An Icelandic divination deck, the Yggdrasil Norse Divination cards, have been awarded two prizes by the International Tarot Foundation. The foundation’s CARTA 2020 awards were given in six categories and the Yggdrasil Norse Divination deck was nominated for Outstanding Artistic Achievement, which it won, but was also given the Judges’ Award for Best Oracle Deck.
“We’re amazed at how well the deck has been received and we’re honoured to be in such distinguished company for the CARTA Awards,” says Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir, who wrote the deck’s handbook. “The award winners were announced by video clip online. The foundation sent me a link to the clip and I looked at it but thought we had lost out. Then I wrote a message to my brother telling him we hadn’t won. Not until we checked again did I see we had won not one but two prizes.”
The deck is based on Nordic mythology and artist Haukur Halldórsson is the instigator behind it. He’s been creating imagery inspired by deities and beings from Nordic mythology for decades. In making the cards he recruited his daughter, Gunnhildur Hauksdóttir who is a contemporary artist in her own right, to write the deck’s handbook. She drew out the symbolism of the mythology in her father’s drawings and created the Yggdrasil Spread. This is a spread designed specifically for laying these cards.
Both father and daughter adhere to paganism, according to the Icelandic Asatru Association. For Halldórsson and Hauksdóttir it’s been a life-long story. “My work has been inspired by Nordic mythology and folklore since Gunnhildur was just a little girl. She’s grown up with this imagery. Heathendom has been ever-present for us,” says Halldórsson.
Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, the first high priest of the Asatru Association and the person who revived Icelandic heathendom in the 1970s and 80s was a friend of the family. “He would often spend Yule with us and we would spend the summers on his farm helping with lambing and haying,” says Hauksdóttir. “He taught me about nature and how to chant the first verses of the Völuspá when I was a child.”
Creating the deck was in one sense a family project enriched by the process of exploring Nordic mythology in greater depth. ”My father guided me and sent me reading material as I was writing the guide, but the content of The Eddas can be read on so many levels, and the symbolism is so strong that you could say the text for the handbook wrote itself,” says Hauksdóttir.
The Yggdrasil deck has its roots in the world view of The Eddas; a collection of medieval Icelandic literary works. The deck holds 81 cards; nine cards for each of the nine worlds of The Eddas. The Yggdrasil Spread is based on the way the worlds are placed in the tree of life and the meaning that each world adds.
The deck was published in English by Llewellyn Books in 2019 and has been a success particularly in North America. It is available through all bookstores, online and direct from Llewellyn Books and is due to be translated into French and Russian for publication.
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