Kenaz – The rune of fire

Norse mythology

Updated today 15:42 Published 3 April 2024
- By Editorial Staff
The K-rune ᚲ brings light - but it is dangerous.

ᚲ is the K-rune, called Kaun in both the Norwegian and Icelandic rune poems, with the IPA sound value [k].

It is also known as Kenaz – “torch” – the rune of fire. It is the sixth rune of the Futhark, thus the fifth rune of the Uthark.


This article is part of our exclusive series on the origins and secrets of the Nordic runes in the Elder Futhark and the merits of the intriguing Uthark theory proposed by the Swedish philologist Sigurd Agrell, professor at Lund University, Sweden.

The Uthark is a secret cipher, based on positioning the Fehu rune at the end of the rune row, like an ace in a deck of cards, revealing esoteric philosophy reaching deep into the heart of Norse culture and religious beliefs.


Meaning and intepretation

The ambiguity of fire in the Norse view is reflected in the events prophesied for the end times of the cycle we live in – Ragnarök. In the great battle with the Æsir gods, the jotun Surtr from the fiery realm of Muspelheim is foretold to engulf the Earth in fires with his terrible sword of flames. Afterwards, however, a new world rises from the sea, fertile and teeming with life, and the surviving gods will meet again.

“The Giant with the Flaming Sword” by John Charles Dollman from 1909 is the most well-known illustration of Surtr.

Kenaz is similarly ambiguous as a rune. On the one hand the heat of the fire rune may bring destruction, but it may also be a cleansing and ultimately nurturing force – depending on the context.

By some, Kenaz has also been linked to a meaning of “wound”, based on a story in the Norse mythology about the three Æsir gods, Odin, Hœnir and Loki. In the story, Loki is wounded by the jotun (giant) Þjazi who has transformed himself into an eagle, and the wound is referred to as “Kaun” – which is another name of Kenaz.

Symbolism and magical use

A golden bracteate found in 1829 in Scania, Sweden, dated between 450-540 AD, bears pronounced gematria of the Kenaz rune and the number five, apparently aimed at protecting against evil.

The bracteate contains the words Lathu (“gift of love”) and Laukar (“onion”) – two words that have appeared together on several other bracteates. These two words are accompanied by another set of runes. The inscription also contains three bindrunes – two combined KA-runes – and one bindrune of GA.

The Scania bracteate with a clarified image to the right. Montage. Photo: University of Copenhagen

The role of the onion in ancient religion and mysticism is significant. For example, an ancient Babylonian incantation mentions the peeling of an onion leaf by leaf as a sacred act. Belief in the protective power of the onion against demons, sorcery, and the evil eye is widespread throughout Europe, and references to the magical use of the vegetable are also found in Norse texts.

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The three bindrunes and the punctuation mark on the bracteate inscription.

The number five is pronounced in the gematria on the bracteate. By using bindrunes, the number of runic characters is fifteen in total, which is five times three.
The bindrune KA, which appears two times, is the fifth Uthark rune Kenaz times the third Ansuz rune, in other words 5*3=15.

Based on the Uthark’s numerical values for each rune, the two rune rows (Lathu Laukar / Ga Karllu) each add up to 72. The numerical value of the total sum of the two rows, when calculated with the punctuation mark, is 145 (72+1+72), or the prime number 29 multiplied by 5. Prime numbers occur as protection against negative influences, such is the prime number 131 on the previously mentioned Lindholm amulet. 5 in combination with the number 29 appears to be meant as a protection against the evil eye.

As in so many other gematric cases, it also indirectly emphasizes the gematrically significant numbers 3 and 24 (3 times 24 is 72).

Divination

There is a playful side to the fire of Kenaz, but it is dangerous. Its fire can bring light and bring you forward, but it can also burn the ground.


The basics of rune divination

According to Norse belief, the runes represent aspects of the web of destiny, called the web of Urd (Wyrd). This web is intimately connected to time and the three Norns; Urd, Verdandi and Skuld. The Norns are weaving the threads of the web and represent what was, what is and what is to come.

The Roman historian Tacitus, among others, noted that rune divination was a widespread practice among the Norse. One of the most basic forms of such divination is to pray and draw three runes on twigs or cards which will signify the three Norns. By reading the web of Urd one may understand the present of Verdandi as well as the past, and also lift the veil of Skuld and see what lies hidden in the future.


In a rune reading, it can symbolize your fire – the will and energy that is your driving force. The torch rune advices one to use this fire in the form of the torch, with control. Kenaz may also indicate a cleansing of the mind in the form of a painful insight in a certain matter.

 

Read about the following rune – Gebo