Runes is a course concerning itself with ancient magical scripts from around the world, their history, their linguistics, and the spells they were used to compose. This year, prepare to enter the world of the Nords, the councils of the magi, and the halls of Valhalla.
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