Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: – 7: Gebo

gebo

Gebo [pronounced Gay-bo] means “gift”. Far easier to unpack than previous runes, Gebo nonetheless carries a vital message about the importance of generosity, reciprocity and charity in maintaining friendships and happy communities. Amongst the Germanic peoples, practicing good hospitality and generosity were the glue that held communities together, and there were few insults to a person’s honour more serious than the accusation of being ungenerous. At its heart then, Gebo tells us that to build strong bonds of friendship, love and community we must be giving of our time, resources and compassion. Continue reading

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: – 6: Kenaz

kenaz upright

Kenaz [pronounced ken-ahz] is another rune attributed different meanings and rich with symbolism, so there are quite a few cards to cover! The most widely accepted interpretation is torch, as attested in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. At its heart, this rune speaks to the human discovery of fire, an event of pure elemental harnessing that empowered humankind and shaped our destiny and capacity for not only survival but also our ability as a species to thrive. As such, Kenaz is associated with spiritual revelation, enlightenment and the powerful wisdom of the gods. On a more mundane level, it speaks of a time of teaching or learning and opportunities for knowledge, clarity, understanding and utilising skills Continue reading

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences – 5: Raidho

raidho1

Raidho [pronounced Ride-ho] translates to ‘rider’ but is also commonly associated with numerous forms of travel, including by cart, wagon, chariot or even boat. It is the traveller’s rune of movement, rhythm, speed, action and purpose. The most obvious associated card related to this rune is the Chariot, where we see the harnessing of wild forces to speed us to our destination. Both Raidho and the Chariot conjure images of will and adventure, they are the tidal waves of momentum that keeps us moving, driving, ever onwards.

3wands copy Continue reading

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences – 4: Ansuz

ansuz upright

Ansuz [pronounced Ahn-sooz] is the rune of Odin and holds a variety of meanings associated with the characteristics and adventures of the All Father, so you will be seeing a few more tarot cards than usual for this instalment! As the God of human consciousness, speech, language, and prophecy, Ansuz is also related to the mouth and all the sounds that emit from it – truth, lies, chants, prayers, wisdom, gossip and breath.

ansuzmajorsupright

Often associated with the element of air and Mercury, Odin, and thus Ansuz, share much in common with the Magician. In both we see bearers of messages and master communicators with immense powers to manifest divine will on Earth. Much like the Hierophant also, is the idea of the transmission of divine wisdom. Both fathers of a faith, the words these characters speak are potent and sacred, uplifting the souls and enriching the knowledge of humankind.

One of the most famous stories of Odin concerns him piercing himself with a spear and hanging from the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days while gazing into the Well of Urd to gain knowledge of the runes. In keeping with this theme of suspension and surrender we find the familiar image of the Hanged Man, and indeed, Ansuz does carry with it the concept that in order to gain divine or universal wisdom, one must be willing to make painful sacrifices.

In yet another sacrifice, Odin gives an eye to the guardian of the same well to have a draft of its wisdom-imparting waters. This is a particularly interesting metaphor, and one that ties Ansuz further to the Hanged Man, in that Odin sacrifices his eye for better sight, exchanging part of his vision for deeper perception, thereby gaining two perspectives, both sight of the outer world and a universal vision.

ansuzuprightminors

On a more mundane level, Ansuz is primarily a rune signalling cognizance, clarity and communication. Like the Ace of Swords, it represents moments of piercing truth and a precision with words. It’s the clearing away of foggy thoughts and confusion, of divine or inner messages received and understood.

Also present in Ansuz are the waters of divine inspiration seen in the Ace of Cups. This connection derives from a tale where Odin drinks the mead of inspiration from the cauldron of Othroerir – a tale linked to similar spiritual metaphors of transformative elixirs, found in Cerridwen’s Cauldron and Holy Grail mythologies. In this guise, Ansuz represents the feeling of being a conduit for a higher source of inspiration, of channelling divine wisdom and manifesting it in art, poetry, prophetic speech, spells and incantation.

In its most mundane meaning, Ansuz speaks of messages. As seen in the Eight of Wands, these messages will be swift and contain a much-needed piece of information, a missing piece of the puzzle that illuminates the whole and brings resolution. In this idea we can see an echo of Odin’s companions, the two ravens Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) who each day depart at sunrise to fly around Midgard (the human realm) and return at sunset to report back everything they have seen to Odin – forever enriching his knowledge and informing his broader world-view.

ansuz reversed

Merkstave (reversed) or darkened by other runes in the spread, Ansuz is sometimes called Loki’s rune. It speaks of a shadow aspect that the Magician, Odin and Loki share, that of shape shifter and trickster. Gods they are, but their actions and attitudes can be ambivalent, and in this position it is wise to explore the motivations of those around you, paying particular attention to riddles or half-truths. Darker still we see the worst attributes associated with the King of Swords: a disturbing capacity for manipulation and cruelty.

ansuzshadow

These aspects also tie Ansuz with the Seven of Cups and the Moon, where flights of fancy and illusions turn to delusions. We have no call to higher purpose or clarity, only a directionless yearning for something unseen. The waters of intuition have taken over, drowning our sense of clarity, misleading us into ever-murkier waters. This confusion could come from within or out, and in this dark aspect we can see the implication of gaslighting – of words being twisted to make us doubt our perceptions and sense of reality.

Also shadowed but less sinister, Ansuz can simply mirror the boredom seen in the Four of Cups. It speaks of being uninspired, dull and dissatisfied, those times when we feel deaf to messages from our source (be that an external deity or our own inner wisdom), when all seems meaningless and without higher purpose, the feeling of misplaced faith and being forgotten by god.

Ansuz is quite a task to unpack, so I hope the extra cards haven’t made this post too overwhelming! Like all of the runes, there are still more nuances that can be linked to other cards, but I chose what I feel are the primary points of reference that both illuminate the meaning while remaining concise and accessible. I hope it is helpful!

 

Smith Waite Centennial Tarot, US Games Systems, 2014

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences – 3: Thurisaz

*Trigger Warning* – This post contains a brief (and non-explicit) mention of sexual violence in the eighth paragraph.

thurisaz upright copy

Thurisaz [pronounced thur-ee-saws], meaning giant, is one of the most powerful and masculine coded runes. A frequent mistranslation of its meaning is ‘thorn’, following the lead of the Anglo-Saxon rune poem which links it to one of the most ambivalently powerful Celtic trees, the Blackthorn (of course, if this interpretation works for you, go with it!). Original Scandinavian sources however associate this rune to the Thurses, primordial giants of Norse mythology. The rune is also associated with the god Thor, known as a giant slayer who protects Asgard (the realm of the Æsir gods) and Midgard (the realm of humans) from their destructive force.

On an esoteric level the Thurses can be understood as raw unbridled power, natural active forces and potent libidinal energy; they are neither good nor evil, only primal and alien to human comprehension. Like the Ace of Wands, they have within them all of the explosive strength to create and obliterate; their power is non-logical, unthinking, distinctively phallic and representative of active and aggressive sexuality.

thurisaz light

Equally powerful, but contained and directed towards a purpose, Thor’s representation in this rune can be seen as the Chariot. He masters these primitive energies, controls and harnesses them for the highest good, by directing his will and channelling his capacity for violence and domination into his role as protector of the realms.

On a more earthly or mundane level, Thurisaz can be understood as a powerful line of defence. As we see in the Seven of Wands, and also reflected in the Thor aspect of this rune, there are times when we are called upon to defend ourselves and all the things we hold dear. In this context, Thurisaz is a defensive position, yet it is the fiercely active defence we see in the steadfast resistance of dark and unruly forces.

thurisaz reversed

Merkstave (reversed) or shadowed by other runes in a spread, this already challenging rune can also represent a time or environment of increased hostility and strife, where everyone is working at cross purposes, more concerned with one-upmanship than finding common ground. This aspect is reflected in the Five of Wands, where we see testosterone levels flying high and raw aggression being misdirected to infighting. There is no higher purpose, only defensiveness, self-interest and posturing.

thurisaz shadow2 copy

In the Eight of Swords we can see yet another shadowed aspect of Thurisaz, the feeling of being trapped, vulnerable and completely defenceless, bound and unable to protect ourselves from a coming onslaught.

Much like the Tower it can also augur a cataclysmic event, one that rips down the very foundations of our life – imagine Thor’s hammer beating down the lightening that we see striking the structure in this card. However, in keeping with the theme of the Tower, the destruction implied with Thurisaz can be a necessary one: a strike of painful insight that shows us the truth, a razing of old ways to fertilise the ground and make way for a more viable future.

In the darkest aspect of the Seven of Swords, that of betrayal and having something taken from you without your consent, is the most difficult reading I associate with this rune. In the Norwegian rune poem, Thurisaz is called the “tormenter” or “bane” of women; there are a couple of different interpretations of this, including the suggestion that it represents menstruation or fraught relationships, however with the raw masculine libidinal power of Thurisaz, I also feel it can imply unwanted sexual attention or even sexual violence.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Thurisaz is considered one of the most powerful runes of the Elder Futhark, so as a final note, particularly if you are interested in runic magic, most runic practitioners advise caution when invoking this rune or using it as a talisman. The Thurses are a powerful force that do no mess around, nor do they care at all about your wellbeing, so make your intentions in calling for Thor very clear if you wish to use it outside of divination.

Previous rune – Uruz

 

Smith Waite Centennial Tarot Deck property of U.S Games Systems, 2014

 

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences – 2: Uruz

uruz copy

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.

uruz

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.

uruz merk

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 merk

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.

Previous rune – Fehu

Next rune – Thurisaz

 

Smith Waite Centennial Tarot Deck property of U.S Games Systems, 2014

 

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: Introduction and First Rune – Fehu

This will be the first post in an ongoing series taking a look at the correspondences between tarot and runes, or more precisely, understanding the runes through a tarot lens. Now, before any purists get their knickers in a twist, it is true that there is no historical connection between the two systems. With that said however, I am hoping to show that knowing one can be helpful in learning the other, and while this is primarily aimed at people with a basis in tarot wishing to start learning the runes, I hope it is still accessible to people who are at the very beginning of either study.

I am a visual learner and although I bought my first rune set a year before my first deck, I found tarot much easier to get to grips with because of all the visual clues in the cards. Once I had the basics of tarot down, the runes started to click into place because I could relate them to the images in cards that shared similar themes.

There are a number of different suggested correspondences between tarot and runes, but I have always found them somewhat incomplete. Because of the amount of cards versus staves, the runes have always been related to the Major Arcana only, which I think severely impedes a more rounded understanding of each rune. The tarot has 22 cards to explore the deep spiritual events, understandings and milestones in life, and 56 to express the earthly experience, whereas the runes have only 24 symbols to encapsulate both the esoteric and mundane. As such, I relate the runes to both the Major and Minor Arcana cards that touch upon the multiple levels of each rune.

This series is in no way an exhaustive study of the runes and these correspondences are not set in stone, so feel free to disagree, take what is useful and what is not as you wish!

Now, for some rune basics – here I will be using the Elder Futhark runes, these are the most commonly used runes for divination and magic, however some prefer using the Younger Futhark (a similar but shortened alphabet that was used during the later Viking era) and the Anglo-Saxon runes (also called Futhorc, are an extended alphabet that was product of the multiple invasions and settlement of Norse peoples on the British Isles and the Netherlands). The Elder Futhark alphabet contains 24 runes (which are divided into 3 sets of 8 called Aetts) with Northern European Iron Age historians estimating their emergence around the 1st Century AD. The word Futhark originates from the first six letters of the runic alphabet, Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido and Kenaz.

So, for our first rune:

fehu copy

Fehu [pronounced fey-hoo] means ‘cattle’ or ‘livestock’ and in its simplest terms concerns wealth, abundance, good fortune and the material resources upon which we place value. The importance of cattle in old Norse societies cannot be over-stressed. Most people lived in isolated farmsteads or small settlements and focused their productive efforts on animal husbandry. Dairy, fresh in the spring, churned to butter and cheese in preparation for winter (and beef when an animal could be spared) were key components of their diet. So central to their survival and sustenance, the words for cattle and money were one and the same, fe.

With Fehu’s focus on material resources, it will come as no surprise then that this rune shares a lot in common with a number of cards from the suit of Pentacles, as well as a few others.

Fehu Light

In the Ace of Pentacles we see all the earthy potential that Fehu has to offer. Contained within both is the promise of material prosperity, the opportunity for new growth and the manifestation of abundance. The Ace is held above a plush garden, the plants are in bloom and the scene is suffused with a light of assurance and hope. Such is the feeling of Fehu in all of its happy potential.

Continuing with this idea of plenty, Fehu also shares many aspects with another lush garden, that of the Empress. She is the part of this rune that reflects the concept of creation and resources multiplying – the cattle have birthed calves and the milk is flowing. Fehu in this aspect speaks to the fertility and fecundity of wise investments and the idea that if you nurture your resources they will in turn reward you with abundance. It is interesting also to note that in a Norse creation myth from the Prose Edda, it is a cow, Auðumbla, that manifests the first god (and grandfather of Odin) by licking his form out of primordial ice, so here again we see an Empress aspect of Fehu as a creatrix.

Upright and surrounded by complimentary runes in a spread, Fehu displays all of the wealth, refinement and physical comfort that epitomises the lavish lifestyle and success we come to expect with the King of Pentacles. He is a man who deeply values the material success held within this rune – the attainment of Fehu is his core motivation. There is an element of luck suggested in Fehu, but much like this king’s Midas touch, it is of the make-your-own variety.

 

fehu reversed

Merkstave (reversed) or shadowed by surrounding runes in a spread, it can refer to destitution. Returning the runes to their historical context, a shadowed Fehu can represent the sort of feelings and precarious situation of a family whose livestock, their sole means of sustenance and trade, is wiped out by disease.

fehu Shadow

In an advice position Fehu can recommend the saving of resources seen in the Four of Pentacles, however it comes with the same warning against accumulation for accumulation’s sake. Norse societies placed particular emphasis on the importance of gift giving (which we will see in greater depth in Gebo), so much so, that generosity was considered one of the highest virtues and a cornerstone of thriving communities, where wealth flowed continuously and was not hoarded by one individual or family.

In its strongest negative aspect Fehu can be represented by the Devil, where we see an obsessive and unhealthy attachment to material wealth and earthly attachments. It is in this card we see Fehu transformed from the ideal – an energy of abundance that continuously changes hands and enriches all – into material possessions that are greedily amassed and stockpiled to the benefit of very few. The Devil is an excellent depiction of this descent into pure materialism, where a desire for prosperity mutates into a worship of belongings and fiscal power. All of the key sources for runic lore, the Icelandic, Norwegian and Anglo Saxon rune poems contain verses warning against the misuse of wealth, one going so far as to call it the “path of the serpent”.

And so we can see with Fehu that despite the different ways of life, the benefits and trappings of wealth now are much the same as they have ever been.

Next rune – Uruz

Smith Waite Centennial Tarot Deck property of U.S Games Systems, 2014