New Deck: Tarot of Northern Shadows


Onward to the next deck! The random number generator has give me these three to choose from:

The Kamasutra Tarot is already on my list for decks to sell/trade, and a quick look confirms that choice. The Wheel of Change is a deck I used exclusively for a short time a few months ago, so I’m once again going for the one I haven’t worked with at all: The Tarot of Northern Shadows.

I got the deck from an AT friend in a trade for a tarot bag. It is focused on Norse and Celtic myths, deities, heroes, and folklore. I also have a scan of the companion book that contains a very brief introduction, a small handful of spreads, and a good amount of information about the cards (about 1 to 1.5 pages per card).

My favorite card is the World which shows the World Tree according to Norse tradition, with the lower world of Ancestors guarded by a dragon, the middle world surrounded by a snake that eats its own tail, and – connected to it by a rainbow – the upper world of Walhalla (don’t quote me on the correct terms here – as of right now, I don’t have much of a clue about Norse or Celtic mythology, so I may get things wrong at times). On top of that sits the world tree, whose roots reach down into all worlds. The dragon/snake sit at its roots, and an eagle and hawk sit in its topmost branches. The eagle is the ruler of the birds, only outwitted by the hawk who hid on the eagle’s back to be carried up high and then fly over the eagle to be crowned the highest-flying bird of them all.* The middle world shows a bunch of deer, the significance of which I can’t explain right now. A red squirrel runs down the roots towards the lower world, carrying messages (mostly gossip and insults) back and forth between eagle and snake/dragon.

I like that the drawings don’t have clear boundaries but often blend into the white background of the cards. That leaves the scenes open to be completed in our imagination. I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about Norse and Celtic mythology this week, and I’m curious to see how this deck will work for me.

* Added 21 January 2011:
I have to correct myself here. Apparently I got two mythologies mixed up, because the story I told about the hawk and eagle is actually one about wren and eagle, and it’s not Norse but goes back to a fable by Aesop. Apologies for any confusion caused by that, and for any wrong ideas I may have spread! For the record, it doesn’t seem clear why there is a hawk sitting between the eagle’s eyes in Norse mythology.


4 responses »

  1. Hi, the deer are supposed to nibble at the leaves of the World Tree. I’ll be interested to see what you make of this deck – I love Norse mythology but so far haven’t found a deck based on it that really grabs me.

  2. Oh, I’m looking forward to these readings! This is a deck that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’ve got the Old Path – which is by the same artist, I think – and it seems like it would be a good companion.

    The approach you’ve taken to actually _use_ all your decks is such a good idea. I admire your focus and dedication!

  3. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply!

    You’re right, Sylvia Gainsford has also created the art for the Tarot of the Old Path, and Howard Rodway wrote the book to go with it.
    For some reason, I was never interested in the Old Path deck (if I remember correctly, I didn’t like the way she assigned different suits to different ethnicities).

    Focus and dedication? That’s just how it looks because I made the period of how long I needed to stick with every deck short enough to suit my rather limited ability to stay with one thing only before I switch to something else (later I often cycle back to things that interest me and do another round of them, and another…).
    I was tired of having a lot of unused decks just sitting there, constantly being passed over for an old favorite or a shiny new acquisition. Which is why I embarked on the Deck of the Week project in the first place. I want to use all of my decks (and non-deck oracles) for at least one week exclusively to see which ones are worth keeping and which ones need to go to someone else who actually clicks with them. Besides, it’s by using a deck in some way that I learn most, so that’s what I do.

  4. Thanks for explaining the deer! I later saw there is something about them in the companion book as well, but at the time of writing the post I was going by my memory only.

    After a week with this deck, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who was looking for a deck based on Norse mythology. While there are some beautfiful depictions of Norse deities in the majors, the rest of the deck leaves much to be desired.

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