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.
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.
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.