Runic Tarot Connects to Norse Mythology

image of the Runic Tarot deck. shows box and cards

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.

image of the Runic Tarot cards.

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.

image of the Runic Tarot deck cards.

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.

You’ve Been Runed

Elder Futhark Rune set created by John Hijatt. Made of recovered birch.

Getting Started on Your Rune Journey

In this post we will take a look at brief aspects of beginning your rune journey. W In other posts we will explore the ways that runes interact with our wyrd and how we experience them in our everyday lives. The series to follow will be a way to level-set and gain different perspective on your relationship with the runes and how to engage them in other ways.

First, some basics. There are basically two way of looking at runes: the historical, linguistic study and the magical, divination (often labeled “esoteric”) use of them. There is overlap as there are evidence and references for the concurrent use of historical Futhark/Futhorc runes in magical use, but the way we use runes today for that purpose is definitely a modern creation inspired by texts preserved in the 13th century with evidence from artefacts from centuries earlier.

For some, that may be quite a shock to think that the runes are not an “ancient divination system of the Norse” as they are often described. We know that the Germanic writing system we call the Futhark (most used today is the Elder Futhark for the system encompassing Fehu through Othala/Dagaz) existed and came into being in the way we understand it about the first to second century. There are items with the futhark written on them and showing the form of a writing system. There are also examples of words used in a magical setting written in runes. With the onset of the Viking Age in the 9th and 10th centuries, the rune poems were created and the stories we call the Lore began to be told and were preserved in the 13th century.

The three main extant rune poems used as the foundation for the connection to the mystical energy of the runes are the Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse (Norwegian), and the Icelandic poems. There are other poems that have been found since and certainly many more poems were written over the centuries, but these three are the main “points of contact” for now. But it is mainly from these three texts that we derive the magical and divination use of the runes today.

Runes are described in sections 139 and 140 of the Hávamál as being a secret or mystery that was gained through a shamanic-type journey taken by Odin in a highly intense experience over nine nights.

I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.

No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.

– Rúnatal, Benjamin Thorpe translation

We find ourselves on a magical mystery tour with the runes that began so long ago but did not end just because of the shift in religious practice. The runes went down, occasionally resurfacing from time to time for brief periods, until they were found again and “taken up” about 40 years ago. The poems add layers of meanings to the runes as we integrate them with our modern perspective which then open portals to traveling on the planes of Wyrd to experience special gifts.

The runes are indeed taken up and ready to share with those who will take the journey to peer down and find them. You can conduct your own meditative journey to meet and find the runes just as Odin did. See what When you have made that connection to the runes and they have presented themselves for you to take up, celebrate that victory with an offering to Odin and the beings who accompanied you, protected you, and guided you on that special quest.

After this success, seek the guidance of the gods who know the runes best to guide and teach you. As the purveyors of magic and sorcery among the gods, the Vanir are our go-to teachers and guides along with Odin. I acknowledge Odin for the example of gaining that work through a deep meditative journey and wisdom. I work mostly with Heimdall to teach me the many layers and nuances of the runes and Freya to properly work with their magical power.

There are many books on runes available today and many people simply use just the key words in an attempt to apply runic power to their practices. But the relationship will not have the real power until the runes make themselves visible to you to take them up. Tread well and carefully as you begin your learning and seek the close relationship with the Vanir (including Freyr as the priest of magic himself) to spiritually guide the magical journey.

As with all spiritual skill building, it is wise to study and understand well the tools and energies with which you are working. Connect with others who have experience and insights as well as reading other resources. Welcome to this wyrdly fantastic journey.

Once you take them up, “You’ve been Runed.”

This article was first published in the eZine: Taufr,A Talisman of the Heidhr Craft – Spring 2020 (March 2020) published by Iaconoagraphy Press. It has been slightly edited to fit this format.

PantheaCon 2020: the closing of a chapter

pantheacon program and ribbons

This year marks the final Pantheacon. After 26 years, the organizer of the event, Glenn Turner, has retired and decided to pursue new adventures and experiences that life has to offer.  I wish her the most wonderful journey and thank her and her many volunteer team members for setting up this amazing experience for so many.

My first PantheaCon was actually not one that I attended. In a previous chapter of my wonderful adventures, I was an Irish dancer.  I love Irish dancing and whenever traditional Irish music is played, dance steps that I learned or wanted to learn are moving in my head. Irish music and dance are, magical.

But I digress. My first exposure to PantheaCon was when it was still in San Francisco (SF).  I was in SF for an Irish dance competition (called an Oireachtas for those who are curious) and we were staying at the same hotel that was hosting PantheaCon.  My friend and I wandered through the vendor area to check out the goods offered and saw many interesting people.  This was prior to my pagan and my Northern Tradition experience, though not before I was aware of the gods and goddesses. Little did I think then that a couple years later I would be attending conference workshops and making many wonderful friends over the following 14 or so years.

My years at PantheaCon have been a positive experience. I have met people with whom  I have enjoyed sharing space, exchanging ideas, and continuing connection beyond the PantheaCon space. The con has dealt with troubling occurrences and responded to those issues brought up by addressing and providing redress in following years. I have seen inclusive and welcoming programming and spaces the years that I’ve attended.

The programming included a range of topics over the decades including 101 classes, rituals, panel discussions, workshops, meditation, concerts, and performance. Having such a variety of subjects gathered in one space provided a wonderful collection for people to relate and see how other traditions practiced and interacted with the otherworlds. Among the joys of the event are the variety of ways that people express their style. Hair color from the rainbows, sparkles and glitter, elaborate dress to jeans and tees, and tails, ears, and fairy wings. We’ve seen wizards, sorceresses, elves, fae, animal spirits, and even St. Nick show up as well as the many beautiful spirits and smiles throughout the event.

pantheacon ribbons
Ribbons collected at PantheaCon since 2009

Another of the fun activities was ribbon collecting. To many (especially the children), collecting little 2 x 4” ribbons to attach to the name badge was as much a part of the convention experience as attending workshops. The ribbons were of many colors and had messages from as simple as the name of an organization to clever sayings.

Some of my favorites over the years include:

You’ve Been Runed (this was my ribbon);  It’s the Money or the Honey (my husband’s); Mind the Ginnungagap!; What would Loki Do?; I’ve been Butterfly Mooned; Open the Whale;                My Other Athame is a Light Saber; What would Eddy Do?;    Bad Druid, Now Go to Your Tree;  Take a Liking to a Viking  

Then there were the hospitality suites. These places were spaces provided by groups to facilitate additional learning, introduction, or fellowship around common tradition or themes. The suites also hosted panel discussions, workshops, rituals, and socializing opportunities. As a person of the LGBTQI+ community, I enjoyed connecting with others from the queer community, allies, and people of color throughout the convention and especially within the hospitality suites.

For four years, my husband and I hosted a hospitality suite for divination. We held workshops, shared the latest decks and books from the top publishers, and made way for the divination deck tool swap. It was a lot planning and commitment, but we enjoyed the interaction and meeting some really talented and interesting people.

With this being the last of the con, I focused on the people of PantheaCon. I looked for those that have attended over the years and infuse the convention with their quirkiness, their smile, and their joy.  I spent time with special friends in the vending room who carefully select their products to be the best for the person who chooses to go home with it. Or those who handcraft clothing, jewelry, artwork, drums, tools, books, pottery, and more.  I enjoyed meeting authors from Llewellyn and Weiser as well as the wonderful staff from both companies who come every year from the Midwest and East Coast to sunny California only to spend most of the time inside to meet with attendees.

What I missed this year were the many people who chose not to or could not attend the event. There were less hospitality suites as many chose not to attend, leaving fewer spaces for people to have those inclusive spaces to connect, have fun, and additional opportunities to the regular programming schedule. I thank the groups who did attend and set up those spaces. They were welcome and appreciated.

the last ribbons of PantheaCon (PCon) 2020

As this chapter of pagan conventions draws to a close, another will follow it. A planning committee is already formed and working out details to produce a new convention that will further the needs of pagans for the next season. May it find the grounding, volunteers, and support to continue this valued and necessary need for community building, encouragement to face the world (especially when many are solitary practitioners), and learn about and from other traditions and practices.

To all who have likewise enjoyed PantheaCon, it has been a pleasure to share space with you over the years.  To the future conventions and shared ritual and learning fires, be they in person or virtual – hail!

Follow me on Instagram: @wyrdgifts1 Facebook: @giftsofthewyrd Twitter: @wyrdgifts #pantheacon #pantheacon2020 #wyrdgifts #giftsofthewyrdpodcast #heidhrcraft #runestersofinstagram #inclusiveheathenry

Turning the Wheel book cover
Turning the Wheel from Iaconagraphy Press.

Happy Solstice: Hail Sunna

Sunna by annaiceflames on Deviant Art.

Whether celebrating Winter Solstice or Summer Solstice, may it be joyous and one filled with Sunna’s wonder.

I found this beautiful artwork in a search. I hope the artist attribute is correct. It was located on the Deviant Art page of AnnaiceFlames.

Freya Prayer Day

Today is #FreyaPrayerDay. Take a moment to spend some time with Freya. You can sing a song, write or recite a poem, draw, have a blot, or just take in some time with Her. However you do, if you post about it, please use the hashtag above to connect the conversation.

Freya Prayer Day was created by Victoria of the  Lion & Dragonfly   so that we can honor the Lady worldwide. Visit the blog for more about the day which is held the second Friday of the month and to subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

Follow on Facebook: @FreyaPrayerDay and email


Artwork: Freya by Natasa Ilncic

New Releases


Be sure to look into the new items released this month (or soon to be).

Völuspá cd by Tonya Threet is now available. Tonya sets stanzas of the Völuspá to music. I’ve heard samples (one featured on Episode 11) and think it will be a really good album. I’m looking forward to my copy. Look for her on Facebook at Tonya Threet.

Odin:  Ecstasy, Runes, and Norse Magic by Diana L. Paxson is now available. check with your local metaphysical shop to see if they can order it from Weiser (support them when you can) or order from Weiser Books or your favorite online seller.

A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery & Magic: Wyrdworking, Rune Craft, Divination & Wortcunning by Alaric Albertsson. This is a re-release of his earlier work Wyrdworking which is out of print. Book shops can order from Llewellyn (support your local shop) or you can order from your online retailer. Alaric and Taren Martin (creators of the Martin Anglo-Saxon Rune Deck will be guests on an upcoming episode).

Runes of the Northern Lights by Paola Tartara. Rune deck with Runes depicted in a delightful retro style. Beautifully colored. This deck will be available October 2017.