First off, SPOILERS. Things will be mentioned about Kaldheim that are spoiled information, so, if your enjoyment from said MTG set will be harmed by viewing such, I’d say not to continue.
Welcome back, VORTHOS VOYUERS! Most of us reading this article love a good storyline and, therefore, look ahead to what might be coming in the next set. Now this thought grew from the fact that about a week ago there was a pic released of possible boxart for Kaldheim featuring the planeswalker, Kaya. To back that up, just this week, perfect pics of boxes were released (not sure from where) that clearly affirmed the ghost hunter, Kaya, as featured in this next set.
In the last speculation article, we spent a great deal of time taking a walk through her accomplishments and abilities and the many targets of this assassin of specters. One of the questions left in my mind was, if Kaya usually doesn’t pleasure trip the planes and definitely has a very focused reason for going where she goes, why Kaldheim?
AND that question led me to the research that drove me to this article. Mainly, when Kaya shows up, she’s usually looking for someone. Most of the time, she’s taken up a contract to assassinate someone. And, because of her very special ethereal abilities, it’s usually a someone who has passed on yet still resides with us. And it’s usually someone who is making life miserable for someone else. THUS, the contract.
But, if Kaya is there on a contract, who’s she after? And, if it’s usually a spirit, what kind of spirits would there be on Kaldheim? Let’s look at the source material for the set; Norse Mythology.
As far back as Biblical times, the spirit has been associated mortal breath. Not so different with the Norse. They believed that spirits could not only enter through a person’s respiratory system but, some souls trained in magic, could exit also. It’s no surprise that people in areas like Iceland and Scandinavia believed that extreme storms were powered by the spirits of the dead. Breath to wind to storm; a natural progression.
Besides this, it opens up a dual definition of Spirit. For it can be either a person’s own mind and soul; detached from its mortal bindings. Or it could be a separate entity that either helps, protects or punishes.
Add to that the fact that we have no real textbook of how anything works in Norse Mythology and Folklore since the early Scandanavians didn’t keep a written record. What we have is sparce and muddled. So, thanks to this, we have a harder time to determine the exact nature of the spirit and what they were responsible for. All we have is that the people had a reverent fear of all spirits and created living rituals to appease them.
Spirits known as Fylgja were sort of a ‘guardian angel’ that translated means ‘something that follows’. They ‘follow’ people and entire families. Familiar spirits who share not only life but death with their wards. The Fylgja’s destruction counters their name for many times they ‘go’ before those they protect as a sort of premonition.
MUNIN AND HUGIN
Munin and Hugin are probably the best-known spirits that accompany any Norse god and a great example of a Norse companion spirit. They were two raven spirits that aided Odin on his way. They were said to whisper the ‘news’ which they heard and saw to the All Father. They would fly around the world and discover anything new going on and bring it back. This is why Odin is called, at times, the ‘raven god’ (Hrafnaguo/Hrafnass). Ravens were carrion birds. Also, they were a symbol of Odin’s power to decide the winners and losers of battle. The losers were left as sustenance for the ravens. This emphasized Odin’s role as god of war and death.
But, not only this, but they were intelligent birds as well. They symbolized Odin’s thirst for wisdom and knowledge. Hugin comes from the Old Norse word hugr or ‘thought’. Munin is from munr which is translated ‘desire or memory’ although they both cross over into the same idea of thought.
These spirits embodied the Old Norse thought of spirits that were aspects of a person sent out to do certain things. For Odin, it was his drive for information, insight and knowledge. This was a common type of practice for shamans, sorcerers or any practitioner of magic; especially divination. The type of knowledge that Odin sought was not always safe even for one of the gods. And even Odin feared that his ravens would not return and his flow of information would end.
As said before, any god card that even attempts to capture Odin’s sphere of influence and power must take on many things (See our article on the gods). But these spirits could come in black for their aspect of mortality. Their card should include blue for their search for wisdom; heavy in Scry and card draw.
Most of the ancient European faiths believe that for everything there is a spirit. Landvaettir or ‘land spirits’ were thought guardians of specific grounds. The Vikings revered them enough to know not to challenge them even when invading a foreign land. These spirits came in many forms much like the primordial powers we’ve seen in MTG past. The prosperity of the land they dwell in and defend depends on their treatment by the mortals who live there. Rituals and faithful practices were a part of everyday life to ensure good fortune from the spirits that embodied the land. There are sometimes monoliths or ancient standing stones associated with these spirits.
I could see nature spirits of this sort running in green/white. Tokens or counter rampage would probably be involved.
Disir are a more specific form of this spirit. They seem to be more concentrated to a certain family, clan or family’s land. Seeing as many of these people had lived on the same plot of land since it was discovered, made their relationship to it special. Whole clans could also trace their history to the land into ‘ancient history’. They were almost always seen as female spirits and a midwinter festival of special rites, storytelling and drinking was dedicated to honoring them. As with the appeasement of all spirits in Norse Folklore, it was all about gaining the protection and blessing of honored spirit. (Stricktly male spirits, the alfer, were also honored but not as popular)
Disir could be developed as enchantments since they are helper spirits. They could run in about any color, but red would be a powerful color with warriors and Viking types of all sorts.
WE AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOSTS
Of course, all ritual worship of spirits probably derived from a type of ancestor worship. The fear and veneration of the spirits of the dead are as old as time itself. Looking for protection, help with fate itself or just asking them not to come back and harm them were common denominators in this type of worship. But when talking about the ‘spirits’ of those dearly and not-so-dearly departed, there’s a bit of a miscommunication between traditional western thought and that of the Norse.
We think of spirits as apparitions; ethereal wisps and visages that have no real physical form in this world. To us, they are ghosts; simple see-through walking representations of those who once lived. The early Vikings had no such fancies. To them, an undead spirit dwelt within the rotting confines of the body once lost. They were placated so as they would not walk the earth again. They were to be feared and, therefore, respected. Better pay attention to those burial rites and show the proper care when laying them to rest. More than likely, this is where we got the reverence for the dead and the immediate need to see them properly buried.
Gameplay wise, does this mean we’re actually going to see spirit cards much like the White Walkers of Game of Thrones? I know we keep coming back to that, but, I swear, it’s not my fault. We could see a legendary Spirit much like the Night King. And, if these zombie types are to be considered ‘spirits’, maybe this is why Kaya is here. Or, at least, she becomes quite handy while searching for whatever she’s after. But the problem is that, quite probably, Wotc will tag these ‘zombies’ and aid that tribal instead. I hope they consider these creatures spirits although it will be quite confusing to those not steeped in Norse mythology. Black is a must and possibly Blue. I could see a connection with the snow mechanic seeing as they are basically frozen undead.
There’s lots of ways to go here. Below are some MTG spirits that reminds me of what could be comeing in Kaldheim. Not sure what Kaya’s after, but I’m hoping for a great bit of Vorthos from this set. I hope they treat it AT LEAST as well as Zendikar, but I’m hoping for better. I know that’s not their focus, but they definitely have a fan base and should serve it. Either way, I’m looking forward to Kaldheim and anticipate it being a great set. What do you think about spirits in Kaldheim? What type of mechanics would you see working with them?
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