The Hanged Man
Professor of Runes
Centuries ago, fortune-telling bards in northern Europe
used runes to divine the past, present, and future. Today, the professor of
runes helps keep their ancient art alive.
In tarot, the Hanged Man is a
visionary who sacrifices one life to find another. Ironically, the
professor of runes is a one-eyed visionary — but he compensates with
Odin, the king of the Norse gods, was the original
Hanged Man. In a supreme act of self-sacrifice, he hung upside-down from
the World Tree for nine days and nights. In return, he was rewarded with
the runes — the gift of written language.
Most tarot readers are used to seeing the Hanged Man
upside-down. In the Wizards Tarot, however, the Hanged Man has turned
his life around. He’s an upstanding citizen, and he’s sharing his wisdom
with a new generation of mystics.
This Hanged Man is still hanging, in at least one
sense: his portrait is hanging on the wall. It’s a visual pun.
The portrait also incorporates several reversals. The
art is a recursive print that features a picture, in a picture, in a
picture. The effect is hypnotizing; it’s like looking into a time
tunnel, where the image spins into infinity.
The professor of runes has two ravens: Hugin and
Munin, who are named for Odin’s messenger birds.
The stained-glass window in the professor’s classroom
features the 24 letters of the runic alphabet.
The Hanged Man card is associated with Neptune, the
planet of illusion. The glyph for Neptune, a trident, is hanging on the
One of the Hanged Man’s books is open to the Hebrew
letter Mem, which means
water. The image reflects his connection to the depths of the
unconscious and subconscious mind.
More than 3,000 years ago, the people of Northern Europe
used a magical, mysterious alphabet called the runes. Each rune had both a
literal meaning and a closely related symbolic significance.
For centuries, runes were carved on stone, etched into
metal, and burned into wood. Runes had the power to charm, to curse, and to
spell — in both senses of the word. Runes were used in poetry, inscriptions,
and invocations to the Norse pantheon of gods. Today, runes still have the
power to counsel, to clarify, and to communicate.
This is the most common runic alphabet, known as the
Elder Futhark. (“Futhark” is an acronym for the first six letters of the
runic alphabet.) Each letter is listed in order, along with its spelling,
pronunciation, literal meaning, and divinatory meaning.
Cattle: possessions, moveable wealth, earned income, security,
abundance, social status
Uruz (“oo-rooze”) Aurochs, the wild ox: strength, endurance,
courage, willpower, the challenge of the hunt
Thurisaz (“thoor-ee-saws”) Giant; the god Thor and his famous
hammer: energy, attack, defense, conflict
Ansuz (“awn-sooze”) Mouth; the god Odin: speech, language,
communication, wisdom, advice, prophecy, revelation
Raidho (“rye-though”) Chariot; wheel: movement, travel,
control, passage, journey, quest
Kenaz (“kane-awze”) Fire; torch; lantern: enlightenment,
illumination, vision, clarity, discernment
Gebo (“gay-boe”) Gift: generosity, exchange, mutual affection,
partnership, obligation, reciprocity
Wunjo (“woon-yo”) Joy: pleasure, ecstasy, glory, bliss,
achievement, satisfaction, harmony
Hagalaz (“haw-gaw-laws”) Hail: disruption, destruction, the
unexpected, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable
Nauthiz (“now-these”) Need: delay, hardship, restriction,
Isa (“ee-saw”) Ice: inertia, freeze, frigidity, cooling,
standstill, blockage, slippage, preservation
Jera (“yare-awe”) Harvest: fruitfulness, bounty, reward,
outcome, cyclical conclusions
Eihwaz (“eye-wawz”) Yew tree: endurance, reliability,
constancy, consistency, purpose, death and resurrection
Perthro (“perth-row”) Dice cup: luck, fortune, gambling,
skill, mystery, secrets, revelation, initiation, the occult
Algiz (“all-geese”) Elk horns: the upraised hand that wards
off evil, protection, defense, blessing
Sowilo (“soe-wee-low”) Sun: radiance, optimism, light, health,
Tiwaz (“tea-wawz”) Justice; the warrior god Tyr: honor,
Berkana (“bear-kawn-ah”) Birch tree; Ostara, goddess of dawn:
renewal, rebirth, recovery, regeneration, fertility, growth
Ehwaz (“ay-wawz”) Horse: teamwork, partnership, trust,
commitment, loyalty, progress, forward motion
Mannaz (“mawn-nawz”) Mankind; humanity: human nature, the
self, the individual, community, society, friends
Lauguz (“law-gooze”) Water: fluidity, mutability, fertility, cleansing, intuition, emotion
Ingwaz (“eeng-wawz”) The fertility
god Ing: sexuality, potency, gestation, growth, completion
Dagaz (“thaw-gauze”) Day; daybreak; dawn: light, clarity, awareness, awakening
Othala (“oath-awe-law”) Ancestral home: inheritance,
dedication, material and spiritual heritage
Wyrd (“weird”) The blank rune: The unknowable, the yet to be
Make your own runes out of paper, clay, pebbles, or wood.
Traditionally, rune makers would sing or chant the name of each rune as they
You can use runes in conjunction with tarot cards. Draw
runes to clarify the meaning of individual cards, or to add new layers of
information to a spread.
You can also use runes as a secret magical language.
Start by converting the letters of your name into the runic alphabet. Later,
you can inscribe runes on your magical tools to imbue them with extra power
and significance. You can also craft spells, charms, amulets, and totems by
combining runes into graphically pleasing shapes.
The Hanged Man’s Hugin and Munin Spread
The names of Odin’s raven messengers, Hugin and Munin,
mean “thought” and “memory,” respectively. Use this spread to determine what
you know about a current situation, and what you remember about a similar
event in the past.
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