Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: 10 – Nauthiz

nauthiz rune

Nauthiz [pronounced Now-theez] translates directly to ‘need’ in Old English with the same meaning in Old Norse, with the added nuance of ‘constriction’. This rune along with the preceeding rune, Hagalaz, and the following rune, Isa, form a trinity of the most challenging runes.

Although not attested to in any ancient sources, many scholars believe that these three runes relate to the Norns – Urd (became), Verdandi (becoming) and Skuld (become), similar to the Greek Morai – who carve the fate of each infant in runes at the time of their birth. In many ways they represent the inevitability of difficult times in human experience and the events that hold within them the potential to either destroy us or set us on a more enlightened and emboldened path. It is in this sense, the ups and downs of life and luck, that all three runes can be seen inextricably tied to the Wheel of Fortune.

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Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: 9 – Hagalaz

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Hagalaz [pronounced HA-galaz] means ‘hail’. A less than welcome rune, Hagalaz refers to the ambivalent forces of nature. Not just an inconvenience from which shelter is sought, a hailstorm to the ancient Norse could spell the destruction of entire fields worth of crops and a destabilising of their homes and animal shelters or perilous trips at sea.

In our modern times, this rune represents an outside power that disrupts your potential or assumed success. Plans or projects have been implemented and suddenly a big spanner is thrown into the works, grinding everything to a halt. In its most archetypal context, Hagalaz can be seen as the downturn of the Wheel of Fortune. Everything was going so well, until it suddenly wasn’t, and now nothing feels like it is going your way.

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In the Three of Wands we see the initial stage of achievement, the ships and their cargo have set sail and a new dawn is beginning in the life of the figure before us. Imagine then, a vicious hailstorm raining down upon those ships that have just left the harbour. The sails are ravaged and the ships are wrecked onto the rocks. In this context, we can see Hagalaz as representing a reversed or shadow aspect of this card, where carefully orchestrated plans are scuppered by ill luck.

Similarly, in the Eight of Wands, we see swiftness in action, where everything is heading towards its intended destination with speed and accuracy. Hagalaz then, can be seen as a reversal or energy-blocked expression of this card, where plans are beset by delays and nothing seems to be remaining true to course.

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You may be glad to hear that Hagalaz cannot appear merkstave, so this is as bad as it gets. In fact the Anglo-Saxon rune poem ends its stanza with a ray of hope, promising that the hail now raining down upon you “is tossed by the wind and turns to water”. This Suggests that there is not only the potential for this energy to dissipate quickly, but that what finally results from those hailstones, water, can in fact nourish your plans in the long-term. It is here that we can see a suggestion of the Ace of Wands, where unexpected disruptions actually spur on and revive your efforts with renewed enthusiasm, problem solving skills and creativity. These interferences on the one hand humble you to the forces outside of your control, and on the other, force you to think and act with greater ingenuity.

Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: 8 – Wunjo

wonjo upright

Wunjo [pronounced Vun-yo] is a very happy rune and one of the least complicated to unpack. Translated to English it simply means ‘joy’ or ‘bliss’. For me, it is a rune of success, contentment and happiness on the earthly plane rather than any sort of spiritual ecstasy or enlightenment (which we will see later in the rune Sowilo). Representing the more mundane joys of life, I see Wunjo represented in the happier cards of the tarot’s minor arcana such as the 6 of Wands, where will and sustained efforts have yielded success. There is a sense of joyous recognition for the things we have achieved and the acknowledgment that our successes positively impact not only ourselves, but also those closest to us.

wunjo upright BLOG

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Exploring Tarot and Rune Correspondences: 7 – Gebo

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 well of Mirmir 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.

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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.

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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.

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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