Ari Aster’s latest film, Midsommar, is a dark take on a pagan festival full of rituals and ceremonies.
We see runes used repeatedly throughout the film, but the main one you’ll see looks like an F ‘Fehu’, which means wealth, power, or charisma. But do the runes have meaning, and does Aster use them metaphorically – and literally – to reflect what turns out to be a complex and powerful plot?
What do the runes mean in Midsommar?
The R looking rune in Midsommar is Raidho, which can mean journey or control, or growth or evolution. Overall, Raidho represents the life path of a person.
Pelle wears the Fehu rune on his tunic, which we could take as a foreshadowing of him offering up his friends. We see later on that by bringing them as sacrifices he’s expecting prosperity and power. It can mean wealth and new beginnings.
When a rune is inverted it’s meant to have a ‘dark’ meaning. The outfit Dani is given for the Maypole is a good example, the symbol is inverted meaning nothing good will come of her participation. On her tunic, there’s a Raidho on the left and a merkstaved Dagaz on the right.
The Dagaz means fulfillment and achievement, but it literally means dawn – the rise of daylight, or rebirth.
The Raidho inverted means discord, delusion or death. The Dagaz normally means purity, but it’s been altered. Does this mean while Dani hopes for rebirth and purity she’s been sucked into the darkness and is stuck in her grief?
The other noticeable rune is worn by Siv, the commune leader. She wears Ansuz, which represents ordering, or having power over something, it’s often seen as representative of God or ancestors, so it’s a sign of her authority.
The women with Dani also wear another rune called Kenaz meaning knowledge or cunning in some cases, which makes a lot of sense when you consider how they use Dani.
The runes in the barn they sleep in also act as nods to what’s going to happen; Perthro, which can mean fate or prophecy, the universe at work (literally it’s the art of magic of guessing); Othala, which can mean home or inheritance are both seen on the walls. The table where the elderly couple eats is also in the shape of a rune, the same Othala.
The final important rune is seen on that weird bingo-style game when they choose who will be sacrificed from their community – the rune is Perthro. It’s fated that Dani chooses the final sacrifice.
What does the run mean on Josh’s foot?
The Runes also serve as sick nods to each character’s downfall. When Christian sees Josh’s leg sticking out of the mud there’s a rune on his foot, Ansuz, which means knowledge or insight or rather transmission of intelligence, communication, and reason. Josh was killed for his zealousness when it came to knowledge so it’s fitting.
What do the runes mean on the tablet?
The main rune puzzle is seen when the elderly woman wipes her bloodied hands on the tablet. There are nine runes on the tablet in a grid. Firstly, there are nine worlds in Norse mythology so this acts as a nod to that. The grid is also 9×9.
- The four Xs in the corners are Gebo- gift.
- The middle and left is Raidho, growth, evolution.
- Bottom is Pertho, secrets or occult.
- Right is Tiwaz, honour, justice, and self-sacrifice. It’s also the symbol for Norse God Tyr.
- Top is Algiz, meaning shield, to represent protection.
If you look at all of them together it’s seen as a spell or promise. Basically, you need to offer a gift to prevent losing favour. These gifts are physical and have to be given willingly, hence why Siv mentions this at the bottom of the cliff. The Pertho symbol then rounds this off.
If you want to take this even further the woman wipes her blood on Raidho and Tiwz showing she’s offering herself up as part of her own evolution – the ending of her life. Then taking that even further it references the nine human sacrifices we’re told about at the very end of the film. The two Raidho represent Simon and Connie, Tiwaz is Christian (he has this on his tunic). Pertho is Josh, the man who seeks the secrets of the Harga and the occult. Mark is the fool, he even has a jester’s hat at the end – he is Algiz merkstaved.
The final runes we see are on the wall of the barn that’s burnt down, these look like Sowilo runes, wholeness, rounding everything off and completing the ceremony.