This rune, the fifth rune of the third aett and twenty-first of the Elder Futhark, has two names. Kenaz/Kaunaz is the other rune with two names. Laguz is the best-known name of today’s rune. It means “lake.” Laukaz is the alternative name and means “leek,” a member of the onion family. Note that the rune-stave resembles a leek’s leaf, bent over at the tip. Plants of the onion family were and still are used medicinally, with good effect. Consult a good book on medicinal herbalism. Garlic, which is extensively used in herbal medicine today, is from the anglo-Saxon “gar-lic,” meaning “spear-leek.” In olden times, the leek was also a good-luck charm, and a love-charm as well. It was seen as an antidote to poison (see the Sigdrifumal). It could also diagnose if a wound to the abdomen were fatal or not. The wounded man was fed the leek or gar-leek, and the wound was sniffed about an hour later. If the wound smelled of the plant, death was certain, as this indicated that the digestive tract had been punctured and in the days before abdominal surgery and antibiotics, death from peritonitis was inevitable! Time to polish the hel-shoes and put the funeral ale on to brew. One more warrior would soon be Valhalla-bound.
Laguz, as the initial letter of its name would suggest, has the phonetic value of the Roman letter “L.” After Christianization, Anglo-Saxon (the ancestor of English) was written in Roman letters rather than runes. Its magickal and divinatory meanings include lake, leek, healing, mystery, sea, water, emotions, depths, waterways, flow, obscurity, uncertainty, insanity, neurosis, psychosis, ships, swimming, fishing, medicine, West, diving, and oceanography. The Norse word for bath was “laugr,” but I’m not sure if Laguz and laugr are cognates or not. Saturday was called “Lauga-dagr,” or “Bath-day” by the Vikings. Even into my own youth, country folk often bathed once a week, on Saturday! Vikings bathed weekly. Christians seldom did. Stinky Christian men in England complained that Vikings, by keeping their hair combed (archaeologists have found many Viking combs, which were made of deer antler) and bathing every week, were out-competing them for the attention of English women! Christians back then thought dirt and even lice were a sign of "mortification of the flesh," which to them was holy. "Cleanliness is next to godliness" is evidently a later, Calvinist invention.
The Old English Rune Poem refers to the danger inherent in ocean travel. The Old Norse Rune Rhyme refers to the force of falling water, and the value of gold objects. The Old Icelandic Rune Poem has a LOT to say about this rune, and does so in only three lines, mentioning “churning water,” “wide kettle,” and “land of fish.” All of these themes will be covered in this article. The oceans represent both great danger and great riches to be won (think of Norse fishermen and Vikings, both lucrative but dangerous occupations). Laguz, as the rune of bodies of water, oceans included, is no different!
As befits a rune with two names, this one has a double edge as it were. Healing at one pole, insanity at the other. While the runes are relatively “safe” in divination, when it comes to using runes for magick, especially healing magick applied to another person, heed Egil Skallagrimson’s warning and handle with care and only after careful study and training! Laguz is one of the more dangerous runes, although subtly so. You’ll notice several meaning of Laguz overlap with those of Perthro. Perthro will help you, in time, safely access the mysteries of Laguz. The same warning of potential danger that I just gave you for runic magick, by the way, goes equally well for herbalism. Aside from treating your own minor ailments, like peppermint tea for a tummyache, be aware that it requires YEARS of study to become a competent herbalist. If that be a path you choose to follow; Kenaz, Jera, and of course Laukaz will be of great help as you study!
Bodies of water played a great role in life in Heathen times. Folks traveled long distances mostly by water. Remember the Viking ships. The word “Viking” itself probably means something like “creek-men.” Vikings sailed up the estuaries into tidal creeks to attack!
Several of our Elder Kin are associated with Laguz as rune of the oceans. Njordh, Aegir, and Ran, the sea-Deities come immediately to mind. Remember Ran and Aegir’s big kettle, used to brew and cook for the Gods’ big feasts. Less obvious is Frigga. To the Sheils, she is the Goddess of the oceans’ deepest depths. Think of the halls Sokkvabek and Fensalir (Sunken Benches and Marshy Halls respectively). One of these belongs to Saga, the Goddess of History, and probable hypostatis (aspect) of Frigga. Ran and Aegir are not entirely “safe” Deities. They are full-blood Jotnar, for starters. Ran dragged sailors down to her hall in nets. Think of Kipling’s “old grey widow-maker.” Her nine daughters, ocean waves all, may have been the mothers of Heimdallr. Saxon pirates drowned a portion of their captive slaves (it is indeed fortunate that slavery has finally ended in most countries, although other forms of exploitation remain), either the first one or every ninth one, as sacrifices to the Sea Deities for a safe journey home (or to the slave-market). Water can transport. Water can yield riches. Water can kill. Folks in danger of drowning kept a bit of gold for Ran on themselves. A pile of gold lights her undersea hall in lieu of fire. Once there, though, they were feasted royally. Interestingly, intuitive cooks who can come up, on the spot, with delicious dishes made with whatever’s on hand without resorting to recipes can as a rule deal safely with Ran and Aegir. Remember their big cauldron, which forms one of several ties between Perthro and Laguz. The cauldron Odhroerir, which held the Mead of Poetic Inspiration) is another example of Perthro and Laguz in the myths. Anyway, to make along story short, carelessly poking around in your own subconscious (or someone else’s) is dangerous. You must do the inner work to prepare properly for dealing with these realms. Laguz can help prepare you! A seidhkona (very roughly speaking a Norse Heathen shamaness/shamanka) once told me of a woman who went unprepared and uninvited into Hela’s hall during a seidhr session. Now there’s another aspect of the depths of the Unconscious for you! The woman went quite mad, but eventually recovered.
This rune ties in with the realms of the Unconscious. The “Astral planes” of Neopaganism and the “Spae-realms” of Heathenism, by the way, have strong ties with the Collective Unconscious. The Jungian Collective Unconscious, its constituent group-minds formed by groups of people (nations, clubs, language groups, etc.), and each individual’s personal Unconscious are all tied into Laguz. A person can be and almost certainly is tied into more than one group-mind, by the way. I for example am part of the Jungian Collective Unconscious, the US group mind, its Southern sub-division, the (Ring of) Troth group-mind,... To tie in Ocean and Unconscious, think of the mysterious ocean depths as having a relationship to the equally mysterious depths of the Unconscious. Pretty much everything is stored in the Unconscious, but we must make great efforts to get it to “speak” to us or to understand it when it does. Frigga is the all-knowing but silent Goddess! By the way, bodies of water and the Moon are connected. The Moon’s gravitational pull causes tides in bodies of water. Don’t forget that “Lunatic” is derived from the Latin word for “Moon.” I once worked in a shelter for the homeless. When the Moon was full, things got especially interesting there.
As Laukiz, this rune is also a rune of Healing. According to Snorri, Eir is the physician Goddess of Asgard. Thus, to me at least, as Laukaz, this rune provides a path to her as well.
The Sheils mention a connection between Thorr and Laukaz. This they derive from the “house-leek,” which was planted on turf, straw, or even tile roofs to ward off lightning strikes. The house-leek is botanically speaking no leek at all, but rather a nice hardy succulent plant my grandmother used to grow. They need very little soil or humus to grow. The house-leek is a sedum or sempervivens, and looks a bit like a cactus but is not. My grandmother called it “hen-and-chickens” because it sent out little rosettes of juicy leaves, just like itself, on stems. That is how it multiplies, and it does remind one of a mother hen with a brood of chicks around her. Some, the Sheils included, identify Frigga with Jordh, an Earth Goddess (NOT the same as the Vanic Nerthus). Thorr is said to be a son of Jordh. I have noticed a tie between Frigga and Thorr. The Sheils call Thorr “Frigga’s enforcement arm” and I believe them to be right. When I called the wrath of Frigga down on my ex-sister-in-law for beating up my nephew about five years ago, two car engines blew up on her soon afterward. This positively reeks of Thorr :-), not only with cars being under Raidho, which has strong ties with Thorr, but also the explosions themselves were most Thorian!
Water was used by Heathen Scandinavians to welcome children into the family. Remember those group-minds; families have them too! A child may be more a part of one family or the other, or be equally a part of both as far as group-minds go. I believe the ausa vatni was done on the ninth night after birth. After the rite, the child was held to be a member of the family and thus, as fully human, and among other things could not be exposed to die. Thus, Laguz has ties with Mannaz, the previous rune in the futhark. The rite was called “ausa vatni,” or water-sprinkling. Aztecs did something like this too. Converts to Judaism are to this day immersed in a ritual bath. So, Christian baptism was not without antecedents. As you can see, Laguz can yield insights into group behavior,both good and bad! Remember evil, arguably insane Adolf Hitler (a disgrace to his given name, “Adal-Ulfr,” meaning “Noble Wolf”), and his incredible ability to captivate and motivate large groups of people. His ability to tap into the group-mind of the German people was uncanny. By the way, he often did this by perverted use of ancient Germanic symbols, including the runes! Remember that the SS emblem was a double Sowilo-rune. The forces of Laguz can heal mental or emotional damage or drive you into the depths of insanity. The runes, Laguz included, are part of the structure of the Universe. They are NOT “good” or “evil” in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic sense. Think of electricity, which can work both weal or woe, depending on how it is wielded. YOUR will and your skill as a wizard/ess will determine where and how they act.
At the Well of Wyrd by Edred Thorsson (for the translations of the Rune Poems).
The Road to Bifrost volume III: the Runes and Holy Signs by Thor and Audrey Sheil.
Runes and Magic: Magical Formulaic Elements in the Older Runic Tradition by Dr. Stephen E. Flowers (his doctoral dissertation). Dr. Flowers is the same person as Edred Thorsson.
Comments from my linguistic consultant and friend, Ingeborg Norden:
In your article on Laguz, you doubted whether the rune-name was related to the Old Norse word _laugr_ 'bath'. I don't have access to an Old Norse etymological dictionary, strictly speaking--but a dictionary of *Swedish* with good etymological notes works just as well, if a Swedish derivative of some Norse word is still in use.
As it turns out, both _laugr_ and _lögr_ (the Old Norse form of that rune-name) have current Swedish derivatives. The bath-words seem not to be related to Laguz etymologically, though my dictionary didn't clearly settle it one way or the other. On the other hand, another word spelled _lag_ exists; it means the liquid used in brewing ("wort") or cooking ("pot liquor", to use a Southern term). That word IS indeed related to Laguz, and ties in to the "kettle" references in the rune poem.
last modified 02/14/2005