Also known as: Eoh, Eow, Ihwaz, Iwarz
Letter sound: uncertain (possibly “E” as in “need” or “A” as in “cat”)
Keywords: death, regeneration, rebirth, changes, magic
Magical Uses: Protection, overcoming obstacles, spiritual development, strengthen personal and magical power, good banishing rune, divination, past-life recall
Eihwaz represents the yew tree, making it symbolic of both death and regeneration. The yew is a highly toxic plant to humans and livestock, and poisons made from the tree were used for both murder and suicide in ancient times. However, yew is also considered a tree of life, due to its evergreen nature and its extreme longevity—a wild yew tree can live for thousands of years. When they do begin to die, they can be regenerated by their own “daughter trees” that grow inside their decaying trunks. This combination of qualities makes the yew—and its representative rune, Eihwaz—an extremely powerful symbol of the cycle of death and life. Eihwaz doesn’t indicate literal death, but rather an ending that will lead to a new beginning. If things seem to be at a halt, be patient. You are being asked to allow an old situation to fall away, so that new developments can come into your life. Alternatively, you may be experiencing a metaphorical “death” in the form of leaving behind old ways, allowing old aspects of yourself to die away now that they are no longer serving you. Don’t resist the changes that are underway—rather, learn to “go with the flow” and be flexible. You may not be able to see it now, but what you are currently dealing with is paving the way for a new and improved situation. Eihwaz is often compared to the Death card in the Tarot, though the runes as we know them precede the Tarot by at least a thousand years. Interestingly, both carry the number 13—the Death card is the 13th in the Major Arcana and Eihwaz is the 13th rune in the Elder Futhark. Like Eihwaz, the Death card is as much about regeneration and new beginnings as it is about endings. Eihwaz is also positioned in the middle of the runic alphabet, signifying that “death” is only the end of a cycle, and never the end of the story.
As a symbol of the yew and of regeneration, Eihwaz is also associated with magical work, particularly of a protective nature and/or in dealing with transformation. It has been called a symbol of the gateway to the underworld, and of deliberate “journeys” to the non-physical realm in search of knowledge or understanding. According to some scholars, the rune is more of a magical symbol than a “letter,” as it is rarely seen in actual runic writing. In this context, Eihwaz may indicate that you have more power than you realize to navigate the changes you’re experiencing, and you may be able to actively facilitate your transformation rather than simply waiting for external forces to change. In some readings, Eihwaz may point to an aspect of your past that you have not resolved. Until you do, this incident, relationship, or other circumstance will continue to hinder you. Address it now so that you can fully move forward. Eihwaz has no reversed meaning.