Yggdrasil: Norse Divination Cards was published in summer 2019 by Llewellyn and is by Haukur Halldórsson with G. Hauksdottir. The deck has 81 black and white illustrated cards depicting gods, goddesses, Jotuns, Dwarfs, Elves, and other beings and realms. This oracle deck is special because, unlike other oracle decks, it includes more than the commonly known gods and goddesses of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotunar. The inspiration for the artwork and details are from the stories, mythology, and spiritual practices of Northern European Traditions (Vanatru, Heidhrinn Craft, Heathenry, Rokkr, Asatru, Forn Sidh, Norse Paganism, etc).
Creators Haukur Halldórsson (artist) and G Hauksdottir (writer) open doors to the realms of beings that have a lot to explore and show us. When I first saw the announcement in a Llewellyn catalog at my local metaphysical shop, I was immediately drawn to the artwork and excited about the potential of this deck. The tiny image showed only the box cover and four of the cards to entice my interest and anticipation for the summer release.
This was a deck that I looked forward to looking at the artwork, the divination/oracle aspect of it, and the stories that would be included. When I received the deck, I eagerly opened the box and flipped through the cards. What a delight to see so much more of the artwork and to have the accompanying book to begin a journey with these diverse beings. With that, here are my impressions:
The cards come in a sturdy box, magnetic closures, and an insert that holds the cards in place. The cards are a sturdy cardstock with semi-gloss finish and a size of 3 ½ x 5 1/8”.
This is a good size to showcase the art, but does make shuffling the deck a bit of a challenge. Some will find it useful to utilize an over-hand shuffle or riffle shuffle the cards in smaller groups.
The artwork is very detailed and interesting. Artwork in an oracle deck is pretty important because it is what draws a person to it and sparks that connection to the spirit (wyrd) of the experience. Here the artist goes in a direction not usual for oracles, black and white line work instead of the colorful/fanciful images of other decks. Here it works very well. It is detailed and evokes a sense of classic artwork that is found in very old books which used block prints for images. I really enjoy it on each card.
Halldórsson’s artwork on the characters appears to take different styles or genres. It is subtle and when I asked about it, they mentioned that it was just the way he draws. I like that it evokes, in my untrained appreciation, the artwork of the classic era, modern Klimt or Picasso, avant garde, and some tribal elements. It’s really a great way for each of the beings to show just a little bit of their personality.
On just a couple of the cards, the art is slightly overcrowded and probably represents better in a much larger format. When reduced to the card size, it is easy for more detailed images to become more condensed and harder to see. But this is only on a couple of them and does not render the image useless in the deck.
There are also some designs that seem a bit out of place or oddly chosen. When I showed the deck to some of my female friends, they thought that depictions of some of the goddesses diminished their power and strength. I understand their arguments and present it as a topic of thought for others to consider as they work with the goddesses on this project.
The book that accompanies is a good size and printed in easy to read type. It is laid out with an appropriately sized image of the card and the text of the story. The characters (they are not all gods and goddesses) are categorized into nine groups of nine beings. Each group is connected to one of the Nine Realms of the Northern Tradition cosmology.
The interesting thing about this form of groups, is that you may be surprised by a group that Halldórsson assigns to a certain character. Rather than get upset or declare his experiences/choices as “wrong”, it creates an opportunity to look into this aspect of expression and see how it will add to your own connection to that being.
The text is written by G. Hauksdottir who includes the stories of the beings along with divination possibilities. Many of these characters do not have easily found sources from which to learn more. Some might even challenge how we look at the “accepted” explanations of them. The most obvious of these is for Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld. In this deck, they are interpreted as present, future, and past instead of the widely accepted and taught past, present, future (resp).
When I asked G about this, she related that these are the stories they grew up with in Iceland. When looking at the Norns example, for instance, the understanding of them relies more on the nuances of language, interpretations, and how sometimes things are simplified. I found this freeing and opened opportunities to start with these stories and learn more about a being from a different starting point and looking into those with whom I am familiar with a different approach.
Just a couple of technical items about the text of the book. 1) A more complete table of contents would be appreciated. Currently it lists only the nine groups. Because there are so many cards with unfamiliar characters, it will be very useful to have an alphabetical listing of each card with the page number. This way, when a card is drawn it can be easily located in the book.
2) The stories are really great and it would be useful is references to where they come from (if they have such references, such as Eddas, mythology, collections, folklore, etc) would be indicated. Also that if something goes in a direction so drastically (as with the Norns), just a short explanation to help readers understand that process.
USING THE DECK
This is a large deck and has a lot of possibilities. Included is a spread for the Nine Realms (Worlds) and how each position relates to the other in a reading as well as when related cards show up in the reading. It’s a big spread with a lot of possibilities and attention. Slightly complicated, but I think with regular use it will be easier to use. I do not think this deck will lend itself easily to the more common layouts and spreads that are included in many tarot and oracle offerings. In addition to the spread included for topics needing a lot of feedback, I think this deck will be really good companion to use with other oracle, tarot, or rune readings as clarifying or helping advice.
As with any tradition, I believe it is important to become familiar with the culture, mythology, beings, and traditions (historical and modern) that are part of that expression. This deck is based on Northern European Traditions (Icelandic, Nordic, Germanic) that has a rich mythology to explore and include when connecting with the cosmology of that wyrd (spirit).
This is a really nice work and a very good addition to accompany a divination and spiritual practice. You can pick up or order from your local bookstore if possible or from your preferred online retailer. Follow @divination_yggdrasil on Facebook and Instagram.
This article appeared in The Cartomancer Magazine, June 2020. The masthead image is from the article. Order your pdf copy from thecartomansermagazine.com. Reviews have also appeared in Idunna Magazine, published by The Troth and Oak Leaves, published by ADF.