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Rune Number 1: Fehu (FAY-hoo)
Hello and welcome! This story starts with a cow. A big old cow. Her name was Audhumla, (Awd-HOOM-lah, more or less) and she came into being in a vast emptiness in the beginning of time. Her milk nourished the first giant, Ymir. He was mean and fierce, and the father of all giants. The Gods made our world out of his body; they wouldn't have had much to work with without old Audhumla. She licked the very first god out of a block of salty ice which was all she had to eat! His name was Buri.
Audhumla gave much and asked for very little. Her daughters are the cows of today. They are just like their mom. In a way, Audhumla is an old family friend of us all, because the grandsons of the god she licked out of the ice created us people! Fehu (FAY-hoo) is the rune for cows. Some folks say it has to do with sheep too, but it's mostly about cows. Nice tame cows that are the human race's great friends, and have been for a long, long time.
Vikings were farmers and they knew how important cows were. In cold northern climates where gardens and grains don't do well, people would really be up the creek without cows! Farmers raised lots of cows and when a group of cows are together they called them herds. Cows can eat grass, seaweed and even fish scraps. Then cows turn the foods they eat into foods we can eat and drink. Foods like butter, milk, cheese, yogurt and meat. As a general rule, people that eat these things grow bigger and stronger than people that don't. Vikings were pretty big people!
Vikings sometimes drank their milk (and other drinks) out of cow horns. They also made spoons out of horns. Cow bones were made into knife handles and even the very first ice skates. Cows plowed land for farmers and haulled goods to market. Leather comes from cow skins and leather boots are great in cold, wet climates. Calves skin made parchment and vellum, which was all people had for paper for a long time. The stories of gods, goddesses, giants and heroes that we enjoy so much today would never have survived if they had not been written down on the skins of calves!
Cow manure (moo doo) makes great fertilizer. When it dries out, it makes fuel to cook with, too. Kind of like charcoal lumps. That comes in real handy in places where there aren't a lot of trees. You can even make a house or a floor out of cow manure. Cow hair makes plaster stick to walls. Believe it or not, when it is used for fuel or building material, "moo doo" has no bad smell at all. Personally, though, I like my electric stove better!
Cows didn't do too badly in the deal they made with humans when they became tame animals. Humans ate cows and still do, but wolves like beef even more than we do! People even tamed wolves and trained them to protect their cows from wild wolves. Today we call those tame wolves "dogs". People build houses for the cows and for the hay they cut so the cows can eat in the winter. A cow can't build a barn, but she sure can enjoy living in one!
Cows got a free ride in ships to places that made good homes for cows and people, but where now cow could have gotten alone. They aren't very good at building boats. Cows have even lived in Antarctica to give milk for the scientists living there. Sooner or later, our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren will take cows with them to the stars!
Cows used to be money in the northern lands! The more cows you owned, the richer you were. Cows "earned interest" like money: they had a calf every year. The Old Germanic language is the mother of Norse language and this is where the word Fehu comes from. Fehu, means fee. Fehu is what you use, or will use, to earn a living. What you learn in school and from your family can become Fehu, so prepare wisely by learning well. Develop a sharp mind, a strong body and a caring heart, and you will be ready to meet all that life brings with courage! The lessons of Fehu are many. Care well for what sustains you. Be kind to the other living things which share the world with us. Cows are obedient and follow the herd. They don't think for themselves. That's what being a cow is all about, but it's not a good way to be a human being! Don't be a "herd animal." Show gratefulness.
Finally, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone had to pay for it, one way or another. You will learn to both give and receive in life, but that's another rune! When you see a cow, or drink a glass of milk, remember Fehu. By remembering what you read today, and you will be on your way to understanding the rune Fehu. Write Fehu when you want to write an "F" or even a "PH" when it sounds like an "F." The runes of the futhark and the letters of the alphabet don't match up exactly, so when you write things with runes, you have to get a little bit creative! That's part of the fun! The first eight runes make up Frey's aett (AT). The word aett comes from a word for "eight" or maybe "family." More than one aett is not aetts, but aettir (AY-teer), with tear pronounced like a tear you cry. Frey's name in runes starts with Fehu, and folks pray to Frey for peace and good harvests. Cows help us have a better harvest. Talk to you soon, and bet you'll never look at a cow the same way again. I know I won't!
last modified 09/18/2004