Galdr-sound: ei (pronounced as "i" as in ride, prolonged, steady and powerful at once stabilizing and uplifting)
Letter: this stave can be used for EI, but generally appears as a magical symbol rather than a letter; the phonetic value is not certain.
"Yew is on the outside / a rough tree / and hard, firm in the earth, / keeper of the fire / supported by roots / a joy on the estate"
(Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem)
"Yew is the greenest wood in the winter; / there is usually, when it burns, singeing"
(Old Norwegian Rune Rhyme)
"Yew is a strung bow / and brittle iron / and Farbouti of the arrow"
(Old Icelandic Rune Poem)
"Yew holds all"
The rune eihwaz, Yew, is the rune holding the powers of the most mysterious of the magical trees known to the Germanic peoples. The evergreen that played such a great part in the world-view of the Germanics was, it has been well argued, a yew tree; the magical wand or talisman, when made out of wood, was most often carved of yew. As the all-holding cosmic structure of Yggdrasill, the yew is indeed the tree of magic, for there is no rune whose being it does not hold within itself. Seen in this setting, you may understand one level of Odin´s runic initiation on Yggdrasill: only through the power of the yew tree could Odin learn the runes which are keys to all of being in their completness. As the turning point of the runic circle, eihwaz holds the entire futhark hidden within itself. A rough tree on the outside, and perhaps the hardest of all the runes to understand fully, eihwaz is the keeper of fire: the hidden, but all-holding might of runic wisdom. As jera embodies the interaction of opposites and the gradual growth of understanding, so does eihwaz embody the melding of opposites and the lightning flash of revealing at the completion of initiation.
The yew is known to the folk as the tree of death, having been planted in cemetreies until this day. According to popular belief, the yew tree can trap the souls of the dead. This is the simple shape of a much mightier mystery - the central mystery of the rune eihwaz and, it may be argued, the final unspoken secret of Odin.
On the simplest level, the yew is understood to be a tree of death because
it is very poisonous. It can literally be death to eat of it, and even lying
beneath it can be dangerous because of the gaseous toxins it emits. As the alchemist
and the magician know, however, poison is a sign of power. Alchemy purges the
subject of the physical poison to create a healing agent; magic renders the
poison, properly prepared, into the vehicle of initiation and immortality, and
both depend on the worker as much as on the process worked.
The yew shows its power of life equally with its power of death. It is an evergreen, which lives when every other tree seems to have been died, yet its poison seems to forbid tis power of immortality to humankind. In this one sees the melding of life and death, which is the might of the rune eihwaz. Odin´s initiation on this tree is the initiation of death in which he gains power over both death and life, returning from the dead as the mightiest of the gods.
The stave-shape of the Elder eihwaz does not appear in the Younger Futhark, and it does not seem to have been used for writing at all except as a magical sign, in contrast to the other runes which were used phonetically as well as magically. By thinking on the nature of this rune, it has been suggested as a refutation of von List´s assertion that the final secret of the Havamal was shown in either the swastika or its substitute, gebo. There are sixteen runes in the Younger Futhark; the Havamal lists 18 spells, implying eithe that two of the runes of the Elder Futhark were added to the list. Of the last, Odin says " I know an 18th that no one knows, / neither maid nor man´s wife. / It is always better keep secret, / except to the one who lies in my arms, / or my sister". Thus, first Odin states that he will not tell it, especially to any woman; then he says that he will tell it to a mysterious feminine principle. There is a certain hint of sororal incest here, even though Odin has no sister. The answer to this riddle is that the god is affirming within himself the synthesis of eihwaz: the lover/sister is Odin´s own feminine side who, not being brougth forth into being as independently female, can be neither maid or man´s wife and yet holds Odin in her arms and is also his sister. This is also perhaps the mystery that Odin whispers into the ear of the dead Baldr, the rune which "no dweller on earth knows". It is the power of immortality, not as an escape from death, but as an acceptance of it and the melding of life with death which the yew tree shows forth in all ways. This is the rune of the will which survives death and rebirth again and again, life hidden within death as the fire is hidden within the rought, cold bark of the yew. This is the rune by which Lif (life) and Lifthrasis (the stubborn will to live) hide themselves within shoots of Yggdrasill through Ragnarok, after which they can step forth and breed the human race again on the new earth. It is a literal description of the rebirth of power and memory which survive the death of the body. By this rune Baldr, hidden for a time in Hel´s protecting kingdom, is able to bring himself and Hodhr forth alive again after Ragnarok.
Eihwaz shows the trunk of Yggdrasill which unites Hel and Asgardhr, the dragon Nidhoggr at the bottom of the tree and the eagle at the top. The true vitki draws his/her powers from the roots and the crown of the World Tree alike, melding, like Odin, the mights of light and darkness into a single power. This rune is also associated with Ullr, god of the winter sky who dwells in Ydal, Yew dales. Ullr´s weapon is the yew bow. He is called upon to shield the fighter in duels.
Eihwaz is used for making wands and staves along the turnk of the World Tree or to fare up and down it yourself. The name Yggdrasill menas steed of Ygg (Odin); the gallows is called the horse of the hanged. Through this rune you can speak to the dead and learn wisdom from them as Odin does, or call them up if your need should be so great that nothing more will suffice. The Poetic Edda writes how Odin has to ride down to the seeress´ mound at the eastern gate of Hel to chant her up and even then she complains of the fear-fraught ways he makes her fare. Both the riding and the calling forth are ruled by eihwaz. It is also a rune of warding when you must fare past the bounds of gardhr, as shown when the movable shield which is associated with eihwaz is compared to the unmovable circle (othala). Making the dead fare to Midgardhr is a sure way to rouse their wrath, as describe din the Hadding´s saga, where the angry spirits rend the witch who has called them forth to shreds in spite of her wardings. The woe-working powers of eihwaz as a rune of death and power over death should be obvious.
Eihwaz strengthens the will. It is the might which holds memory and purpose
through death and rebirth and it may be used to call upon wisdom and might from
earlier existences. You can learn from both other dead and the dead whose knowledge
and power have been passed on and hidden in your own soul.
Eihwaz shows its being in the body as the spinal fire, the kundalini force - controlled orgasm being the control of both the continuation of life implicit in the sexual act and the personal death it encompasses as both the ecstatic loss of awareness and the physical giving up of vital force.
Ritually, eihwaz is a rune of the death-initiation. It also corresponds to
the staff - which shows the vitki´s steadfastness of will piercing through
all worlds from the lowest to the highest and carries the netire range of her/his
magick - and to the wand. It may also be seen as a shield, especially in cases
of magical duels, in which Ullr may be called upon to aid and shield the vitki.
You should also remember that one of the greatest sides of eihwaz´s being
is that of shielding the soul through all hardships.
Eihwaz governs deep, mighty and sudden transformation on all levels, and may be used both to store and to send power.
A stone which works well with eihwaz is smoky quartz, which like clear quartz, shows the hagalaz structure of the World Tree, but adds to that the hidden fire of the natural radiation which has darkened the crystal and gives it its transformational character. Smoky quartz has also been used in raising and guiding the spinal fire.
You are walking through a forest in winter. The trees are gnarled and leafless,
their craggy bark grey and black. Dead grass crunches beneath your boots as
you walk. In a little while you come out of the forest and into a field where
the now has blown into drifts at the north sides of the stone-barrow that rise
from the silent earth. You look about yourself uneasity and walk a little faster.
You know that a barrow-field is a bad place for the living when evening begins
to darken the dull gray sky. Ahead of you you see a tall, lone tree, red berries
brigth among its dark green needles. As you get closer, you mark that there
is a longbow and one arrow leaning against the low stone well at the tree´s
The sky is darkening, the barrow-mounds fading into uncanny shadows across the field. Something rustles faintly behind you. You look back quickly, but there is nothing there. You hasten to the yew tree and take up the bow and arrow.
Looking around yourself, you strain your eyes to see if anything is coming through the darkness behind you. Everything is still for a moment, then rock grates on rock and you see a pale light from one of the barrow mounds. The light glows around a figure - a dry, brown corpse of a large person, whose black fingernails have grown into thick claws. His grave clothes hang on his sinewy limbs in pale tatters; rings of gold still adorn his bony fingers and arms. You are taken aback by surprise, but soon enough recover from the shock and examine what your feelings are towards this being of the Inner Realms. Somehow you feel uneasy, and thus do not hesitate to take the bow and arrow and aim at the intruder, with a silent prayer to your Inner Guardians for protection as you send him away from this real you know the Dead do not belong to anymore. The arrow pieces the ghost-like figure and he disappears, most certainly returning to his plane, wherever this is.
Amazed by the might of the bow, you pull the string back again, as far as it will go. As your eyes contemplate the speedy route taken by the arrow, it turns back into its invisible path to hit your very heart.
Pain slowly fades into numbness. Your sight darkens and clears again as you look down into your own kingdom of Hel and fury, far below the roots of the World Tree, where suddenly you are hanging on, upside down. You remember that in the Norse tradition, when a human being dies, before embarking on the journey to Hel´s domains, the soul is equipped with footgear strictly in accord with its character: a good and kindly person is provided with sturdy shoes, whereas the goss and earthbound one is scantily shod or barefoot amid the rocks and brambles it must traverse to reach the Well of Urd, where its future will be decided. Urd. Urd waters the soul´s individual tree of life as well as the comsic Yggdrasil: the past determines all one´s future condition, in death as well as future lives. You see yourself mirrored far below: the face of your past, the face of your failures, and will to make things right. Tears fall down your face. Oh, you wish you had had the courage to set balances right all times...
A bird´s cry make you change your perspective from the dephts to the
Heights. The eagle is at the crown of the tree, a noble bird over the roof of
a golden hall which glows like a jewel. You sob. The worlds above are out there
and you stand between the worlds of the dephts and the heights, hanging on your
hopes, desires and dreams to grow and change in all worlds and spheres.
Your tears, by gravity, fall far down at the roots of the tree, and then you see a spark running up the trunk of the tree from a nest of serpents. The spark grows to a great flash of fire, striking upward through your body like a lightning bolt. You cry out soundlessly as the burst of brilliance thunders through you. Against the white light, you see all the runes burning red with power, burning themselves into your being. The whole length of the tree flames with the might that runs from serpents to eagle and back again.
Drawing on the power flowing through you, you start to heal your own wounds of days past. You feel humble, you feel vulnerable, and yet strangely stronger than ever. A different kind of strength, based on self-knowledge and the desire to reshape your soul, to make better the things you need to in all worlds to grow as a fuller human being. You smile beyond the tears and suddenly feel also very philosophical. You surely will make lots of mistakes, but oooooh, by the gods, they have to be different from the ones you have done so far!!! To make the same mistakes again would have meant you had learnt absolutely nothing....
"May my next mistakes be at least different!", you say to the universe ...
You then finally allow yourself to enjoy the fact that you hanging on the world´s most magickal tree. You smile: deep within you know you will have as many initiations into other belief systems as you´ll be able to find. And you will enjoy each and all of such initiations with the anticipation that one waits for the sunlight to greet all worlds everyday, for the brightness of the full moon once every month and the joy of the fruits of harvest in all areas of one´s life. Life is the Greatest of all Mysteries you want to be initiated to the fullest.
I like to stretch my limits one more time
I will not compromise that which is important to me
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