Runes have been used in Northern Europe since the Dark Ages. When the Romans abandoned Britain around 450AD, waves of immigrants from Europe came and settled along the Eastern seaboard of the country. Angles and Saxons from Germany, Jutes and Norsemen (or Vikings) from Scandinavia, and then the Friesians from Holland.
They brought with them their set of ancient symbols known as the runes. Originally there were 24 Runes in the rune-row collectively known as the “futhark” (as opposed to “alphabet”).
People used runes in several different ways: for writing messages inscriptions and epitaphs, as amulets and charms, as an oracle for use in divination (fortune-telling), and also for rituals, magic and spells.
Fehu (pronounced FAY-who) equates to the English letter F.
It is the first rune of the Futhark and first of Freyja’s Aett. The name means cattle and derives from the Germanic root-word vieh. The modern English words fee, fine and fief (as in fiefdom) are derivatives. Fehu is called Fe in Old Norse, Feoh in Anglo-Saxon, and Faihu in Gothic.
Why is Fehu the first rune? Well it is not uncommon for cattle as symbols of wealth to come first. Phoenician, Hebrew and Greek alphabets all start with letters meaning cattle. There is also the Norse myth of Creation where Auðhumla the primal cow licks a block of salt to give life to the first man of the human race. So Fehu in the guise of Auðhumla could be seen as the origin of man, and so Fehu is a logical choice for the first rune.
To the farming peoples of ancient Europe, wealth was measured in cattle. Cattle were – and still are – so versatile. They supply us with food, leather for shoes and clothes, and until quite recently they worked at ploughing and carrying burdens. Cattle are also moveable assets both physically and financially. You could drive a herd to another place and sell for a profit, or you could trade them for almost any commodity. A herd of cattle was not only a measure of wealth to the ancients, but a status symbol, like a Mercedes or Rolls-Royce in the drive would be today.
In literal terms then, Fehu means cattle, wealth, reward, generosity, ownership, livestock, nourishment, a beginning, or an opening gambit. In modern interpretation Fehu symbolizes money, a fee, a payment the ability to achieve and sustain success, or greater wealth. In other words, realized ambition. In a broader sense it can be interpreted to mean good health, love fulfilled and good fortune, but you are reminded of the need to be generous, to be charitable and to show compassion.