In this blog series , we will go through the runes as they are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem.
The fifth rune, Rād or Raidho as it is commonly known, means “riding” and is mainly concerned with travel and roads, pathways and suchlike, but has lots of other lovely aspects to it such as partnership, co-operation, and sometimes even good luck. In the Old English Rune poem, Rād is defined thus:
“Riding is for every man in the hall
Easy, and strenuous for him who sits upon
A powerful horse along the long paths.”
As someone who has worked with horses for many years, I can see the truth is this kenning quite clearly from a literal viewpoint. When we have a powerful horse beneath us, we need to learn how to work in co-operation with its own power, instead of trying to overpower it ourselves. Horses work best with us if we use a “power-with” model, instead of a “power-over” model, especially when working with dominant or lead mares. If you are fighting against the horse’s own power (and it’s way bigger and stronger than you) and are on a long road, then you will be exhausted by the end of it. Instead, learn to work with the horse’s energy, a blending with your own and form a true relationship, one of reciprocity, of give and take. You’ll get where you need to go in life a lot easier that way.
This rune also makes you consider your “seat”, or how you sit in the saddle. You have to work with the horse, and your seat is just as important as the reins. How you sit will greatly influence the horse, as it can feel the slightest movements in your weight, legs, hips, even the turning of your head. Many people think that riding is all about the reins, but first and foremost, it’s about your seat. If you weight is too far forward or too far backward, for instance, it will impair what you and the horse are trying to achieve. So Rād/Raidho is a good reminder to be mindful of how you are in the world, in order to move through it better.
Pollington suggests that this rune may have been used as a good luck charm for travel. If you are planning a journey, or wish to go on one, using this rune could be very beneficial. The shape of the rune even suggests travel, as the rough outline looks like the head and neck of a horse. As stated above, it could also mean power, and even wealth, for horses have always been expensive to keep. Don’t forget that not all travels occur in this world – this rune could symbolise travelling between the worlds too.
Even the deities used horses – Odin has his eight-legged Sleipnir, and the wains of the Sun and Moon are drawn by horses. There is a beautiful Bronze Age solar chariot in Trundholm, Denmark, with a very lifelike representation of a horse (strangely, on wheels) which may symbolise the turning of the year.
Rād is to work with a powerful ally. Use it in your travels, both in this world and the Otherworld. Be mindful of your seat, and work in co-operation. Rād is not only the means of travel, but the road itself.
Albertsson, A. Wyrdworking: the Path of a Saxon Sorcerer, Llewellyn (2011)
Gundarsson, K. Teutonic Magic: A Guide to Germanic Divination, Lore and Magic, Thoth Publications (2007)
Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books (2011)
Rance, S. The English Runes: Secrets of Magic, Spells and Divination, Dragon House (2017)
Waggoner, B. A Pocket Guide to Runes, The Troth (2019)
 Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books (2011)