Ken (or Kenaz) is the rune ruling the fortnight (September 13 – 27) of the Autumnal Equinox (September 23, 2015 at 3:22 am CDT). It originally referred to “light,” which in ancient times was provided by torches and fires. Ken refers more to man-made light, more so than the natural light of the sun. Its phonetic value is “K.”
Its earliest version is an angular version of the Roman letter “C,” which represented the Kienspan, a chip of pine wood which was burned to illuminate houses in ancient Germany. The runeform shown above, a later form, is derived from the Kienspanhalter, seen here, a stand into which a burning chip was inserted. These devices were used in country districts in southern Germany until the nineteenth century.
The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem says: The torch is living fire, bright and shining. Most often, it burns where noble people are at rest indoors.
Ken therefore represents illumination. Its form is of a branch from a straight stave, which represents the active principle. On the Runic Compass, Ken is at a squared position relative to the rune Is or Isa, the single stroke of which represents the static principle.
Ken symbolizes the mystery of transformation. It represents the mystical creation achieved by the transmutation of two separate entities (wood and fire), making a third which did not exist before (light). Ken is the bringer or starter of the fire of the hearth, the power of the forge where material is transmuted by the will into something which reflects the human intellect and the divine harmony. Ken is the ability and the will to generate and create. It is therefore the rune of artists and craftsmen, and the technical aspects of magic.
Ken thus brings light to darkness, and on all levels symbolizes those things which permit us to see. Ken is the light of the torch illuminating the pathway ahead, and is expressed through the flame of a single candle as well as the powerful beam of a lighthouse beacon. Ken is thus the bringer of the inner light of knowledge which overcomes ignorance.
As a rune of balance through transformation, Ken is present in the Autumnal Equinox when the light and dark of the day are of equal length to one another.
Esoterically, Ken signifies regeneration through death or sacrifice. Because the early Germans cremated their dead, the rune was probably linked with the passage of the dead. Ken is also important to the concept of kinfolk, and especially to that part of the clan tradition professing an enduring symbiotic unity of living and dead clan members. The rider on the long road into the underworld carried Ken, the illuminating light of reason, as a guide and comfort. The fire of the sacrifice cooks and makes the flesh of the sacrificial animal sacred and acceptable for consumption by men and gods.
The highest virtues have always been associated with radiance. There are references in the gospels to the shining light of Christ. Revelations from God to the prophets often took the form of light, as when Moses saw God in the burning bush.
Ken is cognate with cen, a Celtic word meaning “powerful.” In Scots it now means “to know,” but earlier meant “to see” or “recognize,” and was also used to indicate the range of vision or sight. In some English dialects Ken means “knowledge.”
The earliest “C” shape of the rune suggests something that flies and pierces. Ken is the rune of human passion, lust, and sexual love—as positive attributes, and as the emotional root of creativity in all realms of action.
Magically, the rune can be used in conjunction with its partner Rad to penetrate mysteries. Ken channels protective energy, regenerative powers, and furthers positive actions. Applied directly to another person, it dispels ignorance and brings about sudden realizations and insights. Perversely applied, it frustrates learning and insight.
87° and Clear