Uruz [pronounced oo-rooz] can be a slightly confusing rune as all three related rune poems from the Anglo-Saxon, Norwegian and Icelandic traditions define it differently. The most widely accepted interpretation however is of the rune meaning Aurochs (a very large species of wild ox, now extinct).
A dangerous creature to hunt, in ancient Germanic tribes it was a common rite of passage for young men to slay one of these wild beasts and bring home the horns as trophies. At its heart then, Uruz represents a challenge to be met and a test of endurance and will.
These wild oxen were impossible to domesticate and in many ways their role in Germanic rites of passage can be seen as a metaphor for a seemingly innate human desire to dominate the untameable in nature and overcome the wild brutishness within. If the cattle of Fehu can be understood as an aspect of the Empress, these wild aurochs then present to us an aspect of the Emperor, who seeks to bring all beasts under his will of order and stability.
Within this idea of initiation we also see a test of strength, tenacity, a desire to prove oneself, and, much like the Knight of Wands, the initiates of Uruz seek glory and adventure.
The challenge of Uruz not only lies in a test of strength and prowess but upon a similar determination seen in the Nine of Wands: one’s capacity for dogged persistence and resilience in the face of apparently insurmountable challenges, exhaustion and even injury.
Merkstave (reversed) or shadowed by other runes in a spread, this rune can suggest cowardice, weakness or a humiliating defeat, like the unmet challenge seen in the Five of Swords.
Uruz could represent unfocused or blocked energy. Imagine the upright Uruz shape as the downturned horns of an aurochs, hooves scraping the earth, preparing to charge. Head lowered, the bull directs its energy to the earth with purpose, readying itself for a challenge. Reversed, this energy remains frenetic and caught between those upturned horns. Much like we see in the Two of Wands, a man stands with an incredible will and the world in his hands, but is as yet unfocused as to where to direct all of this energy. Unused it will dissipate, misdirected we can see a shadow aspect of the Knight of Wands, pent up and frustrated this primal force turns to anger, violent impulses and frenzied aggression.
Taken even further we can see this unreleased energy hardening, ever unchallenged and directed inwards, it transforms into the brutal ruthlessness of a shadowed King of Wands, who cuts down and dominates all and any in his path without vision or higher purpose.
Smith Waite Centennial Tarot Deck property of U.S Games Systems, 2014