Eihwaz [pronounced Ay-wahz and occasionally Yoo-wahz] translates to “Yew”, which was a spiritually and practically significant tree for a number of Northern European pagan tribes. There is much discussion as to whether or not the great World Tree is in fact a yew, rather than the ash attested to in lore. One of the main points of contention is that Yggrassil is spoken of as an evergreen tree, which the yew is but the ash is not. One of the most prolific (and controversial) writers on the subject of runes and Norse cosmology, Edred Thorsson, mentions that an ancient alternate name for the yew tree was “needle ash”. Yew trees can live for over one thousand years and are associated both with death and eternal life, in fact many old Christian churches were built amongst yews in sacred groves, appropriated from their Pagan ancestors.
The Old English rune poem speaks of the yew in similar ways to interpretations of the Strength card: it has a “rough bark from without”, but is deep rooted, a guardian of fires, and a “joy to the home”, implying concepts of longevity, protection, strength and safety.