This is a review long overdue. I’ve had the Runic Tarot Kit for over a year and intended to do a write up about it, but life happened and motivation got interrupted. Although it has been out for a while, I’m hoping this can still be useful to seekers and maybe share a new interest in it. The Runic Tarot showcases a blend of Viking era imagery and high fantasy style. It is by Jack Sephiroth and Zhang Chao, with a guidebook written by Jaymi Elford and published by Llewellyn Publishing.
I started following the artwork on Facebook when he began posting as a project for the Major Arcana. I enjoyed seeing the style and concepts that pulled in from Norse mythology to represent the meanings of individual cards. The questions were quickly asked if he was going to publish it as a full deck. I don’t recall the process of how it ended up being published by Llewellyn, but am glad that it was able to be done.
The quality of the kit is excellent. The cardstock is sturdy enough to shuffle and use on a regular basis, the box design is beautifully designed and easy to access, and the book is in full color and easy to read. It makes a nice set for easy storage.
The Major Arcana cards depict the Norse gods and their stories. Each card is a work of art, with meticulous attention to detail. While misty and mysterious, they are also filled with highpoints of light and color which draw out the features of the character and the story being featured. There are some elements that will draw disagreement, such as the occasional winged helmet, but overall I think the artwork beautifully represents the mythology.
One error is on the Star card. The image is Thor battling Jorgamundr, but description in the book references Njord in the image as well as Thor. I asked Jaymi Elford about it, and she said she wasn’t sure how reference to Njord was added, but it doesn’t affect using the deck. Knowing the story, you can ignore the mistake.
Some of my personal favorites include The Norns as the Wheel of Fortune, Ullr as the Hanged Man, Tyr and Fenrir representing Justice, and Heimdall as the Magician.
Artwork in the Minor Arcana portrays scenes from the realm of Midgard, which represent the people, culture, and activities of the Viking era. These images maintain a connection to the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, allowing readers familiar with tarot meanings to work seamlessly with the deck. While some of the illustrations may not track exactly with the RWS, a basic understanding of tarot symbolism should be enough to in interpret them well.
Runes: Since it is called the “Runic” Tarot, we expect runes and they are present on the cards. The Elder Futhark is featured on the Majors. Adding runes to a tarot deck is a modern practice, so there are no universal (or historical) correlations. While the associations between specific runes and cards are subjective and left to the creator’s discretion, I appreciate including them as they provide an additional layer of symbolism and depth.
In the Minor Arcana, the creators incorporate runes and bindrunes from four other runic systems. The Suit of Horns (Cups) draws from the Medieval Futhark, the Suit of Shields (Swords) utilizes the Younger Futhark, the Suit of Swords uses the Anglo-Saxon Futhark, and the Suit of Winds includes the Armanen Runes. The inclusion of the Armanen Runes will spark some controversy due to their association with Germanic Nationalism of the early 20th century. Sephiroth emphasizes that their inclusion does not support any form of bigotry or nationalist ideology but rather acknowledges their place in runic history.
While the book doesn’t elaborate on the specific reasons for choosing particular runes for each card, it lists the runes and their meanings in the card descriptions. This approach allows users to establish their own personal connection between the runes and the cards. For the cards that have a bindrune (a combination of single runes to create an energetic symbol), however, a short explanation of how it can enhance the card’s message is shared in the meaning.
The Runic Tarot is the culmination of a lot of thoughtful and meditative work creating a beautiful tool which users can use to explore the mystical world of the Norse gods, the runes, and tarot. If you are a seasoned tarot reader and an enthusiast of Norse mythology, this deck is bound to spark your imagination and enhance your spiritual journey.
Pick up the Runic Tarot Kit from your local bookseller (or ask them to order if not in stock) or from Llewellyn Publishing.
The Runic Tarot was received from the publisher for review. Comments reflect my own opinions.