Heathen’s Journey | Uruz: Understanding creative masculinity

Uruz is such a stubborn rune.

It’s one of those runes that is difficult to understand when you aren’t in the mindset of the ancient Norse. The meaning isn’t as cut and dry as the other runes in the Futhark. It’s up to the individual heathen to find meaning in Uruz and to build a relationship with this rune.

In the Germanic, Uruz appears to represent the Aurochs, a wild member of the cattle family. In the Scandinavian rune poems, the rune appears to represent either “slag” or “rain” or even the sparks that fly off metal during the smithing process. While I typically follow a more Scandinavian tradition, in this case I am drawn to the definition of Uruz as the Aurochs – especially because, as we will explore later, the Futhark already contains runes for “hail” and “ice” (Hagalaz and Isa respectively).

Looking at the runes in their magickal order, Uruz representing the Aurochs makes sense. This would connect the rune to Audhumla, the great mother cow in Norse mythology.

Audhumla is the primal being, and the mythology around her shifts much the same way as the mythology of Uruz shifts. Some say that she was the first being to be released from the ice – created when the primal fires met the ice, Audhumla stepped forward to bring other beings into the world. Other myths say that she was the first being, but don’t necessarily give her an origin. She is said to have licked the first being, Buri, from the ice. She is also said to have fed the giant Ymir, whose body makes the earth we walk upon.

In this way, this ancient cow is an active creator and matronly figure.

But then, why is this rune considered ‘masculine’?

“Viking Helmet” from Skyrim

Outside of the creation story of Audhumla, the great ox is often seen as an incredibly stubborn masculine figure. This could be our more modern understanding and association with the ox, but it could have also been a cultural association of the time. Either way, many rune scholars associate Uruz with masculinity.

When working with Uruz, I’ve struggled to connect. I am such a femme queer person, and while I often identify as hard femme, I divorce that from masculinity in my mind. My skills are very much in emotional labor and other areas that are coded feminine.

But that means that working with the divine masculine is even more important for me – I need to balance out my natural, very feminine tendencies with masculine energy. Not that I need to, myself, become more masculine, but I need to find a balance.

I took a couple of courses on tarot in 2017. The first was the Brooklyn Fools class with Jeff Hinshaw, aka Canyon Rainmaker. He really helped me redefine the Emperor in my mind: Often, we see the Emperor as this oppressive, strict, terribly masculine figure. And sometimes he is. But the truth is that the Emperor represents the Divine Masculine, which is something that we aren’t seeing in our modern world. The Patriarchy is not the Divine Masculine; the Divine Masculine is completely separate from the Patriarchy, a mystery hidden away, obscured by all the pervasive and toxic masculinity.

The Patriarchy has so warped our perceptions of masculinity that many people have the kneejerk reaction, a trauma response, to get as far Away from masculine as possible. This was me for a long time.

Illustration from the talented Ejlowell on Deviantart

Uruz is, as Freyja Aswynn puts it, the “life force of the masculine polarity.” This rune represents strength, persistence, durability, and adaptability to changes. Aswynn also claims that Uruz has a strong healing energy – and is particularly good to work with if you are struggling to find your confidence, or when your trauma response is to shrink and avoid standing up for yourself. The healing work of this rune is that it unlocks the will to live, be, and become.

If there’s one thing I can say about the men and masculine people in my life, it’s that they stubbornly assert themselves, that they don’t see this will as impeding the progress of anyone else. Many femmes are taught that we need to make ourselves smaller, to make way for other people, to decenter ourselves in favor of shining a light on others. But the truth is, we ALL need to tap into this intense desire to live and assert ourselves. And femmes in particular can tap into this energy as a way of engaging with and fighting the patriarchy.

There is a sense of divine destruction in this rune as well. The ox breaks down outworn forms to make way for the new – the ox tears them down with their horns, tramples them underfoot, essentially paving the way for a new modality.

Diana Paxson takes us deeper, diving down to the depths of divine masculinity. Throughout Taking up the Runes, she pairs two runes together and then develops ritual from them. She’s paired Fehu and Uruz, the first two runes of the Futhark, and links them together as primal energies of creation and initiation.

Fehu is the energy of wealth, of having enough to build off of. Uruz is the energy of stubborn being, of transformation of the self through hard work.

Both Paxson and Aswynn have connected rune working to the Kabbalah. This is an area of magick that I don’t have much experience, so I’ll explain the connection of Fehu and Uruz exactly as Paxson explains it.

Fehu connects to the Kabbalic Sephiroth of Chokmah, and Uruz connects to the Sephiroth of Binah. Chokmah is divine wisdom, the first vibration, and Binah is used to produce creation. Uruz works upon the wealth that Fehu has generated to produce creation. As Audhumla the ancient cow released the first being from the ice, Uruz releases wealth from its constructs. Uruz asks us to step into our being, to examine it, and if we don’t like what we see – to tap into our fighting spirits to make a change.

“Uruz is the result of a series of transformations that take place in the liminal space where opposites meet” – Diana L. Paxson

Because of this transformational energy, Uruz is a powerful rune for femmes to use to tap into the divine masculine and shed our habits of shyness. At the same time, it is a powerful rune for masculine folks to tap into because it shows that true masculinity is not, in fact, the Patriarchy, but something other. It is something we can create through our own stubbornness.

Uruz is not about trampling others; Uruz is about lighting that fire within so you are able to stand up for yourself and others.

Using Uruz in spellwork

Uruz is a natural rune to call upon to bring more and greater energy to your magickal workings. If you aren’t feeling confident, but you know that you need to put energy and force behind your magic, chant Uruz three times in circle. Call upon or carry Uruz with you anytime you need to go into negotiations, when you need courage to have a difficult conversation, or when you need to stick up for yourself.

You can also use Uruz when you need to smash through barriers.

Create an altar to strength. Pull the Strength card from your tarot deck, place your favorite herbs on the altar, river rocks, anything to represent primal earth energy. Pull Uruz from your rune set, and place it prominently on the altar.

If you’ve got clay, or Play-Doh, I would suggest bringing that with you into the ritual space. Chant the Uruz rune. Now, focus on what stands in your way. Focus on the barrier, and begin to work with the clay. Visualize the clay as a physical manifestation of the barriers you face. Once you feel that you have thoroughly activated the clay as a physical barrier, begin to carve the Uruz rune into the clay.

Now, fully see your strength. Feel it in your arms. Feel your strength pulsing in your veins. And now, chant Uruz while you smash the barrier. Imagine yourself, strong in the situation, able to handle anything. Visualize your strength. Absorb the strength of the barrier as you smash it – you gain strength from your fights, you gain experience with your scars.

Carry Uruz with you for the next week, at least. Whenever you need extra strength in a challenging situation, call upon its power and remember that you are able to smash your way through these barriers.

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  1. Eve Garing says:

    what an insightful post on this rune. This rune does not feel gender based to me. Part of the problem I have with gender labeling things like runes, is that they represent human qualities, common to most people. Really truly hardly anything is gender specific other that roles in creating babies. The gender labeling feels to me coming from the mindset of wanting to establish superiority of males over females. or placing men and women into boxes that serve neither. The norse culture was pretty steeped in patriarchal feudal mindset. This post makes me realize I want to break loose of seeing these things as male or female. quit using those labels.

    • Abbie Plouff says:

      Yeah! The gendering of this rune is really interesting – throughout the post, I tried to use “masculine” and “feminine,” rather than “man” and “woman,” to talk about the energy of this rune and other runes. I believe that we all have masculine and feminine qualities, which are not necessarily related to our sex.

      I think it’s interesting to look at this rune especially from a gender-bending mindset. Like, the associations of this rune are strength and aggression, but that is balanced with the association with Audhumla, a more “feminine” creative force.

      I’m glad you found this post insightful – it’s a complex energy to work with.

  2. Julie says:

    I’m learning so much from your column, thank you.
    I like how this rune looks physically. I like the strength of the rooted legs, the sharp edge – like a powerful chest or lifted chin, and the slant to carry a heavy load or to allow worries to roll off your back.

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