I’ve long been interested in learning Norse runes, but I didn’t begin exploring them until a few months ago. Simply put: they seemed intimidating.
As I began to research their interpretations, the meanings reminded me of tarot cards, with which I’m more familiar. These, too, had once seemed impossible to learn. But ever since I had found ways to make personal connections with the cards, I have been able to understand them more clearly.
The tarot correspondences are my own and have helped me in my study of runes. In fact, I’ve found that they are a lot more approachable than I’d initially thought. If this system helps you, feel free to switch the cards around as you see fit.
One of the best sources I’ve found in my research on runes was Nordic Runes: Understanding, Casting, and Interpreting the Ancient Viking Oracle by Paul Rhys Mountfort. Other sources include The Rune Site and Tarotsmith Divination, among a few other online sources that gave similar information.
Need a quick primer on the tarot? I have a handy tarot cheat sheet in my book The Creative Arcana.
The name of each rune varies depending upon source; I picked the ones I came across most frequently or preferred most. Please note that this list is merely an overview. I recommend taking a class or doing research on your own to learn about both tarot and runes.
[As a side note, it’s extremely important to vet your sources when it comes to runes or topics like Norse paganism. While many authors will offer reliable information on these subjects, others may use them to promote their racist ideologies. Use your best judgment when doing your own research. If I have unknowingly cited one of these individuals, please let me know and I will remove the reference and information.]
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Rune and Tarot Correspondences
Fehu – ᚠ: Ace of Pentacles/King of Pentacles
The rune of wealth and abundance, Fehu means “cattle,” as owning livestock once signified prosperity. It not only pertains to obtaining and creating wealth and luck–the new beginnings of the Ace of Pentacles–but holding onto it and investing it wisely, similar to the energy of the King of Pentacles.
Uruz – ᚢ: Knight of Swords/Eight of Wands
Uruz represents a power that cannot be contained. It is pure untamed potential. It deals with facing challenges head-on, charging in like the Knight of Swords. Like the Eight of Wands, it signals that things will move fast and that success is on the way.
Thurisaz – ᚦ: Five of Wands/Strength
Thurisaz translates to “thorn” or “giant,” both of which signify significant challenges. Yet despite this adversity, it’s possible to resist interpersonal conflict, as in the Five of Wands, and protect yourself. The Strength card in the tarot isn’t about brute force but about finding gentleness even when up against negativity. This is the approach one must take when Thurisaz comes up in a runecasting.
Ansuz – ᚨ: The High Priestess/The Emperor
Ansuz is translated as the “mouth” or “divine breath” that breathes life into all creation. It represents Odin, the Allfather in Norse mythology. There’s an element of order in this rune, like The Emperor can bring, but it also deals with the divine and the sacred–the realm of The High Priestess.
Raidho – ᚱ: The Chariot/Knight of Wands
Raidho translates to “wheel,” but its meaning calls to mind The Chariot more so than The Wheel of Fortune for me. This rune has to do with focusing your energy to obtain your goals. It’s traveling through the journey of life and bringing your plans to fruition. Some correspondences I found equated this rune to a chariot, a means of taking control of your life, like the tarot card. Mountfort also defines this rune as “riding” a horse. It signifies swift movement forward, travel, and magical quests–an ideal match to the Knight of Wands.
Kenaz – ᚲ: The Hierophant/The Hermit
Signifying a torch, Kenaz is the rune of knowledge, learning, and teaching. It points to lessons to learn; The Hierophant, too, asks you what you are learning as well as what knowledge you are willing to share. This torch is the light of creativity and enlightenment. By viewing a situation in a new light, you have the chance to receive clarity and visions. In order to do so, you must go inward, which The Hermit advises.
Gebo – ᚷ: Six of Pentacles/Two of Cups
Gebo pertains to the exchange of gifts. It deals with giving freely, without expecting anything in return. This generosity appears in the tarot as the Six of Pentacles. Gebo also represents partnerships and contracts and the connection between people when they give. The Two of Cups also speaks to this kind of love and connection.
Wunjo – ᚹ: Three of Cups/Nine of Cups
Wunjo signifies joy, pleasure, and celebration with others. It’s that Three of Cups vibe of celebrating with those closest to you. Wunjo is also called the “wishing rune” for manifestation, Mountfort writes. The Nine of Cups carries a similar meaning, telling you to make a wish and it shall be granted.
Hagalaz – ᚻ: The Tower/Six of Swords
Translated as “hailstone,” Hagalaz indicates uncontrolled forces. These difficult situations can bring about utter destruction, often without warning, like The Tower. Yet this hailstone eventually turns to water, removing obstacles and flowing smoothly. This is the phase of The Tower that helps you build something better. It also implies that you will eventually move on to better circumstances, much like the Six of Swords.
Naudhiz – ᚾ: The Devil/Eight of Swords
Although it’s the rune for “need,” Naudhiz is a need borne from a more negative place. Yet it also signals that you have the power to break free from anything holding you back. Like the figures on The Devil card, you have the ability to slip the chains from around your neck. The same goes for the woman on the Eight of Swords. Carefully pick apart these limiting beliefs, and you’ll realize you are not as stuck you think you might be.
Isa – ᛁ: Two of Swords/Five of Pentacles
Isa carries a similar meaning to Naudhiz. It indicates a similar sense of feeling stuck and being unable to escape unpleasant circumstances. But this rune also cautions you to wait it out. Just as ice will eventually melt, a better situation will await you with time. Don’t make any rash moves, as the Two of Swords warns. Also, remember that your situation will improve if you look in the right places, like the Five of Pentacles.
Jera – ᛃ: The Wheel of Fortune/Nine of Wands
Representing a year or a season, Jera calls to mind a bountiful harvest. This is the culmination of hard work and a celebration of abundance, much like the Nine of Wands. I also associate this with the “Wheel” imagery, as in the wheel of the year. When upright, the Wheel of Fortune card signals the cycles of life, with good fortune and prosperity headed one’s way.
Eihwaz – ᛇ: Death/Judgement
Eihwaz is the rune of the yew tree, which was thought to be the world tree Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, according to some sources. This magical rune symbolizes the cycles of renewal and change throughout our lives. It is a change like the Death card in tarot. It’s not something to fear; it’s an ending that makes way for something new. The Judgement card speaks to these cycles and asks us to pause to absorb the lessons we’ve learned during this period.
Perdhro – ᛈ: The Fool/Six of Cups
Perdhro is a mysterious rune often associated with the occult and embracing the unknown. Like The Fool, it celebrates the uncertainties of life. However, it also calls on us to invite play into our lives. Mountfort associates this rune with old pagan customs and connecting to “the spirit of the divine through playfulness of spirit.” This playfulness is also found in the Six of Cups, which embodies a childlike innocence and sense of nostalgia as well. This is a happier interpretation of this rune than most sources offer, but it shows that you don’t always need to fear the unknown. Uncertainty can often bring about something wonderful!
Algiz – ᛉ: Seven of Wands/Seven of Swords
Algiz symbolizes the elk and acts as a protective rune. Yet it’s a protection from the words and actions of others. The Seven of Wands puts us on the defensive, but we are still at an advantage and can defend ourselves. This rune also represents imminent danger and asks you to stay on your guard. Apply the same watchfulness when this rune comes up as you would for the Seven of Swords, which speaks to betrayal, deception, and shady behavior.
Sowulo – ᛋ: The Sun/The Hanged Man
What better card for the rune symbolizing the sun than, well, The Sun? Sowulo is about seeing your goals realized and recognizing your success. Just like the symbolic light around the head of The Hanged Man, Sowulo also represents inner enlightenment, inner light, and one’s higher self.
Teiwaz – ᛏ: Justice/Queen of Swords
Relating in part to legal matters, Teiwaz symbolizes justice, honor, and success in one’s actions. It asks you to face obstacles with strength and courage. It’s the authority and strength of the Queen of Swords and her “bring it” gesture, which I love. Like the Justice card, it also carries the “you get what you give” message without any of the accompanying personal sacrifice.
Berkana – ᛒ: Ace of Wands/The Empress
Berkana translates to “birch tree” or “birch twig.” As that definition would imply, it symbolizes growth and new beginnings, like life springing forth from a seed planted in the earth. The connection to fertility and a Mother Earth-like nurturing relate to The Empress in that this fertility can represent the figurative birth of new creative projects. The imagery on the Ace of Wands–the hand holding the wand (or twig)–fits not only with the rune’s meaning itself but the “new beginnings” aspect of both the card and rune.
Ehwaz – ᛖ: Eight of Pentacles/Three of Pentacles
Ehwaz asks you to look at what it takes to be successful in achieving your goals. It signifies the teamwork that it might take, like the Three of Pentacles, as well as the overall journey on your path to greatness. While The Chariot would also be an acceptable match for this rune, which translates to “horse,” the Eight of Pentacles speaks to the slow and steady progress toward success that it implies.
Mannaz – ᛗ: The Magician/The Lovers
As the name might imply, Mannaz translates to “man”–as in human rather than gender. This rune’s message is that you have the power to achieve your fullest potential, especially regarding creativity. This is similar to the wisdom of The Magician: you have everything you need to reach your goals. Mannaz also refers to the shared experiences and consciousness among us all, in some way like the deep connection between The Lovers in the tarot.
Laguz – ᛚ: The Star/The Moon
It’s not just the watery imagery of The Star and The Moon that fit with Laguz, the rune of “water.” Laguz tells us to go with the flow and maintain a sense of hope like that The Star possesses. Dreams, fantasies, intuition, and the psyche also play into this rune–the darker aspects of the self that The Moon symbolizes. Water symbols in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot typically represent the subconscious and the intuition. When this rune comes up, it’s time to pause and get in touch with your own hidden depths.
Ingwaz – ᛝ: Two of Wands/Three of Wands
Like Berkana, Ingwaz deals with male fertility, or virility. Its message is to build up your power over time to then release it at once. There’s probably a bit of innuendo there. But this idea of holding onto your power until it’s time to share it with the world relates well to the Two and Three of Wands. In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Two of Wands shows a man holding a globe and looking out into the horizon, plotting his next move. Then in the Three of Wands, a similar figure stands at a portal before the vast unknown. The message here is to think through your plans and gather inspiration before embarking on a new project or journey.
Dagaz – ᛞ: The World/Temperance
Dagaz, meaning “day,” symbolizes an awakening or new beginning–a new day and therefore new opportunity. Things that come to an end signify something that will begin. The World is an ending, but with it, we can draw on what we have learned to start something new. Additionally, Dagaz balances light and dark–similar to the balance of Temperance. Without the dark, there can be no light, just as there can be no enlightenment without encountering challenges first.
Othala – ᛟ: Four of Wands/Ten of Cups
Defined as “home” or “sacred ancestral land,” Othala is a wealth that cannot be sold. This wealth can take the form of family, friendships, culture, heritage, and the land of one’s birth. It is, overall, a happy rune that symbolizes contentment, as in the Ten of Wands, and the sense of home, belonging, and celebration that the Four of Wands represents.
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