Meaning: Ancestral Property
Supporting Meanings: The home of one’s heart, the clan, kin of mind and of body.
Ancient Meanings: According to Diana Paxson, the meaning of this rune is linked to the concept of property held in allodial tenure: unbroken succession from father to son for three generations, or for thirty years. It is the concept of a family rooted to their home, their community, and each other. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem states that an odal estate “is very dear to every man if he may there rightly and peacefully enjoy in the hall frequent harvest.” To enjoy such harvests, though, one must invest dearly into the place and into those who support the place. The place gives you purpose as much as you give purpose to the place.
Modern Meanings: Edred Thorsson sees othala as the symbol of clan strongholds, the sacred enclosure, the inherent qualities that bind together a clan of family; it also governs the wise management of resources necessary to make the family prosperous. It is therefore the rune of healthy kinship. He also notes it is a rune of Odin and its shape, both enclosed and open, symbolizes the distinction between the protected world of kin and the alien world into which individuals must venture to obtain true knowledge: experience beyond the bounds of the known. Gundarsson develops the concept of othala as a boundary between the in-group and the out-group. He also provides discussion its concept of inheritance, which is not only the genetic material from one’s ancestors, but the spiritual legacy of previous lives. As the final rune of the futhark, othala “contains” the power of all the other runes, our mystical heritage. Freya Aswynn sees this inheritance as genetic and magical. It’s the blood shed to take land and defend territory; to secure the inheritance. It is the mystery of the kings who shed blood to renew the land, and the admonishment to choose marriage partners carefully to preserve the health of a line. The rune also represents loyalty, for kin secures a place of safety where one can harvest the experiences gleaned from the outside world and reflect upon them at leisure.
My Take-Away of the Meanings: Othala requires that we define our community and those who lie beyond it. While this creates internal safety, it can also create enmity with “the other.” It is a fine tightrope to walk safely…which is why its two halves of open and closed are contained in one rune. Do not let one rule the other.
Paxson’s Interpretation and Use: In readings, othala may refer to an individual’s family or his place in his community. It may also refer to simple living conditions–finding a house or congenial roommates, for example. It could also refer to finding an affinity group or establishing a healthy relationship to the land. Willis identifies its meaning as more of one of “building”, whereas Peterson it is more “inheritance”. Othala can be used to strengthen family ties and to recover cultural inheritance; it can also access the wisdom of past lives. It can help with the acquisition of possessions and immobile property, and to protect that which you own. Use it in all workings involving the protection and strengthening of home and family. It wards the threshold with elhaz and strengthens community with mannaz. It brings prosperity with fehu or jera, and stimulates rediscovery of lore and ritual with ansuz and dagaz and open our eyes to spiritual heritage.
Paxson’s Practice for Living Laguz: The early Germanic peoples had no concept of race, nor really of nation. The Clan was the most important unit. In fact, the modern concept of the nuclear family would have been barely comphrehensible, The most successful unit of survival was a large household with lots of roles and multiple generations. Look to your life and see who makes up your spiritual household; invite them all to a large gathering where you can share stories and enjoy each other. Create a space for your household to re-establish its various bonds.