The Runes in Depth: Uruz the Rune of Strength

Uruz (pronounced Oo-rooze) equates to the English letter U. Variants of the name are Ur (Norse and Old English) and Urus (Gothic). It is the second rune of the Futhark and the second in Freya's aett.

The name means Aurochs, a now-extinct European wild ox. Its earliest interpretations include strength, power, danger, wildness, potential, health, healing and virility. Later interpretations - presumably based on mediaeval translations from Icelandic and Norwegian versions of the rune poem - ascribe the meanings "drizzle" and "iron-slag" to the rune, but I personally am not totally convinced.

One possible theory is that the Sanskrit root word "ur" meaning damp, as occurs in the modern word "urine") has at some stage been confused with the "Aur" part of the word Aurochs resulting in misconceptions by the poets and their later translators. I just don't see the connection between strength, drizzle and/or iron-slag.

The Aurochs was once widespread throughout northern Europe and, according to some sources, roamed Britain until around 1200. But others claim it was never to be found in this country. The last aurochs was reportedly shot in Poland in 1627. This fierce animal stood up to six feet tall at the shoulder and it was strong, aggressive and dangerous. It had huge horns prized for making drinking vessels that symbolized courage and skill in hunting. Hunting and killing such an imposing beast must have been a dangerous business, so it is perhaps not surprising that the extinction is so recent.

The aurochs is generally presumed to be the forerunner of several modern breeds of domestic cattle. The Rune Poems are at some variance over Uruz. The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem runs:

The aurochs is fearless and huge of horn, a ferocious beast, it fights with its horns 
a famous moor-stalker that: a mettlesome wight.

(i.e. a formidable beast)

Good old Anglo-Saxons! Not much ambiguity there. But try The Norse Rune Poem. It says nothing of the Aurochs:

Ur (iron-slag or possibly drizzle ) proceeds from brittle iron.
The reindeer often runs on icy snow.

Like many others before me, I have made little sense of this cryptic message.

The Old Icelandic Rune Poem at least demonstrates some logic:

Ur (drizzle) are the clouds' tears,
The destruction of harvesting,
The hatred of the shepherds

OK, I can relate to that. But still no reference to the Aurochs.

There have been many convoluted and contrived explanations for the Norse and Icelandic versions, none of which have the ring of truth to my ear. My best theory, as stated above, is that poets or translators or both have slipped up and lost the original meanings. Unless, of course, you know different . . . . . . .

Spiritually, Uruz may be taken to represent the untamed nature of beast or human, the basic concepts of creativity and fertility. But it may also signify danger because the aurochs was a wild creature, dangerous to hunt and difficult to capture. Following from this, Uruz can also mean success and increase in wealth, just as the hunter would benefit from overcoming such a beast. Thus, Uruz may also indicate power, prowess, or potential resulting from the brave act.

In divination, Uruz can represent several concepts depending on the question and on the surrounding runes.

First and foremost, it can mean strength, but not a force brought to bear over others. The power it represents is not one of domination but of determination, and its strength is that of adaptability and resourcefulness rather than unbending inflexibility.

Second, it can mean critical change, change that will require courage in facing new responsibilities and new challenges. But you will succeed if you can harness the strength, determination and power represented by Uruz. In the context of change, Uruz signifies a trying time ahead, but portends that success will bring huge rewards.

Third, It can mean health, vitality, energy, the ability to overcome or succeed. This is equally applicable to physical and to mental well-being and so may in this context be taken to indicate will-power, or the need to apply will-power.

And finally, it can mean virility (in a man) or fertility (in a woman, although Berkanan is a more definitive rune for this concept).

The energy of Uruz is the masculine life-force, striving to overcome all obstacles and survive all dangers, to adapt to new challenges, to recover from wounding and rebuild power from weakness. Reverse interpretations would include: a missed opportunity, a personal weakness you must identify and guard against, an attempt to overpower you by someone else, violence, cruelty, misplaced sexual desire, recklessness, illness or ill-luck.

Magickally, Uruz is one of the mainstays of the talisman, bindrune, amulet, magic formula and runic spell. It represents raw power. It can help maintain position, bolster the puny or infirm, strengthen a weak will or failing muscle, and stabilize a chaotic situation or state-of-mind. Uruz is invoked in magick to throw off unwanted control, to snap restraining bonds and break down barriers. It promotes self-reliance, confidence, courage and bravery. It may be used to restore hope, to improve sexual desire and performance in men, to promote will-power, and to increase learning capacity. In combination I use it to fortify the sense of other runes to produce healing effects, to overcoming weaknesses, to boost confidence, and to promote continued good health and energy.

But Uruz is not a safe rune for magickal work. One must be sure to understand its inner depths before invoking it. Used inappropriately it can cause imbalance and even reversal of meaning resulting in overthrow or weakening of the subject. Uruz used in a bindrune will amplify the effects of other runes, and multiply its own effect as well. Combining Uruz with Thurisaz for example could in certain circumstances produce a dangerous, perhaps even rapacious, effect that would hardly be desirable.

Uruz is a rune of the Earth and is associated with the Carbuncle gemstone, the Birch tree, and Iceland Moss. It is usually associated with the color dark green, but yellow is sometimes mentioned. In Tarot I understand it equates to the Strength Card, VIII, and in astrology Leo is the appropriate sign while Mars is the equivalent planet.

For a comprehensive guide to all the rune meanings visit
Or you can have "The Rune Reminder" eBook at US$5.95 delivered right away to your email address, to order. The 40 page e-book is designed as a memory aid for rune diviners. The full color illustrated pages give the meanings, interpretations and associations with colors, gemstones, trees and herbs etc. for each rune. The eBook also includes 11 original single-page articles on various points of interest that are not available on the website.
Author Bob Oswald
Home Page
email click here
Copyright 1994-2015 Bob Oswald

You may freely reproduce the text and graphics of this article provided that the items in purple above are included on the same page of your publication.

You may not edit the article without permission. Any discovered copyright infringement will result in legal action. We scan the web regularly for key phrases in this article.

We always prosecute plagiarism and copyright theft, report it to service providers, domain owners and hosts, and we post the infringements on "name and shame" websites. These measures often result in account closure.

Download this article     back to the articles index     back to the home page