Laguz – The rune of water

Norse mythology

Published 26 June 2024
- By Editorial Staff
A sailor pulled down into the sea by the Norse sea goddess Rán. Illustration by Johannes Gehrts, 1901. Colorization and rune: TNT.

ᛚ – Laguz, is the Proto-Germanic name of the L-rune with the IPA sound value of [l].

Its meaning is clearly water. It appears in Anglo-Saxon runic poetry as lagu – “ocean”, lögr – “waterfall” in Icelandic, and logr – “water” in Norse.

In the Nordic languages, the name of Saturday – lördag/lørdag/laugardagur/lauantai – is taken from the Scandinavian word for the tradition of bathing on this day.

The same roots can also be found in the English word “lake”. Notably, the lake Mälaren, which surrounds Stockholm, used to be called Lagen, then Lögen.


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.


In light of the Laguz rune’s connection to water, it is sometimes linked to the personifications of the sea in Norse mythology – Ægir (anglicized as Aegir; Old Norse “sea”) and his wife Rán, who also personifies the sea.

Full version of Johannes Gehrts’ illustration of the Norse sea goddess Rán pulling men into the sea, where they meet their watery doom among the bones and corpses of others.

Meaning and interpretation

In many traditional cultures, water is primarily a symbol of life, where there is a belief that water as a symbol during night dreams reflects a person’s life situation or outlook on life in various ways. In Germanic cultures, water also conveys a deeper esoteric symbolism linked to the “laws of life” – reflected, for example, in the Swedish word lag, which literally means both “law” and “liquid”.

One of several pieces of evidence for the connection between such life laws and water is the controversial ancient Frisian scripture, Oera Linda, which suggests that the ancient Frisians had a direct philosophical equivalent to the Chinese culture’s concept of natural law – “Dao” and the Vedic culture’s “Dharma” – which was “Aewa” – a word that alluded to the essence of water.

Aewa refers to the rules that are imprinted equally in hearts of all people, in order that they will know what is right and what is wrong. And by which they are able to judge their own deeds and those of others, that is in so far as they have been brought up well and are not corrupted.

There’s also yet another meaning attached. Aewa, also relates to ae-like, that is water-like. Even and smooth like water that is not disturbed by windstorm or anything else. If water is disturbed, it becomes uneven, unright, but it always has a tendency to become even again.

That is its nature, just as the inclination of justice and freedom exists in Frya’s children. We derive this disposition from our feeder, Wralda’s spirit, which speaks strongly in Frya’s children, and will eternally remain so”, the manuscript reads.

Symbolism and magical use

Counting from the center of the Uthark rune row, it is worth noting that the water rune “mirrors” the fifth rune – the fire rune Kenaz. It also has the double numerological value of the tenth rune, the ice-rune Isa, which in turn mirrors the sun rune Sowilo.

Laguz is thus the last of the “five-runes” 5, 10, 15 and 20 in the Uthark – symbolizing, in order, fire (5), ice (10), sun (15) and water (20).

There are few additional pairs that are obvious matches, we will cover them in the final article.

Mirroring in the Uthark. Illustration: TNT

The Laguz rune’s connection to the number 20 appears relatively sparingly on artifacts found to date, but it has been noted that old Norse spells aimed at stopping blood flow count down from 20 and to “expel evil waters”.

Among known finds, gematric rune magic involving water can be noted on a whetstone from Strom in Norway, which has the following inscription on one side (bindrunes in bold):

WATE HALI HINO HORNA

The whetstone was obviously carried in a horn, which was common among haymakers. The carving has been interpreted by Magnus Olsen as “May the horn wet this stone“.

It is obvious that the rune master applied a magical formula here.

Firstly, the rune I has been omitted from the word “WATIE”, as is the case in several other magical inscriptions, another example being HATEKA instead of HAITEKA on the Lindholm amulet, covered in detail in the Ansuz article.

Secondly, because of the two bindrunes, the total number of runes used is 15, the sacred number of the sun. Bindrunes used in a similar way are covered here and here.

Finally, the total numerical values of the runes according to the Uthark also alludes to the sacred number of water, 180 = 9*20, which furthermore is exactly the same value as on the Kårstad carving covered here.

Bindrunes made of Ansuz-Hagal runes and Nauthiz-Hagal on the whetstone from Strom, as shown on The Skaldic Project (click on the image to visit).

It is certainly not a coincidence that the insciption whose gematria is based on the esoteric number of water (20) has the number of the sun (15) hidden in the number of runes. As we know, the most important elements in the cultivation of plants are sun and water.

Divination

Laguz is basically a rune that relates to water – and thus symbolizes life and the various forms of energy that flow in it – whether that be your individual life, the collective life, or both. This applies both to rune reading and dream interpretation. It is generally a very neutral symbol in and of itself and can be altered in its message depending on how it relates to the other runes in the reading.


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.

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.


Is it telling you not to be afraid and to get more involved in life? Is it a sign to let love in? Does it perhaps even speak of what you need to do to stimulate your cash flow? Read it in the context of your question, intention and the other two runes that you draw.

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