Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections

 July 1, 2004

An Introduction to the Runes
Peter D. Cowen

Peter D. Cowen began studying Tarot in 1969, and Runes shortly thereafter. He is a 1978 graduate of Southern Illinois University, where he majored in English Literature,  primarily of the Renaissance. He has published numerous short stories and poetry, while working as a graphic design specialist in typography. His preferred decks are the Jean Dodal, Oswald Wirth, and Pamela Colman Smith Tarots, and he makes his own Runes from natural materials. He and his wife Christine, a native of Scarborough, England, operate Flora Tarot from their home in Belvidere, Illinois, and both are readers for the ATA's free reading networks.


"Maybe the blank Rune was there all along, but nobody was ever looking for it," was the advice I gave a young girl on how to present this subject in her school paper, though I had at first intended to caution her against including any such thing. Even as I wrote the words, I felt the wisdom of my discovery, as if the blank Rune was revealing itself to me for the very first time. Really, even though I'm not sure what to make of it, I think every set of Runes might as well include this supposed newcomer, since now that it has made its appearance, the blank Rune is surely here to stay. And in some ways all the Runes are like that, revealing themselves to you when you may least expect it, and each of them here to stay.

Tarot and Runes have something special in common. Nobody knows where they came from. They are both traditional, with long histories, but they remain mysterious in origin and meaning. And just like the happy diversity we find in the Tarot, the Runes provide a wealth of potential interpretations. So it is that any perceived correspondence between Tarot and Runes is subjective and personal. Here now, for your consideration, and I hope enjoyment, are my associations for the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot and the 24 Runes of the Elder Futhark, with a space at the end for the blank.

The First Eight

Fehu: Prosperity and the fat of the land. (The Empress)

Uruz: Strength (Strength).

Thurisaz: Breakthrough, by force or luck. (The Wheel of Fortune).

Ansuz: The word of Odin: "It is spoken." (The Hierophant).

Raido: Journey of the Soul. (Death).

Kenaz: Guiding light. (The Star).

Gebo: An equal gift, or fair exchange. (Justice).

Wunjo: Joyous celebration. (The Sun).

The Second Eight

Haglaz: Threatening forces. (The Tower).

Nauthiz: Crossing the abyss. (Judgement).

Isa: Restrained force. (The Emperor).

Jera: Annual harvest, season's end. (after Fehu, The Empress).

Eihwaz: The inner eye, dream knowledge, psychic renewal. (The Hermit).

Pertho: Roll of the dice, lucky stars. (The Magician).

Algiz: Spirit guardian, sanctuary. (The High Priestess).

Sowelo: Divine stimulation. (Temperance).

The Third Eight

Tiwaz: Complete devotion. (The Hanged Man).

Berkano: Feminine mysteries. (The Moon).

Ehwaz: Living together, a matched pair. (The Lovers).

Mannaz: Brothers-in-Arms. (The Chariot).

Laguz: Life force, instincts, the subliminal. (The Fool).

Inguz: Masculine energy, sexual rapture. (with Mannaz, The Chariot).

Dagaz: Breakthrough, great wisdom. (The World).

Othala: Material possessions. (The Devil).


Wyrd, the blank Rune: _________ . ( ? ).

On the road to discovering for yourself the meaning that the Runes may have for you in your life, remember that even when given singular attributions, the Runes are most often used in combination, and the resulting flow of suggestions is always likely to reveal something totally unique. A reading may be done for a single question, or an arrangement of Runes created to represent a personal idea or feeling. Often dice are used to determine the number of Runes to be drawn, which are then intuitively selected. Or a random casting made to allow the resultant Runes to appear spontaneously. Early on in our relationship my wife Christine asked me to draw some Runes for her, which we determined would be four in number, and they were Gebo Kenaz Laguz Algiz. "Good Lights, Trust Spirits," was my interpretation. And so may it be with you. 

Further Reading:

Haindl Tarot: A Reader's Handbook, Rachel Pollock; U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford CT 1999

A Practical Guide to the Runes, Lisa Peschel; Llewellyn Publications, Minneapolis MN 1989

The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Runes, Sirona Knight; Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York NY 2000

An Illustrated Guide to the Runes, Jonathan Dee, Gramercy Books, New York NY 2001

The Crowley Tarot Handbook,  Akron (C.F. Frey) and Hajo Banzhaf; U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford CT 1995


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