Viking Oracle – Review by Jan Tjeerd
The Viking Oracle by Stacey DeMarco with art by Jimmy Manton was published by Blue Angel Publishing in February 2017. Many folks who are interested in divination using Rune cards and Viking themed oracle decks may be interested in the deck for the images connected to the Elder Futhark or as an oracle deck connected to the Gods and Goddess of the North and inspired by Viking-era history.
Based on the description of the deck by Blue Angel Publishing, one would think this could be a suitable deck (even with the mention of the “25 Nordic runes” which we will address later).
“Combining the symbolism and divinatory significance of the 25 Nordic runes with a further 20 Viking-themed cards, the Viking Oracle is a powerful and comprehensive tool for insight and guidance from the Norse tradition. This deck offers a portal back through time into the intriguing culture of ancient Viking society―moving beyond stereotypes of warriors and raiders and delving into the extraordinary Norse mythos and the intricate and powerful belief systems of this ancient people. You’re invited to work with a range of card spreads and striking Norse imagery to deepen your connection with the fascinating world of the Vikings.” – From Blue Angel Publishing’s website (1).
Given that, there are some pros and cons to this deck and system. Prior to getting right to the artwork and meanings, Let’s cover some items that are easy to address and set aside.
The Layout of the Deck
There are 12 female, 11 male, 14 objects, and eight rune designs that make up the artwork for the deck. The artwork is done by Jimmy Manton who has worked with DeMarco on other decks such as the Halloween Oracle, Gods & Titans and Goddesses and Sirens as well as on other projects. It is bold, colorful, and creative.
My first reaction was formed by reading the promotional text and seeing just a couple of the cards when this appeared for pre-order on Amazon late in 2016 was to set it aside to maybe consider it at a later date. I was not very impressed. Mostly because of the “25 Nordic runes” comment. This meant that they include the “blank” rune as one of the runes of the Elder Futhark. However, I thought it might be worth using the rune cards as an option for readings and was how they would include the Gods and Goddesses.
I think the biggest issue with this deck is a lot of missed opportunity as a whole, but the runes in particular. Beginning with the artwork, a lot was wasted with the posed figures in winged helmets and bulging biceps. The box stated it wanted to move beyond stereotypes, yet all of the figures are nothing but stereotypes. These images basically appear to be mannequins for the costumes.
The clothing is certainly not of the Viking era. While beautiful gowns, cloaks, and armor adorn the figures, they seem to be a mix of Celtic, Greek and Roman styles that make for nice fantasy dress up, but do not represent the era the deck is supposed to reflect. I showed examples to a member of a living history group who confirmed these do not represent Viking era styles. One would expect that a deck extolling the “wisdom of the ancient Norse” in a “Viking” oracle, the clothing would be true to the period.
Another note is the excessive use of winged headdresses and helmets. It really seemed that these were drawn for day tripping Viking festival patrons rather than those seriously working with the runes and divination tools.
Among the rune portion of the deck, the major issue here is Demarco does not make any effort to connect the art to the meaning of the card. For example figures drawn are generic male and female that do not relate to the rune. Even on the runes that actually ARE connected to a God or Goddess (such as Tiwaz for Tyr, Ingwaz for Freyr Ing) they opted to use an image of the rune.
Given that the rune was provided at the bottom of the card with the name written out, this was very disappointing that the images were not connected to the runes better. The deck also included the “blank” rune as part of the runes. However, this is easily corrected by just shifting this card to the oracle side of the deck.
The Oracle Cards
But the problems continue with the images for the oracle portion of the deck. Many of the cards specifically name a God or Goddess for the divination. Yet the image bears little resemblance or seem to include any of the things we know about Them from the lore (such as Brinsgamen, the cat-drawn chariot or falcon feathered cloak for Freya, the depiction of Hel as half decaying/half beautiful, etc are not included).
Descriptions of the Cards
Regarding the text in the book about the runes and the oracle section, there is a lot better resources out there to reference for the runes and to create conclusions for the oracle cards. The author includes a poem for each of the runes but they are not from the rune poems we are aware of (I assume the poems are her own as she did not credit any other author).
DeMarco includes meanings for each rune and expands on the meaning she provides, which are basically alright. Without a bibliography, it is not easy to determine where her meanings are sourced from. However, it does seem she possibly draws from Ralph Blum’s oracle.
The stories associated with the Gods and the era of the people in the Age are generically OK – they seem to be more tales of what the author recalls were told her some years past rather than researching better sources and coming up with a divinatory connection to the subject of the card.
This really leaves the Viking Oracle to have not accomplished what it states it set out to do. The deck may not be entirely valueless, however, for those who may have already purchased it. I suggest that if someone has purchased this and wants to try to find a use for it, just set aside (or discard) the book that accompanied the cards and go with what you already know, or read up on the subject of the card to create a meaning for it (as well as to draw the eight and ninth world on the Nine Worlds card which appears to have only seven of them).
Although the deck did not meet with the uses I can recommend, the cards may still be an inspiration to some and not a total loss. To make the best use of this deck, set aside the accompanying book. Approach learning the deck in two sections, the runes and the oracle. Obtain a better source of rune knowledge such as Katie Gerrard’s Odins Gateways (a good beginning rune resource) or Diana Paxson’s Taking Up the Runes.
Shift the blank 25th card (called the blank or the “void”) to the oracle portion of the deck and make some associations based on information found in resources through the stories of the tradition.
However, for any who have not purchased the deck and may have them on a wish list to obtain later as rune cards or a viking-era themed oracle, do a little more viewing of the images to see if they resonate with you. There are a some better rune decks already available.
If you are interested in a more detailed description, check out the audio or video podcast on episode 11 (audio) and the Gifts of the Wyrd YouTube channel (video).
- Blue Angel(r) Publishing. Website: http://www.blueangelonline.com/viking_oracle.html accessed September 11, 2017