Meaning: Yew Tree
Supporting Meanings: Protection, eternal life, domestic warmth, martial protection, linking opposites, carrying energy
Ancient Meanings: According to Diana Paxson, eihwaz means ‘yew’ in all three of the rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon verses, the tree’s rough bark and deep roots are emphasized, which gives yew the connotation of protection. Additionally, this tree is noted to burn well, which gives joy to the home. Therefore, yew gains an overall connotation of a warm, domestic protection. The Norse poem, however, focuses on the fact that yew is “the greenest of trees in winter’ and that it sputters when it burns; together, these qualities seem to give it a connotation of life in spite of all obstacles. The Icelandic poem diverts widely from either of these and associates yew with weaponry, calling it a “bent bow” and “brittle iron” and the giant of the arrow. This sort of aligns it with the protection noted in the Anglo-Saxon verse, but gives it a far more martial protection.
Modern Meanings: Thorsson associates eihwaz with Yggdrasil, saying that another name for yew is “needle-ash”, which is the sort of ash tree described in the Eddas. He also notes that the yew, like Yggdrasil, is an evergreen and among the longest-lived of the European trees. In Europe, this has made yew a symbol of eternal life and was planted in graveyards (which, perversely, has also made it a symbol of death). However, Thorsson prefers to think of eihwaz/Yggdrasil as linking opposing forces and creating pathways between the worlds. Aswynn has a similar interpretation, linking eihwaz and Yggdrasil with the human spine, the conduit of Kundalini’s fire, and sees it as a link between worlds. Gundarsson also interprets it as linking opposites and carrying energy between them, noting that the yew can act as a poison which can either kill or facilitate an initiation (birth). Osborn and Longland focus on the paradox between yew’s rough exterior and inner fire, which continues by noting that although the tree is a life-filled evergreen, it is poisonous, and its wood can make a bow that protects or kills.
My Take-Away of the Meanings: Eihwaz is a bridging rune, pulling together opposites and paradoxes, and brings energy between them.
Paxson’s Interpretation and Use: Eihwaz can be a rune of paradox or the connections between opposites. It might indicate spiritual exploration, or an apparently difficult situation that can turn to an advantage. It notes a need to look at the connections between things, and the root of any matter. Willis notes that it can mean a situation that looks bad on its surface, but can turn favorable. Aswynn points out Eihwaz’s usefulness as a “backbone” for bindrunes. It can be used in healing back problems.
Paxson’s Practice for Living Eihwaz: Since eihwaz is associated with the yew tree and of connecting opposites, a nice practice to try with it is to effectively ground and center next to a tree. Sit with your backbone against a tree, and press as much of your body as you can next to its trunk. Ground yourself, allowing your awareness to sink through your body and into the earth, focusing on the points of your body where you are in contact with the tree and the ground. Seek to follow the roots of the tree as they spread through the ground, anchoring it and you. When you awareness is fully rooted follow your awareness upward until it spreads into the branches and you sense the free movement of energy in the sky. Then send your consciousness downward again. Practice manipulating the movement of consciousness with the aid of the tree until you can sense the flow of energy in yourself and in the tree trunk. Allow yourself to participate in the tree’s interaction with wind and water and soil. Thank the tree when you have finished meditating.